Tobold's Blog
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.
Thanks for pointing that out. I read the article you reference and was extremely annoyed at the attitude they exhibited.

One of the best things about the Arena Seasons and the continual reduction of requirements to reach endgame raids is that Blizzard is trying to ensure that everyone has a chance to experience all of the content before the next expansion. It's no longer an issue of "I am epic", it's an issue of "Can I beat the content before it's nerfed?"

I'm currently in a Guild where I know that I have little chance of scoring a T5 piece anytime soon. By the time that I can actually raid on a night where we have a T5 boss on farm, I might stand a chance. The odds of my actually completing a set before WotLK is nil. Now I know that with some Heroic/Kara runs, I'll have enough Badges to upgrade when 2.4 drops. We'll finish up TK/SSC and move on.

And I can't wait.

It may have taken a few patches, but now we know Blizzard's game plan and it is a good thing.
That mindset is indeed very common to the Nihilum-kind of raiding guild - they want to be exclusive, have things nobody else has. Guess it's got something to do with the fact that raiding is all they do, raiding is where they get all their self-esteem from (because with all the time they have to spend doing it at that caliber, there's no time left for doing anything else to raise self-esteem) and consequently, they want to be as 1337 as they can possibly get.

I can't say they have my sympathies. Maybe my pity.
Have you read about the experiment with the two monkeys a piece of cucumber and a grape? That already gave drama!
Someone might be satisfied with his reward, until he sees someone else getting another reward for the same job, or maybe the same reward for a different(lesser) job.....
" In TBC the value of the items/skills/reputation (basically any reward you can get) that you earned has gone down dramatically, an item you had to work hard for can be turned obsolete within weeks, not to forget the consistent threat of the reset by a new expansion. More and more people start to ask themselves the question "why would I?" "

I year since i asked myself, what i liked was the friendship of my big raid community, the raid was splitted, no more interest in the game
I am happy to "grats" the person who gets an epic. I have no problem with other people's rewards. It's just a pay-for-play game. Everyone is a hero. So play the game. Have fun.

The reason raiding purples "devalue" is simple:
- As an expansion 'ages', raiding gets easier
- As an expansion 'ages', farming yields an abundance of purple drops
- As the expansion 'ages', more guilds progress farther into raid content
- As the expansion 'ages', more raid content and badge loot is added
- Every raid boss will drop purples, badge gear is purple

The irony is that a serious raider must know that the text color of the item name really has nothing to do with anything! For example, before the badge wand was added in patch 2.3 many MH/BT shadow priests were using "green" +25 shadow damage wands.
Terms like "Working hard...." just can't fit in a game, in something you are doing for fun... You cant expect to recieve reward when you are making love for example. You cant fit a business models in something like "watching a movie" or something like "making love".
If someone is making love for something like reward than he is't making love and if the reward is money it's even illegal. :D

You cant expect to recieve reward when you are watching movies 10h per day... Well, yes there is a reward - the reward is the fun you are having 10h per day.

Playing a game != working full time job.
Playing a game is ~ watching a movie.
" item you had to work hard for..."

says everything
"Terms like "Working hard...." just can't fit in a game..."

Well, in this case, which is a related topic I find fairly interesting, it actually is, in many ways, work. Nihilum isn't your average raiding guild consisting of people who play a little more than the rest of us. It is a borderline business. They have corporate sponsors that value the guild for their ability to get world firsts and they generate ad revenue from a high traffic website. I have no idea if any of their members can actually make a living from playing WoW, but it wouldn't actually surprise me if on or two of them can.

Regardless of what you think of their attitude, which often does seem typical of the elitist raider, it is kind of fascinating watching something looking like a professionalization of PvE gaming, in the footsteps of traditional esports.
The problem is:
In classic WoW when you joined a PUG and someone there had at least 5 epics or more, you could be sure that guy knew something about aggro, could do his job in a PvM-Environment and usually wouldn't do something to earn him a Darvin Award.
Nowadays I encounter people decked in gear that is equivalent to T5 who don't have the slightest clue that doing instances is in any way not like grinding solo.

And..that was never true, but I can't help thinking that epics should be a sign of a player who is nice and able to socialise. It's a pity that sociopaths always get away with their behavior and get their next epics elsewhere.
Curiously Blessing of Kings just claimed that gear isn't important for TBC raiding, but it is all about strategy, execution, and skill. Hey, if epics aren't important, then why be against everyone having them? Maybe we just need another form of status symbol, like a halo floating over your head if you downed Illidan. :)
Seems to me the devaluation of purple is inevitable and should be welcomed. It's indicative of a healthy game.

This game is a constant treadmill of getting better gear to take on bigger challenges to get better gear to....

It's ok to realize that and enjoy the process.

Green are replaced by blues which are replaced by purples. Major patch or expansion. Rinse and repeat.

If it wasn't like that, only a tiny percentage of people could ever progress at all. Most people would quit because it's frustrating and boring not to be able to improve in a game where that's essentially the goal. Without a large, active playerbase, major investments in the form of new content would be difficult. Eventually, with players gone and subscriptions dried up, the game would die.

Is that what some people would really prefer?
I think people have this weird nostalgia for "the good old days" that never existed.

There is a big difference between being able to fulfill a group role and "being nice and able to socialize". The people I go on raids with are pretty nice, most of them :) but I've met raiders in other guilds who are sociopaths. Otherwise we wouldn't even have terms like "emo tank" :)

And of course let's not forget all the people who join raids that are being farmed and gear up but had to rely on others to do the difficult part of learning the encounters.

And grouping up on vent and rolling pugs didn't make people in pvp epics good pvpers. Is the person with many current arena season epics good? or are they one of the cheaters gaming the system?

Finally, there is still a huge difference in requirements for raiding and requirements for heroic 5 man. Even specwise, let alone ability.

Nowdays it's great to be able to have so many options. Before it was raid or die, and 95% of the populace got rolled by raiders in BGs, and had nothing to do besides roll alts or quit. Now it's great, you can do what you want to do. Even though some of those options are not very well thought out as the more interesting raid encounters (like grinding rep), at least there are now options, which there never were before.
Tobold I'm sorry to say that a huge percentage of people anywhere are that way.

I don't know about europe but here in america Starbucks has made a fortune by convincing people that thier burnt slightly bitter coffee beans are high quality coffee. People buy the starbucks just to have the logo in thier hand.
My mother used to go to crafts fairs. She almost quit doing them because she had such a hard time selling her stuff. After a conversation with another woman who was selling things of inferior quality hand over fist. She doubled and in some cases tripled the price and she couldn't keep her stuff in stock. People wouldn't buy them originally because they were cheaper the assumption was they were "CHEAP"

I saw this in vanilla wow. At the highest point of my unlucky streak I actually gathered a set of greens and blues that were better than Cenarion for healing gear. Mainly because in 9 months of MC runs I only got 2 pieces. I had blues most people didn't know existed. And every time I went into MC or AQ or ZG I had to justify to at least 2 or 3 people in the raid why my NON PURPLE gear was better. And most just refused to believe it could be better.

People are really strange that way. I buy refurbished items all the time. They are usually fine. Have a 30 day or more warranty and I save tons of money. But I have friends that are horrified I do that. Why would I buy something of obviously poorer quality.

People want to believe they are buying the best. Good salesman make tons of money playing on that human flaw.
I think people have this weird nostalgia for "the good old days" that never existed.

yunk. I don't think its the good old days that never existed. I think a lot of people miss the more social nature of Vanilla wow. You had to group to get anything of value. Thus people grouped more met more friends and the number of lousy players at end game wasn't as bad as it is now.

Not to say there weren't bad players or that vanilla wow was perfect but it was more social.
In my opinion gear is needed to advance and that is why it is important to make it readily available.

I agree with Tobold that better gear makes up for mistakes and lack of skill.

Its not the reason though that anything is a gear check. Its more of a matter of the difficulties of raiding with the same 25 man group each time.

Face it most guilds out there doing content probably are raiding with different people each night as it is inherently difficult to get 25 people together at the same time for 4 hours at a time.

I say make raids smaller require less time, but more coordination to win.
Also I wanted to say Tobold you are right: he gets "ownership protection" all wrong. In WoW Ownership comes from the item you "work hard" for actually having some staying value. The expansion making many items worthless will destroy that. Which is why in vanilla wow it seemed like people stopped raiding the last 2 months before TBC came out: there was little point to it when there was nothing to gain.

Ownership does not mean you have something others don't and that gives it value. Some industries certain try to instill pride like that, the fashion industry for one. But those are only particular industries, not entire economies.

Having things handed to you requiring no effort making you value them less is why public housing and section-8 apartments are in such disrepair. But that doesn't devalue other houses where people paid for them themselves. It's not even the same issue.

However one thing is right: even though many of us play "casually" and say we don't care about loot the truth is we will play according to the reward system set up. We'll go to the bosses that drop loot that we can use to enjoy more content. Maybe we just don't get obsessed over it but it does influence our behavior, as you point out in your other post.
Maybe there needs to be more "gear update" systems, where certain pieces of, say, raid gear, instance gear, or PvP gear can be updated after paying some money or doing some quests to gear that works at a higher level. (It at least would allow people who did well in previous parts of the game to use the gear they got there, rather than having to completely start over, though may bring its own problems.)
Personally, I think the Nihilum guy gets the whole 'self-interest' thing wrong. I don't disagree with Smith or Greenspan, people *do* play for their own self-interests.

The problem is that the Nihilum guy equates self-interest with loot-based character progression.

Not everyone plays that way. There are players whose self-interest is all about exploring and seeing all of the content. They'll raid, because it lets them see stuff they can't see otherwise.

There are players whose self-interest is all about spending time with friends in the same online space. They'll raid (or pvp, or small group) because they enjoy spending that time with friends doing something more than just chatting.

These are all goals for players that don't necessarily involve getting better loots, but these types of players don't exist according to the Nihilum guy. It's a fairly specious conclusion to jump to, based on the tenets laid down by Smith and Greenspan.

And I totally agree with Tobold's thing about relative happiness... If the Nihilum guy was correct (and that happiness comes at the expense of others), there'd have to exist some poor schmuck that was the most unhappy player in WoW. That player would have no happiness at all, and would probably quit. Then whoever was the second-least-happy player would probably quit. And so on and so forth. There has to be some sort of modicum of happiness for everyone, or else people would never continue playing.

Not trying to defend any point of view but I'm not sure people realize we are talking about the basic human need to feel that we have made a good decision. That the stuff we have acquired was justifiable.

If Apple dropped the price of IPOD's to 25 bucks a pop do you think they'd still be the fashionable thing to use. NOPE.

This is a truism in almost any situation. There are some common sense people that look past the hype and the peer pressure but the majority of the masses go by common group think to determine what is good or bad.
I've read many books so am I equally placed to write such an obviously insightful article?

What a load of a baloney.

Let me destroy the article!

Argument 1:

Although I agree with the selfish gene concept as it is better described by Richard Dawkins... there is no such thing as true altruism. Ultimatley we do things to make ourselves feel better.

How the article author then concludes that we don't do quests for the fun or to partake in the story line/adventure of the setting is strange.

Do I pass on game of pool with friends down the pub because they are unwilling to lay a wager down?

Fun and a social pastime is the reward here.

Argument 2:

Again read a book on yankee capitalism and the reader is suitably qualified to declare that: if you wish to value something... then it (the item) has to be rare.

The background is clear here, some hardcore raider is upset that folk are catching up with him.

Having the 'Purple Sword of Fracking People Up' is not a status symbol in totality! Yeah it is good to have and people will swoon at your worthless pixels when they run by you in Stormwind... but it is more a tool to move on to the next step of the game.

Which comes back to his first point and thus destroys his own feeble argument.

Argument 1: He suggests folk need to be rewarded as they won't do the job otherwise.

Argument 2: Folk shouldn't be rewarded because it lowers the worth of items.

Confused? Don't worry the original author is too.

So how do we consider worth? I see it in two ways.

1 - Does owning the 'Purple Sword of fracking People Up' make me better than everyone else?

2 - Does the 'Purple Sword of fracking People Up' still work and do the intended job at hand?

It should be clear... point 2 is the truism here. The item has worth as it does the job at hand.

The author is in camp 1 and has thrown his Sindy doll down in disgust as he is no longer uber uber leet.

Argument 3: Again our confused guru friend is talking more bull.

Apparently: Happiness is measured in relation to other people, to other times and it changes over time.

So this whizzkid has come up with an equation to document and gauge happiness quantitativly.

If you took down boss 'x' and got reward 'y' and enjoy it and get much happiness from doing so... do I negate that happiness and take it from you from some strange loophole in the laws of quantum physics by repeating the feat 1 week later?

Of course I don't! You had your moment of happiness... you enjoyed it... you just don't want me to have a bit of it.

So we move on... If I purchased a PC and my neighbor purchased one the next day I am told that I should feel less happy about my purchase. I would have probably suggested he buy it in the first place.

Seriously... you (the author) are disturbed. We don't all live in this Yankee, Spend, Consume it all world of 'Machiavellian Me Me Me'.

If anything the author is the reason for his own woes.

If the game did not pander to hardcore raiders... we wouldn't have this 'EPICS' issue where we all needed them to get past the first raid dungeon. The game is stupidly hard... thus the lack of folk progressing has forced Bliz to make epics essential to progress. Herein lies the problem.

The author cant have it both ways!

Epics are common to act as a tool to progress.

Not to wear as some boy scout badge of accomplishment.

Neg - if you read this I would suggest you go read a few more books, go find that Sindy doll you threw down in temper and learn to be happy with what you have and not what others have.

The less self centered, arragant and selfish morons we get affecting the dev of this game the better!
Happiness from status does seem to be the sort of thing that comes about because other people have less. (The way status works), but otherwise it does play out differently. I'm guessing what happened when writing the article is that the writer went with the assumption that all, or at least most, happiness, came from something like status, or some other competitive system, rather than other areas.
Would it be too difficult to create gear which scaled (to a point) with the users level?

So over a 5-10 level range, the damage (or whatever, or even the mix?) changed. +50, then +100, then +150 to one and +50 to another stat etc>
I can see the issue with purples being obsolete when an expansion comes out. In EQ, the raiders had a very big advantage when a new expansion came out. It basically enabled them to rush through whatever the new level cap was and then dominate the new raid content. It was especially bad in Planes of Power before the last zone (Plane of Time) was instanced. Guilds would purposely fail an event that other's needed for keying to keep them out of Plane of Time.

Plane of Time gear was better than anything you could get in a 6 person group for a long time. A couple years later you could finally get comperable stuff (Omens, & Dragons of Norath).

It just seems like WoW pushed it too far in the other direction with making it easy for people to catch up in gear with a new expansion, taking away motivation to get the best of the best in the current expansion. It seems like when WoTLK is close, the motivation for raiding will be slim, whereas in EQ you knew your gear would probably last until the new raid zones.

yeah it does seem that pre BC it was all about scarcity and hard work to get your status symbols. The perception was that they made it too hard on the average person.
I think perception was wrong because just before BC people were regularly pugging all but BWL, NAX and AQ40.

The problem is the devs seem to have a heavy hand. So thier fix was to Give good stuff to everyone and try to lessen the gear gap. Then they introduced PVP season gear and now at S3 they have exactly the same situation in PVP they did pre BC with raiding.
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