Phasing out the raid consumables

patisserie

Let’s face it, consumables in game are nowhere near as fun as consumables in real life.

Clicking on an icon doesn’t compare well to choosing from a menu or window display. Aside from the fact that you can’t taste it anyway, there’s no feast for the senses, no visual appeal. You can’t get excited about clicking a potion the same way you can from looking at a patisserie window.

Even aside from the pictures of cakes, consumables fill an odd function in MMOs. They provide some benefit to the consumer – maybe a short term buff, or faster healing. They are often player-created via a tradeskill, so a constant demand keeps the tradeskill viable. And they are usually optional for soloing, but considered important in any really challenging content. Like anything which provides stats in a game, consumables can be min-maxed. So if you end up in progression raids, part of the skill of raiding is knowing which consumables to bring and where to get them from.  Some may last different amounts of time, be easier to get, be defunct, or be buyable with tokens.

This is all very obscure if you are a new player. You could easily level to cap and have run many instances without anyone ever saying a thing about consumables and without really having them mentioned in quests either.

In LOTRO I’m terrible at remembering the raid consumables. I usually try to load up on them when I can, but some of them affect your whole group, others can be over-written, and yet others come in varying strengths and durations. So it’s guaranteed that the one time a raid leader asks you to use one, it’ll be the one you don’t have.

I am assuming that with more practice (read: more whining at Arb) I’ll know what to bring. But right now, it all seems so random. I keep wondering – would this be more fun if the consumables were just kind of … baked in to the game. It’s not as if there’s really much choice once you know which the optimal ones are. Turbine have made things easier. You can buy most of the potions with Mirkwood emblems (of which I have several hundred in my vault, and I can’t actually remember how or why).

Warcraft is going the same way. In Cataclysm, food buffs will be provided by feasts (only one person in the raid needs to bring them) and there are hints of cauldrons (only one person in the raid needs to bring the elixir), flasks will be very cheap and also last through death, and spell reagents get more optional also.

I know this is more grist to the mill of complaints about dumbing  down, but raid consumables were just an extra list of “stuff you have to do before you raid.” They represented a kind of secret raider knowledge that regular players didn’t need to know (in Vanilla WoW, most people would never have needed to use a flask, and might have no clue about where they came from or what they did.) The discipline of having to farm your own raid consumables did add something to the raiding experience. It was more than just turning up on raid night. But it was also time consuming, obscure, and doesn’t really fit in modern games.

I’d see the phasing out of raid consumables as a bell wether for where MMOs are drifting. Being pressured to look information up outside the game is the next big element which devs will attempt to optimise out of MMOs in future.

For all that, I have a soft spot for cooking as a trade skill. In WoW, it’s probably the best fun of any of them. It combines the fun of collecting ingredients with having lots of different recipes to make – and many of them do sell at end game (less now that feasts are available though.) It’s just that once stats are involved, any of the fun of window shopping at patisseries disappears. They’re just like any other boring old MMO stat item.

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26 thoughts on “Phasing out the raid consumables

  1. I used to be silly worked up over consumables back in TBC. I swear I never dared enter a 5-man instance without wearing my two elixirs. I felt naked without them. A more experienced player used to mock me for wasting my money. But I think I was just too insecure not to wear them. I may have been newbish and crappy but at least I wanted to show my good will, that I wasn’t lazy.

    Today I wouldn’t dream of wasting consumables in 5-man instances. Raiding is another matter though. I wouldn’t go to a raid – any kind of raid, even retro-lol-raiding or doing a simple VoA – without taking some drugs and munching on some fish. It’s really printed into my mind that that’s what you do. Not much of logic in it when I think about it.

    • I’m imagining an eat-all-you-can-buffet minigame, or a how-much-food-can-you-stack-on-one-plate minigame (I used to be really good at this when I was an undergrad) now ;)

  2. Re cooking – I like the current design that feasts provide a decent buff, but min/maxers can get a slightly better buff if they want to (the armor pen food, for example, is better for me than the feast).

    • I also used to religiously farm a stack of expertise foods before Wrath raids when I needed it to cap expertise on Spinks, but lately I can’t be bothered. I figure my threat is fine, if it isn’t then there will be hunters or rogues around to help, and … well … the feast is free!

      I agree that the design does work quite well. The baseline provided by the feast at least means everyone gets the stamina buff and some useful stats, even if not quite optimum. So if you want to put in a bit extra work, you can.

  3. As a game designer, I believe that you should always reward your players for doing some preparation.

    Even for just basic MMO gameplay, or example a good player makes sure that they have good gear, understand their class role, understands their class and racial abilities, ample healing/mana posts, bandages, personal consumables/scrolls.

    Preparation gives players who aren’t as skilled a way to compensate which I believe is a good thing.

    Then there’s the preparation involved in raiding that becomes like a second job as they must know the fight and learn strategies in advance via the web and videos. This kind of preparation which *is* required is what Blizzard should be focusing on eliminating.

    The problem is that Blizzard tunes all of the encounters with the assumption that players will use every possible means of preparation at their disposable. This has the affect of making all of the involuntary preparation (which is good game design IMHO) into a “requirement”.

    Well we know that the current Blizzard “B” team doesn’t like requirements so they end up removing them or simplifying them.

    At some point though, this design philosophy of over simplification and pandering to lowest common denominator has to stop. If not then there will be not much of a “game” left and mot much left to do except press a few buttons and loot a corpse.

    • “The problem is that Blizzard tunes all of the encounters with the assumption that players will use every possible means of preparation at their disposable.”

      Yes, but if they didn’t then the more skilled/ hardcore players would use every means of preparation possible and find the encounters too easy. If they want to make encounters that challenge the hardcore, then they have to assume minmaxing I think.

      • This has been the age old debate in MMOs:

        How do we create appropriate challenge for our casual players without making the content too easy for hardcore players?

        Even Jeff Kaplan of Blizzard has said many times “we want players to beat our content”.

        I agree with what you are saying that the hardcore players would find the content too easy but I believe these hardcore people have a disproportionate influence over Blizzard.

        Blizzard listens to hardcore players. We know this because many of the top hardcore raiding guilds are essentially unpaid Blizzard employees testing their content for free. Casual players don’t have this kind of clout at Blizzard.

        But on the other hand, then we have Blizzard continually dumbing-down the basic mechanics of WoW. In Cataclysm there will be no such thing as weapon skill. Why? I guess it’s too much to ask players to “level up” a new weapon. What’s next? Maybe they’ll eliminate hit points as players can’t be expected to wait till their hit points refresh. At what point does this end?

        I’m worried that the devs at Blizzard seem obsessed with constantly tinkering with every class/talents/skills in preparation for each expansion. It’s a never ending game that seems to keep lots of game designers employed at Blizzard.

        That said, balancing a MMO is no easy task. :)

      • Yup, I agree.

        And Blizzard (and other devs too, they’re not the only ones) have a tendency that when they decide a mechanic isn’t fun, instead of replacing it with one that is, they will just remove it altogether. Sometimes removing a mechanic is the best way to improve the game, but I’m sure sometimes there would have been scope to put something else there instead.

        In any case, the idea that consumables are there as an option is difficult to implement. And the argument that perhaps they shouldn’t design for the hardcore is another argument for making the game easier …. (In fact, with the normal modes in Wrath, they’ve been able to do this, which is why my casual raid group have been making good progression.)

  4. I would like to see consumables to be a replacement for missing gear requirements.

    Like having a boss that requires 200 shadow resistance. If you don’t have it you use a consumable, if you have it you don’t gain anything from using it (let’s assume there is a cap at 200). If you acquired enough gear from this raid tier you’ll have enough shadow resistance to not have to use the consumable.

    Or like having an elixir with the effect of the Onyxia cloak. The first tries will feel more meaningful because you have to prepare. Then, after your raid is geared up you can skip the boring grind for consumables.

  5. I agree cooking ingame is fun – but i never felt that i used it nearly enough or that the few raid consumables i used to cook really made it worrthwhile leveling up.
    I’d like to see a different, more diverse use for cooking in the game and I’d love to see more food that changes your appearance temporarily! :D

  6. Depending on the class, Fish Feast isn’t the best available food buff. It’s just the easiest.

    As a hunter I prefer the dragonfin fish that gives you +40 AGI and +40 STA. That translates in to the 80 ATK Power (a little more usually) you get from Fish Feast on top of all the other things AGI gives you. I know some Hunters that stack Armor Pen use the Armor Pen food.

    If Blizzard is smart, they’ll make the cauldron’s slightly weaker than a flask.

    I think Wolfshead is giving Blizzard more credit than they deserve with regards to consumables. I know I don’t use all the top level consumables all the time. I don’t use potions, I do use flasks but not elixirs or scrolls. And I don’t really need to. I’ve gone through fights without my flask up, heck one time I cleared the Blood Quarter while still wearing my Chef hat (I had show helmets off so I forgot I had it on).

    I do agree with his point that you need to reward people for being prepared and you can run these raids without using consumables, it’s just silly not to.

  7. I feel the phasing out of raid consumables is inherently a good thing as consumables stand now.

    Most classes only have one flask choice, or one food buff, and few interesting choices, thus they are more “required” than optional. Considering oils/stones were removed, chain-chugging was neutered, and the removal of resistance gear/potions, it seems natural that the next step would be the last remaining raid buffs.

    However, my one major concern is how this affects an already boring crafting system in place. Cauldrons would effectively leave alchemy not only a boring profession, but severely limit the gold-making opportunities. Feasts make the plethora of different food buffs practically unused, and there’s no reason to believe cauldrons won’t do the same.

    After seeing many others MMO”s robust crafting systems, maybe consumable use shouldn’t be phased out, but rather the crafting system should be ugpraded to make consumable use a more interesting decision.

  8. In FFXI, players very often consumed food during simple experience parties. Food was a major source of DPS and general party efficiency (like regeneration buffs).

    Not a requirement to play, but don’t expect to optimize your time without a full stomach.

    And I think this reveals the flaw in Using Consumables and Preparation As Alternative to Skill: players who are both skill and time rich will be massively powerful.

  9. I realized a few weeks ago that I had more cooking tokens than I could possibly use. So, I bought the silly chef’s hat on a whim.

    Best.Hat.Ever.

    It’s my default hat. Goes with all gear. And you can cook like a madman with it.

    My tradeskill focus has been on fishing, cooking, and alchemy. If they de-emphasize consumables I will be sad.

    But I won’t take off my Chef’s Hat.

  10. There was a post I read a while ago (which I can’t find right now) about grinding, and how first generation, questless MMOs had significantly more grind, but it didn’t feel that way because there were more things you had to do. Rather than the ABC of quest->hit town->repeat, there were a greater number of “inconveniences” that forced you to take breaks and spend less time focused on one action. WoW appears to be slowly converging with Diablo’s genre as it further reduces the variety of actions considered a worthwhile investment of time and energy.

  11. > In Cataclysm there will be no such thing as weapon skill. Why?

    It was a joyless and obsolete game feature. All it did was encourage people to search out exploits (like that ogre in Blasted Lands who can’t normally be killed), or to make high level characters muck up low level zones as they run around one-shotting mobs.

  12. Making MMO’s more accessible is the way ahead, although I must admit to feeling a little sad about it. I used to Raid 40 man in Vanilla before Naxx was nerfed into mediocrity, and my favourite thing about it was the requirement for a core of the raid to be preparing for the raid nights. I think we worked harder on getting the right consummables (or cloaks!!) then tbh!!

    The prep nights were sometimes more fun than the raid (although never as good as a ‘first kill’).

    Good ‘ole days farming food mats for the tanks in Feralas, or levelling locks alts in guild groups so we could summon round the continents for crystal buffs, Ony kill buffs etc for ‘one more go’ at whatever almost impossible boss we were going for that night!!

    • I hear you.

      I do remember those days fondly, it really made you feel involved with the whole raider lifestyle even when you weren’t actually raiding. Very different to now when I mostly just log Spinks on for raid nights. (But I did play her a lot at the start of Cataclysm which is why I can do that now.)

  13. I’m definitely part of the camp that thought less raid consumables was a good idea until I experienced it.

    It’s just not.

    Farming consumables built a camaraderie amongst raid members that is completely absent in WotLK. WotLK in general feels like it took too big of step to appease the person that can barely play WoW ever. I’m pretty shocked that we dropped from 3 raid days/week in TBC to 2 raid days/week in WotLK and I feel like I have less to do in WotLK.

    5 mans need to be way longer. The Emblem system is broken now offering too many items. Hard modes are just total garbage. Tanking is far, far less involved now with your contribution to a fight being determined by often a single button at best.

    WotLK is just an inferior product to TBC.

  14. I actually appreciate consumables to an extent. There’s a couple of facets to this. One is the implication that the raid is harder – you have to prepare yourself to cross the threshold in a way two-shotting the skeletons outside doesn’t cover.

    A second, linked, is that a raid group is more than just 25 folks to happen to be in more or less the same place at the same time, and, by and large, going in the same direction. I wouldn’t say it’s analogous to teamwork, per se, but it’s part of the whole “this place is hard – we really need to do of our best to defeat it”.

    I never experienced the level 60 Loatheb – the acknowledged nadir of the raid consumable trench – but I’ve never found consumables to be a major pain. When I’m in the mood to fish, I turn up sufficient to keep me going for weeks – by which time I’ll have been in the mood to fish again. An experiment in Ulduar, which turned into an amazingly profitable 2 month raid extension, provided me with sufficient herbs to flask for the rest of Wrath – and make a bomb in hard sales into the bargain. Gold is plentiful even if you don’t have this kind of Lotus opportunity.

    With all that said. Please, for goodness sake, can we get a more meaningful tank flask in Cataclysm? 650 health was negligible in Naxxramas, and 1300 was almost as trivial by the time we were in Trial of the Crusader.

  15. >> In Cataclysm there will be no such thing as weapon skill. Why?

    >It was a joyless and obsolete game feature. All it did was encourage people to search out exploits (like that ogre in Blasted Lands who can’t normally be killed), or to make high level characters muck up low level zones as they run around one-shotting mobs.

    Buh? When I levelled weapon skill it was always on enemies close to my level, because they have enough health for you to just stand there whacking them while alt-tabbed. Usually a couple of levels below so they wouldn’t hurt too much. Though the exploits are pretty fun and a bit better value. Or I did it while healing random dungeons XD

  16. Also I love buff food, I get excited every time a feast goes down :D Flasks not so much, they are so expensive that I usually don’t bother with them until after 6/12.

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