Friday, October 23, 2015

002 - A Return To Form: Re-Imagining Professions in Legion (Part 1)

An Introduction

Scrawled in my signature angry-kindergartner handwriting across several pages of scrap paper are what remains of all the great ideas I've had in the space between this post and my last one regarding how to fix professions in Legion.  Today I want to start getting some of it written out a bit more coherently & legibly starting with this post.

The short of it all is there is no short of it.  Professions are an intricate system with a long history, and if any of us goblins want to see it restored to its former glory of an engaging endgame, then we better be ready to roll up our sleeves, put on our big boy pants, and think this through.  That's why this is only Part 1.  What I wanna do with this series is pretty simple:

Part 1. Talk about what design elements of professions have faltered and what elements have flourished.
Part 2. Present a complete picture of how I think professions should be implemented in Legion.
Part 3. Critically evaluate that picture against the elements that have been identified as being good.

These are ideas & opinions & conjecture - so I think this series of posts is best read with an open mind.  Shoot me a tweet, comment, or email if you wanna jump in some of your own ideas.


The Line Separating Madness From Genius

There's an overwhelming amount of inertia in any aspect of WoW, and professions is no exception.  So it makes sense to start by discussing the current state of professions.  And since I don't really care for the current state of professions, that means we're going to talk about the missteps that WoD made.

       

Cooldown-based crafting will long be remembered as one of the most defining features of WoD Professions, and it didn't work well at all.  Gating the production of crafted items for each toon resulted in a predictable outcome: the Twenty-Toon Meta (TTM).  People who didn't want to wait, simply leveled more toons, and hit more cooldowns on more garrisons.  They didn't play the game more.  They didn't engage in the endgame more.  They leveled more toons & played the TTM.  Some burned out & some didn't, but I don't feel like anyone who played the TTM had a lot of fun doing it.

It's true that crafting should require some kind of limiting reagents so that it doesn't feel trivial, but Cooldown mats were just a cop out in addressing that issue.  Primal Crafting around the CDs came a bit late, in my opinion, and didn't really help goblins all that much.  Lucky for us, it seems like Blizzard is trying to move away from hard caps and cooldown crafting, and I have some really cool ideas about how this issue can be addressed in a way that feels more fun.

Soulbound Reagents have long been a staple of WoW.  From Chaos Orbs to Spirits of Harmony, to all the WoD stuff.  Hindsight allows us to look back at MoP & Cata and realize the world didn't end when previously soulbound crafting mats were unbound.  Trade is good, and crafters can't always be the ones running content - running a dungeon on your BS/JC alt when you really need a crafted Leather headpiece shouldn't feel like a waste.  I'd like to see, at a minimum, mats like this become BoA, if not unbound entirely.

Professions as an Island is another design element from WoD where professions largely did not interact.  Enchanting, Blacksmithing, the other six - they were all pretty self-sustaining.  There was a shuffle for crafted blues to shards, but it wasn't heavily used.  There were other shuffles, but they dealt primarily with raw mats and garrison resources and Savage Blood.  Simply put, having a bunch of professions didn't feel as if it granted much synergy.  I didn't feel better having a JC with my enchanter or an alchemist with my scribe.  This stands in contrast to prior expansions.  Sure, full shuffles grew tired and trite, but the depth they brought to their Chosen Professions (JC/Enchanting) was kinda nice.  It wasn't a perfect model by any stretch, but there was a bit of depth there that I wish we could have distilled and preserved in the current systems somehow.

     

Professions as an Archipelago is one that grew to be mostly an annoyance.  The idea of adding some overlap to professions seemed like a box on a checklist here.  That Blacksmithing crafts should require Fur or Leather really just meant that each alt in the TTM needed to have a stock of another profession's raw materials on-hand to make the majority of its crafts.  The end result was more inconvenience than engagement, and a heavy reliance on ArkInventory to make sure everyone was topped off before I shut down for the night.

 

Savage Blood and its later replacements were WoD's flavor of limited reagents.  At least they got players out in the world - even using the group finder tool.  I think Blizzard's heart was in the right place here, but at the end of the xpac, it just became rote & boring.  It had a good run, but it's something I think could be improved upon.

Third Profession Access is something that ultimately fell flat for me.  It wasn't a bad idea - it just didn't make a difference. Making professions more accessible is a noble quest, but I don't think this did much to advance it - I've got some other ideas, though.


RNGeesus in Your Crafts was a strange bit of diablo-bastardization of WoW (as was 4 difficulty settings in raids, but I'm not gonna go into that).  What originally started as a peculiar mechanic became nothing more than another annoyance with the nerf to the mats for reroll items.  But I won't say it was a bad idea.  It gave us choice in our secondary stats on crafted gear - choice gated behind an annoying slog of RNG, but choice nonetheless.  I think we can build on the good parts of that and get rid of the bad parts.


Jewelcrafting - Pretty Much All of It.  It was bad.  I can't think of a harder nerfbat.  While we got rid of prospecting, gem sockets became pretty much endangered.  The structure was all there to make a needed change, but the pendulum simply swung too far.  And as a consolation, Jewelcrafters got a cash-money daily on their garrison.  It's like Blizzard knew it was too much, but it was simply too late to do anything about it.  I did like that we simplified things down to just the five cuts / secondary stats.  I think that's a good move in the long run.



Silver Linings

But it wasn't all bad.  I've talked in some of the above points about aspects of the bad stuff that I think are worth keeping.  There are some things where WoD made progress.

Catch-up Mechanics in Professions was really well implemented, and I think it's something that should definitely be continued.

   

Everyone Became a Gatherer was a good field test for how the game would react if gathering wasn't gated behind profession slots.  The tuning on Garrison Mines & Gardens was kind of crazy, and the Materials Traders in 6.1 became necessary to take excess mats out of circulation. 

     

Elementals Retained Value and their relative rarity throughout the expansion, which made for some neat interplay.  In a way, they became unbound limiting reagents, but they had to share that stage with soulbound cooldown mats.  I think there's a lot of room to work with elementals.

No Junk Recipes was a refreshing break for past expansions and helped put some distance between current goldmaking and traditional profession shuffles.  Combined with the removal of essence and standardization of mats & recipes in Enchanting, I feel like this was a move in the right direction towards getting away from unnecessary complexity in supply chains and restoring parity to professions.


Summing Up

Altogether, WoD leaves us with good bones to work with, much in the way that an old crackhouse leaves a builder with at least a foundation on a lot with services like running water and electricity.  There's more I think we can improve on that I haven't listed here.  There's more that I want to keep, too (hello, Reagent Bank).  WoD was a move towards accessibility, and while I think maybe its heart was in the right place, several things came out half-baked.

This gives a good starting point for the next post where I paint a picture of how I'd design professions in Legion - and those things I didn't mention really require that picture to be fully understood. I'm hoping to have a chance to get that written up soon.

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