The Persistence of Culture, or, Why I Hate Enchanting

August 19, 2009 at 2:51 pm (WoW General)

So, I’m reading the WoW.com “WoW Rookie” article on one of my favorite ranting subjects, but one I hadn’t thought about for a really long while – Enchanting, disenchanting, shards, and so forth.  And as I always do when the subject comes to mind, I found myself wishing I had some soapbox upon which to stand, to loudly declaim why I think Enchanting is profoundly broken.

And then I remembered:  Oh yeah.  Now I do have a soapbox.  Lucky for me.  Not so lucky for you.

All crafting professions can be nasty to level to 450, but some are nastier than others.  They range from the absurdly easy (Alchemy) to, well, Enchanting.  Enchanting is as nasty to level as it is (mine is still stuck in the 430s) for two reasons:  (a) because its “nodes”, if you will, are incredibly rare, and (b) because the culture of WoW distorts, in a profoundly destructive way, every possible market for enchanting and enchanting mats.

Re: the first point – my blacksmith, if I put my mind to it, can go out and farm mining nodes for a while, and end up in good shape for mats.  Ditto leatherworkers with skinning, or alchemists/scribes with herbalism.  I cannot do the equivalent on my enchanter – greens drop too rarely to be reliably farmed, and blues and purples cannot be obtained except in groups (about which, more later).  The level of scarcity this imposes on the materials cannot be understated.  Scarcity increases (substantially) the auction house cost of mats.

The other factor that increases the auction house cost of mats is that enchanters have no other way to speak of to make money with the skill.  In WotLK, Tailoring and Blacksmithing were given BoE epic recipes to make and sell on the AH.  Alchemy has always had potions and flasks, along with transmute cooldowns, to make money, and Jewelcrafting and Inscription make money hand over fist.  In all cases, the end product is something people (a) are used to buying on the auction house (gear, gems, glyphs), and (b) don’t have a years-long history of obtaining for free.

The latter point is especially important.  Inscription was supposed to solve this problem – enchanters could, at long last, level by enchanting scrolls, and then sell those scrolls on the auction house.  Finally, we could be a normal crafting profession!  Not so much.  The primary reason for this being, the mats for recipes above 400 or so remain ludicrously expensive due to scarcity.  This tends to create substantial risk that your enchanting scroll won’t sell (particularly when people remain unwilling to pony up for enchanting because “lulz ur just clickin a button”, which I desperately wish were not a literal representation of the most common non-enchanter take on paying for enchants).  Therefore, it remains preferable, financially speaking, for an enchanter to level the skill by doing the “free with your mats” enchants.  In fact, it’s worse – it’s actually a financially reasonable decision to offer to pay people to let you enchant their gear, if it gives you a skill point (which I’ll refer to as the Trade channel market).  This is something of a vicious circle, of course – the people who do this destroy the market for AH enchants, which makes it financially non-viable to level with AH enchants, which drives more people into the Trade channel market.  It’s classic Tragedy of the Commons – something we recognize in the real world is a market failure, and usually justifies some form of intervention into the market.

I suspect that part of the reason the Trade channel market persists, in addition to the cost of mats, is that the bulk of the WoW player base is simply not used to paying for enchants, so they won’t do it (which of course further feeds the race to the bottom).  They do not consider enchanting, or disenchanting, to be a commodity worth paying for.  And enchanters, in pursuit of their own personal financial best interest, prove them right.  This comes out every time you see the endless debate crop up re: distribution of shards from instance runs.  Now, I think some of my fellow enchanters get greedy in these discussions (no, we’re not entitled to every single unneeded drop in the instance), but the refrain from the nonenchanters is, overwhelmingly, “Why are you being rude?  It doesn’t cost you anything to disenchant for people?”  Well, true.  However, first, I don’t see you crafting me a bunch of potions/flasks/gems/glyphs/Titansteel sets/Ebonweave sets/etc. free with my mats (unless you’re a guildie, but then, I happily (dis)enchant for my guildies, so that’s a separate question).  That wouldn’t cost you anything either.  Why don’t you do it?  Because gear, potions, etc. are tangible items (well, as tangible as anything in an MMO is), and everybody understands that the crafter should get to make a little something on the deal to compensate them for their expertise.  Well, it sure as hell cost me to get Enchanting leveled to the point where I could disenchant that drop for you in the first place.  Or where I could give you that snazzy enchant that you think a 10s (I kid you not) tip adequately covers.  And given I’m just going to end up buying this same shard that I created back from you in order to level my profession, it makes me cranky.  If it pumped enough enchanting mats into the economy to substantially drop the price, well, that would be one thing.  But it doesn’t, because they’re still too rare.

So, while Blizzard is looking at rebuilding all of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor from the ground up, perhaps they could take a look at Enchanting while they’re at it.  Other professions, in various and sundry ways, have their terrible aspects (nobody takes a crafting profession to get rich, and Tailoring was such a crashing disappointment in Wrath I dropped it entirely, a decision that hurt quite a lot, given my first epics were from tailoring, and given I’d already made myself a flying carpet that I now can’t ride).  In fact, I think Blizz needs to take a look at every crafting profession, and possibly even revisit the fundamental concept of them.  But the Enchanting market is fundamentally broken.  When Enchanters are paying people to let them use their skill (a skill they’ve already paid major gold to level)  so they can level it up further, this point shouldn’t even be arguable.

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5 Comments

  1. Tamarind said,

    I didn’t realise enchanters paid people to let them level their skill….that’s kind of so wrong. The situation isn’t so bad on my server. I’ve managed to make a sizeable fortune by selling enchanting mats on the AH, although admittedly I’ve made a grand of 0 – count ’em 0 – gold from actual enchanting. I’m hoping now that I’ve hit 440 I should be able to stand in Dalaran with the best of them shouting “Enchanting, you mats, tip plz” not that I can ever seen myself doing that.

    On the other hand, enchanting is the most miserable, gruelling, penny-pinching, barrel scraping profession is seems possible to have. I levelled it bloody point by bloody point, hating every second of it. And let’s not even get started on rods – the stick other classes can use to beat you with, so goddamn expensive it’s enough to make you cry.

    Usually what I’ve done is I’ve levelled creative professions on other alts (blacksmithing, tailoring, leatherworking) and sent myself a steady stream of the products in order to disenchant. And M’Pocket Tank is a blacksmith so, in return for ore, she, again, sends me stuff to disenchant for those painfully rare mats.

    In terms of utility though, enchanting has been great. It’s given me that extra edge when I’ve needed it.

    • Kahleena said,

      Yeah, I wouldn’t bother standing in Dalaran shouting, especially not “tip plz”. People won’t tip enchanters, or will tip insultingly small amounts (the 10s was not a typo, or hyperbole) – you want to be paid for the service, set a fee and convey it in advance. You won’t get any business, but you’ll save yourself the hassle.

      I could actually make money of the disenchanting portion of enchanting by farming instances I can solo. Time was, you could buy trash greens from people and sell the enchanting mats for more, but enough people now “play the auction house” that that’s no longer really an option. The money made from, say, farming Strat for enchanting mats is less than one can make doing dailies. And that doesn’t apply to enchanting mats that are the current standard (i.e. Wrath mats), as I don’t think even the easiest Wrath instance is really soloable (at least not for a clothie).

      Enchanting’s utility is very nice, though I can’t really take advantage of the new ability to send (current level) enchants to alts, as the applicable enchants won’t give me a level up, and in no way can I afford to use the mats on anything that won’t level me up, or isn’t required for raiding. See above re: ridiculous mat scarcity.

  2. theerivs said,

    Enchanting wasn’t that bad when I got into the upper 400’s. I had an literal asston of Frostweave, (maybe because I’m a tailor and I get more cloth because of it) I turn that into green items. I turn into tons of infinite dust/cosmic essences. Which then I make enchants to sell. The sold enchants can buy dream shards, which I also get from farming heroics along with abyss crystals.

  3. TotC: the disco at Righteous Orbs said,

    […] less lonely. Anyway, here by way of a tribute are some fantastic posts from the Feldeeds archive: on Enchanting (and why it sucks), on PVP, on sexism, on boosting, on alting. And finally because it cannot be overlinked, the […]

  4. Cassandri said,

    I’ve always hated the “free with your mats” leveling strategy. Blizzard developed “useful” enchants like Icewalker so we could actually level up enchanting things that people wanted, not just enchanting our own item over and over again, but it’s just led to a lot of people thinking that ALL their enchants should be free, they just have to find someone who needs a skill point.

    Enchanting is not free. It’s very expensive to level – especially to 450. It’s expensive to learn patterns. Compare it with Jewelcrafters, who, given enough time, get paid 13g a day to learn as many receipes as they wish. Enchanters on the other hand must hand over enchanting mats, which they may otherwise sell, to learn an enchant. On my server it’s 80g for 4 dream shards.

    Perhaps it’s different on young servers but the realm I play on is definitely one where players are used to accumulating and buying materials for enchanting, then looking for an enchanter to do the work. Nobody looks for scrolls.

    Even if Blade Ward, a rare raiding enchanting, is on AH as a scroll players will still get the mats and spam trade channel looking for an enchanter for hours. And then “shop around” for crafting fees and bitterly complain about paying 20g. (This actually happened to me – put me in a pretty shitty mood). But the main reason people don’t like scrolls is that I think most players have some enchanting mats in their bank. A few dust, 1 shard maybe. And until the collective disenchant-and-divvy-out-the-shards attitude changes I don’t think scrolls will ever sell on AH.

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