On Questing and Emblems

In the grand chess match between Casual and Hardcore, two new playing pieces are being brought onto the board:  welfare emblems and a built-in quest helper.  The first directly concerns the traditional world of elitists and slackers, the second sees the fight branch off in new directions entirely.

Welfare Emblem Loot

Patch 3.2, as you are no doubt aware (and if you’re not, too bad, go look it up), will bring with it a reworking of the Emblem system.  The basic summary is that we’ll go back to a BC-Badge 1.2 system.  All dungeons and raids will drop the same kind of Emblems [of Conquest] and the top tier of progression will drop Emblems of Triumph.  The beauty of it for casuals, and the horror of it for hardcore raiders, is that the regular daily and heroic daily will reward 1 and 2 Triumph emblems each, respectively.

In practice, this means raiders and non-raiders alike will be decked out pretty massively in beautiful top level gear.  Without ever setting food in a 10 or 25 man raid, my Druid alt will potentially be sporting tier 7.5, 8.5 and 9 gear, along with a multitude of pieces that aren’t part of the tiers but still for sale.  All for healing heroic 5 mans.

Is this good? Is this bad?  I don’t know.  I liked it in BC when I was late to the game and could use badge gear to get my Warlock up to speed.  I still like it in theory, even if I can now see why the hardcore get upset by news like this.  I’ve raided semi-hardcore in 10man Ulduar, and the nerfs to the encounters upset me in the sense that it felt like anyone who would achieve things after the nerfs would be getting freebies.  Whereas my guild wiped hundreds of times, new guilds would wipe only 20% of that and gain the same rewards more easily… and look at us like idiots, since to them it really won’t be so hard.

On a similar vein, the loot that I’ve so painstakingly coveted since Ulduar opened up, namely The Putress Outfit on my Warlock, still escapes me.  I’ve got the shoulders, that’s all.  That’s raiding it every week and seeing the watchers every week.  Now when 3.2 hits, warlocks all over will be sporting the chest and pants.  In theory, if I don’t buy the badge gear and the loot fairies continue to mess with me, people who have never stepped foot inside Ulduar will have more tier 8 pieces than I.

And you know what?  I don’t care.  Good for them!  Let them enjoy the game too.  I might waste enough nights each week to practically call myself a hardcore player, but my feelings remain on the side of the casuals.  We all pay money, we all should get as much out of the game as we possibly can.  If it makes some people feel as if their achievements are worthless, let those people re-evaluate their lives and why e-reputation is so important to them.

The Problems With Welfare Emblems

The only problem I see is that we’re going back to Burning Crusade’s crafting system, where everything except a handful of end-game raiding recipes was useless.  As a new clothie, why would I want anything BUT Emblem gear?  I don’t care about spellfire or ebonweave gloves or whatever the heck I can have crafted, I want tier 7, 8 or 9.  I want the good stuff! 

Crafted “BoE” items will once again be completely useless and simply waste our time as we level our professions.  Maybe alts will use them, but if you have an 80 and are gearing up because you want to run the occasional dungeon or raid, you’ll probably dedicate enough runs that you will replace any crafted item on you pretty quickly.  They won’t be obsolete, just like BC items weren’t completely useless, but they’re quickly going into the category of items you really don’t want to waste any effort on.  Alts, freebies, hand-me downs…  and disenchant-fodder.

If I were Blizzard, I’d make some really kick ass items available through crafting.  Maybe even all those items we’re going to be buying through Emblems.  Instead of Emblems, drop some crafting material that these will require; super runed orbs.  Each heroic dungeon drops 1 per player from the final boss, not as bad as frozen orbs but not as good as 1 emblem per boss.  Each recipe will include 5-20 super runed orbs in the mats.  Imagine the game within the game that would develop as crafters would really begin to shine.  The trade industry would flourish like never before, and people would be out farming and playing out in the world.  Instead, they’ll all be farming H Gundrak and reg Naxx while crafters do dailies to buy mats for those final 5-20 points in their profession and DE the items after they make them.


In-game Quest Help

This is really tricky.  Firstly, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment Larisa echoes in Taking Mystery Away From The Game (great blog, by the way).  There’s something… cheap, almost, in having the game tell me exactly where to go, where to find “hidden” things, and which direction to look.  Much like Larisa who wasted 3 days to complete a single quest, I spent countless hours on a pre-Latus character trying to complete the Warrior quests to get some cool armor.  I travelled the whole damn world just to potentially find the place I had to go.  From the Barrens I found my way to Hillsbrad and some mines to get some kind of dust or ore, I don’t remember, off the silly Human miners.  I died massively and repeatedly but after what I believe were multiple days had my 10 items.  I then proceeded to find some Cyclonian or something of the sort for another piece, and I honestly don’t even remember what else was part of it.  What matters is that I enjoyed what I felt was an epic gathering quest that spanned days of my playtime.

When I finally rolled my eventual (and only 80) warlock, I was absolutely delighted by the exploration aspect of the game.  I adored the quest lines that had me scratching my head for days.  And even on the simple quests, I struggled for hours.  I killed, counted and remember, 139 gorillas in Stranglethorn Vale for that one sinew I needed for that quest.  It’s the stuff I still get mocked for.  But this one is neither here nor there!

As this was my first character that was self-aware, the lands of Azeroth were new and exciting.  Every quest was a challenge unto itself.  Spending hours on a single quest was fun because it was all part of this grand new world.

I pity those who do not go through this, such as those who powerlevel by grinding on their first character, or who use some sort of quest helper right off the bat and just zoom wherever the arrow points them to.  I pity them because they are missing out on the very thing that started this absolutely delightful addiction of ours.  It wasn’t BC end-game, it wasn’t Arthas’ frozen north… it was the original 1-60 grind.  That’s how we got hooked.  Then came the end-game, naturally. 

There are grand story lines at work.  The Scarlet Crusade, Hakkar, the trolls from Zul’Farrak through to the Sunken Temple, the Horde expedition in Kargath, the work of the Royal Apothecary Society, the Scourge and the Plaguelands, Nesingwary’s hunting quests… the list goes on and on.  I’ve spent many nights simply reading Wowwiki.com and other lore sites because it was interesting.

There is almost a type of “roleplayer” separation here.  The people who did all these quests with minimal help V.S. those who used thottbot.  The “hardcore” levellers against the “almost cheaters who missed out on everything”.  This isn’t a clear cut separation and I might just be amusing myself believing it’s there, but it’s still fun to observe people make similar arguments as in the casual/hardcore debate: “I did it this way and it was worth something. Now it’s worthless and meaningless.”

Rose-tinted Goggles

This was then.  Now is now.  Silly as it sounds, that’s the truth of it.  I wouldn’t go through levelling an alt now without a quest helping addon, although when I took my Druid through Badlands which I had never done before, I would actually read all the quests instead of just clicking blindly.  I then followed the arrows blindly, I’ll admit.

More importantly, the ease at which we are made to level has made it almost impossible to follow all these stories and discover the beautiful lands.  My Druid, Cowtch, is now level 67.  My zone progression went like this:

Mulgore -> Barrens -> Ashenvale -> 1000 Needles -> STV -> Badlands -> Winterspring -> Outland.

Time spent in 1000 Needles was minimal, and Winterspring was only for a handful of levels.  My point is that the heirloom shoulders (which I’d be silly not to have) and the increase xp gains from 20-70 are making it trivial to go through content.  There is no longer a focus by Blizzard on players discovering these lands but rather simply to have them breeze through it on the way to Northrend.

I can understand that, as much as I personally liked getting there as opposed to just being there.  Times have changed, and we cannot get the same kind of focus pre-end game as we used to.  I can’t farm Zul’farrak for a specific drop because I’ll far outlevel the instance once I do it 5+ times.  In the past, that wasn’t even enough to level (unless I’m really mistaken in my old age).

I would hope, however, that we have the option to turn off these quest helping modifications to our map.  If we do, then it’s great, and people who want to immerse themselves can still do so.

For what it’s worth, Ainara and I have rolled some Human alts and are doing it without any questing addons, simply enjoying the stories once again.


1 Response to “On Questing and Emblems”

  1. 1 Tania June 29, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Part of the reason I took so long to level Morgaina (almost 8 months to 70) was because of trying to figure out quests without any help. I didn’t even know about thottbot until mid-60s. And it was good fun. But once I rolled alts, I downloaded a questhelper and there’s no way I’d not use it. 😀

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