Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Root Problem

Before you read this post, go read Shintar's excellent An Annotated History of the Badge System. As you read over the history, it becomes quite obvious that the current Valor Point system we have evolved over time, and now serves several different purposes than it used to.

So let's take a step back. What is the root problem that Blizzard is trying to solve?

In my view, the original design of PvE went something like this: First, a player would do quests mostly solo. After a while, she would transition into small 5-man group content. After that, she would move onto larger group content, or raiding. Each step up would be more difficult, and would reward better gear.

The problem, though, was that not everyone was able to transition from stage to stage. In particular, the transition from small group content to large group content was particularly harsh in Vanilla. Players effectively became "blocked" from moving up.

So then the problem becomes two linked--but subtly different--questions: What does a blocked player do with her time? and How does a blocked player improve her character?

That's the primary function of Valor Points. They allow a player who is in the second stage to still advance her character, by engaging in second stage activities.

Valor/Justice Points also have a secondary function. They mitigate the randomness of loot drops. Enough points guarantee you loot.1

Finally, Valor/Justice Points serve a third function. They give players a small reward even if the player doesn't need loot off a specific boss.

But is the current design of Valor Points the best way to accomplish these functions? Are some of these functions even necessary? When looking at randomness, consider that the amount of loot per player has greatly increased since Vanilla. Combine that with a more generic token system for tier pieces, and smoothing out of loot distribution is pretty much unnecessary in Cataclysm.

And the small reward is also unnecessary. Indeed, the current daily heroic cuts against this idea. Since only the end boss of a heroic gives VP, there is great incentive to skip other bosses, even though they give JP.

That really only leaves the first and greatest purpose of VP, giving a path of character advancement for non-raiders. I will look at that issue in a future post.

1. Unlike, say, Cho'gall and paladin bracers.

11 comments:

Kurn said...

Nice writeup, and I would tend to agree with it.

Especially the bit about Cho'gall and the bracers. (Killed him 10 times before we even SAW a drop.) At least there are two choices in Firelands? :D

spinksville said...

One of the other root problems I remember that badges solved in TBC was that of progressed raid groups who needed to recruit, but had to recruit from the small pool of equally progressed raiders. With badge loot, an alt or newer player could easily be caught up. (Ofc the downside was that new players then became reluctant to join less progressed raid teams.)

ie. it was important for keeping the flow of new raiders up.

Nils said...

Nice post. In my opinions, many of the design goals you describe are not actually desireable. So I really look forward for posts that go more into the detail ;)

Elladrion said...

The current system is generally good with one exception: buying tier with points. I like catching up alts and new raiders with points and keeping them almost competative, but I really miss tier items mattering, and I really REALLY miss tier sets being a badge of honor. As someone who didn't raid in 3.2 I was really sad to be able to get a few tier 9 pieces, even if it did take forever doing daily randoms.

Keep the points system, go back to tier tokens.

Hyperian said...

Same with the bracers, im on 17 chogall kills, Ive seen the twilight hammer drop 9 times, no bracers.

Anonymous said...

Chogal is a b****. Bracers aside, he dropped first Warrior/Hunter/Shaman token after 3 months of kills.

Sherck said...

I hate to say this, but our guild's only Cho'gall kill dropped the bracers for me.

So I can no longer EVER say anything negative about the RNG gods.

Cheers,

Thad

Olaffjelltop said...

As someone who raided Kara back in TBC for over 2 months, 3 days/week before getting an upgrade from any boss drop, I really appreciate the badge system, especially in it's current form.

Given that no matter how many years have passed, the RNG is still a b*tch sometimes, I wouldn't really dismiss any of the functions you described. With this system, eventually you WILL get some upgrade. Maybe not BiS, but still an upgrade...

Cheers

RJ said...

But is the current design of Valor Points the best way to accomplish these functions? Are some of these functions even necessary? When looking at randomness, consider that the amount of loot per player has greatly increased since Vanilla. Combine that with a more generic token system for tier pieces, and smoothing out of loot distribution is pretty much unnecessary in Cataclysm.

I think your note is a good example as to WHY this system is still good.

While some of the pieces available for Valor are just alternatives of things you can get as drops, to help with your (lack of) luck, there's still some items that are SO SPECIFIC in use, that making them drops is unfair to all players. Healing plate is almost one of these, but the main example that blue posters have brought up is the relics.

Back in BC and Wrath, relic drops were so specifically designed for a single class and spec, that if they dropped, it was generally a lost loot slot. While it can be expected that a raid will have a good percentage of leather wearers, how many Feral Tanks would they have? Or how many Boomkins?

By moving the relics (and other really specific loot) off of the loot tables an onto a point vendor, they also make the stuff that drops generally more desired, and also makes it unlikely that the relic classes are at the complete mercy of the RNG gods for such a critical piece of loot.

Because it's not like you had multiple choices for what your relic could be back in pre-Cata. You had one relic per tier per spec, and if that one never dropped, well...!

If anything, they need to put a few more of thee completly specific gear items onto the vendors. Which it looks like they're working on in 4.2, since there'll be choices of wands and thrown weapons as well.

Anonymous said...

For myself, I think a better solution to 'path of advancement for non-raiders' would be to do away with the explicit differentiation and stratification in game styles.

So if you wanted BiS gear for your character, you'd need some gear from fairly difficult 5-mans, some gear from raiding, some gear from PvP, some gear from long quest lines and some gear from BoP crafting.

Anonymous said...

I like that notion. Splitting the gear list between different playstyles would encourage a bit of raiding, a few heroics, and some questing. This would be less boring.