re: Gear Pollution12/05/2009
I just read a great post over at Planet of the Hats in regards to what the author calls “gear pollution.” It’s a fantastic read and I highly encourage everyone to go and read it. There are charts, too! Mmm, charts… Oh and I realize that I’ve touched on this topic on several different occasions. Raiding is really all I do in World of Warcraft these days and this is a large consideration for me as a raider. Hence you get to read about it multiple times. Grats, as they say!
The most major thing I have to add to the article is in regards to the Rewards section. The author talks about how gear is Blizzard’s reward to raiders for clearing content, which is true. However, there are two other rewards that are primary to raiding: challenge and the “ooo” factor. It is in balancing these three in the correct combination that raiding appeals. Raiding in WotLK has seen things tip very far towards the gear side of the rewards pyramid, with huge amounts of ilevels being handed out in the course of a single expansion. What we have seen are more epics for less time. Whether this is a positive thing or not is up to discussion, however it is a fact that the difference in tier levels is far larger than in either Vanilla or TBC.
“Ooo” factor is what I call that feeling of doing something new, exciting and special. It was that feeling when you first stepped off the boat in Northrend or when you earned your first mount. I got it when I got to tank Kiggler the Crazed on my hunter and I think back on it fondly. Sadly, it is the “ooo” factor that has been decreased most in WotLK raiding. Most raiders now begin by doing 10-mans, as they are infinitely easier to organize and run (not even taking into account actual raid difficulty), which means that there simply -is- no “ooo” incentive to ever trying the 25-mans; all the content has already been seen. Add this to the fact that many people raid both difficulties, making raid burn-out that much more likely as there isn’t even a change of scenery to be made to break up the week.
Some might not see challenge as its own reward, but it really is for a raider. Pushing yourself and your friends against something difficult until you reach that success is a very sweet reward. It is a fantastic feeling, saying “I am finally a Hand of Adal” or something of the sort. (I never got the title because I never did the pre-raid quests for it! Yes, I know, I’m strange and my raiding group always likes to point it out.) During WotLK, this reward has almost totally been pushed onto hardmode content. As many other bloggers like to say it, Blizzard has created content that is the same fight only now we need to do it with one hand and blindfolded. Is it more difficult? Yes, so at least some of the challenge reward is maintained. Unfortunately, in order to achieve the challenging content, a raiding group needs to slog through several weeks (at least) of normal content. Even once a fight’s hardmode has been unlocked via the gated system, the raider will still need to spend quite a bit of a time farming easy content for gear, as most hardmodes constitute little more than a “gear check.” This aspect of creating more challenge is flimsy at best. For most of the fights in ToC-25 hardmode and for all of the fights in ToC-10 hardmode, the challenge consists of having decent enough gear to win.
What has ended up happening in WotLK is that the institution of raiding has coming to rely almost solely on the reward of more and better gear, whittling away at the other two pillars that helped hold up the end game experience in Vanilla and TBC. People aren’t going to go to a new, possibly more difficult raid for a slight gear upgrade. Blizzard has to make the upgrades large enough to be tempting, creating an even greater divide between tiers, especially with the addition of hardmode level gear. Anything from the last tier becomes nearly worthless, especially with the supreme ease with which people can get current raid level gear. With the challenge level as low as it is, everyone is expected to be in at least 10-man normal epics for just about everything, feeding the monster that is “gear score.”
I’m well-known for arguing that raids are too accessible now, that PuG raids being a viable option at end game is a travesty, which has labeled me an “elitist.” (I hate that word for purely non-WoW related reasons. Call me a “raiding snob” if you will, just leave that poor word alone!) I feel that hardmodes are just about the worst idea Blizzard has had, as it allows them to tune the difficulty on normal raids down to the point where people barely have to be awake to succeed. This is especially made true as the gear from normal modes is almost a requirement for success due to the huge gap in ilevels between tiers. (Having hardmodes being gated doesn’t help much, either, as all the content must already have been seen in before even getting the chance to attempt anything challenging.)
There seems to be a lot of out cry right now to make 10-man gear the same as 25-man gear, something that makes me simply want to throw my hands up in defeat. 25-mans should be and are harder to run than 10-mans, if only from a logistics point of view. Shall we also make the rewards for 5-mans the same as those from 5-man heroics? People would simply stop running 25-mans altogether, as the rewards for time spent would be incredibly unequal.
So what I my suggestion for a solution? Simplify. Just looking at the chart for WotLK progression gives me a headache and reminds me of raiding in EverQuest just before I quit. The death of MMOs, in my opinion, come when the game simply collapses under its own weight. WoW right now wants everyone to be able to raid which means that everyone -is- raiding and that raiding is losing a great amount of interest. Let’s get rid of hardmodes, thereby getting rid of many ilevels, and have the actual raids be difficult again. Let’s have a different end boss in 10-man and 25-man or a different story for the lore. Let’s get rid of the idea that obscure achievements are enough to keep bringing people back. None of this is very difficult to do.
I’ll be waiting for Icecrown Citadel with my fingers crossed. I’m hoping to get some “ooo” out of it for a least a couple of weeks.