Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Alchemy and the Merits of Self-Only Perks

What did I do with the little windfall when my flying mount training was cheaper than expected? I decided to get to work on converting my Tauren into an alchemist. He just hit level 65, which allows him access to the Wrath tier of crafting professions and various self-only perks.

Perks of the Alchemist
The bad news is that I don't get to equip the [Mighty Alchemist's Stone] until level 75. In the mean time, though, I get to amuse myself with two bottomless consumables - the [Endless Healing Potion] and the [Flask of the North].

For perspective, I have about 7K HP at level 65, and the potion restores about 2K HP an unlimited number of times on a mere one minute cooldown (must get out of combat to start it ticking). I.e. I'm now regenerating 20+% of my health every minute, and might as well stop carrying food. The flask is better than Outland-quality elixirs even with my Mixology bonus, and it too is infinite and persists through death.

In principle, some of this benefit is purely monetary. With enough gold, I could buy transmutes and elixirs and health potions (seriously, I click that button every single time my HP goes down by enough that I won't be wasting most of the heal, so you'd be talking about buying a LOT of super healing potions). Then again, I would never spend that much gold, even if I had it, on leveling content where it isn't technically necessary. Instead, I'd just try to push through without, die more often, and generally have a less fun experience.

Meanwhile, this project didn't actually cost me that much - probably around 600-800G total, as I was able to turn around and dump a lot of the stuff I made (e.g. Northrend-quality elixirs) on the AH to recoup some of my expenses. In return, this character effectively won't have any more consumables costs until at least next expansion, and I'm strongly considering leveling at least one of my planned Cataclysm alts as an alchemist.

"Optional" self-only perks
EQ2 offers unique non-combat tradeskill content to get players into the trade game. LOTRO doesn't really offer much, but that also makes tradeskills eminently skippable if you just want to harvest and sell. By contrast, WoW's trade game is pretty boring - buy stuff off the AH, or spend an equivalent amount of time running around to harvest it, click button, watch crafting bar. Despite this, WoW crafting is probably far more heavily used than the systems in other games because you can get things like unlimited healing potions if you craft.

Perhaps there are some good sides to all of this. As Gevlon writes, having informed players participating in the economy is what establishes the market. I was willing to spend money to buy the Northrend herbs I needed to level so that I can benefit from this profession starting at level 65, instead of level 80. I got that money selling herbs that I actually can harvest to some combination of businessmen and other players who similarily value their time more highly than their virtual currency.

Then again, it's also no coincidence that we get gold sellers using corpse spam advertisements in major cities in a game that features mechanics like this one - do something that doesn't interest you (playing the market), as a pre-requisite for doing something that does interest you (having top quality bonuses for raiding/PVP/"coolness"). You have to wonder whether the price Blizzard has had to pay to get players doing this particular part of the game is worth the amount of extra subscriber time they manage to occupy by convincing players to play a crafting game they would otherwise ignore.

One of these days, I'll get to equip this beauty


Smashie said...

Interesting post. Alchemy is the one profession I have never delved into, although it has always seemed to be among the most interesting to me.

And about the corpse spam, I see that on a daily basis on my server as well. Always in Stormwind just like you said.

Klepsacovic said...

It's a myth that you need to play the market to get enough gold to raid. Playing the market is something which can only be done by a limited number of people since it only takes gold and destroys some in the process. This might just be my word use though.

A person can make plenty of gold just by playing sensibly. They don't need to understand high economic concepts. Plenty can be made by a handful of convenient dailies, gathering what is found along the way, and selling it for something near the market price as determined by a quick glance at the market. They can get a little more if they add in a crafting profession and get into some of the rich markets like selling and cutting red gems.

They can definitely make much more by knowing things like the timing of the market, that some items are cheaper or more expensive at certain times, and time their purchases and sales to match; but it isn't necessary.

Fish said...

I have to say, I might be adding more alchemists in the future. Any class that can't self heal, that potion is awesome for. And that trinket would def benefit my shammy as enhancement.

Green Armadillo said...

@Smashie: Alchemy used to be pretty lame - my main was actually an alchemist through early 2007 - but now it's pretty functional. And lest you be worried, the Horde have their spamvertisements too in Ogrimmar.

@Klep: You can always compensate by spending more time - heck, you could farm level 1 wolves for a single copper each if you wanted. I think you're right that the bar for basic upkeep once you're appropriately geared and ready to raid is relatively low. It's the entry barrier - all your gear is quested and unenchanted, and you have no professions - that can take a while to clear.

@Fish: Herbalists get a second self-HOT and there's an Outland rare herb that creates a damage shield. Between that, the infinite potion, and Bloodthirst, my Warrior heals a ton for a class that can't self-heal.

After this experience, I think it's almost always worthwhile to make your new alt an alchemist if you don't have another one on the server. You have very few costs - vials and trainer recipes - since you will encounter enough herbs to level the profession as you adventure. If you plan which recipes to make a bit, you can drink the stuff you make as you level. (You'll be getting the mixology bonus on all of those elixirs as early as level 5.) It's a bit of a win/win for players who aren't that interested in professions.