The Long Tail of Loot

As most are aware at this point, new expansions often bring changes to items and stats.  Warlords of Draenor may be bringing the most changes to stats we’ve ever seen.  There’s more we don’t know at this point than what we do know, but what we do know suggests that there will be a greater degree of RNG with gearing up than there is today.  This may not be the case in practice, but it looks that way right now.  If you have opinions on what degree of RNG is acceptable, you can read, vote, and comment about it here.

Here’s a quick summary of the gearing changes we know about:

  • Hit, Expertise, Dodge and Parry are gone
  • Multistrike and Readiness are new secondary stats.  Multistrike has a chance to deal extra damage, while Readiness will reduce the length of various cooldowns.  These effects are currently present on several trinkets in Siege of Orgrimmar.
  • Spirit and Bonus Armor will be present on jewelry only.
  • Many items that drop will have a chance to have a free “tertiary stat” that provides a bonus like Lifesteal or Run Speed that doesn’t directly improve your throughput.
  • Gem Sockets will be much more rare.  Items that drop will have a chance to have a socket, but it is likely that nothing will be guaranteed to have a socket.
  • Many currencies will no longer exist, such as Valor Points.
  • Haste Breakpoints no longer exist.

Randomness can be cool

Players are often quick to complain about randomness, but a measure of it is both necessary in some areas and can be a lot of fun.  Being able to react to random events in combat is what separates great players from average ones.  It’s also hard to get excited about loot if you’re always expecting it.  Getting something awesome at an unexpected time is always fun.

Items with random stats, such as the majority of items from Conclave of Wind and Al’akir were pretty cool.  They weren’t always the most popular, but an item being an upgrade is almost always dependent on its item level.  Extremely rarely is an item not an upgrade due to the secondary stat spread if it has a higher item level.  Not only have secondary stats been very close in value for most specs for all of MoP, but Blizzard has stated their commitment to bringing secondary stats closer to each other.  There are a few outliers, like DPS Warriors and Fire Mages, but for most of us, it’s really not that far off.  I would love to see more Faultline, Stormblast, and Feverflare style items.  They add an unpredictable aspect to loot without having a huge variation in its power.

Tertiary stats are a great example of where randomness can be added to loot without having much in the way of negative side effects.  These stats will not directly improve throughput but will still be cool bonuses to have.  These bonuses being random will do a lot to make loot feel more unpredictable and interesting.  This is good, because re-clearing dungeons and raids can still yield interesting upgrades for a longer period of time.

Using coins or Warforged Seals on gear is a system that actually feels a lot better than it did at release.  Initially, players had to work too hard for the coins they received, which left a lot of us with a very bitter taste, but their existence has had some positive-feeling effects now that they are quick and easy to get.  They aren’t perfect, but I think this has – after some iteration – worked out to be a significant positive.

Randomness can also suck

Where RNG is at its worst is where large performance boosts come into play.  I may prefer Mastery or Haste, but I’m totally fine with my gloves having Crit instead.  The difference between the two is pretty negligible, and most players probably won’t see a tangible DPS difference between the two unless all of your gear has your weaker secondary stats.

Weapons.  Bad luck with weapons sucks.  I mean it really sucks.  Needless to say, for dealing damage to something, the most important piece of equipment you use should be your weapon.  Upgrading your weapon should feel like a Really Big Deal.  Upgrading your weapon’s damage or spell power should not be subject to large amounts of randomness.  It feels great when you get a new weapon, but it feels terrible when you go a long stretch without getting one, especially when everyone else you know and play with has.  This is one area that should have more RNG protection than it currently does, be that solved by more weapons dropping, weapons being less exclusive, or more craftables or some other method, it doesn’t matter.

“Forged” weapons.  I never was a supporter of Thunderforged or Warforged gear, but I’m not totally against the idea at this point, either.  I feel that a “forged” weapon affecting the spell power or weapon damage is a negative.  I think it’s alright for it to improve all the other stats, but spell power and weapon damage are too important to be subject to that level of randomness on top of weapons dropping or not dropping in the first place.

I don’t mind the idea of “Forged” gear being a normal thing going forward.  I also really like their plans for sockets and gems, and tertiary stats are just plain cool, but I don’t like the idea of all three appearing on a single item.  Tertiary stats can appear on anything at all, and I’m cool with that.  I think sockets and “forged” status should be exclusive, however.  One or the other, not both.  Having the potential for both is inviting the exact kind of randomness I dislike – a significant swing in player power based on completely random factors.

Duplicate loot from Bonus Rolls.  After disliking them early on, I’ve liked how coins have turned out at this point.  I dislike what everyone dislikes about them, though.  Getting the same item more than once is a huge letdown.  Getting an upgrade with a coin is cool, even if it’s not the one you wanted.  Getting something you already have is probably even okay, as long as you have no danger of coining it again.  Getting the same base item from coins more than once really sucks, though.

Trinkets. like weapons, trinkets currently convey huge power boosts.  They’ve always been a “special” item slot – more exciting than most other slots – but their value throughout MoP has been much larger than past expansions for various reasons.  Because of this, not having a trinket can have a very similar effect on your performance as not having a weapon, but I think that’s more a problem with trinkets themselves than it is with the randomness of picking one up.  With the removal of Stormlash Totem, Skull Banner and various personal DPS cooldowns, trinket value naturally goes down as there’s less to stack their procs with.  I also think that primary stats don’t belong on trinkets unless they receive the same treatment as primary stat gems did in MoP – cut them in half.  Secondary stats tend to have much more interesting effects on gameplay anyway.

Currency

Valor Points have historically had some good and bad side effects.  Valor, and Emblems and Badges before them, have always served as a form of bad luck protection, at which they were very successful.  It was quite rare for badge, emblem or valor gear to be the best available, but being able to buy decent gear for slots you had bad luck getting good gear in was a welcome feature.

  • With the way loot has randomly dropped since WoW’s release, players are sometimes going to go long stretches without picking up a piece for a certain slot.  This is where Valor Points were most successful.
  • Valor Points were also very successful as a way to make a little extra gold or buy a BoE piece or two for an alt.  This made farming VP an option once your main character was done with them.
  • The VP upgrade system I see as a significant negative, for various reasons.  Upgrading a piece of gear isn’t as interesting as replacing one.  It has the same stat spread and the same art, and there hasn’t been anything compelling about expensive upgrades that take forever to farm OR cheap upgrades that are easy to farm for.  At no tuning point have VP upgrades felt even remotely interesting, but they do, at least, feel a lot less frustrating now than they did in 5.1
  • I feel that content in WoW should be fun – with its own form of progression – on its own merits, rather than because it awards a currency you need for your favored play setting.  Logging in every day to farm Valor Points was never my idea of fun… I’d rather go PvP or do Pet Battles or whatever I want rather than being limited to doing what gets me VP capped for long periods of time.
  • While short periods of currency capping is alright, there needs to be a time when you’re done with it.  Being “done” with a reputation or currency farming provides a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.  If VP are useful always, you never get that feeling of accomplishment.  Currencies, like reputation, really need to have a goal in sight to not feel like a chore.

Gear Customization

With reforges gone and gem sockets very limited, I feel that the amount of customization with your gear will be very limited, and I feel that something will need to remedy this to an extent.

My opinion is that enchants should be expanded on, and these are my ideas for that.

  1. Remove primary stats from all enchants.  Primary stats tend to remove all choice.
  2. Each slot that can be enchanted gets 3-4 options, all of which are similar amounts of secondary stats.
  3. Profession stat perks removed entirely.  No more min-maxing professions… it’s never been cool.
  • Tailors – Multistrike, Crit, Spirit, Mastery cloak enchants
  • Leatherworkers – Haste, Mastery, Readiness or Armor leg enchants
  • Scribes – Multistrike, Mastery, Crit or Readiness shoulder enchants
  • Jewelcrafters – Belt Buckle and all secondary stat gem options
  • Blacksmith – Multistrike, Haste, Crit, Readiness, Armor bracer enchants
  • Enchanters – Gloves, Boots, and Chest enchants of various types.  More than one competitive option per role for weapon enchants.  Fiery, Avalanche, Elemental Force and Windsong have actually been pretty cool enchants, it’s too bad we’ve never seen much use for them for DPS.

With all of the primary stat budget for enchants shifted into secondary stats, they can be much larger chunks of secondaries.  This would allow players to adjust and customize the stats of the gear as they’ve been used to doing for so long without having that customization take place on several levels.

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2 responses to “The Long Tail of Loot

  1. I really like your idea for the enchants being changed to be secondary stats only and a lot of options. I think that would fix a lot of the “Cookie Cutter” stuff Blizzard has been trying to fix over the last few expansions.

  2. I love ALL of these ideas! The only downside I see to the secondary stat enchants idea is that it may backfire and reduce rather than increase choice. Being able to stack large amounts of a secondary stat will magnify small differences in effectiveness, pushing people to stack the one that is best. If they are close enough that it doesn’t make a difference which you choose then they should just be one stat, which also limits choice. This sort of thing makes me glad I just play games instead of making them 🙂

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