Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cataclysm Mid-level Gear Resets

My mage just hit level 84 while doing some of the early quests in Uldum. I decided to skip Deepholm so that I could do SOME of the expansion at its intended level.  As a result, I hit Uldum with a bunch of fresh blue loot that I'd just gotten out of BRC and Throne of Tides... only to immediately replace them with quest reward greens. 

Hitting a gear reset when a new patch or expansion comes out is relatively common at this point, but I really wasn't expecting dungeon reward gear to be quite so short-lived. 

Leveling dungeons of Cataclysm
The seven new 5-man dungeons of Cataclysm are effectively divided into three level-range tiers (81-82, 83-84, and 85).  The strange thing is that players gain enough (or, in my case, more than enough) experience to leave each level range just from then solo quests.  My dungeon gear got pitched the moment after I looted it because it was already out of date by the time I got it (late in level 83, and therefore in the tier above the 81-82 content).   

This design drastically limits the range of dungeons that you would want to do at any given level. Once you get to level 85 and acquire enough gear to unlock heroic dungeons, you will have nine options available to you.  Unfortunately, a level 83 character's random queue includes four dungeons (two of which are out-dated), and I'm told that the level 85 random normal dungeon includes the 3 level 85 dungeons plus the 2 83-84 dungeons (which you no longer want to run by then).  If there's one thing that makes WoW's dungeon system feel old faster, it's doing the same limited selection over and over again. 

Exp but not gear
Blizzard's in a difficult situation here because the power level of gear increases significantly over the expansion.  The experience curve seems to be balanced around players completing all the solo content without rested exp.  In reality, the stuff I've done for the exp from 80-84 includes: 
  • All the quests in Vashj'ir
  • 2-3 quests in Deepholm (for access to the zone)
  • About a dozen quests in each of Hyjal and Uldum (about the minimum needed to hit friendly with the local reputations, so that I can have their tabards for dungeon rep at 85). 
  • One run each through Blackrock Caverns, Throne of the Tides, and Stonecore
  • Enough archeology surveying to get to 135 skill
  • 15-20 days worth of daily cooking quest
  • Completed the "explore Cataclysm" achievement by flying around the new zones
  • Logged off in cities, so that I've always had rested exp while leveling
The last four items are the problem, as all of these award exp (not huge amounts individually, but they add up) while not providing any gear.  If there was no exp from these activities (or if the exp curve was balanced to account for them), Blizzard would be able to safely assume that I was always acquiring level appropriate gear as I gained levels.  Because players can inadvertently get ahead of the gear curve, it becomes necessary to provide a way to catch on gear. 

The result has the unfortunate effect of really limiting the value of running these leveling dungeons.  It's probably still worth visiting each location once since there are guaranteed quest rewards, but the remaining loot for the majority of the expansion's normal five-man content just isn't going to stick around long enough to be worth farming. 


Xaxziminrax II said...

>players can inadvertently get ahead of the gear curve

As you suggested, they can raise the required XP or offer less XP from any/every thing to account for this, but whatever players (like me!) who don't do these things?

If blizz offers anymore than the bare minimum of xp, then it's always going to be possible to get ahead of the 'gear curve' but if they offer only the bare minimum, then someone who chooses to skip a particular piece of content (such as dailies, ew) will be left grinding at 84.

I believe that they want to offer much more xp than is necessary and for many reasons, including that people can grind quests at 85 to make money and get DE mats/vendorables, and to be able to offer a structured story that's still rewarding ingame items.

You also have to account for the chance that they're trying to structure these 5 levels like they did the other xpacs' ten; in which case it would be like replacing auchindoun instance gear with netherstorm quest rewards.

xiani said...

"it becomes necessary to provide a way to catch on gear"

It's called the auction house!

I have a healer character who hasn't touched a quest in either of the 80+ starter areas, has done 3 dungeon runs and a lot of archaeology (yeah, am alchemist & I want the vial recipe!) and is nearly 82 already.

The cash I make from alchemy (transmuting life to air mostly, plus some gems) is over 500g a day for 5 minutes work, and more than enough to buy some very nice blue gear which keeps me well ahead of what you need to survive the dungeons. Well, when you get a non-idiot tank anyway...

I like how you can progress in different ways - my 2 main DPS characters are doing the quest zones, always blue XP, and between 'em I should see everything, and in the meantime I can learn all the dungeons the hard way by healing 'em and get to see all the old-world changes through the endless archaeology travelling.

Wynddom said...

I'd like to suggest that you might have a different experience if you were acquiring multiple gearsets. My hunter was in the same situation as your mage, xp/gear-wise, but I'm running around on my paladin now with a friend on his shaman and we're both pleased as punch with the gear.

We're both working on at least 2 sets, so it's all quite useful. Our primary set might not have any upgrades from a quest, but the secondary or tertiary sets can always use pieces.