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End of Justice, Valor in Warlords

I cannot imagine this is breaking news, but it certainly came to a shock to me:

Honor and Conquest definitely are not going away, just to clarify a misconception – you’ll still be earning those currencies through PvP and using them to buy your PvP gear.

What will be going away is Justice and Valor. Over time, they’ve moved away from their original purpose, and given how widely available they’d become (awarded from quests, scenarios, dungeons, raids, etc.), we’d rather return to the original universal currency: gold. The final values aren’t hooked up yet, but the old Valor rewards for completing your daily random dungeon or an LFR wing will be replaced with a hefty sum of gold, which should make something like the gold turn-in for a bonus roll seem far more attainable even for players who currently don’t have much gold.

Watcher went on to clarify:

Just to clarify, I’m not saying that players should expect to see a vendor with a full set of endgame gear for gold as a one-to-one replacement for the Valor vendors from Mists. For the initial Warlords content, Apexis Crystals will largely fill that role, and you can see most of that structure already in place in the Beta today.

I honestly don’t know what the hell Blizzard imagines they are doing.

The original thought I had was that Blizzard was going to remove all Justice/Valor points and related vendors, and then heavily lean on the Bonus Roll mechanics they introduced in Mists. Gold is indeed one of the methods you can use to get a Bonus Roll, but it is one of… five I think, and you can use a particular method once per week with 3 Bonus Rolls being the limit. It sorta makes sense from a design perspective insofar as the current Justice/Valor system has an awkward down-leveling that occurs every patch, with Valor turning into Justice, Justice items going down in price, issues with people banking dungeon currency, and so on.

The issue I have with this change is one of motivation. In a world where you are running dungeons for specific gear, what motivation do you have to run said dungeon after you have gotten your gear? There isn’t any. And… maybe that’s a good thing? Back in the day though, I would routinely farm dungeons on my tank characters (instant queues) specifically because I could earn currency to get raid-level upgrades that would help guild progression later. Without that carrot, I would queue for nothing, and the LFD system itself would that much worse off. Alternatively, perhaps it means that LFD would be stocked with people specifically farming for gear, e.g. the intended audience for the content, so maybe people would be more accepting of lower-geared strangers.

Then I remembered that Blizzard is still using alternative currencies: Apexis Crystals. So… they do have the equivalent to Valor points, but you don’t earn them in dungeon/raid content. Was this their solution to reputation grinds? I don’t know, I’m not in the beta. But all I can think of is: Frost Badges. You know, back in Wrath when there was a different raid currency for every tier. Because we sure as hell aren’t likely to be using Apexis Crystals for Tier N+1 vendor gear.

So now I’m back to having no idea what Blizzard imagines they are doing. I actually liked the Valor system, and I liked it all the way back when it was Badges of Justice in your inventory. Granted, it led to some targeted farming behavior like running Heroic Mechanar every day and weekly Kara farms, but at least it got everyone in groups out in the world. As someone would more gold than I would know what to do with, I’m not entirely sure what I would be doing in Warlords other than perhaps farming Apexis Crystals. Which is like farming Valor, except much easier to do by myself.

Culpability of Questionable Design

Is Blizzard responsible for players doing unenjoyable activities for rewards? Or is the player responsible for wanting something they shouldn’t?

For the context of this question, consider the Zul heroic dungeons in Cataclysm. These represent a second “tier” of heroics that offers better gear drops and double the amount of Valor Points, at the cost of a higher level of difficulty and being longer in general. In the last 4-5 months of their release, a number of players have complained about fatigue and burnout from having run these two specific heroics seven times a week for months, as opposed to the nine (9) other heroic options available because those, while easier, offer a sub-standard amount of VP (and leaves you short of the weekly cap). The fairly common counter-argument comes in the form of Bill’s comment in this MMO Melting Pot post:

Nobody is forcing people to do ZA/ZG all the time. In my battlegroup, normal heroic queues are 2-3x faster and less stress than ZA/ZG ones . So I can do half and half. For raiders, they have the option to knock of a few nerfed farm bosses from T11 to help them reach cap.

Also, even at this point in the expansion, not everyone is ZA/ZG ready. Yes, really.

You want choices? You have choices.

I would argue that the “choice” is between efficiency and inefficiency – not a particularly meaningful choice – but it is somewhat worse than that because I get the impression most players do not have fun running heroics for VP in the first place. Is “enduring unfun things because the end result is fun” Blizzard’s fault for designing the game badly? Or is it the player’s fault for choosing to bore themselves for a treat at the end? And even if it is the player’s fault (masochism is a real thing), does that abdicate Blizzard of any responsibility in their game design?

We do know that a lot of rogues appeared to reroll DK, at least when the class was first introduced. We also think rogues were more popular back in the day before flying mounts and instance-teleportation, where ganking someone out in the wilderness was more common. We saw a surge in the popularity of hybrid classes, especially druids and paladins, as running heroic dungeons became something nearly every player did instead of a more dedicated minority. (source)

In terms of heroic dungeons specifically, I do blame Blizzard. There have been many interesting articles on the subject already, but the short version is that the role of heroics and the equivalent of VP (Badges of Justice, etc) has changed radically since their introduction in The Burning Crusade. Back then, the apparent design goal was to allow non-raiders to have a seperate, but parallel endgame gear progression path of their own to raiders. This philosophy obviously changed in the Lich King era when full tiers of gear began to be offered up on the JP vendors of that day, but I did not have a problem with it back then because A) prior tier gear was required for their episodic content model to work, and B) heroics were breezy, 15 minute affairs. That breeziness did, dare I say, make them fun in a multiplayer Diablo kind of way.

Come Cataclysm, it is clear that the Blizzard designers took the difficulty complaints as personal insults, and tuned Cata heroics up to extra-crispy levels. While they were never particularly challenging to skilled individuals and guild groups, they were absolutely brutal to pugs, whom remain the bulk of the LFD population. Blizzard doubled-down on difficulty with the Zul heroics in 4.1, which sort of makes sense given that they drop 353 gear instead of 346 and more VP besides. No one feels forced to do Heroic raids versus Normal raids for gear, right? Yes… but that sort of demonstrates the disconnect. Outside of a few BoEs, there is no way of obtaining heroic raiding gear other than from heroic raiding. Conversely, there are several ways of obtaining gear from VP (and JP) vendors. That VP gear is orphaned, unattached to any particular method of acquisition. Pressing the LFD button and waiting for the queue to pop is orders of magnitude easier than finding/creating a 10m raid group and downing bosses. And moreover, there is now a pseudo-experience point bar in our faces, reminding us how below the (weekly) cap we are at any given time.

Your life is *this* incomplete

It is in this sense that I feel that it is Blizzard, not the players, who are at fault with the state of the endgame. Blizzard took a mechanic designed to give the “more dedicated [heroic-running] minority” a legitimate progression path, and inverted the design to make heroics the endgame for everyone for an entire expansion. Then they “priced” people out of doing them during the early days of Cata, then relented, then made the same damn mistake again with trying to funnel everyone through the Zul heroics. Given that heroics are supposed to be endgame for ~70% of players… where is the beef? It will soon be four months since 4.1, and while 4.3 is slated to be released at the end of this year with three new heroics, are the two Zuls really supposed to have sustained non-raiders for the better part of a year when their endgame is designed to be heroics?

Valor Back on T11

Per recent blue post:

Due to some recent player feedback we’ve made the decision to implement a hotfix that will put Valor Points back on the bosses in Blackwing Descent, Bastion of Twilight, and Throne of the Four Winds (except Argoloth).

We agreed that players should have some additional options for earning Valor Points beyond Firelands, Zandalari dungeons, and tier 11 Heroic difficulty raids. We don’t want raiding guilds to feel like they have to raid Firelands AND the old raids every week, but we do want players to feel like they have some options besides running ZA/ZG over and over.

Bosses in these raids will award 35 VP on 10-player normal difficulty, and 45 VP on 25-player normal difficulty, to match the rewards currently offered for the Heroic versions of those encounters. (Source)

That is correct, ladies and gentlemen. Now you too can experience the wonder of cobbling together a group of nine other people in a specific configuration and killing 12 (nerfed) raid bosses, walking away with your whopping four-hundred and twenty (420) Valor points. And then perhaps continuing to do your normal routine of seven heroics a week and still not capping out. Or, you know, solo-queuing for three ZA/ZGs and getting the same amount of VP. Admittedly, with the state of ZA/ZG queues you might actually spend longer in LFD than going 12/12, but hey. One of those two options requires a wee bit more organization than the other so I guess it “cancels” out.

I did not post last week because A) I barely played WoW, B) honestly there is not a whole lot more that can be said about making gold that hasn’t already been beaten into the ground, and C) I now realize how much I painted myself into a corner calling this Player Vs Auction House when I would rather have gone meta and fostered some cross-blog debate on some of the crazyass posts people are making.

The irony I suppose is that I could have phoned in some filler episodes on my acquiring two (2!) Obsidium Cleavers cross-faction for < 15k apiece, a 10x return bringing over a 359 BoE chest from Horde-side, or my experiences in the Vial of the Sands market. Then again… why? I probably spent in the neighborhood of $140 in Steam games over the last two weeks of deals, and would rather be playing those and/or Minecraft and/or even goddamn Tiny Tower instead.

Speaking of foreshadowing, I would tell you to stay tuned for a post three months in the making, but I am not entirely sure when it will be finished.