Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fixing Fishing

Fishing is boring. Painfully so. It has been said time and time again, and typing "fishing in wow boring" into Google has the number one result being bots that will fish for you. My banned account had max level fishing on my Rogue, only because A) I wanted to be able to fish pools of Pure Water in Nagrand, and B) Glider did it for me. "A" was pretty disappointing, as you only got one mote of water per cast into a Pure Water pool (I expected 3 or 4, to be on par with the gas extractor item for air clouds), and "B" was pretty disappointing, because I ended up being banned for it and losing my main account that I had over 72 zillion hours logged into. Since my last post on Completionism, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at fishing, why it sucks so bad, and what can be done to make it better (or at the very least, tolerable).

Let's get one thing out of the way here, too. I don't hate fishing in real life. While "bobber fishing" would probably bore me out of my mind (which is essentially what WoW fishing is, to a degree), I actually have come to enjoy fishing. Okay, wait.. lemme rephrase that, because that last sentence makes it look like I go fishing from time to time. What I'm trying to say is that "I get it". My dad was one of those "let's wake up at 3am and pile in the car to go fishing!" kinda guys, and I hated it. It seemed so boring to me as a child, and coupled with the inevitable tangles in fishing line that would take 15 minutes to untangle, barbed hooks becoming lodged in your fingers, the fact that you needed to skewer live worms on said hooks, or the fact that after we caught fish I had to beat them in the head with the butt end of a knife before cutting open their stomach and ripping out their intestines.... wait, where the hell was I going with this?

Ah! But later in life I came to appreciate nature, and spending time in the great outdoors. Fishing was still pretty boring, throw the line out, reel in the lure. But then my father outgrew that style of fishing and moved on to fly fishing, which (coupled with the fact I was getting older) was genuinely interesting. We could spend time 'doing fishy stuff' without actually being awake at 4 am standing in a river. Tying flies, practicing casting down at the local school's soccer field. The act of fly casting made fishing an actual activity that required finesse and skill instead of just throwing the lure as far out as you could and reeling it back in.

WoW offers none of this. Not even the boring parts. WoW has you click one button (which thankfully can be hotkeyed), then move your cursor over some tiny onscreen area and PERCH, UNMOVING, waiting for the fishing noise and animation to play, at which point you can click your mouse (which CANNOT BE HOTKEYED) and reel in your catch (or fail). The perching is one of the hardest parts for me personally, because once your cursor is over the bobber you have to remain dead still while the muscles in my right arm are half flexed, waiting to right click.

I did IT work for 6 years before coming to Japan, and we used to have some HR woman named Rahel that would tell us to take "micro breaks" during the day. At the time, I thought she was just a bitch, and everything that came out of her mouth was lies and deceit, but the micro breaks thing is actually a really good thing. Whenever you would see a progress bar come up on the screen, it was a cue to relax your shoulders and take a second to look away from the screen... focus on a far away mountain for a few seconds to give your eyes a break, and generally let the tension in your shoulders and arms go for a quick second while the file opened, the filter was being applied, or the computer did whatever it was doing. Fishing won't let me take a micro break, because there's no progress bar, or the one that's displayed only shows the "maximum time" a cast will last. The fish could bite right after the cast, halfway thru the progress bar, or at the very end. The progress bar is a lie. You could look away and wait for the sound to indicate it's time to look back, but the window for clicking and making it count is actually pretty small, so your break is turned into a look-away-oh-shit-scramble thing, which is the opposite of the desired result.

This is already getting pretty long, and I haven't even gotten to where I adress improvements. I could seriously go on all day like this, but let's just suffice it to say the current implementation of fishing in WoW Fucking Sucks. Okay? There. Phew!

Okay! So what can be done? "Pretty much anything to make it better" is vague.

1) Let's actually require that you travel somewhere to improve your fishing. As it is, you can level from 1-450 just STANDING AROUND YOUR CAPITOL CITY. I can start casting in Ogrimmar as Horde, never leave the little puddle outside the Hall of Honor or whatever it's called, and attain max level fishing, while at the same time only pulling out Level 1 crap fish. I can dig the whole "only shitty fish live in Ogrimmar" thing, but how is catching shitty fish improving my skill? I can't pick 8000 peacebloom and hit 450 herbalism, I can't make 350,000 linen bandages and max out first aid, and cooking 7 million pieces of boar meat will only make me level 75 cooking. Why is fishing special in this regard? Make people earn it, or don't fucking bother. Yes, the suffering through 5,000+ casts is certainly earning it, but you see what I'm saying here. It's dumb.

2) Let's have fishing be interesting. Okay, I see where this is going to go... I want it to require require going different places (like herbalism), but I also want it to require more clicks or mouse gestures too?! Have your cake and eat it much, Ixo? I know Blacksmithing and Mining and Herbing only require "click once and wait" (sadly), so why is fishing special? Why do I need to click once, and then CLICK AGAIN IN SOME TINY AREA ON THE SCREEN in order to succeed? Make it a click once cast-reel-in or take it to another extreme, and require you to taunt the fish with mouse flicks and yank the mouse down to hook the fish. I honestly don't think the latter will happen, but why is fishing the only tradeskill that PRETENDS to be more in depth, and then isn't?

Side tangent regarding the bobber: The Windows Start Button used to be raised off the very bottom of the screen like 2 pixels, and over from the left side like 1. It was frustrating to click. Then everyone realized that it would be so much easier to click on if you just made the entire "bottom left hand corner" clickable to activate the Start Menu. Like you could smash your mouse down and to the left, and click, and it would activate. WoW's bobber is suffering from this exact dilemma. Make one button a cast hotkey, and one button a reel-in hotkey, and the problem is solved. Then I could just fish while watching TV and clicking the second hotkey when I heard the splish-splash --OR-- make it so I need to actually watch the screen and react to the fish. Don't make it stupid on two levels... that there's no skill involved, but you still want me to click some stupidly small area of the screen? wtf?

3) Give me incentive to level it. Currently, there's not a huge reason to actually LEVEL fishing. There's a reason to have it at the max level (daily quests, good fish for fishsticks and crap), but all the crap from level 1 to 350 or so is just vendor trash. It makes for good cooking leveling, but on every toon that I didn't BOT FISHING (read: all but my Rogue), I had max level cooks simply because of the meat that beasts drop. Here's a crazy idea: make the fishing daily quest usable for ANY LEVEL OF FISHING. The purpose of the daily quest is to get people to fish, right? And we've already established that you can fish from 1-450 while standing in Ogrimmar, so why not just make the daily quest "catch 5 fish". Once the quest is active in your log, you're able to catch a "Fresh ____ Fish" quest item (be it Raw Slitherskin Mackerel, or Muddy Mudskippers), and you can level your fishing skill AS you do a quest. Amazing, I know. That took me all of 12 seconds to think up, and would make fishing worth doing at least once a day, hooray!

Until the day comes when fishing is overhauled (4.2.4, the Fishing Patch!), I will happily refuse to level fishing. Wrath took a bunch of the tedium out of the game. It feels like they actually sat down in some boardroom and were like "...catching and using a hunter pet just long enough to learn a new skill then abandoning it? ...buying stupid books for your warlock pets? ...being level 70, and still getting your face raped by those stupid swarms of level 1 bugs in south barrens due to endless spell pushback? these are all stupid mechanics, to hell with them!". I salute that. Wrath does a lot of things right.

Why they turned a blind eye to the repetitive grind of fishing in WoW remains a mystery...


Melf_Himself said...

Agreed. I really don't think crafting in its current standard implementation is ever worth the time that it takes to develop in terms of making a good game.

On the other hand, in terms of making a life sucking, cash machine of a game that traps players into playing it when they're not having any fun (did I hear someone say "cha ching!"), then it works great.

In summary, game design > corporate selloutness.... from my point of view (but not from some game houses).

Crimson Starfire said...

Did you ever play Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time? That had a wicked little fishing game built into it that leaves WoW for dead. It would be cool if Blizzard could add a touch of Sega Bass Masters to it's fishing mini game. Actually I'm not even sure if you can call it a mini game. Games are meant to be challenging and fun, and WoW fishing is far from it.

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks for the article :)
But nevertheless fishing is good enough for me as it is: everytime I AM bored and don't know what to do I start fishing.

Anonymous said...

I want a secondary skill to be golfing. Can you imagine how great the courses could be?

World of Golfcraft: With the fall of the Lich King and the return of peace the peoples of Azeroth are once again summoned. (Que epic opera music) This summer (shots of multiple putts being sunk) Prepare yourself (blood elf putting on a Villegas-esq sweater vest) For the ultimate test (tauren clobers ball and yells a slow motion "FORE!")(Opera music gets stronger with lots of cut scenes)(Sudden fade to logo).

Print that bitch!

Anonymous said...

See, the flaw here is that you're thinking "fish bot", and thinking "glider". Glider is invasive and detectable. I used to use this script-based bot that would just watch the screen for the bobber, and then wait for a splash to click on it, just like you normally would fish. Strictly undetectable unless a GM starts a conversation and you don't answer.

I left it running overnight a few times in Wailing Caverns along with lootfilter to keep me supplied with savory deviate delights.

And I like fishing that way, so simple a script can do it, and I don't need to travel all over the place to raise it.


Anonymous said...

The funny part is always when somebody at wowinsider or the like has a shit attack because blizzard reduced the cast time by 20% or made it easier to skill up, they act like fishing is no longer a chore. I was going to say pushing one button then another just makes it an ezmode chore, but other professions basicly consist of clicking create x10, so who cares.

Unknown said...

Fishing has a lot of potential to be a much deeper profession.

I have this idea where there are different bobbers to collect. It's damn annoying when there are 4-8 people standing in the same spot fishing and all the bobbers look the same. It would be cool if you could craft new bobbers, or get them from rep or quest rewards or something, just to add a little customization to the profession.

Hatch said...

Been playing a ton for 4 years now....

....Still not a single character with fishing past 50.

Every character buys a pole at level 5, though, because of course I always think: "this time, I'm going to level fishing!" I just can't. stand. it.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend has something like 4 characters at max fishing. Apparently, it's a good way for her to zone out while she watches TV. Switching it to a 2-click system would at least make that easier. Like you said, the problem is that it's too in-between. Either make it an interesting mini-game you have to actually pay attention to, or make it mindlessly easy so I can at least pay attention to House while waiting for the splash sound.

Rich said...

i usually buy the pole at level 5, and tell myself "this time, every time i ding, i'm goign to stop and get 5 skill points in fishing".

that way it's done in small chunks, but those first ten levels fly by, and you're looking at getting 50 points all in one swoop... and it just doesn't happen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all posters and the original article. Fishing sucks, although I am at 450. What really sucks is this, fishing Ironforge is absolutely no different from fishing a 400 fishing area; other than perhaps monster aggravation. If I am so skilled at fishing, then reward me for it when I fish in Ironforge. I would like to see some algorithm implemented that meant if your fishing skill is so much higher than the required fishing skill, then the likelihood your bobber will strike earlier will increase. On average, I should catch a fish every few seconds in Ironforge, not ever 15-20 as seems to be approxiamately the average atm. Having said this, once Iron Jaw and Old Crafty are fished up, I will never fish in low level areas again, but at the moment I am zero for 2000+ casts for Iron Jaw which is not fun at all, especailly at 3, 4 casts/minute.