Ponderings on gear

Everybody wants to get better gear for their character in WoW. If you don't, you're playing the wrong game - you'll struggle while levelling, and once you hit level eighty you'll run out of things to do, because barring access to any more levels, upgrading your gear is the only way to make your character any stronger and durable enough to progress into new and unexplored areas (read: raids).

At the same time there's a weird stigma attached to desiring better gear: You shouldn't need it, because it's all about skill anyway! Or: Don't be such a loot whore!

Lately I've been making some interesting observations about my own desire for gear.

The first one is in regards to my main character, my healing priest who raids. Back during the Burning Crusade she was shadow-specced, and I pursued gear upgrades very vigorously. Even though I couldn't always measure it, I had the distinct impression that every little upgrade would enable me to do just a tiny bit more dps, which then in turn might make the difference between killing a boss or wiping. Even without those life-or-death considerations, better gear always meant an improvement and being able to kill things faster, even on farm content.

Since I've become a full-time healer this simply isn't the case anymore. Mana regen is supposed to be a concern for healers, but thanks to replenishment it's simply a very wonky mechanic right now. Either you have more mana than you know what to do with, or you never seem to have enough - and since this state depends entirely on raid buffs, it doesn't really feel like my gear choices make a huge difference in that regard.

Bigger heals are still better heals, right? Well... only to an extent. When your heroic tank barely takes any damage, bigger heals only mean more overhealing. In raids on the other hand it feels as if it makes little difference whether my flash heal hits for 5k or for 5.5k when a boss hits for 30k damage. Somewhere in the back of my mind I know that it obviously does make a difference because everybody's heals add up, but it's hard to actually get any kind of feel for it.

These two factors have definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm for getting new gear. After all, what's the point when it doesn't actually feel like your new gear makes you any better at what you do? I wonder if this is simply another area in which healers get the short end of the stick.

Still, leaving aside the switch from dps to healing there is more to it, namely the massive loot inflation. I remember being very excited back in BC when I got my wings from Void Reaver and I kept wearing them for a very long time. It wasn't until late in Black Temple that I got something better.

I had hoped that the tier 8.5 shoulders for priests would become similarly meaningful for me in this expansion, but no such luck. My guild has killed Yogg-Saron on 25-man, but only twice and both times I wasn't there. Now we do almost nothing but Trial of the Crusader, because what's the point of going back to Ulduar? I got my tier 9.5 shoulders pretty quickly, but something about them just feels wrong. I don't want to go through new gear so fast that you might as well skip a whole tier of it.

This is only made worse by the badge system. I have a lot of good things to say about it really, but from a raiding point of view it's like getting loot thrown at you. I don't even have to bid on anything anymore, after a few raids I've accumulated enough badges to buy another upgrade without even trying anyway. It's oddly disheartening. It's as if you gained experience points purely by being online and sitting in a capital.

In summary, I find myself caring less and less about loot on my priest, because it doesn't feel like I actually get considerably more powerful by obtaining it, and because even the act of obtaining it feels less and less meaningful at the speed at which even the casual raider rushes through raids and gets new and better gear thrown at them.

Now, by contrast, my level eighty alts: On them I absolutely love getting better gear.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that their primary focus is tanking and doing damage. (The druid and paladin have healing specs which I enjoy playing as well, but as far as gear goes I tend to neglect that side of the characters.) On my hunter I can still enjoy the thrill of watching my "damage done" go up a little bit in heroics every time I get a new piece of gear. Hell, I made a whole post just to express my glee about her getting a new helmet! And on my tanks? I really enjoy seeing their health go up with every upgrade, knowing that every hitpoint increases their chances of survival when the going gets tough.

Also, my alts generally don't raid, not including doing a few bosses here or there on a whim when someone invites me. I play them a lot like I imagine a casual player plays the game: On a busy day I might do an instance or two (preferrably the daily heroic), a couple of quests, chat a bit and then I log off.

Back at level seventy that meant that none of my max-level alts got a ton of playtime. I still cared about gearing them up and usually gave it a good shot right after hitting level seventy: did some heroics, went on a couple of Karazhan runs, that kind of thing. Badge items existed, but there weren't nearly as many of them as there are now, maybe three for each class/spec combination. So it never took long until I hit a point where I couldn't really get any more upgrades for my alts without doing progression raiding, and honestly, doing that with just one character has been - and still is - more than enough for me. So I started to play them less, because they didn't really have anywhere to go.

And now we have WOTLK. I've been wondering for a while why I find it so hard to just leave my level eighty alts alone for a bit these days and focus on levelling another character like I did repeatedly in BC, but I think I know now: because with all those badge items, there's always something more to aim for, even when you only play casually. Sure, I might only do a heroic every couple of days, but I still get conquest badges from that, and eventually that means that I can buy another awesome item. So of course I keep doing it! Not because I "need" the gear in any way, as I don't intend to raid with those characters, but simply because it's fun to make them better. And I can keep doing that now even while playing casually, something I couldn't really do in BC. Win!

I'm not really sure where exactly I was going with this post. I think the point is that I both love what Blizzard has done with loot and badges - the casual, alt-playing side of me does anyway - and I find it boring and uninspiring when I raid. I still think they are in a good place right now in terms of loot distribution, but I wouldn't mind a little fewer badge items to make raid loot retain some of its flair. And I wish they wouldn't add such easily accessible and massive upgrades with every patch. I'm okay with replacing all my gear when an expansion hits, but seeing half of it become obsolete every couple of months is a bit much.

1 comment:

  1. I go around this in quite a simple manner; I play because I think it's fun and recreational. Also, I want to play "well" of course.

    I mostly heal, and playing "well" for me means keeping as many players alive as possible while not dying myself. When this becomes second nature (as it should pretty fast as healer?), I tend to look at my healing throughput (-this was true while I raided at least) and I desperatly want to top those charts! Which is possible even lacking a piece of gear the next guy's carrying.

    Playing good is fun -regardless of gear. Fun is what this game is being about -for me.

    Content is gear dependent though, I can see that. I imagine I might struggle some going to ToC-25 in Naxx 10 gear ;)