Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Great Trap Controversy

There's no question that Draenor is the expansion that is breaking new ground when it come to crafting.  In many ways, Blizzard is throwing out some old rules when it comes to crafting, and what crafters should be able to do.  This is particularly true when it comes to crafting high-level gear.

The devs are experimenting with Savage Blood, a rare crafting element that, for the first time in the game, doesn't drop inside raids or heroic end-bosses or anything like that. Now, it's entirely possible to craft 655 gear from solo crafting alone, and it's left some people very nervous, but this seems like a very exciting development.  Here at last is a method for creating crafted raid-level gear, so the crafters are excited, and its all solo work, so the soloers are excited; it isn't particularly easy to do this, but that fine because no one was asking for it to be easy, merely accessible. Many non-raiding players have been asking for this exact thing for a long time and here's a plan that seems to meet everybody's needs. And, it's an interesting mini-game. Of course with such a powerful crafting element, Blizzard had to be careful about how it was obtained,  Unfortunately, the devs have decided to be a little too clever and that has caused some controversy.

Here's the background:  In order for you to get a crafted item of gear above level 640 you have to gather savage blood.  In order to ever see savage blood, you have to have a barn that is level 3 and you have to travel to Nagrand, which is the only place where the elite beasts spawn that can drop the blood.  Now you don't kill these elites, instead you have to drop them below half health and then you kite them into a special trap.

Successfully guiding one of these beasts into a trap is a challenge all its own because the trap radius is very narrow, so the beast must be positioned quite precisely, and to compound matters the trap is on a cooldown and requires a few seconds after being placed to activate. If you complete all the steps successfully you get a "caged beast" in your inventory that you must take back to the Barn in your garrison and then process with work orders into leather.  A very small number of these work orders (only 10-15% of them) will also yield a savage blood.  Put 15 of them together with a few mats and you've got yourself your first upgrade.

Here's where things begin to get complicated.  First of all, there are a limited number of these elite beasts to be trapped: a limited number of spawn points, and a limited spawn rate.  In many high population servers competition for these spawns is fierce, so Blizzard put in another mechanism: anyone can place a trap under a beast that has been brought below half health.  Ideally, this means that multiple players can benefit from a single elite spawn if they all work together.  If someone else got the beast down to 50% you could still throw your trap in there and hope for a caged beast of your own.

As I mentioned, trapping is an intentionally finicky process.  It doesn't always work under the best of circumstances, and this is by design.  And the beasts are not immune to abilities such as taunt, fear, and mind control, even after it has been tagged.  So it's quite possible for me to lay my trap over there and then at the appropriate moment, taunt it away from you and into my trap.  You do all the work and it's easier for me to position the trap if the beast is coming at me rather than trying to position myself around a beast that you are tanking.

This is definitely a win-lose situation because you've already laid your trap when I taunted, so your trap's on cooldown.  Now you have to scramble after your beast that I've taunted, and hope your trap comes off cool-down in time for you to place it, hopefully within the narrow radius of trapping success, and have it activate before the beast in my trap disappears. 

And, there's another, more insidious problem at play as well.  In a situation that is entirely untroubled by another player, it used to be quite possible for you to place down a second trap on the same beast that you've already trapped.  This gives you two drops for each beast.  But if you're scrambling after a taunted beast, you'll be lucky to get the first trap, much less the second.  Blizzard has said that this double trapping is unintended behavior, so you didn't even have a right to that second trap in the first place, but nevertheless it was something got stolen from you. 

On the other side, the argument is that if the game restricts trapping to beasts that you've tagged yourself, we will simply be inviting all the old player competition for scarce resources that leads to griefing and hoarding.  The interesting thing here is that Blizzard has always encouraged this kind of inter-player competition as a way of rationing the resource.  Just look at the apexis dailies to see examples of too few mobs being fought over by an abundance of players confined in a small space.

So why has Blizzard put all these restrictions on the elite beasts in the first place?   Because they are worried about this.  This Savage Blood concept is all a grand experiment about how to both empower and control crafting.  They are worried about diminishing the effort it takes to get higher level gear; which will, in turn, accelerate the rate at which players burn through content. They are taking a chance by bringing it out of the raid, and the jury is still out on whether this was a good idea or not.

The concern is, that if this is such a problem; if players complain and cause such an uproar over this whole broken system of Savage Blood farming, Blizzard will consider the experiment to have failed and they will go back to having SBs drop in raids.  Crafting will return to only being relevant at some weird focal point just after max level and continue for a few weeks until players qualify for LFR and the new boss drops overshadows it.  That's what's at stake.  That is why it is important for Blizzard to get this right.

The latest patch has brought the first attempt at a solution.  A beast can only be trapped if you have a tag on it, which should remove the incentive for last-minute taunting.  And, Blizzard has promised to increase the number of spawn points and spawn rates so competition should be mitigated somewhat.  We will see if it's enough.


  1. PVE MMOs shouldn't have inter-player competition. It makes the community angry. How many times did I clear 5 mobs to get that nice ORE vein, only to have someone drop in from flight and take it from me while I fought that last mob. How I felt about that player after is obvious.

    That is why I liked phasing where items and whatnot are by the person and not the zone. I don't mind the (past) menial task of actually collecting them, I just didn't enjoy the competition.

    I'm still a WOD holdout but this is EXACTLY the type of thing that makes me look forward to buying the expansion, that I can gear up on my own with some patience and work. Just don't make me hate my server community while trying to do so.

  2. Yes, I think you've put your finger on the situation, this interplayer resource competition is really a form of PvP in disguise. And because of the disguise, because it is unexpected, it creates far greater spike in animosity than it would otherwise and provides justification for further negative behavior.

    I realize that this is probably a rant for another occcasion, but while I think this kind of player competition is deeply ingrained in WoW culture particularly, I also believe that games are beginning to slowly change their thinking on this. As you mentioned, I appreciate the way that GW2 has developed personal resource gathering and I think it has strengthened the sense of community in that game.

    Similarly, Blizzard is moving away from a raid-first paradigm and crafting is improving because of it.