Multiple (Crafting) Personalities

This presents a bit of a conundrum.

It’s not exactly a professions problem, even if that’s the the element that starts the discussion, but it’s really a comment about why players choose to play only one character or multiple characters. The problem is that it’s hard to unpack when Dr. Street is the one making the statement and doesn’t really clarify aside from this:

Dr. Street here is asserting that he doesn’t like players using alts strictly as a way to get around the two-profession limit but there are a couple different ways to parse that:

  1. Players should feel compelled to interact with other players in order to gain access to the benefits of other professions. If this is via a guild, or the Auction House, or spamming in trade, that’s all good, because this is an MMO and interacting with other players is really a big component of the game’s draw. So if a player instead tends a big stable of profession alts and becomes 100% self-sufficient, this is flying in the face of the MMO design because it’s a blow to interaction.
  2. Players who feel obligated to level a crafting alt in order to get access to profession stuff are going to burn out, because if they aren’t enjoying playing that character, and are only doing all of the work because they want to get access to specific enchants/gems/consumables without having to rely on other players, it’s going to sour them on the experience of play and it could sour them on the game in general. That’s bad, because more burnout == fewer happy players and ultimately fewer players at all.

From a design perspective, and particularly from his position as Lead Systems Designer, Dr. Street’s job is to try and facilitate the players being happy with the game. So if players are burning out because they feel compelled to roll up a stable of character they resent playing, that’s a problem for him to address. But that butts up against the design of encouraging players to engage with one another, and the sheer momentum of players doing things they don’t like doing in order to give themselves the slightest advantage in gameplay.

It doesn’t feel like an easy problem to solve, but hey…

The initial solution suggest was account-wide professions. This can take a couple theoretical forms, so let’s throw them all out there and see what we get.

  • Two Professions per Battle.net Account: This would infuriate the altoholics who like their present self-sufficiency, which in some cases is likely the lifeblood of guilds that rely on a particularly industrious player for all their consumable needs. But in terms of trying to revive the sense that players need to interact with each other in order to get the perks of professions, having this kind of limit would do the trick.
  • Account-wide Access to Professions: This would ostensibly allow my Herbalist/Alchemist main to queue up Blacksmithing/Inscription tasks without having to log into the alts, and potentially collect recipes/mats for those alts or perhaps gain skill points for those professions while on my main. The theoretical limitation is that each character can still only have a max of two professions, and thus only get two of the direct throughput increases currently offered by each primary profession. While this is more a quality-of-life change, it has a couple of drawbacks:
    • By actively reducing the compulsion to log into alt characters to get them out into the world to gather materials or perform crafting tasks, it reduces the gameplay for the alt, and chips away at the replayability that alts are meant to represent.
    • Taken to an extreme, it begs the question of whether the gathering professions should even be treated as professions anymore, since players will likely want to just gather ore, herbs, and skins on their mains, or if (as I’ve suggested in the past) having those professions would simply allow those characters to gather MORE materials from each node.
    • There are also likely technical limitations in having account-wide professions. Seeing the list of available recipes for offline characters is one thing, but what about seeing cooldowns for cooldown-delimited abilities? Does a single character have to be holding all the crafting materials or can it draw across the inventories of all characters on the account? Keep in mind that we’re in a world where BoA items are still limited by server, so that introduces a whole different layer to the problem.
  • All the professions, all the time: The ad absurdum edge of account-wide professions is players straight up being able to do all of the professions and getting all the perks with no limitations. This creates a circumstance where a player feels compelled to level up all three gathering professions, all four gear-crafting professions, all four enhancement professions, as well as Cooking, in order to get all of the profession perks. This is the kind of min-maxing behavior that’s really become endemic among WoW players, which has contributed to the overwhelming common sensibility that if you’re not fully gemmed, enchanted, hit-capped, reforged to capitalize on your simulation-derived optimal secondary stats, using the optimal talents for the content, and using addons/macros to enhance your rotation/priority, you’re flat-out “doing it wrong and need to L2P.” So if you add “max out twelve professions across four expansions of content” to that list, well… it’s certainly not going to help the burnout problem.

In responses to Dr. Street’s tweet, there’s plenty of other suggestions thrown out: let everyone have a crafting profession slot and two production professions slots; throw out profession bonuses entirely; let characters know all professions but only have two active at a time… the list goes on. I don’t think there’s a simple solution to the problem (as I hope I’ve demonstrated here) but in terms of what practicable solution I like the most?

I’m going to go with account-wide access, with each character still being limited by two primary choices. I’d also argue that herbalism, mining, and skinning ought to be downgraded to secondary professions, freeing up a slot for some characters to get another production/enhancement profession into play. If that means Master of Anatomy, Lifeblood and Toughness get nerfed or removed, then I think that’s ultimately an acceptable trade.

In a dream scenario, well… this blog is filled with all of the ideas I’ve got about turning professions into a much more robust system within the game. So hey, if it’s your first time here, look around. ^_^ There is definitely more to come.

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4 thoughts on “Multiple (Crafting) Personalities

  1. Personally, I don’t see this as a problem that needs to be solved. Some people are completionists and want to be fully self sufficient. Other people don’t care as much about that and are willing to give up the gold it costs to buy things. In the end, it’s pretty much always cheaper to buy things than to bother leveling up all the professions on alts.

    My solution, though, would be to allow “respecs” on professions. You advance a profession as usual, gaining skill points and recipes. However, by visiting a profession trainer, you can choose to drop your profession and replace it with a new one. The key difference from the current implementation is that when you do this, you don’t lose everything from the profession you dropped. You always have the option to come back, and pick up that other profession right where you left off, with all the perks/stats/recipes you had before.

    To balance this out, attach an escalating cost to switching professions, and maybe put on a cooldown where you can only switch so often.

    • I could get behind that. And maybe the people for whom this is a non-personal problem (specifically players who wouldn’t normally choose to aim for self-sufficiency but are forced to because of poor server economies) that’ll get resolved by Connected Realms.

      There’s definitely a problem where, if Blizzard has to design to prevent players from abusing themselves, players will chafe at being restrained, but if Blizzard pulls out the stops, players complain of burnout because they have to do everything to stay competitive. This was the whole awful trap of how dailies were launched in MoP, because the 25-daily cap was there to keep players from feeling overly restrained about what daily hubs to work, but removing that cap (along with dailies granting charms and VP) created an environment where not doing all of the dailies put players behind the optimal gearing curve.

      So yeah, maybe it’s not a MAJOR problem, but at the same time, when the Lead Systems Designer says “hey, we should talk about this” then I aim to please. ^_^

      • Personally, I just find the MMO Champions poll to be rather suspect. 75% of players rolled alts to get more professions? Seems unlikely. 75% of players with alts chose their professions to strategically mesh with their main’s choices? That seems more reasonable.

        I haven’t player in a long time, but I remember having multiple cap-level characters. I had a shaman, a warrior, and a mage, and you better believe I picked everything about them to mesh perfectly. My shaman was primarily a healer, my warrior was a tank, and my mage was (obviously) DPS. None of them shared primary professions, only one of them maxed out cooking. Did I roll them so I could cover all my bases for professions? Definitely not, but it was certainly a pleasant side effect.

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