Legion professions — sometimes it really is about the destination

Background (you can skip this part and still get the gist of the post):

For many years — probably most of my life now that I think about it — I have subscribed to the philosophy of “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” (For reference, I think this is a variation of the original Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”) I have previously described in this blog a personal tendency to make lists, create spreadsheets, and set goals for myself, and you may think that is at odds with the philosophy, but actually it is not. What I love is the process of planning and organizing, followed by flawless execution of the plan. Achieving the goal is rewarding, but it pales in comparison to the thrill of the process of getting there.

As an aside, you might think from this that I chase WoW achievements, but honestly they hold little interest for me, nor do things like mount or pet collections. These are prescribed goals in the game, and a big part of the fun I get is coming up with my own personal goals and carrying them out. I dislike being told what my goals should be.

Anyway, back to developing my point — and hang in there with me, because I promise you I do have one. Not to go all pop-psychology, but I think the thing that fascinates me about the process I described is that it gives me a feeling of control. For a variety of  reasons not worth going into here, I had a topsy-turvy childhood, trundled from one relative to another, from one school to another, sometimes 2-3 times a year. Control was not in my vocabulary, so when at the age of about 16 I realized I could actually be in charge of my own destiny, it was an epiphany.

It was the real start of my goal-setting, list-making, planning and organizing life style. Several years ago when I found a leisure time activity in the form of a computer game that let me indulge in doing this, it was a match made in heaven.

Blizz took what were broken professions in WoD and completely destroyed them in Legion. Stomped on them, ground them into dust, made a mockery of them.

Professions are now all journey with destinations so distant as to be virtually unreachable save for one or two per account. And there is only a single directed path one can follow, though that path is not specified but only discovered by stumbling about.

This is a part of the game many of us used to consider a nice side diversion that could provide some gear and gold along with being a pleasant distraction and a reason to spend some time on alts. But Legion has turned it into a confusing, protracted, RNG-dependent activity that is almost unattainable for any character other than a main. They have done this in the name of “content” as well as in the name of “play style choice”, but in fact it achieves neither of those stated objectives.

In fact, I would argue that Blizz was completely — and possibly purposely —  disingenuous when they tried to feed us those reasons, and that their true goals were to increase the metric of “Monthly Active Users” and to put an end to any sort of casual alt play style. MAU is the current standard of success for Activision Blizzard games (and presumably one of the metrics for calculating executive bonuses). It is a function of the number of hours played per month by users who actually log in, so it dovetails nicely with the “content” fantasy, especially the lazy content approach of artificially increasing the time sink requirement for heretofore auxiliary activities.

As to the concept of alt play, Ion Hazzikostas has several times stated his opinion that the only acceptable reason to roll an alt is to play it in the same way one plays a main, that to have an alt solely for the purpose of professions to supply a main is wrong and should not be permitted. And lo and behold, Legion professions now require a character to not only be at max level, but to be geared and proficient enough to participate in World Quests, instances up through Mythic level, raids, and in some cases high level PvP content. It is the ultimate insult for Blizz to cloak professions now as expanding options for players, while at the same time cramming this linear play style down our throats.

I had a short conversation last night with one of my guildies, and he went on a mini-rant — justified in my opinion — about how Legion more than any other WoW expansion is hostile to casual players. One of the points he brought up was the sheer amount of time necessary just to do normal activities — gear up, level a profession, gather mats, maintain progress in an artifact weapon, pursue the ever-elusive and possibly ghostly path to eventual flying, etc.

Blizz has said that Legion would give players many ways to achieve end game goals, but in fact what they have given us is an expansion that requires every activity be engaged in just to get to one goal. Those are not at all equivalent concepts. For true casual players — those who play 20 hours or less a week by my own personal definition — the time sink required just to get to end game is vastly higher than it has been for previous expansions. (I define “end game” as being geared about as high as you are going to be for the expansion, have your professions completed and well developed, routinely engaging in group activities you like such as raiding or rated battlegrounds, etc.) Some call this content, some call it MAU expansion.

Beyond these top-level deficiencies in Legion professions, there are other ridiculous and obvious shortfalls. For example, the tendency to include significant amounts of a wide variety of expensive mats from other professions to craft items. For example, to cook food, one does not just need fish, meat, and vendored sundries — the kind of mats you can get through diligent secondary profession gathering. Oh no, they require things like gem chips (mining and prospecting) and herbs (herbalism). And since the game is no longer conducive to getting these items from a lowly geared alt, either you were lucky enough to have years ago selected the lottery-winning professions on your main, or you can spend literally tens of thousands of gold buying these mats in the AH or in trade.

With the barriers to developing your own extended alt professions, I do not expect the prices of these items to come down very soon in the game. This, too, is a way to discourage play for casuals or for new players, because if you did not amass a fortune from the WoD gold giveaway, you simply cannot afford to buy these items. Even belonging to a guild is not much help, because most guilds cannot afford to buy them for their members, and anyone in the guild who can gather or make the items can make so much gold by selling them that there is no incentive to donate them to the guild bank or to another guildie, or even to sell at bargain prices to a guildie. Tin-foil hat theory would be that here is a golden opportunity for Blizz to sell a buttload of game tokens to those who need gold, but I won’t go there….

As I have said before, I do not object to having to do a bit of work to max professions out — I leveled my JC, my LW, and my Engineer when it was quite costly and difficult to do so. But I do object to a system that is not clearly laid out (even the third party sites are still murky about profession progression paths), that requires main-level game play and time commitment to achieve, and that so distinctly rewards the lucky and punishes the unlucky — part of the RNG run amuck trend.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any simple solutions to the mess Blizz has made of professions in Legion. I just know they have totally destroyed them, so there are no easy tweaks that will help. The only thing I can think of at this point would be to allow any character to have as many professions as they want. That way, since professions now require main-type play commitments, you could just spend the time on your main and get every profession of importance to you. I sincerely doubt that Blizz will do this, but still I feel like they should consider it, or at the very least start giving us what they promised: multiple ways to develop professions, instead of requiring participation in everything to develop professions. (Yeah, I get that Ion Hazzikostas doesn’t want us to use alts for professions, but somehow I feel that he could get over the trauma of it if he really tried, maybe buy himself some consolation gifts with all that MAU bonus money he will get.)

So, yeah, it is about the journey and not the destination, but the journey to professions is too effing long, too effing dark, and too effing linear.

8 thoughts on “Legion professions — sometimes it really is about the destination

  1. I have to say I agree with you. I know some people are just taking their time going about doing what they want. But at some point many are going to hit a wall where if they want those profession recipes they are going to have to raid, or do Mythics, or PvP. Personally I stopped last night. I am no longer chasing recipes for things worse than doing the content to get the recipe. And the forge? That was off the table the first week.

    1. Yeah the concept of taking one’s time is fine, but if you are a raider it could be costing you a bundle to indulge in that luxury. It is right now costing me over 10k gold every raid night just to buy supplies. That is not worth it.

      Forge — well, I did it, but I died 33 times just to get the pvp part of it done. Worst experience in Legion so far.

  2. I have only taken my main into Legion, and he has Herbalism and Alchemy.

    WoD professions were the nadir for me (especially back when everyone was given herbs, and all potions and flasks required some fish in them…..). Legion’s system has swung so far back the other way it’s ridiculous.

    I will admit that WoD has made me lazy: I used to enjoy doing herb and ore gathering in MoP (especially when I had flying) and I missed that activity in WoD when the Garrison gave me everything I needed, and more. Actually having to set time aside to gather herbs is something I’ve gotten out of the habit of, and due to the frustrations of the system I find it teeth-grinding-ly frustrating.

    Gating my progression in both professions behind RNG is lazy game design. Some herbs I can gather at 1 star, others I’m at 3 stars. No rhyme or reason, just sheer luck. I don’t feel like I’ve earned those skills, and I don’t feel like I’m doing a profession. It’s weak and unrewarding game play.

    Because herbs are so valuable they are in great demand, so often I will go several minutes without picking anything at all (while sneaking and/or fighting my way past mobs scaled to my level). I have the Gatherer enchant on my shoulders, but hey guess what – it’s more RNG as to whether I get anything, and more RNG as to whether it’s useful. Bleugh. I barely get enough mats in an hour’s dedicated foraging to meet my own needs, let alone think about helping out alts, guild mates or sell spares on the AH.

    [Side note: I thought nodes were going to stay open in Legion for multiple pickers? Instead of herbs disappearing when someone else taps them, they now disappear half way through me tapping them. Yay progress?]

    When you do drop the quest which unlocks the next herb-picking skill it can involve killing a mini-boss. I’m lucky that I have guild mates who will drop what they’re doing and come and help me. Last night I had to kill a mini-boss with 20m health. Two guildies helped me nuke it down, but we’re all 840 ilevel and playing our mains. I couldn’t have done that on an alt without being carried, frankly. If it was linked to downing a WQ boss or something similar that’d be fine. I don’t think my guildies even got anything useful off the mini-boss either, so what’s in it for them to help a solo player who wants to progress?

    Alchemy reminds me somewhat of what Blizz did with JC at the end of WoD, when you had to complete certain prescribed activities to get the recipe to make to 75 stat gems. Now we have to go into Heroic dungeons to progress in alchemy. Again, very alt-unfriendly. What happened to research? Or collecting stuff? I don’t mind if it takes a bit longer to do. By all means have the really cool ultra-rare stuff behind activities only my main can do (like making the best weapons in MoP: I thought that was a great balance between effort and reward).

    When you have your recipe, you’re then again at the mercy of RNG to improve them. I have a 2 star recipe for my INT flasks, and no idea when lady luck will smile on me and let me brew at 3 star levels. That is *not* fun. There’s nothing to work towards, it just requires persistence. All my potions are at 1 star, so I have to go to Dalaran to brew them at the Alchemy bench there. Fine for the first few, but after 40 it gets a bit old.

    It’s also the reason why herbs are more expensive than the potions they produce: potions are made purely to try to level up a skill, not to produce the product itself. That creates a shortage of herbs, which pushes the price up. It’s skewed the economy completely, and making money from alchemy for me involves selling the trinkets. Crazy. Alchemists are dumping the potions they made to level up their skills on the AH.

    Currently the “best” way to get potions and flasks is to be a Herbalist, sell the mats you collect and then buy the flasks and potions off the AH and make money in the process. Crazy situation.

    There’s a lot to like about Legion, and overall it’s a positive experience after WoD (I was close to quitting at this point in that xpac, and did so when 6.1 came out). But way too many activities I enjoy are now controlled via RNG. I’ve accepted that loot will happen that way, but I feel that Blizz have gone too far with it as a mechanism in professions and they need to have a serious re-think.

    1. Unfortunately for me, my main has LW and skinning as professions, and it turns out that this combo is one of the big losers for professions in Legion — you almost can’t give away the crafted items, and leather is going for less and less each day on my server — it is already at a point that I consider it not worth the considerable time and effort required to gather a stack for sale.

      You make a good point about herbs being more expensive than the potions they produce. As I said, I am currently spending over 10k a night (probably closer to 15k) just to be able to buy the flasks and pots and raw mats (the ones I can’t gather on my main) for food that I need in order to raid. I have guildies that will happily make the flasks and pots for me, but they very rightly need mats in order to do it, and it is even more expensive for me to buy the mats than the flasks and pots. I suppose this is not a problem for elite professional raid teams, and for those guilds that made millions doing moose carries in WoD, because they can afford to buy the supplies for their raiders. It is also not a problem for very casual raid teams, because they simply use the older WoD stuff for now and don’t much care about the stat differences. But for the semi-casual raid teams it is a big problem that does not seem to be getting better.

      Even more, it is a sort of snowball effect. I am forced to spend many hours on alts such as my herbalist, just to get going on lessening the gold cost for my main. This means I have much less time to spend on my main doing things I need to be doing to gear up for higher level raiding — things like finishing rep for the Nightfallen (I still am not even close to getting access to Black Rook Hold), getting exalted with the factions that will give me additional (orange) recipes for LW items (I am still only at 760 LW because all I have are gray items), and spending the hours necessary to troll for LW RNG drops. This does not even count the hours I do not have available to be running Mythic+ dungeons for the better gear.

      Basically, Blizz has given us an expansion that is friendly to players who can easily spend over 40 hours a week on it and to players who only use the game as a nice diversion a couple of hours a week. For the rest of us — the vast majority of players — it is turning out to be frustrating and unrewarding.

  3. Well, I would disagree with ‘ruined’ definition.
    Professions are most immersive than they’ve ever been. I like the errand quests, the educational questing, a number of different mats that are needed for them. Yes, you need gems for your gear, you need some salt and veggies to cook a stew – not just a beast leg and no water.
    I hate two things about professions now.
    First, is RNG. Professions are something about persistence. It’s not loot, it’s what you gradually excel at. The improvement quest/recipe must drop 100% upon reaching a certain profession level. You must not wonder if it will or will not drop when you’re way into expansion and got 800 profession skill long ago. And I won’t even mention what seems to be the major Legion joke – ‘The Nomi Legion’. It’s merely a black hole. Put in nothing else but Cooking, one of the most straightforward things ever.
    Second, it’s the enormous number of mats inherited from Draenor. By any common sense you don’t need 100 cloths to craft a dress. Considering gameplay, by the time you’ll be able to craft something valuable – you’ll outgrow it via leveling, world quests, raiding and what not. It has always been a problem with craft, because simpler patterns were generally useless compared to loot.
    Still, I could say that Legion improved the gear catch-up situation a bit. My main, the Tailor, has sewn three 815 capes so far, for herself and for when-110 warlock and priest. She also crafted three gears for warlock – and the warlock has yet one level to be able to wear them.

  4. I agree that the RNG factor in leveling up recipes is not at all fun, and at times very frustrating (if this frustrates you try out the RNG factor in PvP). I do however like the fact that this same thing may be keeping AH prices up for the materials. In WoD if I saw a node on my minimap there was probably a 50/50 chance(or less honestly) I was going to go for it, as the amount of gold I could generate from it was not always worth the time (if ever). I like the fact that I can go out and farm materials for a while and make a tidy sum in Legion.

    When it comes to pretty much all things legion its quite obvious to me that Blizzard does NOT want you to play a multitude of toons, and I quite like this honestly. In terms of PvP it stops people form rolling a “flavor of the month” class as nerfs/buffs make certain classes either OP or trash. In PvE I feel it deepens a players connection to a specific class, so for me at least, it deepens the immersion.

    For professions, I thought there was nothing stopping you from dropping and picking up professions in legion. To my knowledge I thought the system was designed to be able to drop and learn or re-learn as many professions as you want without much penalty. I think there may even be an item that you buy (very low gold cost) to relearn all recipes and ranks you’ve previously obtained once you re-learn a profession. Of course, you will not re-learn pre-Legion recipes, so that’s a bummer for some professions more than others. I think this was Blizzards way of saying “hey, you don’t need alts for professions, you can do them all on your main”, which once again ties into Blizzards “we only want you to play one toon” mantra. I could be completely wrong about this however, so please verify…

    1. Yes. You can learn a new one and drop to relearn. But the thoughts of leveling a new profession to max and to go through the required dungeons of different levels multiple times, I think I would rather level an alt that already has the profession. I don’t necessarily mind having to get say some leather for cloth boots, or ore for a belt. Even herbs for dye. But the shear amount of some things is very unbalanced. I believe I needed 40 Stormscale to make a Tailoring item the other day. On top of 55 cloth. The 55 imbued cloth was not so bad when you recall the years of making Imbued Frostweave. Having to go to a secret location to make something? That seems unnecessary once you have been there a few times. Especially if you forgot to grab one item off the AH.

    2. Well, I am close to the point where my herbalist alt will be able to gather sufficient herbs not only to supply my main but also to sell a few, so I guarantee that as soon as I reach this point the AH market for herbs will crash. Just a heads up. 😉

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