If you're an engineer, you're accustomed to the chance of failure. The state of the profession throughout WoW's ten years is a bit like a goblin device. Sometimes engineering has succeeded incredibly well. The shiniest of rewards showered down on the profession from Blizzard's workshop like Thorium Grenades of Joy. During other eras, the profession has backfired, blasting shrapnel in players' faces like so many Explosive Sheep.
No one would argue that engineering is in a pretty good place right now, especially considering the newly revealed Sky Golem. It's one of the sickest mounts in the game, it transforms, it lets you harvest herbs without dismounting -- and it's only craftable by engineers.
In the family of primary professions, engineering has always been the weird uncle. No other profession makes such a diverse and bizarre array of products. Engineers can make ranged weapons, a shield, armor of all four kinds, consumables, pets, mounts, trinkets, utility items, "enchantments," "gems," "keys," feasts (yep), fishing lures, portable crafting stations, and specialized bags. It's also the only remaining profession that is still divided into exclusive specializations: goblin and gnomish engineering.
Let's look back at the early days of the profession and how it has evolved through the last four expansions.
The hyper-radiant golden age
In classic WoW, Blizzard took every wacky idea they could think of and made a schematic out of it. Seemingly nothing was off the table. The resulting profession had huge diversity and utility. Most importantly, engineering was a heck of a lot of fun.
It didn't offer great stat bonuses. You couldn't craft much gear for other players. You weren't going to make a fortune with it -- in fact, you were probably going to lose money because of how many materials engineering soaked up to level. But you could do insane things in both PvE and PvP.
Need to lock down that pesky mage? The Net-o-matic Projector had you covered. Ganked by an enemy player near a cliff? Use the Gnomish Mind Control Cap to make them jump to their doom. Need to simultaneously confuse and murder someone? The Discombobulator Ray not only turned your enemy into a leper gnome -- it also nerfed their damage and snared them to boot. The fact that these surprises could come from any class made them all the more effective.
If your raid ran out of battle rezzes during a fierce boss encounter, engineering could bail you out. A hunter or a rogue could leave combat with Feign Death or Vanish and then attempt to rez a player with Goblin Jumper Cables.
One Arcane Bomb could devastate casters in any combat situation, if you were wealthy enough to throw away Arcanite.
Of course, all of these devices could backfire horribly. It was a balancing feature, but also part of the fun.
- Field Repair Bot 74A: Looted from an object deep within Blackrock Depths, the repair bot was an essential raiding tool in vanilla. Without such a bot, the only other option was for everyone to hearth out, repair back in town, and reassemble. It was also a handy appliance when Nefarian broke your hunter's weapons. The bots were consumable, however, and expensive to make.
- Ultrasafe Teleporter - Gadgetzan and Dimensional Ripper - Everlook: Quests in vanilla sent you all over the world. With an hour cooldown on hearthstones, the teleports allowed you to skip a lot of travel time -- provided you survived the journey. The teleporters weren't great when it comes to the z axis, and hapless engineers would sometimes find themselves teleported a thousand feet above the ground.
- Parachute Cloak: The original was an actual cloak instead of an enchantment. Equipping one before using a teleporter meant a slower and less death-y journey to the ground.
- Rocket Boots: These came in both gnomish and goblin varieties, with different malfunctions. The gnomish kind would send you running around randomly, as if feared. The goblin version would explode, exactly as advertised, and destroy the boots in the process. Fortunately, you could salvage your scorched boots for parts, so it wasn't a total loss.
- Salt Shaker: In a bizarre attempt to synergize engineering with leatherworking, Blizzard added this item in patch 1.11. The shaker created the only salt that could cure Rugged Hide, and only a leatherworker could use it. Originally, it had a 3-day cooldown.
- Hyper-Radiant Flame Reflector: A perfect trinket for Molten Core and other fire-based raids where fire resist was king. Reflecting a big spell felt great in PvE and was hilarious in PvP. Such trinkets also came in frost and shadow flavors.
- Force Reactive Disk: One of the few raid-drop schematics ever implemented, the disk was a great tanking shield despite its bad habit of zapping away crowd control debuffs. It also has one of the best shield models in the game, complete with animated gears.
After the insanity of vanilla engineering, Blizzard grew skittish about the profession. They nerfed the best of the original schematics to have an increased chance to fail against targets higher than level 60, making many obsolete. Worse, the launch of The Burning Crusade and the first couple of patches provided very few interesting schematics and very little incentive to stick with engineering at all. Different colors of flares made up the majority of new "utility items." Most engineering items were banned from arena contests. Engineers could do little but complain to Blizzard and lament the sad state of their beloved profession.
The one bright spot early on was the addition of craftable epic helms in the form of goggles. The helms were great pre-raid gear, but they were soon outclassed by raid drops, leading to a 5000% increase in Radioactive Man references.
Blizzard knew that engineering was in a bad way. For those who stuck with it, patch 2.3 made their persistence worthwhile. Engineers received the first craftable flying mounts -- the Flying Machine and Turbo-Charged Flying Machine. With retractable helicopter blades, sputtering engines, and a hula girl on the dash of the upgraded version, these mounts boasted the best mount design of their time. 2.3 also added an updated repair bot with items for sale and other goodies.
The next patch contained more love for engineers. Updated goggle schematics dropped from trash mobs in Sunwell Plateau. Many of them were best in slot for the remainder of the expansion.
- Gnomish Universal Remote: This trinket was available in vanilla, but it didn't really shine until the Burning Legion arrived with their fondness for giant robots of death. When The Burning Crusade launched, you could use this device to control all sorts of enemies, including the dreaded Fel Reavers of Hellfire Peninsula and the world boss Doomwalker. Blizzard eventually nerfed the remote to make such enemies immune.
- Zapthrottle Mote Extractor: Blizzard tossed engineers an economic bone with this engineer-only device. The ZME harvested motes, a precursor to Mists' Motes of Harmony, from special clouds that appeared around Outland.
- Remote Mail Terminal: TBC brought us the first version of the deployable mailbox.
- Gnomish Poultryizer and Goblin Rocket Launcher: These trinkets constituted the one major difference between the specializations in TBC. Wowhead made the GRL's grinning rocket famous.
Engineers hoping that Blizzard would never again neglect the profession were setting themselves up for disappointment. Early Wrath mimicked early TBC: engineering had few fun or interesting schematics. Goggles made another appearance, but just as before they were quickly overshadowed by raid drops.
Blizzard introduced the first "tinkers" -- a form of engineering-specific item enchantment that added on-use abilities to armor. Nitro Boost and Hand-Mounted Pyro Rocket were among the first batch. However, this first version suffered from the flaw that they didn't stack with actual enchantments, which usually had better stats, so most went unused.
The craftable motorcycle mounts were the best thing about early Wrath, but building one required a long rep grind and a huge cash investment.
Players looked around at the significant stat bonuses other professions enjoyed and the money that could be made and deemed engineering had once again become vastly inferior. Players also cited the increasing irrelevance of their specializations, the lack of updated versions of many fan-favorite vanilla gadgets, and the relative uselessness of engineering in PvE versus PvP.
Just as patch 2.3 saved the engineering profession for TBC, patch 3.2 saved it for Wrath. The patch brought a huge number of improvements and amazing new additions to the profession. The tinkers were buffed, and a new Mind Amplification Dish could be attached to your belt. Northrend got a new teleporter item. A new robot NPC in Dalaran presented auction house access only to high-level engineers, prompting anger and resentment from everyone else who still had to go back to their home cities to shop the AH like total losers.
Best of all, the patch added the Jeeves schematic, which had a chance to drop whenever you "skinned" Ulduar's Flame Leviathan. Jeeves isn't a mere repair bot. He is a robot butler. No raid team is complete without at least one engineer to call on this refined mechanical gentleman.
- Plans: Iceblade Arrow and Plans: Shatter Rounds: In the long, long ago, ranged weapons required ammo to fire. Engineers were the source of the best ammo in the game at the end of Wrath. Rather than being grateful about being able to make some money with engineering for once, many engineers resorted to scamming. They would sell a stack of one item for the same price as a stack of 200. Hunters who needed lots and lots of ammo (aka, all of them) would buy many stacks all at once by looking at the prices alone, and then find that they got less than they paid for. Sure, it was an easy scam to avoid if you were paying attention, but it was still a jerk move.
- Gnomish X-Ray Specs: The specs aren't just for Azeroth's perverts. They actually significantly reduce lag in high-traffic areas. The neutral city of Dalaran was a lagfest for many players throughout the expansion. This may mark the one and only time that a fictional engineering item helped actual computers.
- Gnomish Army Knife: This combination Jumper Cables and tool kit was a handy item that saved bag space for just about anybody who had crafting professions.
Cogwheels and bling
In Cataclysm, for the first time, engineering tinkers could stack with regular enchantments. That, combined with tinkers such as Synapse Springs, finally put engineering's bonuses on par with other crafting professions. Tinkers evolved, however, from a purchased recipe to one that you had to discover by crafting. So, they are now somewhat more difficult to acquire.
Cataclysm also introduced the concept of cogwheels -- special "gems" that can be socketed into the now-inevitable goggles for each expansion, as well as select other engineering items. Mists kept this idea, now renamed "Tinker's Gears." Since cogwheels allow you to customize all the secondary stats on an item, those items are competitive versus raid drops. Most players in Mists used the Ghost Iron Dragonling, socketed with their spec's best stats, as they started to run Heroics and gear up for raiding.
- Goblin Glider: This new, vastly sexier version makes the old Parachute Cloak look like boring garbage.
- Loot-A-Rang: Why walk an extra five steps when the Loot-A-Rang can bring those Sharp Fangs right to you?
- Electrostatic Condenser and Mist-Piercing Goggles: These updated Mote Extractors provide a nice bonus. They are inferior to the original, though, because they require you to have a gathering profession.
- Thermal Anvil: Only metalworking professions like mining, blacksmithing, and engineering still require you to craft near a specific object. It's handy to be able to drop one next to a bank or a mailbox.
- Blingtron 4000: Has any engineering schematic been more beloved by all players? After all, his sole purpose is to give you free stuff -- and how can anyone resist that smile? Blingtron has a very small chance to give you an engineering mount.
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