Is Valor Point Upgrading Stressing Raiders Out?

Theck’s back today with another really interesting, in-depth column – this time, looking at the effects of the new Valor Point mechanics on raiders, alts, and the game as a whole.

He starts out talking about alts in Mists – but there’s more to this discussion than that, as he takes in an overview of raiding vs time in this entire WoW expansion:

“In previous expansions, there was a distinct cycle to a player’s involvement throughout an expansion. When a new raid tier or patch arrived, it generally added new stuff to do, and most importantly new reasons to care about valor points. Generally, those reasons were valor point gear rewards, and for a long stretch of time that included tier items. A patch might also introduce new reputations to grind, or new dailies to do (or both), or other new “stuff” like quest lines, pets, or what have you.

And the response of a raider was predictable: you’d log in and do a bunch of that stuff on your main character for a few weeks. Valor accrual was the most important part of those activities – if you considered yourself a serious raider, you were making sure to cap your valor point income each week during that period to make sure you got your hands on that new gear as soon as possible. If you weren’t already clearing enough raid bosses to cap each week, you were out there running heroics to make up the difference.

However, a month or two into the tier, the situation became totally different. ”

Read the rest of the article here

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No Item Upgrades In WoW Patch 5.2?

Of all the announcements about WoW Patch 5.2, the most startling was perhaps that the just-introduced Valor Point Upgrading would be stopping once again in the new patch.

What’s going on? And is it good? Bloggers have been commenting:

  • Green Armadillo argued that this was probably a permanent change, saying that it showed Blizzard had made a mistake overemphasising iLevel – he was subsequently proved wrong, but it’s still a very interesting argument – “It is natural for these customers react poorly when told that they have to do something they do not want to do in order to get the ilvl they think they need. “
  • And The Godmother questions the overall upgrade path in 5.2, saying that the current spectre of 2 tiers of “upgrade” LFR is worrying“You know what, Blizzard. I hate to say this, but you should have kept the Tabards and put a weekly reputation cap on them. At least them people could have chosen where they did their work. You live and learn.”
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So, Is Everyone Still Grinding In MoP?

We’re into month 2 of Mists of Pandaria, and the biggest of discussion topics is still the same – The Grind.

Dailies, Valor Points, and All Those Things are occupying everyone’s mind – and hours.

Here’s the latest thinking from the blogosphere on That There Grind – from whether it’s worth it to ways to minimise the pain…

  • Big Bear Butt has hit the daily grind proper now, and he believes the Valor Point/Rep system in particular has gone completely off the rails“I like that you can do daily quests and get Valor as an alternative means to raiding or running heroics, but there was no reason to take all the JP and VP gear and scatter it to the four winds. Hur hur. Wrath had vendors all over the place, and I thought it was stupid then too. You shouldn’t need to use Google to figure out who has the damn VP gear.”
  • Shy is actually wondering whether she’d rather skive off of WoW – and wonders what that means for the game” But I was completely not looking forward to all the ‘Chores’ I still had to do in the game, so instead I hung in front of the TV and watched some series about hurricanes. It felt somewhat bad, I felt somewhat guilty.”
  • Theck believes – and makes a characteristically tight and well-reasoned argument that – raiders should be able to cap Valor Points by just raiding“By giving such meager valor rewards for raiding, Blizzard is basically saying, “Yeah, we understand that you guys love this content, and we love to produce it, but we don’t think that the 12-15 hours you spend raiding is really all that important. We’d rather you spend more time not raiding.””
  • And Rades dons tights and a cloak to become the saviour of WoW players everywhere with a huge list of tips and tricks for speedier Daily running“You don’t have to actually fight the Mogu who are torturing the Pandaren NPCs. Just fly nearby and aggro them to free a prisoner, then fly away.”

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Pandaren Grind Update: Now With Numbers

As everyone probably knows by now, the raiding game of Mists of Pandaria seems to leave serious raiders grinding like they just got two hours’ access to a warehouse full of freshly-roasted Yirgacheffe. Several bloggers have written that the discussion – and irritation – seems to be winding down, but looking at this weekend’s blog posts, I don’t see this topic dying any time soon.

Today, in particular, several writers have started getting into the nitty-gritty details, looking at the numbers and just how much work is required from each raider each day. And, as you’ll see, those numbers are pretty startling:

  • Anafielle is back with another post looking at the situation for hardcore raiders – this time, she’s running the numbers on the Valor Point cap, and coming out with some pretty scary stats“Let’s consider this in terms of hours. I’m already tossing 12 hours at MSV, and 2 or 3 hours at LFR with terrible pugs… and yeah, it can take 3 hours to do all 6 bosses depending on how many people fall through the floor on LFR Elegon. Having done all of this, I need to do 134 dailies or daily-equivalent activites to cap. Huh. That is… a lot.”
  • Big Bear Butt has come out with some numbers too, for consumables and flasks, and they’re looking, frankly, pretty butt-ugly“So, best case, say I spent 7 days a week planting 16 Songbells, harvesting them specifically for Golden Lotus and no other reason. I could get 1.6 Spirit a day, eleven Spirit of Harmony a week plus two motes left over. That comes close to what I’d need, 33 Golden Lotus. Close, but still no 40 Lotus Cigar.”
  • And BBB also writes a supplemental post that I had to feature, looking at the future of the heroes of Azeroth – alts all – as farm workers and manure shovellers“I can see one of those level 90s, in farming hat and coveralls, leaning on their shovel, gazing off towards the Golden Falls, saying to Farmer Yoon, “You know, I killed the Lich King. I was there, the day that Deathwing died. I have fought an elder god, and I have faced the celestial titans themselves to save our world from destruction.””
  • Matticus looks – unfavourably – at several aspects of the daily grind, including the decision to tie VP to reputation gains” 3 weeks later, all my item slots are filled with heroic dungeon or higher. I don’t even queue for it anymore unless a guildie needs a quick healer queue for a specific instance. But give us a tabard, and I’ll gladly brave heroics and carry a group if need be.”
  • Stubborn asks what Blizzard could do to fulfil our content needs without grinds, and challenges us to come up with some solutions“All of this relies on a tolerance for repetition, though. Blizzard does well as long as that’s true. The question of “if not dailies, what?” peels away that simple solution and asks for something more for those of us who want new experiences.”
  • The Grumpy Elf makes the excellent point that the daily grind can also get better or worse depending on a variety of semi-random factors“I have a friend of mine that does his dailies when he gets home from work which is roughly three hours before me. He says there is very little competition and the quests go fast and easy while when I do them there seems to always be at least 10 people camping spawn spots for mobs to kill because nothing is alive. “
  • And Rohan wonders if a lot of the problems with the grind come from a disconnect between how Blizzard and raiders think of Valor Point gear“But instance drops are random, and raiders tend to discount randomness. Or they expect the worst possible outcome of that randomness. But Valor gear is entirely under their control. “

If there’s one thing the WoW community’s good at, it’s optimising and figuring out solutions for the most intimidating of problems. I’ll be interested to see what solutions emerge from the dailies mess.

How would you fix the Dailies Problem?

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What Does Mists of Pandaria Need? (And Not Need)

What should be coming alongside Mists of Pandaria? And what shouldn’t be?

With the MMOsphere going increasingly quiet for the summer period, our thoughts are turning to the future. Today we’ve got three bloggers looking to the future of WoW, in particular, and offering lengthy, considered opinions on the ways that Azeroth needs to change in the Age of Pandaren:

  • Matthew Rossi thinks that, above all, the world of Azeroth needs villains, embedded in both the Alliance and Horde – and offers some suggestions for possible candidates“We’ve moved past the age of good guys and bad guys, but we can still make use of the idea that each side believes in good vs. evil, and very few armies in history have ever thought they were the bad guys. We need someone who will casually, cynically use this certainty to manipulate events to serve her or his ends”
  • The Grumpy Elf discusses the Black Market AH, changes to Valor Points, cross-server zones and the removal of Have Group Will Travel in Mists, and explains why he believes each of them could be disastrous“And how do they plan to handle spawns? What if terror spinner had spawned on server B 20 minutes ago and server B is the server you throw me on when it was due to spawn on my server in a few minutes? “
  • And Zellviren at Unwavering Sentinel considers the design of the Warrior class from the ground up, in a really interesting consideration of just how the class could be restored for Mists“Reining rage in hasn’t worked. Now, it’s time to embrace it and balance warriors around a different type of resource management that assumes rage is coming in extremely fast. Basically speaking, we want a rage system that doesn’t change a lot from tier to tier, retains the build and spend nature of the resource, and is fun to use; “feast or famine” has got to go.”

I must admit, whilst I’m still on the fence about much of Mists, I’m a little concerned about the Valor Point changes. Having no choice but to wait for random drops seems like a retrograde game design step, all the way back to Vanilla – and personally, I’ve never been a fan of the drop lottery, even less so if LFR drops become mandatory. Meanwhile, the “VPs as upgrades” model also seems likely to lead to even more social tension and conflict in the LF* tools, as experienced raiders are forced to run LFR for upgrade VPs.

What do you think? What does Mists still need – or need removed?

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Is it actually worth gearing up any more?

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle brewing about World of Warcraft gear and the aquisition therof in the blogosphere at the moment, and if I were working at Blizzard, I’d be keeping a close and nervous eye on it.

See, after the announcements about Valor Points today (short version: 1k point cap, 500 max from the Raid Finder), quite a few people are sounding less than chuffed. And in particular, Fulgaris of Killing ‘em Slowly is Not At All Happy about the way that the Valor Point system affects PvE gearing

“The problem I see, the disconnect, hinges directly from the statement that the “aim is to return to the days of valor points being a consolation prize rather than being central to the gearing process.” Aka – we want you to gear through raiding. Then fix your damn drop system! It’s awful. The loot tables are awful. What drops is awful. The things people need don’t drop, and the items people can’t use always drop. Who are these tuned for? I’ve not seen one post ever where someone has said: “Wow, I seem to get all the drops I need through raiding.”

VP is a necessary part of the gearing process because Blizz has MADE IT SO. EGADS! It’s working as felling designed (if not intended). How the fel do any of these VP changes help make it easier to get gear through raid drops? All I see is a bunch of restrictions as if they’re afraid to make VP “too good” and to limit the number of drops you can get to make sure people don’t “overfarm” or something. Here’s a thought: GETTING GEAR IS FUN. By placing all these ridiculous limits on gearing, not only do you make it harder to understand, but you are restricting THE FUN. You wouldn’t have to nerf the fel out of the raids if you’d simply let us gear a bit faster. “

Yep, he’s not happy. And I can see his point – whilst it’s quite cool and game-extending to have people work for their gear, the VP Capping argument from earlier in the year shows that the grind is starting to become a serious issue, particularly when it’s evident that a) the content will be nerfed fairly soon after release and b) new gear will arrive a few months afterward.

But hey, at least things are fine in the world of PvP, right?

Not so much. Cynwise has a lengthy post on his Field Notes today, talking about just this issue, and about how the PvP gear grind is forcing him out of the game

“If I’m going to spend time getting gear, I want the gear to matter. I want my effort getting it to mean something, for it to be an accomplishment that retains value. That’s my major problem with the Cata PvP transition – it shortens the useful life of the gear I get even further than it was previously.

The dichotomy between an endgame character, where you are always gearing up a toon, and a twink, where you gear them up once and are done, is pretty big. What I’m wrestling with again, what I am probably always going to wrestle with, is that I enjoy gearing up toons, but that I want that gear to matter.

I’m starting to think my problem isn’t with the endgame grind, per se, but rather with the perception of the value of gear relative to effort spent acquiring it. If it takes me an entire PvP season to gear up to Conquest gear, and that gear has little value in the next season, then I feel it’s not worth it at all.”

It seems like WoW might be heading for a cliff pretty fast here, and whilst that’s a major headache for the devs, it’s very interesting for those of us watching them. WoW has suffered from gear inflation more and more over the years – whilst many people thought that had culminated with WoTLK and the iLevel 200 / 264 dichotomy, it’s at least as bad if not worse in Cataclysm. And the player base is learning. Why grind for the difficult-to-get gear, when you can simply wait a month or so and either aquire it with ease or not need it at all?

What do you think? Are you still jazzed by gear? Are you still VP capping? And do you think there’s a problem here?

Quotes taken directly from their respective sources.

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Let’s open the Heroic floodgates!

Almost everyone is, at this point, thoroughly sick of the Zul* heroics – and hardly surprisingly, because for anyone looking to maximise their gear in WoW, the choices boil down to running those two dungeons again and again, week after week, with no variety.

And so, today Matthew Rossi of WoW Insider is eloquently arguing that there is, essentially, no good reason at all why Blizzard shouldn’t extend the Zul’s increased level of reward to all Heroics, and alleviate the terrible boredom:

Opening up the other eight heroics to the 140 VP/JP reward for completing them would basically be saying, “At this point, it’s not the gear, it’s the points” — and frankly, that’s exactly the case. With ilevel 365 gear available through dailies and crafting and ilevel 378 gear in the AH from Firelands farming, most players are farming up the valor pieces and items they can get and filling the holes they can’t with JP purchases. With this as the case, it’s simply not necessary to bestow special status on the Zandalari heroics at this point.

Blizzard have definitely placed themselves in an invidious position with this one. On the one hand, all of Matthew’s arguments are valid, and in particular the fact that the entire playerbase is looking at another 4-6 months of repeatedly grinding the same dungeons has got to be a factor in WoW’s unprecedented subscription drops recently.

On the other hand, the Zuls are significantly longer and harder, still, than a conventional Heroic. If they were to up the rewards for all Heroics they’d accomplish two things – firstly, they’d significantly reduce the amount of playtime most hardcore players would spend in the game (from 45min+ for a Zul to 20 mins for some conventional Heroics, times 7 per week). And secondly, they’d be sending a major additional “dumbing down” message, opening the rewards of the Zuls to all players, not just those skilled and/or geared enough to do them, with the predictable backlash.

I don’t know quite what they should do here – I’m just glad I’m not the one making the choice.

What do you think Blizzard should do? Move the Zul rewards to all Heroics, leave it as it is, or something else?

_Quote taken directly from Matthew’s post.

You can find Matthew Rossi’s writing on WoW Insider at http://wow.joystiq.com/bloggers/matthew-rossi/_

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Valor Point Capping Makes The World Explode

Wow. Or indeed WoW. The argument about Valor Point capping has really kicked off in the blogosphere – and rightly so, because it’s an interesting topic.

Here’s a round-up of some of the key posts that have hit the blogs:

  • Killed In A Smiling Accident is getting his allegories on: “If each guild represents its own “nation,” then we’re discussing the virtues of having a state mandated religion. Namely, forcing a particular playstyle, a certain subscription, upon your guild members. “ (Also, +1 for the point about spending time on learning and tactics)
  • Looking 4 More is firmly on the side of less tightly-structured play: “I wonder, people who schedule their WoW time and run heroics for VP on a tight schedule, do you get annoyed with me when I have to afk for two minutes to change the toddler’s diaper?”
  • Stories of O feels people who say they don’t have time to Valor Cap are usually just inefficient: “I’m not really sure what runs people are doing that are so time consuming, but I work 50 hours a week, raid two days a week, maintain a social life, an active sex life, a family life, a blog, a podcast, and I still find time to be Valor Point capped each week.”
  • The honourable gentlemurloc (seriously, I love that tagline) from Murloc Parliament is pacing herself for a marathon, not a sprint: “No huge gaming sessions right after a patch release, but no totally slacking off a few weeks in, since I will still be needing stuff. “
  • Priest With A Cause warns of the dangers of Point Madness: “You don’t want to go crazy grinding them because you’ll burn yourself out, you’re putting yourself at an exceptionally high risk of getting grouped with rude and stupid puggers right now, and also… have you thought about 4.3 yet? There have been no news about that patch yet, but I reckon that it’s going to be at least another six months away.”

    • And Raging Monkeys believes that outcome is what counts: “Please, do me a favour: go see for yourself. Whatever someone else is telling you, take it with a pinch of salt. Do your best, but don’t let yourself be fooled or intimidated by talk and so-called guidelines.”
    Phew.

It’s an interesting debate, and highlights a common theme in the blogosphere – if you really want to get a lot of people arguing, suggest that they have to do something specific in their game time. (Tobold provoked a similar debate a while ago by suggesting that all tank-capable classes have a duty to tank in PUGs).

What do you think about the entire kerfuffle? Are you on the “screw that, this is a game” side or the “if you didn’t cap you’re letting your guild down” side? And have we missed any great posts?

All quotes taken directly from the relevant blog post

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Hot Topic: World of Zandalaricraft

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle on the blogosphere at the moment about the way Blizzard is essentially channeling all its playerbase into two (arguably very irritating) 5-man dungeon instances – the Zandalari Heroics, which used to be raids, Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub.

Kurn started it all off, talking about just how damn out of whack it is that it’s arguably faster and easier to progress by running troll heroics again and again and again than it is to do so by raiding – even to the point that you’ll get more Valor Points as a random dungeon-runner than as a 10-man raider. She’s also talking about just how onerous this makes the time commitment on a hardcore raider. And she’s Not Happy:

As a guild master and a raid leader, I am absolutely astounded that you are awarded the same amount of Valor Points for completing Zul’Gurub or Zul’Aman as you are for killing one Firelands boss (or Occu’thar) on 25-man difficulty. You actually get MORE Valor Points for getting through ZG or ZA than you do in killing any raid boss on 10-man difficulty. What the hell? Five-man random heroics reward you with MORE VP over the course of a week than a ten-man guild who CLEARS Firelands and does Occu’thar? Yep, that’s right.

Meanwhile, Windsoar over at Jaded Alt is opting out of the entire grind. Yes – she isn’t going to cap her VP by running through endless trolls, and she thinks that unless your guild specifically requires you to, or unless you actually like doing that, you shouldn’t either:

In the end, a single piece of gear is not going to make or break my raid team’s chances. Hell, if every member of my raid team followed my philosophy our combined 10 pieces of gear would not break our chances. Giving into the fallacy that slight gear upgrades will make or break the ability of your team to down bosses is ludicrous, and I refuse to subscribe to it.

I must admit, I’m getting tired of the grind right now – and frankly, if I was in a guild that told me I had to run 7 random Zandalaris, or for that matter one random Zandalari, every week, they’d be looking for a new raider. But I’ve struggled a bit with this too – “Yeah, I hate both ZA and ZG with a passion, but they’re by far the best way to upgrade my gear and give my guild the best chance if I run them a LOT – aargh!”

What do you think? Are you running your 7 Zandalaris every week like clockwork? Do you not understand what the fuss is? Would you walk out on a guild that demanded you cap VP every week?

Quotes taken directly from Kurn’s post and Windsoar’s post

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