Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Good or Bad: Valor Upgrades?

With blizzard announcing the end of the PvP season we know for sure that 5.2 is very close on the horizon and it is time to look back at the one addition we were given when 5.1, a non raid patch, came out.

The way they speak of it seems like when we get non raid patches the valor upgrade option will be available and when we have a raid patch it will not be.  So now that we have basically finished one full cycle of a raid patch and a non raid patch and return to a raid patch and say good bye to the valor upgrade NPC what is your take on it?  Was it a good addition or a bad one?

As a blogger I write my own opinions but on this topic I am afraid I can't really take a side because I don't have one yet.  I love the idea of upgrading gear and I hate it all the same.  I can't really pick a side yet but if I were forced to lean one way or the other I think I would have to lean toward it being a bad addition to the game if only for one reason, which I will get to. 

Without prompting and without thinking really, when someone mentioned the removal of it yesterday my immediate response was impulsively thank god.  But then the second guessing came because I added, it just sucks that I still have not gotten a sha touched weapon and if I do not get one it better be soon so I can upgrade it before the vendor is removed in the next patch or I will be even further behind.

The Good of it:

Some of the good parts of the upgrade vendor are quite obvious.  If you get your best in slot you can make it 8 item levels better.  There is really no down side to that is there?  Better is always, well, better.  If you are having issues getting an upgrade of a piece and you have nothing else to spend valor on, you can get that one piece up a little bit to try and make up the difference some.

Then there are characters like my healer(s) that I have not done any reputations on.  Being I did not do the daily grind on her she basically has nothing what so ever to spend valor on and the item upgrade vendor becomes a perfect way to spend that valor. 

Gaining valor and not using it would feel like such a waste and thanks to the item upgrade option at least all that valor did not go to waste.  Sure, the easier and smarter solution would have been to not have valor gear behind reputations but this is blizzard, lets not ask them to think like reasonable rational people.  Some things just can't be done.  So because of that, the item upgrade option was fantastic for my healer(s) as I really can't quest as a healer so I can't get reputation as a healer and I only want them to be healers.

There was another small bonus to the item upgrade option that was very mathematically involved when you started to get to the end of your gearing process.  That is stat break points.  You want to reach them and reforging helps but sometimes upgrading items can help even more and most people never noticed that.  If you needed 40 haste to reach a break point which would be better?  Reforging 229 from another item to haste and losing that 229 in critical or mastery or upgrading a piece of gear that has haste and getting that 40 haste so you get to keep that entire 229 in critical or mastery?  If you said upgrading is better, congratulations, welcome to the world of being a smart player. 

Sometimes upgrading was not only about upgrading the best piece of gear you had, it was about upgrading the piece that would help you the most over all even if it wasn't the best flat out option to upgrade.  That is one of my favorite things with the item upgrade vendor.  It really bought a lot of complexity with it, it was never just as simple as lets upgrade this piece because it is the best piece I own.  Nothing is ever that simple really.

With the exception of upgrading my darkmoon trinket, every single time I considered upgrading an item it was a process.  A long and drawn out process of considering everything available to me, what I could be getting soon or what I will be getting soon and the numbers I needed to be at.  Hey, call me a math geek, but I love numbers and I got a bit of a kick out of trying to figure out the perfect piece to upgrade.  Nothing quite like hitting that haste break point perfectly on a healer thanks to upgrading the right piece for a math geek.

The other, most obvious, reason why the valor upgrades were a good idea from a design standpoint is a bit of a double edged sword, as you will find in the bad part soon.  Having a use for valor always means you always need to grind valor and always need to cap.  Blizzard wanted to keep us more active, keep us playing, keep us grinding and more importantly keep us subscribed.  Because of the upgrade vendor there will always be something to spend that valor on and always be a reason to keep getting it every week. Ding ding ding, we have a winner, blizzard did exactly what they wanted to do. I don't know about you but for me, even if I had another 9K valor right now, I could spend it on upgrades and still need more.  Valor was more useful thanks to the upgrade vendor.   This keeps you playing and keeps you earning.  But...

The Bad of it:

That could surely cause a lot of burn out.  When you feel like you always need valor you, of course, have to always get valor.  Yes, I know this is a hard point for many to understand and they like to fall back on the optional argument but as I have said here many times before, optional is an illusion that people making excuses for not being the best they can be use.  So no, as long as there is an upgrade that you can get, getting it is not optional unless you do not care about being the best you can be.

With that said, I only worry about being the best I can be on my main.  Not that I do not want to on my other characters, I just do not have that much time to cap on more than one character most weeks.  I think I have only capped 2 characters 6 weeks all expansion so far and 3 only once.  Time is a huge factor.

And that is where the upgrade vendor is a bad thing.  It makes me have to keep grinding on my main to upgrade and be the best it can be that I can not invest enough time on my alts.  As such my army of alts which I played enough to be good at them and geared on them have been left to being played sub par and geared sub par because I have not been able to give them the attention they need to get geared and me to get better at playing them.

The key to the bad of it is that because of the valor upgrades there is no end.  You will always have something to upgrade and even if you do manage to catch up you will sooner or later get another piece of gear that needs to be upgraded too and it starts all over again.  There is no end game.  There is no point were you can say, I can't use valor any more.

When they had BoEs you could buy with valor it became optional.  You had the option to keep gaining valor to buy them to sell if you wanted to once you did not need anything from valor points.  But having the upgrade vendor as the valor sink instead of BoEs as a valor sink, meant, for people like me at least, that you would never reach the end game of valor.  As long as there was something to upgrade you need to keep grinding it.

That is why I said thank god when asked about it.  Thank god I will no longer need to grind valor.  Thank god I will be able to say I am done.  When the next patch comes and I buy whatever valor gear I need and there is nothing left for me to buy with valor I am done.  I want to be done.  I like having ends.  Exalted for reputation, last boss for a raid, win or lose in a battleground, a cap for valor, whatever it may be it is nice to have a destination and get to it.  With the valor upgrades there is never an end and surely not when things keep coming out faster like they have been.

I am sick and tired of feeling like I have to get my main capped as soon as possible each week or I am not doing the best I can do.  I miss the feeling that when a new valor week started I could skip my main because my main did not need valor and I could start working on playing an alt and getting better at it and gearing it up now.  The feeling that I don't have to valor cap is a good thing and once the valor upgrade option is gone that goal, that I do not need valor any more goal, is attainable again and thank god, I can't wait until I reach it.

That upgrade vendor was like a drug, an addiction, as long as it was there I would need to keep going to it.  As long as my gear still needed an upgrade I needed to keep at it.  Like a drug addict would rob a store when he needed money to keep up his habit I would make sure to cap myself each week, like it or not, because I could not go a week without my upgrade.  I needed it, it was like crack.  Removing that upgrade NPC is like removing the drug dealer.  It is making me quit because I have no one to sell me my drugs any more.  Thank god, because I was not going to quit upgrading on my own, I was addicted, they need to remove it, I needed that intervention.

Good or Bad:

You decide because I can't.  In my opinion it is both and it is neither.  My addiction of trying to do whatever I can for my character will mean I will always feel forced to use it if it is there and it is because of that addiction that I can't really make a decision.  But like I said, if I had to make one, it would be that it is a bad thing only because upon hearing it was going away I couldn't help but say, thank god.  And lets face it, even if you like something, if your reaction to it being over is thank god, perhaps you really don't like it even if you think you do.


  1. I think valor upgrades are a very bad thing, exactly for the reason you bring up here and numerous others brought up elsewhere: the upgrades prolong the gear grind tremendously. Really, many people are pushing it hard in the first month or so of each new raid tier *only* because they know they won't have to sustain this kind of pressure forever. They are OK with doing both LFR and normal raids (many actually welcome separate 10 and 25 raids so they can ran them both at the same time!) and capping everything relentlessly, but only (only!) because this is temporary. They see that gear / boss / whatever plateau on the horizon, they want to reach it, say "we are done with this" and relax for a month or two after. This is their reward for putting in hours upon hours of work in the beginning. The valor upgrades make reaching that plateau very hard if at all possible, for everyone. No matter how hard you try to gear up, you aren't done until some magic number of weeks passes, and, chances are, by that time Blizzard are ready to bless you with a new raid.

    This is largely similar to upgrades to PVP gear, or the third gear tier, which is their most recent incarnation. There are nuances, but the effect is largely the same: you are not "done" for much longer than before. This is terrible.

    I think I know what they are trying to do: they are trying to make it so hard to be "done" with gear that noone sane actually tries capping it anymore. Perhaps they think that if people will think capping is insane, they won't try to cap, and thus they would feel less stress, and everyone would be happier. I can attest that not trying to cap gear does relieve stress, yes, but I would submit that when people stop trying to cap something, they mostly stop caring about the relevant aspect of the game. Sometimes they stop caring first and stop capping as a consequence. And sometimes they stop caring *because* capping becomes way too difficult or bothersome to the point that they can no longer do it, and because without capping they don't feel like they can be serious about whatever it was they were capping for (raids or, say, arenas). This is not a good effect.

    If I were Blizzard I would have gone in a complete reverse direction: I would have made capping *faster*, not slower, and would have added plenty of completely optional rewards which don't affect gameplay. I would also have worked on making it easier for raiders to get into high-level PVP and vice versa, and would have concentrated efforts on adding of these parallel progressions (new professions? housing?). Ah, dreams...

    Getting back to Earth, the central argument for valor upgrades is that this gives people something valuable to spend valor on. Say what, why not simply allow sending valor to your alts?? What, was it too hard? But noooooo, we can't have that, because that would get in conflict with some bizarre rule of thumb idea born in Blizzard's ivory tower, like "if you cap valor on class X, you shouldn't spend it on your alt, since that can be class Y, and you didn't play it" (to which I say So we have valor upgrades...

    1. Actually, you know what. Your last phrase:

      "And lets face it, even if you like something, if your reaction to it being over is thank god, perhaps you really don't like it even if you think you do." me thinking.

      What if they told us all tomorrow that they are closing the servers? Would your reaction be "oh, no" or "thank god"? I am not too sure about mine...

    2. They do want to extend the gearing process because that keeps us playing. They figure people get bored with raiding once they are done so make it so they are never done, they can keep upgrading gear so they need to keep doing it. I think it is a cash grab at the people that unsubscribe after they are done with what they want to do. A way to keep them doing things. The question is, how many people actually unsubscribe like that? I don't know a single one. If it is the ultra hard core less then 1% people, they once again are building something for the one section of the player base that matters the least.

      I like your idea of making it easier to cap and get stuff and let the game play out, you know, like a game, instead of a job.

      As for your question I think I would say thank god.

      It goes back to the Zul patch in cataclysm. I've been blah with the game since then. It is more my friends and what I do with them that keeps me playing more than the game itself.

      While I do love the game all good things must end and I would not be sad to see it go.

      Actually, if that were to happen, where expansions ended, no more patches, but servers stayed up. I might get into PvP as that is a completely different type of content. It is player made, always different, and the battle is the fun, not the gearing up process just to make things easier, like it is for raiding.

  2. My reaction was "awww no, that sucks" as I rather like the item upgrade feature. I wrote a post about it a while back actually, I've not been very diligent on writing on blog, too busy consumed with guild panic to focus on anything, so it might be the last one I wrote. It had it's issues, increasing stat inflation for one. Then there's the question of how they tune T15 as the gear disparity between groups of people will be even bigger.

    That being said I liked it. I ran out of upgrades for my main, protection, spec a long time ago. So what to do with the accumulating valor? Buy new items for my ret spec? Why bother, as I use it once in a blue moon in raids. It's also none too shabby without any valor items at 481 ilevel. Besides when I buy something with points, something that took effort to obtain, I want the benefit on the spec I care about the most. So I rather liked being able to upgrade items. As I had to cap every week for the legendary quest it was like a 2 for 1 deal. I had the points and something to use them on that I actually wanted.

    In 5.2 I'll get whatever new items are an upgrade for my prot spec. I might extend the effort for my ret spec, probably will but without any sense of urgency. Then what will I do with my valor? Even if I don't make any effort to cap, it will stack up, with LFR, raids and dailies till exalted, plus then more dailies for lesser coins for the new Mogu coins and the Elder coins for extra mount rolls. I can guarantee that before patch 5.3 I will have 3k valor and all the item upgrades. What do you then spend it on?

    Tell you what they could introduce. For 500 valor each or something a Flawless battle pet stone which would upgrade any kind of pet to rare. I really want to upgrade Legs and my Winterspring Cub from uncommon to rare but haven't got the requisite battle stones. I'd pay valor for that.

    We need some kind of valor sink anyway. You mentioned BoE's, fine bring them back. We need something or we'll have valor and nothing to buy.

    1. You know, you just made me realize another point I forgot about with what you said.

      Because of the upgrade vendor I will always choose to upgrade my main spec over buying something for my offspec leaving my offspec lackluster to say the least.

      It had not occurred to me because I have not really been working on my two classes I actually use the offspec on. Most characters I am one thing and one thing only. How about the people that are not like that? Are they in that same situation?

      BoEs for valor were always a good sink and I loved it for gearing my main up faster, I would use my alts to get the BoEs and get three pieces in that first week instead of one, then I would later use my valor from my main that was raiding to get BoEs for newly leveled characters. I never bought to sell, I have enough gold, but for people that like that thing, more power to them.

      Adding some other things, like battle stones you mentioned, and crafting items, like the rare drop stuff, essence of destruction, blood spirit type of things, would be good also. Doing it with the primoral saronite in wrath was a stroke of genius if you ask me and they should come back with that. We should have been able to buy those crafting thing with valor this patch too.

      Yes, there always needs to be a sink but I think this is the wrong type the item upgrade system is the wrong type of sink.

  3. My response was "meh..."

    I fully upgraded by sha-touched weapon, my DMF trinket, my lfr trinket, and my tier gloves/legs from Sha. Nothing else is a valuable upgrade.

    I'm ok that they're taking it away and I'd be fine if they never brought it back.

    I think the Cata Valor model was greatly superior to Mists. Cap quickly. Extra valor for BoEs to gear alts or conversion to Conquest for PvP gear to encourage PvEers to do PvP. There was always stuff to spend valor on so I was capping even in the last weeks of the expansion. It was just better for everyone, in my opinion.

    If they kept the upgrade system, I'd do it differently. Upgrades would be for LFR --> Normal --> Heroic. Heroic gear couldn't be upgraded. LFR --> Normal could cost X and Normal --> Heroic could cost 2X, or something like that since Heroic gear is obviously much harder to get. I'd increase the max valor cap to 4X so you could maybe save up for a couple pieces/upgrades.

    LFR raider:
    Get LFR gear, Get world boss gear, Buy valor gear for missing slots.
    Once you have full LFR/WB/valor gear, start upgrading LFR items to Normal.
    Once you have full Normal level gear, start upgrading Normal items to Heroic.
    If you capped every week and had decent drops, you'd be fully upgraded to normal before the next raid tier was released. Probably wouldn't have anything to upgrade to Heroic unless you were really lucky with drops.

    Casual progression raider:
    Same as above but Get Normal Gear and only upgrade LFR gear that didn't drop in Normal.
    If you capped and raided every week and had decent drops, you'd be half way upgraded to heroic gear before the next raid tier was released.

    Hardcore Progression raider:
    Same again but you'd be fully heroic geared maybe 1/2 or 2/3 of the way before the next raid tier was released. You'd normally be done or moving on to alts by then anyways; not like you needed the gear to clear the content anyway "cuz u gotz skillz".

    It'd be better... but I'm still not crazy about it.

    If the servers were being shut down (assuming Blizz refunded my prepaid subscription time), I'd probably respond "meh..." and go play SWTOR for free until The Elder Scrolls Online comes out or something like that. Come On! Do It, Blizzard! Do It! I Double Dare You! :D

    1. I think the game can live without the upgrade option. It is nice and all but it does add the feel that it is another thing you have to do and it is something that is always looming over you. Something to do it not so bad and actually this upgrade vendor would have been better in cata when there was nothing to do and it was easy to cap. Now, too much to do, too long to cap. No place for it.

      In october I will be giving wasteland a try. It was my favorite game back in the day and I hope it is good in modern times. With how I feel about wow I would try to drag the people I enjoy playing with over there with me and if I can I would gladly quit wow. After all, I still play it for the people, not for the game play. If I can get the people to come elsewhere with me, wow has nothing to offer.