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.