Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alts Consolidated

The question of account-wide professions in WoW

Nothing beats a hand-forged axe. But, hey! who's gonna enchant it for me?
   A recent WoW Insider Community Blog Topic poses the question "Should professions be account-wide?" Since the start of World of Warcraft, characters have been limited to two primary professions, with many players choosing one gathering profession (Herbalism, Mining, or Skinning) and one crafting profession (Blacksmithing, Enchanting, Engineering, Inscription, Jewelcrafting, Leatherworking, or Tailoring). However, characters routinely require the services of other professions. You may, as a Blacksmith, make your Warrior an awesome axe but you still need someone to put an Enchantment on it. You can make a belt buckle! Great! But, without someone to craft a jewel for it, it's worthless. In fact, some professions have often worked together synergistically -- for example, a Jewelcrafter prospecting gems from the ore gathered by Mining, which an Alchemist then transmutes into higher quality raw gems which the Jewelcrafter in turn crafts into a useful item.
   A lot of players create alternate characters (alts) who can become their own personal Alchemist, Enchanter, etc. In fact, this "rolling of alts" for the sole purpose of leveling additional professions was the primary impetus for this particular topic, as WoW's lead systems designer, Greg Street (a.k.a. Ghostcrawler), recently tweeted, in response to a question about account-wide professions, that "alts just to get around the prof limit bug me."
   I suspect the real reason, though, that players might like to see account-wide professions is not to avoid "bugging" Ghostcrawler, but to have another level of convenience added to the game. Why use my Mining character to go gather my ore and then mail it to my Jewelcrafter character to prospect so that he can send it to my Alchemist character to transmute so that he can then send it back to my Jewelcrafter? All that bothersome logging in and logging out! All that sending and receiving of mail! Why can't I do it all on just one character?

Why not? Why can't I have a profession pony???

   The most obvious argument against allowing players to have multitudinous professions on a single character is that each profession provides certain bonuses to the character (Tailors get a unique Cloak Enhancement that amounts to a +320 stat bonus, Inscriptionists get a superior Shoulder Enhancment that amounts to +320, etc.). Of course, this is easily resolvable. A character would still get only two bonuses, and could choose which two she would like to receive from whatever professions she has trained in. It could work much in the same way that characters can choose which Faction they want to earn Reputation with when doing dungeons or scenarios. But, heck, why not get rid of the choice altogether? Just give everyone a +640 bonus on their most useful stat. Or, why even highlight that the stats have been boosted? Just cook it into the overall numbers, much as many of the old talents have become passive bonuses.
   As you perhaps can see, this simply leads us further down the path of homogenization, removing somewhat interesting options, and stirring everything into one big amalgamated brew.

   The argument against account-wide professions which most immediately comes to my mind is the issue of bag space. Most players are already straining to keep their inventory cleared. What would happen if my Herbalist/Alchemist could suddenly perform the tasks of all the other professions I have fully leveled? During the next expansion, is my main character going to be simultaneously Mining, Herbing, and Skinning? Even one gathering profession is a burden on my bags. Maybe WoW should get rid of bags altogether -- everything I gather, every item and award I pick up along the way can just get sucked into some giant Void Storage which becomes accessible to every character I have.

   I imagine that some people are rubbing their hands together gleefully at this point, thinking "Yesssss! Yessssss! Thisss isss what I want! What I needs!"

   Assuming that such a thing is possible -- the rise of the über-gatherer and the über crafter -- think about what effect this change would have on the marketplace. If almost everyone could gather everything all the time without having to log on to other characters, without having to level other characters, the market would become swamped with materials. Prices would plummet. And, of course, if almost everyone could craft almost every item, why would anyone need to buy anything anyway? Again, maybe the best thing to do would be to get rid of professions completely? If I can do all of these things on one character, with no need to rely on other characters or even other players, maybe they should just come automatically. I should be provided a new set of gear at every level, with all the bonuses from Enchantments and Jewels built right into the stats.

   The bottom line is that people are constantly wishing for ways that the game could be easier, more convenient. But, inevitably, whenever Blizzard caves in and makes a "quality of life improvement" to WoW, what seems to be those same people start complaining about how the game is being dumbed down and they endlessly wax nostalgic for the "good old days," when players really had to work hard to get their rewards.
   To be honest, it's a bit wack. Most of the systems in the game are already good, they've already been proven to work; we need only find a way to make them work for us individually. In fact, most of us already have.

I miss the innocent days, sleeping in the courtyards of Silvermoon, with my one and only kitty by my side.

A Girl Named Phil, and a Siamese Cat with No Name

   Last week I met a girl named Phil (I think it was short for something). On Mumble after raid, her friend was teasing her a bit about the fact that she uses no add-ons. As I am rather conservative in my own add-on usage, I was curious about what she might consider to be a useful add-on. What is absolutely essential?
   "What about Auctioneer or Auctionator?" I asked. "Do you use the standard auction house UI?"
   "I don't do the auction house," she replied matter-of-factly.
   I was speechless for a moment, then stammered through my next few questions. "But... But... how... how do you... get enchants? or jewels? How... How..."
   Again matter-of-factly, she reminded me of what she had been talking about moments before. She has a small army of alts, many at level 90, and through her alts she has all her professions covered, all fully stocked and leveled. She has everything she needs.
   "Wow," I remarked, "you're completely self-sufficient."

   And what's wrong with that after all? She's not trying to "get around" the profession limit. She's merely playing the game the way she wants to play it. She created alts for other reasons too, perhaps to try out the different classes and races. Along the way, each of them chose a "job" and now has duties and skills that contribute to the whole of her autonomous nation of characters.
   Perhaps, as I feel with my own cast of characters, she attributes a certain "identity" to each character, based on race and class but perhaps based on factors like professions as well. Or... well... maybe she's not as RP as me.

   I confess. I write little stories in my head as I play. When I roll a new "toon," I create a definite character, sometimes with a rich inner life. And my profession choices have been based as much on these "back stories" as on anything else. My Hunter Erakuu is a good example. I consider him to be a simple orc, a former peon who came over in the First War. Simple, but older and wiser, he came to Durotar and started a small farm. When he decided to learn the ways of a Hunter and explore the world, he also desired to examine its flora and fauna. Thus, I made him an Herbalist and Skinner. He's also my only character who has ever reached max level in the secondary profession of Fishing.
   If professions became account-wide so that I no longer had to use Erakuu as my Skinner, the game would feel diminished to me. In fact, the recent homogenization of Achievements, Titles, Mounts, and even Companion Pets -- though nice in some ways -- has made each of my characters feel a little less special. Especially with Companion Pets. Though I love the new Pet Battle system and am glad that I can collect and battle pets with any of my characters across my account, and I understand that this system makes sense, I used to make very specific Pet choices with my characters.

   My Warlock, who is a rather hard-hearted Undead bitch, never had any Companion Pets. She would delete the ones she received in her mailbox, such as the Baby Blizzard Bear and even the Core Hound Pup. Too cute! Must destroy! (Yet now she wears her Safari Hat like a dork and battles pets in the wild whenever I need her to. Sigh...)
   As I was never a Companion Pet collector (until those damned addictive Pet Battles!), most of my characters would have only one pet, one special pet. For Tanasttia, it was a Crimson Snake. For my Mage Sihnkla, it was the Siamese Cat. She took it with her everywhere. Just as a traditional witch or magic-user has a familiar, that Siamese Cat was her familiar. Now, the poor thing is lost in the shuffle with 400 other pets.

   Perhaps I'm in the minority on this topic. Tonight, I asked Phil (turns out, it's actually Fil, short for Filbetta) if she would prefer to have account-wide professions or if she prefers her system as it is, her troop of alts. With her "God, yes!" blurted out before I even fully stated the question, I realized my thesis was now completely undermined. And everyone else on Mumble joined in with similar responses. Fil even said she would re-level every single profession she needed just to be able to have it all on one character.
   OK. So I'm a nutcase then, a lone voice in the wilderness. I still think it's a bad idea. I still think our characters should be distinct. But I suppose I can understand certain aspects of what people want, so I'll throw out a bone. If anything is going to be made account-bound, it has to be recipes. I've been wondering why my Tailor hasn't been able to craft quality Spellthreads, and I finally realized it's because the recipes are gated behind Golden Lotus reputation. And, yeah, that just sucks.


  1. My partner and I have discussed this many, many times; our personal choice would be if *secondary* professions would be account-wide, while primary professions remained choice-of-two. Leveling primary professions is often fun and (like you) I often make RP-based choices about the professions for a given character, but the secondary professions often feel like an enormous chore.

    1. Interesting point. I didn't focus too much on the Secondaries, as they are fairly optional anyway, but I understand. The second time I tried to level cooking, I just gave up.
      Thanks for the comment and the Retweet as well!