Monday, September 1, 2008

The Currencies of Wrath: Badge-like rewards

Grinding for 5k gold- 60 days.

Honored Faction with Cen. Expedition- 5 mos.

Having generous friends mailing you blue and purple items- priceless.

In lieu of that- choose your friends well- you may have to spend some of your own money and time to progress in WoW. By progress, I mean tricking out your toon for whatever it is that floats you boat or making dead those annoying end game fiends.

Currenlty, the main problem with WoW, from the casual perspective, is that there is only one set of tracks toward progression. These tracks begin on flat ground and slowly begin to climb. Each level of faction, PvP, arena rating and dungeon/raid the tracks get exponentially steeper. The result is that the engines that can't make it up the tracks are stuck without tangible goals, while those that can get to the top with effort asymptotically approaching- well a lot of time are rewarded with sweet gear, lore and bragging rights.

Disclaimer: casual players should not receive the high level of gear that more dedicated players receive, but they shouldn't be left with professions and guild chat either.

Fortunately, Wrath is shaping up to be much more casual-friendly. Blizzard seems to be laying out two newvsets of tracks, one of which has a steeper slope at the end than the other (25 vs 10-man instances). To examine the effects of this trend, I'd like to look at the 'currencies' in Wrath and how a casual player might go about earning them.

First, let's try to define what a casual player is and isn't. None of this is scientific, but I think there are at least 2 types of players out there.

Casual players are likely to participate in few activities that require more than 1.5 hrs of time in one sitting for approximately 2-3x per week. This means that casuals will do the occasional 5-man regular or heroic dungeon, quests, PvP in BGs, world PvP and low-rated arena play. A player in a generous guild of hardcore players or those in a well organized guild may even get the occasional shot at Kara or a 25-man. However, casual players are unlikely to be prominent figures in the bigger commitment 25-mans, , frequent heroics, frequent runs of 10-mans or highly-rated arena play- they simply don't spend enough time in-game to upgrade beyond good blue equipment to have an effect in the 25-man setting.

With that said, let's look into some of the currencies of Wrath:

Raid 'til your glabella hits the keyboard at a medium velocity? You will be rewarded with Badges of Justice.

The Past: Heroic Instances provided ~4 BoJ, while a full clear of Kara gave about 22 of these little buggers. From the perspective of a casual player, a full clear of Kara is rare and having the gear to run a heroic even more rare. Unfortunately, the number of badges needed for gear upgrades followed the same exponential increase in cost that turns away players unable to get ~30 or more badges per month. BoJ rewards were nice, but became the privilege of the dedicated raider.

The Future: With 10-mans, 25-mans, heroics and dailies, I will hope that the BoJ system offers those willing to do daily quests and regular instances a path to 10-mans, which will offer a path to heroics and, finally, a path to some end-game 10-mans. The full system hasn't been described yet, but hopefully badge acquisition will allow some line of gear progression at a rate obtainable by casual players for gear upgrades consistent with the 10-man end-game raids. The dropping of attunements and increases in faction rep acquisition will help lead to better gear and a higher success with upper level content.

While this is all speculation, if Blizz makes a change, I think this will be it: easier or two-tiered (10 vs 25) badge acquistion with rewards allowing progression into the 10-man line of end-game raids.

Next Edition: Repuations/Faction.
Future Editions: honor, arena points, spirit shard like systems, gold, professions.