We spoke last week about how professions have taken a nosedive in World of Warcraft, how they were gutted to make them more balanced for raiding, and how Star Wars chose to handle them with their version of trade skills. Essentially, I ended with the premise that professions/trade skills should be their own form of endgame character development and that they should be linked to the wider game as a whole. This thread on MMO-Champion turned out to be widely positive (a rarity for the MMORPG community), something that assures me I was touching on a topic that had some mileage.
For my part, it’s time to start talking about how I’d fix some of the issues that plague the current mediocrity we call professions and/or trade skills.
First up, let’s start with how BioWare can move beyond simply improving the UI and making things less orientated toward “the grind”. Basically speaking, the current incarnation of trade skills is needlessly limiting, clunky and lacks scope; essentially, you’re really only making one decision and that’s your crafting skill.
Okay, quick resume – there are three forms of trade skills in the game, and you choose one of each (14 trade skills in total):
Crafting: Crafting skills are relatively obvious, as they use materials to “craft” things that can be used by players. Synthweaving, artifice, armstech, armormech, cybertech and biochem fall into this category.
Gathering: Gathering skills, funnily enough, provide those necessary materials that your crafting skill requires. Scavenging, bioanalysis and slicing are your gathering skills.
Mission: Mission skills provide specific materials that complement gathering, as well as craft patterns and companion gifts. These include diplomacy, treasure hunting, investigation, archaeology and underworld trading.
The problem is that, when push comes to shove, your gathering and mission choices are dictated by your crafting choice because it’s just too unwieldy to try and level otherwise, thanks to your companions doing the significant majority of your gathering. I wanted to take Biochem, and that essentially shoved me into Bioanalysis so that I can get the materials to level the former. If I want to make proper use of reverse engineering and get prototype plans that my characters can actually make use of, I need the medical supplies provided by Diplomacy.
So that’s me. If I want to take Biochem as my crafting profession, Bioanalysis and Diplomacy are the necessary options to go with it. All of the possible combinations available from fourteen trade skills end up boiled down into one of six. This is compounded by the fact that you can’t take more than one crafting skill, so taking a gathering one that doesn’t complement it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. What makes this particularly clunky is that your companions get certain bonuses to trade skills, and you have no control over what these bonuses are and how much help they’ll provide as you level.
What we have is a convenient system, with one real choice to make and no actual gameplay involved in levelling it. Let’s go about changing that without breaking this convenience many players appreciate.
First of all, we need to move away from limiting players to only one crafting skill. If they want the GTN method of levelling synthweaving as well as biochem, with all of the accompanying financial heartache, that should be up to the player. Let’s not forget that you could easily use an alternative character to make this more manageable, so it’s not all doom and gloom. The fact is that there is literally no reason to limit players in this way – it doesn’t achieve anything.
Equally, if a player wants to take a couple of gathering skills then they should be allowed to. They may be guild material flunkies (which is fine), or they may want to use those skills to earn themselves credits in a way that doesn’t involve dailies or PvP.
Secondly, I would allow players to level all of the mission trade skills. In the way World of Warcraft has separated primary professions and secondary professions, crafting and gathering should be primary trade skills while the player should be allowed to level every secondary trade skill they fancy. This allows players more options in what they want to level, stops shoehorning them into taking the “correct” mission skill, and gives them access to every mission quest drop that appears (rather than cursing the underworld trading drop that they had to give away).
Essentially, I dislike the game making the choices for me. It’s pointlessly restrictive, and stops any “gaming” of trade skills from taking place. What I’ve just described gives players the opportunity to do as much or as little of the trade skill content that they want, without having to really do any of it.
But making these relatively minor changes brings us to what World of Warcraft has. What can we do to actually make it better and more fun?
First of all, I’d start with allowing players to specialise again. This is especially true in Star Wars, where the system already splits your crafting trade skill into sections to make it more manageable. When you cap a profession, either a mission terminal or the game itself can lead you to where a specialised crafter will help you to go down a specific route. For biochem, I have the choice of going with adrenals for combat performance, stimulants for convenience, medpacs for survivability and implants for a little more gear. The beauty here is that your mission trade skills could play a part in this, finding specific patterns that allow you to move down each route. Sticking with my own example, I’ve managed to pick up a set of Rakata adrenals, stimulants and medpacs that are very powerful; perhaps too powerful. Rather than guaranteeing these powerful items for next to no effort on the part of the player, why not limit them to specialisations that reward a bit of effort and aren’t quite so easy to thrash out which is technically “better”.
Of course, let’s not forget that the Rakata items require raid drops to create. Why? Yet again, a full list of mission trade skills could work together in order to create that specific item, then see it incorporated into powerful results for dedicated crafters. It’s silly that a player must raid in order to complete his trade skill items, when said items are not solely useful for raids.
Right, this is already getting a bit long. I’m going to cut this one here in order to make it more readable, and update during the week to pour everything I’d do with professions and trade skills onto these pages.
Stay tuned. o/