So I talked about something I called the Cherry Picking Problem last week without really defining it. Fortunately, it's my blog, so I get to post followups to my own stuff. :)
Basically, picture rewards - implemented by the developers of a game - as cherries on a tree. The rewards can be levels, they can be gear, they can be titles, it doesn't really matter as long as players want them. Some rewards are easy enough to get that everyone gets them just in the normal course of play. In WoW, these rewards are levels 1-70, and the last set of quested gear (generally stuff up to about ilvl 114 greens and ~106ish blues from Shadowmoon Valley and the Netherstorm). Then the next set of reward cherries are hanging from slightly higher branches on the tree - you can get there solo with a fair amount of work and grinding (rep reward ilvl 115 blues, PVP epics), but really, it'd be a lot easier to reach those rewards if you got people to give you a boost up (5-man groups, low end arena teams). Then there are the best cherries on the very top of the tree that you certainly can't reach alone, and need very good help (top end guilds or arena teams) to even consider getting at.
Now that I've got that analogy set up, picture my Pally, exalted with the Shattered Sun and only needing a single badge for that [Libram of Repentance] I've had my eyes on since the badge quests were announced. Poor Greenhammer is a 50/50% shot away from picking the very last cherry he can reach tomorrow. Now sure, in principle there are some upgrades beyond that cheapest of badge rewards - I could do massive amounts of painful PUG PVP for better spell damage gear, pay thousands of gold on the AH for low end BOE epics, or even try to keep farming badges (at a 40% chance per day of getting a lone badge once 2.4.2 goes live, while a single daily heroic run can cough up six in under two hours) towards one of the more expensive rewards (remember, a 20 badge reward will take 50 days of repeating the same four daily quests) Realistically, though, those particular cherries are further up the tree than I'm willing to climb. In my view, the cost/benefit of going after them just doesn't pan out given the likely gear reset in the expansion and my distaste for PVP. Like I say in my title, Player versus Developer is all about devs making content and players like me deciding whether or not to use it.
The problem is, I'm out of cherries, and, in the devs' view, they can't put better cherries on the branches of the tree I can reach (solo daily quests, rep grinds, etc) without having those cherries be more attractive than the cherries on the next higher branch (5-man dungeon content, and maybe even some Karazhan/Arena S1 loot). They're not making this decision just to be mean to me (though, in fairness, I would rather have a lead dev who didn't use the term "welfare epics" to describe rewards for the majority of his playerbase). Instead, they think that players who might otherwise have climbed higher and spent more time and money on the game will instead stop at the bottom of the tree, pick all the good cherries, and then quit. I think there are some flaws to this - for example, I'm not convinced that giving an ilvl 120 blue item for completing 100 daily quests (presume that these dailies do not ALSO award cash and other goodies) would do much to hurt the popularity of instant rewards from low end group content (now including BT quality badge loot). But then again, the goal of Karazhan isn't to keep people's attention, the goal is to make them into raiders, willing to spend the extra time required by that style of play.
So, instead, the problem falls back into my court. Given the choice between content I don't want to do and retiring my Pally until the expansion (or, perhaps, the "even more bribes to apologize for delaying the expansion even more" patch), I have no problems retiring the Pally. This does, however, raise the question of what to do with the time I've been spending on farming his badges for the last month. In the short term, I'd like to at least get my mage (my nominal main) to revered with SSO so he'll have access to the PVP head glyph (since who knows whether the level 70 equivalent will be more painful to obtain than handing over a bit of cash to a rep vendor). I've also got my warrior, though I'd rather stick to leveling him when he actually has rested EXP. Maybe I'll come up with something else.
Either way, I'm facing some annoying choices because Blizzard has failed to solve the Cherry Picking Problem in a way that provides me with incentives to keep playing without providing dis-incentives for other players to engage more challenging content. If Blizzard can't solve the problem better than that with all the money they've got in their bank right now, who can?