Monday, May 10, 2010

Earning Gear Offline

Age of Conan recently made headlines with a change that offers players free levels simply for having an active subscription. Not to be outdone, Blizzard handed me four major gear upgrades, just for signing back into the game.

Technically, the upgrades in question were more of a correct bet on the pace of gear inflation than a literal handout. Due to my Wintergrasp habit, I wrapped up the patch 3.2 era with 90 marks and 67K honor. Rather than spend them on items that offered minor upgrades, I opted to save them for the following arena season. Now I have cashed in these currencies for the ilvl 264 PVP bracers, ilvl 251 shoulders, and ilvl 245 neck and cloak - I had ilvl 200 or 213 items in these slots previously, so even the PVE->PVP swaps were major upgrades. The hardest part of this transaction was waiting for the apparently dispirited Hyjal Alliance to capture Wintergrasp for access to the vendor.

The irony is that I was actually willing to run a few dungeons for some gear. Prior to my shopping spree, there were a relatively large number of items in the ICC 5-mans that represented substantial upgrades. Also, the gear threshold on Heroic Halls of Reflection appears to have been increased since I beat it twice in random pugs on the week it came out - my gear was suddenly no longer good enough to guarantee an easy clear of the place until I cashed in those upgrades, and I otherwise might have had to grind out some upgrades to regain access to the game's toughest 5-man.

Looking ahead
Strangely, the previews for Cataclysm say that Blizzard is keeping this old system, in which players will be allowed to bank currencies that will be usable to purchase better items in subsequent "seasons". Moreover, the system is expanding from PVP (where it makes some sense - your opponents may be wearing the good stuff) to PVE content. The Wrath era has seen several rounds of emblem quality inflation for the same 5-man dungeons (which have gotten comparatively easier as players become more and more overgeared), but those changes have never been retroactive to currency earned in the PREVIOUS season in the way that PVP honor points are.

At the end of the day, I suppose the moral of the story is that players should do whatever they enjoy most and rest increasingly assured that Blizzard will somehow manage to award them with raid quality loot for doing it. Perhaps banking currency for the future is even necessary as a way to encourage players not to call it quits as the end of a season approaches if they don't have anything left to purchase. Even so, it just seems odd that, in this timesink heavy genre, the trend would move towards allowing players to skip a timesink by banking currencies for future tiers.

3 comments:

Talarian said...

You're sort of correct when it comes to banking currencies in Cataclysm. As its been announced, you'll only be able to buy up to the previous tier of gear (PvE or PvP) with banked currency, which is different from how it is today. Your honor points would only be good for the Patch 3.2 gear, rather than the Patch 3.3 gear you got today. As you intimate, it's to allow folks to catch up to the current tier of raiding or Battleground/Arena season, but not overgear it off the bat.

"Even so, it just seems odd that, in this timesink heavy genre, the trend would move towards allowing players to skip a timesink by banking currencies for future tiers."

To this point, it's not odd whatsoever if you consider the model that Wrath has followed, things such as rep grinds doable as you do heroics, or stuff like the Star Pony.

The primary player base is aging: people who played hours on end Everquest and Ultima Online back in the day have families and careers now. With a family and career comes less time, but with a career comes extra spending income. Players are willing to pay a subscription fee to play "their" game in bursts at a time, in one to two hour chunks. The people paying the bills buying things like sparkle ponies. People wanting to participate in raids without sinking 30 hours a week to do so are Blizzard's bread and butter now. I don't think it's odd, I think it's a natural evolution of the genre. As the video game player base in general grows older and matures, so should the games they play.

Green Armadillo said...

"As its been announced, you'll only be able to buy up to the previous tier of gear (PvE or PvP) with banked currency, which is different from how it is today."

We're currently evaluating whether a glass is half-empty or half-full.

Not all of the slots can be bought with banked currency today either - all Wintergrasp rewards are actually a tier behind (as they have been since the Wrath launch), and the best set armor that can be obtained with honor alone is two tiers back at ilvl 232. In Cataclysm, as you note, everything will be pushed down to previous tier (a downgrade for the non-set items), so the glass is half-empty.

On the PVE side of things, however, banked emblems (now called points) will suddenly be able to purchase better gear on patch day. Patches 3.2 and 3.3 improved the quality of the emblems you got for running the same dungeons AFTER the patches hit, but they didn't replace your existing inventory with the previously harder to get emblems. I still have a fair number of conquest, valor, and heroism emblems that would be effectively upgraded under the new system - that glass is half-full.

What's my main Again? said...

Never thought of it that way... essentially you could spend the first 6 months of cata grinding out emblems... and then just stop playing until the last raid tier is released. Bam! buy up all the past tier items and jump into the last tier of raiding.

Wouldn't be a fun way to play but is interesting that your currency from day one increases in value over time instead of decreasing.