Thinking stat-less gear while fighting H Tortos

The past few weeks, I’ve been filling in with a heroic raiding guild on my alt hunter, Ghilleadh.

Ghilleadh isn’t the best geared wolf out there. While his ilvl has risen to 508 over the past few weeks, with a Thunderforged weapon and 2p T15 bonus, he has nothing from the legendary questline, still has two blue pieces, and so on. Compared with Mushan, he’s still almost a tier behind, average ilevel-wise. And of course, he is way behind on the legendary.

The experience of bringing this alt with that guild has been mostly positive, with large doses of caveat-ish-ness stemming from the fact that it feels like I’m playing with my arm tied behind my back. I get absolutely smoked on the meters, which is symptomatic of the fact that I simply do not have the kind of power that I am accustomed to playing with, relative to the content.

Other symptoms include feeling like I am shooting the adds on H Horridon with a wet noodle, shooting the turtles on H Tortos with a wet noodle… in other words, Mushan has many advantages – although those advantages are largely the result of many months of persistence and hard work – over Ghilleadh when it comes to gear and power and so on.

I’m trying not to let it bother me when I run with these people, and, in all honesty, it’s relatively easy to do so for farm content, where my under-geared presence doesn’t necessarily hamper their evening.

However, on heroic progression content, each person’s damage matters. And when poor damage directly affects mechanical performance during the fight, my predicament with Ghilleadh and his poor gear is laid bare.

Case in point: H Tortos.

Last week and this week, we’ve been smashing our faces against H Tortos. As a ranged player, my responsibility is to ensure that turtles die. As the worst damage dealer (by a long shot), my other responsibility is to ensure that turtles are kicked at appropriate times. And as a person on the team, my third responsibility is to ensure that I get a Crystal Shell on me in enough time that it can be fully charged before each Quake Stomp.

There is no priority for this. They are all my number one priorities…

I’m fine with the Crystal Shell. Although there are times when the turtles are buttholes and knock me around while I’m trying to have my shell charged, it’s something I can generally handle.

Kicking turtles and killing turtles are a little more difficult. By the way, this is not because I stink at kicking turtles, per se. I’ve been kicking turtles just fine for weeks, and when I consider all of the experience I’ve gotten with them, the isolated act of aiming and kicking is pretty simple. However, since I am not very powerful, it takes longer than I would like it to, just to kill them. I mean, I pop CDs on turtles in order to help us not wipe on the first Ferocious Stone Breath. And although we can almost always accomplish that, there are the other turtles to deal with – including the fact that sometimes, they will take me out right when I’m ready to interrupt the breath, in spite of my best efforts to make them think I’m not going to be there (at the point of the kicking) when the time comes. This is the joy of H Tortos; or rather, it is one of them.

I have a hard time not believing that if I were attempting the same task with Mushan (and his much-better damage), Skull Turtle would be long-dead, and X Turtle would be dead – or close to it – by the time I needed to interrupt the first breath.

This is what I mean when I talk about gear affecting mechanical performance.

Last night, during our many attempts on this repair-bill-piñata, I started thinking about my situation (under-geared heroic raiding) and its relevance to the far-fetched (for WoW) notion of getting rid of stats altogether, and the raid tuning issues that could come from massive changes to the way WoW works in this regard.

(It may have been a huge stretch, but bear with me, because even if it is, I still thought about it!)

As the game stands, here’s what I bring to the table with Mushan: a good player with generally good awareness, knowledge of the fight, properly gemmed/enchanted/reforged, and appropriate gear level.

With Ghilleadh, it looks similar: same player, same awareness, same knowledge, same gemming/enchanting/reforging, not very close to the proper gear level.

With Mushan, whose gear is fairly close to the levels of the other toons, I would fit in seemlessly. I am at the same level, relatively, in almost every regard, to the other team members – including having reached the end of the legendary questline to-date.

With Ghilleadh, there is one glaring issue. Mentally I fit in, but physically (in game) I just cannot approach the level of power that the rest of the team has.

OK, I think that’s fairly clear.

So I was thinking: what if, in a vacuum, Blizzard demolished the idea of stats on gear, while leaving the raiding structure the same? Meaning, of course, that leveling < heroic dungeons < Raid Finder < raids < heroic raids, as far as the hierarchy of group content goes…

The reason behind this thought was, if it was all about skill, and I were a good enough player, I could take my other hunter into a heroic raid, learn the fight, and perform as well as my main hunter would. (Ah, the simplistic thoughts we think sometimes…)

I could kill turtles just as fast, kill adds on Horridon just as fast… There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home…

Wait, what? Sorry, I was fading off there for a moment…

It couldn’t actually happen in a vacuum, obviously. While some people have advocated for such a change in WoW, Ghostcrawler has consistently maintained that gear progression is so ingrained in the game that it would be tough to remove it. (I’m paraphrasing here).

I don’t have a quote for that, but I know that I’ve seen his short comments about it here and there, and my interpretation of those comments has always been something along the lines of “Yeah, I guess people are so used to looting and bringing their item level/gear score up that it would take a huge chunk of fun out of the game, and I guess they’d have to come up with new ways for us to get our power, and, ah, yeah, (I guess I don’t care about this enough to think about it much more than I already have)…”

But last night, as I was thinking about it, I realized that, on the surface, GC’s words (as I remember them) only hint at how this would affect the game. Because the truth is that this would fundamentally change the game at its core.

At its core… beyond the “me want lootz” nature of WoW as we have always known it. :)

Changing WoW to a game without stats on gear would not be as simple as we might think. The tuning process for everything combat-related would have to be rebuilt. This includes PvP, where, in a vacuum-like situation (with the game as it is), if we just took all our armor off, wore tuxedos and/or holiday/RP (stat-less) clothing, and fought one another at level 90 with starting zone weapons, players might never die. We’d have a lot less health, but we’d have much, much less power.

There would have to be major changes to how players get their power. There has to be some power in the game, after all. It might be a system similar to talents, like in other video games where you put points into abilities you want to use, or where you fill up a strength or magic or skill bar with experience until it is full.

There would have to be major changes to bosses and boss progression. In my example, while Mushan is geared for heroic T15 content, Ghilleadh is not. In our new version of WoW, it seems to me that boss fights would have to be based less on power and more on skill. People might complain about “the Dance (TM)” in the current game, but our new WoW’s bosses would be all about strategy, skill, execution… heroic bosses couldn’t be X times as powerful as normal bosses, because we might not be X times more powerful than we were when we took on their regular counterparts, because we weren’t getting “better” gear.

Now, I could see some change where, in a 12 boss raid, you get a slightly more powerful weapon when you kill the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth bosses, each with more power than the one before, allowing for some power progression. But ultimately, boss fighting would become even less about power and more about skill and execution than it is now, possibly vastly more so.

I’m just scratching the surface of this topic. And, while I wrote the first half-dozen paragraphs of this post last night after two hours of smash-face-against-H-Tortos, I don’t remember everything that went through my mind during and after the raid, unfortunately.

But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I understand that the notion of a stat-less gear version WoW is a notion of a very different game, to the point where if it happened, it would probably have to happen in a WoW 2 or something.

People float the idea of getting rid of stats on gear from time to time, and it’s an interesting idea. However, the amount of work that would have to go into it is difficult to fathom from this side of the dev/player divide, because of how such a fundamental change to how we kill things in-game would affect so many parts of the game, including how drastically the things we kill would have to be changed as well.

Additionally, it would be a huge change for players. After years of progression, in part, through gear – at every combat-related level of gameplay, from leveling to HMs – such a change, if pulled off by the devs, would still be a massive shock to players’ familiarity with WoW. Financially, it would probably not be a good idea, both from the perspectives of “time investment vs. moving the game/story/action forward” and whether all of that work would be worth the money for them as a company / attract new players / retain old ones…

…although it sounds like a fantastic idea for a new game.

P.S.

The item squish theme is making the rounds again in the worldwide WoW community, and many are predicting that it will be a significant feature in 6.0 and the as-yet-unannounced next expansion. I don’t generally have any pressing thoughts about the subject, because I would rather hear what the devs have to say now – as opposed to what they were saying about it two or three years ago – before I ponder it too much. I am interested to see where they go with it, if it is indeed something that we’re going to see in the near future.

Thanks for reading this crazy-long post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!

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3 Comments on “Thinking stat-less gear while fighting H Tortos”

  1. Andy says:

    I wrote about this in a post on my blog ( http://ostensiblywow.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/gear-and-other-carrots.html ) and I agree, making stats irrelevant would fundamentally alter the game, probably in more ways than we can imagine. The whole notion of ‘character progression’ by acquiring better gear would have to be replaced with… something. I’m not sure what, maybe something like Guild Wars 2’s weapon/armour skins, or maybe even something more ambitious like developing the character’s personality, backstory and so on (heading towards more of a sandbox direction, perhaps).

    That motivation aspect is key – I think players will need SOME way to progress, even if it’s just in how skilled they are at the game. The important thing is providing enough feedback that they KNOW they’ve progressed; I’d be optimistic in this regard as Blizzard have shown they’re good at the incentive/reward game.

  2. R says:

    Yeah, this is a tricky topic. The key point from Blizzard’s end, I suspect, is that players need to have stuff to do that has purpose to it. My main has been fully geared out from the content she’s running a couple of months ago… if it wasn’t for alts gearing up I’d have a lot less to do in-game. It would certainly be CONVENIENT that once you had a geared toon, all are equally geared. Extending that, that once you have a max-level toon, you have have ALL max-level toons.

    Ultimately, though, I think it all comes back to gameplay. Gear is one element of the game that encourages you to play it. If you remove the need, requirement or desire for players to play the game… why would they? If the game was simplified down to, ultimately, “you can have anything you want at any time”, there’d be no game left. And that’s not just WoW, that’s ANY recreational activity that requires competition at any level… gaming, sports, etc. Should being good at tennis mean that I’m automatically equally good at baseball? There’s some synergy so I’d have some hand-eye benefits from my tennis acumen but ultimately it wouldn’t help me make a play in the field and probably wouldn’t help much with hitting a high curveball. Same thing with your hunter – your alt hunter gets some benefit from your main hunter (your personal experience) but is held back by the gear… still, you in i508 should be better than someone else on that same toon whose main is a priest and has only done LFR. It’s not all about the gear. You’d also get incrementally more benefit from any gear upgrades than someone else without that advantage.

    I’ve wondered why you don’t, at least temporarily, swap your toons for the content they’re running… sounds like your alt has plenty of gear for your main run’s content.

    • Mushan says:

      Regarding your suggestion… I’ve thought about switching toons, and plugging the main into my fill-in runs, and my alt in my main runs. However, certain factors, which are counter-intuitive to personal progression in the heroic run, are more important to me in my main run.

      In my weekend run – the one I’ve been a part of all along – I’m the highest damage dealer on almost every fight. And this is not a run that has everyone within a half-percent of each other, either. The gap is pretty wide.

      Last weekend, we were extending a raid lockout to work on bosses 10-12. We did end up killing each of those bosses for the first time, and that was made easier by the fact that I brought my best toon. Here was the damage spread for our guild-first Lei Shen kill, for example:

      1, SV hunter – 20.6%
      2. Ele shaman – 17.0%
      3. Arms warrior – 14.3%
      4. Frost mage – 13.9%
      5. Fury warrior – 13.0%
      …tanks, etc.

      If I had brought my other hunter, he would have placed somewhere below number 5. 10-11% at best is my guess. And the numbers look similar when we do Iron Qon, and many other fights. The difference between main and alt would be significant. We might have failed, had I brought the alt.

      When it comes to progression with my weekend team – which is my priority, in spite of it lacking the overall strength of the team I fill in with – I want to bring my main toon, because it gives the team I care most about the best chance to win.

      This weekend will be the same. We’re preparing to try H Jin’rokh for the first time. I’m not going to effectively ditch my teammates, with whom I’ve toiled all season, immediately after helping our guild complete a normal tier (while it’s current content) for the first time in almost a year and a half, and saddle them with an under-geared toon when I’ve been helping to lead them up to this point. Because my main team’s progression is what matters to me.

      Now, on the other hand, this other guild asked me to bring my severely under-geared hunter to their raid. They know I can play the spec, and I play well, and I play my best. But they understand my gear limitations, and their desire to try to push content in spite of that knowledge is their prerogative.

      Like I said, it’s counter-intuitive to personal progression, but I’m committed to my main team first. I did consider it (switching) briefly, but ultimately came to the conclusion that I prefer to do it this way. The fill-in spot is temporary, anyway.

      Thanks for your comment!


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