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.