WoW makes getting gear even easier… and it might be a good thing

Today’s patch to WoW (3.3.3) landed and with it a few changes that I feel impact the game quite a bit.   The patch notes in their entirety can be found here, but a few points that I feel are the key ones to address:

– The Random Battleground system has been added! Similar to the Random Dungeon system in the Dungeon Finder, players can now queue for a random Battleground.
– The amount of Honor awarded for an Honorable Kill has been increased by 100% for characters of all levels.
– Items which previously required Marks of Honor will have their costs adjusted to remove these requirements.
– Honor costs have come down on a lot of items (not in the notes, but definitely they did come down.)

Okay, so whether or not these are “Good” changes for the game totally doesn’t matter because that’s up to the individual. What these changes have done though is definitely make the game much more accessible. Amazing how Blizzard tends to make WoW more and more accessible every patch when once it was thought that this was a game that could not possibly be more accessible to the masses.

Gear in WoW has always been this barrier in the way of doing something.  Whether it’s doing the content that you want to do, or just doing the content for the sake of doing content and not worrying about ulterior motives, it’s in the way.  At this point I think we should all stop fussing about it and just accept it: gear is in the way.  That’s WoW.  Patches like this which do not change that but make it so that the barrier can be overcome easier are definitely a plus in some way.

PvP gear is now easily obtained.  It really is easy now.  I’ve always felt extremely angsty about not being able to get the PvP gear and still PvE in the time that I have, and about having to do this inordinate amount of PvP that I don’t want to do in order to do the PvP that I do want to do when and how I want.  After this patch I can PvP with my buds and we can get gear.  Sounds good to me.

PvE is getting to be the way way.  Since I last played it’s now even easier to get gear…. and I thought ToC was as easy as it could possibly get.  Instances are loot pinatas and the badges rain from the sky like candy along with the gear.   Again, it’s getting the loot to the player which removes the emphasis from the process of getting the gear while maintaining the gear being mandatory.  So on one hand you have the ever increasing importance of gear and on the other you have the gear becoming less of the centerpiece… it’s odd, I know.  For someone like me who focuses on the actual content — I’m the guy who likes slaying the dragon because there’s a story behind that dragon and the fight itself should be appreciated — it’s allowing me to focus on getting to that next fight.

What do you guys think?  Should gear be really difficult to obtain or should it be easy?  Should it be a milestone or should it be a gate?  In my ideal design I’ve really been trying to find the sweet spot.  Gear must bring with it a sense of accomplishment and pride, as well as a real sense that what you’re using is important to your survival.  The process of obtaining the gear will be similar to having to go out and obtain the gear yet the focus won’t be the same.  The focus will be shifted away from getting gear to get gear and on to getting gear because you want to improve your character.  Technically they sound alike, but there’s a difference… perhaps a semantical one … that I think some of you will understand.  I think SWG hit the nail on the head and Dark Age (pre-ToA) was really almost there as well.  The gear is apart of a really much bigger picture (such as the RvR in DAOC).

I think this is one of those situations in WoW where a negative times a negative make a positive.  Does that make sense?

  • While I don’t completely like that they’ve made gear MUCH easier to get. I do, however, like the fact that it does make the game very accessible. Not to new players. For me. If I choose to move away from WoW for a few months.. I know I can come back and put in a little work and at least be able to get started on the “grind” again. It makes people who actually want to play casually still have a chance to enjoy the game to it’s fullest. We have to realize.. those who call themselves “hardcore” are a minority. We can piss and moan all we want, but we know it’s true.

    Catering to such a small section of players just isn’t the way to do things anymore. Niches are nice, but accessibility and freedom are far better.

  • I guess the main thing here was rebalancing.

    The ease of obtaining PvE gear took a huge jump in 3.3, with the combination of the dungeon finder making it so quick and easy to form PUGs, another bump in the level of Emblem dropped in heroics, and the introduction of the new Frozen Halls instances.

    So, to try to balance things out a bit, PvP gear had to be given a bit of a nudge.

  • It’s honeslty just another replay of the storm before the expansions. They slowly make the game easier and easier, so someone joining WoW for the first time in Janurary can hope to see the content before the expansion hits.

    I like how they wait to slowly build the game into a casual game and then return to the hardcore when it first releases the next expansion.

  • Wake me up when blizzard implements truly dynamic instances.

    Otherwise, for someone that has played the game for many years, with no barrier to entry for content ever, it’s still more of the same.

    Before someone tries to jump in and say catering to a small section of players is pointless, you’re wrong on multiple levels.

    It’s better business, especially when you’re at the status that blizzard is at, to cater to all levels of play.

    In any event, I would be happy if they made a mode that allowed everything to be completely randomly generated for instances. Random trash mobs, random abilities, random bosses that do annoying things.

    Each week it should be an unexpected challenge, because quite frankly their current methodology of dripping out ‘parts’ of instances, and on top of that only coming out with very few over the course of an expansion, is boring and tired.

    There are plenty of things that they could do to address this while keeping the barrier of entry low to casual players.

    The one thing that I really hate with this game after all of these years is how long it takes them to put out new content. I understand it takes time to craft the experience, and mold it so that it is accessable to the casual player.

    That’s fine and great, but it doesn’t excuse the laziness. Especially from a company that is making a billion dollars + a year from one title. I mean, really…you can’t take the couple of dozen old school instances you already have in the game and put heroic modes on all of them for level capped players? Don’t give me the deadmines / shadowfang nonsense, that’s nothing. You also can’t give me the “it would take a year to itemize old dungeons” argument either due to the badge system.

    Also, the the poster above that claims they make it go from hardcore to casual across the expansion cycle, you’re crazy.

    This game always was, is, and will be…easy. In fact I can only remember two particular times when the game felt difficult. The first was scholomance way way way back in the day before they ever nerfed it. I’m talking way back…back before people even managed to complete the quest chain for the air transmute. The second time was probably mu’ru.

    In any event, there’s my rant. Blizzard gets no cookie until they remove their heads from the sand and create a real dynamic experience that can cater to their whole player base.

  • @Sharper

    While I agree with comments that Blizzard needs to get cracking at new content and random dungeons (you forget there are a lot of negatives to that as well), I do not see how I am crazy for pointing out difficulty deterioration before expansions. It’s been seen twice now that when WoW is about to release an expansion, they begin to water down everything in the game. We are talking nerfing all sorts of bosses, content, quests, and etc so that Blizzard can allow the players that did not have the 15+ hours a week to raid ICC a chance to see the content before its obsolete.

    And to talk about pointing out Blizzard flaws in rehashing the new, its been done once with Onyxia and all across the board people thought it was stupid. “Why should I raid a boss/dungeon I’ve already done?” Comments like that is what keeps reinvention of old instances away and the content status of updates we get now. I will not try to understand the motive behind what Blizzard does, and I doubt they are money grubbing all the income WoW provides them into some Swiss bank account to screw us over. Blizzard is an entertainment company, not a bank. They are creating SC2, DiabloIII, a new MMORPG, so they have a lot on their plate. They are not God, thus things will not be built in a day.

    There goes my rant.

  • Psst. A day? How about 5 years?

    I meant no malice in calling your comment crazy.

    However, they have been catering to “casuals” from the start since BC.

    Yes, I’m talking about Kara.

    As far as making gear easier to acquire at the end of an expansion, no argument there. However, I don’t see that as a lower barrier to entry to see content, more so making it easier for people to transition to the new expansion.

    Nothing about a 25 person raid is casual friendly…sorry. Hell, 40 person raids we’re actually MORE casual friendly since raid boss design was REALLY forgiving for that many people and not to mention that half of the raid could basically do nothing and you would still be fine.

    A swift trip over to will illustrate this point a bit further..aside from the glaring 0 guilds to have killed Heroic Lich King 25 on heroic…only 1700 of them have killed him on normal as of this writing. That’s 3.66% of all the recorded raiding guilds. That’s not making things casual friendly, or any easier.

    Truth be told, the vast majority of their player base will still never see the Lich King. Just like the majority of them never saw Kel’Thuzad (till they lolrecycled that instance), or Vashj, or KT (until they lolrecycled him into a 5 man), or Illidan, let alone KJ…or even the lolrecycled C’Thun fight called Yogg Saron…let alone Alganon.

    Want to know the bosses that provide casual players with the absolute easiest idiot proof entry into raid content? The vault bosses. Yeah, ever pug one of those?

    My point is, they spend a lot of time creating this content, a lot of which is recycled…yet at the same time the vast majority of players will never even get to witness it outside of youtube.

    So the whole lowering the barrier to entry for casuals argument is rendered obsolete. They would have to make this game far simpler for the casual player base to ever witness any of this stuff.

    With that said, what exactly is keeping them from creating a system that benefits all that are involved? It’s GOOD business to do that.

    They certainly ARE NOT watering content down to any significant degree. Was sunwell plateau considered watered down to almost anyone but the absolute top guilds in the -world-? Forgive me, but I recall that being released at the end of the expansion cycle.

    In fact, they introduced badge loot in order to facilitate the gearing of casual players…the same badge system that exists today…only now it’s even easier then it was. Now there’s literally no barrier to entry to PVP gear as well with the recent changes.

    As far as retro-fitting old dungeons for level capped players, that’s something that should be at the top of their priority. Talk about a waste of resources that 90% of the player population will never see.

    When was the last time you or anyone you know went to Shat City, let alone any zone in that part of the world? Are they just going to wait another couple of years and re-do it all for the 85-90 grind?

    Yeah they aren’t gods, but they’re pretty much as close to god as a game developer could possibly be. They have OTHER teams working on other games so that is a pointless argument in and of itself. Arguably one of the biggest game developers in the world due to their success yet they can’t commit the resources to do any of this?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely OK with them pandering to the lower common denominator, business is business. Nor do I think they are attempting to screw anyone over. They are however being lazy as hell in the process and that can’t be disputed.

    I mean really…lets send everyone back to a recycled Azeroth…how lazy and unimaginative is that? I love the old world as much as everyone else, and I am sure it will all be swell and fun when all is said and done…yet it still illustrates the inherent flaw the developers have with creating content for this game. Short sighted and half assed.

  • Doh, wrote a novel forgot to mention…

    You said Onyxia…of course nearly everyone has done Onyxia.

    How many people do you know have done blackfathom deeps or either razorfen?

    I bet if you polled some randoms in IF or ORG you’ll be surprised to find out that a lot of people have never even heard of them.

  • This is just pre-expanion GIVE EVERYONE PURPLES.

    Will be nerfed (like they have done in the past).

  • Make gear easy to obtain = lower the sense of accomplishment in your play experience but making each play experience more accessible

    Make gear hard to obtain = have real achievements that you can be proud of at a cost of sometimes difficult or challenging game play…or more likely…tedious time consuming game play

    Mixing the two (make some hard to obtain and some easy to obtain items) wont work because people always strive to get the top gear or else they are not satisfied (why people don’t feel all that proud usually because they have a set of all greens!) Everything is measured by the attainability of the top gear.

    I think the race to get the gear should be easy to join…easy to learn and hard to master. Not every attempt should bring sure rewards but a successful attempt to reward the majority of participants.

    I also like the idea of randomness where each kill in the world…no matter how dumb…should have a chance to drop the best item in the game. Even if the chance is ridiculously low – it gives you a reason to at least stop and kill something. People play the lottery against great odds for a reason…that needs to be exploited!

    I also like the idea of gear that grows with you – get an axe at level 1 and instead of continuously replacing the axe with better items, you grant access to improvements, cosmetic and real improvements. With a stat/point cap, the gear should be completely customizable and while playing you find besides new gear, pieces that continue to improve your trusted gear by adding more points or changing the way it looks etc. Well, maybe that was beside the point here but there it is.

  • The real question, Keen, is whether or not you are going to play WoW for a month or two, then get bored of it yet again, or if they’ve really hit upon a nice balance that makes the game fun again. You just went back, you’re getting all the shiny since you last played at once, making the game seem new and fun again. What happens when that wears off?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not begrudging anyone a month or two of fun with a video game, but I am suggesting that you need a way longer period to make decisions like this. Then again, you have been sort of known to bounce around between MMOs, even after professing their ever and unending greatness just a couple weeks before. Hell, I’ve done the same thing from time to time. I just hesitate to think a stamp of approval this early in your return means all that much.

    Man that was kind of a grumpy post.

  • It should also note that the ‘easier to gear’ trend is part of Blizzard’s normal cycle for WoW as content ages.

    I’m doubting this current trend is a permanent one and I expect it’ll reverse somewhat on the release of Cataclysm. Unless they have plans to change their entire formula when it comes to raiding (and by most accounts, it will be their strongest raiding content yet).

  • I was always for Character progression not gear progression. Gear is just set of tools that you character uses. In DAOC you could get your set of crafted gear, get it enchanted and roll. My Thane that I played from release had this lucky 97% 2h axe, somehow whenever I had it equipped the grp I ran with always did well. Even when I had a full 100% set of armor I still used that thing for sentimental value.

  • The way gear works now is fine. Everyone can gear up for content/PVP, everyone has the opportunity to remain competitive. That key word is opportunity.

    You still get the best PVPers and Raiders but looks wise you can put them side by side with less accomplished players and cannot physically see a difference.

    Maybe the top end awards should be item customization that allows them to look unique? That wouldn’t hinder anyone else ability to play the game but would allow them to stand out which is what a lot of them want.

  • Being rewarded (with gear or something else) is always a good thing, imo. One reason I left Fallen Earth is there was never a sense of reward or accomplishment. Finsihing a long quest chain or beating a hard boss and getting some scrap wood was getting old quick.

    Once being the hardcore raider, it was nice having stuff not many others could get. But it was also at the sacrifice of 6-7 days a week of 3-5 hours a day raiding or farming stuff for raiding.

    Now a more casual (but still play daily) player, I enjoy having things more accessible for all and the overall experience has been much more enjoyable.

  • @Mahlah: Actually I’m just level 30 doing dungeons like Blackfathom depths and Scarlet monastery. 😉 I’m just experiencing the leveling content all over again while I make my way to 80 with about 20 friends.

    I’m not giving a stamp of approval, but rather thinking about what the patch could mean for someone like me who just wants to get in and play it. It’s like I said in the post: “whether or not these are “Good” changes for the game totally doesn’t matter because that’s up to the individual.”

    People like yourself love bringing up the fact that Keen “bounces around MMO’s”. I’m an easy target and people get a certain satisfaction out of picking on me for that yet I am no different from ANY of you. I just try to publicize everything I do on my blog, which gets the appearance that I’m speaking highly of everything. No, I’m just publicly speaking what I’m thinking at any given time.

    What game are you currently playing Mahlah, and which games have you tried over the past 4 years? Unless you’re one of the ones who never stopped playing WoW, or one of the few who play EVE religiously then I would be willing to bet that you yourself have bounced around just like me.

    Same goes for anyone here. I’ve come to know many of your names through your comments and most of you have been right there with me. It’s no secret that the past 4 years have been more about dipping your toe in the water rather than submerging yourself.

    Name ONE game that I should have stuck it out in. There isn’t one. WoW is the game most people return to, and the game most people play, because it’s the one with stability. It’s the game that people know won’t change. There is A LOT to be said for that STABILITY — even if the game itself isn’t anything amazing.

  • You still have to hit the Arena for a real PvP weapon, but I like the changes so far. This is a bit of a side note, but I think gear would better if it was wholly cosmetic excepting armor value and the events where you would normally get an upgrade would hand out attribute points. This would add another layer of customization similar to talent points, and I could keep using that awesome looking polearm I have in the bank.

  • Howdy,

    I really like the changes. I don’t enjoy the gear grind like most, but the game is crazy ass fun when get with a group of folks and use team work to whooop other people. So I’m for any changes that helps to balance that.


  • I quit because of how stupid easy it is to get gear so I guess that my answer is I don’t like it. Making a game more accessible is one thing but the “loot piñatas” as you correctly describe them ruined the purpose of raiding for me. Call me elitist if you want but I miss the old days when epic gear was epic, not just some purple piece of loot you would replace in a week when the new grind popped out.

    On one hand I see why they have done it the way they have, but on the other it just doesn’t work for me.

  • @Dietx:

    That’s what immediately came to my mind, as well. They make old content much more accessible before the expansion comes along.

    It’s a pretty basic strategy: normally, you have to use the gear grind as a governor for content consumption, which distracts the heavy players who would otherwise “beat the game” shortly after release. When new expansions are imminent, you may as well tear down the barriers so everybody gets access to the old stuff before everybody moves on and abandons it forever.

    Improvement to PvP gear acquisition is just a side effect. The overall rate of gear acquisition is designed specifically to limit PvE progression, but when you tinker with PvE loot you also have to up the rate in PvP to maintain something like parity.

    I think the best possible approach to WoW is to only play for the 2-3 months prior to the release of a new expansion, and quit once the expansion comes out. You get to see everything in its final reffined state and without so many timesinks.

  • I think it highlights the difference between theory and actuality; in theory people support harsher penalties, in actuality people don’t want it to apply to them.

    Permadeath, FoD, hard work for rewards such as gear, all sounds good when writing a blog entry or designing the ideal theoretical game, but in reality getting something for next to nothing kinda feel good doesn’t it?

  • Mahlah brought up some great points but Keen’s response was very appropriate. I’ve been an MMO hopper myself. I’ve tried just about every major MMO to come out over the past several years, but the only two I’ve spent significant time in (more than a year) are WoW and EVE.

    I think you are an easy target to pick on because your blog has grown into a community, and you are the captain of the ship. I’ve also noticed your blog getting more attention over the past few months, getting props and honorable mention on other blogs and gaming sites. Obviously a lot of us agree with your opinions (which are usually spot-on with how I feel about games) or at a minimum respect your ability to articulate your thoughts on things. This puts you in the spotlight and will invite criticism whether solicited or not.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve said I was done with WoW, for good, only to return a few months later. It appears that may happen yet again. PvP has always been my primary interest in WoW and now that it will be less of a grind I’m finding it really hard to resist hitting that subscribe button. Even if it does only last a month or two as long as the experience is enjoyable there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • I think what sometimes happens is that Keen summarizes and reports publicly on what is out there. He gets excited as we all do about certain new games. He gets fed up as well all do with pretty much anything that is out there. I think sometimes people are just disappointed in a game but in a very weird way blame Keen for it because he is the one publicly talking about it.

    It is really like the animal experiments…You do “A”…a beep comes…and you get an electric shock because you did A…after going through that ten times you really dread the beep…Keen is the beep proclaiming the inevitable.

  • When BC first came out I hated WoW’s gear theory but I’ve since changed my mind. I’m a hardcore guy so when BC first came out I levelled to 70 but when I saw that green 2H axe replace my axe off C’thun there was no way I was playing WoW again. I was 100% against doing a type of reset on gear with expansions because it made the gear accomplishments worthless, I almost felt violated. I wanted the new gear to sit on top of the old stuff and thought you should have to go trhu the old stuff to get the new stuff. In all honesty it’s probably better from a cash stand point to do it like they are.

    Establish your hardcore guys, let them have their gear, release an expansion that renders those accomplishments useless, they quit, and then with the new content a new group of people rise to the top with their accomplishments. It does make it more accessible and you really only are losing a small percentage of players. Just realize that once you start this cycle it kind of forces you to stick with it, you can’t go back to making things tougher, it will have to constantly get easier and easier.

  • I was driving by a store today with a sign that read “50% off fall and winter clothing” and it made me think that this is exactly what WoW does prior to bringing in the new *season’s* gear.

    Get your gear, 50% off the time it used to take.

  • @iLk: Only, those hardcore people don’t quit. Know why? Because the top level gear from previous expansions normally does last you until you get to at least the first raid instance. Tier 6 lasted all the way into Naxx for a lot of the guilds out there.

  • I don’t see why gear should be any harder to obtain than levels – it’s just another form of gating content really. Of course, it’s always nice to have highly desireable items but then they become “must haves” and not just “nice to have” then there’s a problem with the game design.

    Personally I’m looking forward to getting some nice PvP gear now 🙂

  • Blatant common sense changes that all my PvP friends and I were suggesting during BC… 3 years ago. Hard to praise changes that were being suggested 3 years before their implementation.

    Good ideas? Yes. The random BG is entirely necessary to hasten queues and avoid the growing potential of leaving games for easier/quicker wins in other BGs. The mark requirements was a failed artificial method to distribute players to all BGs so removing them is a no brainer now.

    Also, HKs have been considered irrelevant honor outside WG since Vanilla and the sheer lack of any motivation to mount a defense rather than step aside while the opposition wins faster was (is?) a plague that eroded the games integrity.

    I quit WoW about 18 months ago yet I had recognized the need for changes like these long before I quit. Better late than never?

  • But the bold notion that making WoW easier in any way could be a GOOD thing is a bold notion indeed.

    Don’t think I could ever say that. WoW redefined “easy” and made it synonymous with “rewarded”.

  • @Qpon

    The bold notion is a good thing, they are progressing to a point where the hardcore are done blasting through their content (which the only way to truly make it harder is to implement some sort of stupid luck component like infernals on Prince Malchezaar where it’s not about skill, its about luck)and giving the casuals their chance at hitting what their superiors (in raiding) have already done and quit. There is nothing wrong with doing that, and this is a Loot/Content MMO where the next best thing is always right ahead of you.

    I wont stop to speak about PVP, as I have only stepped into that maybe twice in 5+ years, but the way Blizzard puts out its Raiding content has not been matched by anyone who can call themselves an MMO. WoW gives me a sense of teamwork (lets not bitch about PUGs because i really dont care about that) when me and 24 (even 9) other friends and guildies take down a boss that took us a couple of attempts, but thats just me.

  • Pre-expansion…nothing more. All of this stuff will be obsolete come Cataclysm…gear, instances, gems and enchants.

    Might was well let as many people have fun with it before it all goes bad.

  • Keen I think it’s a good thing that you bounce around between games. I can’t fathom why it would be bad for the readers of your blog that you do so.

  • Keen get hold of a SC2 beta key, i wanna read your impression of it. Personally i love it, and i’m not much of a RTS buff. If i get another key i’ll pass one your way.

  • Some great comments in here. As others have mentioned this is just a clearance sale on items before they expire with the “new and improved” version. It’s akin to an end of beta event where they give you some sort of crazy cookie before you start over for real.

    Anyhow, Keen keep doing what you do, love your blog even though I have not posted much recently and am not playing any MMO’s I still read your blog daily.

  • Just started WoW again .. for the 5th time and after a 6 month break.
    Playing an undead priest this time and it’s great.

    Looking forward to the low level dungeons and BGs without imba twinks.

    My only hope for a WoW successor is Blizzard new MMO at this time. Will probably take half a decade or evena whole – but evetuelly we will probably get a ‘WoW-Killer’. if we are lucky it will not a be a WoW clone, but rather EVE on steroids 🙂

  • See the best option between going back to WoW and not playing mmo is not to play MMO. I personally been playing Medieval 2 Total War Kings

  • I left WoW a few months ago. I don’t find it particularly rewarding or exciting to get gear for doing virtually nothing. There’s no challenge in it.

    Back playing Age of conan, at least it offers a challenge…

  • I’ve been in and out of the raiding game for nearly five years, bouncing around from top 300 to top 25 US (top 600 to top 100 world). Using that metric, I am “more skilled” (better read, and more motivated, because that’s all it takes to succeed in this game, even at the highest level of play) than ninety nine percent of all players who have ever felt the urge to enter Azeroth and it is my opinion that anyone who complains that there isn’t challenging content to be had in WoW is either uninformed, or belongs to such a spectacularly advanced sub genus of gamer that their mere existence threatens the balance of the universe.

    Every expansion has had extraordinarily difficult content available, at one time. The issue is, nothing stays difficult. Nerfs happen. However I don’t feel that it’s valid to bemoan a lack of challenging content simply because you are too slow/bad/generic excuse to tackle the encounters when they are (for lack of a better word) relevant.