Friday, March 28, 2008

Welfare Blues

I can't remember when I've been so angry the last time about a minor design decision by Blizzard. I was shaking my fist with rage at an NPC vendor, of all people; fortunately he didn't appear to have suffered lasting emotional damage from that. I was angry at him for a strange reason: he wanted to sell me dps gear which was better than what I had for a very low price. Blizzard in patch 2.4 introduced what I can only call "welfare blues": a set of excellent blue dps gear, great stats, set bonus, gem slots, and you only need to be level 70 and honored with some common factions to get it. The whole set costs only about 100 gold for all 5 pieces together, and can be gotten from the quartermasters of Thrallmar, Cenarion Expedition, Lower City, Sha'tar, and Keepers of Time at honored reputation, for all classes.

The purpose of the welfare blues set is easy to see: if you just leveled up a new character to level 70, you probably already got most of the rep you need for this, and you can buy this set of blue armor to be well equipped for your first PvP battles. In fact only the legs from the Keepers of Time will require you to visit a dungeon. If you skip those, there is no reason whatsoever to ever visit a normal 5-man dungeon again, unless you need gear for tanking. You just do one evening of daily quests, and you have enough cash to buy a complete set of blue gear that is better than most of items you could hope to find in a normal mode dungeon. With one stroke Blizzard made most normal dungeons completely obsolete. What the heck were they thinking?

I can only assume that Blizzard feels somewhat threatened by the PvP MMORPGs coming out this year, and are moving World of Warcraft towards being a game that is completely about soloing and PvP in response. What they fail to see is that the PvP fans will switch to AoC or WAR anyway, and that the changes do more harm to group PvE than they help PvP. Group PvE by definition is a group activity, and thus has strong network effects. By removing the incentives to go to dungeons for many classes and specs, it gets even harder to find groups for those who love dungeons.

And it would be so easy to give PvP players good gear that doesn't make dungeon PvE loot obsolete: Simply hand out stuff that has low stats when used in PvE, but gains bonuses whenever the user is in an arena or battleground. We already have potions and stuff that only works in battlegrounds, why not PvP gear that only works in PvP? Making welfare blues that make PvE less attractive is a really, really bad idea!

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