Last night a new build went up on the Beta servers and with it some changes to Archaelogy's mechanics. If you haven't already read my first post on Archaeology, you can read it here to refresh your memory about how it worked previously. Overall the new changes are positive and welcome modifications that I think will increase the appeal of the profession. It looks like they've attempted to address some of the downsides that were starting to create a negative vibe with beta testers.
The first thing that was improved was the number of fragments collected per survey action. Previously I stated that each looted object would contain 2-4 fragment pieces. This has been increased and each item now contains 3-5 fragments when looted. So you'll be collecting fragments as a faster pace. This means you can also solve artifacts more frequently which helps you level the profession a bit quicker too.
There were also some "freebie" scrolls as an occasional loot drop which could be used to fill in missing fragments. The scrolls were granting up to six extra fragments, now they grant up to 12. I think I found about one scroll per hour of surveying today. They're nice for a quick boost to finish an artifact, especially if you're unlucky and the right dig site doesn't pop up on your map when you need it.
The patch notes for this new build indicated that dig sites would no longer spawn in places that are too high for your Archaelogy level. So far I haven't found this to be totally true, but it's much less common than it had been. Today I've had just one dig site spawn in a zone too high for me, where before it was happening pretty regularly.
Another change I noticed which wasn't addressed in the patch notes is that I'm no longer getting skips in skill points. Before today I was seeing about 20% skips in skill point acquisition when solving artifacts. Today I solved 10 artifacts with no skips. At least in the Artisan phase of Archaeology you should get skill points for every artifact you solve. It was quite frustrating to get no skill point after collecting 30 fragments from 3+ dig sites, so this is a welcome change.
The biggest change is the addition of XP gains for looting fragment finds. Kaliope has been working my Archaeology project and I haven't bothered to level her since she has no gathering abilities. At level 80 she was getting 46304 rested XP every time she looted a found object. Before too long I got up to 81 at which point I started getting 58170 rested XP per found object. Oddly enough I leveled a second time and I'm now getting 73290/36645 XP (rested ran out shortly after the second ding). I tested XP gains on a toon with minimal Archaeology skill and the numbers are exactly the same, so your Archaeology skill doesn't appear to be a factor in the XP given.
Overall I think these changes have made Archaeology more playable. Changing the drop rate of fragments and boosting the value of the "keystone" (aka freebie) objects should increase the leveling rate by at least 20%. I think that will move the Archaeology progression from sluggish to viable for most people. Before these changes it was arguably in a tie with Fishing for most boring profession. For me personally Fishing would have been ahead due to the value of the loot, which Archaeology can't really compete with because most of its loot is junk.
The XP may even be a bit too generous, depending on the design goals for professions. I'm fairly surprised at the addition of XP to gathering abilities. We've been through two expansions so far, so it's a bit strange for Blizzard to finally give a nod to tradeskills as an alternate leveling activity. That said, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mount. I'm excited at the possibility of getting some XP for things I already do :)