Monday, April 11, 2011

Rumination on Gear and other Things

With Blizzard's recent blog post and Q&A on gear I've started to think about the role of gear in this game once again. In my four years of playing the game I've had several thoughts on the importance of gear. When I first started raiding gear was very important to me, but over time I've started to think that gear is over valued and in some cases almost irrelevant.

The Role of Gear in DPS:

Let me ask you this. How many times have you looked at a tier set and thought it was poorly itemized? How many times have you wished it had more of stat X and less of stat Y? I think those types of reactions are common and normal, but I've come to realize that they are useless when looked at from a different perspective. There are really two distinct perspectives that have different goals.

For the player, making gear choices is all about maximizing DPS. How individual pieces of gear are itemized is very important in that context for comparing the options. The itemization determines which piece of gear is better, but as players we are making those choices with in a set framework. Those choices are distinct and very limited.

Blizzard on the other hand is making choices to balance DPS. Their options are almost unlimited. How gear is itemized is just one component of the framework they create. As a result they are not looking to perfect the itemization, they are looking to balance it against other components of the framework.

In short, Blizzard determines the DPS potential of each class, and gear is one of the ways we try and reach that potential as players. This is one of the ways we as players can show our skill. We can show that we know how to pick the best gear even if it isn't itemized with the best stats. As long as the Moonkin DPS potential is similar to that of other DPS specs it doesn't matter if we take gear loaded with Crit or loaded with Haste to get there. We as players just have to know what is the best available option and choose it.

Is Gear Fun?

At the end of the Dev Watercooler post Ghostcrawler asked "Would more universal gear be more fun or less fun?" I want to broaden the question a little bit and ask something simpler. Is gear fun?

In some cases the answer is obviously yes. I've never had a legendary item, but I have a hard time believing that they wouldn't be fun at least at first. There are also some items like Nibelung and Deathbringer's Will that have some built in flavor that I know some people think is fun. These are definitely examples of where gear is or could be fun, but I believe this type of fun to be fleeting. Legendary's are eventually made obsolete, and then are only brought out to brag or for the occasional kill screenshot and flavor items eventually lose their novelty.

So, lets take a look at normal gear. A year and a half ago, I wrote a post on why I thought Hit Rating was a sexy stat. In that post I argued for the choice that the Hit Cap created. I like evaluating the options and making a choice. As I said before, the choices we make are one of the things that can separate the good players from the bad players, but I'm not a big fan of the choices currently being offered by Blizzard.
In some cases our choices are very limited like in the case of Bracers and Boots. For other slots we are overflowing with choices like in the Ring and Trinket slots. On top of that we have reforging which makes the choices we do have even more complicated, and the random loot from Throne of the Four Winds is very frustrating in my opinion. I think the gear decision can be fun, but I find Blizzard's current model to not be a lot of fun because it's imbalanced and overwhelming at times.

Can gear be fun enough to support the game?

As I said above, I think gear can be fun, but I don't think gear can be fun enough to drive the game. Personally, when I look back on my past as a raider, I never think about the night that I got a nice new piece of gear. I think back to the first kills and the achievements we gained.

Ultimately gear is a means to an end. Gear may be fun to some extent, but its real value is that it helps us achieve the things that are really the core of this game's fun. No one who has raided for an extended period of time raids for gear alone. The people who do raid for gear alone get bored or flame out because some gear choice didn't go their way. So, while I believe gear has the potential to provide some fun in this game, I think it’s fleeting. The real fun of this game comes from other sources like the encounters that are provided and the interaction we have with other players.

The Gear Conclusion:

So, to circle back to Ghostcrawler's questions, would more universal gear be more fun? My answer to that question is yes, if you can maintain a health level of choice. The problem with moonkin gearing at the point is that Blizzard has made only a halfway conversion to universal stats. As moonkin we are interested in both Spirit items and Hit items and that overly complicates the choice. It also puts us in a bit of a tug of war between the Cloth DPS and the healers. The Clothies say "don't take our Hit items because you can use Spirit," and the healers say "don't take our Spirit items because you can use Hit."

I think competition for gear as a consideration is a little irrelevant as well. Yes, it sucks when 8 people want the same item, but in the long run it doesn't matter. In most cases we will be killing these bosses for weeks if not months or we moving on to content with better gear. Eventually you will get all the gear you want or better in the long run. More specialized gear on the other hand means more sharding which is never good for the guild.

There were a couple of other things that popped up over the past week that I wanted to talk about quickly.

Call to Arms

I have to say I love this idea. I've heard a couple of people discounting it as "lets give free loot to tanks" or that it's just going to cause an influx of bad tanks like this joke from the Daily Blink. I find these predictions to be a bit pessimistic and callous.

The problem with the current system is that there are two many ways to manage the system. Guilded tanks usually ask in guild if anyone wants a run before entering the queue to help guildies and to work with known players. Some tanks will also sell their time and instant queue in trade chat for extra gain. This means that when a DPSer enters the queue, he has a lot of people jumping ahead of him in line because the tanks rarely enter the queue alone. Giving tanks a reason to queue alone should cause the line to move faster for those people who don't queue with a tank.

And yes, the Call to Arms will attract a lot of new and bad tanks. It may be painful in the short run but it will be good in the long run. Some of the new tanks will learn to be effective tanks. Not only will this shorten queue times, but it will also make raiding easier since raider leaders should have more tanking and possibly healing options when roster options are low.


I'm sure some of you saw this change in the MMO-Champion data mining:
Sunfire base damage has been increased by 50%, from 372 to 558.
I don't like to comment to heavily on data mined info since it rarely gives a completely accurate view of what the real change is. However, like most of you I have been waiting on some sort of buff to make up for the nerf to Starsurge.

I find this change to be a bit strange. If we assume that this is a real change, and that the spell coefficient is similarly increased by 50%, then this is a decent buff. I looked at a couple of logs with single targets and Sunfire made for about 6% to 7% of the damage in most of the cases. A 50% increase should make up for the 3% to 3.5% DPS we are losing from the Starsurge nerf. When you consider multi-DoT fights like the twin dragons then it should be even more.

That said I don't like the fact that it makes Sunfire better then an Eclipsed Moonfire. If Sunfire is better then Moonfire it will obviously have some rotation impacts. It will renew questions of when should we renew our DoTs and should we refresh them early during Solar Eclipse. I would prefer if both Moonfire and Sunfire were buffed the same way or that Blizzard would do a more global buff like increasing Moonfury.


Anonymous said...

The sunfire thing is a tooltip fix; Sunfire's tooltip still uses the old WotLK tick bases and they never updated it when they changed in late beta. They changed Moonfire's though. There was a quick discussion on EJ about it.

Rohan said...

About gear, I think you are missing the fact that different people think about gear in different ways. I wrote a post about this a while back: Two Views of Loot.

The thing is that you are clearly a Loot as Investment person. But not everyone is like that. A lot of people are Loot as Reward people, even in the high end guilds. They just don't talk about it because LaR is looked down on by the more vocal elite players.

For the LaR players, gear is a lot of fun. Upgrading your character, and making it as good as it can be is the end, not the means. Defeating the hardest bosses is the means to the end.

mushu said...

I agree about the complexity built in to the current gearing structure. It emphasizes elitism.

A casual raider/player who has neither the time nor inclination to do a lot of external research will be in way over their head when faced with having to reforge properly.

This is a multi-variable, multi-equation calculation that requires software to do properly...and with *every* new piece of gear! By not doing this correctly you are not going to be able to play at the top of your potential.

How sad that automated software had to be written to do this for people (to wit: google "Mr.Robot") which uses the techniques of known spreadsheet algorithms to perform parallel calculations for enchanting, gemming, and reforging to give players their optimal gearing. And it looks at the current snapshop so is better than just aiming for the top piece of gear from a BiS gear list (no offense intended Graylo). :)

I think gear is a means to an end. Our guild likes to tackle every challenge (last night we were first alliance guild to level 25 on our server) and better gear allows us to fight the hardest end bosses. I enjoy theorycrafting and more gear choices would allow more flexibility there. Sharding isn't bad--everyone needs crystals for enchants and alt gear and they sell well...

Gevlon said...

No new tank will ever become good in LFD. They can't even say "hi" before they get "gogogogog lol".

After their first mistake they get "ur fail gtfo".

Even if they apologize and ask for good advice they can't get as the others don't know any better, so will settle with "l2p n00b lol"

Lespaul said...

The way I look at it, there are two solutions. Do away with all primary stats other than haste, and only have haste, crit and mastery as secondary stats. Then allow players to enchant or forge their choices of stats in the remaining available 'slots'. You then only need to worry about armour class. This would also allow players to choose items based on look rather than stats.

The other way would be to eliminate armour drops from raids altogether and make players gear independently from chain quests, heroics, professions etc. If the rewards people want from raiding are primarily achievements and vanity items, then let the bosses drop gold/mounts/pets/titles etc. instead. There isnt really any sense in making the gear required to kill a boss drop from it. The current system just encourages overgearing and makes gear the primary reward, but what is the point in the best gear dropping from the last boss in a raid when you've already cleared all the prior content? Those items are not needed to complete any more content so their value becomes purely vanity.

Lespaul said...

Should be Stam not haste in the first sentence...

Duskstorm said...

I think the runeword system in Diablo 2 was more "fun' than anything we've ever seen in WoW. Loot creates so much drama in WoW, primarily because most guilds wind up with two factions.

One faction of the guild will be a group of people who want to progress. They'll perform the best, they'll invest the most amount of time learning fights, setting up their UI, and practicing their rotation. They'll be the chief reason why new bosses get killed, or bosses that have been killed go on farm. They will always want to work on new bosses, unless they hit a wall that more gear can solve.

The other faction will see raiding as a means to an end.. getting more loot. They'll be the first to suggest giving up on a progression fight that's "too hard" and go back to farming, since the payoff is not there anymore.

And then you have all the idiots that want to make *everyone* happy by appeasing both parties; which is inevitably impossible.

I think the best loot system is to have one of your progression minded, better players be a one man loot council, and hand out loot in the way they think will help the raid progress the most efficiently.

The idiots who want more loot will leave, and the folks interested in progressing will love the idea.

Orez said...

me personally, I love the rush I get when that piece of gear drops that I've been wanting for weeks. It's almost like gambling, your adrenaline kicks in and you are pretty much on this high for those few seconds when rolls are going out. Holding your breath and just hoping you get it. I love that!!! but then again I do agree it's more about coming together as a group and defeating an encounter together as a guild or static group. I remember in wrath when we killed LK for the first time. that was great but then we had it on farm and it got old because that challenge wasn't there and we had nothing to look forward to. But we did the ICC meta and got our drakes and that was an amazing feeling as well but after that we were sick of ICC. so we went back to ulduar and did that meta for the proto drake and had a blast. we couldnt use the gear but some of those hard modes are my favorite encounters (firefighter, yogg w/o keepers) and are still challenging even after outgearing the place by 1.5 tiers.

Kyn said...

To Comment on the Sunfire Change... I do like the increase..but my main problem is that I think it will draw heavy attention to how overpowered our solar eclipsed multi-dotting/mushroom/typhoon spam is. A clear fix in my mind to that future problem is as follows:

PUT DOTS ON THE LUNAR/SOLAR GAIN BAR then we could fly across eclipses quicker, not be able to stay in a state too long, and also..we would gain more benefit out of mastery. Just my 2 cents,

Drenden, Crashbug