This is the first in a series of posts I plan to make about what I believe we need to see in Warlords.
What WoD needs. Part 1: Gearing Options
Some raiders believe if you do not raid you do not need raid level gear. They are entitled to their opinions but I have to wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that good gear should only be for raiders. I believe everyone needs to feel as if they are progressing while playing the game and gear is the easiest way to make people feel that. So with that said, even if you are not a raider and don't want to use the LFR there needs to be a way for people to advance at a reasonable rate gear wise.
Mists began with a great idea that didn't quite turn out as well as it could have. The idea that you could get valor in additional ways was huge. I know a few players that are decent players but they have what could only be referred to as "fear of random people". If you ever did random content in warcraft it is quite reasonable why some people would feel that way. Random content is not exactly friendly most of the time.
So being people could do quests to get valor and thus get their valor gear was a great addition to the game. Gating said gear behind a double gate of reputation and valor however was a failure of epic proportions on blizzards part and whomever came up with that idea should be unemployed now.
So the idea that there would be a gearing option for people that were non raiders was in place. You could do the "simpler" random content such as dungeons and scenarios for valor as well as questing. With this valor you could buy yourself some decent gear.
That gear was 489 item level, raid gear was 496 item level, it was a perfect balance. Almost. For a non raiding gearing option there needs to be valor items available for all slots, not just most. Two different trinkets, weapons, off hands and shield, two rings you can use. There needs to be the whole nine yards.
They have since discontinued valor gear which I believe to be an oversight in design that can not be compared to anything else. It is a horrible decision on a level of horrible that I can not put words to it or at least not put the words to it that would do it justice.
Mists has done a lot to try and give people other gearing options but some where misses, some were close and some where just way off base.
The second tier of raiding is a case of way off base. Having people need raid reputation to buy valor gear makes sense and I agree with it actually. However, if you want to give non raiders a gearing option having them need to get a raid reputation to gear the valor gear kind of defeats the purpose of a non raiders option. So even if I like the idea of needing raid reputation for it I can understand why it should not be that way from a design perspective.
At least there was one weekly quest you could do that would give you the required reputation and in a matter of 10 weeks, if you did it every week, you could buy a few pieces of shado-pan assault gear. Another 18 weeks and you could buy a few more pieces and then another 36 weeks and you could buy more. The 10 weeks of doing the weekly works, the additional 18 and then further additional 36 weeks was out of line. If they left it at friendly reputation needed only and all it took was 10 weeks to open all the valor gear without raiding if you did the weekly every week it would have been great. Anything past that is not really a bright idea in my opinion.
Let us not forget that the weekly needed a group to do it, so it was not exactly solo player friendly. Sure, I understand it is an MMO but some people just like to play alone and those people like to feel as if they are advancing too and as I mentioned gear is a great advancement tool.
If the second tier had that weekly be something you can do solo and it only took 10 weeks to open everything, not just some things, then you might be able to call it a good design. As it turns out it wasn't.
When landfall came we had a new faction to gain reputation with and we needed that reputation to buy the valor gear. Same issue as the first tier, a double gate, but the reputation was gained faster and it told a story on a daily basis and if you went through the entire story by the time you were done you opened all the gear because you had all the reputation.
This is one of the "hits" in my opinion. A reputation and valor based lockout that actually worked, that actually made sense. The reputation gains were quick, the journey to doing them was a single story line with many side quests, and it almost kept you distracted from the fact you needed to gain reputation to get the gear because you were finishing a story line in the process and when you finished that story the gear was all there open and ready for you to use because the reputation gains were good.
The barrens quest line was sort of nice as well and in my opinion a fantastic idea. One weekly quest that could get you an item that you could use to get yourself a piece of 489 gear. Sure, it was outdated gear but it was a nice little catch up mechanic for people that needed the gear and a nice little transmog set for people that just wanted to get all the pieces for their look.
In my opinion that gear would have been better as 496 gear, but from 489 to 496 is minimal so I can live with that small of a misstep in design even if it was a telling one that showed they did not know what an upgrade would be for the non raider and for the non raider 496 might be an upgrade, 489 might not.
There was one other issue with the barrens weekly quest. It was too hard for the people that needed the 489 gear. The mobs were designed for people in 522 gear to give rewards of 489 gear. If you went there with a mostly fresh 90 with a few pieces of dungeon gear and a crafted piece or two you might be as much as a 468-470 item level and you are going to get destroyed. The difference between my main hunter who could pull 5 engines in the oil area at the same time and mow them down and my alt hunter who might, just might, be able to handle one with its goblin adds and it took forever to do that, was telling. The character that did not need they gear could have fun grinding for it at a reasonable speed. The character that needed the gear took all week to get it done one mob at a time.
Can't really blame blizzard too much here in one aspect but you can in another. In one way it is extremely hard to design new content like the barrens as something that both a currently geared player and a fresh player can both get something enjoyable out of it. On the other hand, the gap between player power is blizzard fault because they let stats get out of hand.
Over all the barrens worked out well. Then came the new tier and the removal of valor gear. Oops, bad design move there folks. But to replace the lack of valor gear they added tons and tons of free gear all over the place, or free to the extent that if someone was willing to do the work they can get the gear on the timeless island.
The timeless island design in and off itself is a thing a beauty, but I will touch on that in another post about what WoD needs, this is about gearing options for the non raider and not zone design.
As I said with the 489 barrens gear being a little low for the content, as I believe it should have been 496, the timeless island gear of 496 was off base too, way the hell off base. The timeless island gear should have been 510, at least. Burden gear could have stayed at 535.
So instead of valor gear their idea for catch up gear was go around the island and find some things to make the gear for yourself. A decent enough idea, but not so decently implemented because of the low item level and the fact the gear was horribly itemized. How many of us used a burden on a piece only to end up with one stat instead of two and it be our worst stat or something we did not need like hit when we were already over the hit cap by 3%?
I am not so turned off by the bad luck of getting stats that are not great for you, but getting only one secondary stat was a joke and should have never happened. Again, who at blizzard decides these things? Do they think before they do stuff or do they just get drunk, think of a stupid idea and implement it?
Over all there were ways for the non raider to gear up this expansion, but they were always a day late and a dollar short. Every step of the way had a good idea, every step of the way had it implemented in a bad way.
Blizzard needs to make sure that their entire player base is catered to, not just people that use the LFR or raid in organized groups. There needs to be a reasonable way for everyone to gear up, even non raiders.
If only a few changes were made along the way this expansion would have worked perfect as an example of how it should have been but they always made mistakes. The mistake of having gear gated behind valor and reputation, the mistake of having barrens gear need higher gear to be able to attain, the mistake of having 1 stat on item, the mistake of needing raid reputation to buy valor gear, etc. Fix any of those things, and adjust the item levels, and for the non raiders there was a clear progression in the game through gear, the easiest mode see your progression in.
That is what warlords needs, a better way for the non raider to gear up and continue to gear up. Mists tried but did not succeed. It did however make some fantastic steps forward in what can be done to gear non raiders. Now for warlords to stop treating non raiders as second class citizens and give them reasonable gear instead of one stat 496 gear with no gem slots in the last tier when appropriately itemized 496 gear with gem slots wasn't even great gear in the first tier. That is an insult to everyone that plays the game, even to the people that have no need for that gear anyway. Warlords can not afford to be insulting its dwindling player base like that.
I'd like to see valor gear for every slot available during every tier, even if only at the current LFR level. I'd like to see dungeon gear get "promoted" with each new tier, so as a new tier comes out the dungeon gear goes up to keep dungeons relevant. I'd like to see more barrens type stuff, more timeless island type stuff and more landfall type stuff as a means to get item progression as well. The pieces are there to make the game more non raider friendly. Now it is in blizzards hands to use those pieces effectively. They need to stop trying to push everyone into raiding and let people play the game the way they enjoy playing it.