Do new tradeskills ever really work?

All that signs are that Blizzard has done a really good job on Archaeology, the new secondary tradeskill which will be introduced in Cataclysm. It combines gathering and collecting, and rewards players with lore and the chance of cool minipets and shinies.  And best of all, it doesn’t create a forced new market to make sure that the new tradeskillers have an eager base of customers.

WoW certainly isn’t the first game to have introduced new tradeskills in expansions. I remember in DaoC when spellcrafting was introduced – it was roughly similar to jewelcrafting/ enchanting in WoW – suddenly everyone needed all their gear spellcrafted if they wanted to stay remotely competitive. The difference in DaoC is that in order to maximise your spellcrafting potential, you needed 100% quality crafted goods to begin with. So the other tradeskills were involved also.

Let’s look at the newer WoW tradeskills and note that they’re actually the best moneymakers. It’s unsurprising, unfair, and badly designed.

Jewelcrafting: Introduced in TBC, alongside sockets on all raid gear to make room for the new crafted gems. It’s arguably redundant in Cataclysm because reforging actually fills the same purpose that JC was originally designed for, and does it better. It allows players to customise their gear for stats they actually want.  All that sockets do now is provide a guaranteed market for jewelcrafters.

Inscription: Introduced in Wrath. Glyphs themselves are fairly interesting, but there was never any need for this to be a tradeskill. Glyphs would have been just as interesting if they were gained via reputation or questing or even just bought direct from trainers.

The tradeskill itself was fundamentally screwed when it became possible to exchange high level inks for any of the lower level ones in Dalaran. At that point there wasn’t even any great interest to be had from speculating on different tiers of herbs. Which might have made a more interesting sub game for herbers. Sure, it was a good move for making sure that all the glyphs could be constantly available. But that’s the selfsame reason why glyphs as a tradeskill is silly. There is no real concept of ‘low level glyphs’ when they’re needed by max level characters.

So the pattern has been to introduce a new mechanic to force players to buy the tat that the new tradeskill produces without any attempt to involve other, existing tradeskills. So naturally the new tradeskills are guaranteed to be crazy profitable. This isn’t the only reason for in game inflation, but it’s crazy to think that it won’t affect the wider economy.

Also, although Blizzard are aiming to make WoW more comprehensible and accessible in Cataclysm, they don’t go out of their way to explain glyphs, enchants, or gems to newer players. They won’t simplify those things even if it might be more sensible to do so (how many choices do you really get when enchanting an item?). At least not yet.

Adding new tradeskills into a game has often also added more complexity. Tale in the Desert is a good example here, although most of their tradeskills are fairly independent. Each new one is an entire new type of minigame, but adds to the complexity of the whole thing. And gives more of an advantage to experienced players who aren’t faced with having to learn all of it at once.

Tradeskills in WoW are overdue for a redesign. They’re not fun, they’re not balanced, and they’re not all that accessible to new players (it’s not easy to understand what some of the tradeskills do, which are the best for different classes/ roles, or which are easiest or more profitable). Perhaps that will be something to tackle in the next expansion …