Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The New Gear Debate

The skill is more important then gear debate has been around for a while.  Some people say it was started by people that had crappy gear to make themselves feel better.  Some say it was started to embarrass people in end game gear that still did badly.

However it started and for whatever reason it might have behind it, there is no doubt that it is true.  Skill is more important then gear.

Well, at least it was in wrath.

Not so much in Cataclysm.

Why would I say that?  I am glad you asked.

Stat inflation has devalued skill to some extent.  The amount of stats offered on the higher level gear is such a huge difference that gear can really compensate for skill, or at least some percentage of skill.

Back in wrath when a new raid came out I would look at the gear and decide which ones I wanted to go for first.  I would see things like the chest would be a 25 DPS increase for me so it would be my first purchase.  The crafted boots might be worth getting, because it was a huge 22 DPS increase.

All in all, that is why someone in lesser gear that had high skill could easily stand out.  If the average piece would increase DPS by 20 DPS and there are 16 possible slot upgrades for you that would mean that you would, at best, get a 320 DPS increase from increasing from 232 to 245 for instance.

When you are talking numbers like 320 DPS it is quite easy for a skilled person in 232 gear to outperform someone that is not as skilled in 245 gear.  The difference was small enough that skill could cover it, but big enough to be worth upgrading every time you had the chance.

This is also why the skill > gear argument started.  People in 232 gear destroying people in 245 or even 258 gear.  The people in the better gear trying to say, we are better players because we have better gear.  That was easily proved wrong by them getting their asses handed to them by someone in 232 gear.

In wrath, for as much as people like to call it an easy expansion, skill mattered a hell of a lot more then it does in cataclysm.  A skilled player could shine in wrath.

It is not that way any more.

The huge stat inflation on gear means huge jumps in potential when you get new gear.

For example the difference between on the 378 and 391 helm is 207 DPS.  The difference between the 378 and 391 chest is 215.  The difference between the 378 and 391 legs is 242.  I think you get the idea, we are talking about one gear jump, in the same exact raid, could be upwards of 4K in maximum potential.

With the gear inflation, the amount of maximum potential DPS that comes with the stats on the gear is larger.  Much larger.

Where in wrath a very skilled person in 219 gear could conceivably beat an average 258 geared player opposed to the fact that it is not even mathematically possible for a 359 geared player with high skill to beat and average 391 geared player.  And if you look at it, I am comparing a much larger gap in wrath then in cataclysm.

In cataclysm, gear is extremely important.  Gear might even be much more important then skill, at least the skill in rotation.  Raid awareness skill is another story and that is not what this is about.

To put things in a flat out example. 

Someone geared from Naxx 10, if they performed to 100% of their maximum potential could conceivably beat someone in ICC 25 gear that was only performing at 70% of their maximum potential.

This is comparing the start of an expansion to the end.

In cata, someone in firelands gear that performs at maximum potential would need someone in heroic firelands gear to perform at 60% of their maximum potential to beat them.

That is comparing just one raid.

In wrath, skill ruled.  If you where skilled you could take some time off, come back a raid or two later, and never lose a step.  You would still be valued for what you can contribute because what you could contribute would still be substantial whereas in firelands, if you are not at the top of the gear curve as soon as possible, you get left behind.

In wrath, if someone in great gear performed sub par they got noticed and they got called out for being bad.  That was because someone in lesser gear could easily catch them and pass them.  It is not the same way in cataclysm.  You could be a great player but if an even barely average person in better gear comes along it is mathematically impossible to beat them.  They would need to suck, completely and totally for someone in lesser gear to beat them.

This puts a hell of lot more weight on gear then gear should have in my opinion.

I believe that a person should be judged on their ability and not the gear they have.  The stat inflation has really messed up the old skill is more important then gear adage because that is just not as true as it used to be.  Now, no matter how skilled you are, without gear, you will never be able to do well as someone in better gear.

I am glad that Blizzard is planning to address that by fixing the stats on gear when MoP comes out.  I am not a big fan of this gear is everything society.  Sure, back in wrath it was easy to disprove the people that said gear is everything.  Now, it is impossible to disprove it because as long as the person is not completely horrible, then gear is everything.

When you can perform at maximum potential and still get beat by someone that has only slightly better gear but is only doing 50% of their maximum potential, there is something wrong.  Welcome to cataclysm where skill means nothing, only gear does.

Go back to wrath, go back to rewarding people with skill and not people that just happened to have better gear.  I like skill ruling the game.  I dislike this gear is everything grind.  And I really dislike people thinking just because they have better gear they think they are better player.

I still love beating people in better gear.  I still do it all the time in randoms and the rare pug.  But it is no longer a matter of me being good that is beating them.  It is a matter of them being really bad.  If they where even half way decent, there is no mathematical way I can beat someone in all heroic gear.

I still say gear does not make the player.

It seems I am wrong in this Cataclysm world, gear does make the player.

Kind of odd that people talk about wrath as the "easy" expansion and cataclysm as the "difficult" one when in wrath skill ruled and in cataclysm gear does.

Maybe I just look at things from a different perspective.  My perspective has it that wrath required a lot more skill then anything I have yet to see in cataclysm.


  1. Funny thing is I disagree that WotLK required more skill than Cata, and at the same time think that a MMO should be mostly gear-based. If you make things skill-based, those who spend the most time training their muscle memory are best. I wouldn't want that.

    Anyway, I guess I'll make a post on this topic. It's too much for one comment ;)

  2. While I do like things to be "just for fun" I can't see how fun anything can be if it took no skill what so ever.

    If things are gear based the game comes down to whoever spends the most time playing whereas if it is skill based it comes down to who plays it best, not who puts the most time in.

    Now sure about your muscle memory argument. If someone can not remember a rotation of 2, 3, 4, 3, 3, 4, 4, 2, 4, 4, 3, 3, 4, 2, 4, 3, 3, etc then they should not be spending time playing a game. They have issues.

    Even the "skill" factor is not about skill, it is about having enough sense to look up a rotation or ask anyone for it. It is easy.

    If you base everything on gear then whoever plays the most is the best. No game should ever be based on that design.

  3. Thank you. In wrath I could gear an 80 decently but handle myself in heroics and raids because I knew how to play my class.

    The gear grind at 85 is atrocious though. Because of the disparity, my tank gets destroyed trying to step into a heroic at minimum gear level, skill or not. The necessity of gear also makes it difficult for anyone with limited time to really gear up and play at 85, turning me into solely an altoholic.

    Thank you for explaining this mathematically as well.

  4. If someone can not remember a rotation of 2, 3, 4, 3, 3, 4, 4, 2, 4, 4, 3, 3, 4, 2, 4, 3, 3, etc then they should not be spending time playing a game. They have issues.

    Apparently 90% of the players have issues then as their dps sucks ...

  5. "Apparently 90% of the players have issues then as their dps sucks ... "

    I laughed so hard at that.

    Yes, I have to agree with that one. As I mentioned 2 posts ago when talking about the DPS from the horseman randoms.

    Still say, I would rather skill matter then gear matter.

    Gear being all that matters makes it a T2P (time to play) game which makes it no better then a P2P (pay to play) game where the person with the most money to buy the best gear is the best player.

    Sorry, that type of game is just not for me.

    Doesn't seem like it is for Anon above either.

    Gear meaning more then skill is a bad design.

    Blizzard even admitted that by the fact they are changing it.

  6. I think it is about the right balance. I don'T want a game to be about me watching my char fight. But I also don't want a game that depends entirely on my skill. That's street fighter. I want character progression in a MMO. WoW is (also) a RPG .. at least it once considered itself a (MMO)RPG.

  7. And that is exactly what wrath was. "You" did it, "your" skill showed if "you" did it better and if you took some time off or did not play as often, "you" did not get left behind because all that mattered was gear.

    I am not saying remove gear as a factor. I am just saying that gear should not be the main factor like it is in cataclysm.

  8. I never have liked the gear as progression model of game play, but I won't go into the details of alternatives as a matter of game design.

    Suffice it to say that gear matters little to me for the sake of progression even though I do play the game of gearing up enough I can contribute to my guildmates' success. That is really the only reason I have for stockpiling ever increasingly higher level numbers on my gear.

    Instead of gear, I do choose to emphasis skill for leveling up. Yes, I know all the arguments about how leveling is ever so easy now and how gear doesn't really come into play for leveling, etc. etc. But how many of you that make those arguments have actually tried to level from one to 85 with minimal gear?

    Try it and you might find that the game does still require some thought and effort, and if nothing else, you will learn how to pull properly with the class selected.

    I won't advocate running from character creation to level cap totally naked, tho I have done that. Most folks would not be able to withstand the vulgar comments that accompany such an effort. Instead, limit yourself to the white and grey gear that is available from vendors and see if you can make it all the way to 85 (or 90 once that occurs as the level cap).

    Unless you are super-player, I am almost certain you will find yourself a better player for having tried it, and perhaps you will understand a bit better my contempt for the gear as progression model.

    I dearly love WoW, but I have never liked the Monty Haul aspect of it, and this is what the gear as progression mode is all about. I suspect I am in the minority on preferring skill over gear however. It is possible to design a game that limits this aspect, but actual emphasis on skill may be an unpopular choice for a really large fan base.

    Anon, Grumpy's GL

  9. Cataclysm has proved that anything that involves too much skill, like stepping in and out of a beam of light, is way to much for most of the player base.

    When you have seen people in 391 gear fail at simple mechanics you start to wonder how the hell they got it.

    I think they should make the skill of playing your character much higher and the skill of the actual game play much easier.

  10. Heh, I am older'n dirt, arthritic and not terribly interested in the most modern versions of dungeons as opposed to the earlier styles, but I can still step in and out of a beam of light when and where as needed. Usually in just one or two tries and wipes, I can learn a new mechanic and go on from there to be successful (gear stats allowing).

    I can't even begin to count the times on raid bosses that we wiped and I know I was doing everything perfectly from my point of view, but that until other players got their individual acts together, we weren't going to win an encounter. In a few cases, I can compensate for inferior play by others with exceptional healing (our first Magmaw kill is an example of that), but usually that is not the case and requires the patience to wait for others to catch up.

    So yea, I do know that there are a lot of folks who aren't very good gamers who play WoW. But fussing and bitching at them won't improve most of 'em, so I usually just avoid them altogether or in the case of guildies, learn to compensate for 'em and hopefully teach them through example and patience how to be better players. It is a lot easier on my nerves at any rate.

    Anon, Grumpy's GL

  11. Always a debate I have felt strongly about.

    However, one thing I can speak out about, Blizzard have changed the game slightly, with Cataclysm. Fights aren't based so heavily, or solely, on pure numbers any more. Fights, on average, require a lot more movement and such strategies. As opposed to just being extremely skilled in your DPS rotation, or corresponding role/class.

    So, with that mind-set, you earn gear in a different way. And no matter what gear you have, it won't move you out of the fire. Yes, skilled, but lower geared players, will have a much harder time keeping up with higher geared average players, like they used to (in terms of numbers). However, if numbers aren't the main focus (Or as.. the only thing that makes you stand out) , then having stat inflation jumps between tiers shouldn't have too much of a negative effect.

    Good points,

    - Jamin

  12. I think I have to disagree with your conclusion.
    You say in wrath you needed more skill than in cataclysm. I don't think that's correct, you could easily down bosses in ICC with people doing 60% of their potential DPS, at least in normal mode. But you could shine and "own" people with better gear, that's true. But needed? Don't think so.

    Well now on to my suggestion :)
    In wrath, blizz wanted the rotation to be the challenge, you should theoretically be pretty skilled with your rotation to down a boss.

    Then they realized, wow, most people can't do this. So they installed the increasing buff from hellscream. Bad people could do more dps, so bad dps didn't matter because it got buffed. wohooo!

    Now in cataclysm you don't really have issues with enrage timers do you. The problem is that people stand in bad for too long or blow up the raid with some stupid positioning.
    Sure, there were many bad people who didn't make it through the raids.

    So what does blizz do? example alysrazar: they nerf the speed of the fire-tornadoes, so people had more time to react.

    I don't think they changed the difficulty level, they just changed the skill they test in raids from "perfect rotation" to "reaction time and raid awareness".

  13. @Eki -

    The point was more about gear and the potential you can get from it.

    Gear matters a lot more now then it ever did. You could be a good player in bad gear and still be good in wrath. In cataclysm, even if you are a good player, if you have bad gear, bad players will be better then you.

    I was not talking about "raid awareness" skill. Even specifically said that.

    I agree with what you say 100%. But I was talking from a DPS standpoint only and not raid awareness.

    It is about maximum potential from gear. The gap is huge now, it was not in wrath.

    In wrath a very skilled person could be three tiers below an average skilled person and do more DPS.

    In Cataclysm a very skilled person could in the same tier as someone else but in normal instead of heroic and the average skilled person will still out DPS them by a huge margin based on gear alone.

    Wrath took more skill to DPS.

    Please, disregard raid awareness, this post has nothing to do with that what so ever.

    But you made me think of a new post to write...

    What would you rather the difficulty be in?

    Knowing how to move or knowing how to play?

    I'd like a balance of both personally, but it will always favor one over the other.