Thursday, 24 April 2014

Farmer John

As revealed yesterday, I am in need of a fresh supply of gold to replenish my war chest for the next expansion. One thought that I have had about the next expansion is that money will not be as freely available to the budding entrepreneur as in previous expansion. The Garrison is said to provide an extra couple of professions per character. The result in my opinion would be to make people more self sufficient and this in turn would drive down demand for crafted services.

Other aspects of that will have an effect on your ability to make money are connected realms, more people increases the size of the market, but with no product differentiation, price is king. The more sellers the more possibilities that the market can be swamped with undercutters. Blizzard are streamlining the amount of gemming and enchants that are undertaken every time we are rewarded with a new item of gear. Enchanters and Jewelcrafters are going to be fighting over slim pickings. Glyphs have finally seen the end of the road, and there is talk of Glyphs being key abilities that are handed out at appropriate times in the levelling process.

During MoP and previous expansions the levelling process for multiple characters will generate a large cache of resources, which accrue as part of the process. This tends to set me up for the whole expansion with only the occasional need for topping up. The exception to this rule is that I have struggled with supplies of Windwool Cloth, and Trillium Bars during this expansion. I have transmuted a large quantity of Ghost Iron Ore. Since Patch 5.4 I have rarely killed any humanoids outside of LFR and as a result have often needed to buy Windwool cloth from the Auction House.

Back in December with time on my hands, I decided to renew my acquaintance with the Sunsong Ranch and it's 16 plots of loveliness available to 11 characters. The reality was different, the bulk of my characters were levelled at a time after I had deserted the farm for more interesting pursuits. As a result it was important to upgrade the ranch to 16 slots on all 11 characters, 176 slots available for ore, herbs, cloth, leathers and the now mostly defunct Motes of Harmony are all available.

Having hit exalted with the Tillers 12 months earlier and with a Tillers commendation, it is fairly simple to run the remaining characters through the process. Every plant that is harvested is a large amount of reputation x2 for the commendation. The stumbling block is the mini quests to get the Tillers to help you clear the 3 extra plots. The process will take several days but not very much effort to achieve.

Everybody knows that the Sunsong Ranch is a good little earner, but can you remember why you stopped do it every single day? The answer is very simple, just take a look at the picture below. It is not stage managed, just what I created by random last night. It is fairly typical  of the sowing process.

The answer is that it is very boring. Yes, I know I said it, and the rewards for such little effort are brilliant, but it is so damn boring, even with the mechanical help from the automated Irrigation, Pest Control and a Plough (Plow). Some of the tasks are less mundane than the others and I will try to prioritise my own dislikes.

  1. Bursting Crops - Instantly become harvestable the moment they're planted. (Rarely happens)
  2. Parched Crops - Use the Irrigation system (2 clicks for the whole farm)
  3. Infested Crops - Use the Pest Control system (2 clicks for the whole farm)
  4. Runty Crops - Grab the plant and jump up to pull it out of the ground a little. (Does not always work first time)
  5. Tangled Crops - Grab the weed constricting the crop and run away, pulling it out of the ground.
  6. Smothered Crops - Grab the weed smothering the crop and pull it out.
  7. Wiggling Crops - Pull out the Virmen from the ground and kill it.
  8. Alluring Crops - Defend them from incoming birds.
  9. Wild Crops - Hit and bite the plant into submission while it wrestles you.
Why does killing substandard Virmen and incoming Birds annoy me so much? I think it is the lack of reward, in the same way that killing creatures in Scenarios offers no loot. It is just an irritant something that needs to be addressed before you can do the good stuff. I would rather have to loot the bodies and collect 8 copper than the empty feeling of killing something for nothing. I have saved the best to last of course the Wild Crop, the tentacle bashing Triffid, which is a keyboard mash to get your counter up to 50. It was much worse in the previous incarnation and can now be completed with the need to only interrupt twice.

None of the above things are bad, it is just that we don't really want to do them for nth time. This is what Garrisons needs to avoid, when we become master farmers we don't expect supersized crops attacking us every time we plant, or why would a master fisher need multiple casts to cast into a fish pool, or alternatively why does it take so many traps to snag a Battle Pet. Random is ok, it has its place in computer games, but that means that on occasions nothing happens or we manage to do it right.

Dailies are still the whipping boy of this expansion, but I get a feeling that we will miss them when they are gone. I remember Dave Kosak, bigging up the daily quests for the Firelands during Cataclysm. Dave talked about the changing landscape, the growing tree and the random dailies. Can anybody really say that those quests were random. The issue is that the were maybe 16 quests but they got grouped into 4 so the random chance of getting a particular quest was not 1 in 16 but 1 in 4 and the result is that the quests become stale, and even worse the same quests are available for all characters on a given day.

Yesterday R. decided to leave some comments, for which I am eternally grateful. The start of R's comments was that "Grind and fun aren't mutually exclusive",which of course we all know they are not. My point was that I have enjoyed doing Pet Battle (much more than I was expecting), but my current goal is to beat all the Master Pet Tamers. I have an army of Rare Level 25 pets, but my next challenge requires me to level a particular class that needs a particular spell that I have not currently got and I will need to level for 10 levels to continue my objective. The fun is beating a Master Pet Tamer, the grind is the 25-30 meaningless fights to level one Pet so that you can beat the Master Pet Tamer.

Grind is not tied up with fun, but it needs to associated with reward. If there is no frequent reward the grind is perceived to be without fun. Although removing the grind is not always the answer as reminded by Matthew Rossi in a recent post about the Mistakes of Warcraft. In particular I refer to the Raid without trash - Trial of the Crusader. Prior to this experiment every Raider would argue why do we need trash, until there was no trash, and then we all wanted the trash to return.

I am guessing that the Sunsong Ranch is actually an ok place to hang out for 5 minutes everyday, but it is not suitable to drag 11 characters for up to an hour clearing the same repetitive tasks. Maybe it is myself who is abusing the system by having multiple characters doing the same tasks over and over, but when the rewards are this good, is it any wonder that we try to get away with it.

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