Trade Skill Evolution
It's amazing how fast life can interfere with plans, this article is being published a bit late due to random normal everyday things getting in the way. At any rate, I said I would write something about the ideas I have for balancing new players (or alts) with established players.
In the workplace one of the most common complaints is wages. Most employees say that if they were to get more pay for the job they do they would be happier in their position. Studies show however, that increased wages do not positively affect employee retention. Instead, things such as health benefits, retirement plans, profit sharing, and “fun” employee activities at and outside of work have a strong impact on employee retention and happiness. So why do these things work while increased wages don't? Well, it's simple really, if you don't like your job it doesn't really matter how much you get paid. However, if you get benefits and are involved in activities the job is no longer as much of a droning thing as it was before. Think of this in WoW terms and we can draw a parallel between giving things to players for free versus involving them in content to improve player satisfaction and retention.
Let's look at some ideas then.
Mini-Games for trade skills
Trade skill specialization
Skill specific related quest chains and dailies
Larger reagent involvement in crafting skills to improve profitability
Raid and Dungeon specific events
I personally love this idea. Imagine being able to play a mini-game while fishing, now instead of looking at a bobber and waiting for it to plunge downward you can actively participate in jigging or moving a lure to entice a fish. Swirl a skillet while frying some eggs. Sprinkle spices on the roast on the spit. Each one of these things adds a bit of flavor to the event (pun intended). Players could add spices to recipes for altered effects, mild spices for a soothing healing drought, cajun spices for high powered fire damage boost.... who knows, the possibilities are endless. The point is, they add variety and involve doing something more than queuing up a specific number of items and walking away for a cup of coffee.
Trade Skill Specialization
(storyline for dramatization)
The tank is taking a lot of damage over time due to bleed effects and the healers are having one heck of a time keeping up with him and the rest of the raid members what with all the raid damage that is flying around as well. You just happen to be a tourniquet specialist, your whole goal in life is to staunch the bleeding. You've spent the time to learn this skill and now is your chance to shine and save the raid. You jump into action bandaging the tank while he tries to maintain his position against the groups mighty foes, suddenly the healers spells start winning the battle, the bleeding has slowed. The group is victorious thanks to you and your knowledge of wound dressings. There are lots of specialized skills that could be implemented that would provide a reason for people to level trade skills. It would add a whole new depth and dimension to the game that it lacks. First-Aid Tourniquet Specialist, just kinda has a flair to it.. don't you agree!?
Quests and Dailies
We already have these, I'm just thinking that we could do so much more with them in concert with any of the other ideas provided here.
Trade skills items could be used as reagents for more and more things. If blizzard wants to have trade skills available to the masses and they also want reagents to be gathered by the masses why not involve them even more so in the crafting professions? I'll grant that alchemy and herbalism kind of take away a lot of the possibilities but you can add to something like First Aid with herbalism, now there are medicinal wraps instead of simple cloth wraps. You could cook broths to be used in concert with healing positions or strength potions or whatever.. The point is, involve the trade skills.
Involvement in Raids and Dungeons
What if they added special mini bosses to a few dungeons that required the use of some sort of cooking/fishing/first-aid skill to access? The idea has been thought of and somewhat implemented before. I say “run with it”. Take the idea and make it a larger part of the game.
All of these ideas have one thing in common. They involve the player in something that causes the player to want to succeed and thus increases the enjoyment of the game. Giving the players things for free doesn't serve any purpose. I will forever subscribe to the idea that something you did not earn will never mean as much as the same thing if you had to earn it. Take a car for example, the kid that is given the car doesn't appreciate the value of the car, the kid that had to earn his/her first car on their own appreciates exactly what it took to get that car and is more likely to take very good care of it and take pride in it. It's the same thing with games, give players things and they don't appreciate it, they may never even use it.... but give them a reason to earn it and then suddenly it is a true achievement unlike the achievement for logging in on an anniversary.