Enchanting, and the Gear Tax

It’s funny to think of it now but there was a time when I loved enchanting type crafting skills in games. The idea that before a new drop was ready for use, it had to be specially enchanted and fixed up seemed immensely cool. (I even remember playing a MUD once which told you roughly what size clothes a mob had dropped and if it wasn’t your size, you’d have to go to a tailor to get it altered before you could use it yourself.)

This was back when dropped armour  generally did not have stats. It had some kind of defense value, but if you wanted bonuses on your gear, you had to gem/enchant it. I always felt this was more intuitive than “you have just crafted a woolen shirt of +1 intellect.” No, it’s not magic, you just crafted it to make the wearer EXTRA SMART via the power of fashion and sharp tailoring.

But let’s face it, enchanting in MMOs has always been a surtax on gear. Extra cost and research and stuff you are supposed to apply to your character’s armour before you can show your face in whatever high level content of choice you choose to name. There aren’t even any interesting choices involved – usually there will be 2/3 viable enchants for each piece and you just pick the one with stats appropriate to your class/ role. It would be easy for the enchants to disappear and the stat bonuses just to be incorporated into the base gear, mechanically the game would play out exactly the same.

It’s really just a scam engineered to drive you into the arms of waiting enchanters, who are the only people with access to the full enchant list (unless you go to websites) and usually also the only people who can provide the raw goods for enchanting. Or in other words, enchanting is an artificial way to stimulate demand in game.

Somehow it didn’t feel so artificial when you actually had more ability to tailor your gear enchants, even though everyone (in DaoC at least) ended up using similar templates.

Am I really the only person who would prefer to be able to just grab a cool drop and be ready to go without being asked to do all the legwork for an extra minor bonus? It’s funny, once I used to find these extra complexities so cool. I think that I’m over it now, or at least I’ve done it over again in enough games that I’d rather just cut to the chase.

Solving the disenchanting problem in patch 3.3

Enchanters in WoW have it great. They provide a service that is required by every single raider – one enchant on each item, replaced every time an item is replaced. And they also have the sole means of producing their own raw materials. So if you want to buy an enchantment, you have two choices:

- Either buy it direct from an enchanter or buy the scroll of enchantment from the auction house

- Buy raw materials from an an enchanter/auction house, and pay someone to make the enchant with them

This is the only profession in WoW which is the sole supplier of both raw materials and finished items. A lot of people level enchanting on an alt and use it solely to break down unwanted items into materials to sell. (I have an alt enchanter, so I’m not just complaining about being cut out of this market because I’m not.) Because enchanters hold the monopoly on disenchanting, groups often ask them (if there is one in the group) to disenchant unwanted bind-0n-pickup items which turns them into materials that can be rolled for and traded.

The big problem with enchanting is that so many of the potential raw goods are wasted. Every time someone sells an unwanted green drop to the vendor, it’s a waste of enchanting material. Every time an enchanter in a group doesn’t disenchant unwanted blue drops, it’s a waste of enchanting material. You don’t see this so much with ore, herbs, leather, and cloth. If people gather or collect those and don’t need them, they get sold on the auction house.

But try selling unwanted green items on the auction house? No one buys. Enchanters have cheaper ways to acquire dust which usually involve finding something that is cheap to craft , then making a ton and disenchanting them. It might be that they’d buy green items if the profit margin was large enough, but actually vendors are happy to pay a few gold for the items too, and they’re expensive to list. (Unlike enchanting materials, which you can list on the AH for free.)

What this all ends up meaning is that if you aren’t an enchanter, you have no way to gain the full potential from your unwanted magic item (and you will have TONS because they give them out like candy as quest rewards). You’ll still have to pay the enchanter twice, once when you buy the raw materials and again when you pay for the actual finished enchantment.

In patch 3.3, it will be easier for groups to disenchant unwanted drops if there is an enchanter in the group. Enchanters have been unhappy about this because there isn’t even an option to ask the enchanter if they want to do it. If you have someone in your group with that craftskill at a high enough level, then there will be an option to automatically disenchant and distribute the resulting materials when an item drops. (I think it goes need/greed/disenchant.)

The only reason an enchanter might object to this is because they want to keep their monopoly on raw materials and keep the profits high (or because they can’t be bothered, which the new patch will fix). Why else would they let a valuable raw material go to be sold to a vendor because they’re unwilling to disenchant?

But I think this doesn’t go far enough.

Really there should be disenchanting NPCs in the major cities. If people want to cash in their unwanted magical items  for dust, let them do it. And enchanters, like tailors, could simply have the chance to proc extra shards and dust when they do the disenchanting themselves.

That means it would still be worth keeping that disenchanting alt and it would still be profitable to disenchant items yourself. Enchanters would still retain the skill-perk of being able to enchant their rings. But fewer green items would be wasted, the tradeskill would be easier and cheaper to level because there would be more materials around, and non-enchanters wouldn’t get gouged all over the place — it might even encourage more people to buy enchants even if they don’t raid.

Also, like inscription, they should let enchanters trade in current tier dust for lower level dust. That would encourage people to put up more lower level enchants, or make more dust available for people levelling the tradeskill.