Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Crafting differentiation

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.
This could also address the "endgame" issue: Give people something else than raiding. You have already made excellent examples of games that have more interesting crafting systems.

I think item decay is also an interesting aspect. It cannot be implemented in WoW, this would totally change the game. But think of it, Ultima Online had it. And it was great. Decay would also make economy more important and give loss some meaning. Right now, my weapons and armors last forever, and we do not need crafters if they cannot create something very special.

Speaking of Scribes, once everyone got their favorite Glyph, what do they do? Create more Scrolls of Recall, which becomes also quite optional now that Hearthstones have 30 minute cooldown. They do not have to offer that much. Alchemists have it better, their flasks get used up, they will be needed. And raw material gathering in WoW is always rewarding. Mining & Herbalism/Skinning might not be the most inspiring profession combo, but it brings a lot of cash, and I really loved digging up rare gems and ores.

Even Grandmaster Blacksmiths could only generate a small percentage of supreme quality swords with high durability and damage. Some people preferred the lighter Chain Mail over the more expensive Plate Mail, which was heavier, more expensive and offered not enough extra protection in the minds of some players.
I'm seeing my profession as a way to make gold. I picked inscription and sold quite a few of them. As for these new glyph books, I bought one for 2000 gold figuring if I'd get a good recipee and sell 20 x 100g I'd be break even. And I sold about 3, even when no others were on the AH... A bad investment. Taking a second look at it, most of those glyphs are sideglyphs (not pve raiding) and won't sell very well. The most important ones such as Glyph of Dark Death were given out free from the trainer.

I know other people want to "get all recipees" to "complete their profession". Personally, I just want to make some gold from it.
This reminds me of a guild name I once saw: <Blackrock Mining Co>. It was intended as a joke, but some games do treat crafting as an integral part of gameplay. The crafting itself doesn't necessarily need to be a complex minigame. Funnily enough, EvE's crafting system is not that different from WoW: Acquire materials, get a recipe/blueprint and craft. The depth is due to the amount of materials required and the steps required, making it necessary to have a supply chain. Nobody can do everything required for a finished product, so the market works as the middleman between miners, refiners, researchers, component producers and final assemblers. There's even dedicated corporations fulfilling one or more of these roles.
I agree that this new method to learn glyphs was a serious mistake. I followed inscription news from the PTR but assumed the Books of Glyph Mastery were a placeholder for a future design. The problems seemed obvious:

1. The only method for a scribe to learn new glyphs is to pay through the nose on AH.
2. The learned glyph is random, and may result in a "worthless" glyph.
3. The mats per glyph are nothing, so the price can downward spiral quickly.
4. Once prices drop for books, more people will learn the recipes and once again everyone will know every glyph...

So the only time to make big money quickly is right now - driving book prices up and making some lucky AH vendors more money than the average scribe. This is further compounded by the fact that dual spec will depress the re-glyph market. I don't see how that is avoidable.

As an experiment, despite my better judgement, I bought a couple books hoping for something good like a warlock Life Tap glyph. Unfortunately I got PvP related glyphs, which are mediocre, and one reasonable pve glyph that is not considered 'best in slot' for raiding. I've decided to offload any glyphs I learn at low prices to quicken the demise of the market and emphasize the errors in this mechanic.

In the end, I'm very disappointed with Inscription. One benefit I may explore is to re-glyph mid-raid, since that is essentially free and my specs serve hybrid roles.
I haven't used a tradeskill to create a real profit in a long, long time. Instead, I use my professions to enhance my characters. Pre-3.0 this worked well with my Tailor providing bags / leg enchants; my Blacksmith providing sharpening stones, my Alchemist providing pots / elixirs / flasks, my Engineering making Injectors, and my Enchanter proving mats.

With 3.0 I added Inscription to my selection of tradeskills so that my Enchanter can now Enchant my gear (instead of just providing mats).

I've THOUGHT about trying to make some money off of my wares, but with my limited play time I have no desire to really sit in front of the AH for an hour. Oh, and since I have 20k+ gold and all 5 of my +70 characters have epic flying... there isn't any real desire to try and generate more gold.
I definitely could buy all the books needed to "complete my profession". But I don't. The "elite" glyphs already dropped from 200G to 50. In one more week they will be in normal or lower price. The catch is that the unlucky fellow who spent his 1500G for a book want something out of it, so he lists glyphs and undercuts competition driving down the price.
I don't see it. You don't have to learn the recipes, and you can still be profitable with the recipes you have. Just like before the patch.

This sounds like a car dealer claiming that he can't be profitable selling cars because he has no Ferraris to sell. Can't you turn a profit with Volkswagons? Sure, its not mega-profit, but its still worthwhile.
I made enough profit before and shortly after the patch to satisfy me, and so far the few books I've found for under 1000g on the AH have gotten me relatively good glyphs that sell for 50g apiece (and they do, I put 5 of each up at lunch and they were gone by the time I got home from work). Considering ink is even cheaper than it used to be, if I can even sell 20-30 glyphs of a certain type for that price, I'll make back what I spent on the book. So far I've had pretty good luck, and haven't had to reach into my guildbank savings to buy mats yet.

Though I would have much preferred if they'd just been added on to the normal glyph mastery. I don't see why books that only drop in a level 70+ area teach glyphs that use level 15 ink as a reagent. Surely there must have been a better way to do this, but I think back to my jewelcrafting days in BC and thank whoever's in charge that they aren't world drop recipes.
I tried EQ2 for a short time. The crafting system there seemed pretty cool; interactive and skill with crafting allowed for less waste. This has its advantages, such as rewarding skill and actually feeling like crafting. The downside is that inevitably with MMOs you get to a grind, a spammy phase of raising various character aspects. For this, it was a pain since I had to spend a lot of time actively monitoring and adjusting the crafting. Perhaps that's a stupid complaint though. Am I really annoyed that crafting requires me to actually play the game? Maybe it's that I'm too used to WoW crafting which is fire and forget, so I forget what it means to actually make something. I think I'd like a mixed system where early on you have to really fight for your crafting success but as you gain skill it gets easier. But you'd have the option to work more actively, perhaps for lower mat costs or slightly better products. This way leveling isn't a constant struggle while at the end when you're not spamming crafts you can really add your own touch.
Tobold, don't you want to keep Inscription for the shoulder enchants? They're worth about 32 stat points over the Hodir exalted ones, so it's perfect for an alt who neither had Scryer/Aldor nor Hodir rep. Also, it's nice to be able to make your own vellums to feed your enchanter and thus enchant items on your own alts. If you want to pick up another profession, you should be able to do it on an alt rather than dropping a high-level profession already. It only takes 4 toons to cover the 8 crafting professions.

As for generating profits, I find that selling Scrolls of Mongoose and Berserking still works on my server. Your server may vary...
I also wish crafting were more complex in WoW as an alternate endgame path, too. Theorycrafting shouldn't be restricted to raid DPS. :-)
BWHAHA Another thing to "rant" about.

But seriously, the crafting has been lame, always was lame, and Deep Thunder never really changed that.

Since they nerfed the hell out of the rest of the game, there is no reason at all to be afraid of crafted gear so they should at least make the professions somewhat useful. Fun would be a bonus.
I enjoyed both EQ2's and Vanguard's crafting systems. Both required interactivity and there was an element of choice involved. If we're just going with a "push button to create product" system, why are we waiting 30 seconds to make something? Is there really a point to that?
Sorry, but DAOC's crafting was abominable. It boiled down to loading up your character with ingredients from a vendor (who sold everything you needed, no farming, gathering, etc.), making a bunch of items, watching the progress bar a lot, getting an item of random quality, selling low quality items back to the vendor, saving maybe one good item worth selling.....and repeating. WoW's crafting is also a timesink, but it's based on meta-minigames, like gathering and shopping, which is far, far, more entertaining.

Speaking of entertainment, DAOC crafting was one of those things that people would do while they did something else, like read a book or watch a movie. This is the ultimate failure condition for a game, IMHO. If people need to entertain themselves while they play your game, then you have failed at being entertaining.
How many people don't have a tv or another monitor playing hulu or something for large amounts of playtime? I've yet to find an MMO where at least 60% of playtime didn't need something a little extra to make it fun.
Vanguard's crafting system is great. It's a game unto itself. You can level all the way to 50 in a variety of crafting disciplines and never swing a sword. I tell ya, Tobold, you need to try that game, its everything you keep asking for.
I'm sorry but tedious and inaccessible does not make a crafting system fun for me. WoW is a VAST improvement over what EQ and DAoC and SWG had. Normal players can actually use it instead of having to be obsessives with huge amounts of time who study out-of-game resources to have a clue what to do (that last is mainly EQ, I admit).

WoW crafting is perfect for what it sets out to do -- be a little extra fun on the side of questing and mob-killing, the actual point of the game.
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