Ladies and gentlemen who love the economic arts, today's column isn't for you. It's an open letter to Blizzard's game developers, with me begging on bent knee for them to improve our collective professions for Mists of Pandaria. Of course, you're free to read it too. In fact, I hope you do and add to it in the comment section.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't a letter of complaint. Blizzard got an awful lot right this expansion, and I'm not going to be shy giving credit where credit is due. But there's always room for improvement. So let's roll up our sleeves, point out what needs fixing, and then hold the folks at Blizzard responsible for what we get next expansion.
So, you with me? If so, let's begin.
Tailoring, leatherworking, and blacksmithing
My first profession ever taken was tailoring. Seemed like a natural fit -- I was getting cloth drops all the time, regardless of whether I was looking for them or not. I've learned since that the profession gets a bit more complex, of course. And since then, I've also learned that there are a few things to be desired about the profession.
Now, hey, Blizzard -- just between you and me, let's have a talk. These guys out here who read my column and level tailoring love feeling useful. It's more important than making money. And it's hard to feel useful these days given how you've been treating tailors, leatherworkers, and blacksmiths in Cataclysm.
When this expansion first went live, all was good. You had all sorts of stuff to make on the path to level 85 and 525 skill. There wasn't huge demand for all the wearable greens and blues, but there was some demand. And even if we were only making that gear for ourselves and for guildies, we felt useful, dammit!
Then came patch 4.0.3 and 4.1. You brought out new patterns for tailors, leatherworkers, and blacksmiths to learn, but only hard-core raiders had access to the materials. Sure, we could buy materials on the Auction House, but as I previously established, they're out of reach for the crafting proletariat.
Patch 4.2 had a few epic recipes "for the rest of us." They were welcome additions, but they were just so damn grind-y to get access to. I mean, I like having new dailies, but the way you forced me to have to run them so much to gain access to something so basic bothered the hell out of me. I resented having to run the dailies, and I shouldn't have! Because they were fun. But there's nothing fun about having a gun held to your head.
Patch 4.3 went back to the same ol' of patch 4.1 -- the good stuff was for established raiders only. Even us Raid Finder users got shafted in a way we shouldn't have -- Raid Finder end bosses should be dropping Essence of Destructions, not now-useless Chaos Orbs. Heck, we can't even get the outdated Living Embers with our JP or VP. Why not?
Come on, throw the more casual players a crafting-related bone here. If you're going to put new epics in the game like you did in 4.2, don't make existing players have to jump through so many hoops to get them. The gating mechanism to get the Chaos Orbs and Dreamcloth would have been more than effective at keeping the epic flow limited. And once 4.3 comes out, don't keep access to the old 4.2 epics so limited. We want to craft. Let us craft.
But hey, don't think I'm all complaints, here, Blizzard. The way you handled PvP gear was perfect, constantly updating the ilevel of the previous tier of gear. It kept an old recipe fresh. Maybe you could extend a similar mechanism so that those of us who just dinged 85 (soon 90) will have a lower-priced option for skipping the terrible gear grind?
Man, Blizzard. If you did something right with regard to professions this expansion, it was with inscription. Mysterious Fortune Cards were a stroke of genius -- you created something with steady demand. And it wasn't just because MFCs were fun. They were useful ways to get your endgame food buff, too. Let's keep that idea around for next expansion. It's a home run.
It's hard to keep inscription fresh, especially since the real purpose of the profession is backing up the stale glyph end of the game. But that's not to say the glyph business is impossible to rescue. If you're going to keep glyphs around, it's time to go all in. Bring out new minor glyphs -- Glyph of Shadow was a great item for us scribes. Play around with glyph mechanics a little and give interesting new major glyphs. Edit prime glyphs to make the "wrong choices" -- and come on guys, we all know there are glyphs that no one takes -- more interesting.
Meanwhile, you're so close to a hit idea with your Scroll of Intellect IX and the like. When Mists of Pandaria introduces Scrolls of [Stat Name Here] X, you should make them competitive with what alchemists get with their selection of flasks. They won't be as good because they don't persist through death, and they have shorter duration to boot, but that's OK. They're a different product. They're marketable. The have a lot of untapped promise. Let's make them shine.
Blizzard, I do understand what you're trying to do with the profession. You want it to be filled with neat stuff that only engineers have access to. Got it -- it's a decent model, and I say you should keep it.
That said, engineers need at least a little bit of love when patches 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3 hit. Is there any reason you didn't provided new engineer-only head pieces for 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3?
Engineering is a lot of fun -- a good option for those who don't want a profession that's a huge money-maker. But come on, don't make it something that's useful only on day one of a new expansion. Give engineers some love all year long. (And yes, I want you to have Marvin Gaye playing in your head while you read that, baby.)
Miners, skinners, and herbalists
Again, let's talk about what you guys at Blizzard did right for Cataclysm. The basics were solid -- you tinkered a lot with node spawn rates but finally found a decent balance. And you came up with cool bonuses. Being able to transform into a plant was both useful and fun. Being able to find a mining pet was brilliant. Top-notch job with these two.
The only criticism? No doubt you game developers already know what I'm going to say: Kill the phased herbs. It's weird when someone you can't see gets an herb, but it's weirder to see an herb disappear when you get close to it because it's phased. Let's also be careful about nodes placed in mid-air -- that one Twilight Jasmine node in Twilight Highlands frustrated more herbalists than you probably even realize. It tricked us so many times -- even us experts got suckered in to trying to collect it a few times, even after we were pretty convinced it was impossible to get.
Oh, and lastly, I have a really good suggestion for the skinning profession. Could you please finally, finally, finally give skinners a decent bonus for leveling the profession to 600? Critical strike bonus is just ... it's just awful. If you're going to balance and standardize most of the profession bonuses, you really should take the extra step to balance them all.
I'm not going to hit Blizzard hard on jewelcrafting here. There's a lot of good stuff in Cataclysm. It wasn't perfect, but I appreciate your attempt to pace releasing new gems. You upgraded meta gems one patch, gave us epic gems in another.
My critique here: Work on the pacing. If you're going to have blue gems available for 5.0, make your meta gems available in 5.1. Then, in 5.2, make epic gems available for raiders much like you did in 4.3. But for 5.3, you should open that epic gem market up to the public at large. It just feels weird and uncomfortable to still have red gems selling for as much as 3,000 gold each.
We're at the end of an expansion. Those extra 10 intellect, strength, or agility shouldn't be as brutally expensive as they are. I hope that's something we can all agree on -- such a small benefit shouldn't be permanently unaffordable.
Enchanting and alchemy
I'm not exactly sure what to say about the enchanting market. On one hand, I want to say that the profession had trouble with pacing, just like jewelcrafting. But on the other, I think that the enchanting market was pretty smooth throughout Cataclysm. We got all the best weapon enchants early, but it worked. Prices stayed appropriately expensive for the good stuff and appropriately cheap for the not-as-good stuff.
Part of me wants more new enchants as new patches come out, much the same way tailors and blacksmiths get new patterns. But the other part of me didn't really mind not getting them in Cataclysm.
Alchemy, meanwhile, performed similarly to enchanting. We didn't really get new stuff as the expansion progressed, but that was OK. Potion making remained profitable. Transmutes remained worth it. And one final compliment: Refreshing the alchemy specialty quests was a great idea, and I don't think you get enough credit for revisiting stuff like that. Bravo.
... now, your turn to chime in
Listen guys -- and I'm talking to you commenters now -- this is crunch time. This week's press event means that Blizzard is in prime development mode. If we want our voices heard on the economy, now is the time, because they don't tinker with economic matters the way they do with class balance. (Which is sort of a shame, but I digress.)
So, sound off. What did you think Blizzard did right this time around with professions? Are there any mechanics you want to stick around? And on the flip side, what profession needs the most TLC from developers? How would you fix what's wrong?
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