Wednesday, March 26, 2008

<N00b Inc> beats Black Temple in badge loot

Excuse the hypothetical sensational headline, but it seems some people get all excited about the new badge loot introduced in World of Warcraft patch 2.4. You can now buy for badges of justice some epic pieces which are roughly equivalent to T6 loot. Which means that theoretically a guild could do nothing but Karazhan and heroics, equip themselves with badge loot, and then jump directly to Black Temple, Mount Hyjal, or even the new Sunwell Plateau, skipping Tempest Keep: The Eye and Serpentshrine Cavern. And some elitist raiders feel threatened by that development.

Of course, as already mentioned, this is all just hypothetical. One pseudo-T6 badge loot chest piece costs 100 badges. That is 20 evenings of daily heroics, or 5 complete Karazhan clears, or a combination of the two for just 1 piece. To get a full 25-man equipped in badge loot would take many months. Even longer on a casual "n00b" schedule: Since I rejoined WoW in November my raiding priest made 156 badges of justice, of which I spent 25 for a wand, and still have 131, just enough to buy maybe one piece of pseudo-T6. And I'm not even sure I want that for my priest, with whose gear I'm satisfied enough. Now if I could send the badges to my warrior, that would be a different story, but they and the epics you buy with them are soulbound. The only alternative to spending them on gear is to spend badges on epic gems and selling those gems for gold. I'll watch how the prices for that evolve, and decide then whether I want better epics for my priest or more gold for my other characters.

So we won't be seeing guild moving directly from Karazhan to Black Temple, but behind the outcry of the elitists lies some real fact: Advancing through the raid circuit post patch 2.4 will be faster than before the patch. Guilds will still follow the same trajectory from Karazhan to ZA, SSC, and TK. But by doing all the stuff just like before, they will now collect badges everywhere. And when their gear has the inevitable hole from that one piece that never dropped, players will be able to fix that hole with a good piece of badge loot. With more badges gained and better badge loot, people will simply gear up quicker than before. And they will arrive at the Black Temple having "worked" somewhat less cumulative hours than the leet.

Of course I'm all for it. The low number of players having seen the top raid dungeons after over one year of TBC was just plain silly, and not an efficient use of development time, which apparently is a scarce resource at Blizzard. It is much easier to live with the devs adding yet another top raid dungeon, Sunwell Plateau, when at the same time they speed up everyone's progress through the raid circuit. Removing Karazhan attunement and making badge loot more valuable even somewhat lowers the barrier of entry into raiding, giving hope that some previous non-raiders will try it. Moving raiding from an elitist activity to something more suitable for the average player is a slow process, but Blizzard at least is moving in the right direction. I hope they are applying these lessons learned when making the raid dungeons for Wrath of the Lich King, and provide us with one "introductory" level raid dungeon.

But whenever devs make something easier, the "when I was young we walked bare-foot through the snow to school, uphill, both ways" crowd shows up booing. For some people it isn't enough to have achieved something first, they must also make sure that nobody else gets there, or it tarnishes their leet shine. Blizzard should ignore these people. Yes, having top end content might be good marketing, attracting people looking for a long-term goal. But that only works as long as these people think they will actually make it to that goal one day. At level 60 so few people made it to Naxxramas that Blizzard is now recycling the place for the next expansion to not totally waste the effort of creating it in the first place. It would be great if more than 1% of the player base would actually kill a boss in Sunwell Plateau before Wrath of the Lich King comes out. The new badge loot is speeding up the way there, and that is a good thing.

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