Sunday, March 3, 2013

World of Warcraft: Fleshing Out The Tillers (Article)

Disclaimer: It has come to my attention that this article was erroneously linked as a guide. This is a list of suggestions and most of it is likely not reflective of the current implementation of the Tillers. Any suggestions that were implemented after this article was published is purely coincidence (or maybe the result of a Blizzard employee happening upon this).

The suggestions I have to improve the Tillers consists of a few sections. The first section discusses reputations associated with individual Tiller members (friendship reputations). The second discusses various quality-of-life changes, such as improving yields from certain crops and so on. The final section discusses an implementation in 5.1, known as portal shards, and how to improve them.

Improving Ties With The Tillers

On top of the normal reputation for the Tillers, there are ten individuals you can increase reputation with, shown by a bar like below:

A filled reputation bar like this, shown at the top of the dialogue window, indicates this NPC is your Best Friend.
When you become Best Friends with one of these individuals, you gain some rewards and can ask them to work on the farm. The rewards (both the additions to the farm and the items they mail you) are fantastic. On the other hand, there are no benefits for hiring most of the NPCs to work on the farm. While it may be asking for a bit much, I believe if the NPCs gave some tangible benefit to your farm by working on it farming, it would make the Tillers reputation that much more complex by actually providing a reason to invite Tillers you are Best Friends with to your farm. In each subsection below I will briefly describe the NPC and his or her current benefits (mostly copied from Wowhead) and give an example of the benefits he or she should provide while working on the farm.

Chee Chee is a Hozen shepherd who sometimes loses his prized Sheepie, which the player finds to improve reputation with him. Becoming Best Friends with Chee Chee adds sheep to your farm and he will mail a bag with cloth and leather.

In addition to this, when working on your farm, Chee Chee should provide the following bonuses:
  • Firstly, he would gather wool from his sheep, giving about 8-10 Windwool Cloth to you each day if you talk to him while he's working on your farm. 
  • In addition, when tended by Chee Chee, the sheep on the farm attract the attention of the passing birds, preventing Alluring crops from growing and turning them into Growing crops instead. Alluring crops must be interacted with to attract a bird which must then be killed.

Ella is essentially the "crazy cat lady" in the Heartlands. However, she aspires to be a brewer and, after helping her out by gathering ingredients and giving out the finished brew for taste testing, she will become your best friend. Becoming Best Friends with Ella adds one of her cats, Luna, to your farm. She will also send a bag with some tree saplings, which can be harvested as a decorative item.

Having Ella on the farm should also provide the following benefits:
  • Firstly, she would bring the rest of her cats and grow a small plot of turnips (like on her own farm) on your farm. This would prevent any Virmen from showing up on the farm, preventing Wiggling crops from growing (creating Growing crops instead) and Occupied Soil from showing up after a crop is harvested.  
  • In addition to this, Ella would give a small share of her turnip crop each day when talked to, giving between 12-15 Pink and/or White Turnips (can only give a maximum of 10 turnips, such as 5 whites and 5 pinks). 
    • There would also be an additional item, "Ella's Special Brew," which provide the same benefits as stat potions (grant 4000 to your primary stat for 25 seconds) and make the drinker a little drunk. The item would be bind on pickup and Ella would give 10 in place of the turnips. Players can only hold 20 of this item at a time.

Farmer Fung takes pride in his yaks. He will eventually ask the player a favor to recover his yaks (part of the main Tillers questline). In addition to this, he ensures everyone's crops are well watered by asking the player to essentially become the equivalent of a rainstorm. Becoming Best Friends with Farmer Fung adds his prized yak to your farm. He will also send Enigma Seeds to you.

Having Farmer Fung on your farm should also provide the following benefits:
  • Firstly, Farmer Fung would bring more of his yaks onto the ranch. These yaks would graze on weeds as they pop up, preventing Encroaching Weeds (creating Growing crops instead of Smothered) and Stubborn Weeds (these require minimal interaction to remove).
  • Farmer Fung would also harvest and weave the tough hairs from the yaks, creating between 8-10 Exotic Leather that can be gotten when talked to each day (the woven hairs are at least the equivalent of leather).

Fish Fellreed spends most of her time at a pier in the Heartlands along the Cattail Lake. Besides doing what is probably fishing, she also likes to tell stories, whether they are folk tales or past history. Becoming Best Friends with Fish Fellreed adds some pigs to your farm. She also sends profession seeds to you.

Having Fish Fellreed on your farm should also provide the following benefits:
  • Fish's pigs will dig randomly around the farm, spawning at least one Dark Soil patch each day. If everyone is your Best Friend already, however, you receive random vendor junk (most of the items from here) instead.
  • Fish herself will spend some time at the lake catching fish for you, which she will give out each day. She gives between 8-10 fish, which can be any combination of the Mists of Pandaria fish (excluding ocean-caught fish like Reef Octopus and Giant Mantis Shrimp)

As the quartermaster for the Tillers, Gina is savvy about finance. She is also the first Tillers member to formally introduce players to the reputation. Becoming Best Friends with Gina Mudclaw adds a mailbox to your farm. She also sends you fireworks.

Gina Mudclaw is one of the few Tillers NPCs who has a tangible benefit at the moment from being on the farm. However, I would add or adjust some benefits as described below:
  • On top of all her functions as a quartermaster (including repairing), Gina should also sell seeds (since some are tied to reputation anyways).
  • Gina also gives you seeds on a daily basis. It can be between 4-5 of any combination of seeds. Unlike other Tillers, she will send it to you through the mail (because she added the mailbox to the farm).

Haohan Mudclaw is the patriarch Mudclaw and one of the major members of the Tillers council. While he clearly doesn't like city folk, he eventually softens up and gives credit to you and your partner where it's due. Despite being involved in the main Tillers quest line at the very end, it's still possible to become Best Friends with him before that. Becoming Best Friends with him adds Miss Fifi, a mushan, to your farm. He also sends you some Songbell Seeds.

Having Haohan Mudclaw on your farm should also provide the following benefits:
  • He would command his mushan to till a random row or column of soil for you. However, getting the Master Plow will instead have the mushan till all soil on the farm. You have to talk to Haohan in order to have him till the soil with the mushan.
  • He is also very tough to the point he will dominate any Wild crop instantly, making it into a Growing one. 
  • He will provide some assistance when combating any pesky enemies on your farm (10k melee hits, level 90, has 293k health).

Jogu the Drunk is a jinyu that partakes in far too many alcoholic drinks. Despite this he is somehow able to predict which crops have the best yield the following day. He will give this advice to you for a price, which decreases as you gain more friendship reputation with him. Becoming Best Friends with Jogu the Drunk makes the aforementioned predictions free and he will also mail you some of his own private stock.

Like Gina, Jogu the Drunk has a benefit while on your farm. It's not quite as good but it means a lot less travel time to request crop predictions. I would add the following benefits from having him on your farm as well:
  • Jogu's crop predictions are exceptional, making all high forecast crops Plump, yielding ten crops instead of seven (the normal amount for high forecast crops).
  • Jogu will help water your crops. He will passively water one one Parched crop every 30 seconds or so. If you have the "Jinyu Princess" upgrade, using it will water every plant on the farm (up to 16) automatically.

Old Hillpaw is something of a chicken rancher type, often sending the player on tasks to find his prized chickens. While he may have a hard exterior he has a soft spot when talking about his family. Becoming Best Friends with Old Hillpaw adds some chickens to your farm. He also sends you a straw hat so you can look the part of a rancher yourself.

Having Old Hillpaw on your farm should also provide the following benefits:
  • Old Hillpaw's chickens will eat up the small bugs and other pests that are in Infested crops, making Growing crops instead.
  • He will also give you 8-10 Wildfowl Breasts daily when talked to, fresh off wild prairie chickens that attempt to hide amongst his own.

Sho spends most of her time in the mountains where the local Hozen have taken residence. She is something of a scout, keeping tabs on them while ensuring she maintains her own survival. Becoming Best Friends with her adds an orange tree to your farm. She also sends you a nice pet.

Having Sho on your farm should also provide the following benefits:
  • Sho would tend to the orange tree on the farm, causing it to yield 10 "Potent Valley Oranges" per day (these are looted off the ground). Eating these oranges instantly gives 300 (450 for Stamina) to a primary stat based on your class and spec (healers get 300 Spirit, casters get 300 Intellect, tanks get 450 Stamina, and so on). They also restore 5% of your health and mana every second for 20 seconds. Players can only have 20 of these oranges at a time and they are bind on pickup.
  • Sho would also grow some Saplings of her own on the farm, giving the player a combination of 8-10 different decorative trees each day.
  • Like Haohan, Sho is also an experienced combatant. She will provide some assistance when fighting off the pests on your farm. (5k melee cleaving attack, level 90, 293k health).

Tina Mudclaw is one of the daughters of Haohan Mudclaw. She is very fond of jewelry though that doesn't mean she won't share the wealth. Becoming Best Friends with her adds furnishing to your house on the farm. She will also send you some food.

Having Tina Mudclaw on your farm should provide the following benefits:
  • Her presence brings abnormal luck to the yield of your crops. Crops have a double chance to be Bursting (can be harvested right after it's planted) or Plump (gives bonus yield when harvested).
  • She will also give you some food every day. It can be up to 10 of any of the Pandaria buff foods from the cooking profession specializations (such as this). She will give fewer pieces of food based on the rarity of the food (i.e. she gives very few 300 stat foods). She can even give feasts, including Pandaren Banquets (even though they're not tied to any of the cooking specializations).
    Improving the Tillers In General: Quality of Life Suggestions

    In this section I will give a list of short suggestions to improve the Tillers. None of these were extensive enough to warrant their own section, but that doesn't make them any less important.
    • Change when crops can be harvested to when dailies reset. Firstly, this is because high-forecast days change during daily reset. It is also because players may not be able to manage crops until after midnight server time due to their schedule. Daily resets were set to the early morning hours for the aforementioned reason and thus it only makes sense crop growth follows suit.
    • After certain Tillers NPCs become your Best Friend, make it so they no longer give the normal daily quests to you. Instead, provide a new set of daily quests, such as delivery quests to other Tillers to gain reputation with them. In addition, they should still give you benefits from being on your farm if they work on your farm (assuming any part of the first suggestion is implemented).
    • Improve the Master Plow by allowing it to be cancelled early with ease by movement. This is because it takes a bit less time to till four plots of Untilled Soil at once using the Master Plow, allowing players to transition to another set of Untilled Soil plots a little quicker. If movement might cause a problem, there's other alternative solutions as well.
      • Treat the Master Plow's usage as a channeled ability and let it be subject to stopcasting (escape key).
      • Add an special button to stop the plowing. 
      • Add a buff that can be clicked off.
    • Change the Wild crops so it requires only 30 stacks of Dominance as opposed to 50. Currently they are the most time consuming type of crop to handle (excluding the enemy NPCs that spawn). Consider rebalancing how often the plant uses Vine Slam and adjust the Gnaw cooldown as well.
    • Make actions, such as tilling the soil and harvesting crops, automatically dismount the player as opposed to giving a "You are mounted" "error." There are a lot of actions in Mists of Pandaria related to object interaction that throw this error and it really should either automatically dismount or allow the action while mounted.
      • Make the zone's weather affect the crops. For instance, a very sunny day could parch out some crops, while a rainy day could water all crops. This is to make the farming experience more realistic, though this is probably my lowest priority suggestion.
      Making Portal Shards Better

      Portal shards, as mentioned above, are a new type of seed that is slated to be added in Patch 5.1. When the seed, known as Unstable Portal Shard, is planted and grown normally, it yields a one-time use portal shard to a random town. While this sounds nice, there are some glaring issues with the current implementation, which I will list below:
      • Firstly, the portal shard that is harvested is completely random (aside from only teleporting to a town of your faction). This by itself doesn't sound too bad but there's a lot more.
      • Secondly, the portal shards can only be used at Sunsong Ranch, as opposed to anywhere. This greatly restricts the usability of portal shards.
      • Because portal shards can only be used at Sunsong Ranch, they are pretty much pointless because a player can invest a minute to go back to Shrine of the Moon or Shrine of the Stars in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and just take the portals from there.
      • While it makes sense, the one-time use only further enhances how useless the portal shards are. Making them bind on pickup also makes them impossible to sell (were there any demand for it).
      • In conclusion, growing portal shards, at best, saves you a little time. The more likely scenario is you save an extremely minimal amount of time. It is far better to grow some crops that have a yield that can make you some money or beneficial items because it means you spend less time farming money or said materials outside of the farm.
      Now that the problems have been outlined, what can be done to improve it? For this particular implementation, I have multiple alternatives that could be considered. I will also highlight alternatives that should not be implemented. Some of these implementations can be done together.
      • The first alternative that comes to mind is to make the portal shards charged. Making them infinite use makes it kind of pointless to grow them beyond a point. Charged portal shards, however, could become potential time-savers.
      • Another way to make portal shards more usable is to make them create a permanent portal fixture in Sunsong Ranch instead of making them harvestable portal shards. However, only one can be grown at a time and the cost is increased by a significant amount. Growing a new portal will replace the old portal.
      • To allow players to control which portal shards they can grow, add portal shards to individual towns (on top of the random portal shard) that can also be grown. These portal shards should cost more.
      • Add additional locations for the portal shards to go to. There are already so many ways to go to capital cities. While it makes sense portal shards are keyed to capital cities because the portal shards originated from Dalaran, they could add quests to attune portal shards to various key locations in all the continents.
        • Some examples of locations could be Wyrmrest Temple, Booty Bay, all four temples of the August Celestials in Pandaria, and so on.
      • Remove the location restriction, allowing portal shards to be used anywhere. This makes them far more desirable to grow because players may need a quick way back from other locations that are far from an accessible portal.
      • Make them trade-able. This would especially go well with some of the other suggestions because of how desirable they would be to have. It might be a bit too much like teleport tablets in Runescape, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
      • Do not remove portals in the two towns purely to promote portal shard usage. This is likely to cause serious backlash and it essentially forces people to raise a reputation to travel quickly even if they didn't want to.
      Final Statements

      The Tillers reputation isn't bad. In fact, it's one of my favorite reputations in Mists of Pandaria so far because of the farming it brings to a typical daily routine. The best part is nothing about the Tillers feels forced. There's no gear tied to the reputation vendor and the rewards reaped from the reputation can be gotten in other ways too. I tried to keep the spirit of that design when writing these suggestions and hope to have done it justice while making the Tillers reputation seem more polished.

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