Monday, April 9, 2007

WoW Journal - 10-April-2007

I'm still determined to start playing Lord of the Rings Online next weekend, when the European pre-order access starts. Captivating as MMORPGs are, it is likely that this will lead to me taking a break from World of Warcraft. And I have no idea how long that break will be. I might be back at WoW after a month, or I might put it on hold until the next expansion. So I was thinking what I still wanted to achieve in World of Warcraft before the break, and getting my second character up to level 70 was on top of the list. This weekend I hit that goal, and my warrior dinged 70, and bought his (normal) flying mount.

I wanted to get to level 70 not because of some sort of status, but because I reached level 70 with my first character without doing the quests of Nagrand, Blade's Edge, Shadowmoon Valley, or Netherstorm. So with this second character I managed to complete all, or nearly all, the quests of Nagrand and Blade's Edge, plus more than half of the Shadowmoon Valley quests. Still more than one zone worth of quests missing, but I might just do those remaining quests with my level 70s. Not quite as much fun as leveling up, but at least you gain gold and reputation.

With both characters I had the feeling that I was leveling too fast in the Burning Crusade, especially in the second half from level 66 to 70. Of course as I played my warrior not every day, he always was on double xp bonus, which added to the speed. But the impressive looking 750,000 xp you need for the last levels are not that huge once you notice that you easily make 75,000 xp per hour just doing solo quests. Just 10 hours to level up is a bit short in my opinion for the highest levels. I had the impression that the time per level was actually getting shorter.

Now that I'm 70 with my warrior, who is also alchemist, I should go for some alchemy specialization. There are now potion mastery, elixir mastery, and transmutation mastery, of which you can choose only one, and have to do a quest to reach it. The transmutation mastery quest is the easiest, requiring you just to hand in 4 Primal Mights, but of course that is rather expensive. The elixir mastery quest is the hardest, you need to farm Black Morass for 10 items, and apparently the drop rate is low. Potion mastery requires you to get a book from a boss in Botanica, plus some potions. I don't think I'd want to do elixir mastery, but I can't really decide between transmutation and potion mastery. You can only transmute once a day, or once every couple of days, depending on the cooldown. But of course if you ever got your transmutation mastery to proc on a Primal Might transmute, you'd make a big profit. Potion mastery would be nice for all the healing and mana potions you regularly drink. But frankly I'm not excited by any of these masteries. Other tradeskills get new recipes on specialization, alchemy just gets a chance to produce several potions instead of just one.

While soloing with my warrior, I used a lot of elixirs. But that is because when soloing I don't die very often, so each elixir lasts a full hour. In a pickup group you tend to die a lot more often, and quickly stop wasting those expensive potions that only last until the next wipe. I raids you also wipe a lot, but you are still expected to use potions, which makes raiding a rather expensive hobby. Fortunately I don't raid any more, because all I see the raiders in my guild doing is either raiding or farming for raids. And Blizzard is planning changes to the way elixirs work, making them stack with other buffs, so you'll be expected to drink even more elixirs for every wipe.

In the Burning Crusade Blizzard introduced dynamic spawning for mobs. The more people there are killing mobs in a location in Outland, the faster the mobs spawn there, thus making sure that there is a constant supply. But that isn't true for all spawns. For example the elementals that drop motes, needed for various primals in crafting recipes, don't spawn faster when overcamped, and nowadays they are always overcamped. And herb and ore nodes also don't have dynamic spawning, the more people are after these resources, the harder they are to get. I know several raiders who dropped whatever tradeskills they had to take up herbalism, because that is nearly a required skill nowadays for raiding.

And there is the big flaw in the World of Warcraft crafting system: the resource gathering is the limiting factor. Alchemy is not a money maker, many potions sell for less than the price of the herbs on the auction house. That is because performing alchemy is fast, and everyone has mostly the same recipes, so alchemists are interchangeable. To be special as alchemist you need to get hold of some rare recipe. A few of them you can try to farm, but those that drop from a specific type of mob often have drop rates of around 0.2%, which means you'll need to kill 500 mobs on average to get such a recipe. Many more recipes you just can't do anything to hunt for them, you either would need to be extremely lucky with a world drop, or buy them from the auction house for crazy prices. Or you'd need to be extremely lucky receiving a random discovery recipe after making thousands of potions.

What Blizzard should do is to make resource spawns dynamic, so the more people gather ore or herbs, the faster they respawn. And they should make it more viable to hunt after recipes, by having more recipes drop from specific bosses in specific 5-man dungeons, instead of being random world drops. Ideally the crafting process itself would take some skill, but that is probably asking too much from a game like World of Warcraft.

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