Sunday, April 06, 2008

Are Consumables Bad Design?

I've been watching the discussion about Brutallis, the second boss in Sunwell, and the first real gear check in The Burning Crusade. One thing that has jumped out at me is the side discussion about Leatherworking drums. Drums are items which can only be used by leatherworkers, but provide a temporary buff to the group. Apparently they are quite powerful, and are pushing people to do things like stack the raid with leatherworkers or change professions.

Drums are just the latest consumable to have issues. Flasks and elixirs got sorted into the Battle/Guardian system to keep them under control. There are complaints that the caster classes have to chain mana potions every two minutes.

So it begs the question: Are consumables--items which give a temporary bonus and are then destroyed--inherently bad design?

In theory, potions and flasks are pretty cool. They're a strong part of fantasy literature, and the idea of brewing elixirs is pretty neat.

But in practice, consumables tend to be annoying. Because they are powerful, content tends to be balanced with the expectation that the players are using them. If content wasn't balanced around that, a buffed group would find it too easy. As well, farming materials or money for consumables is something you have to do for every raid. Basically, you're continously expending a lot of effort just to stay level.

Permanent items on the other hand, like armor, enchants, and gems have a large initial cost, but once you meet that cost you're set. You've actually achieved something, and your character will always be better from that point. To me, gathering the materials for a [Red Belt of Battle] seems much more worthwhile, and much more fun, than gathering the materials for flasks for the next week of raiding.

Of course, WoW can't remove consumables entirely, as the Alchemy profession is based on them. But it might be a good idea for a new game to simply not include consumables. Make buffs either permanent or easily renewable. In many ways, I think the endgame would be a better place if consumables didn't exist.


  1. Consumables aren't bad, but blaming them for the larger issue is. The problem is that encouters are designed to be outgeared for the majority of people to have success.

    With WoW, this means that encounters are balanced around consumables, which by and large give a decent buff; by balancing to that standard, you basically eliminate any advantage the guilds which mandate their use gain, handicapping the guilds that don't. Better to balance against a certain gear level, without consumables.

    I've played other games that had consumable buffs; FFXI is probably my favorite that did. There, consumables buffs were a huge advantage, but by no means required to play well; however, they did give a notable advantage.

  2. I like the professions system, but when professions become mandatory for certain classes or encounters, I think that's a sign that they are overpowered and imbalanced - or at least, too readily available.

    This issue with consumables is nothing new though - we see it with the tailoring bop sets too. The gear is soo good that it's almost obligatory for new lvl 70 priests, locks and mages to take up tailoring. Even shammies and druids take it up for the primal mooncloth set. This might also happen with other classes and professions, I'm not sure.

    The only solution I can see is to make consumables and gear usable and wearable to all, but I guess that would create problems in its own right.

  3. IMO the problem is not consumables.

    I'm no hardcore raider, but even I knew that the next raid would be over-tuned.
    Then nerfed.
    It's the Blizzard pattern all through TBC.

    (Kara is the prime example - it went from hard to get into and difficult to complete, to open access and an easier badge farm than the 5-man heroics.)

  4. They really need to implement a different difficulty settings for raids as well as dungeons.

    Balance the "normal" setting for not requiring consumables and perfect class balance.

    Balance the "heroic" setting on whatever will make the raiders not blow through the content too fast.

  5. Blizzard is not requiring consumables be used in any encounter, but they do help make any encounter go that much more smooth.

    It gets kind of annoying preparing consumables for raiding, but if the whole raid is using them to get the most out of your players then it really shows.

    Like doeg says, Blizzard makes the instances as unforgiving as possible for the hardcore raiders who love the challenge, and then tones that difficulty level down in subsequent patches.

  6. Hmm, I'm not sure that what I was trying to convey really came across. Maybe I'll take another stab at it later.

    Also, everyone makes the claim that Karazhan got nerfed, but what changes really happened?

    - Shade of Aran had his elementals tuned down. Blizzard and Flame Wreath were fixed so they couldn't overlap.
    - Romeo and Juliet was tuned down.
    - the iceblocking trash became shackleable.

    Were there other nerfs? I don't think that Karazhan has changed that much since release.

  7. I think the point was content requires consumables to be mastered, which seems true, for content that is new to raiders. Once you get a fight on "farm", guilds can usually handle it with several people or more missing consumables, although it is still ridiculously easier if everyone is all potted up and well fed.

  8. The Mark of Illidari drop does a good job of providing consumables for raiding guilds.

    You can get mana and health pots from battle ground tokens.

    And gemming and enchanting for mana regen, intel, stamina, can reduce the need to spam pots.

    Overall, I think Blizzard has done a good job to make consumables easy to get and not as necessary for raiding guilds.

  9. The drums issue is a consumable issue, but it's also a crafting issue. Leatherworking stands out alone, above and beyond as a profession with the armor kits, good mail and leather craftable items. The drums were supposed to be a neat little bonus (like LW needed a bonus).

    I feel that all encounters should be tuned with no consumables, and that consumables should help you to learn the encounter, or help to make up for small gear gaps in the raid.

    However, it doesn't work out that way, and end-game raiders may complain that the content is too easy with all their consumables AND highest level of gear. So they're made a little tougher... a far cry from the pre-TBC raiding days when consumables were required for certain fights at the expected gear-level.

    This new area is for raids with T6 level gear. If consumables are needed for a T5/T5.5 level raid to progress in there... that seems fine.

    I feel the concept of the Blade's Edge/Grull's Lair Flasks, as well as the other obtainable 'raider flasks' should be extended. The BEM flasks have the best ring, as they're relatively easy to obtain in bulk and any class can do the few daily quests to get the 'buff' consumables they'd need for the week. (If there are already SSO flasks that I don't know about, my apologies)

    Now the problem with drums. They're not a true consumable as ONLY leatherworkers can use them. They should fix that. Or give another prof, like engineering maybe, the ability to make a consumable that creates a non-stacking drum-like effect.

    I think it's cool for professions to get neat little things... Unfortunately, there used to be a professions for 'neat little things' called engineering...

  10. In the case of Kara, there were a few nerfs. But the primary 'nerf' is that player gearing and gear availability has far outstripped Kara in the last 14 months.

    Many raiders running Kara now are T4 or better.
    Those with PvP gear are running with S1 from BGs or S2/S3 from Arena, and/or Veteran's/Vindicator's.
    Many powerful badge gear items have been added.
    Faction epic gear has been added over several patches.
    Even crafting is easier, with gathering professions improved (such as Engineering gas mote extraction), and more people with fast mounts.
    There is plentiful gold from dailies.
    Greens are in the SSO reward pouches (and even 10% chance at badges), which are being d/e-ed and flooding the AH, reducing mat costs for enchants.
    There are more and improved gem recipes.
    There's even a shot at a +15 stamina blue gem from the fishing daily!

    I would guess that there are very few groups who are entirely new to Kara and who have a full group of marginally-geared toons. The learning curve is gone. Rather, most groups entering Kara probably have at least some overgeared toons who have seen the whole place and cleared it multiple times.

    The cumulative effect is that Kara is far easier than at TBC release.
    It's been pretty much reduced to a badge farm.

  11. I agree that spending time farming for crafted items that simply don't disappear upon use is obviously a better plan. 2.4 certainly helped that happen, as badges of Justice are certainly attainable. But even so the top patterns are still rare and many smaller servers don't have good access. Knowing who has what pattern has been worked on through forum threads but, some kind of in game auction house to some how sell ability to make something would be helpful imo.

    On a side note, the fact that vendor flasks are only usable in 25 man instances is something i find to be annoying. I'm casual and after doing the 40 man thing back in Pre-BC i have no interest in setting foot inside an instance with a raid bigger then 10 (well accept a BG i guess.) If we gotta finish grinding up 3 Reps to exalted, Why can they not work in any raid?
    Arkhan - Arygos

  12. I was there for world first Karazhan, 3 days after release, and it's been nurfed many times since then. Nightbane went through 5 changes in less than a week. If you aren't on the cutting edge, you really don't see how many changes go through.

  13. Blame Diablo, the game where you had to drink health pots to stay alive, and drank mana pots to renew your mana.
    WoW used Diablo as its basis for the character UI, so mana and health potions were an obvious carry-on from that.
    I think we could all do without having to drink mana pots every time the cool-down expires.
    "Blizzard is not requiring consumables be used in any encounter, but they do help make any encounter go that much more smooth."
    Right, Healers don't need mana pots...

  14. Off topic:
    Encounters are often tweaked in the first few days. There have been encounters that were unusually easy, and others that were unusually hard in the first few days of release.

    To talk about the initial difficulty of Kara is hard to do for guild that were 'farming' Naxx. I had friends, and had close ties with the only guild on our server to complete Naxx before 2.0, and T3 level gear was good. Many classes didn't replace it until T4.

    However, my guild was working on the last two encounters of AQ40 when 2.0 hit, and while you wouldn't replace T2/2.5 with greens, level 70 blues were often better.

    Back then, Kara was hard for people in T2/lvl 70 blues. The crafted epics were harder to get mats for, and the heroics have been nerfed across the board. Primal nethers used to be very rare and difficult to obtain... there was no arena/honor gear worth it's salt for PvE.

    Kara is still a challenge in all blues/greens/lvl 60 epics. The 'gear inflation' we've seen for entry level 70s is, in my opinion, great. It's allowed players catching up to progress more quickly.

    I'd be hesitant to say that Kara has received anything close to the order of nerfs that say, Magtheridon has... but a new level 70 has far superior itemization than before, making progression in those entry level raids much easier. (plus the badges! I wish I could get all those badges for the first 2 months of farming Kara/Gruul/Mag for gear...)

  15. Problem 1: the reward v. effort is skewed. Too much time spent gathering with nothing to show for it when the raid is done. All other professions have a permanent affect.

    Problem 2: Guild view. If you are dumb enough to take alchemy, you are expected to provide potions. Blacksmiths are not expected to provide armor for everyone, etc. The guild usually does not contribute herbs, but expects Pots.

    I would like to see the ability for herbalists to create small "garden" like magic items. "Greenhouse of healing" would take some farming to create, but then sits in a bank slot and creates mats for 20 healing pots per week. . . Time limit on power, but permanent reward from grinding rather than having to re-grind everyweek for the rest of your life. . .

  16. saying that LW needed a buff is a joke. As far as BOP's are concerned, Rogue LW'ers have few options. Pre sunwell, there are BOP boots, shoulders and the 3 piece sets. Of these, the Swiftstrike Shoulders are the only "hard to obtain" item, as they require hearts of darkness, which still can be bought on most servers. The Boots of Utter Darkness and the Primalstrike chest, belt and wrist are all replaced in KARAZHAN. Compare that too tailoring which has the same level of difficulty in crafting BOPS, yet those sets last until at leasts T5.

    also, LW'ers have drums, but tailors have nets, designed to do the same thing- an extra little bonus. Don't tell me your guild didnt go nuts about nets when you did vashj.

    yes, the fact that mages are becoming leatherworkers is a probably outside of the design of the drums of battle, but rogues are becoming hammersmiths as well, all for the one item they can use with that profession.

  17. "Consumables aren't bad, but blaming them for the larger issue is. The problem is that encouters are designed to be outgeared for the majority of people to have success."

    Jason, that's a most excellent point. Proven by the fact that Blizzard nerfed the Mags encounter even though people would go in T5 and higher gear regularly these days - it required more coordination than most fights, even with top notch gear.

    Speaking about professions, I'm about to give up mine (Smithy/Engineer). The Khorium set was great and all, but for raiding as a holy paladin, those professions are a joke. Might actually go Herbalism/Alchemy, looking at the new stone. Why can't smithes not repair their own gear or that of their co-raiders? Why is that profession so useless?

  18. Wasn't the first gear check curator? Seems like all the raids have gear checks, competency checks, etc. Anyway, yeah its wrong for mages to be LWs. Expect drums to be nerfed :)
    And sunwell to be tuned down, thats almost a given.