Archaeology in Review

When Path of the Titans and Archaeology was originally announced as features for Cataclysm I was very excited. It seemed like perfect game components for achievement hunters. Eventually Path of the Titans was scrapped due to lack of time for development or just not being able to fit it in the game the way they wanted, archaeology was kept in though.

I was fairly slow to start with archaeology compared to most of my friends and very slow to bring it all the way up to 525 in skill, why? I found it dreadfully boring. Which is odd, it should have everything a crazy achievement hunter like me wants, or does it?

What is Archaeology

Archaeology is the fourth secondary profession in World of Warcraft. Just like Cooking, Fishing and First Aid, you can train this profession without taking up one of your primary profession spots. Unlike The three aforementioned professions, this one makes very little sense to train for non-achievement hunters.

Cooking provides you with health food, mana food, buff food and a way to make gold. Fishing helps you gather materials for your Cooking and is a way for you to make gold. First Aid helps you survive in a tough situation with the help of some bandages (first aid is pretty crap though, but that’s a story for another day).

Archaeology provides you with flavor items, pets, mounts and BoA epics (none for hunters though). You can also get minor buffs in dungeons via daily quest turn-ins. Most of all, this profession provides you with a very big time-sink, just like fishing.

How Archaeology works

You can train archaeology in any major city and once you’ve payed for the skill level, there’s no need further prep needed, no need to buy a shovel or treasure map. It’s time to start diggin’!

The survey tool along with a bored worgen-turn-night-elf and lion

To find a dig site, open up the world map for your current continent. On this map you’ll find four shovel icons. Each of these represent a dig site. Travel to a dig site marked by a shovel. Once you get close to it, you’ll see a red marked area surrounding the shovel icon on your map (not the minimap), this marked area represents the dig site.

Start digging in the middle of the dig site by using Survey. You’ll see a survey tool on the ground after you’ve dug, this will shine a light in red, yellow or green and point you into the right direction. Intuitively red means you need to dig far away, yellow moderately close and green, very close. Eventually you hit on a find and you dig up three to six fragments and sometimes a keystone.

You can dig up three finds for each dig site, once you got those three you have to move to a new dig site. There will always be four dig sites up per continent and you can be assured that they are gonna be as far away from each other as possible (sure seems that way anyway). The dig sites are specific to each civilization (or “race” if you will) and each civilization has their own unique artifacts that you can find. See this link for a comprehensive list of the artifacts.

Once you dig up enough fragments for an artifact, you can solve it by opening up the Archaeology window under Professions and going to the civilization you’re working on.

Rinse and repeat from 1 to 525 and long thereafter.

Sources of frustration

There’s a five second cooldown on the Survey tool… why does it have to be there? When you’re within the green range you will find this incredibly frustrating after a while, since you’ll dig… move for one second and then want to dig again… but no, you have to wait. This wouldn’t be so frutrating if it only happened once or twice, but it really happens for every single find you dig up.

You are forced to dig up finds for races you don’t care to dig up, just to free up other dig sites spots (since each continent is limited to four at a time). On Eastern Kingdoms this usually means clearing out four Troll dig sites before getting one Dwarf dig sites, or on Kalimdor this would mean clearing out Night Elf, Fossil or Troll dig sites to get to one Tol’Vir dig site. This gets incredibly frustrating very quickly. Especially if you really don’t want any of the artifacts that that one race provides which you are forced to dig up.

For example, right now I’m digging in Outland for the The Harder they Fall achievement which requires Orc artifacts. What happens? All Draenei dig sites… Every 7th dig site or so is Orc.

This is what you'll be doing most of the time; travelling.

Dig sites are miles apart! Sometimes you get lucky and have two or even three in the same zone, but most of the time you’ll have to travel between 5 to 10 minutes to get to a new dig site.

There’s a lot of common artifacts that serve no purpose other than to be an obstacle for you to climb. That’s ok in my opinion, awesome things shouldn’t come easy. But the thing is, you can complete these common artifacts many times over and you are at the mercy of RNG when it comes to deciding what artifact you’re gonna be solving next. You might solve the same crappy useless artifact five times over. Fun? No.

Apart from selling keystones (which aren’t selling at all on my realm), which you probably wanna use yourself anyway there is no real monetary reward for digging. Solved artifacts sell for between 10 silver to 1 gold. Why? Solving an artifact is more time consuming and equally difficult as a daily quest. These common artifacts should vendor for a bit more or be materials for something craftable so that they would have some value.

It’s not relaxing. I say this because Archaeology should be compared to Fishing, the other time sink profession. When it comes to fishing, all you need to do is park your ass near a lake or the ocean and fish away. Chat with your guildies or listen to an audio book and relax. Archaeology on the other hand requires you to move around constantly searching for new diggables, spamming your Survey key in frustration while the cooldown slowly wears off, then look on your map to plan your travel route to get to the next dig site.

How can archaeology be changed for the better?

First off, change that Survey cooldown to an arbitrary 1 second or something similar.

Have dig sites be a certain amount per zone or quarter of a continent rather than a certain amount per entire continent. This would mean less travel time (but not remove it entirely) and would also make you able to focus on one race of your choice rather than being forced to dig up stuff you are completely uninterested in. Looking for Orc dig sites? Go to Hellfire Ramparts. Tol’Vir? Go to Uldum and the surrounding deserts.

Introduce a new kind of item that can be found on every dig that is valuable but has a low drop chance. Let’s say it’s a kind of jewel or diamond from that particular race, several of them available, each vendoring for 100 g to 5000 g (for a very rare one). This would mean that each time you dig there’s a chance of something very exciting to happen which makes the entire experience a bit more appealing.

And similarly, completing common artifacts more than once would feel less painful if there was some sort of purpose to completing them. Like, a gold reward or extra keystones, whatever. Just, something… anything!

And on that bombshell…

As you can see, I’m not all that thrilled with archaeology in it’s current incantation. But I believe with some tweaking it can be a wonderful time sink like it is intended to be. Regardless of if they change anything or not, I will continue with it. Because there are achievements and mounts and I shall have achievements and mounts!

What do you think of Archaeology? Is it perfect and loads of fun or a bag of turtle poop?



About Gavendo

I write a World of Warcraft blog called "Rapid Fire" on the topics; hunters, pets and achievement hunting.
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12 Responses to Archaeology in Review

  1. Lightvision says:

    Agreed on the whole line.

    Too much time to spend for possible epics that will only last 1 tier.
    Mounts can be more timetaking imo cause those last forever.

    And whats up with Fossil only having 2 items with actual worth? Once you get em: Pure vendor trash.

    Wtb bone drake or something with very low chance to get

  2. It wasn’t getting to me until I got to 525 and having to do sites in Feralas over, and over, and over to get a dig site to come up in Uldum. And yes, I agree wholeheartedly, just a chance that something valuable could be dug up once in a while among those turtle poop fossils would make it much more bearable!

  3. ironyca says:

    I gave up a long time ago, simply too little reward in relation to effort.

    One thing that could have changed it for me, could have been an increase in vanity items, and I don’t mean those petty items with a 1 sec show of twinkle, but shirts, hats, level one banker gear, that sort of thing.
    Still useless but more fun, and potentially, at least on my RP realm – a moneymaker, that isn’t based on the vendor value (which as you said is also waay too low), especially if they were sets, consisting of several items of clothing.

    That could have motivated me.

  4. Gavendo says:

    I thought all comments would be bashing of my bashing of archaeology. Glad to see some people are with me on this! 🙂

    This in the end could mean that this is the popular opinion and if so, maybe we could actually see the blue’s changing their tune and tweaking archaeology a bit to make it less dull and frustrating.


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  6. Wolfore says:

    I trained it and having even tried it. For the clear reason that archeology and fishing are as you called them timesinks (I don’t fish either). To me time is the most valuable currency in WoW and I don’t like squandering it.

  7. Saate says:

    I’ve actually enjoyed Archaeology – from my original 23 hour stint for realm firsts through to getting my Professor title (20 rares) last night.

    With that said, there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement! You cited the orc:draenei ratios in your post as being frustrating but in my experience Outland was the most balanced of all. It only has two races and the dig sites are fairly well distributed.

    There’s a slight sync issue with the fact that orc has 1 rare and draenei has 2 but it’s nowhere near as bad as Kalimdor/EK/Northrend! There are two Nerubian rares in Northrend but those sites are a lowly 18% distribution and you’ll end up clearing a lot of Vyrkul/Troll/Night Elf sites in between.

    The recent patch note stating that they’re capping fragments to 200 seems like a poor decision. If it was part of a balanced change that included other things it might make more sense.

    I actually think it’s okay to make items rare or hard to get. Ideally you need to provide players with some feeling that they’re also working toward secondary objectives even when the rares aren’t coming up. I imagine this might take the place of something like an archaeology vendor that sells heirloom and cosmetic items would suffice – something similar to how the Wintergrasp vendor used to be.

    You could also add in that rare random chance like you mentioned – a gem or something that sells well. Another idea I’ve discussed with people is the rare chance for some kind of ‘special’ dig site to appear. It could have rare clues toward something (people love the mysterious 10th race icon) or special rewards.

  8. eidotrope says:

    I think Archaeology was doomed to be disappointing from birth. As a secondary profession Blizzard wants it to be mediocre and tedious, one of those things you do around or while taking a break from a primary game activity (dungeons, questing, pvp, etc.). The problem is that it’s interesting as a concept and has a lot of potential. I think this leaves people wanting it to be more than a secondary profession, more than a mere sibling of fishing and cooking.

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