gear

Gear: make me care about it, Blizzard Edition

“Warcraft 40k vol.1” by Dio-Dong

Less than a week ago, I wrote about how you could make me care about gear in RPG’s again. I think I made it quite clear that gear should be something personal and not just a sheet of numbers waiting to be replaced by bigger numbers. Well, today’s blue post from Crithto reminded me that there’s also another way of making gear interesting to me, namely by giving me choices.

Before I dive further into that, let us analyze the aforementioned blue post. As already announced during this year’s Blizzcon, Warlords of Draenor will bring significant changes to stats found on gear in World of Warcraft. We already knew that stats like Hit and Parry would go the way of the dinosaurs, and new stats like Movement Speed and Cleave would add some new colors to the itemization palette. Today’s post by Crithto went into further detail, explaining the differentiation between primary, secondary and tertiary stats, while also making clear that armor pieces and weapons will harbor different stats.

This post is the harbinger of great change, fundamentally changing the way gear will work in WoW. Especially the fact that primary stats will change depending on the specialization your character has active means that gearing will take less time, as one set of armor will most likely be enough. This leaves room for choices, which leads me to the reason for this post.

Many MMORPG’s participate in the gear treadmill, where every new dungeon forces you to slay a dozen bosses hundred times to get the better items with the better stats and the better looks (at least you hope they’ll look better). It’s not a matter of choice to go after these new stat-sticks: if you want to be part of the endgame, you’ll have to get them or you’ll underperform and hold back every raid you join. Imagine a world where, at every raiding tier, you would have a choice. Sure, you’ll need that basic set of items to keep up, but what if there was enough room for differentiation and hunting for unique variations of your items? I hope Warlords will bring WoW one step closer to that world.

The removal of stats like Hit and the end of reforging might be seen as a shot in the knee of customization, but what use is customization if you can go only one way? Why not give every character the necessary stats to be competent, while still allowing the powergamers to go that extra mile? Reforging could have a place in this world, offering a way to add tertiary stats, but I guess Blizzard does not see it like that.

We’ll only know how well the new itemization will work once Warlords hits (which I predict to be February 18, because I am an optimistic moron with no sense for reality), but I sure can’t wait to see the end of off-spec gear and the need to hit that hit cap (pun intended).

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Gear: make me care about it

lord of the rings aragorn narsil sword

“That’s all nice and well, Aragorn, but does that sword get you hit capped?”

Tyler F.M. Edwards of Superior Realities has recently given us a short summary about his love/hate relationship with RPG’s, highlighting what he likes and doesn’t like about the genre. One of the issues he has with the genre is the fact that your character’s gear hardly feels important. In fact, most games make it something replacable, merely a way to give your character bigger numbers so he can fight bigger enemies. Yeah, that makes gear important for beating the game, but how does it make it important for your character?

Maybe I’m just too much of a role-player, but to me, the equipment a hero carries says something about his personality and his past. Considering we are playing heroes in most RPG’s, I feel like the gear of our adventurers should really add to their or emphasize their characteristics. Of course your warrior will carry a sword and board, but why does he do that? Has his father taught him that the best offense is a good defense? Even better: did he inherit his shield from his dying father, hearing his dying words after that bloody raid on their hometown? Fiction is filled with examples of items that are so much part of the character we couldn’t imagine them without. Those characters wouldn’t trade in their equipment just because “it deals more damage and adds to my Stamina rating”. I mean, imagine how weird Return of the King would be if Aragorn went to the Auction House to get an upgrade for Anduril…

What I’m arguing for here is to make gear cool and personal again. Give me, as a player, to start caring not just for my character, but also for the equipment he carries. Give me ways to spend my adventure with not just fellow heroes, but also with that wand my character earned after graduating from the magical college. If the item has durability, make me really watch that so it doesn’t break and it’s lost forever. Make the destruction of an item equal to the death of a character: dramatic and plot-changing.

Alright, that might be a bit too much for video games, but it emphasizes my point: make gear more than just numbers on my character sheet. Instead of bragging about my new epic from last night’s raid, let me tell other players about my character and his blade Seven True Strikes, the sword he felled the demon lord with. Lord of the Rings Online is going in the right direction with their legendary items, but it’s not quite there yet. Let gear scale with your character, allows us to customize it, just give us ways to not feeling forced to replace it.

RPG’s are about role-playing, so please let me incorporate the gear into role-playing my character. Can’t explain why he changes weapons every week, y’know!