Saturday, January 15, 2011

WoW: Why Archaeology Sucks.

Imagine you're a Blacksmith who actually mines. You want to craft current level gear and, in order to do this, you need to gather metal. But, there're only four metal bearing sites available on the map at any given time. Oh... and the metal these sites contain is also determined by the zone the server decides to drop your "mine site" into so you'll be running zone to zone to mine each one until they're "tapped out" because you will not be given any new ones until you consume one of the old.

So, now you're gathering tons of Copper, Iron, Thorium, etc inbetween massive amounts of travel time for every bit of Elementium you need to make current level gear.

This, folks, is how Archaeology works.

Think about that for a second... let it really sink in....

Ready to throw something at the screen yet?

You should be because Archaeology is, at it's core, a crafting profession that's been grafted to the single most cumbersome, time consuming, and frustrating gathering mechanic ever applied to the game. Seemingly designed to actively prevent you from getting anything done, it makes the server a gatekeeper who decides when you gain access to the nodes you need to get a race's relic by having it roll up the four relic sites you have available to start at random and then stand there inexpressively like the Queen's Royal Guard waiting for you to remove one so it can stoically press a button to hand you another from the site list; again at random. This becomes even more apparent as you hit the skill cap and find yourself less interested in just getting your 5 or 10 points from "finds" and more interested in actually seeking out finds of interest. It's at this point that you quickly realize such an event is mechanically impossible because, unlike every other gathering profession in the game, this one isn't designed to let you seek only the specific materials you need at any given time.

So, you want the Vial of the Sands Recipe for your Alchemist? Best be prepared to spend days kicking around Kalimdor scooping large quantities of Elf, Troll, Fossil, and Dwarf fragments for every Tol'Vir site that pops. (Even more fun, you need Canopic Jars to get that item so you're gathering materials that pop up at random... to make an item you're only allowed to make at random*... which has a random chance to drop the item that you want. Didn't we just build an entire expansion to remove these kinds of double/triple up RNG quests from the game?)

Because of this, it's technically impossible to "grind" Archaeology in the traditional sense but, at the same time, "grinding" is mandatory because scooping up all those other fragments is the only way to get to the ones you need. This makes Archaeology a massive time sink and, perhaps most annoyingly, one that precludes any normal means of playing the game because the sites very rarely, if ever, end up where you'll be questing/gathering once you get past level 20 or so and they can start showing up in LvL 20-30 zones spread across the continents or all the way back into LvL 10-20 zones you're out of now. In fact, you'll likely end up with a book at your side, alt-tabbing to read the news, or breaking out another game to fiddle with because you're going to end up spending significant amounts of time in the air between flight masters jumping zone-to-zone as you chase nodes to get items done.

That folks, together, is ultimately why Archaeology sucks: you have to give up playing the game to get anything done in exchange for fighting the server and role playing a Griffin/Windrider passenger chasing 10 Million Airmiles like Ryan Bingham.

Only, you don't get your name on a plane for it and Ghostcrawler won't be stopping by with a lifetime subscription.

* This, by the way, is the only part of Archaeology that makes sense within a real world context. After all, Archaeologists rarely have control over exactly what they will find but they do tend to have some control over what they want to work on by controlling where they do their searches. You don't see Egyptologists going: "Gee, I've seen all I can see of the pyramids. Let's go search the Badlands of Alberta for more signs of their culture!", which is essentially what's being forced on the player here.

5 comments:

  1. I think blizzard missed two major things; they should of made dig sites much more challenging with much greater rewards. Got my arch up to 138 and just cannot bring myself to continue.

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  2. Yup, you've nailed, very nicely why it sucks.

    As the folks in my guild say, "Archaeology...just like fishing, but without the fun!"

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  3. Archeology's not so bad. I mean, I wouldn't go out of my way, but if you happen to be in an Archeology region, there's no reason why not to go there. It's more of a casual thing. Once you've got a flying mount it becomes a whole lot easier.

    And you're wrong, it can't possibly suck worse than Fishing.

    You cast, you wait, you reel, you catch... it's fishing. Yet at many points it's almost vital for cooking. At least Archeology is optional and grants XP.

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  4. Fishing's a gathering profession that largely lets you get what you need when you need it by going to the right place. It's time consuming, but the end is always in sight. Meanwhile, it is possible to spend your every waking hour chasing something in Arch and not get what you're looking for because everything is hidden behind a multilayered wall of RNG.

    It's that difference in mechanics that is the gripe, not the time investment. Other people may feel different, but grinds in and of themselves have never bothered me.

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