Friday, October 2, 2009

Gear, Story, and Patch Progression in WoW 3.3

The finale of the Wrath era, patch 3.3, has hit WoW's test server. Though the patch is just in its early stages - only the art is really finished - we can start to get a glimpse of Blizzard's long-term plans.

Gear Progression
Blizzard is working to try and bridge the staggering entry barrier for raid-quality loot - the best in game stuff already has 100+ effective item levels (corrected for quality) over the best leveling quest rewards in the game. The new five-man dungeons will drop item level 219 epics on normal mode and ilvl 232 on heroic. The patch is also apparently planning a pre-Icecrown raid of the week quest to give people an incentive to run old content that incidentally may still contain upgrades for their guildies. Needless to say, I'm patting myself on the back for not having gone too far out of my way to try and milk every last ilvl 219 drop out of HTOC.

Over the summer, I predicted that we could see soloable daily quests in patch 3.3 that award the currently retired Emblems of Heroism. Though Blizzard did open up heirloom items to Champion's seals, we could still see my prediction come true.

Even if ilvl 200 epics, currently available for emblems and at the very end of rep grinds, do become widely available, that's still a staggering difference for Blizzard to balance as they approach Cataclysm. My first gut reaction to the Cataclysm rumor was that the smaller increase to the level cap might allow Blizzard to get away without offering a full gear reset. I just can't see level 81 quest reward greens making the jump to ilvl 300 (deducting two tiers for lower quality) in one fell swoop just to try and keep up. Then again, with 5-man loot hitting ilvl 232 this expansion, it can hardly start any lower for the next one.

Story and Difficulty Progression
Speaking of the new three wing 5-man extravaganza, Blizzard is making an interesting attempt to make the expansion's signature villain more accessible. TBC's lore was all Illidan all the time (until Blizzard needed another patch to kill time until Wrath was ready), but it turns out that Illidan was right when he told non-raiders that they were not prepared.

That said, will an encounter that allows players to visit Arthas and spar for some loot really satisfy that complaint? It's a bit of a step up, but the final battle will still be reserved for raiders, and I'm sure we will all get tired to hearing Jaina and Sylvanus' color commentary after the second time through.

Patch and Expansion Schedule
With only one of the four instances (three 5-mans and the raid) open for testing, this patch will probably be on the test realms for at least the six weeks between now and Wrath's first birthday. Even so, it looks like the rumors suggesting that Blizzard might actually release three content patches in 2009 are still plausible, a massive improvement from the lean days of 2007 and 2008. Turbine, with their planned December LOTRO mini-expansion, may be less than amused.

This will, however, put huge pressure on Blizzard to finish Cataclysm in a timely fashion. Unless they're going to add something major to the patch at a later date, there will be very little for solo players - the current notes just contain some streamlining for very low level alts. In the current marketplace, having Cataclysm arrive any later than the summer actually could cost Blizzard some serious money.


What's my main Again? said...

I figured they would have a jump like this... though I figured it would be 213 for reg and 226 for heroic. My only question is... with the huge gear variance out there... can they make the 5 man challenging? If they do then fresh 80's won't be able to do the content since their gear is a full 3 tiers behind.

If they design the instance to cater that group then raid gear will make it laughable. Will Arthas be a fight that you need to be reasonably geared to beat? I would hope so but the current trend leads me to believe that it is not the case.

I honestly didn't expect them to release yet another gear reset this expansion but I guess I was wrong.

Yeebo said...

I don't think that WoW launching their last big patch at the same time as the LoTRO mini expansion will hurt Turbine much. Anyone that has the slightest interest in SoM would be pretty stupid not to buy a three month sub by the end of October. You can pay $35 for it in December ($20 and $15 for a month of sub time). Or you can pay $30 for it now (or $20 if you are a lifer) and get free stuff.

Of course, I may be underestimating the stupidity of the masses . . .

Stripes said...

"My only question is... with the huge gear variance out there... can they make the 5 man challenging? If they do then fresh 80's won't be able to do the content since their gear is a full 3 tiers behind."

The heroic TOC 5-man requires more gear then any fresh 80 will have (unless they are superbly skilled). I would expect it could be run ok with gear from all the heroics.

So I would guess the new 5 mans will assume you have loaded up on rewards from TOC5 and spent all the badges from the daily heroics on more gear.

So tuned a little under what you will have after you run TOC10/TOC25 a bizzilion times.

But that is just a guess. I would be shocked if it was easier then TOC5. I would be suppressed but not shocked if it is significant step above TOC5 and most folks can't do it without better gear then TOC5/badges get them.

DeftyJames said...

I don't understand what you mean by a huge gear variance. I was shocked by how LITTLE the jump in 3.3 was. I was expecting 245/251. The patch notes indicate that you will be able to craft ilevel 251 items. That seems somewhat out of place for 232 in heroics. But by the end of Wrath all players should be able to CRAFT a set of 245/251 gear. So that would mean a jump in Cataclysm of maybe 50 points, which is pretty close in line to what we saw in TBC IIRC.

For me one of the big lessons of the last two patches is that Blizzard wants to make a crafting a more viable way of getting top loot. On my server, you can craft a very decent set of gear with an average ilevel of about 215 for 10K gold. And while the 245 crafted gear is still pricy by the time 3.3 hits I'm sure you will be able to make 245 gear for less than 1K god each.

My point being that by the time Wrath end a set of gear with an average ilevel of 245 or so is not out of range of most players *who don't raid*.

Maybe there is something I'm missing here. But I just don't see the huge gear difference you do.

DeftyJames said...

As for the timing, I'm still think that February is likely. I don't see next summer as viable for a large number of reasons, which I mentioned before when you posted last on this topic.

What's My Main Again? said...

The gear difference I'm talking about is take for instance a tank. Getting geared to start running heroics a tank should be around 25k hps. Right now my ok geared tank sits at 32k hps... and our raid geared tank has 36k hps unbuffed. That is a difference of a 10k hp pool between a fresh tank and a top geared tank.

My rogue just hit 80 and does maybe 2k dps compared to my mage who does 4500-5k dps. This is do to the gear discrepancy. Can Blizzard make a boss hit for 10k damage more for it to be challenging to those in raid gear, when it means one shotting newer tanks?

Can they make it challenging enough for dps doing 5k and still possible for dps doing 2?

Or how about a fresh priest hitting 80 with a 17k mana pool vs my priest with 24k?