There were a couple of comments on my post on Monday that I was going to respond to individually but then I realised that they were connected. And connected in such a way that was a bit more interesting that it first seemed. So I’ve managed to drag another post out of it. Lets have a look at the relevant part of the first comment from Klepsacovic:

“… I suppose weapons for a melee class could be a pretty definite benefit, since it can suck when you get into a dead zone of gear, running 20 levels behind with the weapon…”

My initial response to this was going to be something along the lines that I greatly enjoyed having to scout for weapons when levelling up my rogue. I got hold of some very good ones too. A couple I picked up off the Autcion House, (the Hanzo sword being one of them), some I had fall into my lap by sheer dumb luck, (this awesome beauty from the Sunken Temple), and some I researched and either ran the quest or killed the mob to get them. As I levelled as a combat rogue, I choose to stick to swords, (mostly as that was the only real choice back then), so the choices were often limited but I still made it work. I used to get complimented on my weapons whilst standing around in Stormwind, which was interesting as I was around level 50 at the time and the players complimenting me were maxed out at level 70. So the choice of an heirloom weapon would be a big dose of not cool for me.

That is until I got to the following comment from Akasza:

“… I love heirlooms. They relieved me of some frustration of dungeon ninja looters, especially weapons…”

Hmmm … That kind of throws a spanner in the works doesn’t it.

I brooded on this for a couple of days and the more I looked at it the more I saw a dim answer. In a game as sophisticated and detailed as WoW, any change causes a ripple effect that spreads and reasonates throughout the game. Some changes that at the time seem huge can actually have a small ripple, while other changes that appear to be of little consequence can send a tidal wave rushing towards the shore. The trick as a developer is to predict these ripple effects. Average developers seek to eliminate them. But really great developers can set a change up to cause a ripple that will then set about another change in the game that they wish to see. Thus the desired second change comes into the game by what seems to be a natural effect, and not as an intended manipulation.

There are two changes in the game in the last two expansion that have had big ripple effects. The first of these was the badge system for gear, which was introduced as a daily quest in Burning Crusade and then greatly expanded in Wrath. It was meant to make getting entry level raid gear easier, but actually resulted in the raiding system being completely changed, and not for the better. Blizzard has gone on record lately in saying that the badge system has been a mistake, which is fascinating, seeing that they are going to keep it going in Cataclysm. It’s good to admit mistakes, but it would be even better to learn from them.

The second big ripple effect change was the LFG system, or dungeon finder. The idea was to make grouping quicker, easier and more painless. The reality was a destruction of the social fabric of the game. And when coupled with the badge system, it turned the game into a ‘press the button and get the reward’ lab rat simulation. Blizzards way of fixing this problem in Cataclysm will be to put in place game rewards that actively push everyone into large guilds, with the idea being that there’ll be enough nice people in the guild to do your dungeon running grouping for you.

As the LFG system has come close to eliminating the social aspect of the levelling experience, (so much that I wonder why it is even called an MMO), I am forced to look at my distaste for Heirloom items in a different way. One of the big ways that I found weapons that I wanted, (and indeed other items for that matter), was by hunting them down on WoWhead and then getting them in game, and a lot of these items were found in group quests and 5 man instances. Have you tried to find someone to help you finish a group quest at level 30 lately? Good fucking luck doing that. And with the LFG system encouraging a faceless social system with no consequences for your actions, is it surprising that players ninja everything? I would go so far as to say that if you don’t ninja items using the LFG system as it stands now then you are the stupid one.

So in this context, heirloom items, and particularly weapons, make a lot of sense.

Which just means that I now realise that I do not like the context at all. So I hope that Cataclysm goes some way to addressing this problem, or I am going to play other games. Because as it stands now we are playing a single person adventure game all at the same time. And if you’re going to do that you may as well just buy Dragon Age Origions.