Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 30, 2009
Vanity lasts forever

I log on my level 80 characters in World of Warcraft every day, but most of the time only to do things like the daily jewelcrafting quest, or alchemy transmutes with 23 hours cooldown. The rest of the time is spent between working on my inscription business, and playing alts, with my paladin being level 36 now, and my druid level 29. The gear my level 80s are wearing hasn't changed for quite a while. I just haven't been motivated to gather things for them. With one exception: I did spend several hours getting two vanity mounts for my priest.

My warrior already had several vanity epic flying mounts, from doing daily quests at level 70. My priest, although technically my "main", and having much better gear, was still riding his racial epic mount, and flying the standard epic flying mount, because he didn't have anything else. So I was quite happy when during Brewfest the epic ram dropped for my priest. Then I decided I need a new epic flyer too, and started grinding Cenarion Expedition reputation until I was exalted and could buy the hippogryph.

Now why would I spend time and gold on a vanity mount, and not be interested in improving my epic gear? Two reasons: Acquiring epic gear by raiding is only useful for raiding, it is a self-contained cycle, you raid so you can raid more. Nobody needs epic gear to do daily quests, and for heroics I'm more than well enough geared. And the second reason is that vanity items have better lasting value.

Just look at the level 70 vanity epic flyers my warrior is riding, the Netherwing Drake and the Nether Ray. Yes, they required me to grind a lot of daily quests back at level 70. But I'm still using them at level 80, and I will still use them at level 85. My priest spent level 70 gathering raid epics, which I promptly ditched shortly after Wrath of the Lich King came out. And the level 80 epics I'm wearing now with my priest will again be replaced by new gear at level 85, while I'll still be riding the Brewfest ram, and the CE hippogryph mounts.

Yeah, so the vanity mounts are just fluff, and aren't actually any faster than the standard variety. And it seems the main use of some vanity mounts for some people is that they are so big that you can obstruct the access to flight masters with them. But I do like the option to ride something else than my standard horse or flyer, just to pretend that I'm individual. They are for vanity only, but vanity lasts forever, and so do vanity mounts. Epic gear by comparison has a rather short "best before" date.
I have to admit, the gnome chopper (technically not a vanity mount) severely tempted me to re-join WOW when I heard about it. Then I remembered how much I loathed getting my engineering to 300, and I decided it wasn't worth it.

Still, the lure of the chopper is strong, as visual representation always matters more to me than mere stats, which is why, I guess, that I'll always be a casual player.
In the end, it is ALL ABOUT VANITY.

My wife still teases me about the fact that when we played Diablo 2, I'd hexedit my saves not to raise the stats of my gear, but to change the color!
You might want to be careful with your assumptions. How cool were wintersabers after the flying mounts were released? What happens to the vanity value of all land mounts in Cataclysm, where you can fly everywhere?
I'd actually go a step further, and say that not only do the vanity items last forever, they actually get better over time - you'll surely never say that about any raid epic!

Using the Netherwing Drake as an example - I got that on my rogue pretty much as soon as possible after the 2.1 patch landed, and it was cool. I felt vain. :-) But I feel even cooler now when I fly around on it, surrounded by people on proto-drakes and bronze drakes and other such WotLK mounts. I've met newer players who had no idea what it was and where to get it, since they'd never actually played at max level until after WotLK's release.

I can only imagine how the Scarab Lords feel on their black scarab mounts.
Note that certain epic items can have vanity status of their own - Legendaries, tentacle trinkets from C'Thun and Yogg-Saron, no-longer-available loot from Old Naxx and Onyxia60, and so forth.
No, it's not that they last forever; you just can use them forever. As for me, I constantly change my mount of the month (usually the last one aquired) - chopper right now (was on a shopping spree two weeks ago and wasted 40k on mounts ^^). Once I get my blue dragonhawk it will be my main mount for at least a month (just like the albino drake back then).
The persistent value of illusion items in Everquest, long, long after a myriad of easier ways to change your shape were added, shows that "vanity" has a lasting value.

I don't think "vanity" is a very useful descriptor for these things. No more is "fluff". They are more akin to collectables or antiques in real life. They may or may not have some degree of residual functionality, but it's the combination of relative scarcity and historic context that gives them the lasting value.
Well, the level of your vanity pleasure is also partly connected to the prevalence of the item. Most vanity items will decrease in value over time i.m.o.
Take the purple seasonal-event-reward dragon. I had expected to at least enjoy a little bit of vanity, being individual. But lo and behold! Everyone and his uncle on my server has made the year-long grind and those dragons are filling my screen outside any raiding instance these days. You'll feel much more unusual and individual if you stay to your dear old gryphon!
Epics are indeed outdated every few months when a new instance arrives. Better epics does not only help you raid however. The new dailies are always aimed at a lvl 80 in blues. Having epic pve dps gear will make you do those daily grinds faster.

I do like those fluff items like mounts or minipets. But I find it hard to motivate myself to grind for months just to have a better looking mount.

And yes, some epic items are fluff too. The tentacle of C'thun, the meteor trinket from AQ40 or the "create cute gnomes" trinkets are nice examples.
Using the Netherwing Drake as an example - I got that on my rogue pretty much as soon as possible after the 2.1 patch landed, and it was cool. I felt vain. :-) But I feel even cooler now when I fly around on it, surrounded by people on proto-drakes and bronze drakes and other such WotLK mounts. I've met newer players who had no idea what it was and where to get it, since they'd never actually played at max level until after WotLK's release.

Sounds like it's time to be the Devil's Advocate yet again.

This is the "It's popular, now it sucks" trope in action. One quirk about humans is that rarity is frequently the same thing as perceived value. If epics are rare, then epics are used to measure the e-peen. If not, then something else is used, and it doesn't matter whether that something is achievements, mounts, raid progression, titles, non-combat pets..

The bad news is that this is a cyclic phenomenon. If something is rare, then everyone wants it and will get it if they can. But then it's not rare anymore, and people will find something else that's rare.
Although I was not a vanity player at all in the past I will have to admit that I do agree with the comments.

I was recently gifted a spectral tiger mount by a family member. I was dumbfounded as I knew how much they trade in AH. Having so many alt's that I play and raid with I was torn on which toon to bind it too. I finally decided to bind it to my priest and although its not an epic mount I proudly ride around in Dalaran and the major cities. I guess that makes me a vanity player and I guess it's given me a new philosophy on vanity items as well. As I will always ride that in the cities.
That's why I am doing Argent dailies, because I'll still use the Dragonhawk (which is for some reason better looking than the mount'o'mounts achivement) and the pony bridle for my squire.
There is some overlap between gear and vanity in the form of aesthetically pleasing Tier sets, though.

Things like Tier 2 paladin have essentially transformed into rather rare vanity sets now. I sadly don't have that anymore, but I do have the darker version from the pre-Wrath undead invasion. Similarly, I still have a full Tier 6 set in the bank, just so I can look like Tirion Fordring.
I spend most of my time lately working on mounts, pets, and reputations. Those are things that will last. I'm much less interested in gear, only so much as I need gear to finish dungeons for achievements/reputation/etc...problem is, I don't raid, so there isn't much need for shinier purples.

Call me crazy, but I'd much rather see any piece of gear scale with level (we could have tiers of scaling to please the hardcore folks) as I'm much more interested in using items that look cool and/or unique.
*gasp* What would Gevlon say????
I'm all into vanity too. I grinded rep to get all the mounts for my white dragon. Venomhide raptor too although its ugly. I just blew all my honor at 60 to get the mage pvp set which imo is the coolest looking cloth set I've seen at any level. Im dumfounded by the complements I get on it and how many people just can't figure out how I got it.
I like my special pets that I got with the Beijing Oylmpics. New players think its awesome. I won't get another piece of raid gear on my priest. In a few months it will all be garbage with the new release.
I guess I’m nitpicky, but IMO a mount is not a vanity item. It is a transportation item with a variety of vanity skins, and I use it because I want to get from one location to another in the fastest way possible (my main has no gathering profession). On my main I have 50+ mounts because I wanted the 50+ achievement (but I’m not willing to spend for the 100+ achievement at this time). And I put the time in to get faster transportation & convenience by obtaining the Kirin Tor ring, the Argent tabard, and the Gruntling pony, and I'm working on the Violet Drake. If I got a 310% Drake my 280% flyers would probably never see use again, no matter how pretty the skin. But that’s just unsentimental me...
While Hirvox makes some good points, he forgets that there are some items that are finite in quantity (several people have already listed examples, but for clarity I am thinking of things like the Scarab Lord mounts). I think it is especially true that in a game like WoW, where gear changes frequently, so-called vanity items carry more weight in terms of trying to distinguish ones self from the crowd.

There is also a nostalgia factor to be considered. People that have items from the old raids often wear them (when they do wear them) as a symbol of how long they have been in the game, and of the achievements they made in the past.
And as for raiding gear...

IMO raiding gear tiers are by design the de facto leveling of the endgame, and for me downing a new boss and getting new gear are akin to the feeling of leveling and training. And just as at level-12 you don’t run from Tirisfal Glades into the Western Plaguelands, you shouldn’t expect to hit level-80 and run into 10- or 25-ToC. Rather, you level up until you are able to enter Western Plaguelands, and you gear up until you are ready to enter a ToC raid. (You might call raiding “forced group leveling” in a sense, but that is another topic.)

And while raiding gear is not needed for dailies or heroics, it helps. If you step into combat, raiding gear certainly of more practical advantage than the same speed mount with a different skin.
While Hirvox makes some good points, he forgets that there are some items that are finite in quantity (several people have already listed examples, but for clarity I am thinking of things like the Scarab Lord mounts).
I did not forget those. While you can transfer to a server that doesn't have the AQ gates open, open them, get the bug and go back, it's not something that can ever become the "hip" item to have, because it's not plausible that your average would-be hipster could ever get one. So anyone who owns one is dismissed as "yesterday's news" and/or as a nolifer out of envy. Hope is what keeps the fashion wheel turning.

Personally, I pretty much got all of my vanity items during Vanilla and TBC (Abjurer set, epic raptor, Hexxer's Cover, purple mage T2, netherdrake, mage T6) and stopped when I realized that finding new vanity items was all that was left.

*gasp* What would Gevlon say????
Gevlon has actually touched upon the subject before. In short, we chase vanities because we can use it to demonstrate that we're rich enough to afford such waste of time, money and effort.
I guess I believe in vanity but I still think my undead horse that I got back in vanilla is the best racial mount ever, and I wouldn't swap it for anything.

So once you have your ideal mount/set of gear/pet, title where's the motivation to get more?
Don't really care about vanity mounts - personally, they're a waste of time.

I admit I do like some of my epics for the items themselves, but most importantly they are the gateway to the next level of raiding.

Apparently Tobold just views it as a treadmill. I like raiding for raiding's sake - learning new fights, downing a challenging boss, etc!

Vanity pets/mounts do nothing in that regard, er, obviously, which is why they're called 'vanity.'
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