So, no sooner do I post about what I thought was a nice little buff to fire mage dps than Blizzard goes and nerfs us again. Critical Mass, once applying a 1.5x multiplier to critical strike rating, is now down to 1.2x. By my back of the hand calculations this is roughly double the effect of the buff fire mages would get. At this rate by the time we go up against Garrosh, Critical Mass will be no more.
I guess too many arcane mages complained.
But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about a completely different idea, which started rather simply with a few thoughts on the legendary questline. Jana finally got her 6000 valor and moved on to the next phase, which offers two quests. One is a quest to kill a powerful horde bad guy, one that I’ve heard is doable with five but would take forever, so most people get a full raid group. The other was to win two battlegrounds.
My thoughts on PvP have not changed in the years. I hate it, I’m bad at it, and I suspect most people don’t like me if I ever try to do it. Back when I got the Children’s Week achievement, I swore I’d never enter a battleground again, but I broke that promise this week to finish the legendary quest. I won the first battleground on the first try in a reasonably close match. On the second battleground, I lost horribly the first time, but won the second time in a rout. So it wasn’t that bad, and I don’t think I embarrassed myself or did too badly for a pure PvE-geared fire mage.
The question I asked Twitter that night was a simple one: have PvPers ever been forced by some quest to do PvE raid content?
Cynwise was quick to point out that at if you wanted to participate at the highest levels of PvP (I assume arenas), you had to get the legendary weapons or you wouldn’t be competitive. So to some extent this is true. My suspicion is that this applies to the PvP equivalent of heroic level raiders, a top few that are looking for glory beyond their server.
This was a minor aside, though, because it got me to thinking about the legendary questline in general. Here are the steps we had to take:
- Acquire 10 Sigils of Wisdom and 10 Sigils of Power;
- Earn Honored with the Black Prince;
- Loot an object off the Sha of Fear (at any difficulty level);
- Earn Revered with the Black Prince;
- Earn 6000 valor points, starting from the moment you accept the quest;
- Win two battlegrounds;
- Defeat a Warlord of the Horde.
I like to gripe about PvP objectives in PvE quest chains mostly because I hate PvP and it hates me. But what strikes me as rather awkward about the quest chain so far is that winning those two battlegrounds is arguably the hardest thing to do in the entire quest chain.
Here’s a little thought project. There’s some sort of minimal level of performance that is a dividing line between being bad and being lazy. Long ago I did an experiment designed to answer the question “How Easy Is It To DPS?” At that point, I compared my dps using the then standard fire mage priority list as best as I could with my dps where I imitated an arcane mage and hit fireball over and over and over again. The latter was 57% of the former, so I took it to mean that if someone with equivalent gear did less than 57% of my dps, it was because they were being lazy and could not be attributed solely to incompetence.
By that standard, let’s imagine a minimally competent person, the kind who spams fireballs or does the equivalent in any other spec. What parts of the legendary questline would be difficult for this person?
The Sigils can be acquired through LFR and a minimally competent person should have no difficulty finishing LFR.
The rep quests just require time, and can be done by a minimally competent person without much difficulty.
The Sha of Fear kill is, at least at this point, as easy as any other LFR objective for a minimally competent person.
6000 Valor Points are just a matter of time.
The PVP objectives are the first that I see that might actually be difficult. If you force a random team of 9 PvPers and 1 minimally competent PvPer to go up against a random team of 10 PvPers, getting a victory is no certain thing. Eventually you’ll get lucky, I suppose, but there would be a lot more failure here than in previous parts of the legendary quest system.
I can’t speak for defeating the Warlord, because I haven’t done it yet. I think it’s of course possible for a person to leech off of another squad’s kill, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily plausible.
Here’s the point so far: the legendary quest is about time rather than skill. The entire legendary questline can be done without a person ever setting foot into a normal raid, much less requiring the skill to perform well at the raid level.
This led me to another question, which I asked on Twitter. Based on what you know now, in October 2012 would you have been better off picking for your raid team a very talented player who had no time to do anything but raid, or an average talent who had all the time in the world to do dailies and cap valor?
I don’t think it’s necessarily a fair question, because at _some_ difference in skill you will have to say the latter. Pinning down the exact amount would be difficult to quantify. There’s also the notion that it’s more pleasant to be around people who have skill. But comparatively, as of October 2012, let’s imagine you have two people at ilvl 460 of the same class and spec, and player 1 outdpses player 2 by X dps. Player 1 says she can’t do anything in the game other than raid, while player 2 says she will exhaust dailies, cap valor, and run all LFRs weekly to get geared up. The question then becomes: What does X have to be greater than for you to pick Player 1?
In previous expansions I don’t even think you can have this discussion. Gear was gotten when raids progressed and Player 1 gave you the best chance of progressing (beyond some trivial values of X). Player 1 would get her share of that gear and would never be at a disadvantage to Player 2.
That’s not true for Pandaria. Player 1 would get nowhere on the legendary questline, while Player 2 would have no difficulty completing it. Player 2 would get gear from valor points and LFR that Player 1 would never have the chance to get. Player 2 would also get extra rolls on loot that Player 1 wouldn’t get. In Wrath and in Cata the value of X for which one would pick Player 2 would be exceedingly low. But for Pandaria it’s fairly high.
I’ve had a chance of late to experiment with this idea. Saxsy is, for all intents and purposes, the prototypical example of a character whose player has no time to do anything but raid. (Nominally, that’s not because I’m actually busy but rather it’s because I’m playing Jana.) She got into a raid with some friends who have no higher aspirations than an MSV clear.
There are a few people in that run who I like to call competent; dps is the easiest way to compare. On typical fights, they would do about the same dps as Saxsy, despite outgearing her by over ten item levels. To me this represents the equilibrium, where you’re no better off choosing one of them over me or vice versa. Whatever skill I have is offset by the gear advantage they have.
This led to another discussion with a friend of mine that began with this observation: World of Warcraft rewards time rather than skill. Up to some point your gear level may well reflect how much time you have played rather than any actual skill level. At some level this has been true for every expansion, but I don’t think it’s true now; you can grind your way to far better gear more quickly now but more importantly, people without time will have difficulty acquiring appropriate gear.
All this may well be a matter of degree and Blizzard moved the slider more toward rewarding time than rewarding skill. Maybe it’s not worth much further thought, although this discussion with a friend of mine led to what I think is a very important question, one that I think illustrates a tragic flaw of Pandaria:
What incentive does a person have to get better?
There is a definite gap in talent requirements between running heroics and LFRs and running regular raids. What incentive is there for a person who is minimally competent to make the leap to being raid ready? And how does one go about learning those things?
These were the questions put to me by my friend and I admit I didn’t have many good answers to them. Difficult heroics were tossed out in favor of Challenge Modes (something I have yet to do, for what it’s worth). LFRs offered a look at mobs in the raid without requiring the situational awareness normal raids required.
I said a while back that a lot of the seemingly rote questing was designed to teach a player some skills necessary to succeed on a higher level. End quest bosses required some level of skill and situational awareness to succeed, in theory. But it’s been a long time since I was a fresh 90 and I have trouble remembering the quests I couldn’t just face roll. Certainly none of the dailies I’ve done recently has depended on situational awareness more than just spamming fireball.
I’m not going to pretend I have the solution to these things. I’ve often said to people, maybe here, that one of the strengths of Wrath as an expansion is that it opened up raiding for most people. By that I meant that people who were skilled weren’t presented with onerous roadblocks to joining and contributing to success on the raid level. The problem now is a little different: because people can brute force their way to high item levels, a skilled player’s path to success is blocked by people who can nominally do as well as she can in terms of dps, but whose other skills are so lacking that they won’t progress as quickly or as far. And perhaps more troublingly, people who could do better have little incentive to do so.
I don’t know how to fix it, but I think one of the challenges for Blizzard going forward in this expansion is to figure out how to reward skill rather than reward time. When success on a legendary questline depends more on the latter than the former, I think it’s a big sign of trouble.