Sunday, 3 April 2011

Levelling trade skills: pure, pure tedium.

tediousI’m sat here, sad as I am, trying to level blacksmithing from zero.  It’s gash, I mean really gash, I’d derive more enjoyment from continually inserting hot needles into my left eye for three hours than the mindless grind it’s taken to level from zero to 250 in blacksmithing.

Ok, rant over, on a serious note, why? WOW is supposed to be a fun game, the endgame is slanted towards various trade skills to maximise tanking / dps / healing output and the ;best’ trade skill for particular roles or classes tends to change now and then as new releases are a made which forces the more hardcore players to drop one skill and level another.  should this really take the best part of 10 hours to do? (if you ignore the time spent gathering the materials).

EDIT: I wrote this post almost a week ago but have been sitting on it as I published the GM interviews, in the mean time the gits insigtful people over at wow insider posted a similar article here which covers some similar topics, I didn't steal their ideas.... honest, I wrote my blog post first... :-)

Added to the fact that with blacksmithing it takes roughly 8 seconds to create and item, you also need to smelt the ore, AND Blizzard in their wisdom removed the ability for addons such as the Advanced Trade Skill Window to queue multiple items (you now have to manually click ‘process queue’ to move to the next item type), so you cant even go away and make a cup of coffee, or do something slightly more interesting like admire the growth rate of your garden while your toon hammers his head against the anvil repeatedly.  Whether it’s blacksmithing, or any other trade skill, the story is pretty much the same.

Is there not an easier way? I think so. First up, I’d like to state that I don’t think trade skills should be given to players on a plate, there should be some effort involved in levelling a skill, but the top level has gotten so far beyond that of the original level that it’s just another tedious grind.  Levelling to the top level in any profession takes an enormous amount of materials see here for blacksmithing as an example; its fair to say that people levelling trade skills support the WOW economy in a number of ways, in increasing demand from purchasing materials from the auction house, in reducing supply, from not offering those materials they have collected for sale on the auction house (or making the herb and mining nodes more sparse).  Now I’ve levelled two characters recently, both of which have been miners and herbalists, and I’ve banked everything I’ve collected for just such levelling as I’m trying to do with blacksmithing; even with all this banked ore, I still found myself buying stacks of the stuff from the auction house, or heading out to low level zones to collect the stuff.  Now I’m not the type of player who can see a yellow dot on my screen and not go collect it, this would indicate the materials requirement is far over and above the amount a single character would collect in the course of levelling, even with the occasional trip out to grind metal veins or herbs.

This may not necessarily be a bad thing, and may be by design; it keeps the the effort required to level a trade skill, and it keeps the older content useful (although barely in my opinion).  However when you consider trade skills were meant to be levelled in the main part with characters, for those of you who started a character back in vanilla WOW who levelled their trades with their character it was a straight forward task of making stuff as you got the material; your trade level stayed roughly in check with your characters, with a little bit of extra effort here and there, and the final 50 points or so taking the additional effort once you hit 60.  The trouble is, this final 50 points or so existed at the end of each expansion, so platos have developed at the headline skill level from each new release which are a complete pain, rather than just the end game final 20% of levels which should be difficult.  Here are a few suggestions for Blizzard on what I’d like to see to improve things:

Re-evaluate the amount of raw material required to level certain trade skills: blacksmithing seems far more difficult than alchemy for instance.

Reinstate the ability to queue trade skill activities with addons such as the advanced trade skill window, I understand the reasoning for removing it, but it simply doesn’t do what it’s intended to, it just makes the task of levelling more arduous.

Add the ability to queue multiple ‘breaking’ activities; disenchanting, milling and prospecting are even worse than crafting skills, at the very least let me mill by stack rather than per 5, but preferably add the ability to queue multiple stacks of material.  I acknowledge this might be dangerous with disenchanting, so how about only allowing it for greens.

Remove the levelling, platos which exist in the last 20% or so where, in previous releases, they where the top end of the trade skill level.

Add more lower level ‘multiple level’ items; most of the crap which is made is simply vendored anyway, why not add more items which cost 5 times more to make, and add 5 levels.  Or even better, taking into account my suggestion above, just up the level boost of a few items and leave the material requirement the same.

Look at the possibility of buffing players ability to level trades from other tradeskills, how about an enchanted blacksmithing hammer which adds an x% chance to double the level gained, a potion of superior tailoring reducing the amount of cloth required to make a bolt for the next hour, or a scroll of mass disenchant which allows you to disenchant every green item in your inventory. etc. etc.

Add the ability to ‘pay’ for bulk levelling at a trainer; rather than going away and self teaching the first (say) 300 levels in a crafting skill, why not turn up on the doorstep of your profession trainer with a set amount of materials, or a bag full of gold equivalent to the value of those materials which it would have taken you 6 hours to churn through and just exchange it for a level boost.  This would still require the materials, or currency value of those materials, so wouldn’t harm the economy (and done right could be used to boost it).  I’m not suggesting that this replace the whole levelling process, just a percentage of it – perhaps only available to accounts who have one character with a trade skill at it’s maximum level?  This is exactly what happens in real world industry today, you can go to a library, read about stuff and practice yourself, you can learn on the job as an apprentice, or you can get a ‘boost’ by going on an intensive training course – the training course accelerates the learning curve for the easier, apprentice level stuff, but the artisan level skills only come with practice.

Whatever is done, do something to make trade skills less tedious and more desirable, WOW is a game, it’s about entertainment, much of the recent development of WOW has been to make the game more accessible to the mass market, take the same principles and apply them to trade skills!

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