Do you like Tetris? I know I do. It's a simple game, but still fun. It's really one of those mini-games that devs keep trying to fit into this or that game, but somehow it manages to stand on its own. Truly inspiring.
In total contrast there is crafting in WoW. It is truly impressive for the sheer boredom and tedium which it creates. I might think death mechanics are dull, but at least death looks kinda cool and the spirit ghost was the avatar for a CM a while ago, named Nethaera; she was awesome. Crafting is far less interesting than death or nice CMs.
There's no skill to crafting. There is some skill in getting materials: knowledge of sources or markets, perhaps getting them from someplace difficult such as raids. There is some skill is selling: knowing markets, knowing addons, knowing what is useful. But the crafting itself is merely a click of a button. Thankfully it may only be a click of a button; it would be far worse if making three dozen copper bracers involved having to stay around for the tedium, as our characters do.
Tetris is my solution.
This will sound more complex than it would be in practice. Material cost would be re-expressed as lines to complete and the expected ratio of materials needed. So the copper bracers might have a 4 copper to 1 rough stone ratio and a cost of 5 lines. What that means is you'll need to complete 5 lines to finish the product. The material cost will be based on the number of blocks used, converted by the ratio to give the total number of copper and stone used. If you're good at the game, you'll create very compact arrangements which use a minimal amount of material to create the lines, but if you're not doing well, then you'll have all sorts of stuff sticking up: wasted materials. There could be savings after the fact for things like 2, 3, or 4 lines completing at once, so a skilled crafter can not only avoid waste, but actually recover some materials.
In other words, play Tetris, the normal incentives for good play are still there in some form.
Speed can be varied in two ways. Most obviously, the blocks can come faster. This makes it more difficult, but will save time, possibly a significant amount if you're attempting a long craft. The other variable is number of items to craft at once, so rather than doing a 10 line craft 5 times, you can instead do a 50 line craft. This could save time from less interruption, but also materials. A player who can keep going will get into a better flow and the leftovers sticking up will be a smaller proportion of the cost. For example, a series of 5 crafts of 10 lines would have 100 blocks (the bottom is 10 wide), and perhaps 4 blocks randomly sticking out the top, for 4% waste per run. However if that was instead a 100 line block and it retained the 4 extra, which is plausible, then the waste would be only 0.4%, a significant savings over many crafts.
The number of lines needed would need a lot of adjustment to be similar to current material costs and overall to ensure that a single craft doesn't become excessively long. Perhaps initial crafts would start at only one line, with the assumption that they would be done as multiple crafts, since I don't imagine we'll ever move away from making a few dozen copper bracers, but the process of making them could be a bit more fun and potentially rewarding.
Cash Shop Shaming: Round 3!
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