Monday, June 22, 2009

Badge Changes in 3.2: Surprise!

I want to respond to this doozy. This bombshell had to be ticking audibly as they prepared to release these patch notes.

  • Emblem System Changes
    • Both the 10 and 25 player instances of the Crusaders' Coliseum drop a new Emblem of Triumph.
    • Any dungeons that previously dropped Emblems of Heroism or Valor, such as Naxxramas or Heroic Halls of Stone, will now drop Emblems of Conquest instead. Emblems of Conquest can still be converted to Valor or Heroism.
    • The heroic dungeon daily quest will now reward 2 Emblems of Triumph and the normal daily dungeon quest will reward 1 Emblem of Triumph.
    • The existing achievements to collect 1, 25, 50, etc. Emblems of Heroism, Valor, and Conquest have been converted to Feats of Strength since Heroism and Valor Emblems are no longer attainable.
    • New achievements have been added to collect various amounts of any combination of emblems.
    In case you've somehow managed to keep your jaw off the floor, let me clarify: currently, Emblems of Conquest can be used to buy Tier 8.5 (ilevel 226) gear, and only drop in Ulduar 25 (and Uld 10 hard modes). Emblems of Triumph will purchase Tier 9 gear.

    And in 2 months when this patch hits, you'll be able to earn epics of that level from just running Violet Hold. Not. Even. On. Heroic.

    I may be a raider who is proud of his accomplishments (yes, I know, it's just a game, blah blah, you don't feel the need to constantly remind chess champions it's just a game, so shut up). I may constantly push to get better gear into the hands of the most skilled raiders rather than some scrub who got carried through a faceroll Naxx 25 or VoA. I may even privately advocate to my friends that half the players in WoW should cancel their accounts and go back to watching So You Think You Can Dance while drooling on themselves.

    But I'm in favor of this change. But not for the same reasons it was probably put in.

    I'm in favor of it because I've often found myself sitting around Dalaran, saying to myself:

    "Awesome dude, don't you wish there was some way to augment your character without being in a raid?"

    to which I respond:

    "But awesome self, my gear is so pimp that I can't upgrade it from anything but the hardest raids."

    Well, now there's a way for me to develop my gear and work toward my raid goals between raids. I've been wanting this for a while, and I'm happy to have it. I can run heroics, even with fail pugs, for badges that will actually buy me upgrades. I love not being so dependent on having X number of other people in my group.

    I just wish it hadn't been done this particular way.

    Obviously, one major reason this change was put in was to get people running heroics again. This is a noble goal, but doing it this way is massively stupid.

    I am sick and tired of the philosophy at Blizzard of using loot purely as an incentive to essentially strong-arm people into doing Blizzard's preferred activity. The patch notes did exactly the same thing by killing 2v2 (you can no longer buy the latest season's gear with your 2v2 rating). It's the exact same thing they've been doing with 25-mans. They put the gear where they want you to be. Not where you enjoy being (isn't this supposed to be a fun *game*!??!), and not where you overcame the most challenge.

    I come from the school of thought that gear should be a reward for overcoming a challenge. The harder the challenge, the better the loot. Period.

    If you want people to be excited about some part of content, then MAKE IT FUN AGAIN. Don't just make the rewards for alternatives irrelevent like you did with arenas, and don't just make the rewards ridiculously inviting like you are doing with heroics. If you want people to run heroics again and want them to drop better loot, then MAKE THEM HARDER, or at least MORE FUN.

    Nonetheless, I can see where they are coming from with wanting to mix the new 80s with the experienced raiders again in heroic pugs. I can understand this change. It would be fine on its own, but taken together with the entire philosophy of using loot as a pure carrot instead of an earned reward, it stinks. And it's true that it devalues the very loot you are trying to build up as an incentive. It seems counter-productive. If you want to use loot as a lure, then you are reducing your own effectiveness at doing that by making the loot so readily available for non-accomplishments.

    I could see myself being furious if it were easier to get the best gear. Honestly, it will be too easy to get tier 8. It would have been better if everything were just bumped up a token tier: heroism replaced with valor, valor replaced with conquest, etc. I don't understand why a new 80 should be able to grind tier 8 in a day or two. Are they just expected to skip Naxx and most of Ulduar, except to get badges? Why would you want to make that content obsolete, and turn it into Kara Badge Farm 2.0: Now With More Noob?

    Tier 9, on the other hand, will take a non-raider months of doing heroics every single day just to get one piece. That's fine. It makes the new system work very well as a supplement for raiders rather than a freebie for entitled scrubs.

    I also dislike that it's so similar to What a Long Strange Trip it's Been: both offer a reward that is otherwise only available to the most successful raiders, and gives it out in return for someone spending giant gobs of time doing completely pointless tasks, like clicking fires, collecting eggs, or running faceroll heroics. Blizzard is sending the message that there are two paths to everything awesome in the game: either you kick major ass in a tiny timeframe, or you spend an entire year subscribed to the game, logging in for every holiday and spending hour after hour grinding something stupid and pointless. If you waste your life that way for long enough, you get the same stuff as the guy who busted his ass for a short amount of time.

    If you like that, then good for you. But that's not the kind of philosophy I want to play with. And the more WoW moves that way, the more likely I am to decide I'd rather spend my time in CO or Aion or APB of FF14.


    Stabs said...

    I think Blizzard has dug itself into a pit with its policies on mudflation.

    Mudflation is used in these games as a way of keeping people interested. If the gear had never got better after Lucifron then by now everyone would have every sidegrade they could possibly want and there would be no reason to run raids for loot for 99% of players.

    That's all well and good and fair enough.

    However the way gear works in a raid is that each different attribute multiplies all the others. For instance if your tanks' armour goes up 1% then your raid is about 1% better. However if every stat goes up 1% then the tanks are avoiding more, mitigating more, defending a larger health pool and being healed by a healer team with faster casting, more mana, bigger heals and more crit heals. And of course they don't need to keep the tanks alive as long since the dps finishes off the boss faster.

    Because of this 1% would have been a reasonable step up from tier to tier. At most 2%. Because 1% on all your stats for each raider is about 10% on the raid as a whole.

    Because this isn't intuitive to non-mathematical players Blizzard implemented its mudflation by giving large boosts to the quality of gear. Each Tier is about 10% better than the last tier in every stat.

    This means that a raid going up a Tier becomes much more powerful. The same player with the same rotation goes from 1k dps to 5k dps. Purely as a function of gear upgrades.

    This means they couldn't possibly bring in a new tier of content without making a large swathe of top raid loot available to fresh dinged 80s. Because otherwise they would be so far behind there would be no point taking them or people would be angry about "boosting" "slackers".

    I can see why Blizzard likes bug solid upgrades that make people says "wow". But the price of them is that they escalate mudflation.

    I recently gave up raiding seriously but have started pootling about on a shaman alt on Kazzak EU server. It's one of the more conpetitive servers around. There is a wierd gap opened up between fresh-dinged 80s and raiders. The raiders run Ulduar with their guilds. They pug Naxx. There are no Naxx guilds. There are guilds that have level 70-fresh 80 players which are about to start naxx. But as soon as people get the achievement they leave their guilds and pug. Since the pugs are all people with the achievement (and sometimes with the Epic achievement required too) the pug can clear Naxx in 3 hours.

    If new raid content was brought in without opening things up then all the players who are stuck in the can't get a raid without achievement, can't get achievement without raid trap are locked out of the entire pve end-game.

    It's very much an unforeseen consequence that making Naxx so face-rollable allows people to be so selective. It's also an unforeseen consequence that making gear progression so steep means people without the gear really are useless. No one will want my 1k spellpower shammy on a Naxx raid, even if they are short of healers.

    I think the solution is a shorter gear curve but I hope that explains why they have had to take drastic action to stop fresh 80s being locked out of raiding.

    Hatch said...

    I definitely agree that shortening the gear curve is a good idea as the expansion progresses. I like some of the noble goals of the change, but just think it's a poor implementation, or else reflects a philosophy at Blizz HQ that I vehemently disagree with.

    Either way, you are very right that their way of dealing with mudflation is problematic. The jump between the tiers is pretty large, and it makes a big difference. Just look at how easily 25-man guilds are just mowing over the 10-man achievements, while 10-man guilds are struggling with them in gear that is only one or even merely one-half a tier inferior.

    Joshua said...

    I can't stand how people bitch about making raids and heroics harder. Don't you understand that no one cares if your e-peen grows from playing content that is ridiculously hard? Why do people say MAKE THE CONTENT HARDER? What about the 12 million people on the server? Theres millions that are fresh 80's that actually have a life and have families. Being able to roll through violet hold and get collect some badges is a way to get people that would normally not have the time or skill, to actually play the game too. So quit thinking about your own selfish ass and the size of your ego/e-peen. Blizzard isn't going to cater the game to JUST hardcore no-life raiders.

    Hatch said...

    Joshua, thanks for your comment. I don't believe we are the enemies you seem to think we are.

    I'm on record as saying, quite a few times, that the main problem I have with the badge change is that it is a timesink. Those of us with families and lives and jobs (Oh yeah, that's right, I have all those things too! What a shocker!) are the ones being most left in the cold by this, because all the new badges require is massive amounts of time spent. Where a few hours of raiding could get you a piece of 226-ilevel loot, now you can also do 15 heroics for the same reward. Factor in the time spent putting all those groups together, and it's actually much less friendly to those with limited playtime.

    While you are busy with your RL, some kid home for the summer from school is spending all day every day in heroics, and he's the one decked out in full tier 8.5 while you spend weeks slowly building up badges for just one piece. For those with limited playtime, it's flat-out better to overcome a harder challenge in 3 hours a week than it is to faceroll heroics for 15 hours a week for the same reward. Because it's less time spent in the game, and more time spent on RL, period. The fact that you willfully refuse to acknowledge this reflects a sickening level of entitlement.

    If it incentivized something other than only time spent, it would be better for BOTH of us. I'm not saying the loot should be put behind a wall so high and challenging that most people can't clear it. I'm just saying it shouldn't be so easy that a group of new 80s can do it *with their eyes closed*. I DON'T want to shut you out. But I also don't think that just because you play the game, you are entitled to free top of the line epics, either. There's a middle ground between where you are, and the strawman that you've replaced me with, and you aren't seeing that middle ground.

    I mean, you claim that I'm selfish, while at the same time you DEMAND that everything you want just be handed to you, no matter how little you do to earn it and how much you choose to suck at the game (you can be good at the game without spending much time playing it). You act like it's somehow noble to expect everything handed to you, while to me that's the opposite of nobility. How do you deal with all that cognitive dissonance?