Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Challenge and gear reset

Imagine the guy who logs of the day before Cataclysm is released at level 79, with 99% of the xp for the next level already done. On release day he steps into a new zone, receives some exploration xp, and dings 80. This guy, and everybody who reaches level 80 after him, has a reasonable expectation that his character will be strong enough to do quests in the new zones and level up to 85.

But look at the same guy, freshly minted 80, from the point of view of many of the people currently playing World of Warcraft: The new 80 has a gearscore around 2k, and might deal as little as 1k damage per second. Meanwhile even average players (e.g. me on several alts) have a gearscore of 5k, and deal over 3k of damage. With some top raiders having more than 6k gearscore and over 10k dps. We don't need to get into an endless discussion how much of the difference is caused by gear and how much is caused by skill, but obvious truth is that there is a huge difference in power between different level 80 characters. I'd even say the difference now is larger than it was at level 60 when Burning Crusade came out, or at 70 when Wrath of the Lich King came out.

That huge difference in power levels has consequences. With the challenge of the level 81 quests being designed for the new level 80, it isn't just the top players who will feel these quests are too easy. Even the average players in their gear from heroics will deal basically three times too much damage. It is simply impossible to design a solo quest which is an interesting challenge to both the new level 80 and the veteran.

And then of course over just 5 levels Blizzard has to get everybody to the same level of gear. You really don't want people at level 85 still wearing their level 80 epics they bought with emblems of triumph and frost. And the lowest of the Cataclysm emblems from level 85 heroics has to buy gear which is better than the best Wrath of the Lich King gear. We already have some indication that Blizzard plans to hugely increase stamina, at least tripling the health of average characters from level 80 to level 85, while healing and damage will not go up by that much. It is going to be the biggest gear reset in the history of World of Warcraft. And everybody knows that.

What is interesting to me is how we players on the one side react strongly to incentives based on gear rewards, and on the other side aren't bothered all that much about those gear resets. Even players who never were there before refuse to go to Naxxramas and Ulduar because the gear rewards are worse than what they get from heroics. Which looks as if rewards are more important to us than experiencing fresh content. But then a new expansion comes out and we happily abandon all our old gear to rush into the new content.
The way Blizzard has done leveling gear resets in the past is by making mobs in the new expansion hit significantly harder than previous expansion mobs of the same level.

Probably what's going to happen is that in a desperate attempt to get everyone to change their gear out for quest items will be to make mobs hit very hard (i.e. if a player is meant to have 50k hp, average mobs hitting for 3-5k wouldn't be out of the question)

Don't forget that WotLK saw people wearing level 70 raid gear for many levels. I think the exchange rate was something like T4 to level 76, T5 to 78, and T6 to 80 (and into Naxx25 without heroics).

I'd be extremely surprised if it will be necessary to change out of current ICC gear until level 85, maybe comfortable to have more hp, but it won't be unheard of.
wanna think even worst? imagine 5 years from now, when WoW is gonna get shut down for Wow 2.0
all our pixels are gone!!!
Of course, just like walking into WotLK zones from TBC content, there will be a bevy of early quest items that rival old raid gear. Entering Valiance Keep at level 68 will net you a full suit of ilvl 138 gear (halfway between T5 and T6) within an hour. So the new guy won't be so far behind as you might think.
Keep in mind that the earliest available quests in the new expansion will probably be for level 78. The earliest Burning Crusade quests did the same thing in that massive gear reset.
I think the starting quests (available for 78s) will be full of content where you have to bomb this and that, or ride a vehicle, or anything to avoid stat issues. The items you get from those first quests will replace most of today's mid level gear. If that happens, difficulty will remain about the same for everyone at first and then all but the highest geared players will have their gear replaced before they hit 82, at which point the grindier quests (Nesingwary) will appear and everyone will be on even ground.

All they need is for the new content to be wayyyy stronger than WotLK content, and a method of getting weaker players the new gear quickly without making them fight too much.
It is really interesting to think about the way that expansion packs level the playing field. That newly minted 80 and the hardcore raider you mentioned have to both reach the same power level very quickly after moving away from Northrend. It makes all the work for that upper level gear seem wasted.

It is one of the reasons I don't feel bad taking such a long break until the next expansion comes out. I know that I will be at the same power level on day one as someone who spends 30 hours raiding each week.
Void, I don't think raiders only raid for gear. They probably want to see the content. Also you don't need to raid 30 hours. Most of the top 200-300 guilds are clearing 11/12 hardmode in about 2.5-3 hours. If you want to wipe on H LK on the other hand....

Anyway, like every expansion before this raiders doing the hardest content won't need to change most gear slots until the new raid in Cata.

From vanilla to TBC I changed out only trinkets and shoulders until Kara. I walked into Kara with mostly T3.

Going into Wrath I kept most t6 level items until Naxx.

I've already seen the Hyjal quest rewards and it looks like it is going to be the same way.

Does it trivialize questing? Yes, but I don't think that bothers most people at this point.
We don't know how much the crafted mats will reset. What will be the 450-crafting-skill greens made by tailors, BS, LW as they level. If Blizzard makes the starter crafted gear level 232, then it doesn't matter much if you get to 80 with 187 or 200 gear. Relatively late in the process Bliz can have a pretty major impact if the crafted gear is , for example 213 vs 251. They can also wait and introduce the level 251, wear at 80 crafted green gear 5 months after Cata ships so the T10 crowd gets some benefits yet another nerf to power people through the old content.
"It is simply impossible to design a solo quest which is an interesting challenge to both the new level 80 and the veteran."

MMm, something that requires smarts to figure out rather than relying on brawn. Puzzle quests rock!
I'm with Kevan Smith on this one, yet I also know WoW isn't the game to go running to if I'm looking for "interesting challenge."

Of course, if you're looking for personal challenge when the xpac hits and you're in high level gear, just bank it all and go buy some lv40 grays from the vendor.
EQ2 ran into this problem a few expansions back when they released "Rise of Kunark" which raised level cap from 70 to 80. People'd been raiding for 2 years at 70, so in the new zones the mobs were balanced to be at least semi-challenging for a level 70 toon in "legendary" (or higher) gear with all skill upgraded to "expert" (or higher).

Of course the newly minted 70's with "treasured" gear from quests and "adept" or even lower "journeyman" skills were getting owned by the mobs. Much rebalancing was done over the next months to smooth the transition out. Even so, the difficulty jump in the mobs when entering the RoK zones is quite noticeable.

And of course in the current expansion you have some raiders moaning that they "only" are getting 60,000 dps. Yes, you did read that right. . . .

Personally I feel pretty good to get 4K-5K most of the time. And most groups have "perspective" and think that if overall group dps is 15K-20K or so that that's pretty good. Even so, to read the forums, if you don't have X hitpoints and do Y dps then you suck. Such are the forums for any game, though, in my experience.
interestingly data-mined alpha gear shows items from a 78+ dungeon dropping 279 gear, better than ICC 25 gear!

i think it will be a fairly major gear reset and i look forward to replacing all my current purples ^_^
I stopped raiding after Naxx and when I log in again it seems the gear reset has already happened. The badge rewards and new raid epics are a *lot* better then the gear my deathknight has.

But it's simple to solve. Give out greens which are as good as low level epics in the (first part of the) new zone. Be sure to make that start content ridiculously easy. And from the second zone on you can be sure everyone will have at least some decent gear. It's pretty much what happened in Wotlk, you get ilvl 138 green items to replace your ilvl 100s.
"Entering Valiance Keep at level 68 will net you a full suit of ilvl 138 gear (halfway between T5 and T6)"

Not quite, those are ilvl 138 *greens*, with maybe 1-2 blues. Ilvl 125-133 epics (t5 level) are much better. Also the BC raid/badge items were much better itemized for dps or healing, so it often made sense to keep wearing many of them even when you started seeing drops with more itemization points. My BC raid gear didn't get swapped out until I saw blue 200 gear (lvl 80), and I did not have t6 tier bonus or any sunwell gear (any of which would have been replaced only by epic badge or raid gear in wrath).

That said, the wrath greens were better than most heroic gear at 70. I would guess they do something very similar.
Very interesting point you brought up in your last paragraph.

To me this sums up the dichotomy of most mmorpg players, and more specifially the mmo blogosphere.
Yep, a gear reset just like from vanilla to BC, or BC to WOLK, except...

...this time they only have 5 new levels, so if the new gear rams up as slowly as the old gear they will have a lot of raiders who still have WOLK gear at 85.

...this time there was more gear inflation in WOLK then BC or vanilla, so it is even worse yeah, like you I'll find it interesting to see what Blizzard solution is.

The old "formula" is to ramp things up so the old top blue gear would be replaced by green gear before you ding 81, and the purple gear gets mostly picked off over the next 5 levels, with just a few items (mostly ones with lots of gem sockets) lasting 10 levels, and a tiny number of items (maybe accidentally) lasting through some of the early raids.

Applying that directly leaves folks in current ICC and maybe TOC (and frost!) gear in the same gear when they hit 85.

Somehow I doubt that will happen.

My guess (and it is a total guess) is gear will be handed out like candy and by the time you hit 81 you will have frost badge level gear handed out for all slots and specs and armor types. By the time you hit 82 most of the ICC gear will be passed over, and at 83 there are only a few lingering items from WOLK that are competitive.

Then again, it ain't my game, and I surely don't make another MMO that is nearly as popular, so they could take a different path.
I agree. That will be a problem and they will solve it 'somehow'. When the players are finally 85. They won't care about it anymore.
MMm, something that requires smarts to figure out rather than relying on brawn. Puzzle quests rock!

Or vehicles that ignore your stats and make combat purely skill based!

I think we all know by now what happens if WoW tries to compete with anything but its core gameplay !
Kevan Smith suggested that maybe Blizzard should introduce some puzzle quests to help the transition into the new expansion.

I think it's a great idea. As you said, using brains instead of brawn is a novel idea in WoW. The problem is that the formula for WoW is pretty much established at this point. We get a quest, go kill some stuff, come back and turn it in. I don't think Blizzard is going to break the formula.

I love your idea, but I would be extremely surprised to see it implemented.
In Wrath I wasn't replacing my somewhat decent gear untill about level 78, and definitly noticed a difference in questing when leveling up my lesser geared alts through the some content.
I noticed that the orcs in Hellfire hit my clothies significantly harder at 58, so came back at 60 when the effect wasn't so bad.

I reckon that a similar scenario will apply with Cata
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