Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
<N00b Inc> beats Black Temple in badge loot

Excuse the hypothetical sensational headline, but it seems some people get all excited about the new badge loot introduced in World of Warcraft patch 2.4. You can now buy for badges of justice some epic pieces which are roughly equivalent to T6 loot. Which means that theoretically a guild could do nothing but Karazhan and heroics, equip themselves with badge loot, and then jump directly to Black Temple, Mount Hyjal, or even the new Sunwell Plateau, skipping Tempest Keep: The Eye and Serpentshrine Cavern. And some elitist raiders feel threatened by that development.

Of course, as already mentioned, this is all just hypothetical. One pseudo-T6 badge loot chest piece costs 100 badges. That is 20 evenings of daily heroics, or 5 complete Karazhan clears, or a combination of the two for just 1 piece. To get a full 25-man equipped in badge loot would take many months. Even longer on a casual "n00b" schedule: Since I rejoined WoW in November my raiding priest made 156 badges of justice, of which I spent 25 for a wand, and still have 131, just enough to buy maybe one piece of pseudo-T6. And I'm not even sure I want that for my priest, with whose gear I'm satisfied enough. Now if I could send the badges to my warrior, that would be a different story, but they and the epics you buy with them are soulbound. The only alternative to spending them on gear is to spend badges on epic gems and selling those gems for gold. I'll watch how the prices for that evolve, and decide then whether I want better epics for my priest or more gold for my other characters.

So we won't be seeing guild moving directly from Karazhan to Black Temple, but behind the outcry of the elitists lies some real fact: Advancing through the raid circuit post patch 2.4 will be faster than before the patch. Guilds will still follow the same trajectory from Karazhan to ZA, SSC, and TK. But by doing all the stuff just like before, they will now collect badges everywhere. And when their gear has the inevitable hole from that one piece that never dropped, players will be able to fix that hole with a good piece of badge loot. With more badges gained and better badge loot, people will simply gear up quicker than before. And they will arrive at the Black Temple having "worked" somewhat less cumulative hours than the leet.

Of course I'm all for it. The low number of players having seen the top raid dungeons after over one year of TBC was just plain silly, and not an efficient use of development time, which apparently is a scarce resource at Blizzard. It is much easier to live with the devs adding yet another top raid dungeon, Sunwell Plateau, when at the same time they speed up everyone's progress through the raid circuit. Removing Karazhan attunement and making badge loot more valuable even somewhat lowers the barrier of entry into raiding, giving hope that some previous non-raiders will try it. Moving raiding from an elitist activity to something more suitable for the average player is a slow process, but Blizzard at least is moving in the right direction. I hope they are applying these lessons learned when making the raid dungeons for Wrath of the Lich King, and provide us with one "introductory" level raid dungeon.

But whenever devs make something easier, the "when I was young we walked bare-foot through the snow to school, uphill, both ways" crowd shows up booing. For some people it isn't enough to have achieved something first, they must also make sure that nobody else gets there, or it tarnishes their leet shine. Blizzard should ignore these people. Yes, having top end content might be good marketing, attracting people looking for a long-term goal. But that only works as long as these people think they will actually make it to that goal one day. At level 60 so few people made it to Naxxramas that Blizzard is now recycling the place for the next expansion to not totally waste the effort of creating it in the first place. It would be great if more than 1% of the player base would actually kill a boss in Sunwell Plateau before Wrath of the Lich King comes out. The new badge loot is speeding up the way there, and that is a good thing.
I am an active raider, currently setting his first steps in MH/BT and I must admit that, to a degree, I indeed feel a bit dissapointed how Blizzard is making it easier with every patch and update.

On the other hand however, I also feel that the changes are fully justified - a move from 'fixed' drop tables to more token oriented system are imo the best Blizzard could do as it 1) makes risk-reward system of raiding a lot more 'fair' and efficient 2) encourages grouping of more experienced/better equipped players with their less-lucky colleagues and guild-mates. If it was up to me, I would encourage the developers to make the loot system fully tier-token based eg. There are appropriate tier 4, 5, 6 etc. tokens, for which all players can buy their gear, additionally, tokens are also used not only for 'armour sets' but also for trinkets, rings, necks and weapons -with particular bosses dropping specific tokens. This would be the fairest system I can imagine, AND it would be compatible with majority of dkp systems most raid-groups use...but hey...its just an idea :)
An item with a value of 5 Karazhans doesn't sound so bad when you start calculating how long would getting that item take with the both-ways-uphill-in-snowstorm method. And when you finally get enough badges to purchase it, your guild doesn't just gain one item. You gain 5, 10 or 25 items at the same time, since everyone else got the badges as well.

My only concern is that Karazhan could still have the most lucrative reward/effort ratio. Why go to the Eye/SSC/BT/Hyjal at all if you can get more rewards for significantly less effort? A design that doesn't provide incentives for progress is broken design, IMHO.

Europe hasn't been patched yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if my guild would farm Karazhan and Zul'Aman more than Black Temple and Hyjal soon.
The outcry about this change contains some valid arguments but those flaws overshadow gear progression for a very long time.

You see classic PvE progression is built on the simple fact, that for better gear you have to improve your performance. In theory the next boss is harder than the previous one, so he drops better candy right? This is how EverQuest set the rules.

But WoW is turning the formula upside down: PvP and badge loots. It comes down to the simple fact, that you're able to do the same easy task gazillion times to get better and better gear. This is what PvP and badge loot progression is all about. Even if there was a very tiny amount of skill left in the genre, it now is completely wiped out.

The outcry now is just about the quality of loot, not about the concept in general. When they introduced PvP loot on PvE quality levels, you knew something like the recent badge thing would be inevitable and now it's live.

That said, for WoW it will be a short period of time only, when grind is set on par with the improvement of your performance. Don't expect this to last. This patch is the R14 change with 1.9 all over again, spitting out epics for everyone, so this expansion will be sustain as good memory for the majority of players.

When Wrath launches i expect the game to be back in classic shape: complex key chains for zone progression, with raiding having the monopoly for sweet candy.

2.4 is the last straw to sweeten this expansion instead of the bitter taste it actually has for those poor millions of players, that still never have a chance to experience big chunks of the content.
I agree with the other poster.
I was a raider but due to some bad luck with realm and guilds i never entered BT.
The main point is design a fair system that doesnt push raider back in the content chain.
I mean, if a guild is gearing up in SSC/TK now is tempted to go back to Kara, and the reason is simple: better badges per hour without the pain in the arse of 25 mans.
All of you know how hard is to keep a guild focused on 25 mans, schedule the raids, be on time and ready, design a fair dkp system...
All this pain may be avoided simply going back to Kara, and thats sad.
Hmm. See, all this content still requires that your schedule supports raiding.

Surely I can't be that uncommon in that I don't have two (minimum) reliably free evenings a week to devote to WoW?

I'd love to play the raid content, but unless I'm missing something fundemental, it's just not really doable.

I'd be interested to hear your take on this, Tobold - do you reckon that most WoW players are actually putting that much time in? Or am I missing something? Is it actually possible to raid casually now?
I would think they could avoid having to do this in the next expansion if they have these kinds of tokens like badges of justice drop in every raid instance for good gear.

I think too many guilds are held back by drop rates/Tables.
I don't think that we will see a push back in the content chain by the majority of raid guilds. every Guild that can beat some bosses in SSC and TK will have Kara on Farm and will clear this instance out of the regular raid scheduele in just a few hours without any real effort but these upgardes are only supplemental their are only one to two new upgardes per spec and armor class available. I can't understand the outcry that is going on. The gear you can get via the badges is nice but it is only supplemental this new badge loots alone wan't take you directly from Karazhan to BT - the difference between palyers how are still stumbling in Karzhan and not advancing any further is not the gear it is a question of: time, dedication, raiding-expierence and in some (few) cases a question of lacking skill.

Maybe the Patch will bring some new players into Karzhan together with some expirenced Karazhan raiders and they will enjoy the trip - i have PUGed Karazhan the last 5 weeks (often searching for 2DDs and 2 Healers) and we cleared the place every time in about 4 to 5 hours. This was wuite fun to me because often we had palyers with us who where on their first raid ever - all was new and exiting to them and many of the loots wen't to player's who yould use them - that is far more satisfaction then farming the place with a full guild group in 3 hours and sharding every single drop and only loot badges. Sometimes you find some players who wan't to learn how to improve their skill and playstyle and start asking questions and you can give some usefull advice (having played and raided many classes and specs) and you know they had liked raiding and will continue. A few weeks they will whisper to you very frequently asking if ItemA or ItemB is better suited for them - or were they should go next to improve and such things. And then this whispers will get less and less and then some time passes and you meet them in front of the bank or the AH and they are in a raiding guild that is raiding the 25-man instances.

hmmm... back to topic. Some few people will eventuelly getting into the raidgame through this patch. some casuals and smaller guilds maybe stepping into Kara but thats it. The onyl thing this patch might do ist branch out the T5-Guilds over the T5/T6 Instances. You will see guilds farming Lootreaver, Leotheras, Karathress for T5 Tokens and then they will try to step into BT and MH to maybe see somthing new if the have been beating their heads against Vashj and Keal'thas for weeks without any progression latley.
You see classic PvE progression is built on the simple fact, that for better gear you have to improve your performance. In theory the next boss is harder than the previous one, so he drops better candy right? This is how EverQuest set the rules.

I am not sure whether this actually ever was true. Yes, I can see how a 25-man raid could be more difficult than a 10-man raid, just because you have to coordinate more people. But I don't see any difference in "skill" between the early 25-man raids and the later ones. If your guild can do the complicated 25-man encounters of the first bosses in SSC and TK and Gruul's Lair, then why would learning the encounters in BT or Mount Hyjal be beyond them? The only difference is the level of gear required, I don't see a difference in skill requirement. And part of the outcry from raiders fearing n00bs in BT is exactly that: being proven to be not actually better than other players, just better equipped.

I'd be interested to hear your take on this, Tobold - do you reckon that most WoW players are actually putting that much time in? Or am I missing something? Is it actually possible to raid casually now?

I have no reliable numbers on that, only some PlayOn results or Nick Yee studies saying that the median play time is around 20 hours per week. If somebody plays 20 hours per week, he should be able to participate in two 3-hour Karazhan "half" runs a week. Whether that is still casual or not is just a question of choice of words. For many people "hardcore" means "plays more than me".
I do agree for the most part. Since the Great Nerfing of 2.3, my lowbies have seen things that previously I would just bypass because I didn't feel like going to the effort of getting a group together in order to do so, such as the ogres in Loch Modan. Two whole quest lines, ignored, but a couple of weeks ago I finally got to see the conclusions to both.

On the other hand, some things that used to be huge - but doable - challenges are no longer challenging, such as Fangore in Redridge.

The ultimate high end "nerf" probably never will affect me. If it's in a 25 man instance, my little guild won't ever see it, and I'm not leaving my friends just so I can see the new content. But I am glad that /some/ people will. It's not like they made it a 10-man instance or something like that.

Hey, they get titles for completing SSC and The Eye, if I recall correctly. Which is almost less meaningless than getting there the hard way in the first place.

( /waves to [Risen] )
Hugh: It's possible. My guild clears BT in two three-hour raids, and Hyjal is cleared in one 3-4-hour raid. If you factor in pre-raid preparation, we're looking at 10-12 hours per week to reach 100% raid attendance. However, we don't require high raid attendance to get a raid invite, so you can make do with even less.

At this gear level a Karazhan badge run takes about two hours and 15 minutes, and Zul'Aman takes even less.

So schedule-wise casual raiding is doable.

Tobold is right in that bleeding edge raid encounters might not be that difficult in theory once you get past the gear requirements. For example, Hyjal bosses (apart from Archimonde) are easier than most bosses in Molten Core. The only major difference is that the encounters are more unforgiving when it comes to errors. If you have decent gear, you won't wipe on Gruul even if you lose a few players to Shatter. But if those same players die on Reliquary of Souls or Archimonde, it's a wipe.
Dare I say it that apart from learning boss fights, raiders don't use their skills as often as in a 5 man instance?
I'm sure I use many more of my character/player skills on a heroic Shadow Labs than I do on the average SSC run.

Raiding 25 mans is not hard; learning the tactics is hard, co-ordinating 25 sometimes very different individuals is hard.

Raiding for 'bleeding edge' guilds is probably where a lot of time and commitment can be justified by bragging World firsts, but for a guild like mine, we simply follow in their footsteps, read/watch how to do it, and then mimic their achievements as best we can.
It's a lot easier to follow than to lead.
I believe that the Leet guilds DO have a place in WoW, and then the rest of us (who have the time) can also get there eventually, whether through nerfs or gear upgrades not available in the beginning.

I welcome the return of Naxxramas, having killed 4 bosses there before and not being able to get any further, I would like to see it through, but of course I want it to be easier than it was for my more (these days) casual style.
I must be the only person in the world that thinks the way Blizzard is dealing with end-game raiding is a good way. Why do I say that? Well, because I will never be one of those hard-core raiders, I just don't have the time. I am paying for a game, in which I would like to experience the content of it all eventually.

Can I see why it is frustrating for hard-core raiders that had to do every little thing the hard way and now those of us who didn't have the time, dedication, or were just plain too lazy now get to do much easier? Sure! I feel for Kazool who just now is getting into MH/BT after all that hard work only to have a bunch of others not work so hard that will be right behind him. The same thing has happened to me and getting keyed for Karazhan. I spent three months, on a semi-casual basis, but with repeated attempts at BM that were frustrating beyond belief! Finally, beating that stage was a thrill that I'll never forget. I think therein lies the difference the hardcore are forgetting.

If you have the time, dedication, and ability to trudge through all the difficult requirements to get to the ultimate end-game instances that Blizzard will always throw at us in updates and expansions, you get the feeling of having been there first and the glory of having done it the hard way. How can I be sure of this? Because now all of us on the lower end still have to get through all the stuff you got through while you are clearing the new high-end raids. You'll always be one step, and in my case several, ahead of the rest of us and we'll always look to you as you run by thinking "Where the hell did he get that?! And how do I get one?!"

I think Blizzard is handling it well and I fully expect that the exact same thing will happen with Wrath and we'll go through the same song and dance with the elite raiders being upset and the stragglers all excited about the new opportunities. Just remember if you're on the elite end, we'll always envy you.
You see classic PvE progression is built on the simple fact, that for better gear you have to improve your performance. In theory the next boss is harder than the previous one, so he drops better candy right? This is how EverQuest set the rules.

The problem with this model especially in a game like wow with so many casual players is that at some point you begin to leave the easy curv and hit the insane middle and top of the Bell curve they have created. Every increase in difficulty makes it that much harder for people to actually get to the content.

If that is the model to follow then some other type of curve other than the bell curve needs to be applied. Because that is where WOW is now. and with every movement up it become exponentially harder. Thats the problem. Its something businesses struggle with all the time.

In wow you can only expect players to get better to a certain point. Then they just aren't going to become more skilled. With this model you have to substitute gear to keep your model from failing as you climb that bell curve because the players that are raiding hit thier max efficiency long ago.

And the ones that didn't are looking up Mount Everest trying to figure out how to get there.

Thus the devs have to nerf it.
Shalkis - interesting. Are you saying that your guild would be happy with someone who turned up to, say, one raiding evening a week reliably, and another maybe sometimes?

I'm *very* interested in this, because I'd like to see the raid content and indeed learn to raid, but my free evenings a week are very, very limited. I've kinda gotten the impression before that if you couldn't afford to dedicate two nights a week it wasn't even worth talking to most raiding guilds.

Tobold - 20 hours a week? Whoa. I do maybe 10-14.
Yet another post describing the "reward/gear" snag becoming more and more obvious as the game goes on.

I'm really ,really starting to think that it would be a good idea to just have "World first kill of XXXX", "server second kill of XXXX", "Killed XXXX 10 times" easily accessible to others in the character information somewhere, to provide some sort of "reward" for players who really want one, which will also avoid some of the snags with the constant gear increases.

In general, I wonder if more people need to start up internet groups, or other groups, to try and push people in the raid rat race to find something else to do with their life. It's all been said before, but seems worth repeating again and again, that continuing to try and get the best gear is one part of that large character progression treadmill that seems to be the biggest chunk of the MMORPG world, and with the setup world of warcraft has, "welfare epics", "item inflation", "content devaluation", etc., is guarenteed to be what happens in the game if the ghame company wants ot keep customers.
Slight change: "welfare epics", etc., are not guraenteed, but there is nothing surprising about the gear inflation given how world of warcraft's character progression setup works and who is playing the game.
There is one thing that the heroic badge cry babys always keep on forgetting.

You have about 16 slots for meaningfull items. After checking the new items for interesting stuff for may prot pally (so far half Kara, half blue) i found three interesting items (breastplate, pants, ring) which will cost me 260 badges (of which I have 150 at the moment.

3 slots of 16 filled with about BT quality items will definitely not push me form Kara to be able to play BT. I will have an easier time in ZA, Gruul and maybe Magtherion. I should be just about able to visit SSC and TK. Hyjal and BT are still far away.

So I get a little faster to the nexz set of raid dungeons and I am definitely not able to skip anything.

Fot that I need 260 badges which is quite a lot and I only replace 3 items of 16. There are some old rewards which would also improve my prot pally (ring, boots, cape). these are similar to Kara loot.

Taking all that into consuderation I can absolutely not understand the welfare epix cry babies. The improvement is nice but not outstanding and quite costly at that.

I doubt that other classes get a lot more loot out of the heroic badges.

I think what Blizzard does here makes a lot of sense. It helps a lot of players to progress a little faster but not that much. A lot of people can now enter one more raid dungeon than before. It is also not cheap to make this very small shortcut.

The end game raiders also get a new dungeon to enter now. The distance stays the same.
The posters who suggest that guilds presently working through/on the verge of SSC/TK will now abandon them in favor of Kara clearly have completely mismatched priorities compared to "casual" raiders.

My reason for wanting to see new raid content is simply to have the experience. I want to see the zones firsthand, learn the strategies, watch as they're eventually executed to perfection. I'd wager a good 90% of the "casual" raiders I see writing about the subject cite the same or similar motivation. Yes, pretty new clothes are a nice side benefit, but if I had to choose between getting to experience all the raid dungeons in the game or being given a free set of glowy armor to wear around Ironforge while never setting foot in a raid I'd cheerfully take the former.

This whole argument becomes a lot more absurd if you use a different context as an analogy. Let's go with golf. Golf is a sport with a very low barrier for entry. People of all ages and skill levels play and enjoy it, but there are those who play at a high enough level to compete professionally. Let's say you and your friends have a regular game you play every weekend. You don't have the skill to enter any PGA tournaments, but you're respectable amateurs. One week your friend announces that on an upcoming vacation you'll be given the opportunity to play at Augusta, a world famous course that's beautiful and requires strategies beyond anything you've seen in your golfing career thus far.

You've seen the pros play this course, so you're vaguely familiar with how it works, and you've talked to a few friends who've been there before. Still, nothing quite prepares you for the actual experience. You struggle through it and eventually sink your putt on the 18th green. Your score isn't pretty, but you've finished successfully, and you feel like you've grown in skill slightly for the experience. If you did this every week you might not be half bad at this course.

As you're walking toward the clubhouse, Tiger Woods comes running toward you, wearing his green jacket, medals around his neck, brandishing his most expensive club. He's yelling that you're a bunch of noobs and it's not fair that you got to play this course. He points out that since you got to start from a closer tee than the professionals you didn't actually accomplish anything of value. He goes on to say that he played through Augusta years ago and he's done it many, many times since, so he's clearly better than you. Finally, he insists that none of you is allowed to buy anything from the gift shop before storming off the way he came.

The idea of this happening is ridiculous, and yet it's exactly what's happening in WoW. The high level raiders are the WoW Pro Tour. The rest of us are just amateurs. What's really sad though is that the analogy can continue to another level - we play for fun while the complainers seem to treat it like a job.
The posters who suggest that guilds presently working through/on the verge of SSC/TK will now abandon them in favor of Kara clearly have completely mismatched priorities compared to "casual" raiders.

Agreed. I have only raided with casual guilds in WoW and LOTRO, and it's always been the same: no loot drama, everyone wants to see and beat the next boss, and wants bragging rights to being in on the first kill.

Because we are casual we go slower, have fewer attendance requirements (besides show up when you promise to, and have enough flasks/buff food/reagents in your bags). My wow guild uses dkp, my lotro guild random rolls. But either way it's fine, loot is just something to help take down the next boss.

It seems people who claim to do it for the challenge, then whine that other people are getting loot with either less work or though alternate channels, are putting the lie to their statements that they are all about the challenge and skill.
@ben I love your analogy. I found that the elitists did everything they could to stop new guilds from forming that could raid because they would "take" people away from the pool that might join their own guild. They were usually successful too because they could offer to run them through all the lower dungeons and gear them up so they could skip to the front of the line. These badges remind me of when Naxx was introduced and people were getting 0.5 tier gear which was ridiculously hard to acquire (tons o' work) and for not much payout when you could just piggyback with some guild in MC and BWL and get better stuff in one night. Eh, seems to em like the shrinking tunnel analogy is firmly in place.
I like tobold's comment of your better off with friends and less progression then hollow progression and no friends. I just wish there were some tangible rewards built into the game for being a good friend and sticking with a guild that would help the less intellectual but still fun people see the benefits before they jump ship and depress everyone in their guild.
the problem is its a game built around progress. And everyone at some point gets the I want to progress bug. And oftentimes the only way to do that is to dump your friends and ride off into the sunset. Then you find out later that those friends are busy doing other things. I've got a buddy going through this now. He's helping run guild and is the MT progress is great but its killing him that it basically means blowing off his RL friends. I think he has this fantasy that they'd all come round and join him. But he's discovering how wow works. You can very rarely have your friends and your progression. MOst people are forced to pick. And I think most people require both friends and the feeling of progression to remain happy in game.

Look at how tobolds tone changed almost overnight when he started raiding again.
You can very rarely have your friends and your progression. MOst people are forced to pick. And I think most people require both friends and the feeling of progression to remain happy in game. Look at how tobolds tone changed almost overnight when he started raiding again.

Did it? I'm very certain I never advocated choosing raiding over your friends. I just might have gone from "raiding destroys guilds" to "raiding is okay with the right people" attitude.
I guess I wasn't clear enough. Your tone just became more upbeat and excited when you started raiding.

I didn't mean to imply you had advocated making a choice.
to expound on what I tried unsuccessfully to convey. If you are competitive at all and you have friends that run on a different schedule you are forced by game design to either leave them behind or watch them go. I've got a friend who has 7 end game alts that he created at various times to try and level with his friends. But he can sit at home on conference calls and mindlessly grind all day long. so he gets 60 or so hours a week of just pure leveling and profit. It's driving him crazy that he can't have his end game and his friends together. But the rest of us actually have to work and get 10 to 20 hours a week depending on the person. He is competitive and just can't stand being behind. And there is absolutely no fun in haveing a 70 run you through an instance. honestly I'd rather watch Cspan tv.

I understand it. I'm a competitive person If I were single I'd be raiding and at the top. but I'm not and so he does his thing in game and I do my thing in game and we rarely interact because there is no point. Him helping me hurts me. And there's no gain or fun for him to come do old content again.

EQ2 has the same problem so they implemented the mentoring system. Blizzards approach seems to be keep adding solo content.
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