Monday, March 10, 2008

A new currency in WoW

Badges of Justice will play a more central role in World of Warcraft after patch 2.4: there will be more ways to earn them, and far more ways to spend them. On the earning side the biggest change is that *all* raid bosses now drop badges, plus there is a small chance to get badges from supply packs gained via daily quest. On the spending side there will be far more epic gear that can be bought, in better quality than before, plus you can buy epic gems for badges now. A reader told me that you could even buy recipes for badges, but I couldn't confirm that, I read those recipes would be related to reputation. In short, Badges of Justice will become kind of a new, alternative currency in WoW. What effects will that have?

One interesting point is that it is a non-tradeable currency. Badges are soulbound, thus no "Chinese badge farmers". Well, you could theoretically buy yourself a spot in a farm raid, but I doubt that business will get very big, due to the organizational difficulties. Who said non-tradeable currencies were not a viable approach to eliminate RMT? Blizzard apparently thinks otherwise, and that is good. Especially if you compare things you can buy for gold with things you can buy for badges, you'll see that badges are far more valuable than gold. If I understood it correctly, the epic gems you can buy for badges will be uncut, and thus necessarily not soulbound, as you need to be able to give them to a jewel crafter. So they could be sold for gold on the auction house, which should establish a gold <-> badges exchange rate indirectly. That will be interesting to watch.

The other important effect of the changes is that even if 25-man raids now give badges, a Karazhan farm run will still be the most efficient way to earn them, the most "badges per hour" so to say. That is a good thing for guild cohesion, because previously the top raiders of a guild outgrew Karazhan and didn't really have all that much interest in helping less advanced guild mates to get their gear there. After the changes a mixed run of experienced and less experienced raiders through Karazhan in advantageous for both sides, which should encourage the practice. A Karazhan farm run becomes "an epic gem and a half" even for people who can't use any of the random epic drops there. And by selling these epic gems raiders could probably finance their other raid expenses. I see this as a big improvement, because previously it was often more efficient to quit your guild and join a more advanced one than to help your less advanced guild mates, and that always bugged me.

The last point I'd like to mention is that raids now in part have a guaranteed return, just like PvP battlegrounds have. Previously you could have a completely successful raid, but end up with nothing but a repair bill, because of the random nature of the epic drops. In the future you will always get something if you kill a boss, even if you aren't lucky with the drops. With badges now becoming more valuable, cooperative gameplay activities like raids and heroic instances should become a bit more popular. Which is a good thing, as WoW was moving a bit too much towards being a solo or PvP pseudo-solo game. Encouraging people to play together can only be good, even if of course patch 2.4 has a lot of solo content as well.

So I do like the growing importance of badges of justice, and just hope that Wrath of the Lich King will have their own, even more improved badge system.

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