If there's one thing the entire WoW community can agree on it's that the Azerite Armor system has been a complete and utter failure.
What was supposed to be a system that allowed players to farm the gear they wanted turned into a RNG hell. What was supposed to be a system that made gear more available made gear more inaccessible than ever. What was supposed to be a system that made off-specs more friendly turned into a system that was just as unfriendly to off-specs as anything else, to the point where it's faster to make a new character than to gear up an off-spec.
Here are some of the proposed changes to the game, and some of Blizzard's mindset.
Thanks for all of the continued feedback and discussion around the Azerite Armor system. We’ve been following the community discussions closely, and the systems team has been focusing on making some improvements as their top priority. I’ve got some updates to share on our current thoughts, as well as some upcoming changes.
To start, here’s some of the bigger issues we’ve been seeing brought up:
- Overall Availability: While there’s plenty of Azerite Armor in the 295-340 item level range, further sources are heavily limited and susceptible to bad luck. Even players who are doing a wide range of high-end content are still wearing at least one Item Level 340 piece, despite having replaced all their other gear several times over. Everything else about the system is basically irrelevant if you can’t get your hands on the gear in the first place.
- Lack of Agency: When items do drop, it can feel like you’re not really given much in the way of options. You can choose whether you want this to be a Fire or a Frost piece, or a versatile one with a generic trait, but that isn’t necessarily an interesting choice. And when you look at the complete package, those choices don’t often feel like they’re having a meaningful impact on how you play your character.
- Trait Depth: Several of the traits that are considered the “best” mathematically turn out to be some of the simplest mechanically, which reinforces the sense that the system isn’t really affecting gameplay.
We agree that those issues need to be resolved. So, here’s a few changes we’re working on:
- We need to make Azerite Armor more available, for all types of players, through a method everyone can utilize. So we’re actually looking at Emissary rewards for that. The plan is to make Azerite Armor rewards from Emissary quests scale all the way up to 370 (based on your item level), which gives everyone a new, reliable source for appropriate gear. Further on, we’re looking at making some further improvements to the ways Emissaries reward gear, but getting more Azerite Armor in your hands is the higher priority for the immediate future.
- When we add new Azerite Armor in what we’re calling “BfA Season 2” (starting with Siege of Zuldazar and its corresponding Mythic+ and PvP seasons), we’re going to add another outer ring to those pieces of gear that has two spec-specific trait options for each spec. This effectively means that your favorite traits will be available on a lot more items, while also opening up a lot more options across the scope of all of your Azerite pieces (and thus, we hope, create more interesting decisions).
- We’re also going to continue to work on the individual traits themselves. We’ve done some basic tuning so far, but we’re taking the lessons we’ve learned from these first iterations forward, and Tides of Vengeance will bring new traits into the pool that reflect that. Our goal is to make the more generic traits be decent middle-of-the-road options for when you want to use a single piece for multiple situations or specs, but make sure the spec-specific options (which are generally the more interesting traits) win out in their respective environments.
Some of those changes won’t be coming until Tides of Vengeance (and you’ll see them on the PTR soon), but the overall availability of Azerite Armor is a much more pressing concern, so we’re investigating ways of hotfixing that directly into the live game. I don’t have a solid timeline on when that might be yet, but we’ll definitely have more information to share as soon as we can confirm when that can happen.
This reinforces my strong and long-held belief that players need fewer options. When you give players a massive number of options, you may think the intuitive response they'll have is that they now have so many great options. In reality, there always ends up being a good, better, and best -- even a bad, horrible and worst.
Adding more gear means there are more options to get the gear you don't want.
We've also seen a huge problem with stat complexity and having to 'sim' your stats to make any sense of whether an item is an upgrade. Less, simpler gear doesn't have that problem.
When there are fewer, clearer items then you can also camp them. In EverQuest I almost always wanted the Golden Efreeti Boots on every caster. That was a clear item to go for. You knew exactly where to get them, where to camp, what to kill, etc. The stats on those boots were always the same. They couldn't titanforge or warforge to randomly have better stats or be a higher level version of that item. They were clearly that same item every time.
I'm not sure Blizzard gets this. They're adding more traits. They're making the armor more accessible. They're not simplifying.
I think the system will go down as the worst gearing in WoW's history, and all we can hope for is that they'll do away with it when it's time for a new expansion.