Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

Happy new year!

I took some time off for Christmas, which meant that there was time to stay up late, sleep in, and play WoW (and finish plowing through George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" books, but that's beside the point).

And playing WoW meant... time to work on archaeology.


I really should have titled this post, "How I learned to stop worrying and love the survey tool."

What happened?

Less than two months ago, I was writing about how I thought archaeology was a bust.  Stick a fork in it, it's done.  There was no joy in it for me, it was too much of a grind, not enough fun.

Yet in the last week, I've managed to level my archaeology to max.  Not only that, but I've also managed to get almost every archaeology achievement.  The sole exception is It Belongs in a Museum... and I'm only three rare artifacts short of achieving that particular goal.

What... what happened?

Three things.

First: the new Darkmoon Faire.

As y'all know, thanks to the Insane in the Membrane achievement, I'm very much interested in raising my Darkmoon Faire reputation for Aeth.  Fortunately, with the release of patch 4.3, that whole process has become much less grindy and gold-intensive, thanks to the new Darkmoon Faire.  There are a number of repeatable (once a month) quests at the new Fair, all of which grant Darkmoon reputation upon completion.  So there was zero chance that I'd skip any of these quests on Aeth, since doing so would mean wringing out less than the maximum possible amount of reputation every Faire appearance.

As it turns out, several of the new Darkmoon Faire quests are related to professions.  You do something like gather scrap metal from around the fair, or cut glass into fake gems, and get a few skill points along with a reputation reward.  Yay!  What's not to like?

One of those profession quests, of course, is for archaeology.

So.  Gritting my teeth, eyes on the prize - my precious Darkmoon Faire rep - I went forth to dig up a handful of fossil fragments for the quest.

Which brings us to the next factor.

Second: archaeology buffs.

It's been a long time since I've attempted to do anything with archaeology.  Long enough, in fact, that I missed the fact that the fragment drop rate for archeology had been buffed in patch 4.3.  I mean, I knew, intellectually, that it had been buffed - but I had not actually experienced the change, if you know what I mean.

You might not think it, but going from ~12 fragments per dig site to ~20 fragments per dig site makes for a huge difference.

Consider common archaeology items.  Most of them take 25-45 fragments to solve (minus any bonus you might get from keystones, scrolls, etc.)  Before the fragment rate buff in 4.3, that meant that you had to fully explore 3-4 dig sites for a particular race in order to solve a common archaeology artifact.

Heaven help you if you were looking at a rare artifact that took 150 fragments.  That would take somewhere around 13-15 dig sites to complete.


With the increased drop rate on fragments, though? All of a sudden, most common artifacts can generally be solved by fully exploring two dig sites, and in many cases, doing so leaves you with a small buffer of fragments to contribute to your next artifact.  Even hideously expensive rare artifacts can  be solved by hitting 7-8 dig sites.

Perviously, taking an hour or so to bop around Kalimdor or the Eastern Kingdoms might net you enough fragments to solve a common artifact or two, and perhaps make a small dent in the progress required for a few more.  Now, though?

Solution city, man.

Before, archaeology felt like I was running around, accomplishing nothing.  Oh, I'd find a few fragments here, a few fragments there, but overall, it felt like I was running in place and getting nowhere.  

With the 4.3 buffs, it seemed like I was able to solve an artifact every other dig site or so.  Even if I was unlucky enough to get four entirely different types of dig sites on a single continent, I could be pretty sure that after two circuits, I'd be able to solve 3-4 artifacts of different types.

In other words, I went from feeling like I was stagnating to feeling like I was making progress.  Because, all of a sudden, I was making progress... or, rather, I could see myself making progress.  I'd fly around, hit 3-4 dig sites, look at the archaeology pane and think, "Oh, hey!  I can solve  this Dwarf artifact.  And that Night Elf one, too.  Oh, and I'm almost close enough to solve this fossil..."

And then - then! - came the magic thought.

You know the one.

"... maybe just one more dig site."

Bam!  Welcome to the skinner box, man.

Third: I was on vacation.

This doesn't mean what you think it means.

I'm not saying that I had umpteen extra hours to devote to archaeology, or that I was doing archaeology more than anything else in WoW.

What I am saying is that my normal blog reading habits were disrupted a bit by vacation.

You see, I normally sit down and read through my blog subscriptions in Google Reader a couple of times a day.  On vacation, though, these tend to build up, as I don't usually have the time to dedicate to blog reading, what with everything else in going on.

When you're doing archaeology, though, there's often 3-4 minute interrupts in the flow of the game as you move from one place to another.  Do you know what I discovered about all that time on the taxi going from one location to another in pursuit of a new dig site?

Prime blog reading time.

Survey, dig, survey, dig, survey, dig.  Fly to the nearest flight master.  Grab the taxi to the next dig site. Tab out to Google Reader and read a stack of blog posts. Tab back to WoW and fly to the next dig site.

Lather, rinse, repeat... and two hours later, I've caught up with my blog reading for the day, and racked up something like 400 archaeology fragments and solved a bunch of artifacts.


Conclusion: archaeology no longer sucks.

So, there you have it.  Archaeology is actually kind of fun now.  I still wish I could murder mobs for fragments or clues, but hey - what's there right now has managed to become more interesting than fishing, so I'll take it.  Granted, "more interesting than fishing" is a pretty low bar to beat, but at least the profession as a whole seems to be headed in a better direction.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got three more rare artifacts to find...

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