Thursday, April 23, 2009
One thing that attracted me to the inscription profession when patch 3.0.2 introduced it into World of Warcraft was the new way to learn recipes by research. You had a research recipe with a cooldown of 20 hours to learn the minor glyphs, and when Wrath of the Lich King came out and added higher level glyphs, there was a second research recipe added working the same way. A similar method, just with a longer cooldown, was introduced to alchemy as well. This way to learn recipes has several big advantages: Doing a daily research is something you can easily do on an alt, while raid-drop recipes are usually unattainable for alts. And by making research a relatively slow process, for quite a while there was differentiation between inscribers, not everyone having the same recipes.
Unfortunately patch 3.1 introduced a new way to learn glyph recipes, which is far inferior: The book of glyph mastery, a random world drop. At first these were so rare that some people doubted they even existed, but then the droprate was increased. Book prices dropped from 5k gold to 1k gold, and will probably still fall a bit further. But for all I read there are somewhere between 40 and 58 new glyph recipes learned by these books, so even if the price goes down to 500 gold, it will cost you up to 30k gold to learn the recipes. And you can't even go out and deliberately farm them, they just drop from every mob with an equally low drop rate.
As I mentioned before, on my server and side there is an unusually high number of inscribers. Which is to be expected to happen on some servers, the number of inscribers on every server being more or less random, some bell-curve distribution from servers with just one active inscriber to rather crowded situations. But not only does having a lot of inscribers drive down glyph prices, sometimes to below profitability, it also drives up prices for the new books of glyph mastery. On some servers, with few inscribers, getting hold of these books will be cheap and easy, and then you can sell the glyphs learned from them at high profit. On servers with lots of inscribers the books will be expensive, and then you risk just another price war destroying profits. So personally I'm going out of the glyph business. Yes, I made about 20k from it since it started, but a good part of that was from stockpiling herbs before patch 3.0.2 hit, and now my only regular income is selling low volumes of Armor and Weapon Vellum III. As I said, that has more to do with the number of inscribers on my server than with the inscription profession itself, but the books of glyph mastery for me are the final straw tipping that profession into the unprofitable region.
Nevertheless it made me think about ways how crafters can differentiate themselves from other crafters. You hear "raiding takes no skill nowadays" all the time, but barely anyone complains that crafting doesn't take any skill, never did, and is just a simple click, provided you have the materials and the recipe. In other games gold farmer farm gold. In WoW gold farmers farm crafting materials and sell them to crafters. Many recipes are simply learned from trainers, even epic recipes. Other recipes drop, either in specific places, or as random world drops. A random world drop recipe which isn't bind-on-pickup nearly always ends up on the auction house, because what are the chances that this was just the recipe you were looking for, in the profession you actually have? The new books of glyph mastery are the same, only worse, because you don't even know what recipe they'll teach you. So crafting mostly consists of buying materials and recipes, and a completely dumb one-click crafting process. The "most difficult" crafting recipes require you to wait and watch a progress bar for 10 second before you actually get your item. Wow, what a challenge!
And it isn't as if nobody ever had come up with a better way! Lots of older games have crafting systems that are far superior to WoW's. Star Wars Galaxies, for all its flaws, had a great crafting system, in which people could make a name for themselves as crafters of quality goods. A Tale in the Desert has lots of crafting mini-games, and no combat. Puzzle Pirates has a different puzzle for every craft, and you need to be actually good at a puzzle to make a high-quality good (or hire somebody who is). Even games as old as Dark Age of Camelot had crafting quests, allowing you parallel careers to adventuring. In comparison to all what is out there, WoW crafting is downright primitive, and their effort to clone WoW, newer games often copy this bad part of WoW together with any good parts. I'm really waiting for a new game with an interesting and engaging crafting system, where killing monsters isn't the only thing to do in the virtual world.