Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The Devaluation of Purple
Rawrasaur alerted me to an interesting article on the Nihilum website about the devaluation of purple. Somebody quoting Greenspan and Adam Smith in an article about WoW can't be a bad person. :) The author claims that World of Warcraft does conform to Adam Smith's rule of things working because of everyone's self-interest. But he claims it goes against the rules of ownership protection and relative happiness. That is that by giving out epics more freely, TBC devalued them, and makes going after epics less interesting.
I have my problems with that second part of his analysis. Am I more happy about the food on my table because people in Africa are starving? I'm not, and I sure hope there aren't all that many people who think like that. When Adam Smith talks about ownership protection, he means that it is important to know that you will keep whatever you earn, with nobody taking it away from you. Somebody else being able to earn it as well doesn't come into the equation.
Especially in the PvE part of World of Warcraft there is no actual negative effect of other people having epics. Just the opposite, if you join a pickup group your chances of success if obviously better if the other guys are wearing epics. PvE measures the strength of the players against the strength of computer-controlled monsters, and if the players increase their strength by wearing epic gear that is an absolute advantage. Relative advantages only come into play in the context of PvP, or if you are of the rather foolish persuasion that strutting through Ironforge wearing shiny epics somehow makes you worthy of the admiration of others.
The Burning Crusade has made "epics" relatively common. Clearing out Karazhan gives as many epics as clearing out Molten Core, but divided by 4 times less players, thus raid epics are now 4 times as common. Pre patch 1.12 PvP epics were reserved for the 1% of players how played PvP the most, but nowadays at least half of the level 70 players seem to wear them. If Blizzard made a mistake with that it was to make PvP epics look the same as raid epics. "Look at me, I'm wearing epics" is just causing a yawn nowadays. You need to wear legendary gear to get noticed.
I'm actually surprised that there are still people with that "I'm special, I got epics" mindset around. Because TBC not only taught us that epics are easy to get, it also taught us that every expansion makes the epics of the last expansion useless. There *will* be green items in Wrath of the Lich King better than the current purple items. Maybe Blizzard shouldn't have used color coding at all, but rather a numerical value. There already is a item level, but it doesn't correspond to player levels any more. Instead of having "epic" items in purple, all items with stats could be colored green, and what is now purple would just be marked with the level at which you are most likely to replace it with something that dropped from a random mob. That way you have less the impression that a new expansion "resets" your gear, but more of an impression of the new expansion opening up new avenues of progress.
Yes, people play WoW for the rewards, for their self-interest. But in cooperative multiplayer gameplay that self-interest shouldn't rely on other people having less epics than you have. The people who rushed to level 70 when TBC came out, formed an "A" team for Karazhan, and lorded it over their "lesser" guild members of the "B" team, should have learned their lesson when they arrived at the 25-man raids with 15 people missing. The guilds who were rotating and mixing teams from the start might have beaten the prince later, but came out of it with enough well equipped players to tackle the next stage and a lot less guild drama. Raiders should learn that it is in their self-interest to spread out the epics more evenly. Didn't we have enough of "we spent months to equip our main tank and now he left" at level 60 already? And if to some extent guild members can equip themselves with epics by doing PvP, the other raiders should be happy how this speeds up the whole guild's progress, and not denigrate them as "welfare epics". If TBC handed out epics more freely, that helpful and not a devaluation of purple.