Legion: Rewards System Feedback

I want to make it abundantly clear — Legion is a fantastic expansion full of content. World Quests have been very successful. There are plenty of dungeons, and Mythic+ affixes keep things fresh for many players. We’ll have our third raid with Nighthold. Legion is very impressive, but why are many players unsatisfied with the game?

It’s pretty obvious to me that players are burning out. It’s always been an issue each expansion. Competitive players push themselves further and further until they quit. Many high-end players have gone “casual.” There is an atrocious time requirement needed to stay competitive. This all comes back to the rewards system. Players with seemingly infinite time to play are hugely rewarded.

There are a few systems to look at: Legendary Items and “Bad Luck Protection” (BLP), Titanforged, and Artifact Power.

Legendary Items and Bad Luck Protection:

“BLP” is needed because the system is flawed.

Legendary items were supposed to be these incredibly rare and powerful items. (Never mind the bug where a few lucky players played so much more than everyone else they got 2+ in 24 hours game time.) Bad Luck Protection will accrue the more you play, given you are doing content that may drop legendary items. So, playing more means you have a higher chance of receiving these items. It’s still based on luck, for the most part, but playing more has a direct effect on your chances.

In hindsight, legendary items didn’t work out as well as Blizzard hoped. It’s clear they’ve either been too strong, or too weak. Their impact was noticeable on a player’s perception of strength or viability. If you had no “good” legendary items, odds are you felt like you’re hindering your group. Some players felt the need to effectively remake their character just to have a better chance at these “good” legendary items. This is because there is a huge gap between acquiring your fourth and fifth — it feels like you’re capped at four legendary items (due to BLP being disabled for a long time).  BLP doesn’t need to be part of the system if the rewards are structured in a certain way.

As I’ve discussed in the past, legendary items have been an exciting disappointment. They should probably just be all “good” items, that way they’re at least desirable. There will always be differences and preferences. So long as each item has a place, both in-game and in the collective minds of the player community, it’s a good system. I will suggest an acquisition method later in this article.

Change the system to favor balance and fairness, not BLP or RNG.

— Generalized legendary items removed. (Sephuz, Prydaz, etc.)
— Players may equip 1 “Performance” (Spec-based) legendary item. (Such as Impeccable Fel Essence.)
— Players may equip 1 “Utility” (Class-based) legendary item. (Such as Promise of Elune, the Moon Goddess.)
— Performance legendary items come from Class/Spec Quests (Article in future.)
— Utility legendary items are random drops from any source. (Same system as right now.)

Okay, what Are we doing here? We are refining the items so that the class and specs feel like there are no “bad” legendary items. Of course, you’ll prefer some items over other items, but it’s very clear that performance-boosting items are very important. Much like Mists of Pandaria, if Blizzard expects us to have a legendary, statistically, then a lottery is not the answer — give it to us. They can still be incredibly difficult to acquire, there should be some prestige behind these items. Utility legendary items aren’t exactly desired. Yes, it’s great if you have them, but it’s not important to many players. With this in mind, it makes things like Bad Luck Protection less important. So, no need to farm LFR as a Mythic raider, because increasing your BLP won’t be as important to you.

I would still enjoy the random element on the performance-boosting items. Perhaps completing the first quest awards a random legendary item. Hypothetical for now, doesn’t really matter quite yet. Honestly, so long as the legendary items are fairly balance, it’ll be just fine.

Titanforged Items:

Mythic+ is too rewarding. Raids need help.

To be as unbiased as possible, I have expressed my dislike to Thunderforged items back in Throne of Thunder, where this system originates in Warcraft. It feels like I will never be able to say “I’m done,” when it comes to a tier. There will always be something I can get, so I almost lose a sense of satisfaction when I can no lnoger claim being “full BiS.” It is not related to an elitist ego, I literally feel like I’m not finished even after clearing all Heroic/Mythic content. Now, I said “to be unbiased” … yet I essnetially did the opposite — so here’s why I’m not being biased: Titanforged works well. It needs some changes, but it certainly makes me want to keep playing. Keeping me playing is good for business (even though I am currently not subscribed). I’ll make a suggestion in a different section of the article.

Why is Titanforged good? I believe the system needs a minor change, but a fairly big impact. As it currently exists, Titanforged, and gearing in general, is a lottery. The entire system is built on statistics. Unfortunately for players, players are too clever. We effectively cheated Blizzard’s statistics with just two in-game systems. Being able to trade “non-upgrade” gear to other players effectively increases your chance at getting loot. Being able to farm up Mythic Dungeon content was also unexpected of us.

I’ve ran my share of dungeons and traded away items that were huge upgrades for others. We built groups explicitly for gear sharing. If you had a group full of Leather or Plate classes you effectively had 5 chances per boss for a good item to drop. It doesn’t take too long to get powerful items and, eventually, to get duplicates (in slot). Trading gets easier over time, which means player power will follow the rate of gear sharing.

Being able to farm Mythic+ dungeons as been the source of burnout for raiders. Of course, the competitive nature of the player is to really blame. Anyhow, the player is running Mythic+ content to get better gear for raiding. They are mostly farming up Artifact Power, but gear upgrades are very possible. Mythic+ content is the most efficient route of Artifact Power and gearing up. Not just “gearing up,” but also getting better gear. Even then, “getting better gear” is so you can get even stronger gear from the same content…statistically-speaking.

Raids should offer the best gear, not farmable content.

— Mythic+ caps out at 880. (If max ilvl is 910, then Mythic+ awards 895.)
— Sockets can no longer be rolled on dungeon gear. (They can be rolled on any raid loot)
— Sockets are exclusive to legendary items and raiding jewelry (Neck, Rings, Trinkets)
— Any particular item may only award up to 30 additional item levels. (Base + 30 = Max)

Why nerf dungeon loot? The goal is to limit the incentive. In addition, we want the most powerful loot to come from raids. Raids have a weekly lockout, Mythic+ does not and it’s a bit insane Mythic+ can drop equal gear. The cap is 880 or 895 is tentative, it could probably be 870 or 885. It is still rewarding content, but not so much so that you’d farm it for gear after a certain point. More nerfs to Mythic+ in the Artifact Power section. The bonus item level cap goes for all items, raids included.

Artifact Power:

Mythic+ is too rewarding. Let other methods be better.

This section won’t be as long as the others. Hah, just kidding, wall of text below.

Artifact Power is a way to reward players for sticking to the same spec or class/character. It felt like it was designed to keep the player focused on a single specialization, then a single character. It think that ship has sailed — players, largely, want to be able to play all specializations of their class freely. I’m not in favor of this mentality, but I do think WoW has been too focused on the class, rather than the individual spec. I think this is because Blizzard decided to do the impossible — make everyone feel unique, while trying to give everyone similar toolkits, while provides niches in the game. This is mostly to do with DPS classes/roles, especially on pure DPS classes. Artifact Power gave players a reason to complain about “What if I chose the wrong spec?” — rightfully so. Rather than make an Fire Mage feel like a reskinned Frost Mage, Blizzard elected to keep niches and uniqueness. Now players would feel like “they chose wrong.” In the case of mages, if you’re not playing Fire Mage in Mythic+ you’re doing it wrong. This makes players feel like they need to play even more to get their Artifact Power up.

You probably see why Artifact Power takes a lot of time — it’s hugely rewarding for a long time, but it’s also a huge time sink. Getting that massive 5% trait at the very end (#35) is a flat boost. It pushed a lot of players to play a ridiculous amount. Honestly, this 5% boost is a temporary wall. It’s definitely a reason why players grind Mythic+ content, adding to the burnout. But it’s really not that hard to fix. Simply don’t make it a 5% bonus. Making all of those traits,5% and 0.5%, would do fine if they were all providing 0.75% instead (14.5% vs. 15%). In the end, the goal would be to reward the player for playing. But we will not grant this huge bonus simply because you have that much time to play. In the end, it’s probably better to just make non-repeatable content very rewarding, and lessen the efficiency of Mythic+ dungeons.

Really trying to help the weekend warrior here.

— Overall goal: Psuedo-lockout on Artifact Power.
— Mythic+ farming severely nerfed. (No longer worth farming.)
— Mythic+ cache awards huge Artifact Power gains.
— Emissary cache awards huge Artifact Power gains.
— Emissary cache no longer “wasted” if you do not complete them. (Explained below.)
— World Quests that respawn every 3+ days award huge Artifact Power gains.
— Raid Quests for Heroic and Mythic only.
— The 5% Artifact Trait bonus reduced to a small value.
— Primary Spec gains all Artifact Power, and “pooled” AP goes to off-specs.
— Artifact Knowledge removed, Artifact Power costs restructured.

Okay, there’s a lot of things to go over, so I’ll make it very simple. The goal is to make repeatable/grinding content less inefficient. Basically, Mythic+ doesn’t need to award these massive Artifact Power gains. So just straight-up gut them. Making a huge bonus go into your cache at the end of the week is great. This way you get people to keep pushing higher and higher for the gains. But farming Artifact Power won’t be the goal. People will still want to push. It will lead to issues with bias (such as never bringing a Moonkin), but that can be alleviated by class design and encounter design.

Emissary caches should be hugely rewarding. I would change the gains to be making emissary caches among the highest sources for Artifact Power for the time you need to complete them. However, I would also reduce the World Quests needed down to three (3). The next thing I would change is how players acquire them over time. If you don’t do a cache, they are wasted. In the system I propose, they stay there until you complete them. If you make a new toon, you start from cache #1 and you can complete them as often as possible. You’d still be limited by the world quest refresh rate, but whenever you complete a cache, you get a new one immediately. Eventually, you will catch up and no more will fill the table. In order to actually make players complete these emissary quests, caches do not scale with Artifact Knowledge, now there is no reason to wait to complete them.

The deal with “pooled” Artifact Power is specifically to allow players to build your main spec and an off-spec. Each point of Artifact Power you earn contributes to a pool. You use this pool to spend Artifact Power on your non-primary spec. The current class design is in favor of niches. So, in order to reinforce that design, Artifact Power cannot reward all our your artifact items. However, if class design changes, then Artifact Power could very easily go into a character-wide pool. All specs have the same amount of Artifact Power to spend.  It would be the max value, not an average value. In this design, you lose spec identity, but gain ease of access. Ever sense dual-spec was introduced, this homogenization of the game has been happening. While we all have our opinions, I’m just laying out the consequences of such a design.

But wait, aren’t I just changing the system entirely? Yes, in a way. The idea is to reward players for playing a ~6 hours every week, but I also would like to reward skill. If you push rating in PVP and do progression raiding in PVE, then your rewards are bonuses, but Artifact Power isn’t the endgame. Participation is rewarded as well, but completing the content obviously nets you better rewards overall. In order to keep Mythic raiders out of Normal mode and LFR, bosses won’t be super rewarding. There is a loot lockout for bosses Artifact Power (they all award the same amount). However, there will be raid quests to complete. These can only be completed on Heroic or Mythic and they award a fairly large amount of Artifact Power. These loot rewards will be, effectively, another Emissary Cache, but with better loot than World Quests caches.

In the end, I would like semi-hardcore players, those who play ~20hrs each week, to feel like they aren’t screwed if they aren’t playing every single day as often as possible. The goal is to reward active players, but also let them breathe every so often. Taking away the stress of farming Artifact Power is the goal, and it does go away in time. However, the goalposts shift from having 1 spec finished to having your next spec finished. Again, let them breathe. There is a ton of content, so let’s reward you for playing as much as you can. You can still farm up Artifact Power and such, but it’s just a hugely inefficient use of time. The final push for Artifact Power, to gain the 5% buff, is a simple fix — don’t make it 5%. Make these “paragon points” low in value, then there’s no reason to rush for them. Bonus still add up, of course.

What all of this boils down to is to stop rewarding the player with infinite time with huge rewards just because they play a lot. Reward skill. Reward participation. Do not reward time spent. (Yes, participation is different from time spent — to a degree). I would like items to feel less like a lottery. I would like players to feel like that can do their WoW chores on their own time. A weekly reset works best, but let them have the chance to binge on WoW when they can, and feel like “catching up” is actually just that: catching up. Still, players that have so much time to play will be able to get more rewards by participating in more content. And that is perfectly reasonable. Whether you play 60hrs+ a week, or just 6hrs, you shouldn’t feel like you have to run Mythic+ all the time. Casual players will still enjoy the content, and more hardcore players will feel like they can be responsible to the guild without sacrificing responsibility in real life.

That is the endgame here — reasonable rewards with reasonable expectations and incentives for players who want to play a reasonable amount of time.

Posted in Legion, Written by Cyous


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