Archive for February, 2014


This has been in my mind a lot recently as, while MoP winds down, I’ve been spending a lot of time on alts on a realm different to where my mains live – these alts are all well below level 90.
I have thought at times, while struggling with farming leather, that the only thing that needs to be retained about crafting professions is ‘making things with stuff.’ The rest is certainly open to improvement.

The main problem is that crafting hasn’t changed a great deal since Classic WoW, which has resulted in crafting below level 60 being virtually useless, other than a means to level the profession. Lower level crafted pieces, unless particularly desirable for transmog, can’t be given away on the AH. You probably wouldn’t even shift them if you suggested *you* pay the customers to get them off your hands.

Once you leave Classic WoW and venture into the expansions, you find that the only decent crafted gear is for what was then top level, and can’t even be made in most cases until the professions are maxed. The only reason you’d bother to try and get some of those patterns and recipes – apart from being a completist – is if they’re for useful items like the various types of bags that can still be sold on the AH or used to equip alts. Inscription always remains relevant, (perhaps the only prof that does), but the recipes for all the others are useful only for the expansion they were created for.

Added to this is the inescapable fact that you no longer spend over a year in an expansion’s zones, but only a couple of weeks, which means that you far outlevel the areas, and are looking to move to new horizons, long before you’ve farmed enough materials for your professions to move on with you. I have a druid who is ready to go to Northrend – apart from the 500 (at least) knothide leathers she needs to make the items to get her out of Outland. I don’t want to be going back there to farm, and on that realm don’t have much spare gold, so can’t buy mats on the AH, so have no choice but to stay there killing things and skinning them. Her skinning, incidentally, is almost at the top level required for Northrend crafting, so no problem there. But from what I’ve experienced recently, only skinning seems to keep pace with leveling. Herbing and mining still have their problem areas.

I’ve seen so many good ideas from players, many of which I’ve thought of myself too, so can’t list everything here, but these are my main suggestions for crafting improvements.

1. A thorough overhaul that keeps professions relevant to level and zone, with better return from gathering professions, i.e. more herbs per node, more skins per beast, more ore per node, more cloth per drop.

2. Crafted items to be competitive with quest rewards, with blue items that require more effort being competitive with dungeon rewards. Do people bother making any of the epic items from the earlier expansions other than for transmog? I doubt it, so these should no longer require raid materials or recipe drops from raids to make. Add the recipes to a vendor once an expansion is superseded by the latest one. If it’s deemed right to keep in the various orbs or whatever to make the items, have these on the same vendor. I think it’s ok to make players pay, but in the majority of cases their time is more precious than their gold. Only the current expansion’s level of profs should require out of the way effort. Let people scratch their transmog itches with the earlier stuff!

3. Crafted items below the current expansion should not require outrageously difficult-to-get or rare mats, and the amount of mats required, (especially the dreaded leather), to be reduced per item. Get rid of the hides from Leatherworking – just make the items require leather or improved leather. The same goes for rare ores – it’s fine to have those in the recipe list, but not when it means you hit a leveling wall because of it, which you can’t get past easily until you have enough of them.

4. When a new expansion comes out, top level crafted items from previous expansions could be shuffled down the recipe list so that characters don’t have to be maxed in their professions to make them. These items, being fairly decent, would help characters without heirlooms level in the zones they’re questing in.

5. In addition, players could craft their own heirlooms, so that you don’t need currency to purchase them. This would add a further bit of point and interest to crafting profs.

6. Allow crafters to ‘disassemble’ items they make so that they can salvage materials from them – not the full amount that made them, obviously, but some. This would be a handy alternative to just vendoring them.

7. A wider selection of node levels within zones. On a herbalist, I hit the problem of transferring from one zone to another and finding that the herbs were predominantly too high level to pick. Yet the herbs in the zone I’d left behind were either no longer or rarely giving me leveling points. Coupled with the extra population from Cross Realm, this made herbalism annoying to level. I had to swap continents and venture into a zone far higher than my character was in order to farm herbs, so she could go back and pick them where she was actually questing, which was several levels lower. I’ve no doubt I’ll find similar when I level my Blacksmith and Engineer. Some thought needs to go into node quality distribution and their abundance throughout the zones.

8. Engineering needs a radical overhaul. The fiddliness of the mats now seems silly for the lower levels of the profession. Streamline it, and leave the headaches for the current expansion’s engineering requirements. Again, this is just a relic of the prof not having changed at low level since it was implemented. It’s woefully out of date.

9. Enchanting suffers from being pointless until top level. You don’t really need enchants to complete questing zones or indeed while doing dungeons to level. Enchanting scrolls less than current can’t be sold either. Perhaps more toys, pets and mounts could be introduced into the profession, such as in engineering, which even has a few of these at low level. New enchantments could be introduced that players *would* want, such as boosts similar to what you find on heirlooms – experience gains, enhanced loot drops, extended rest time, rep boosts and so on. Doesn’t have to offer massive increases, but enough to make players think they’re worth having. And when you replace a bit of gear you’ll want a new enchant for it, so this ensures demand.

It would also be an improvement if older enchanting materials could be upgraded in the same way you can currently combine dusts and essences of the same level. Or it might even be better to do away with all those different Classic materials and just have one dust type, one essence and one shard for 1-60.

10. Jewelcrafting could also do with a big overhaul, for the same reason Enchanting does. Gems are irrelevant for everything except current expansion content. They’re not needed to complete leveling content, and players won’t buy them because they get through gear so quickly while leveling. As gems will be going through a big change in WoD, it would clearly be a good time to reinvent the entire profession. I expect Blizzard already has ideas for this, but my thoughts are that items could be introduced such as necks and rings relevant to level throughout and made with easier to find mats. Pets, mounts and toys are always desirable to players, and perhaps BoE crafted temporary pets like totems that provide a buff or a heal. These ‘idols’ could look cool so that people would be more inclined to pop them out while questing or in dungeons. How about items similar to the one dropped by Kang in the Vale that turns you and your mounts into stone for a short while? I’m thinking of ‘costumes’ that make a player appear they’re made of diamond or rubies. In our guild, people are forever getting their toys out to change their appearance. They’re clearly very popular, so would make a good addition to professions.

I think I could go on forever listing improvements and ideas – the scope is limitless – so I’ll stop now before this list gets too long!

One of the recent revelations concerning Warlords of Draenor is the controversial proposed change to casters being able to cast while on the move. Primarily – but not wholly – because of PvP concerns, (*again*), it’s been decided that casters should NOT be able to move so much while doing their thing. This of course significantly affects DPS, and in PvP will mean an enormous change to the mechanics of fighting. Melee players have complained that they can’t close the gap to the ranged players, so just get wizard-fired to death before they can reach their target. On the other hand, in previous iterations of PvP combat, ranged were often condemned to lengthy times of stun-lock while Rogues ripped off their faces. I remember those times because I used to PvP a little then. So, as is so often the case, fruitless attempts by Blizzard to balance PvP, (in my opinion an impossible task), will have repercussions in PvE play.

The way things stand, a percentage of raid encounters are nightmares for melee players, simply because of the inordinate amount of damaging ground effects from the bosses, which mean they spend a considerable amount of time in a fight running away from the action rather than being immersed in it. On the other hand, they view with envy those ranged players who can stand at a distance from said effects and deal their damage from there with no interruption. And when the nastiness might reach out across the floor to them, the ranged can skip away while still casting/shooting and doing damage. In response to melee players, ranged would say, ‘well, you can do white damage all the time on a target even when not using skills – I have to use skills to do damage. In that respect you have an advantage.’ But not, the melee players might say, if they have to move away from the target constantly. So it seems Blizzard’s answer to this problem is to wield the nerf guillotine, (forget the bat, it was retired years ago), and stop ranged classes casting as much as they do now while moving. As can be imagined this has caused a frenzied outcry on WoW forums.

I do see the arguments for and against, and the truth is this problem has arisen partly because the raid encounters have become increasingly complex over time, with a loud-voiced percentage of forum-visiting players continually demanding ever more innovative fights, rather like spoilt children hollering from their push-chairs for more toys. If Blizzard fails to produce these difficult encounters, they are hollered at for dumbing down the game. Then when the encounters are revealed as rather too difficult for the average team, with limited play time, there are more tantrums. Blizzard could legitimately enquire, in a confused tone, ‘but isn’t this what you asked for?’ The problem is that when Blizzard gives the vocal minority what they ask for it rarely ends in smiles, but rather the opposite. Also, the percentage of players actually yelping on forums *is* only a fraction of the entire community. The silent majority never have their say and in most cases probably don’t even know how they could do so.

Having to multi-task while on the move has become a staple of many raid fights, and I believe this makes it harder for newer players to break into proper raiding, (I won’t count LFR), because they can’t learn one thing at a time and become more skilled at it – the whole caboodle is thrown at them from the moment they step inside a raid. Rather than have classes line up for the guillotine, I think it would be better for Blizzard to think more about what happens on the floor of encounters and tailor them to be of equal difficulty for both ranged and melee. I quite like the design of a fight such as Malkorok’s in Siege of Orgrimmar. Sometimes you have to move, sometimes you don’t – and that applies to everyone. Some things you move into, some you move away from. And with careful raid-leading over player positioning you can control where the muck drops. It’s not chaos, such as you find on the Dark Shamans fight or Blackfuse. You feel that doing the encounter correctly makes it run smoothly, rather like a dance. The same goes for the General Nazgrim fight. You can’t really say that for Shamans or Blackfuse. It’s more like the players being prodded by tasers into agonized fits than a dance.

Hunters are slightly apart from other ranged classes, and I believe a drastic nerf could be more damaging to them. They have historically been a kiting class, and part of their MO is to do damage on the move, shooting as they run. Hunters are often given jobs to do in raids *because* of their class design and their mobility. Since mana was swapped for focus, which is in short supply in comparison to the resource of casters, Hunters rely on their focus-building shots. Currently, this can be done on the move. If this was removed it would have a big detrimental effect on Hunter DPS. They would quickly run out of focus using their high-cost instant shots, and then would then have to stand still to build it up again using their relatively low damage focus-builder. Hunters used to have Aspect of the Fox to help with this, but it was taken away when the ability to focus-build while moving was introduced. To avoid the very unhappy situation we had in early to mid Wrath, when Hunters were virtually unviable for raiding, something similar to Fox would have to be reintroduced, otherwise the class would be gutted. I dislike focus and its limitations as it is, but this incoming nerf, unless balanced in another way, could be a death knell to Hunters’ high DPS and functionality in raids. I can only assume Blizzard know what they’re doing and Hunters will be redesigned sensibly.

Of course the negative reactions from players we’re seeing at the moment are those of panic. Players see the proposed changes and then start running around with their arms in the air, crying, ‘The sky is falling!’ I think Blizzard should do a little to reassure them, supposing they’ll balance the movement nerf by applying something else. It’s been implied that moving while casting might be on a CD or else a talent choice. That, I think, should be fine, so no need to panic just yet!

However, one thing I’ve seen consistently in the more measured responses to the proposed head-choppings is players saying that the changes will lessen the *fun* of encounters. It *is* fun to cast and run about, rather than stand there dpsing for the scant moments you might get to do so, then haring around avoiding ground effects for 10 seconds at a time or more, doing nothing. But then melee players could legitimately say that’s their lot at the moment anyway. Also, I’ve read of some concern about the drop in DPS having a negative effect on beating boss enrage timers. Again, I think it’s down to changes in encounters rather than changes in classes that will ameliorate the problem. But that, of course, only applies to PvE. And if PvP is at the bottom of it all, which it usually is when nerfs are concerned, then all the shouting in the world by PvE players won’t change Blizzard’s mind about this.

If I had the ear of the Blizzard developers I would make some suggestions, from my own humble opinions. The first is that PvP and PvE should be entirely separate, as was found in the original Guild Wars. Players could have a separate PvP character(s) that unlock special skills in a different way to PvE – say through completing objectives in battlegrounds. If PvP characters were top level when they were created, players wouldn’t have to worry about leveling if they weren’t into PvE play. They could get into PvP immediately and start unlocking the best skills. If a model along these lines was introduced to WoW, PvP would have no effect whatsoever on PvE play, as there would be no need for this constant yo-yoing of abilities and talents, causing outcry from players on both sides of the fence. But then I’m not a game designer, so I don’t know how feasible this idea is. The way WoW’s designed, it might be impossible. But I think few would argue it would end the ruckus once and for all.

Another suggestion, to do with raiding, is that when encounters require melee to flee from ground effects, they’re given something else to do, such as dealing with adds, or perhaps running to click on an item that might channel a debuff on the boss, or something similar. I’m sure a creative encounter designer could think of lots of interesting and fun jobs for melee to do. One of the things I see melee most complain about is feeling they’re doing nothing. Ranged will feel the same if they spend a lot of time just running around avoiding damage rather than dealing it. Fights would be boring if there were no movement requirements at all, but like I explained about the Malkorok fight, if it’s more about careful execution rather than outright chaos, such as when things randomly burst from the floor or descend from above all over the place, players might complain less. Also, more ability for teams to control where the possible chaos might be placed would be a boon. That also would call for skill and level-headed raid-leading rather than running away madly and hoping for the best.

The final suggestion I would make to Blizzard is about who actually tests raids in Beta. At the moment, I think we can confidently assume it is players who have a lot of time to devote to WoW. Many no doubt beta test to give them an edge when the raids go live. The average raider, at the more casual end of the spectrum, is typically someone with a job and a family, with very limited time to play. Their guild perhaps raids only twice a week for 2-4 hours. Increasingly complex encounters require a lot of learning; limited raid time leads to frustration, team dissolution and guild fracturing. I know Blizzard are addressing this with the new levels of difficulty for raiding in WoD, but I think if casual yet committed raiders were given the opportunity to test the raids in Beta, Blizzard would get more realistic feedback in terms of the diversity of its player base. How about invitations to whole raid teams of middling yet competent skill? A few guilds per server of this type could test the raids and give honest feedback about them. I can’t see the point of the encounters being tested solely by the hardcore – they of course have higher expectations in terms of difficulty than the average player.

I’m fairly confident Blizzard has firm control of where the game is heading and is not just making arbitrary decisions for the sake of it, and I stand by the statement that most players are panicking needlessly at the moment, but unfortunately Blizzard does have a history of swinging to extremes when making changes. All I would ask is for the voice of moderation to have a say.