To help alleviate the confusion about the absence of gear upgrades come patch 5.2, Lead Systems designed Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street recently tweeted the following:
@panterpe No gear. The NPC is gone.- Greg Street (@Ghostcrawler) January 11, 2013
Naturally, this response prompted a flurry of tweets from players concerned about various aspects of the proposed changes. Ghostcrawler responded to several, with further explanation, and Blizzard Community Manager Bashiok subsequently posted a longer explanation on the US forums.
Players concerns related, understandably, to gear which had already been upgraded. Would it keep its upgrades? The response, reassuringly, from Ghostcrawler, was yes, it would. This fact itself brings other issues with it, particularly for PvP gearing. Upgraded Conquest gear is already so much higher than honor gear, with a maximum item level of 491 compared to honor's maximum of 466. The new honor gear arriving in 5.2 would have brought the two levels closer together, but it was then downgraded from 483 to 476.
There have been several posts from various Blizzard sources saying that PvP gearing would be totally revamped for 5.2, the outcome of which PvP players await with trepidation. And for PvE, the issue is pretty similar -- the pressure is now on to get gear upgraded before patch 5.2 arrives, when, currently, the ability to do so will be removed. From Ghostcrawler's follow-up tweets, it will return in patch 5.3, if it returns at all.
Ghostcrawler makes the not unreasonable point that the demand on valor points was high, with the choice players had to make between choosing to buy a new item and choosing to upgrace an existing item might have been stressful for some. But for others, like me, the choice to spend valor on something that required no rep grind was very welcome.
It is a surprise to some that the Voidbinders are not left in just for patch 5.2 gear, rather than removed altogether, particularly given how helpful this would be for players trying to level alts, who were able to grind out justice points to upgrade low level gear and get over the bar into heroics, allowing them to continue with progression without having to spend gold at the auction house. And much the same applies for the next progression bars into the Mogu'shan Vaults and Heart of Fear/Terrace of Endless Spring raid finders -- the item upgrade possibility is another option for characters to get over that hurdle.
I, for one, will miss the upgrade system, but Bashiok's post implies, not unexpectedly that there will also be new rewards to spend valor on. Hopefully the reputation grind will be less arduous than the current ones!
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