Gearing Up

May 31, 2006

Greig has been level sixty for some time now. With a few weeks of raiding under his belt, he is fairly well-equipped. In fact, the only gear he can't get now better than what he has will be found in the main raiding instances, ZG, Molten Core, BWL and AQ. Which means that character development will be a slow process until level becomes possible again with the release of Burning Crusades. 

It occurred to me that there might be crafted items that would allow a little more flexibility in the upgrading Greig's equipment. My hunter, Stomp, is a 300 blacksmith now and has some pretty good recipes. However none of these are as good as the gear Greig has now. I began researching recipes that would provide improved gear and quickly found out two things; there are not very many recipes to be found and the ones that are available require materials impossible to acquire outside of an instance. 

That is, if you can even get the recipes. Many blacksmith recipes require a certain level of reputation before your can purchase them. Faction reputation can be gained through a fairly lengthy process of grinding, but it does not require raiding. As Stomp is revered by Cenarian Circle, there are several recipes he could acquire but the vendor is located within AQ. Furthermore, the material for these recipes can only be gotten by running the instance. These recipes in essence are simply unattainable. It seems clear that crafting is a very real viable means for casual players to acquire epics. Whether the crafter was a player or an NPC, a player could complete a series of quests or adventures that would provide them the required materials. The length and complexity of the quest series would reflect the quality of the reward item. However, every player completing the chain would receive a tangible upgrade of their equipment. 

Blizzard is starting to do some of this. The Tier 0.5 upgrade quests are an example of how this would work. But the approach needs to broadened significantly, and there needs to be content developed that would allow casual players to earn gear that rivals the gear found within Molten Core and Black Wing Lair. 

The Field of Duty quests are a step in the right direction, yet getting more than one at a time is difficult and the quests are elite and require small groups to complete. A casual player could not solo these quests expediently. The rewards are significant and there are genuine epic items that are obtainable. Refining the process further could make it possible for a casual player to solo a quest series and still earn epic gear. 

Obviously, raiders will have strong objections if they feel that casual players are getting epics without the effort. So attention should be paid to the effort involved in complete quest chains. 

Beyond the Field of Duty quests, there are other quests that provide epic items. The Shaman Skyfury Helm is an epic item quest reward. In this case, the difficult of the quest is not that difficult, but then the item does match the effort. With further refinement and attention to content, the dilemma of the causal player could be resolved without alienating hardcore raiders. 

Along with tweaking the quest chains and the rewards that can be obtained, the crafting professions should be expanded so that more items are craftable and that the materials are obtainable without the difficulty of running a 40 person raid. Items could be made available that actually required a player to earn reputation with the particular vendor. These quests could be actions conducted on behalf of the NPC and the player is rewarded with the materials needed to make the specific item. The material gather could also be made part of the quest chain.  Yet at the end of the series, the crafter has a new item to create and has gained the ability to obtain the materials on their own. If the crafter wanted to make another of the same item, the quest chain could be repeated. 

There are probably many different ways to address the problem. These are some of the most obvious to me and seem to require little development. Quests and quest rewards are already part of the game's fabric. Cutting that fabric to fit multiple styles of play is what needs to happen now.


Shaman Review

May 15, 2006

For the most part I am quite pleased with the announced changes from the shaman review. With the exception of changes to windfury, all the changes are improvements. The reduced mana cost of totems is particularly nice. I have yet to fully study the adjustments to the talent tree, but I see nothing to get riled up about. In fact, the totemic focus talent makes a great deal of sense. So in all, the changes seem to be helpful. Given the grumbling I have heard from other reviewed classed, I was surprised that almost all the shamans I know are fairly pleased with the changes. Change can be good.