Category Archives: Loot

Achievement (Hate), Exploration and Mystery

The epic quest of kill ten rats has humble beginnings. Once upon a time the explorers of virtual worlds received hardly a hint of where to go or what to do but such are not the times we live in. Those who embarked on this journey before Blizzard’s time will remember that era of glorious uncertainty but early WoW players too, know how considerably the questing experience has changed over the course of a decade. The “kill ten rats” of yore and the “kill ten rats” of today have precious little in common.

Kill ten rats: a history of epic questing

Year #1
Player X overhears NPC talking of a special breed of rats with silver pelts that may exist “somewhere”. Player finds said rats by accident one day. Player kills rats, loots five pelts in 30 minutes. Player feels special. Wahey.

Year #2
NPC asks player X to find rats with silver pelts and deliver them. Player finds said rats one day, thanks to friendly advice in zone chat. Player kills rats, gets money in return from NPC.

Year #3
NPC asks player X to find rats with silver pelts at the barn northwest of the inn. Player finds said rats after some searching, kills rats, gets money in return from NPC.

Year #4
NPC with an exclamation mark asks player X to find rats with silver pelts at the barn northwest of the inn. Also, there is a yellow marker on the world and mini-map. Player finds said rats, kills rats, gets money in return from NPC.

Year #5
NPC with an exclamation mark asks player X to find rats with silver pelts at the barn northwest of the inn. Also, there is a yellow marker on the world and mini-map. And the rats sparkle! Player can’t miss rats, kills rats, gets money in return from NPC.

Year #6
NPC with an exclamation mark asks player X to find rats with silver pelts at the barn northwest of the inn. Also, there is a yellow marker on the world and mini-map. And the rats sparkle! And the fastest route is now also indicated in red on the world map! Player can’t possibly miss rats, kills rats, gets money in return from NPC.

Year #7
NPC with an exclamation mark, now also indicated on the mini-map, asks player X to find rats with silver pelts at the barn northwest of the inn. Also, there is a yellow marker on the world and mini-map. And the rats sparkle! And the fastest route is now also indicated in red on the world map! And the player has epic flying mount of ludicrous speed. Player can’t possibly for the life of him miss rats, kills rats, gets money and silver pelt cloak in return from NPC.

Year #8
NPC with an exclamation mark, now also indicated on the mini-map, asks player X to find rats with silver pelts at the barn north/northwest/south/southwest of the inn. Also, there are many yellow markers on the world and mini-map. And the rats sparkle! And the fastest route is now also indicated in red on the world map! And the player has epic flying mount of ludicrous speed. Player can’t possibly for the life of him miss rats, kills rats, gets money and silver pelt cloak in return from NPC. After delivery, player X receives special kill-ten-rats achievement!

Year #9+
After reading the achievement tab, player X finds NPC with an exclamation mark, also indicated on the mini-map. NPC asks player X to find rats with silver pelts at the barn north/northwest/south/southwest of the inn. Also, there are many yellow markers on the world and mini-map. And the rats sparkle! And the fastest route is now also indicated in red on the world map! And the player has epic flying mount of ludicrous speed. Player can’t possibly for the life of him miss rats, kills rats, gets money and epic pelt cloak in return from NPC. After delivery, player X receives special kill-ten-rats achievement!

..Such explorers we are. Paradoxically, the shorter, the safer, the more navigated and convenient our questing has become over the years, the more MMOs have felt the need to reward us for it. That makes no sense whatsoever but it’s not a coincidence either. More on that later.

Why I hate Achievements

A fair warning: I don’t like achievements. I get why some players like, nay love achievements but I really don’t. More importantly, I don’t think they have any business in this genre.

The unconditionally worst thing that has ever happened to MMOs are achievements. Hate is a strong word and applies for my case of die-hard explorerdom although it need not be yours. Nothing feels more counter-intuitive, more obtrusive or immersion-breaking to me than the flashy achievement fonts and in-your-face achievement tabs that greet me in most of today’s MMOs – yes, even at the bloody login screen of once-great Guild Wars 2. Sic transit gloria mundi virtualis. When did all this happen?

While that’s achievements on the surface, repercussions reach much further. Several times on this blog have I raised the question of why virtual worlds need to save time, why players need to be told what to do and where to go by which path when developers have spent years creating vast open worlds of beauty. What’s it all for – just a pretty, expensive paint around a game telling me what’s an achievement?

Who would wish to complete a world? Completionism, pre-defined paths and goals, extrinsic motivators – none of these go with my personal sense of exploration. Every time unwanted and un-asked for achievements pop up in an MMO, my chosen modus operandi is disturbed or hindered. Every time that happens, that delicate illusion of virtual world is shattered. Worse, there’s no opt-in (why?).

The greatest RPG I’ve ever played was a game I didn’t complete. Where things happened at random, sometimes or never again. Where going south was as good as going north and an endless sense of mystery added depth and immensity to the world.

Even if you can’t design endless worlds, you can create size through mystery. Exploration feeds off mystery – and mystery is neither excellent nor should it be fully solvable.

Mystery resists.  Mystery refuses.  It will not yield.  Not to me.

Mystery resists closure.  It resists completion and clean getaways.  It, instead, insists.  I’m not done with you yet.  Get back over here.

Mystery is not merely the unknown.  It is the impossibility of knowing and yet the continual attempt to know.  It is unknowability itself.  It is futile and essential.

Why do we diminish our own experience?  Are we afraid of not connecting, of confirming our solitude? [T. Thompson]

No really, go read the whole thing.

When the journey is no longer the reward…we need more rewards?

Whether you agree with my passionate sentiments or not, what most design critics can agree on is the relationship between journey/effort and goal/reward in games; the required balance in order to make either feel significant. Long and hard journeys with never a memento to show for feel unfulfilled, just as easy and plentiful loot won’t be remembered by anybody. More than that though, whenever players think back on their greatest achievements in MMOs, they don’t usually name purple swords and special titles but rather the road that led there, the obstacles that had to be overcome in the company of comrades. Naturally, loot matters too and we’ll keep those special items forever – yet loot like an epilogue, is only the last part of that story.

The journey is the reward. Knowing that we did it, that we’ve accomplished something. The shiny purple sword is a representation of that experienced, gratifying victory. It means nothing if we got it for a bargain on the flea market. (Okay maybe if there was an achievement for that….)

So, if the journey becomes ever shorter, ever more straight-forward and without mystery, what will a game attempt in order to compensate for lack of win? Will it pile on the rewards, the titles, the achievements – desperate to convince us we achieved something anyway?

I don’t need to be told I achieved something in shrill and flashing colors. I should be able to feel it and to judge it was a worthy cause. That’s when you may reward me with items, sometimes, so I may carry them with me to tell the world about my adventures.

And whither there? I cannot say. For now, let’s leave it a mystery!

[GW2] Just can’t get their throat stuffed

Back from summer break, which I spent castle hunting and aching from bike tours, I was reluctantly excited for the Bazaar of the Four Winds update in GW2 which follows ANet’s recent announcement of aiming for bi-weekly content patches in the future. Yep, that sounds wild – and you’ve heard it here first! Really, it’s a rare thing when a MMO developer goes and fulfills what you’ve wished for specifically on your blog in the past. That has me convinced I need to continue my wishlist category!

In the end however it’s not just the frequency of new content that matters. Is it content? – Or is it rather that someone at ANet just can’t seem to get their throat stuffed on back items?


Ye shiny graphics, they don’t fool me.

GW2: The Magic Formula

As you arch an eyebrow at above expression, let me elaborate: it’s a liberty I am taking on this here blog from time to time that I literally translate sayings and idioms over from my native tongue. Every now and then there’s an expression just too perfect and impossible to translate adequately – and in this case it’s GW2 (and other MMOs for that matter) just not getting enough already of the same item-grinds and achievements. Are we there yet? Do we have enough yet?

Seems not. They can’t get their throat stuffed (or full) of the same old or maybe it’s really what the player base wants. I don’t know – it’s not like anyone is allowed to complain much about an essentially free-to-play MMO but then, I’ll keep doing it. Personally, I find it highly insulting that we aren’t only grinding items and achievements with every new “content patch” but the same items! Welcome to GW2’s magic event formula: new weapon and armor skins, new back items, mini-games and jumping puzzles! Oh and that last one is all around you this time because the friggin’ bazaar is sky-borne! I have been to one of the world’s biggest, most famed and wondrous bazaars: it was dark, cramped and stuffy, like a city’s underbelly maze. I would’ve preferred this a hundred times over to the lofty acrobatics required to get to the Bazaar of the Four Winds – but nomen est omen so doh @self!

Magic formula ranting aside, I am still looking for the actual content here. My first impressions are bitter and sarcastic (I’m sure you needed this update) but Syp is having fun and so I shall give this investigation some more time. I understand that several achis are linked to an event further down the line, so maybe I can bring myself to care about that. That said, I am starting to take grim pride in the pitiful amount of achievement points I’ve accumulated on my character so far (which apparently is going to disadvantage me now too); it’s one of the more bizarre side-effects this current generation of MMOs has had on me that I am developing inverted snobbery where things like gear or achievements are concerned. Achieving nothing is the new purple!

Anyway, there’s apparently a “best dive” achievement for this event that sounds right up my alley. Nothing feels more adequate than throwing yourself off a high cliff in desperation after facing even more back items and jumping puzzles! Fingers crossed my PC won’t crash again as my character swan-dives from 10’000 feet altitude. Geronimooo!

The problem of loot rolls and merit

Adhering to the rule of “it’s best to write while thought is still fresh”, this post is a follow-up on Syp’s poll on protocol which comes with many layers of telling subtext. To continue where I personally left off in my comments there, here’s my general opinion on the matter of rolling for boss loot in that particular situation:

“3rd one for me although I don’t disagree with your choice either. if you feel okay to roll, you’ve every right to, as you said you WERE there too for the kill. but personally, I would feel obligated to let the other clerics have first pick, out of courtesy and empathy for sticking all the way through such a (seemingly) sucky run / group. which they might have had a fair share in of course, but yeah….I don’t see boss loot as an isolated thing; often the last boss in a dungeon really is also the best one for loot and the whole reason why people run it for 30 minutes or however long. I’d feel like a freeloader because I was only there for 5mins. but that’s me and I wouldn’t berate someone in my party for choosing differently (although if they outrolled me like that I would grind my teeth).”

“On further consideration, I think you made a legit choice within a system that is inherently flawed. the fact that raid guilds replace the whole rolls system with DKP, which pays a lot more tribute to meritocracy, is proof of that people don’t get rewarded for just showing up* but spending time. one could apply this to the much shorter dungeon runs too but for obvious reasons of time and missing authority, one cannot establish such ground rules for pugs.” [*as in showing up just for one boss]

I hold to that, although I think it needs some clarification. I will repeat too that I think Syp was 100% in his right to make that choice which is in accord with the system that Trion installed in the game. I would however argue that it’s not a very good system which is proven by situations such as this one – and that there’s still such a thing as individual choice.

So why is the system so bad?

It honestly shocked me a little to find so many comments along the lines of “if you killed the boss it means you deserved to roll for loot, period” – particularly because I think “deserving” has the least to do with anything. Does the system justify the roll? Yes. Does merit justify the roll? Absolutely not.

I think every last MMO player knows that dungeons consist of a great deal more than just bosses (unless they’re called Trial of the Grand Crusader); why else are there dungeons in the first place instead of loot piñatas lined up for us to plow through? Of course the entire journey through a dungeon, the trash packs, the little traps and annoyances along the way that make up 80-90% of the duration, are how players earn the rite of passage to bosses and loot. And therefore too, bosses and boss loot are not isolated events but rather the result and reward for beating the whole dungeon. Sure, for beating boss mechanics too – but if you’ve ever been to harder dungeons or heroics, you know that everything that comes before and in between bosses is often just as tough or even tougher than many of them. And it’s certainly more numerous.

Add to this, that in many dungeons the final boss is also the boss with the best loot – not necessarily because he is the hardest, but because it took friggin’ AGES to get there! I’d like to name good old WoW Scholomance, just to name one example: even in its 5man version, Scholomance was absolutely huge and a group could easily spend ~2 hours in there (certainly a PuG). The very last boss in Scholo was Gandling who, in comparison to the onerous 2 hours before him, wasn’t all that hard – but he dropped the important dungeon set one headpieces that everyone wanted.

Now, had you joined my party right before Gandling (which is the boss I had to farm the most in vanilla WoW due to loot luck from hell) and then outrolled me on the drop, you can bet I would’ve been absolutely devastated and furious. Did you have “a right to”? As long as no other rules were established – I guess. Equally, I would’ve had every right to grind my teeth though. Just because you can do something or have the right to do it, doesn’t mean it’s particularly thoughtful or “deserving”. If people always got what they deserved…well, what a beautiful world that would be.

To make a long story short, my main critique addresses the reasoning that such rolls are deserved – which I believe Syp asked about, partly also because he did have second thoughts. There’s a reason why the moment raidguilds start out, many replace the need/greed-roll system with their own version of DKP (or something similar) and it’s not just because raiding is a generally more time-consuming undertaking than PuGs: while DKP harmonizes loot spread for a guild for example, it also comes with the notion of being meritocratic – players get rewards due to the time they spend raiding overall, not just for showing up for one single boss. DKP is nothing but the attempt to make a currency out of merit and while it isn’t perfect on all accounts, it’s worlds better than random rolls.

To use WoW again as example: just because you killed Arthas once with your new guild doesn’t mean you have any right to his loot – I’m fairly certain that a vast majority of the guilds out there would agree with me. And why? Because the time you spent on getting him down is nowhere close to what other guild members spent. That’s what DKP is about, it doesn’t matter that the raid instance is bigger (the loot is therefore better too) – it’s the same basic question of time/effort spent vs. reward earned.

For obvious reasons you cannot use a meritocratic system like DKP in a PuG. There’s the issue of time, lack of organization and authority and erm… the end how big a deal is a dungeon drop, anyway? I realize many players probably don’t care so much either way (which is fine). I think I have made my point though. The rolls-system is flawed and while that isn’t your fault, you still have a choice. It scares me a little when we stop questioning our own choices just because we’re living in a system that tells us what is okay and what isn’t. No system is perfect.

But then…

…. I am not quite finished! There’s in fact another valid question I could bring up in favor of rolling: why should Syp be penalized by entering a party that has already advanced as far into the dungeon (which he had no way of knowing)? In some MMOs this even means being saved to the instance with no chance of re-running it the same day. Why shouldn’t he roll on the item when he actually joined to help and made killing the boss possible in the first place? What if he spent 30 minutes in a queue and this is his only chance at a group for the day?

Now that would be, in my humble opinion, a much better justification. If you choose to go with this reasoning, I would not only say he had every right to roll – but he actually deserved to. If PuGs are a deal of “you give some, you gain some”, this strikes me as better “payment” or contribution on his part than pushing a couple of spells for five minutes. If we take all circumstances into account, his contribution consisted of more than merely five minutes.

Bottom line: I don’t think this would change my own choice of action, but it’s a more acceptable reasoning to me personally. Considering it took writing a blog post (plus checking spelling!), I don’t like anyone’s chances to garner equal sympathy or argumentative effort from a random PuG-member though. What it shows me is one (more) reason why I never liked PuGs much in WoW or Rift and why I prefer reward systems à la GW2 these days. You might not have time to agree on complex loot rules in a PuG, but the game can most certainly come up with a better designed, in-built system for you.

All the ways that WoW changed me

In a recent conversation on what types of reward GW2 may offer players at max level and whether it will be enough to satisfy more reward-driven players, it dawned on me how much I’ve changed my outlook or rather my expectations towards certain aspects of MMOs – since WoW. Now, overall I certainly haven’t changed my mind, I still love the genre for the same reasons: a vast world, beautiful fantasy settings, secrets to explore, character development and real people to meet on the way. Yet there are aspects I’ve fundamentally changed my opinion on or rather my wishes in; maybe I should say that they’ve been satisfied to a point where I no longer appreciate them. And WoW has certainly much to do with it.

I’ve never been a particularly reward-driven player, or rather I would say I’ve never cared so much for items. Items and reward are not the same thing although they usually coincide, especially in MMOs as item-centric as WoW. I play for challenge, for that feeling of accomplishment first and I play for the team; shinies are nice in addition but they lose all value if there are no requirements and restrictions. That’s when I feel “rewarded”, when I overcame an obstacle with others – these are the things we take with us. I would argue that there are actually a lot more players playing for the reward of challenge than realize it – but then, I guess it’s a valid point that if GW2 offered nothing for all the collectors and achievers, that would hurt its popularity. Item drops are of course not the only way to satisfy in this department: I expect them to come up with special dyes, lots of cosmetic items and things like titles or rare pets. If that creates enough opportunities to “show off” in the game I can’t tell, but whoever expects to collect tier/pvp sets and weapons in abundance will get disappointed in GW2.

Personally I couldn’t care less. Whatever value I might ever have put in rare gear or upgrades has been completely and utterly smashed by WoW. To say that I got tired and sick of loot wouldn’t do matters justice. Mind, I still like cosmetics and GW2 offers plenty of that plus the great dye system; but whether I own anything special, expensive or best-in-slot is the least concern in my mind. I loved how my bags hardly ever filled up last beta (and yes…I know about that ‘deposit collectible’ feature….now), give me less loot ArenaNet!

So, that’s my number one for the list of “things that WoW changed for me”. Of course there’s more –

1) Item / gear rewards; 
See reasons explained above.

2) Raids and endgame; 
Raiding was a big motivator for me to play WoW. I did little else in vanilla and never stopped raiding until Cataclysm. WoW was obviously very focused on its raiding endgame by design, but I simply loved the big scale raids, coordinating so many people, the teamwork, the whole guild effort involved.

The present: These days I loathe the idea of raiding – the whole organisation, the downtimes due to numbers, the headache that is recruitment. I want a close-knit team of a few good men ready to roll in a few minutes. I want content to be accessible for a small group of quality rather than a big ass raid.

3) Roles and healing;
There’s never been a more passionate priest or healing coordinator than myself in WoW. That is the one thing I can say with confidence. I’ve played my holy priest through 6 years of WoW and countless raids that I coordinated. I loved being a healer, being needed support, having that sort of responsibility.

The present: I haven’t played a healer, not even a support class ever since WoW – not in Rift or any other game I dabbled at since. I love my aggressive pyromancer in GW2 and if anyone’s ever going to ask me to join their group just for healing rains, they can drop dead! Oh sweet, sweet mob-centric gameplay, oh sweet not carrying anybody! As for the holy trinity in general, I doubt I need to repeat here how great I think it’s missing in GW2. I prefer to be recruited for playing well rather than for being a role. So far I’ve seen zero indication that GW2 enforces any type of stricter group or spec setup. People have been asking a lot of things in general chat this beta but they haven’t asked for tanks and healers. Healing, control and ressing is everybody’s job or nobody’s.

4) Specs;
I’ve spent unimaginable amounts of time writing guides on raid specs, reading up on stats and talent builds during my time as a raider and coordinator. There wasn’t much freedom there for me; the WoW endgame raid scene was big on things like cookie cutters, optimization and meters.

The present in frank: I don’t give a shit what spec is best and I choose my traits as I go. In fact, I love experimenting and I’ll play whatever is the most FUN and efficient to ME. I won’t ever respec again for anyone but myself.

5) Mounts;
I always liked the idea of a mount, that loyal companion carrying me through the world. I’m fairly traditional in that I prefer horses plain and simple (alternatively a ferocious tiger is okay too), stuff like giant turtles, spiders and erm….green polar bears with shades just seems weird. When WoW introduced flying mounts I was in heaven……at first.

The present: I don’t miss a ground mount in GW2 and I certainly never want to play a classic MMO again with flying mounts. I’ve missed being on foot in WoW, that sense of distance and all the chance encounters. And yes, I could’ve walked through Azeroth and yes occasionally I used a waypoint in GW2 – still, grouping and raiding as much as I did in WoW, getting everyone to wait for me wasn’t an option. It’s also simply a different feeling if the game leaves you no option but to be on foot. As for flying mounts, they were so fast and so convenient, one must wonder what the whole zone design and all the mobs below were designed for. To be rushed through once while leveling and never return?

These are mainly the things I came up with when thinking about all the ways WoW changed my preferences. One can certainly argue that some of the change is due to the effect of time; I’ve been there done that for a very long time, I moved on to wanting different. And while that may play a part, I still don’t think it’s the main factor but rather the way how these aspects were designed and realized in WoW: I might not feel so sick of loot today if WoW hadn’t pledged itself to putting every candy-store out there out of business. I might be less tired of big raids if….literally everything in terms of grouping, recruitment and social control hadn’t gone down the drain ever since WotLK and LFG. I might still enjoy healing had there not been such a rigid focus on roles that left healers with nothing much to do but staring at healthbars and getting most of the blame by lolkids. I might still be interested in what an ideal spec is if I wasn’t so full of spite for anything resembling a cookie-cutter. And I might still find joy in mounts had not every player in WoW run around with one million gazillion mounts to choose from that would all run, fly, crawl, hover and whatever else at five-hundred percent LUDICROUS SPEED (or however much it is by now).

Yes…..I actually might!

Time for some questions!

It would be most intriguing to hear how other longterm ex-WoW players think about the effects WoW had on them (or alternatively another MMO you’ve played a lot), how it might have changed their outlook or wishes for MMOs to come. So, what about you?

Do you think WoW has changed you as a player? In what ways?
Do you think extreme experiences (burnout) have to do with it or is it just boreout / want for new?
How much of the ‘blame’ would you attribute to game design, how much to your personal playstyle choices?
Have your expectations towards a new game changed due to WoW or another MMO you’ve played?
Do you wish for different things in GW2 than you used to wish for?

I realize in retrospective that this could be an excellent meta-topic to share and debate among a wider circle of bloggers, to examine all the dis-/similarities and get a more universal look at the impact WoW has had on the current MMO player base. Ever since the WoW era, many have moved on to blogging about different games but WoW is still a common denominator among us. Well, maybe someone else will take up these questions sometime.

[UPDATE: Since there’s already been few reactions by other bloggers asking to write their own take on this topic (which is awesome), I will definitely make a follow-up post with a list of all responses in a couple of days. Let me know in the comments / on twitter if you’re writing your own post (if you haven’t already), I’d loathe to miss somebody. Thanks – I look forward to some great posts and/or comments!]

Bogus Belt of the Silly Nonsense

So we got ourselves some more shiny loot on Tuesday, as we cleared our way through Bastion of Twilight after a week of many kills and clearing everything up to Nefarian in Blackwing Descent. And I gotta say the raid loot in Cataclysm is a little funny all around..

Almost since week one, we’re sharding 25-30% of the drops. I don’t know if we’re just majorly unlucky (maybe my bad standing with Lady RNG is taking over the guild?) on repetitive drops, but it hurts to already be sharding gear this early into fresh content. Extra shards or not, it’s wrong!

Then, there are the oddly unbalanced loot tables and itemization. It seems Blizzard’s armor department had jolly good fun creating belts of all shapes and colors and headpieces for the expansion and totally forgot about creating more and better choices for other item slots maybe! As a priest healer, stuff like bracers, wands and main hand weapons for example, seem very hard to come by. Jewelry isn’t exactly being sold out on the streets of Stormwind either.
The current BiS staff for probably priests and druids alike (and I fear some DPS too) is a trash drop (!) in Bastion of Twilight. The alternative to that is….a staff from archeology! Riiiiight, do you see me getting that one?

And it’s not just that – have you noticed the names of some of these items? We had a laughing fit last raidnight in the healers channel, reading some of the names our supposedly epic drops of heroic awesomeness are carrying:

Scorched Wormling Vest

Ew! I don’t even wanna imagine how that looks like! Were they at least really shiny, epic wormlings that went into that chestpiece or are we talking gooey sewer dwellers?

Sky Strider Belt of the Faultline
Soul Breath Belt of the Feverflame
Belt of Absolute Zero

Absolute zero? Wait.. as in zero zero?? Really absolutely absolute zero???
And what’s with these clunky long-winded names: Sould Breath Belt of the Feverflame? Whoa, my tiny mind is boggling under the exercise!
And what on earth is Faultline? AM I PLAYING FOOTBALL AGAINST MY WILL NOW?

Gale Rouser Belt of the Undertow

Erm….help me out here English people: Undertow? Now, I know what this word means, in theory, but what exactly is this belt doing? Anyone?

Anyway, we ended up deciding that Bogus Belt of the Silly Nonsense really was as good a name as any for the items currently dropping in Bastion of Twilight and Co. Would you notice much if that belt dropped among Sky Strider Belt of the Faultline and Gale Rouser Belt of the Undertow? And can you say this last sentence 10 times in a row real fast?

Whose MMO am I playing here?

There are innumerable examples of such failed nomenclature to be found on current WoW loot tables. It makes me wonder whether the “naming department” over at Blizzard has been sent off to work out item names for Diablo and Starcraft, along with their music composers. Clumsy, far fetched name-giving like this is one reason why I chose to play the original version of WoW 6 years ago. Right now, it sounds as if English WoW has actually been translated, very badly, from somewhere else. Is the “real World of Warcraft” secretly in Chinese these days and we’re all just playing a bad translation?

Or maybe they’re just running out of ideas in a fantasy MMO. Now that’s not very comforting, is it? “BUT Syl! WoW has been there for 6 years, that’s thousands of ingame items, one can only come up with so many fantastic names!”

Really? I don’t think so. I can’t obviously prove it very well and send you a list of a couple of thousand item names, but I’ll just claim that if it was my job to design things such as these, I would still try and do a little better than some random fantasy-name generator on the internet!

How much gold should we take into Cataclysm?

I bet a few are thinking now “what a silly question! As much as possible of course – you can never have enough gowld!”.
In fact you can, or at least I think I can; gold has never been of any further interest to me in WoW than getting me to where I’m going and pay the bills (most of which are raiding related). Money is boring and frankly, it’s already too big a fuss in the real world – I don’t need to dedicate time on it in a game as well. Because of that, the whole money game and auction house-mania has utterly passed me by all these years. I get no kicks from things like profit or bargains and really, I can afford the things I need and there’s precious little that I want that can be bought (and if it is, I have it by now). My ultimate question about my ingame currency is always “what items can it get me?” – it’s not there to look pretty, is it?

I’ve always been a little baffled by the concept of “unlimited wealth”; it’s probably my pragmatic side but I see no point in having more money than I can ever spend in a game. It’s not like I can pass it on to my children or something. It becomes an abstract number and since ‘the gamble’ doesn’t hold any fascination for me either, I never gave money-making much thought in the past. Sure, I’ll sell some welfare epics if I happen to get them, it’s fast and requires zero effort (also, what else should I be doing with them?). It’s the same with me and cars, if they get me from A to B, I care very little about the rest, they’re just a functional tool. I have a lot of love for the shinies otherwise, but goldmaking and cars aren’t two of them.

That said, there’s been one moment during my WoW career when I was struggling for cash: when I couldn’t afford the epic flying mount start of WotLK. It’s rather ridiculous to be short on cash in WoW and I’d never claim it’s hard to generate, but like I explained before, I was never the player to care about goldmaking just for the sake of it. So when WotLK hit, I sat around 3k gold because I had done more or less nothing but raiding and PVP in TBC. I had also not properly informed myself about how much the whole cold-weather and epic flying deal would cost in the upcoming expansion. My fault obviously and so I ended up taking a loan to afford birdie straight away (which I have since paid back in numerous ways /cough).

I do learn from past mistakes…sometimes. This time around, I will be prepared when Cataclysm throws its 5k+ at me to fly around Azeroth at 310% speed. This time around, I could even afford to pay this amount of gold several times without it impacting on my small change for covering everyday stuff. But it’s more of a tribute to WotLK than my trading efforts really: it has been insanely easy to fill your pockets in this expansion. I’ve not done much besides raiding this time either, but the epics, orbs and saronites from badges made all the difference and there was nothing else to do for me with all the extras (I don’t gear up alts). I wager that Blizzard being aware of their players’ general cash influx, have more than just Azerothian flying in store as goldsink in Cataclysm.

So what do you reckon, how much cash should we take into Cataclysm? Not from a greedy goblin’s point of view, but a pragmatic AH-lazy person’s perspective? Is 15k gonna be enough, or aim higher?

Are you prepared?

What’s your favored loot distribution?

Gear and tier sets especially, are a big deal in World of Warcraft. We’ve seen Blizzard continuously reform their loot system for raiding sets since vanilla WoW, sometimes with better or worse outcome. I always found the tier distribution a fairly tricky topic, with potential for juicy drama.

Cataclysm will once more reform the way players gain their tiers and apparently Blizzard aims for more identification again whereby certain items are clearly associated with boss loot tables. They also want epic gear to be “truly epic” again. Whatever that means.

But if we were the ones to call the shots, what system would you personally opt for? This is what we’ve had in the past:

  1. Bosses drop slot-specific tier items randomly for every class: this is more or less what we had in Vanilla WoW whereby a certain boss drops the tier legs for every class randomly. If you got no use for the item, it gets sharded.

  3. Bosses drop slot-specific tokens randomly for every loot-group: representative of TBC, Lady Vashj would for example drop the head-slot T5 token randomly for loot-group A, B or C. No more shards, instead more gear for off-specs in the raid.

  5. Bosses drop tokens that are neither slot-specific, nor class/loot-group specific: this was done via trophies for T9 in the Trial of the Crusader (Coliseum) raid instance in WotLK.

  7. Bosses drop non-slot-specific tokens randomly for every loot-group: a mixture of the two previous loot distributions which we have seen in Ice Crown Citadel in WotLK.

Me, I have mixed feelings about it. I would definitely never ever want to see loot-groups again because that particular system is a real can of worms. My own guild was stuck with some really foul loot-luck in the priest/paladin/warlock loot-group for several weeks in the past, while at the same time the “pink-whites” (as I call the priest loot-group) made up more than half of our most active raiders roster at that time.
It does not only get very tense during raids when mages and DKs (who in our guild were more or less alone in their group) start collecting off-spec tiers while your 10+ pink-whites in the raid still sit on 1 tier each, but it hits guilds the wrong way as a whole. Especially nowadays when Blizzard themselves want guilds to bring the player instead of the class and we got all sorts of very different raid setups in every guild; we were often very low on druids, shammies, warlocks and rogues for example, with sometimes three times as many priests and paladins to make up for it.

Your most active raiders might belong to the unlucky (or simply over-sized) loot-group and there’s nothing you can do to gear them up, while the rest is forced to collect offspec-gear because you can’t shard tokens. At the same time you will have to deal with the inflation of DKP for those that cannot bid even if they’d really love to.
And personally, as a very active priest healer, I was rather frustrated that I paid 200 DKP for a T8 token that went for 15 DKP in other groups, because this forced me to save on other slots like rings, trinkets etc. where I couldn’t compete against those anymore that got their tiers so cheap. All you can do in such a situation is to say “sod tiers, I’ll get everything else first and the tiers last”, but that is only so much fun.

I actually loved Trial of the (Grand) Crusader exactly for this reason: finally all raiders had an equal chance on tier loot and the distribution was very mixed and even, even if the most active raiders might finish a little sooner (and there’s really nothing wrong with that). There was no tension anymore and we could actually focus on other things rather than rolling our eyes in advance over what the boss might drop.

The only thing I missed about the trophies was that a certain item could not be associated with a respective bosskill no more: I like the fact that gear tells a story. I’d like to see some of the raider’s or raidguild’s achievements or their current state of progression on the player. I think we lose a bit of content-depth without this. So ideally, I’d like the opposite of what was done in ICC: slot-specific tokens yes, class/loot-group specific no. You can still associate the item with a boss if it goes into a defined slot.

Do I think tokens as a whole are a good idea? I can see why you would dislike them: how “realistic” (fantasy-speaking) is it that a mob carries generic raider-tokens around, rather than just gear? Not very much. Gear has the one advantage that you can produce shards for the guildbank if nobody needs the item. Tokens have the advantage that your raiders can gear up their secondary spec (depending on how you handle this, but there’s little point in trashing tokens).

There’s certainly pros&cons to every loot system, and I guess some of us would even love to see something entirely different for WoW. I’ve never been invested in endgame raiding à la WoW in other MMOs, so I can’t draw comparisons there, but I’m sure there’s some interesting, different concepts around.

What is your favored loot distribution? And do you see an issue in tokens and badges?