Archive for the “Game mechanics” Category
Well, the big Reveal has taken place at Blizzcon, and we now know details of the next expansion. Hopefully you followed #TeamFaff at Godmother’s liveblog. I had to bail out right after the reveal because we had our weekly planning meeting at work, and the boss was most unsympathetic to the cause.
Now that the dust has settled, and I’ve had time to breathe, let’s talk about it.
I made some cheeky predictions, so let’s see how I did!
There will be an expansion announcement and it will be called "Warlords of Draenor"
That was a pretty easy one, really. If they didn’t, it would have been ugly. The title this time was given to us by the trademark offices in several countries. +2 for me.
It will involve a new "lost" continent of Draenor
It’s Draenor, Jim, but not as we know it. Instead of a lost continent floating about in the Twisted Nether, we’re going back to the past. Specifically, Garrosh escapes captivity and through means as of yet unrevealed, journeys back in time to prevent the Old Horde from becoming subjugated by the Burning legion. What we, the denizens of Azeroth, then face is the Iron Horde – the united fury of the Orc clans united and at full strength.
My score: –1 (net total 1)
Alleria and Turalyon will return
No, they won’t. Though, to be fair, the new world of Old Draenor doesn’t have them to begin with. Since the First War didn’t happen, they didn’t get trapped when the Portal was closed. But THAT is a whole new can of worms, something I’ll exposit in another post.
Score: –1, for a net of 0.
It will involve the Burning Legion
Not so much. While it’s obvious that the Legion will be involved at SOME point, the net effect is that the Orcs turn their backs on the Legion and the power it offers. But the overall theme of this expansion is All Orc, All the Time.
Score: –1, now netting –1.
Ethereals will be the new player race
There will be no new player races.
-1 for me, for a net of –2. Oh dear.
Outland will not get revamped
Technically true, though they do move the door a bit. Since the history leading to Outland hasn’t happened, Outland becomes an alternate timeline, and thus its entrance is moved to the Caverns of Time. Which I have to admit, is a pretty good way to deal with it.
I’m going to claim a win, netting me back to –1.
The new level cap will be 100
Got that one right. So we’ll see a realm first Level 100 in 2 days, not 1.
+1, back to breaking even.
There are no indications of any new classes
Got that one right, too. This will make WoD the first WoW expansion where neither a new class or race was introduced.
+1, and I’m back in the black.
Release Date: Holidays, 2014
No mention was made of a release date. This is my surprised face. Though I keep hearing rumors of a Q1/Q2 release timeframe, there is nothing official to back that up that I am aware of.
No points either way.
You face Jaraxxus!
I was close, but he appears in Hearthstone, not WoD.
-1 to zero me out again.
I totally didn’t call it, but it’s such a big one that I think I deserve to be dinged for missing it.
And that’s the news: all character races are to get remodels with higher poly counts and a lot of new emotes and expressions. The samples shown – especially for the female Gnome – were amazing.
There IS a tiny bit of drama here, in that it’s stated that there are currently no plans to offer a free appearance change when the changes go into effect. But the door’s been left open just a crack, so let’s wait and see.
-1, putting me back in the red.
Every Blizzcon, Blizz tends to offend someone, and this year was no exception. After the buzz died down, people started noting a highly testosterone-driven theme to this expansion. Female characters, when mentioned at all, were either minor in comparison, or they were told to go home, take care of the baby, and make Thrall a sammich.
I’ll revisit this at some future time. Other than to say, if you throw your keyboard over this, you know what happens? It breaks, dumbass. So I guess you showed them.
So I get a point there, bringing me back to even.
The overall results are
As is usually the case with this sort of thing, if you guess wildly the best you can really hope for is 50/50, which I did achieve. I was wrong as much as I was right. But I’m not displeased with the result.
And now the other stuff
One of the big things for this expansion seems to be "systems", our friend GhostCrawler’s domain.
There’s a big change to bags and inventory – a lot of items are going account-wide similar to how companion pets are handled now. This’ll clear up tons of space in our bags. A lot of materials are going from 20 to 100 per stack, freeing more room. And Tabards are a possibility for this, hooray! Also, quest items, though I’m worried for Archmage Vargoth’s Staff.
Another big "system" change will be "item squish". Basically, the huge numbers we currently have will be reduced by several orders of magnitude, possibly to double or even single digit values, with some sort of hidden scaling system to keep it manageable.
Related to that, itemization is changing drastically, with most secondary stats like Hit and Expertise going away and primary stats possibly varying by spec, effectively ending the spec-change-shuffle.
You will be able to bring one character to 90, or "boost", per account. So if you decide to change to a different raiding main, for example, you won’t have to spend weeks getting up to raiding level. I’ve been pushing for this for a while, because I hate that the lower level zones continue to get gimped in order to make life easier for raiders. Raiding and the leveling game are two different activities, and changes in one should not make life harder or less satisfying for either group. By allowing a character boost, they provide raiders with what they want without punishing those that are not raiding. Right now, it’s one per account, but I suspect that there will be infrastructure in place to make additional boosts possible as a paid service. And I think that’s a good thing.
This is actually an "in"-convenience feature, but another bit of drama – including threatened or actual sub cancellations – is that flight will not be available in Draenor until at least the 6.1 patch. I’m okay with that. In fact, if they want to get rid of flight completely, I’d be completely behind it. But a lot of people are NOT thrilled.
Garrisons were an unexpected new feature, which more or less amount to a cross between player housing and the Tillers farm. Other trade skills in addition to cooking will be involved, you get minions, and they can do things for you even while you’re offline. It’s all rather non-specific right now, and it’s hard to get a read on it, but overall it has been well received.
The big change to raiding is that all levels of raiding will be flex in WoD except the highest form, which will be called Mythic, and serves a step further than Heroic. The raid difficulty is tuned for 20 players, which Blizz claims is important since tuning at that difficulty will be too complex otherwise.
And that’s a wrap. I will be revisiting several of these topics in upcoming posts, but I wanted to first set the stage, as it were, for what is to come. Specifically, I want to discuss the lore, Blizzard’s ongoing PR issues, the game mechanics that are changing, and probably more lore, because, damn
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By now, if you’re dedicated enough to read even this blog, you’ve seen this announcement from Activision / Blizzard. To wit: Activision / Blizzard has bought its financial independence from its corporate masters, Vivendi Universal.
I’d like to point out a few things.
First of all, note that it’s still Activision / Blizzard. Not just Blizz. Blizz is still joined to Activision via a cash-transporting umbilical cord. The pernicious influence of Activision and Bobby Kotick is still very much an active part of Blizzard’s future. Vivendi didn’t once enter into things, but Activision, well, that’s a very active threat to Blizzard’s moral well-being, and has been. I have no idea if they’ve managed to hold the line against the darkness over there at Pasadena, but here’s hoping they can continue, if so.
Second of all: I don’t care who they are, if they were valuated at EIGHT BEEEELYUN dollars and have over THREE BEEELYUN in cash reserves after that, they are not an "indie" company, any more than EA is. "Independent" and "indie" really mean two different things, and the people calling the A/B monstrosity "indie" should be hauled through the internet into 4chan by their lower lip and left there to suffer. Independent is fine. Indie is not.
Finally, this should send chills through anyone’s heart:
"The transactions announced today will allow us to take advantage of attractive financing markets while still retaining more than $3 billion cash on hand to preserve financial stability."
– Bobby Kotick
"Attractive financing markets" sounds suspiciously like "we’re going to invest our capital in things other than producing games." There’s an accountant in there somewhere urging little Bobby to put cash on derivatives or something.
Well, I hope not. But anything that is other than a direct investment in the game studios’ health is a misuse of funds, in my opinion.
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
– Mark Twain, who attributed to Benjamin Disraeli
You may have also noticed that in the same conference, they quietly released the subscriber numbers for 2013Q2. Aaaand the numbers are down again, down to 7.7 subs, which haven’t been that low since before BC launched..
These are based off of Blizzard’s reported subscription numbers, and represent roughly the paying player base – though the numbers leading up to MoP are probably artificially inflated by the annual pass numbers – though they seem to be interested in good-faith estimates, so maybe they’re based off of active logins or something.
But the interesting thing is, as you can see, the numbers form a bit of a bell-curve formation. If you fit a trend line to this, you end up somewhere between 2015 and 2017 for the day that the final WoW player logs out of Azeroth, never to return. This is of course not a real date, because this would never happen – Blizz would pull the plug at 100 players, obviously, and they’d all log off at once. Or something like that.
The variation on the curve depends on whether you take the whole data set, or start at 2010Q4 when WoW was peaked. One is an overall dataset, one is just a map of the decreasing trend. Take your pick, but I tend to favor the latter because it takes less of old and obsolete data into account. The fact that it yields the more favorable 2017 date has nothing to do with it.
Something else jumps out if you cook the data in a different manner.
This is a chart explicitly showing gains and losses, rather than just bulk numbers. Here are things about this chart.
- Up through the start of Wrath, the rate of growth was flat; that is to say, the numbers kept growing, but at a more or less steady rate – no glitches that weren’t understood.
- One of those understood glitches was the start of BC, when we got what is now considered the traditional "expansion bump". We see this throughout the game’s history.
- Sub data for most of Wrath is missing. In that gap there IS one quarter reported, and it had zero growth on the previous quarter (11.5 mil).
- From the start of Cataclysm, it’s been more or less a steady down trend, though I caution that the biggest down spikes are outnumbered by lesser down spikes (or one upward).
- But the data do suggest a pretty profound downslope, nonetheless.
It’s also impossible to say when Blizz started to sweat the losses. The huge gaps in the Wrath period reveal nothing. Maybe they saw a down trend at that point and decided to start compensating by nerfing up the game in Cata. Or maybe they thought of nerfing up the game as part of a grand strategy that started to be realized in Cata.
Either way, it’s pretty obvious where the decline really starts to gather momentum. So what are the possible reasons for this? Here are some possibilities.
- Players are getting bored and just come back for the new content. This seems like it would be a more gentle downturn, with sharper uptake and more gentle dropoff in between expansion lines. And we do see some of this, but it’s not the overarching pattern.
- Players don’t like the changes to the game’s difficulty. i.e. "Azeroth has been nerfed!"
- Players hate casuals. This goes with the above. Sure, I’m part of the quested-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways crowd at times, but I don’t begrudge others the less difficult climb. I don’t need others to suffer to feel better about myself. But the haters, the ones that hate "casuals", well, if I hadn’t seen it myself I would say it was impossible for people like that to exist, but they do. WoW has its own virtual Civil Rights movement, in which the haters are played by Archie Bunker and the "casuals" are played by, well, actual people. More on this anon.
- Other games have come online that are clearly as good or better. I don’t know about better, but many have come online that might be as good in many ways. I’ve personally experienced Eve and Neverwinter and feel both hold up well. Where they don’t hold up is the people, in that the people I like to hang with aren’t in those games. I’m such a camp follower. And STWOR came out right in the middle of that big decline, so it’s not so much a "trigger".
- Free to play games! This too is a big one, and probably one of the biggest. Back when WoW came out, you could pay money to Sony or to Blizzard to get your fantasy on; these days, fantasy MMORPGs are all over the place, and free-to-play. Neverwinter, Rift, Aion, GW2, and more are out there just waiting for you to download a free client or buy one and then play for free. Even STOWR made the transition (not very well, I hear.). More on this in a minute, as well.
- WoW is old and crufty. Well, that’s about as subjective as it gets. I’ve played other games that have "better" graphics and I can’t really say there’s a lot going on there. I will say the armor and weapon models are, a lot of times, a lot more interesting to look at. The toons – player and NPC – however often hit that "uncanny valley" of near-realism that just turns off the brain. WoW makes no pretenses about how it chose to depict its characters, and it’s paid off again and again. Just … hurry up with those player model improvements, guys? Thanks.
So there’s two things I want to focus on.
The Nerfing of Azeroth
Over time, Blizzard has done a lot to nerf things in the game. I’ve generally felt it was a bad idea.
This harks to the recent Blog Azeroth shared topic of "is leveling too easy?". A lot of people confused "too easy" with "easier". Can we agree that the two aren’t equivalent? Yes? Good. Let’s proceed.
If you accept that "easier" and "too easy" aren’t the same thing, then you won’t feel locked into asserting that leveling in Azeroth is NOT "too easy" but it IS "easier". I can think of dozens of examples.
- Mor’ladim is a joke compared to his past self, who terrorized the Raven Hill cemetery with an iron fist. You always had to work your questing around his whereabouts or suffer the consequences. And don’t give me any guff about "it’s subjective". He was an elite.
- Stitches‘ epic journey from Raven Hill to Darkshire put terror into the hearts of travelers. Many’s the time I stopped to help someone else bring him down. Also many’s the time I hid to one side of the road until he passed. You needed a group; now the game supplies you with one.
- That horrendous run from Menethil to Ironforge so you could take the tram to Stormwind if you were an Night Elf or Draenai.
- That horrendous run to Booty Bay. Back then there wasn’t a Rebel Camp with a gryphon. And, as I found out on my first outing, even the grass was deadly.
- Even Princess was painful.
- You didn’t just waltz into the area outside of an instance; it was full of elites. People forget how terrifying it was to go into Deadmines the first time to do that quest for the miner’s guild.
These were all painful rites of passage that those of us that leveled up in early WoW remember and understand. They are all gone the way of the dodo, either because of new flight points, or new boats, or nerfed zones, or even nerfed NPCs. There are hundreds more examples like this, things that are absolutely, indisputably easier than they were prior to Cata. Anyone that says it’s just my experience in the game making it SEEM that way isn’t thinking it all the way through. There were real challenges that simply aren’t around anymore.
The question of whether it is too easy is another matter because it addresses Blizzard’s actual decision to make the leveling game go easier at lower levels. Starting as far back as Wrath, maybe sooner, they started taking the starch out of expansion zones as we got near the end of the expansion. A journey that might take you all the way to Storm Peaks at the start of Wrath, for example, might end somewhere in Sholazar – if you got that far, even! Faiella managed to get to 80 in Dragonblight.
Did they go too far? There is a fine line between challenge and chore; did they cross it? That’s at the heart and soul of this issue, I think.
When they redesigned Azeroth for Cataclysm, many zones were reworked completely – quests redone, levels changed, elites nerfed, and so forth. And yet people felt like they were on a conveyor belt; you couldn’t start quests at hub "B" until you finished all the ones at "A" and were directed to "B".
My feelings are that they went too far, and did a poor job on the redesign of Azeroth, and that this legacy has carried forth into other aspects of the game, including MoP.
They’re *trying* to understand user feedback, but I think they’re letting their game designer’s instincts be subverted by management’s insistence that they "make the game more accessible", and it’s backfiring because people don’t want to be spoon-fed stuff. After all, if you just want to look at the assets, there are tools that let you do that without actually playing!
Here’s an example of a designer going against what he knows is right; flying mounts take you out of the world and make you an observer of, rather than a part of, that world. When he speaks elsewhere of the importance of "exploration", he’s referring not to the act of flying all over the place to clear areas of the map – that’s "mapping" – but being down in the world’s nooks and crannies and discovering things about it.
Granted you can’t currently fly in a zone until you hit max level. But even that’s an arbitrary rule imposed to overcome the hinkyness of being able to just fly all over the place. It was a bad idea in BC, it was a hakneyed idea in Wrath, and it was a hideous idea in Cata, so now that we’re in MoP, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to get it one way or another.
When we played one of the old Gold Box or Black Box series, exploration – the peering into corners, the poking at things and the pulling of levers were integral parts of the games. This is part of what made them fun. Games without a few dead ends and red herrings were generally received with a gigantic yawn.
Blizzard game designers know this, but in an attempt to make the game "more accessible", some of this aura of mystery and magic may have been lost.
I think that if they plan to turn things around, they may have to address this. Put back some of the danger. Make a few things not pan out exactly the way the user wants. Require a little bit of effort in some (non-critical) places. Give people a reason to want to explore places like Winterspring, which is otherwise pretty useless since nobody ever sees it.
Answering the Threat
The one-two punch of new and prettier games, along with the F2P model, are another concern, and one which I think Blizz is dealing with.
Improvements to the gaming assets – character models, scenery, and so forth – have been taking places incrementally since Vanilla. But to many, that’s not good enough. They look at the character models presented in Neverwinter, for example, and complain that "all they have to do" is add some polygons.
But overall, I don’t think anything major will happen in WoW concerning the game engine. They’re working hard on "Titan" for the next big thing, but since it’s been set back, don’t look there for help.
For good or ill, we’re going to have to make do with incremental improvements in our game assets until WoW is sunsetted.
The other threat is the F2P model.
Early on, F2P pretty much meant "free to play but don’t expect much in the way of updates". I encountered F2P first in Anarchy Online, which is still going strong on that model – well, as strong as an out of date game can go strong.
The advantages of F2P is that the barrier to entry is pretty low. All you need is a game client and an internet connection. In some cases you have to pay for the client, but that’s a one-time expenditure that few would argue with. Others will even give you the client for free. Some have turned that around and give you the client but charge you to play – we won’t talk about them for now, they’re small and okay with that.
How does a F2P game keep the servers running? Well, there are a few ways, such as ads in-game (I first saw this in AO), and, and … well, there’s the "cash shop".
The "cash shop" is usually an external web site that you go to to purchase items to use in-game. In most cases you buy currency, then use that currency in-game, such as "Zen" in Neverwinter. For the most part you can only purchase cosmetic and non-game-changing items, though in some very poorly implemented instances, that’s not necessarily true.
So what have we seen implemented recently? A cash shop.
I know dozens of bloggers and opinionators have said that Blizzard would never go F2P. I have never heard anyone from Blizzard say that.
WoW is Blizzard’s "cash cow". For those that have never heard of such a thing, a "cash cow" is something that’s not really top of the line, but keeps bringing in money in a reliable stream. So you keep "milking" it until it runs dry. For example, at one place that Grimmtooth Actual worked, he worked on a lot of bleeding edge server systems, but over in a dark corner was a guy named "Dave" that worked on some pretty archaic looking stuff. He explained, while it was far from state of the art, it was being used by thousands of banks across the world, and any time one broke down, they needed a replacement. So he was the guy that farmed our cash cow while we went and burned off that money with our splashy R&D.
So WoW’s kinda like that right now. And Blizz wants to keep that cash cow on the farm for as long as possible. With today’s numbers, that’s over 100 million bucks a month of solid income. At TWO million players it’s 30 million a month, so even that can’t be sneezed at – would it actually cost that much to keep the servers up?
Unfortunately, that’s where I run out of steam, sort of. I have no idea of what kind of numbers a big F2P title brings in. I don’t even know how to guess. SWTOR claims that shifting to F2P "doubled" its income, but given its draconian implementation, let’s hope for better if WoW ever goes that route.
At the moment I think it’s likely they will, especially since the wait for "Titan" is probably going to be well past 2015, and possibly even 2017.
The question becomes, then: will I play an F2P WoW?
It’s going to depend on the implementation. A Neverwinter-like implementation MIGHT work, assuming the restrictions aren’t too annoying. One like SWTOR would see me drop out in a hurry, however.
At the moment we can only hope for the best.
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So, as posted on the EU community website, Cosmetic helms are now for sale in the cash shop Blizzard Store. And if you’re into gaudy, they’re not bad.
First of all: 15 US dollars is not a microtransaction. I don’t care what your favorite omnibus WoW website says, I don’t care what your favorite MMO forum site says. The cost of a month’s game time is not a microtransaction. So don’t call it that, and we’ll get along fine.
Next item: will it affect the game at all? I can’t really see how, other than consuming precious frame rate. Seriously, what would a 25-man raid look like with these on everyone? Will a new Alliance battleground strat involve wearing these and lagging the Horde out? Considering that it’s gotten zero beta time, these are actually kinda relevant questions. But I’m SURE they’ve gotten EXTENSIVE testing in-house.
Item the third: when will this hit the US? Days? Hours? Before this post goes up? Update: I found out at 2 PM (two hours after publish) that they’re now available in the US.
Item the fourth: what next? Will we see matching robes, shoulders, cloaks? And sidebar: will the WoW punditry also insist on calling those other items "microtransactions" if they cost 15 bucks?
The big one: how long until we see pay-to-win items? And does this indeed signal the final death rattle of WoW?
Oops, sorry, accidentally plugged in to a forum.
The personal one: I’d almost buy the Firelord helm for Flora if she was into gaudy baubles. But in general none of this stuff speaks to my nature. I seriously doubt that they’ll ever introduce a mog set that says "I work for a living" rather than "I’d like to think that I raid stuff you can’t even imagine."
The thoughtful one: It’s not just this stuff. So much WoW raiding tier and its predecessor gear looks so hideous to me. It’s covered with horns, and glitter, and flanges, and glitter, and orbs, and glitter, and ropey things, and glitter, and then they add glitter. SOME of the old vanilla tier stuff is okay but for the most part, Blizz is in love with its art department, and its art department all apparently majored in "Ming the Merciless’ Court Trappings".
But the thing is, they wouldn’t keep getting more ridiculous with every tier if it weren’t for the users wanting, or at least encouraging it. Those of us that want a more functional approach to awesomeness are not as vocal or as profitable.
I am very much of the opinion that awesomeness is not a function of frills and special effects. The most iconic weapons are often very much, shall we say, to the point.
Rather than …
Maybe Ming wasn’t at fault after all.
If you can’t please everyone, the best you can do is give them choices, and that’s where mogging came in in the first place. You may recall my own mogging preferences are somewhat more functional than what my armor actually looks like. And there are others that go the other way – well, I can certainly see the attraction of some Ulduar and Icecrown gear.
The Cheap One: What I would love to see with this sort of throwaway mog fodder is for it to (also) be sold for in-game currency of some sort, especially near the end of an expansion when people have piles of tokens and nothing to blow them on. It would be a great JP dump, or Greater Tokens, or Halfhill Tokens, or what have you.
An even better approach would be to (a) make the items purchasable for a new special token type, (b) make it so you could buy that token in the cash shop (e.g.Neverwinter Zen), and (3) then also make that token purchasable for varying amounts of other in-game tokens, such as JP, Darkmoon tokens, etc. That way, if one particular faction grind was "your thang", then you could, oh, I dunno, enjoy yourself while playing a game.
Because here’s the bottom line for me: they could make the perfect Hunter garb of all time available, and I’d not buy it for cash, not ever. I’m paying that much a month already. I’m not even sure I’d pay for it if it was F2P. Virtual items are pretty much gone as soon as you stop playing the game. Game time, for all its ephemeral nature, gives you a month’s worth of enjoyment, whereas a hat isn’t even usable unless you pay more money.
But I might grind for it.
The Final One: The Godmother over at Alt:ernative had an interesting thought (or a dozen) about the cash shop, one which was the sale of armor dyes. I do want armor dyes. I especially want one like the one in Diablo III that makes your shoulder pieces go away. But I categorically do not want them to be part of the cash shop. Special colors? Possible. In general? Not. It might be close to a deal-breaker for me, a last sign of cynical money-grubbing from a company that swore up and down that Activision wouldn’t do that to it. I can only swallow so much hypocrisy, and that would probably mark the high water line.
Doing so would also eliminate one of the potential fun elements in-game: making of dyes. I personally think this would be a great product for Scribes to make since they already have all sorts of dyes in the bank. I think it would be great if they managed to exploit ALL of the herbs from Peacebloom to Golden Lotus to make different armor dyes. They could just keep adding different shades of dye as new herbs came into being. Heck, Ghost Mushrooms would be perfect for making armor invisible!
I kind of doubt that will happen, though. I could be wrong, but they seem to be pushing down hard on the crafting game, and it’s starting to look like there is either a paradigm shift about to happen, or they’re starting to dismantle crafting as an mainstream part of the game. Certainly, it has problems.
It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. At least the potential cash mounts will give us more people to admire as they preen on the bank steps and RP walk around Stormwind.
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When I get ranty, I tend to pound out around 2000-3000 words of pure snark and outrage, then spend several days tweaking and adjusting and, yes, most definitely, deleting. Because even though a good rant is a thing of beauty, my rants tend to lean in a hurtful direction initially, and I have to go back and trim out the potentially offensive stuff (well, if it’s not deserved …).
I mention this not to emphasize the fact that I have trollish tendencies, but to illustrate why, so many times, these sort of things get posted so late in the rant cycle. In fact, I’d say a good 60% or more never get posted at all, simply because I can’t de-toxify them fast enough to keep them relevant.
As it turns out, yesterday’s rant came in just under the wire, though I had no idea at the time that that would be the case. As a rant, it stands on its own, but as a meaningful comment on the current state of the Hunter, it’s already obsolete.
Late in the night last night, Lore posted a few changes to the class that directly address concerns in the post I lined in MMO-C.
Regarding Stampede: We’re happy with the damage it’s currently putting out in PvP. For PvE, we’re planning to buff its damage pretty heavily, so it becomes a substantially more potent DPS cooldown. We don’t want to give it any more utility than it has now, for reasons we’ve explained at length already.
So this emphasizes what GC was saying about the intended purpose of Stampede in the first place – it’s intended as a DPS cooldown, not a utility cooldown, and thus they’re upping the damage to make it “worth your while” My opinion, of course, is that any insta-cast ability that bring even a sliver of additional damage is worthwhile anyway. But more is always welcome.
Readiness is still under heavy discussion, and we haven’t made a final decision on what we’re going to do with it in 5.4. At the moment, we’re leaning towards just removing the ability entirely and giving the affected abilities shorter cooldowns or charges to compensate. If we end up taking that route, we will buff Hunter damage (most likely across the board, not just specific abilities), but as I mentioned, we’re still discussing.
I’m good with removing it, as it reduces the clutter of my startup anyway, and it never worked across the board for all abilities in a consistent way (e.g. Stampede). However, adding “charges” to abilities looks fraught with possibilities, mostly negative. There’s the potential for bugs that don’t get caught on the PTR, and there’s the potential for complicating an already complicated rotation.
Demonology warlocks, for example, will already know one of these pitfalls with Hand of Gul’dan; it has two charges, both available initially, and both with separate cooldown timers. Do you put both down immediately? Do you stagger them, and if so, how much? And so forth.
Ponder-worthy as we move forward.
Murder of Crows vs Blink strike is also still under heavy discussion. Our goal (with all talents) is that active abilities used properly will outperform passive ones. We haven’t decided yet what adjustments we’ll make to achieve that in 5.4.
Generally speaking, an explicit action when compared to a passive ability usually involves some sort of cast time, which is where a passive becomes so attractive for classes with very crowded rotations. In this case, there is no cast time involved, so the passive is actually less attractive if it doesn’t bring damage commensurate with the active ability. I think here they need to shoot for parity rather than supremacy.
I also like the phrase, “talents used properly.” That has to be a dig at someone – who, we may never know.
Scatter/Silencing Shot: We don’t consider interrupts to be mandatory in PvE.
Now, to clarify, what I am pretty sure Lore means here is that they don’t consider interrupts to be mandatory for hunters. Anyone that’s raided anything at all knows that interrupts of some sort are absolutely, positively, without any doubt, mandatory for the raid.
If a Hunter would rather not take the Glyph of Scattered Thoughts, there are plenty of other players in the raid who could take on the responsibility.
We like Silencing Shot as a Marksman perk overall, but we’re still discussing things. We may end up making a baseline Interrupting Shot that gets upgraded to Silencing Shot if you spec Marksman.
In fact, this has already shown up on the PTR – it’s called Counter Shot. Currently an NPC ability, but available to a PTR Hunter near you starting immediately.
Speaking of spec differences, we agree that Hunter rotations feel cooler when your signature shots do a lot more damage than other shots, and we’ll discuss that some more. That’s part of the reasoning behind the Arcane Shot changes – our hope is that saving up more Focus for a bigger hit will feel better than firing off smaller shots more regularly.
This seems strangely disconnected from my experience as a Hunter, in that I rarely need to “save up” focus for anything, and I rarely lack focus to use my signature shot, thanks to appropriate use of Cobra Shot to keep focus above a certain point.
Besides, reducing the cost of Arcane Shot seems to be counter to encouraging the preferential use of OTHER abilities. Unless they mean that by reducing the cost here, they’re making focus available for other shots so that they get used more often. Again, I hardly ever delay the cast of my signature ability over focus costs, so I’m not sure where this is coming from.
What I WILL say is that I feel like “Arcane Shot” is a bizarre ability for Hunters, period, now that we don’t use mana.
As to overall Hunter performance and utility, we don’t think the issues are with the Hunter class specifically. Instead, we think that certain other classes are overperforming (in both) at the moment. Fixing those outliers will, in turn, make a good Hunter more attractive for their raid spot. You may have seen some (but not all) changes along those lines on the PTR already.
OH JUST PUT A “KICK ME” SIGN ON OUR BACKS.
Realize that every nerf from now on out will be blamed on Hunters.
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Maybe you heard. Them busy datamining gnomes done went and found something interesting.
If what they found is to be believed, in 5.4 or at some point in the not too distant future, you will be able to buy a potion that will double your XP from killing mobs and doing quests.
Two things come to mind.
- If it costs a significant portion of your subscription fee (or more!) then it is not a microtransaction. Just stop calling $25 companions and mounts a "microtransaction", for Light’s sake. You just look like you have no idea what you’re talking about.
- Blizzard still has issues coming to grips with the problem.
That second thing needs a bit of explaining.
The entire goal of things like this supposed elixir are to bypass the leveling game. Other devices like the Scroll of Resurrection and so forth do this as well – by increasing your XP gain rate, they shorten the amount of time you spend leveling. They’ve also beefed up the XP gain rate for the content of entire expansions in order to achieve the same thing. Entire zones have been revamped to make it easier to level through them, more efficiently.
So what’s wrong with this is that there are plenty of people that like the leveling game. There is the original game and four expansions’ worth of content that can’t all be experienced organically by one character. Things like these potions don’t really impact it, but any time Blizz does something to marginalize an entire zone, it DOES impact people that enjoy the older / earlier zones.
But as long as Blizzard fails to acknowledge and act on the ultimate problem, they’ll keep doing this. It’s wasteful and annoying.
What they need to do is just sell pre-made level 90 characters.
Things like this elixir have that in mind, they just don’t go far enough.
What they’ll tell you is that they want to make things easier on people that want to bring a new class to raiding. Fair enough. So just short circuit the whole leveling game and give them a 90. Charge 25 bucks and the leetsauce raiders will just lap it up.
So, no, I don’t have a problem with you if you want to ignore 95% of the game content on your frantic climb to 90. I’d just prefer they spend fewer resources getting you there.
Leave the old zones alone. Stop selling elixirs. Stop treating the leveling game like it’s such a chore, and just give people what they want. You’ll be happier, I’ll be happier, and we’ll all have somebody new to lump in with "e-bayers".
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In the recent developer Q&A we find this exchange:
Fojar: Following the fall of Garrosh, will the Alliance be turning its attention to reclaiming its lost territory in the Northern Eastern Kingdoms? I speak primarily of Lordaeron, Gilneas, and Stromgarde.
Fargo: This is something we struggle with, because after Cataclysm we seriously question the time-investment of re-doing old zones. Presumably, from a lore standpoint, the Horde is going to have to back down from areas on the edge of conquest (particularly Ashenvale.) But we don’t want to re-do that zone – it’s an important Horde level-up area. And even if we DID re-do it, we’d still have to have quests – it couldn’t just be night elves /dancing. On a related note, would you guys be willing to sacrifice a new zone in the next expansion for us to re-do Gilneas? As an Alliance only zone? What gameplay would we get out of it?
So it’s an open question for us, how we show the impact of the war without re-doing zones that we just re-did for Cataclysm.
Kamrian Green: A fear many Alliance players have is that everything that the Horde has done to the faction up until this point will be laid on Garrosh and all will be forgiven. Can we safely assume that this will not be the case? To the Alliance, the Horde has a lot to answer for without Hellscream.
Fargo: I address this somewhat in an above answer- how SHOULD we depict Alliance justice without deleting a bunch of old zone content? Also, we still need to make sure a Horde EXISTS after Garrosh falls, because, you know, they’re half our players. But certainly going forward into the next expansion we can carry forward the themes of Horde trying to rebuild itself from an absolutely terrible war and the Alliance – a unified victorious juggernaut – taking the initiative in the challenges that lie ahead.
Orgrimmar is going to be a bloodbath.
There seems to be the perception that the zone revamps of Cataclysm were, by and large, a failure. There are many reasons given, but by and large, the finger usually points to execution – it was in general done poorly.
One example would be the added real estate that remained, by and large, dead. Go to EPL and have a look at the highlands in between the northwestern and southwestern halves of the zone. Lake, devoid of life. Hills, devoid of life.
There are other examples to draw upon, of course. How questing was "on rails". How you ran out of XP headroom before you ran out of quests. How the lore was treated disrepectfully in some cases. The retcons. And so forth.
But there were some good points, too. The whole Wrathion storyline issues forth from one of those revamped zones. Oversized zones were cut into manageable sizes. Things moved forward as time passed (WPL, to some extent).
In general, if you ask someone how they feel about revamped, updated, or modernized zones, as a thing, they’ll be positive. But if you ask them how they feel about how Blizz executed the revamped zones, the response will be overall negative.
Now, let’s look at the above quotes again. Fargo gives the impression that, yeah, they want to modernize zones, but, because they didn’t work out, they don’t feel that putting resources into it is a worthwhile thing.
The thing is, I think that the response to the bad execution is being taken as a response to the whole idea of zone revamps, and I have to disagree with that perception. I think that if they had done a better job of it, the response would be far, far more positive, and Blizz would probably see this as a thing worth pursuing.
Right now, moving the lore on Old Azeroth forward seems to be held up by their unwillingness to try to revamp a zone again. Look at the comments above; yeah, would be nice of Alliance took back Gilneas, but that would require a zone revamp. Yeah, Alliance justice would be interesting to depict, but we’d have to revamp a bunch of old content. Yeah, Alliance would probably assert itself in Ashenvale again, but that would require a zone revamp.
Eventually it stops sounding convincing. Eventually it sounds like a bunch of weak excuses.
The lore should move forward. If that means revamping old zones, you do it, or things start to fall apart. Eventually you’re not going to be able to staple all the old lore to new expansions’ lore without some change.
On a lighter note:
Guest: Turalyon and Alleria are still absent after all these years. Did they find a portal to a tropical island planet and are sitting on the beach drinking cocktails with the little umbrellas in them right now or something?
Fargo: I LIKE that answer! But I suspect they opted to do something heroic instead. We’ll come back to them when the time is right.
Keep in mind where it is that we lost track of these two, and we see some foreshadowing that points towards Outland once again. Goody!
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The planned new training recipes for Blacksmithing in patch 5.2 make me sad.
In a nutshell, these new recipes can be used to get you from skill level 1 to 500 by using Ghost Iron – I’m going to assume that in the next expansion, it will be the ore of the new lands, perpetually from 5.2 on out.
The good news of this is that you don’t have to go farming for copper, tin, iron, and so forth to get you through the lower levels.
But here’s the thing; can I see a show of hands of anyone that felt that farming or buying copper ore was any more difficult than farming or buying ghost iron? It’s not difficult. It’s not a problem. The greatest challenge it poses is for you to figure out what zone has what ores, which is just the sort of brain-dead activity that separates us from lower primates.
In short, this solves a problem that doesn’t exist.
It is strangely similar to how Blizzard solved “the leveling problem”. Instead of making it interesting, they made it trivial.
And GhostCrawler has the nerve to be surprised that his playerbase “optimizes for efficiency.”
The simplified leveling model solved a problem that didn’t exist. The new blacksmithing scheme does as well. And both are a monumental waste of time.
If they decide to trivialize the leveling or blacksmithing experience so that it’s just stupid simple to do, why not do something a lot less complicated? Just let people buy level 85 characters for fifty bucks (and kill the illicit market for said toons). Just let people pay a huge sum of gold for BS skill level 500 and stop clogging our zones with farmers.
They have a moral and philosophical objection to this sort of thing, but because of those peccadillos, they’ve wasted countless man-hours on something that nobody wants, instead of, oh, I don’t know, new content maybe?. Maybe finish up dance studio? Maybe get those updated models out there?
No, what they’ve decided to do is to give us ways to skip parts of the game without actually and factually doing the deed.
And that, my friends, is disappoint.
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Over the last few weeks or so there has been a lot of debate, most of it hostile and disrespectful, over, of all things, dailies. I really hate it when people use terms like “Skinner box” to short-cut the discussion, in the seeming belief that using labels to obscure meaning somehow gives them an advantage.
In a way, it does, in that it discourages participation from people that are not steeped in the science of psychology – or the shorthand pop psych that passes for it in gaming circles. Of course, this opens them up to an attack of bona fides, in which the adversary gets to pick which version of “Operant conditioning chamber” that will be used in the conversation. At which point it all breaks down into a bitter fight over selection of sources, a third-hand knife fight over which source is the most correct, and at the end nothing is resolved or even discussed, which makes the owners (if that term can really be used) of the debate quite happy, since all they probably have anyway are bitter complaints, and if we resolve those then nobody’s happy!
So as not to be one of the guilty, here’s my summary: a “Skinner box” is basically an apparatus in which a creature is placed. It presents them with stimuli, and things to do, and a reward system. One example would be a box in which a rat is placed, with a pellet dispenser, a lever, a light, and a bell. When the light flashes, and the rat hits the lever, it gets a pellet. When the bell sounds, and it hits the lever, it gets no pellet. The rat is eventually trained to press the lever whenever the lights goes off, period. If you want to make it festive, apply a punishment when the bell sounds, but it’s not actually a requirement to use negative reinforcement in such a system.
My favorite story about Skinner devices is this, and it illustrates the concept admirably.
Six monkeys were placed in a with a bunch of bananas. Whenever one of the monkeys touched the bananas, though, the rest of the monkeys would get sprayed with a fire hose.
Eventually, the monkeys learned to keep each other away from the bananas.
One monkey was replaced with a new one. It naturally tried to get a banana, and it naturally got the hell beat out of it by the other monkeys.
One by one, the monkeys were replaced, until none of the original monkeys remained.
At that point, the fire hose was removed. It wasn’t needed. The monkeys would beat the hell out of any monkey that tried to get a banana.
At that point, the monkeys were replaced, one by one, again, until the second generation was completely replaced.
The six monkeys that remained would not let any monkey have a banana. There was no fire hose. There was no punishment. None of them had ever been hosed, not even once.
I imagine if you could talk to the monkeys, and ask them “why won’t you let anyone have a banana?”, they’d probably look around and go “Well, that’s how we’ve always done things around here.”
The contentious debate is all about whether we’re monkeys, really. I’m voting monkey.
A couple of days ago, I was pleased to let this sit where it was. All *I* had, after all, was complaints about the people making all the noise! And it’s really silly to complain about something that makes one feel oh so better about themselves, so silence seemed best.
Then GhostCrawler had to go and tweet this:
I would not have predicted that players would become so focused on efficiency. Not fun or improving themselves. Efficiency.
I caught myself laughing, because that’s exactly what Grimm’s been doing. Gear planning is simply that – planning one’s way through a series of events in the most efficient manner possible. A caveat is that he’s full aware of the irony of plotting one’s most direct route through a game, which is meant to be fun. But, it is ironic nevertheless.
Ghostcrawler’s tweet really brings it together, though. Remember as the expansion was coming together that a lot of noise was made about “fun”. We’re bringing you “fun dailies”. We are giving you “fun things to do”. That sort of talk.
But the design team failed to understand the stats they had from past expansions point towards the raiding monkeys making a beeline for two things: gear and tokens for more gear.
Ask around, see if you can find someone that did the Firelands dailies out of a sense of enjoyment. It should be easy. Those people will have lots of unused tokens. Because the rest of us monkeys stopped as soon as we had just enough to get that last bit of gear. This has been true for every dailies hub since the Shattered Sun Offensive. Ghostcrawler’s comment in this context makes no sense.
The problem with dailies in MoP is that they may have been designed for “fun” by a subset of the population, but they’re being drowned out by the raiding monkeys that feel obligated to run the dailies like a rat in a box, hitting the lever every time the light goes on. The whole game is filled with this sort of thing. Crafting cooldowns, the gardening minigame, and so forth. A lot of monkeys have good reason to see this as some sort of elaborate “skinner box” in which we’re just waiting for the right stimulus to get our daily pellet.
Many have tried to paint this in a sinister light. Making the monkeys play a game for a reward! Why, it would be scandalous, if true!
Now, I love a good conspiracy theory. But I subscribe to the notion of “never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity and laziness.” And I think that applies here. Not necessarily the stupidity part, but the “laziness” part has, indirectly, some bearing.
I realize that’s a loaded word, “laziness.” It implies that Blizz aren’t busting their humps to keep us monkeys happy. And we should know by now that that’s just not true. They work very hard, and very long, and very much.
But there is such a thing as “lazy game design” and that’s where I see dailies coming in.
Dailies serve no purpose but to fill a void, that void being the one in between content patches. The monkeys that rush to the top run out of things to do, log in to the forums, and grunt about how bored they are. After that happens a few dozen hundred hojillion times, Blizz gets the idea that the monkeys are bored, and figure that just about anything will shut them up.
The novel aspect of this in BC caught the loudest of monkeys by surprise, but by Shattered Sun Offensive time, they had wised up and were complaining that Blizz was throwing dailies at them to substitute for real content.
For once, the monkeys are probably right.
Take the Firelands hub as an example.
If you consider three weeks per faction, the Dailies route can buy you a couple of months, maybe a whole quarter, in which the monkeys are clicking away on the same old content. Maybe you throw in an RNG to make it a little more varied, but otherwise that’s about it. Basically it amounts to designing enough quests so that your players get around a dozen a day out of a pool of, say, twenty-five. If you multiply that by a month, you get twenty-five quests taking the place of close to 500 “new” quests, which is what it would take to see the same number of new quests per day for a month.
I’m oversimplifying, of course, but even in this simplified scenario, the math of dailies – from the developer’s resource perspective – are clear. All the time and personnel resources that would be needed for 500 new quests can be put into something else, and the project lead goes to bed thinking he’s pulled something off.
As any player will tell you, doing the same thing for thirty days is not, however, anywhere close to as enjoyable as actual new content. But the Dailies Lie is one that Blizz has learned to tell itself, and believe, officially, and it doesn’t seem to matter how much you think otherwise, they’re going to keep on saying things like “fun” and “dailies” in the same breath, and equating that to new content.
MoP was supposed to be different. There would be, literally, “hundreds” of dailies to do – all you had to do was choose WHICH ones to do! What they did not say was that it was actually:
- 12 Tillers dailies
- 12 Anglers dailies
- 12 August Celestials dailies
- 12 Klaxxi dailies
- 12 Shadow-pan dailies
- 12 Golden Lotus dailies
- 12 Cloud Serpent dailies
- 12 Lorewalker dailies
- 12 5.1 dailies
When I look at it this way, this hardly seems to be different from Cataclysm, only with different names for the factions, but the same deal nonetheless.
To be fair, there are a few differences.
- Tabards don’t earn you faction points any more.
- Upon hitting revered, you can buy a token to accelerate reputation for yourself and all your alts, for that faction.
- Some JP and VP gear is tied to faction rep now.
- Tokens are earned that get you a bonus roll in raids.
I think the Firelands quests finally revealed that the monkeys were wising up and daring someone to break out a firehose. We went as far as we needed to get what we wanted, and then we stopped playing, in droves, until the next patch. Blizz may claim that this is expected behavior, but they are bound to feel pressure from nervous CEOs and questions from The Board.
So they changed up the game a little, to try to reel us in and level out the valleys in the population charts.
The big hook here is the bonus roll, once you’ve spent all your VP and JP on gear and upgrades. The bonus roll come from Lesser Charms of Good Fortune, which you can only get from running dailies, often. If you’re not a raider, though, they’re less compelling. And I maintain that the raiding population is but a small segment of the population. I think that once the non-raiders top off their tanks, so to speak, we’ll see a drop-off again.
The classic “Skinner” scenario is very effective, but you have to choose the rewards wisely, or the monkey will just stop going for the banana. I don’t think dailies will really keep driving logins once the rewards peter out. They have a limited shelf life. Once we out-gear those rewards, we won’t even care about bonus rolls.
The real question is whether or not they can stretch things out long enough for the next patch, and the next, and so forth, to keep us occupied until a new reward can be brought out.
At which point, break out your firehoses – I’m going in.
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While it is certainly not universal, a significant portion of the WoW player base has or has had alts, or are maybe contemplating one or more alts. I’m sure you understand we’re from the alt camp here at Casa de Grimmtooth, But I’m not going to judge someone just because having alts isn’t their cuppa tea.
Having an alt usually means having an alt that is lower level than your main, an alt that needs to come up through the ranks, either at a headlong pace (to get to max level) or at a slightly slower rate (just for the sake of the alt). In short, you’re going to go through some older content.
Even after The Shattering, going through old content can be pretty depressing. 90% of it feels cast-off, forgotten, unwanted and unloved. I’m sure there’s an RPer or lore nerd or three out there that will make an extra effort to enjoy each old zone to its fullest, but that’s the point – unless you go out of your way, you end up losing yourself in a whirlwind of under-tuned quests, buggy hubs, and quest chains that cut short because you outleveled them.
It’s hard to gauge the old world, since the endgame zones are more or less universally changed up. But Outland, Northrend, and the Cataclysmic lands all show the same symptoms. In BC, used to be you were in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley before you popped 70 – now you’re lucky to hit Nagrand. In Northrend, you’ll likely hit 80 somewhere in Dragonblight. You’ll likely not see the Highlands, either, so forget the dwarven awesomeness. You’re off to Pandaria!
Blizz has turned the knobs for XP gained and XP rewarded almost all the way up so that those that wish to level in a hurry, can. That seems like some sort of distortion to everybody else, a punishment for playing below endgame levels. Every quest that goes gray before you can complete it, every NPC that bugs out because it was never fixed in Cata (where the bug was introduced), every involved quest chain that you just give up on because, really, you don’t need that amount of annoyance for XP you can get, oh, ANYWHERE. All of this sours the experience of anyone that had hopes of enjoying the lower levels of the game.
Blizzard has listened to the wrong people. They have heard the churning, puling cries of the forum posters and wrongfully considered them to be the valid opinion of everyone. Unfortunately they’ve listened to a group of people with a distorted view of the game in which the forums are the primary feature of the game and the game client is a method of fueling forum posts. I applaud Blizzard’s intent, but the execution was flawed because they figured that intelligent, reasonable people would come TO the forums if people like Ghostcrawler showed up to answer questions. Maybe they did. but they were driven away by the instant onslaught of the WoW equivalent to 4chan.
Accelerated XP is one of several bad ideas to come from that channel. Another is CRZ. These are to solve problems that didn’t exist. The problem was that there are people that just want a different character, all ready to go at max level or reasonably close, for raiding or PvP or whatever, without having to muck about with the leveling process. Blizzard’s response, based on feedback from the forums, was CRZ, heirlooms, accelerated XP earnings, increased XP rewards, and account-bound mounts and pets.
As a result, thousands of man-hours have been wasted on features that appease very few and annoy everyone else.
The EASIEST solution would be to make it possible to buy max-level toons for a price, equip ‘em with heirlooms, and leave everything else alone. Drop the XP gains, decrease the XP awards, shut down CRZ. Maybe make mounts and pets soulbound again, not account bound (though I sense much pushback on that). Make it possible to complete all of the quests from newbie zone to endgame zone within that race’s progression path.
Unfortunately, I doubt this will ever happen. I mentioned bugs, as an example. While leveling in Dustwallow, for example, I encountered several pretty severe bugs that were there when Cata came out. They’ve never been fixed. I’ve seen bugs mentioned in forums, asking when they’d be fixed, and the answer, “No idea, we’re busy with awesome new stuff.” Well, that’s software engineers for ya. They hate fixing bugs, and they love the shiny. Remember that next time a software developers tells you that his profession is a “craft” as well. A real artisan potter would never let go even a flower pot in the condition that Dustwallow Marsh is. That’s the difference between a craftsman and a factory worker.
Unfortunately, due to the noise level in the forums, the fact that that is the only way that Blizz really communicates with users, and the pressure to churn out new product, I suspect that the leveling experience will continue to be wretched and useless. It’ll get you from level 1 to 85 quickly enough, but you’ll hate every step of it because not only have you done it all before, but it seemed more interesting and challenging at the time. Now, it’s a joke.
I have over a dozen alts. Until Cata came along, I truly enjoyed leveling them. Last week, in Dustwallow, I was disgusted. Setting up rotations? Why bother, really? There’s no reason to be good at anything at the lower levels, now. They are, as the title says, mostly worthless. And that’s my entire case for buyable max-level toons. The lower levels come across more as punishment than entertainment.
That, more than anything else, I miss at the lower levels. I miss many things, but the actual sense of doing something meaningful and challenging, that’s gone. And I miss it.
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As Eff the Ineffable completes its second Feng clear and contemplates the mystery that is Gara’jal and the Spirit World, I am also engaged in that lovely activity known, to be nice, as the Gear Plan.
Now, there is a bit of loosey-goosey-ness to what, exactly, is meant by those two words, but I choose to give it this general meaning (with lots of wiggle room): generally speaking, figuring what gear I need, and where to find it, for purposes of raiding. If you’re ambitious, part II of that is: what gear, and where to get it, to be fully decked in BiS, preparatory to being ready for Heroics or the next tier.
There are many tools for this. Ask Mr. Robot, for example, will produce lists of gear for you, suggest gems and enchants, and even take all that into account for the next piece. It’s also sometimes not entirely realistic, models and sims being what they are. WoWHead, for another, has a tool that will help you find upgrades.
What neither does very well is give you a big-picture way of understanding, which is where the Gear Plan comes in. As you research each piece, map out where you can find upgrades for it, and so forth, you can organize those findings in some coherent way.
My methods aren’t as accountable as those big sites are, but the numbers I have found were derived from them, as well as others. When all is said and done, some things pop right out at you.
The above image is a chart derived from the stat weights of the gear that provides an improvement to my current gear, as equipped. Basically it’s a map of how much improvement I can get from various sources. Everything from Golden Lotus and below can be considered solo content, things that can be done without much assist from anyone else.
Obviously, LFR has a LOT going for it. But you have to get to iLevel 460 first, so the two tiers below it are of interest.
The interesting thing is, Scenarios play a big part in the gearing progression, far bigger than you might think. There is generally one, maybe two, sets that come out of the little bag you get from running scenarios (and some faction quests). These sets generally have at least one variation that is best-in-slot for blue gear, and, in some cases, better than some epic gear (and 3-4 lesser variations).
Now, for myself, Scenarios play a bigger part than Heroics in the gearing equation. Jasra’s almost-finished gear plan shows a different picture:
In her case, Heroics have more upgrades than they do for me, so they are a bigger immediate payoff than Scenarios.
What you’re seeing here is a profile of two characters at different points on the gearing curve. In Jas’ case, she’s geared poorly enough that there are many upgrades in Heroics. As she gets more upgrades, I expect Heroics and Scenarios to change in weight, as she outlevels Heroics. In the same vein, Klaxxi rep will become less influential as I acquire more pieces from them.
I have yet to look into the 5.1 rewards and see if they bring anything new to the party.
I have yet to do gear plans for anyone else, but I would be very surprised if they strayed far from the profile I’m seeing on Jasra’s gear plan, so pretty much the best advice anyone can get here is: do Scenarios as soon as you can, as many times as you’re allowed to get gear, until you can do LFR. This is your best bet for the best gear.
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