Friday, January 20, 2012

Epic Gems in Cata = A Failure


Quick Announcement: I'm trying to be more active on twitter. If you want to follow me, my ID is @graylo.

Last night my guild killed Heroic Hagara for the second time and not one, but two [Girdle of the Grotesque] dropped. As I'm sure most of you know, this is the BiS moonkin belt, and I was quite happy when I was awarded one of them. Then I had a revelation.

The GotG has two Red sockets and gains a prismatic socket once you apply the belt buckle. Since it is a BiS item I would expect it to be gemmed with epic quality gems even if they are a bit expensive, because I'm not going to replace it. Then I have to consider the reality of the situation.

The mean price of Queen's Ruby's on my server is 7,000g. Sure the price varies a little bit, but even the lowest I've seen them on my server is still 5,500g and that is in no way common. In short, I have to spend at least 16,500g just to gem my belt the way it should. You can buy epic items for less then that.

It's clear to me that the current system is broken. So, how did we get here, and how can we fix it?

A Quick History:

In The Burning Crusade (when the JC profession was introduced) epic gems were mined from special mining nodes in the Black Temple and Mount Hyjal raid instances. Eventually they could be purchased with badges.

Pros:
  • It supplied epic gems directly to the main group of players interested in having epic gems: hardcore progression raiders.

  • Allowed the guild to allocate gems based upon need.

Cons:
  • PvPers had extremely limited access to the epic gems, and but they were pretty much required at the higher levels of competition
  • Aquiring the gems was a 25man effort, but single players could cause havoc with ninja looting and favoritism

In Wrath of the Lich King, epic gems were prospected from uncommon ores. Alchemists could also transmute superior gems in to epic gems once a day with some additional mats.
Pros:
  • Epic gems were highly accessible for all players.

  • Players controlled both the supply and demand sides of the gem market.

Cons:
  • Epic gems were so accessible that it crippled the market for blue quality gems.
T
his is pure speculation but here is what I think happened. In TBC, Blizzard introduced epic gems as a reward for high progression, but in the end weren't accessible enough. First, things first the guilds who mined them horded them for their own needs. On top of that, obtaining the gems was a 25man effort, but one or two people cause big problems by ninja mining the nodes or a GM playing favorites with the gems. There were other issues as well, but I think all of them revolve around the epic gems not being accessible enough.

So in WotLK, Blizzard created an entirely new system that was completely driven by the ingame economy. Players determined the supply by mining/prospecting ore or doing transmutes, and as a result Epic gems were probably too accessible in Blizzards mind. During WotLK, epic gems were fairly cheap. Players completely regemmed gear within a week or two of their introduction and the market for blue quality gems was crippled. As a result Blizzard felt the need to create a new system for Cata which leads us to......

The Current Problem:

The current problem can easily be broken into two sections: Supply and Demand.

Demand side:
The problem with gem demand, is that it is heavily skewed towards red gems at the moment. DPS and Healing are the two most common roles played in the game at the moment and almost all of them favor the stats provided by red gems (Int, Str, & Agi). On top of that, Blizzard likes to give players their best stats in the last tier of an expansion. As a result, the T13 year, has significantly more red sockets then previous tiers which reduces the demand for hybrid gem colors like purple and orange.

In short, 90% of the players in a raid want red gems, but only 17% of them will get one on average (assuming the distribution is equal). As a result, red gems are extremely expensive, but the other five gems are relatively cheap. Here are the mean prices on my server as an example.



RedBlueYellowGreenOrangePurple
7,000g599b1385g999g2060g1325g

Ultimately this is a problem Blizzard created 2 years ago when the started designing the Cataclysm expansion, and can't really be fixed until the next expansion even if blizzard wanted to.

Supply side:
The Cata system for epic gems does have several positives. For example, every player who kills a boss on normal or heroic levels has a chance to get an epic gem. The supply isn't controlled by the guild, and players have a choice to use it them selves or sell it for gold.

This system does eliminate some of the core problems of the previous two systems, but it's too random and inflexible to meet the players needs in a reasonable way. It creates a surplus of all colors except red, and an extreme shortage of red gems which increases prices to unreasonable levels.

The good news is, that changing the supply should be easy, and Blizzard has several options if they so desired to make a change.
  1. Change Drop Rates: There is no rule that says all gems have to have an equal chance to drop from the Geodes. I bet it wouldn't be difficult for Blizzard to modify the drop rates. They could make epic gems more common on the more common Geode, or they could change it so that red gems are favored over the other 5 options for both types of Geode. My guess is that Blizzard could easily implement this with a hotfix.

  2. Eliminate the Geodes: Blizzard could eliminate the geodes all together and allow players to buy the gems directly, instead of buying a random chance at an epic gem.

  3. Enable Gem Transmutes: If I remember correctly there were some transmutation patters for gems in the 4.3 ptr, but they never made it to the live release. This would allow blizzard to maintain the randomness of the geode, but still give players a way to modify supply, even if it's with a weekly cooldown.

Conclusions:

As much as I would like them to, I doubt Blizzard will make a change at this point. Prices will come down as people are getting less gear upgrades, and more gems are being created. That said, when I talk to players, this epic gem situation is a common source of frustration. Since we are entering the lull between expansions when burn out among players is high, I think it would be a good idea for Blizzard to take a look at this issue and try and reduce some of those frustrations.

14 comments:

Rohan said...

Did we really need epic gems at all?

It seems to me that everything would have been fine with just the blue gems, and Blizzard only put in epic gems because everyone expected them.

Also, I'm a fan of the idea that gems should be secondary stats only. Primary stats being so good makes red the dominant color for everyone, and more variety would be nice.

Kring said...

JC will be a useles profession if you can fill every slot with an epic gem.

That means they have to boost it. And if they do they might end up with the mess from WotLK where they had to change every profession bonus.

Steko said...

This is the eighth week of raiding T13. Assuming you've killed 8 bosses a week that's easily 40,000g you should have made already in gems.

Anonymous said...

Honestly I agree with you that this system is mostly a failure. They haven't even buffed the other raiding professions to match each other despite buffing JCing initially during the PTR (and then reverting the buff) making blacksmithing overpowered again.

Honestly I think they are just waiting until more people have an appropriate amount of epic gems. This system has been a really huge gold sink for the players that are really dedicated to progression raiding, which this expansion has lacked a lot. Though I guess it's not really a true gold sink since it's not going to some npc for 5k gold each... *shrug*

Paul said...

Blue gems were a joke in Wrath. Cataclysm fixed that. So put blue gems in the belt, and upgrade when you can afford it.

The dominance of red is more of a problem than the epic situation.

Xaktsaroth said...

What I don´t understand is why all main stats has to come from same color.
From my perspective it would be nicer to have a system of like red gems for casters,brown for tanking,green for healing,yellow for melee.
Then have 2-3 gem colors for the hybrid gems.

Clockwork said...

I agree with Rohan; they just put them in as a formality and they weren't really needed.

Frankly I think they need to do away with single-stat gems, especially when most classes just want their primary state. Turn all the gems into some form of hybrid, at least this will hopefully spread around desirability.

Anonymous said...

Is a joke the way they implement the epic gems.

The pvp- ers cant get them in a reliable way , and high end pvp being very competitive force them to spend a lot of money to regem.

Also being a jewelcrafter is a joke now cause you can't get a reliable source for gems . It doesn't matter you can cut all the cuts , you are useless cause you won't have what to cut.

What if you are a player who don't like raids but like to use your professions ? too bad , Blizzard send you a big middle finger.

Anonymous said...

Must be alowed to prospect at least the pyrite for epic gem drops also alchemy transmutation.

Else the epic gem accesability in a game who want to be accesible to everyone just suck.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that the expectation that you'll put epic red gems immediately into a BiS piece is faulty.

An extra 20 Intellect for what will cost you between 8-16k is clearly not cost-effective.

Gemming with epic gems as you get them? Not a problem, that makes sense. But the performance increase isn't going to possibly justify the vast expense. Especially since the world-first guilds certainly didn't have all their gear gemmed with epix.

Personally, I don't plan on using anything more than a blue-grade gem in my gear this expansion. My guild is fairly casual, we're 7/8 and should hopefully hit 8/8 tonight. But as long as I can get more money from the (admittedly rare) epic gems than an extra 10 of my primary stat will get me in return, then I'm letting people give me their absurd quantities of money for them.

Eshua said...

Raiding guilds have been selling crafting patterns...boe's and "cash flow" lvl 16 guild talent to mass big sums.

I've raided in 3 different 25 man guilds with gbanks pushing 1 mil gold.

This is a Gbank gold sink...and a casuals way into the real money market. I agree you can't play this game alone...but if you're gearing up with more hard mode loot that you can gem even with a guild bank backer...you need a new guild treasurer.

Grae said...

I actually really like the idea of just selling the gems directly. Let me spend five normal marks for one epic red, or two marks of deathwing, or I can buy geodes and play the lotto.

That said... Pandaria absolutely must include a complete re-reckoning of gem stat distribution. Gems have become a way to make incomplete gear whole, rather than a customization system.

Graylo said...

@Rohan
I like your idea of having gems just be secondary stats. If done well it would create more diversity of demand.

@Kring
You're right. I had forgotten that they didn't change the profession bonuses with this. So, BS got a buff, JC really got screwed, and every other profession is nerfed in comparison to BS. Blizzard obviously knows about this issue, so it would be interesting to hear their reasoning as to why they didn't modify the professions this time.

@Steko
If you're impling that I should have made 40kg from gems already in 4.3 then, you are grossly mistaken. You're making a ton of assumptions for that to be true. First, you have to kill the bosses to get the gems. Due to poor guild situations I've only killed Madness a few times and the others slightly more. I don't have anything close to 8 kills on every boss. Second, you're assuming a favorable drop rate. I've gotten 6 epic gems from DS. Only one of them has been red. As you can see from the table in the post the others don't sell anywhere near as well as the reds.

@Anon1
A gold shink is a good thought. It may not be a traditional one in that we are giving an NPC thousands of gold, but indirectly it could work that way. A lot of players are making thousands of gold from the gems and could be buying things like Vial of the Sands with their new found wealth.

@Anon4
I don't think you understand the mentality behind progression raiders and progression raiding.

I agree that spending thousands of gold to pick up 10 Int doesn't make a lot of sense logically from a cost/benefit point of view, but that's not how most progression raiding guilds look at it. There are lots of players who spend tonnes of gold for small DPS increases, and they do it all the time.

Also, I won't say that the world first guilds had 100% epic gems, but I bet you a lot of them were close. Those guys work for every small advantage, and that first week they were farming and buying as many gems as they could. I guarentee it.

@eshua

This isn't something you can really rely on the guild to buy since there aren't necessarily a lot of them out there. PLus my guild doesn't have 1,000,000 gold

Nebulose said...

I have been playing around with some ideas about epic gems for next expansion.

It seems that when epic gems are releeased they throw the balance of power out of whack between professions. This requires other profession bonuses to be nerfed or the hardcore will switch to the OP Blacksmithing.

Blizzard needs to make epic gems no longer give a stat bonus. Instead make it so that having X epic gems socketed in your gear gives you a proc based buff.

For physical damage it could be attack power. Casters could get spell power. Tanks could get an abosrb shield or a heal that only procs when you drop below a certain amount of health.

This would make epic gems a nice upgrade without a change in stats. Blacksmithing would not become overpowered and Jewelcrafting would not become underpowered.

This could be combined with other peoples ideas as well. Epic gems could only be certain colors like yellow, green, and blue. Removing the primary dps stats and being a slight nerf to gem them before taking the proc into calculations.