Looking back on the launch of Cataclysm, the barrier to entry for high-end content was fairly high. Heroics, as they were released at launch, were fairly difficult for groups assembled via the dungeon finder. The launch raid zones were also considered quite difficult for players that were new to raiding, and the raid finder tool hadn't yet launched. What wasn't difficult, however, was acquiring the gear to participate in that content. Justice points were used to bring you up to the current tier of content, and valor points were a supplement to your boss drops within the current tier. As soon as you earned enough points to purchase your gear, you could go and do it. No reputation barriers, no requirement to participate in content that didn't interest you, nothing like that. So why, in Mists of Pandaria, has that changed?
As previously mentioned, valor points in this expansion suffer from double-dipping. You can't accrue the necessary currency and then spend it. All valor gear is gated behind reputation requirements as well. If you're a rogue that wants the Red Smoke Bandana, you need 2,250 valor points. However, you also need Revered with the Shado-Pan, which requires a long stretch of daily quests in the Townlong Steppes. On top of that, to even begin questing for the Shado-Pan, you need to reach Revered with the Golden Lotus.
Justice points have been completely lost in the process. Whereas once they served the role of bringing you up to the most recent tier of content, they don't do much of anything. In patch 5.2, valor gear from the previous tier still costs valor points, only less of them.
Also lost in the process was the aspect of player choice that Mists of Pandaria has otherwise handled so well. You must do daily quests to unlock your valor rewards. To accrue valor, you must participate in dungeons or scenarios. If you could take these tasks one at a time, it may not be so bad -- but the process requires both of them. You can't get all of the valor points you need through daily quests, but you must do the daily quests to spend the valor to begin with. The workload has increased, but the reward has not.
It is surprisingly anti-casual, when you consider the accusations of Blizzard catering to casuals that have been going on since the day World of Warcraft launched. It's also anti-alt, because new characters need to repeat the process all over again if they want to catch up to relevant content. Sure, Grand Commendations now exist, but that doesn't remove the barriers. It only allows you to break through them more quickly, and there are still more of them than there ever were previously.
It isn't a perfect metaphor, you can shop wherever you want in the real world, but you understand.
At WoW Insider, we've taken the stance that if you don't want to grind out every single reputation every day, then don't do it. You don't have to do it. In fact, you'd drive yourself insane trying to do it. However, Mists of Pandaria's valor point philosophy encourages it, which is inspiring enormous player backlash whenever they hear the word "dailies." It doesn't seem to be getting any better, either. Operation Shieldwall and the Dominance Offensive kept the model. In patch 5.2, the Kirin Tor Offensive sells its goods for gold, but the Shado-Pan Assault requires both reputation and valor points.
Blizzard is also experimenting with the system where you spend valor points to upgrade your gear, adding another reason to grind out those valor points. While the developers have put a cap on how many valor points you can gather in a week to protect players from grinding themselves into dust, the same doesn't exist for reputation -- and the reputation arguably takes more time to work through than the valor points themselves.
The developers have deactivated upgrading gear via valor points in patch 5.2 so you aren't faced with the decision of whether you should pick up new gear or upgrade your old items. My stance is that if that's a decision you might have to face, the system itself is failing. Again, it only increases how much more work you need to put into your gearing process.
How do we fix this problem? First, end the double-dipping. You should not grind for the privilege of an additional grind. You should not need two in-game jobs just for the privilege of spending your currency. If you submit to a grind, it should be with the goal of being rewarded for your time. A new grind is not a reward. Second, find another solution for upgrading the ilevel of your gear.
Mists of Pandaria has taken enormous strides in allowing players to play how they want, to participate in the activities they enjoy, and the expansion encourages you to stop and smell the roses. Valor points single-handedly throw that philosophy out the window, forcing you to churn through level 90 content as quickly as possible, and to continue churning through the same content to maximize your ilevel. If the developers want to avoid catastrophic burnout at their own hands, it needs to change.