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Posts with tag Itemization

Bonus Armor and the Flexibility of Gear Design

One of the things I like to do is read up on how gear will be designed in the future and really consider how it will play out. We know that Warlords of Draenor will be a vastly different game in many respects, including gear design. One of the ways that's showcased for us is in how bonus armor will be applied as a tanking stat. Not only will bonus armor be a stat you only see on certain slots (rings, trinkets, necks and cloaks), not only will the stat itself be greyed out for non-tanks (so a DPS warrior or paladin wouldn't get bonus armor from an item with that state, while a tanking warrior or paladin would), but also, bonus armor items will have both strength and agility on them, and the one you get will be based on class (so a monk with a bonus armor ring would get agility, a death knight would get strength).

This isn't just fascinating in and of itself, but in what it reveals about what is possible for gear going forward. If bonus armor items can have strength and agility, then it's feasible that all Warlords weapons could have strength, agility and intellect and only display the one that's useful for the class and spec using it - a 1h mace could have strength for a DK, agility for a shaman, and intellect for a priest. It's the flexibility of the potential design that's the most interesting, and obvious, departure from the original game.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Warlords of Draenor

Why did we have to squish stats?

The item squish is a hotly debated topic on the forums. That's not really surprising. It's a pretty big change. Any time you're talking about any sort of reduction to character power (which, it must be restated, the item squish isn't, but it can appear to be) people get nervous. Part of the problem is calling it an item squish at all. It's not merely that, however - the squish is taking place across the board, to monsters and NPC's and encounters as well as our gear. And it's happening in a broad way, relative to the expansion endgame spikes of level's 60, 70, 80, 85 and 90. It's not a surprise that endgame play tends to introduce gear of escalating power, nor is it a surprise that as the next expansion comes out, we tend to see a gradual increase in mob health and damage and gear so that by the max level cap of said expansion, everyone's essentially shed most if not all of their endgame gear from the last expansion only to see a new cycle of gear escalation.

This isn't really in dispute. However, looking at the chart above, you can see that the steepness of the player power gain was getting ever sharper, and the projected 90 to 100 jump magnified the already high 80 to 85 and 85 to 90 curves. Why did gear start expanding in power so much more dramatically after level 80? Why were both the level 85 and level 90 endgames such steep climbs in power at endgame?

Let's take a look all the way back to Wrath of the Lich King to answer that question.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

The future of itemization

I've written long, eloquent defenses of reforging. And this week, I finally snapped. The fact that I have to reforge between my arms spec and my fury spec (and not just reforge, but regem) has finally broken me. I now take it all back - reforging sucks. It compensates for things that are flaws in the modern game, but I no longer find that charming. I just find it irritating that those faults exist and that we have a means to wallpaper over them doesn't change the fact that they exist.

In a way, my relationship with reforging mirrors my relationship with the old tanking scheme that existed before Mists of Pandaria - I knew there were flaws with threat generation, but I'd grown familiar with them. I understood that they were there and how to circumvent them. In the modern game, there are significant flaws with itemization, and reforging is that means to circumvent them, so I've been a big booster of and supporter of it ever since it was introduced back in Cataclysm. But I was wrong. Using reforging to sandpaper down the jagged edges where gear doesn't meet our needs doesn't change the fact that gear doesn't meet our needs - it merely conceals those edges.

We know that we're going to have two new stats - multistrike and readiness - in addition to critical strike, haste and mastery. None of these are caps in the same way that hit or expertise are (soon to be were) - we'll see how they work, but we already know some talents will affect them or be affected by them, like the upcoming Anger Management talent for warriors. So what I'm wondering is, are we finally going to see a situation where there's enough gear with stats individual classes want that we don't need a system to make up for gear's shortcomings? Or are we just going to have to make the best of bad itemization again, like we did back in Wrath?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Warlords of Draenor

Should weapons be more universal?

I admit it, I love talking about the new gear paradigm in Warlords of Draenor because it's such a big change, with so many permutations. But as big as it is, some folks think it's not going far enough. This post over on the 7th Tower discusses weapons and how they could be made more universal, and it got me thinking - should we move away from the era of agi, strength and/or int weapons?

There are multiple ways to do this. The easiest would be simply to put Attack or Spell Power on weapons, which would still leave them segregated by role to some extent (melee would want the AP weapons, ranged casters would want the SP weapons, and hunters would still be the only ones using bows, crossbows and guns). A more complicated but perhaps more compelling system would be to have them switch between AP and Spell Power, so that a holy paladin could use a weapon for healing, then switch over and use said weapon for tanking. Still more complex but perhaps even more interesting would be to have weapons retain int, agi or strength and switch depending on which class was using them as well as each role. If you visit the original post at 7th Tower, he breaks down how it might look using Siege of Orgrimmar as a template. The current breakdown of agility and strength weapons would, in either scheme, now be available to a broader range of players.

It would certainly fit within the paradigm of broader usefulness for gear established by the changes to armor. The question becomes what are the up and downsides to this?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

BlizzCon 2013: Huge changes coming to itemization

BlizzCon New Item Stats
In the gameplay and systems panel, Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street just revealed some massive changes to gear itemization in Warlords of Draenor. The fabled item squish is finally coming, stats are being removed, new stats are being added, and reforging is gone. There's a lot to cover so let's get right down to it.

Enchanting, reforging, and gems
  • They feel like there is too much modification needed to be done every time you get a new piece of gear: enchants, gemming, and reforging your caps.
  • There will be fewer items which can accept enchants, but the items which can still be enchanted will have more powerful enchants and more choice.
  • Fewer gem sockets, but gems will be much more powerful. No more socket bonuses or metagems. Sockets are a bonus which can appear on gear and do not count towards item budget.
  • Reforging is gone!

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Filed under: BlizzCon

Gear is good. Gear works.

Gear is good Gear works
I initially had the intention of refuting Adam's dissertation on why we don't need gear in World of Warcraft with the same length and exhaustive detail he himself used. But I don't think that's the proper course here. By now, many of you will have commented in similar fashion. Instead, I'll go for simplicity and list some reasons why WoW should keep gear.
  1. Gear provides a means to tune content for consumption. Right now, dungeons, raids, scenarios and even leveling content is tunable along many aspects of gameplay, including whether or not it's intended for groups or to be soloable, whether or not it's for certain size of groups, whether a healer is intended, and what level of offensive power/healing/tanking ability is permitted by gear. Removing gear from the game means content loses a slider, giving the developers less options.
  2. Demanding that all content difficulty be based purely on skill is unnecessarily restrictive to players. Quite frankly, letting groups outgear content is good for the game. It allows groups that couldn't quite get an encounter down for whatever reason to come back later with better gear and try again. It lets groups go down a raid tier and have fun blasting through previously difficult content, or lets players shine in dungeons or scenarios that were once grueling. It even allows players to go back an expansion or two and have fun soloing what once took entire raids to complete.
  3. MMO's that eschew gear work best when designed from the start in this manner, and even then they often use things that are gear in all but name. A game that uses enhancements to modify powers, for instance, is just using gear by a different name.
So let's talk more about why gear is in fact good and shouldn't go anywhere after the break.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

Mists of Pandaria Beta: The evolution of itemization

Image
Let me introduce you to the Massacre Sword. It was, and still is, a solid leveling green with a rather good model. I point it out to you to show you the odds of getting one with stats you'd actually want on a warrior, paladin or hunter (the three classes that would be using the sword at the time the game launched) and how likely it was you'd get, say, a Massacre Sword of the Boar or Whale. Granted, you could get a few fairly useful combinations (one of Strength or Agility, say, or a good two stat combo like Bear, Tiger, Eagle, Monkey or Gorilla depending on your class.

This was a green drop, of course. It wasn't meant to be the best of the best, just something to pick up and use on your way to dungeon loot. It's hard to compare it to what it would be replaced by nowadays, because a lot of that gear was re-itemized when Cataclysm came out and the dungeon levels were adjusted up or down. I remember replacing it with Lord Alexander's Battle Axe, followed by a Demonshear and an Arcanite Champion, before forays into Molten Core and Blackwing Lair. It's fascinating to consider how itemization works as a tool in driving players forward. Bad itemization, while baffling at times when encountered in game, actually serves a purpose in the hands of the developers. An item with too good of a stat spread can actually serve as a hanging burr, sticking to your character long after it should have been replaced.

I mention this because, to my mind, Mists of Pandaria is the first expansion to really know this, forwards and backwards. This is the expansion that will use gear design to motivate you better, more skillfully, and more expansively than ever before.

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Filed under: The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Ready Check: The loss of itemization in Cataclysm

Ready Check helps you prepare yourself and your raid for the bosses that simply require killing. Check back with Ready Check each week for the latest pointers on killing adds, not standing in fire, and hoping for loot that won't drop. Questions, comments, or something you would like to see? Email me at tyler@wowinsider or message me on Twitter @murmursofadruid.

Like it or not, there's one constant about raiding. No matter what your reason for raiding is, and no matter what joy you happen to get from it, there's only one thing that matters at the end of the day. Obviously, I'm talking about loot. Loot is the one thing that makes the raiding world go 'round. Sure, we raid for story, we raid for friends, we raid for challenges. All of that is well and good and makes for a nice, lovely, non-selfish story that we can tell the world. Who knows? It might even be true -- but there's no avoiding that loot is the result.

Maybe that's why raiding has popularity issues. Maybe it isn't the experience so much as it is the reward. I suppose we'll never know -- at least, not from this Ready Check. No, no, instead there's there one part of loot issues that I really want to get into, the problem that has been plaguing Blizzard for this entire expansion: the lack of loot.

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Filed under: Raiding, Ready Check (Raiding), Cataclysm

Ol' Grumpy and the grimoire of gear inflation

Hello again, everybody. I'm Ol' Grumpy. You might remember me from such posts as Ol' Grumpy and the Goblet of Firelands adjustments or Ol' Grumpy's guide to outdated content and you. This time, we're going to be talking about what gear inflation is, how it happens, and why something eventually has to be done about it.

Gear inflation has actually been a concern of mine since about halfway through Wrath of the Lich King's expansion cycle. Back then, it was armor penetration that really set off my gear inflation warning bells, a stat that's since gone the way of the dodo. If you remember ArP, you remember that it start acting extremely weird at higher gear levels and often had to be adjusted and capped to keep it from doing things like reducing target armor into the negative.

In essence, for a brief period after Ulduar dropped, ArP could actually cause your target to have negative armor values so that their damage taken was increased by a percentage instead of just reduced by a percentage. This was very wonky. It was quickly capped and the stat adjusted. But by ICC levels of gear, it was possible again to reach 100% ArP, and doing so was absolutely your best bet as a melee DPS.

Now, let's be honest: Gear inflation is the inevitable by-product of a game where one increases in power via leveling and gaining new gear. It must happen. If you simply look at gear from original World of Warcraft's 1 to 60 game, you'll see that gear steadily increases in power and that raid gear from MC to BWL/AQ and to the now-vanished Naxxramas-40 steadily increases in power. Indeed, Naxx-40 gear was such an upgrade in power that it was roughly as strong as blue drops from level 70 instances. You could raid Karazhan in Naxx-40 gear. The Burning Crusade dealt with gear inflation differently than its successors did because it could.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Enhancement shaman itemization and the end boss effect

As you may or may not be aware, I've started gearing up my enhancement shaman and have been having a really good time playing him. I enjoy enhancement for a lot of reasons, including how different it feels from playing a warrior or feral druid, the other two melee classes I'm familiar with.

However, finding weapons can be a bit of a pain. The best weapons for me outside of a raid are the two fist weapons in ZG, which drop from a randomly summoned boss. So you may not even get the boss who drops them, and the off-hand doesn't even drop from the same boss as the main-hand -- and in either case, it means I'm leveling archaeology on a fourth toon because half the time, no one can summon any of them.

As annoying as this is, for raiding, it can get even worse. Getting a 2.6 speed agility main-hand weapon from raiding means killing Nefarian and praying that this week he drops your axe. (You can get an off-hand from trash, but you can't use it in your main hand, meaning you need at least one Neffy axe). Blizzard has come out and said it's fine with this for now.

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Filed under: Shaman, Raiding, Cataclysm

The lack of wands in Cataclysm

Very recently, a reader by the name of Jasper submitted a question via our tip line: Why can't enchanters make wands beyond level 30? I don't have an answer to that question, beyond "because they make enough money as it is." However, it made me look into the wands available at level 85 and items for the ranged slot in general.

There are no level 85, pre-heroic wands for classes that do not use spirit. There is only one ilevel 333 wand in the game, and it drops in Grim Batol. All other ranged slots have ilevel 333 (or ilevel 346) bind on equip items available. This puts casters at an obvious (though admittedly minor) disadvantage when trying to gear for heroics.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cataclysm

Breakfast Topic: A few of your favorite things

This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW.com.

Every once in a while, Blizzard truly raises the bar in designing a raid. My personal favorite is Ulduar from patch 3.1. The boss encounters required strategy, while still remaining unique, and the graphics in the zone are some of the coolest things in the game. However, one of the only things that a character can permanently keep from a raid is the loot.The legendary mace Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings and the Starshard Edge off Algalon the Observer are by far some of the coolest item graphics I've seen in this expansion.

Even in Icecrown Citadel, few items can measure up to the epicness of these stellar designs. After all, one can only see so many bone-spiked maces before they begin to get old. While a few items like Bryntroll the Bone Arbiter are pretty exciting and unique, Blizzard didn't even create new item models for the climactic boss in the Lich King: only two of the 28 weapons (excluding heroic versions) that the final boss drops are unique, and one of those is repeated between 10- and 25-man. In my opinion, Blizzard could have taken a few more days to design some really exciting and unique weapon designs before releasing the Lich King. While I'm no hardcore raider, I would really love to sit in Dalaran exhibiting a one-of-a-kind weapon from the hardest boss in the expansion, just as the Ulduar raiders could back in 3.1.

What do you think? Is there an item that sets the bar in graphic design? Do you think Blizzard should spend more time on item graphics so there aren't as many repeats for end-game encounters, or does a simple recoloring make the item cool enough for you?

Have you ever wanted to write for WoW.com? Your chance may be right around the corner. Watch for our next call for submissions for articles via Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW.com. The next byline you see here may be yours!


Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Wrath of the Lich King Retrospective: Naxxramas

With the final content patch of this expansion on our doorstep and Cataclysm following close behind, we'll be taking the next several weeks to look back on Wrath of the Lich King and everything that made it what it is, for better or for worse, in WotLK Retrospective.

When people talk about raiding in Wrath of the Lich King, a lot of the complaints often boil down to Naxxramas. It was out too long before a new tier of raid content, the fights were too dumbed down from the original raid's difficulty and it was too easy. It was an unimaginative way for Blizzard to cut corners and save time developing Wrath. While I'm personally critical of Naxxramas as a raid instance in its current implementation, let's look at these points and discuss their validity.
  • Naxxramas was out too long before a new tier of raid content. This one's pretty subjective, but we can consider two factors. First, Naxx went live with Wrath's release in November 2008, alongside Malygos (Eye of Eternity) and Sartharion (Obsidian Sanctum). Malygos' itemization was half a tier superior to that of Naxx itself, so that items that dropped in the 10-man version of Eye of Eternity were equivalent to those that dropped in 25-man Naxx. Malygos-25 drops were superior to anything that dropped in Naxxramas off anyone but Kel'Thuzad himself. So while we could say that this entire tier of raiding lasted from launch until the release of Ulduar in April 2009, it's unfair to single out Naxxramas as the sole offender. Furthermore, Trial of the Crusader launched in August 2009, meaning that Ulduar's duration as the top tier of raiding was only a month shorter than that of Naxxramas/EoE/OS. Are we really arguing that the 20 bosses of those combined three raids had so much less raiding potential that an extra month or so wasn't at least subjectively justifiable?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

Totem Talk: Enhancement weapons

Ebon Blade weapon rack
Axes, maces, lightning, Windfury and wolves. It can mean only one thing: enhancement. Rich Maloy lives it and loves it. His main spec is enhance. His off spec is enhance. He blogs about the life and times of enhance at Big Hit Box, pens the enhance side of Totem Talk and leads the guild Big Crits (Week 3 now out!) as the enhancement shaman Stoneybaby.

As a melee class, weapons are our most important items. Not surprisingly, good weapons (emphasis on "good") can't be bought with emblems and only drop off a select few bosses, with the best weapons dropping off the hardest bosses. While trinkets can be hard to acquire (Death's Choice/Verdict is a lie!), you can fill in the gaps with emblems or even some subpar trinket choices and not have as big an impact on overall damage as a good weapon. Nothing beats a big stick.

Today we're looking at enhancement weapon options in dungeons, plus Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel in 10s and 25s, regular and heroic. I am skipping over Naxx, OS, EoE, Ulduar, and Ony because it seems to me that it's far easier to get in and gear up in a ToC/ToGC PuG these days than any other raid. There are some good weapon choice in those older raids, but even starting out as a fresh 80 you should find ToC-10 PuGs doable.

Let's dive in to our weapon options.

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Filed under: Shaman, (Shaman) Totem Talk

The great gear explosion

Gear is fairly easy to get at this point in the expansion life cycle of Wrath. That's not a flaw. That's actually how things should be: there shouldn't be too many artificial limitations keeping you from jumping into the newest content and getting a chance to at least see, if not down it. With the rise of 10 and 25 man versions of every raid and heroic modes, however, we are looking at something fairly unique to this expansion, a somewhat drastic power curve to gear scaling.

This isn't a new idea, and it's not one Blizzard themselves haven't commented on. It's one thing to be aware of it in a general way, however, and another to sit back and look at it. That's a comparison of itemization on select 2H weapons from the first crafted epic (equivalent to a Naxx 10 drop) up to hard mode Ulduar 25, which puts it squarely in the middle of the current expansion cycle. What you're looking at is a steady gain that leads to a nearly 60 DPS increase between the starting weapon (Titansteel Destroyer) and the last one compared (Voldrethar).

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm

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