Thursday, September 24, 2009
My complaints about mining in WoW can be summed up with a brief visit to the Charred Vale in Stonetalon Mountains. I ran through this area as part of my project to mop up low level quests that are going away in Cataclysm, and encountered every type of metal from copper (mining skill: 1) to truesilver (mining skill: 230).
Of the three games I've played recently, WoW's other two harvesting professions (skinning and herbalism) are very very easy to level, but WoW's mining runs into big problems. The game could really use one more type of non-rare ore. Players can start mining Mithril in their late 30's, but they must collect a whopping 70 skill points off of that tier, with the last 20 earned after the mineral nodes have turned green (low chance of skill up). You can shortcut some of those points via smelting and mining rare ores, but you're going to outlevel the areas where mithril drops long before you finish with mithril. Thorium is another 55 point grind, and you literally cannot mine anything in Outland until you reach 300 mining skill.
Gathering professions are only useful if you can actually gather the stuff you encounter in the field. I'm guessing that this was part of Blizzard's reasoning in scattering lower-level minerals in higher level zones, to help players catch up. The problem is that this makes it very difficult to level expediently - either you're forced to collect low level rocks you don't need to clear the spawn points, or you're unable to harvest higher level minerals until you reach the next magic skill plateau. There's also the secondary issue that even the lower level ores are worth harvesting to sell, so it's much more common to go hunting and find that someone else has already picked the area clean.
By contrast, EQ2 offers new minerals, and crafted gear using the new materials, every 10 levels without exception. As a result, it has to be moderately easy to keep pace, and that's how the game plays out. LOTRO's system is closer to WoW's, but your prospecting skill is tied only to smelting ingots. This takes an insultingly long time sitting AFK while your character smelts (mastering the current top tier takes 1,800 crafting exp, which you have to earn 6-8 exp at a time, with each bar taking something like 5-7 seconds to smelt, vs 1.5 seconds per bar in WoW), but you only need to get a third of the way through each tier to be allowed to mine the next one - I've never had the experience of having trouble harvesting level appropriate resources quite like you get in WoW.
At the end of the day, crafting is simply less integral to WoW than to EQ2 or LOTRO. That's fine, except that Blizzard has opted to make everyone go through the exercise of leveling professions for self-only perks. Then again, the old world is a big part of the problem - Outland and Northrend are far better at being self-contained, which is yet another illustration of how deep into various systems the various flaws with old world Azeroth go. It will be interesting to see whether Cataclysm tackles this issue head on, or simply papers over the problem by expanding the range for guaranteed skill ups.
On the plus side, all of the Thorium, and all of the Mithril I had to harvest to get it to respawn as Thorium, was worth a lot of money. Greenraven is no longer too poor to buy flying mount training. I guess mining had a good perk after all (though I still think that the herbalism perks are much more interesting).