Saturday, December 20, 2008

Are the Solo Portions of WoW's Endgame Worth Doing?

Let's say you want to obtain an ilvl 200, epic quality set of cloth robes. Via Wowhead, here are your options:

1. Obtain exalted reputation with the Kirin Tor. (Also gets you access to other rep rewards, and likely some combination of cash or dungeon drops depending on how you get there.)
2. Craft, or have crafted for you, one of the three Tailoring BOE robes (costs you a lot of money, but can be done immediately - earning said money probably netted you other stuff like rep, dungeon drops, etc).
3. Join an arena PVP team, earn some points, and obtain at least a 1675 rating in order to be allowed to spend them on the robe. (No other fringe benefits, beyond the fact that you now have a 1675 rated arena team.)
4. Kill one of two bosses in the 10-man Naxx raid. (You'll pick up a decent chunk of heroic badges in even a single run, and probably would get a shot at other loot.)
5. Spend 80 heroic badges. (Obviously, you earned these doing some form of dungeon content.)
6. Zerg down 10-man Archavon, which shouldn't take more than 15 minutes, and be friends with the Random Number Generator.

This afternoon, I came within the flip of a coin of the last option (actually the [Heroes' Frostfire Leggings], but I went with robes for this example because there more options for obtaining them), only to lose the roll to the other mage in the group. There's always more loot, so I'm sure I'll have more chances down the road.

The thing that does get to me a bit, though, is how easy getting a drop like that is compared to the solo options. Sure, Archavon is a reward for winning Wintergrasp, and you can only do the raid once a week. That said, I've been working on Kirin Tor rep for literally weeks. I'm doing Heroic dungeons whenever I get the chance. And yet, I'm one lucky roll away from cutting to the front of the line and wondering why I bothered with all the effort in between.

In another example, my Stone Keeper Shards count went over 100 today. I've been getting the majority of my shards via Wintergrasp daily quests, which also award a hefty chunk of honor (I'm wearing the PVP neck and ring rewards now) and Wintergrasp marks of honor (due to be good for something next patch). So typically I'm netting 6-7 shards per day. Well, that total is nothing compared to what you get in a heroic dungeon with the Wintergrasp buff up - 4 shards per boss, with some bosses that are very quick kills. For that matter, a single daily heroic dungeon run will net you at least five badges, and the PVE badge heirloom items cost only 40 badges, compared to 200 keeper shards for items that have PVP stats (which are probably going to be less desirable for leveling your alts).

Is the solo endgame worth it?
People complain frequently about how WoW is "dumbing down" to be accessible to "casuals" (I try to avoid using that word on this blog because it has no agreed-upon meaning within the community, but I suspect people can guess in this context), but make no mistake that the game's best rewards still come from group PVE content. If you have a 2 hour window and a choice between doing a heroic dungeon or running daily quests, it's an absolute no brainer - the heroic nets you 3-7 heroic badges, 9-15 Stone Keeper Shards if your side owns Wintergrasp, a massive pile of reputation, and whatever loot drops during the actual dungeon run.

Of course, one big difference is that the dailies are available whenever, on whatever schedule, while you're going to need to find a group if you want to do heroics. Still, if you find yourself faithfully logging in every day to spend 2 hours on daily quests and then see that progress dwarfed by what you can get in a single afternoon with a skilled group, it's enough to make you question why you spent all the effort on all the other stuff.

(In case anyone raises the effort argument, bear in mind that I'm talking about 5-man content, which you can often 1-shot with a group that has never seen it before, rather than raid content that requires weeks of farming and wiping to learn and complete.)

Ironically, I probably wouldn't even be raising this point if I NEVER did group content. Doing group content SOMETIMES is just enough to notice how much faster I obtain stuff than I do solo. Obviously, I still think it's worthwhile for the moment while the various rewards are streaming in fast and furious from all the reps and tokens I'm obtaining on a daily basis. Once I wrap up with most of the reps, though, it will be harder to justify spending the time online on days when I don't expect to find a group.

7 comments:

Klepsacovic said...

Worth doing depends on what you're looking for.

If you're looking for gold, definitely. Dailies, gathering professions, a few profitable crafts for the AH, farming mobs... there's a lot of gold to be made alone.

Gear? Eh. You can get some stuff solo, a few rep grinds and dailies. The big stuff is mostly from raids though. Still, what's the use of fancy gear if you just solo? It's a bit of a self-fixing problem: can't solo for gear you don't need and can get gear for groups when you're in groups.

Lore? This is where it is at. I love the quests in Northrend. The last time I saw anything remotely comparable was in chains involving either Tier .5, Stratholme, or Scholomance.

Challenge? Go see what you can solo that maybe you weren't expected to be able to.

WoW is a bit of a trap. You can solo to the level cap with no problems. Then you're pushed into groups for advancement. You can still solo, but it's more like filler to keep you logged in between raids: rep grinds for raid enchants, dailies to afford repair bill.

Green Armadillo said...

I was talking primarily about the gear, and you are right that gear isn't necessary in and of itself if you're not advancing past solo content. (Well, gear will help you do some of those things you're not supposed to be able to solo, but that's neither here nor there.)

Still, the fundamental reward structure of an MMORPG is that time spent leads to increased power. Mounts and pets don't completely lose their incentive power, but it's certainly diminished once you've got 50 of them. Heirloom items are an interesting new twist, but in some ways going after boosts for alts defeats the purpose - you're spending time on your main not helping your main, and you could be leveling your alt with the time spent getting the heirloom item. Overall, gear is still the most significant tangible incentive.

"Use up the solo content, then quit" is certainly a valid choice for dealing with the situation. The real place where you end up in limbo is the one I describe in my post - you do 5-man content occasionally, but either aren't on enough or can't find groups during much of your gaming time. In that situation, the soloable content needs to be robust enough to be worth logging in - just in case you can't find a group.

Also, this isn't a unique problem for solo content. As 2nd Nin Points out, the heroic 5-man progression path lets you max out on usable badge rewards very rapidly, and the speed with which even mid-range guilds are clearing Naxx suggests the same is true on the raid front. The bottom line on this expansion may simply be that there isn't enough expansion to go around for ANYONE, solo, small group, or raid alike.

Klepsacovic said...

Hopefully new content and rewards are coming soon. Unfortunately that may only be a hope and won't actually happen. While a repeat of 2.4 with tons of new badge gear with high prices fits past events, I remember somewhere the devs not liking that people were farming Karazhan for T5-T6 equivalent gear, so we're more likely to get progressively higher tiers of badges. That's good from a reward/effort/skill perspective, but isn't much help for someone doing mostly heroics. As for new raids, those take a long time. However I have to admit that I am glad that WotLK didn't ship with 90% of raids already out since that diminishes early raids and only encourages the ridiculous guilds that burn through content and then whine that there's nothing to do.

It might be that "Use up the solo content, then quit" is the only good option left. I doubt Blizzard plans to add huge rewards which can be obtained by soloing, even if it took 6 months of constant dailies. People chase the easy gear and then complain when their raids are relatively less rewarding compared to anything else.

This is why I said WoW is a trap. It's been made to be soloable, but it's still a multi-player game, so you invest time in the game and then hit the point where you need people to get anywhere, but it's hard to quit a character with so much time on it.

Green Armadillo said...

I don't disagree with your reasoning, but I think it would be odd for Blizzard to go to a new tier of currency for each subsequent content patch.

The heirloom item system was clearly set up to offer rewards to the overworked tanks and healers of your guild - sure, they've long since cleared out every last bit of 5-man content, but now their efforts on their mains can reward their alts.

If Blizzard goes to a new currency that only drops from the new instance (note intentional use of singular, 5-mans take a lot of time to create too), they'll be yanking the rug out from under the incentives to run the current content. Basically, the only good incentive will be to run the new instance. Even if 3.1 doesn't arrive for a number of months, that's a bit early to be effectively retiring the current stuff. I guess they could ALSO add new daily heroic quests that point players back to the current 5-mans for timed runs that yield the new badges, but it seems a bit clunky compared to using the currency they already have.

D said...

For me, the solo portions are the best for my alts. I'm in a casual guild and really only focus on my main getting groups. I like the fact that I can still work towards some better rewards for my alt when I'm able. Especially, since then my alt will be better equipped for groups if/when my main has what she needs or to run my alt with others alts.

I think a lot of this question really goes back to evaluating one's playstyle and/or the playstyle of one's guild.

Herc said...

"Once I wrap up with most of the reps, though, it will be harder to justify spending the time online on days when I don't expect to find a group."

I've only got argent dawn left for Rep but I'm not really pushing it. Only reason I see myself doing heroics is when a friend is asking for help.

All the emblems will be spent on my alt's gear(got 3 now!).

"this expansion may simply be that there isn't enough expansion to go around for ANYONE, solo, small group, or raid alike."

We've already finished the content and I'm almost decked with ilvl 213 items except weapon, range and hands.

I really only log in for 2+ hours to do raids or to prepare for raids in the past week or 2. Few exceptions is when the wife wants to level our lvl 60s together.

It's just my playstyle I guess which leans heavily on raiding.

Green Armadillo said...

@D: Yeah, I can relate, I don't like to spend the time LFG for the benefit of my alts either. Actually, I'm not even all that interested in working on my alts, at least until I get my main squared away with content so I don't feel like taking time to do dailies or whatever for rep is taking away from the thing I'm actually working on.

@ Herc: The thing that really strikes me about the raid situation is NOT that good guilds burned through the ilvl 213 raids - the learning curve was way too steep in TBC - but rather that there isn't an ilvl 226 raid available yet, or for the immediate future (major patches typically spend at least a month on the PTR, and they're still testing 3.0.8). I also do get the impression that there was less solo content in this expansion compared to last expansion, though my view may have been skewed by having done so much of the content in beta (it definitely went faster the second time). As far as 5-man instances, there were 15 at the time TBC launched compared to 12 in Wrath.

Daily quests are pretty much the only thing there is more of in Wrath than TBC, and that's because they didn't exist until 2.1. Even that may not actually be a case of there being more of something - many Northrend dailies were non-repeatable in beta and got flagged for daily status to fill out the reputations.