Saturday, July 26, 2008

Crafting, Gold, and Balance

Right now, there's a trend--especially at the high end of raiding and PvP--of characters taking two crafting professions. They do this in order to get the "perks" from each profession slot, maximizing their character's potential.

This has some interesting economic ramifications. There are now fewer gatherers, and more crafters, so the raw materials have become scarcer, and prices have increased significantly. To combat this, Blizzard is introducing perks for the gathering professions in WotLK. For example, Mining gets a +Stamina bonus.

However, some people aren't happy with this, because levelling crafting professions is an expense, while levelling gathering professions gains you money. They feel that because they put in the greater expense, they should get a greater reward.

The problem with this is that money or gold is really irrelevant when it comes to character balance. If Leatherworking gives more of a boost to your characters stats than Mining, Mining will be dropped by the serious players, regardless of how much money it brings in.

It's like there are two mutually exclusive choices. A crafting profession can either be useful to your character (I.e. it has benefits that cannot be provided by another crafter), or it can be profitable. If it is useful, everyone will take it, increasing the supply, increasing the costs, and reducing the profits. If it is not useful, then fewer people will take it, increasing scarcity and making it more likely you can make money with it.

For example, if Blizzard really wanted players to be able to sell crafted goods for profit, they should increase the perks for the gathering professions until they are noticeably better than the perks from crafting. This means that most serious players will drop crafting professions and go double gatherer. This means that there will be plentiful supply of raw materials. Then Blizzard should have crafted BoE recipes of good quality available. Plenty of raw materials + fewer crafters = lots of income.

But would you take that trade? More gold in exchange for lower character prowess? I think that most people won't. That it will just lead to complaining by everyone. So Blizzard will try and balance perks between the crafting and gathering professions.

Unless the cost is extremely exorbitant, gold costs never hold players back. Respec costs haven't, costs to level professions haven't, repair costs haven't, alchemy costs back in WoW 1.0 didn't. You cannot count on gold costs to balance character prowess. All significant gold costs really do is cause players to spend more time farming, complaining, and cause players to drop out of the game when they can't keep up.

Edit: This post is really the confluence of two somewhat-related ideas: gold costs do not affect game balance; and crafting can be useful or profitable, but not both. I probably should have tried to separate them out a bit better.


  1. This very phenomenon has been discussed recently in my guild, and while 'maximising your characters potential' is certainly a factor, so is minimising effort. Currently to get a significant number of the highest quality Crafted BoP recipes you need to grind reputation. To grind Rep in the main you need to grind instances... grind them till your eyes bleed.

    Take Cenarion Expedition rep rewards for instance. You want both the Distilled Wisdom flask and Nethercleft Leg Armour pattern to use amongst your alts and small guild. With one Alchemist and one Leatherworker you need to grind to exalted with both characters to get them, whereas with a LWing/Alchemist Main you only need to grind with your main. And CE are one of the easier factions to gain rep with.

    The same goes with low-chance BoP recipe drops from instances.

    Those seeking to maximise a return on their time spend should always use a 2-Crafter main so long as BoP recipes are linked to Rep and whilst Gathering doesn't require specialised BoP recipes. However, if they make [Smelt Cobalt] a BoP Recipe from [Insert WotLK Faction] then all bets are off.

    Hrm... that make sense?

  2. This was a big part of why I dropped Herbalism/Alchemy for Enchanting/Tailoring in TBC. Herbalism offers some minor buffs, and Alchemy (now) offers a BOP potion and a trinket, but the main benefit of the pair of professions was income. Enchanting got me ring enchants, disenchant, and convenience, while Tailoring got me the 3-piece BoP set.

  3. actually opted for the route that involves toe most grinding of them all.

    My Main is a holy priest who has been tailoring and enchanting since day one. When I rerolled alliance he was rolled and leveled with the intention of being my raiding main.

    My primary alt (65 and counting at this point) is my alliance side hunter who is double gathering skinning and herbing.

    I get the best of both worlds with the added bonus of leaving the priest holy specced and farming with the hunter, saving that cost as well.

    Nicely written, thanks getting my brain going this morning.

  4. You've hit on something that Blizzard is very slowly realizing: People will put up with anything for small gains. Rep grinds, endless farming, super-low drop chances, people will go through anything as long as it makes their character just a tiny bit better. They knew this back pre-BC after the disaster of consumable farming for Naxx. They hit a small symptom, nerfing alchemy, but the overall problem is still there.

    Is there really any way to fix this? It only makes sense to do what makes our characters stronger. The only way we'd do differently is if we either didn't care or didn't know. But people will always care and people will always do the tests to figure out every little mechanic.

  5. Great post and very thought provoking. I realized soon after hitting 70 that gold is worthless at endgame. I'm doing herb/alch on one char which brings in more gold than I'm ever going to spend - and tailoring/enchanting with a new main.

    Its a nice change just to spend rather than earn on two crafting professions, and, as people say, hop up to 70 with some nice gear waiting.

    Initially it was a disappointment that gold becomes so worthless. But it also is quite logical, because gaining gold is a mechanical, solo process. In an MMORPG, solo processes should never be worth very much.

    Mind you, even the BoP crafted items are not irreplaceable - easily substituted by some other item. Blizzard likes to keep us all weighing possibilities, rather than giving us an "ultimate best option". We'd all stop playing overnight otherwise, once we hit it.

  6. I think someone else said - raiding main with crafting professions that help with raiding (enchanting, jewelcrafting), and farmer alt/s with professions that make money - mining, herbalism, alchemy, tailoring. Alchemy is one of those professions that helps with raiding too, with the alchemist stones :)

  7. The problem is the end game from the perspective of crafters, there are a few items for raiders that are useful, for non-raiders a lot of it was probably better but for raiders and especially with badge gear crafted armour is rare.

    Whats likely to make professions more useful is good levelling armour / weapons and unique bonuses in the end game either something like the alchemists stone, or access to rare pots / better stones. Allowing blacksmithing to add sockets for example, is a good end game bonus, to have crafted gear capable of being on - par with end game raiding gear throws off the gear curve there, unless it requires materials from those high end dungeons, in which case its either open to crafters in there or open to purchase for high enough gold.

    There needs to be a way to make professions viable, yet not disrupt the gear curve, for example for Warlocks you can hit BT gear levels (or rather BT damage levels) without even setting foot in an instance beyond T4. Thats a horrible disruption to the flow of the gearing in the game and is in many ways badly designed. Most characters should ideally be 1 crafter 1 gatherer as the "aim", that is you craft your own BoP rare items from these high level instances as the reason to take the crafting profession, since this helps to stop rampant gear inflation.