Guest Post : The Gear Model is Broken; or why I choose PVP over PVE

Note:  This post is a Guest Post. I haven’t been writing much, so my friend Jarrad who has been a long term reader thought to liven this place up with a suggestion for a fix to the gear model system.


Background: I am a BC baby but started not long after BC dropped so I know a bit about the gear grind in Vanilla and BC. I’ve raided at a Heroic level for content that was current and on average would consider myself “mid-tier” as a raider and PVPer.

WoW as a game has undergone several evolutions in just about all of its spaces. From raid mechanics, PVP mechanics, to gear acquisition. As the game has grown, so too has its core pillars.
Some things though, have not changed. Among these is the idea that the acquisition of armour and weapons constitutes a progression and evolution of your characters as heroes within the World of Azeroth. This is intrinsic to the nature of the MMO genre, and WoW has seen many changes in the way gear has been delivered.
The explosion of popularity around Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, together with ideas of “welfare” gear and subsequent introduction of casual game play has seen large changes to gear. Where once the hallowed epic item was only obtainable to a select few, let alone a set item, now just about anyone can have these kinds of items by investing a fraction of the time that their counterpart games did in the early years of the game.

And here comes a tl;dr warning. It’s a short history of gear in WoW. Nothing super fascinating, but it is interesting to see from an evolutionary perspective.

In classic WoW, it took raiding to obtain epic level items. The general character wore green (also known as uncommon) for the most part. Those who could organise forays into larger dungeons like Scholomance or Stratholme would be lucky enough to score rare (blue) items, and if the stars aligned an epic item. The 40man raids of the day awarded a mix of rare and epic items. On top of these, you also had the rare item dungeon set drops which could be upgraded to epic level through a series of quests. There was no PVP gear in Vanilla.
In the Burning Crusade, the model held similar until the introduction of Heroic dungeons, which were tuned for slightly geared players, and dropped guaranteed blue armour from bosses, and a chance at an epic item from the final boss of the dungeon. Burning Crusade also saw the introduction of competitive PVP formally via the Arena system, and thus the introduction of PVP armour. Subsequent to the introduction of PVP armour came the notion of “welfare epics”, or rather that one could progress their character to epic pieces of armour by simply playing in PVP battlegrounds to earn enough currency (Honor) to obtain epic quality items. It is somewhat regrettable that the “welfare” began, but the result was that the game became more accessible to more casual players who could see a change in their armour value and subsequently could identify progression more easily. Armour was acquired through a combination of Honor Points and Badges of Honor from the various battlegrounds. Also introduced in Burning Crusade was “Arena points” – a system for acquiring higher level PVP armour equivalent to raid armour that did not require Badges nor Honor.
The negatives associated with gearing in Burning Crusade, at least from a PVE raid perspective, was the need to farm older raids for newer players to a guild to obtain gear to progress those characters to a level required for raid progression, which quite frankly made recruiting a pain in the arse.
With Wrath of the Lich King (or Wrath of the Casual King as it was sometimes known), gearing changed again. Heroic dungeons now guaranteed an epic drop from the final boss and the old currency of Badge of Justice were phased out for Badges of Heroism and Valor. As tiers progressed, new Badges were introduced and eventually bypassed. To simplify gearing for current content, the opportunity to purchase raid level gear with those Badges was made available. This functioned to stop the long farm grinds needed for guilds to recruit new players. PVP gear, despite changes to the Honour system, maintained its current system for gear acquisition including Arena points, with minor changes to the PVP badge system that saw individual battleground Badges replaced with a ubiquitous PVP Badge currency.
It was the Wrath of the Lich King expansion that saw the height of the gear inflation problem that was creeping in, and also solidified the idea of the casual gamer for the game. Casual players in Wrath could obtain armour and progression more easily than ever before.
Realising their mistakes though, Blizzard did an about-face for Cataclysm and made gear hard to obtain again. Heroic dungeons no longer guaranteed an epic drop from the final boss, and content wise were actually difficult much like BC. Currencies were converged and the Badge system replaced with a points system called Justice and Valor. The Arena Points system was scrapped and renamed Conquest, and the Honor Points system remained but with the removal of the Honor Badges. It should be noted that prior to Cataclysm, casual gamers could easily be in up to date armour (i.e. ilvl 260ish) without much effort. To suggest that it was “raining epics” would be silly, but the acquisition of armour for PVE and PVP was still quite trivial. Cataclysm did radically change this with no single progression armour piece being obtainable in a week from the points systems (unlike Wrath and to a lesser extent BC). Justice armour (blue) filled the role it did in Classic – entry before raids. However, much like Wrath, Cataclysm saw the current raids need dropped each new tier and this was achieved by dropping the old tier’s armour to the Justice currency and new tier armour on the Valor currency. PVP armour followed a similar model.
These currency and armour systems, whilst not perfect, did work quite well when it came to simpler character progression.
The introduction of the Looking For Raid system in patch 4.3 changed everything again however, by introducing yet another level of armour to the PVE arena. In essence, one could earn Justice to buy last tier’s armour, and could fill gaps with the current tier’s raid finder equivalent, which was of equal progression to the previous tier’s Heroic. Or, quite simply, it messed up the systems.
This as again overhauled in Mists of Pandaria. As it currently stands, Justice as a currency is worthless. The previous tier’s armour no longer changes from Valor to Justice, but instead has the amount of valour needed nerfed. The PVP system however, has not changed apart from the introduction (carried over from Cata) or the Elite tier of conquest armour. PVE gearing has reverted to a model similar to Burning Crusade with none of the positive changes from Wrath of the Lich King or Cataclysm. One could argue that this is due to the changing nature of Raids. with LFR providing filler gear instead of skipping tiers, the need to drop gear down to the easier to obtain currency is supposedly nullified. The primary idea behind this, however, is not for character progression through the story and armour, but rather providing a slathering of content. Blizzard is probably better than most other rollercoaster MMO’s when it comes to delivering new content, but personally having to repeat LFR with no guarantees or character progression on multiple alts, is boring. Potentially what makes it worse than say, grinding heroics, is the time investment for alts, and typically Blizzard has favoured the idea of alts quite heavily (heirlooms etc).

tl;dr end’s here.

So where am I going with all this history? Well it’s simple really. Since the introduction of PVP armour, the option to purchase which slot of armour I want has always been available. PVE gearing has always been, and still is, about the random drop. Cataclysm helped address this by dropping the previous tier’s armour set to Justice, making Justice still worthwhile for particular slots, leaving random drops open for the others but there was always slots missing like shoulders and weapons. But at the end of the day, myself and other players want our characters to feel “complete” as much as possible and this usually revolves around having a piece of gear for every slot. And the you start gearing your alts! But the fact that you can go an entire raid tier and never see a piece for a slot drop, quite simply, is why I choose to PVP. Recently Blizzard CMs have acknowledged that sometimes thing’s don’t drop and have taken on feedback that weapons and bonus rolls need assistance. But what Blizzard is failing to see, is that the model itself is broken for gearing PVE.

So if it’s broken, how to fix it?
It is plainly obvious based on progression races, interviews with guilds doing those races, and to the analytical observer, that the majority of the player base is an unskilled casual who plays in his spare time. And even if this spare time is multiple hours per night, 5 days a week, thats still nothing near the hours spent by hardcore players or even semi-hardcore. It is to this subset of the community that Blizzard has been trying to cater to whilst still delivering high end content to the hardcore. And for the most part, they are quietly succeeding. But despite all the great content, the gear model and character progression is still especially broken still for PVE. Hardcore guilds have acknowledged that gearing alts is not only time consuming, its a requirement. And even the hardcore have expressed that gearing alts is a right royal pain.

So, really, all this whinging is there any suggestions on how to fix it? Yes, I do have an idea that is partially formed and here it is.

The PVP “completion” model works well. The PVE model needs to be redesigned to be similar. Here are some suggestions on how to do this.

Justice and Valor armour should continue to have their variable stats and not be “perfect” for one class, i.e. continue to have haste/crit, mastery/expertise, haste/mastery on gear slots. But make a piece available for every slot. EVERY slot. If necessary, make some pieces crafted so that people can’t farm a set of Valor gear in a week but Justice should be farmable in a week.
Return to making Justice useful: i.e. dropping last tier’s armour down to Justice
Have tokens drop from LFR and Normals to allow players a chance to convert their existing Valor armour to better stats (not reforging but a chance to reroll completely secondary stats on armour.) At the Heroic level, maintain the existing gear model of RNG as this can assist . This provides a dynamic shift for Heroic raids, and allows existing gearing methods (gearing alts etc) to continue.

The PVP model works. It gives players a chance to evaluate and see where they want to spend their currency and it gives those players a sense of completion that is achievable – unlike the random nature of PVE. This would facilitate the desire and needs for character progression in a PVE environment without moving back to the archaic and often clunky model that Burning Crusade introduced. And with resilience coming off PVP gear, and PVP power not part of the item budget, the question of why gear for PVE with PVE gear when you can plan your PVP gear acquisition and still do OK in casual PVE?


8 Responses to “Guest Post : The Gear Model is Broken; or why I choose PVP over PVE”

  1. 1 loopnotdefined (@loopnotdefined) May 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I’m sort of on the fence about Blizzard’s 5.2 decision to maintain VP requirements for 489/496 VP gear. As things stand right now, most 489 gear costs less than 1000 VP each, meaning you can pick from most of them every single week. The few that are over 1000 only require another 125 VP. 496 gear is split with 3 pieces costing less than 1000 and 3 costing 1312. The primary barrier for VP gear isn’t the VP though, it’s the reputations, which must all be grinded out on every individual alt. Blizz did help this along in 5.2 with championing reps and farming though, and it’s likely that anybody already farming VP won’t mind running a dungeon and scenario.

    The main problem is the weapons. Some craftable entry-level weapons were added in 5.2 (the Reborn blacksmith series), but they don’t cover every class and can be EXTREMELY expensive (over 50,000g!). A few weeks in the Arena provides comparable weapons, as an alternative.

    476/496 craftables are still around as well, but the cost of Living Steel actually went *up* in 5.2, making both more expensive when the *opposite* needs to happen. They’re not as valuable now, but cost more. It’s to the point where you’re probably better off selling the individual mats than crafting the item.

    Overall, I think players looking to PVE would be better off farming VP for their gear instead of farming Conquest (assuming they don’t have time or the inclination to do both), with weapons being the exception. Honor gear doesn’t trump VP gear, although it handily beats the rather sad Justice gear.

  2. 2 Percy May 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Couple of things.

    PvP Armor was introduced during vanilla around the time they added the PvP Honor system. You’d have your individual PvP ranking and make progress week to week. Each rank you went up unlocked some more gear slots with the final few ranks unlocking epic gear and then epic weapons. (High Warlord/Grand Admiral). The gear and weapons were very good at the time unless you were running the highest of PvE content (Naxx) but they required a very heavy grind and only one person per server could become High Warlord a week.

    As for alt gearing requirements and the hardcore. I see this mentioned a lot but it should be noted that significantly less then one percent of -raiding- guilds would consider it a requirement to have fully geared alts. The truly exceptional guilds such as Blood Legion and Method would consider it mandatory now, sure, but once you get past the top 50 or so you would be hard pressed to find too many guilds with such a policy. That is 50 raiding guilds.. out of over 20,000 (wowprogress).


    By the end cataclysm gearing became exceptionally easy. It was entirely reasonable to have a freshly dinged 85 be decked out in epics and raid ready within one week. Add in the huge time gaps in new content pretty much the entire player-base took up alts as a hobby.

    Blizzard decided it was not an ideal scenario letting people gear up their character in one week. They’ve been relying heavily on the 1k valor cap per week as a pressure valve to let people gear up gradually over time. Moving old gear off of the valor currency onto the grindable justice currency would subvert this pressure valve and essentially be the beginning of the end for MoP.

    However, since 5.4 already will be the beginning of the end of MoP’s lifespan I could see them just saying “screw it” and making the early tier epics purchasable via justice. I’d be surprised to see anything 522 or better available for justice this expansion though.

    I have no idea what is going to happen with the new style PvP gear though. Just an alternative to hitting that valor cap every week I guess?

    • 3 Jarrad May 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      I agree with your comments. And yes, re: Honor PVP gear, I guess you could refer to it as more resilience gear as to when the welfare epidemic occurred. So thanks for clarifying this.

      I do completely agree with you that no character should be decked in raiding epics within one week. That said, if the aim is to get people to play more alts, to keep investing in the time sink, something has to give.

      As noted, the reputation grinds have been substantially nuked to assist with this however one can argue that there is still substantial time investment in gearing to be raid ready, much as there is to be effective in PVP.

      You mention the 1k valor cap. Interesting that for the future target market of the more casual player, that they can get 1800 points, or a single piece of armour per week almost once the season starts? Yet those who wish to PVE have to wait a minimum of 2 weeks.

      Also, I don’t think dragging down the gear would impact the pressure valve much at all as the majority of social players who want “the best” will still be behind with the Valor cap not shifting from 1000. However, one could argue that the sense of progression is greater when you move from rares to epics, instead of epic to epic.

      Whilst there is no “lack” of content in MoP per se and I can understand them not wanting what happened with Cata and Wrath to occur again where people missed raids, returning players and regearing alts for people are at a substantial disadvantage having to run old content – even if it is LFR, to progress to the next steps of, you guessed it, LFR.

      Having been in a guild that had this exact problem, which then collapsed under the weight of the issue (server top 30 guild), the alt/returning player situation is a clear case of the disadvantage and how the model is broken.

      I’d also challenge its the top 1% that have it as mandatory. And WoWProgress is also not so great to for evaluation at this point in time. I can count at least half the guilds WoWProgress has listed for my server as not existing anymore for this tier but that the guild may have killed a boss.

      I don’t think raining tier is the answer. I do feel that at least making every slot purchasable in a reasonable timeframe is. We already have the Heroic and Elite tags for gear (as well as colour schemes) – so why not make the most of them and let the casual player at least feel progression in normal (at this tier, ilvl 522) armour. Note that in none of my examples do I ever suggest letting folks have access to set pieces for currency – I strongly feel that you should raid for set.

      I don’t think PVE needs to change the 1k cap for Valor and current tier. But the model does need work, especially when you consider the more casual nature of people playing the game and the current returns for rewards.

      • 4 Percy May 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm

        It feels like Blizz is trying to re-create the old school progression model of Tier 1 before Tier 2, Tier 2 before Tier 2.5, Tier 2.5 before Tier 3 that we saw in vanilla and BC. The twist is, they’re doing it with LFR.

        I can see them sitting in their office with a goal written on the white board in regards to MoP raiding. “No Tier Skipping!”

        Starting in WotLK when welfare epics really started gaining steam raiding followed an episodic formula instead of a progression formula. It was no longer required (and barely encouraged) to complete previous raids to experience the latest content. This design has pros and cons like anything else.

        For MoP they have made a concentrated effort to keep the tiers in line and prevent people from skipping to the latest raid right away. They’ve been relying on the 1k valor cap and very heavily on LFR to facilitate this since it circumvents the needs to have an entire guild with you running that old content.

        The obvious downside (and unforeseen by anyone) was the impact alts were going to have. Back in vanilla and BC there were no player expectations for alts. Relatively few people even had serious max level alts because there wasn’t much support for them. Tier progression raiding takes time with just one character… doing it on 2, 3, or more…? Good luck.

        Unfortunately for MoP it had WotLK and especially Cata come out before it. By the end of Cata it seemed like -everyone- had alts. Its not unusual to see people with 4 or more characters at max level now. These people with their 4 alts still expected to keep them all geared out in high level epics like they did in Cata and are having difficulty with the re-introduced progression tier design.


        It seems the Shado-Pan Assault rep valor gear covers every slot aside from weapon & offhand… Based on their prices you can get another piece of 522 gear every two weeks. Toss is Nalak and maybe even Oondasta for a shot at some 522 or better every week and.. I dunno. Its definitely not -fast- but I wouldn’t think that the kind of people that need to rely on getting their gear in this fashion do would overlap very much with the kind of people that need higher ilvl gear very fast.

        If it is a player in a middling guild still progressing in normal mode ToT then you have to resort to the unfortunate truth of “Well its not just the gear thats holding you back..”


        In summary, I like the current gear model and the strategy Blizz has taken so far this expansion. I believe the tremendous rise in alts during Cata tossed things out of line a bit and now Blizz has to play catch-up with the player’s expectations without breaking down their entire gearing strategy.

        I doubt we’ll see many changes on the PvE side in 5.4. But a price reduction and perhaps even rep requirement removal on the shado-pan assault gear seems likely. Justice points are probably going to stay mostly useless… go get some.. heirloom gear with them I guess..

        For now, getting loot coins and running LFR repeatedly is the fastest way to gear up alts. I’d anticipate that method to be made even more rewarding with bad luck roll protection (5.3) and even easier charm acquisition in the future. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Elder Charms work for ToT loot in 5.4 as well.

        • 5 Jemmy May 22, 2013 at 5:49 am

          Shado-pan Assault relies on you having the rep, which relies on you running the raid. It’s not a viable way to gear up if you principally earn your VP from heroics and scenarios.

          I don’t like the new gearing design, locking things behind reps makes it more work and more effort than I think should be required. I’m happy for vendor VP gear to be lower ilvls than raiding, but it shouldn’t be so time consuming to achieve. I thought abut gearing up a healer as an alternative for my raid group, but it is just too much work given the other commitments I have on top of trying to keep my main properly geared.

          They have moved back to forcing you through every hoop and I think it will work out badly for them. I’m not someone who wants their alts geared tot he top raiding level, I generally raid on one toon and the others are for fun and frolics. But we have guildies trying to maintain alts to keep our raid group viable and it’s just a mess. It’s burning them out because someone at Blizzard decided that catching up gearwise would invalidate other people’s time.

          • 6 Edrikz June 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm

            If it were me, I’d go with the Tommy Armour’s. They aren’t in the limelight like they used to be, bsuecae they didn’t keep up with the Joneses by throwing huge sums of $ $ $ in advertising, pro sponsorships and hype. They were eventually bought and turned into an entry-level model.If you’re not sure, ask about face material for the driver and the outside diameter of the iron hosels. If they say something like Ti matrix for the face, beware. Ti matrix usually means WAY more aluminum than what’s supposed to be in there . A normal Ti face does have between 3 and 6 percent Al a Ti matrix face has more than that. That means, the face won’t have the same spring , which means for a 95mph swing, about an 8y loss (if all else is equal) in distance. If the iron’s hosels are more than .55 , that’s usually (but not always) a dead giveaway that they’re made of zinc. On it’s own it isn’t that bad, but zinc is a brittle metal. That means it can’t be bent for loft or lie adjustments. The hosel would just snap off from the head. If you fit into their definition of standard (because every company has a different definition of standard ), you’re more likely to be OK, but if you need, say, 2* upright good luck.

  3. 7 Shiva May 25, 2013 at 5:27 am

    There was PVP gear in Vanilla and there were PVP epics. In fact, I still have mine.

    Also, blues were not terribly uncommon, they dropped from most 5-man bosses and the best blues in the game actually came out of Dire Maul which was a lower level than Scholomance or Stratholme. Also, a lot of high-end raiders actually wore Dire Maul, Maraudon or Zul’Gurub blues.

    And blues were also available through crafting, as were epics (though usually only 1 slot was BoP, but crafters could make BoE epics too… usually at rather extreme prices).

    Not sure where you got this idea of people not wearing blues though… and there definitely were pvp epics. They were introduced in 1.3 I believe. They just weren’t called welfare epics back then because they weren’t trivially easy to get.

    And yes, the BC pvp epics were trivially easy to get, because people who didn’t pvp or didn’t care about pvp would lose-their-way-to-victory to get them, thus the name.

  1. 1 Had Something Like PVE Power | farmer100eagle Trackback on June 24, 2013 at 7:02 am
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