Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Will Wrath of the Lich King hit the gear reset button again?

I've been hearing a lot of speculation about the future WoW expansion especially with the tidbits released by the developers over the last couple of gaming conventions. Most of the player discussion has revolved around the new hero class, the death knight, though some discussions on dungeon design have been making appearances as well. Still the one issue I haven't really heard brought up is how much more powerful the gear in Northend will be compared to that found in the Outlands.

In the Burning Crusade we saw a huge increased in the power of items. Randomly dropped greens from the first first zone were often on par with old world raiding gear. Quest rewards earned at 61 would replace epics that had required countless hours of raiding or grinding battlegrounds to attain. Blizzard developers had announced this jump in power in advance but it still came as a shock to many. Truthfully though the disparity between raiding and non-raiding gear had become so pronounced that it was impossible for non raiders to participate competitively in player vs. player combat. With the introduction of the arenas and more world PvP objectives it became imperative for Blizzard to balance the playing field. However, many players saw this as a blow to the amount of time they had invested in their characters.

Fast forward six months and most players now feel safe that the great gear reset of 2006 will never be repeated. After all casual players can now keep up with raiders by earning decent epics through arenas, heroic dungeons, and battlegrounds. So chances are high that the expansion will only have progressively better gear instead of the huge jump we saw with the release of the Burning Crusade. Yet this is based on the assumption that raiding and arena gear stays balanced as higher end zones are introduced.

What troubles this assumption is that some Blizzard developers are pushing for changes to the arena system to extend the time it takes to earn rewards. The original design for arenas called for a low time investment but a high degree of skill to earn rewards. However, with the introduction of daily quests developers forgot that the cost of forming a new arena team isn't really that high. Now what we have are a lot of players who simply reset their rating by forming a new team whenever it drops too low.

This is incredibly ironic because the majority of players who do this are mid range raiders who simply desire the arena weapons. Hopefully, the developers don't overdo the nerf to the arena system or we could see the same disparity in gear quality we saw back before the Burning Crusade. If a situation like this arose in the months before the WoW expansion then we could see another gear reset especially with Warhammer putting pressure on Blizzard to maintain the PvP side of the game. After all any real or perceived favoritism of raiding is going to make it hard for Blizzard to hold onto players against a shiny new MMO with the same style of artwork.


Cyndre said...

I haven't seen anything specific addressing this at all, but I really don't see how Blizzard could design 10 levels and numerous dungeons, that provide substantive rewards without eclipsing the Outlands raiding gear...

I mean, imagine if Black Morass or Arcatraz had had inferior gear to Blackwing Lair... would anyone have bothered to go there?

I expect the Penny-Arcade teashirt Green is the new Purple will once again be a hot seller...


Anonymous said...

They have to do a gear reset from a balance perspective. You can't design the expansion with the thought that the only people playing it will be those with a geared 70 who PvPed and PvEed alot. It has to have room for those who have new characters leveling. These characters would need gear to get through to new instances.

Your other option is to make the new instances so easy they aren't worth doing for those who have decent geared 70s.

Relmstein said...

From what I understand the large raiding guilds that had Tier3 from Naxx didn't start getting upgrades in the Burning Crusade until Karazhan. This was with a huge increased in the power of non-raiding gear.

In the next expansion I imagine a much smaller jump in item power. Perhaps the first instance at level 71 would have gear slightly better then Alcatraz but not quite as good as Tier-4.

Then again if the developers go for a huge boost in item power then I imagine the first instance to have gear around SSC/Eye quality.

Kaziel said...

In posts like this, it's always worth mentioning that the introduction of the Rating system, along with the massive rebalance of iLVL values for Stamina is really what made gear from the early and mid-60s so much better than the raid gear of anything prior to AQ40.

The latter of the two I listed really had an impact, because mobs began hitting harder, to take into account your much increased health. This had the effect of almost requiring you to upgrade, lest you be one or two shotted by non-bosses.

The introduction of the Rating system didn't have such a dramatic impact upon gear, but it still had an impact. Primarily it allowed for much more non-raiding gear to have Equip effects like crit, spell crit, hit, spell hit, and weapon skill. Since those stats would no longer scale with level, devs were more willing to hand them out which was another big draw for Outlands gear.

Since it seems unlikely they will implement such a massive stat change like that again, I doubt there will be such a huge gap in gear quality again. At least one can hope.

Doug said...

"Your other option is to make the new instances so easy they aren't worth doing for those who have decent geared 70s."

You can also make it so that until the playing population has made it through the content and obtained the gear they can't really progress in the new expansion. This is also known as the EQ1 model and from a commercial standpoint isn't the most successful way to go about things.

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