Professions as an Introduction to New Game Systems

Something that occurred to me while going over my earlier professions post was the idea that the professions added in expansions (Jewelcrafting, Inscription, and Archaeology) have certain elements in common that differentiate them from the launch professions. It goes something like this:

  • Jewelcrafting was introduced in Burning Crusade as an expansion feature, along with the concept of socketable equipment, which Blizzard had seen put to great effect in Diablo 2. In addition to providing the gems to go into these sockets, Jewelcrafting also took over the empty niche of creating rings.
  • Inscription was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King, along with the glyph pane. While the exact scope of the glyph pane has shifted dramatically with each expansion since, Inscription’s design as the facilitator of the glyph system hasn’t changed.
  • Archaeology was introduced in Cataclysm, and in its original announcement at Blizzcon ’09, Archaeology was linked up with the Path of the Titans system, which would have provided characters with non-class-specific upgrades and new abilities, as a kind of alternative advancement method. When Path of the Titans was scrapped (because of power creep and too much crossover with glyphs), Archaeology was retooled to be a secondary profession, providing Bind-on-Account equipment, pets, mounts, and other frills, in addition to being an avenue for some limited lore delivery.

The patterns in these three professions are interesting, since they more closely align with the formula I outlined before:

Gather Resources –> Refine Resources –> Craft Items –> Get Skill Points –> Unlock New Recipes (repeat)

JC/Insc both have to depend on gathering professions for the Gather stage, but both have a discrete Refinement step, which most of the other professions don’t have. Additionally, the bulk of the items that they generate in Craft are items that are only useful in tandem with the respective game system; most of JC’s items post-300 are gems, while Inscription has very few non-glyph craftables at all.

Archaeology’s process is similar (arguably, the Survey stage is Gather, while getting the fragments is Refine, and Solving is Craft, but both getting fragments and solving artifacts grant skill points), but without a game system to dovetail into, the bulk of the profession is in fun frills and cosmetic items. Still, the pattern is there.

This realization does a couple things for me.

  1. It demonstrates how difficult it is for Blizzard to create new professions, because every profession they’ve added since launch has played into a different new character customization system. This is proven by the existence of Pet Battles in MoP, which most Blues have stated took the place of a new profession because it had similar depth as a timesink, but it’s not really a profession itself since it doesn’t alter the character at all; this is also why everything in the Pet Battles system is account-wide rather than character-specific, as professions are.
  2. It illuminates how broadly dissimilar the launch professions really were to one another; instead of altering the character in one specific way, you had the armor professions that provided armor, consumable professions that provided temporary power enhancements, and enhancement professions that offered permanent enhancements to equipment. However, none of them really held sway over a particular system in the same way that expansion professions did. You get temporary buffs from some of the professions. You got item enhancements from some of them.

So while I know a lot of people have been wondering about a Woodworking profession (something Blizzard lampshaded themselves) or suggested other concepts for professions, I’m starting to think Blizzard’s tapped the well on that one. And one could argue that instead of trying to come up with a new profession (and consequently a new character customization method to act as an expansion feature), Blizzard is better off making the existing professions more diverse and interesting to play.

I might have a few ideas on that, in fact. ^_^

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