Sunday, January 13, 2013

Upgrading Gear in 5.2 and Beyond

Green Armadillo at Player Versus Developer takes note of the fact that Blizzard has removed the Upgrade Vendor NPC from the 5.2 PTR. This is the NPC who allows you to upgrade your gear for Valor. He sees this as an failure of Blizzard's part, a signal that they have over-emphasized the importance of item level in the current game.

That's one plausible interpretation. However, I'd like to offer a different--and perhaps simpler--explanation.

Perhaps Blizzard is removing the Upgrade Vendor NPC in 5.2 so that they can bring him back in 5.3.

See, the thing is that--given Blizzard's current goals for patches--5.3 is probably not going to include a raid.  I imagine that it will be a patch very much like 5.1 was. A new reputation, a new storyline, lots of random side-events. Those sort of activities only ever reward sidegrades. They won't offer true upgrades a tier higher than the current raids.

Of course, character progression is still important. I think Blizzard still believes that a patch without any way to improve your character will not be popular with their playerbase. That position could very well be correct.

Bringing back the Upgrade Vendor in 5.3 allows people to continue improving their gear at that point. You continue raiding to fill out missing pieces and earn Valor to improve your current gear.

This is a much more likely plan for Blizzard. Upgrading gear probably required a significant amount of tech to implement, and it is very unlikely that they did not foresee any mechanical issues (with scaling, etc.) that would result.

So I think the plan looks more like:

  • In 5.2, players upgrade their gear by doing the new Thunder King raid and getting new items.
  • In 5.3, players upgrade their gear by spending Valor on the gear they earned in the previous tier. All the non-Royalty guilds will also still be progressing through the Thunder King raid, and earning new gear that way. And of course, filling things out with sidegrades from the new non-raid content.
That's more plausible than Blizzard suddenly deciding right now that the entire concept of upgrading gear was a mistake.

Update: Looks like I was right! Post from Bashiok:

Even Ethereals need a vacation, and the item upgraders (Voidbinders), are no exception. They’re saying they need to go home to take care of business arrangements, but … I’m not convinced. I think they’re just homesick for their ‘space mummy’ families. 
Ok ok, fourth wall broken, we’re actually just temporarily removing them from the game for 5.2 due to the new raid tier. The idea with the item upgrade system is that it’s a way to spend currency on upgrading items when buying new items isn’t the clear path. Either you’ve bought everything, or at least most of them, and then spend currency to get that extra *oomph*. With a new raid tier coming, we don’t want to create a trap where people are wondering what’s more lucrative: spend currency on new items, or on the new gear appearing on vendors? (Hint: It’s the new gear on vendors.) To help ensure we’re not indirectly encouraging anyone to spend their currency somewhere they probably shouldn’t, the item upgraders will be taking a break. 
Right now we’re planning for them to return in 5.3, which will not have a raid tier, and offer upgrades again as people will have likely have some currency to burn. We’re not sure yet if we’ll continue this cycle of having them take a break for raid patches and then come back in non-raid patches, but we’ll continue evaluating as we go, absorb feedback, and let you know how these plans evolve.


  1. That might be correct if Blizz is going to have more than three patches this expac. If they do, it will be breaking the tradition dating back to Burning Crusade.

    I'm not convinced that Blizz would have a lot of smaller patches this expac, because if they did the number of dailies involved would be enormous. And Blizz certainly does love their dailies in this expac....

  2. @Redbeard

    WoTLK had 4:

    1. Ulduar
    2. Argent Tournament
    3. Icecrown Citadel
    4. Ruby Sanctum

    so MoP could be:

    1. Landfall
    2. Thunder King
    3. Brewhouse Dailies?
    4. Orgrimmar Invasion

  3. Ruby Sanctum wasn't really a patch though, just a "the expansion is taking too long and we need to do something" addition. One of the things they mentioned as a mistake in LK was the timing of the Tournament, which took people out of Ulduar and into a substandard raid, just for gear (particularly as you could do it twice a week in 10s and 25s).

    So I do think it is likely if they do an Ulduar style patch that they will have a non raiding patch to follow it up, because they will want to have some update for the players without invalidating the middle teir while most of their playerbase hasn't finished there.

    I wonder what we'll do with VP once it comes in, not even being able to uphrade our old gear? Will the new daily quartermaster have a good range of gear available or will VP become worthless currency.

  4. I'm sure I read a blue tweet that confirmed that theory. That item upgrades would not be available for 5.2 gear or any patch that included a raid since the main upgrades should come from the new raid. I suspect some gear slots will be available for Valor from the new reps.
    I am fully expecting there to be more patches this expansion. Given how quick 5.1 arrived, it looks like Blizzard are finally making ground on their drive to push content out quicker. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 5.5 or 5.6 patch at the end to link into the next expansion since the storytelling is becoming a bigger part of the game..

  5. @Bernard--

    As was mentioned above, Ruby Sanctum was a bridge patch, not really part of the WLK expac per se.

    Considering that 4.1's patch brought back the Zuls as 5-mans and without a raid, it's entirely possible that Blizz could still keep to their three patch schedule for Mists.

  6. You're probably right about the upgrade vendor returning in 5.3, but when's that? July? September?

    Something else that a blue said recently is itching me:

    "we all know that even on live things can still change [...] so if a change is urgently needed, we do our best to apply it as fast as possible"

    If Blizzard has finally decided that the NPC upgrade vendor has to go, perhaps they'll remove him even earlier than 5.2. What would you do if you woke up after the next restart to find him gone?

    I have some VPs in my pocket that I was saving to buy a new item. I think I'm going to spend them tonight on upgrades instead, while I still can.

  7. Is it just me, or is all the item level, valor points, gear upgrade vendor, etc talk getting a little too "behind the curtains"?

    Additionally, as a casual raider in a guild that had a bit of a hiccup at the start of mists, doing the valor point grind every week to attempt to stay current is exhausting to even think about. You literally cannot take a week off or you fall behind your peers in gear.

    I find myself returning to EVE Online. Which is...insane.

  8. I think I heard a while back something about item upgrades being problematic in PVP.

  9. Here's another thought on the PTR the requirement to enter LFR for the last tier is rather high perhaps what they don't want is for people to just upgrade LFR gear with valor points to be able to enter the latest raid

  10. Based on the Wrathion achievements, I think it is fairly safe to assume that there will be at least 4 major patches this expansion.

  11. Several people who commented on my post remarked that the upgrade system was causing other scaling issues with existing gear. It's interesting that they plan to bring it back in alternating patches. We know there is a Garrosh raid coming, if we speculate that this will be in 5.4 then there could be some intermediate patch that turns upgrades back on before the next expansion.

    That said, call it fourth wall, metagame, or what have you, it seems a bit odd that we have a basic form of game functionality that is only available in patches with no new raid. Players who actually finish the new raid when it is new will see their grind renewed at precisely the time when they've been there and done that. I guess this is fine if it's actually limited to "royalty", but what happens if the gap between 5.4 and 6.0 is 9-12 months long?

  12. I suspect it might be a problem with PvP gear as mentioned above. As it stands people who play at the regular CP cap (not boosted by high ratings in either Arena or Rated BGs)are lagging behind players with high ratings. While this has been a part of PvP for a while now, this inequality was smoothed out once everyone hit the gear cap - all it meant was that better players became geared faster than weaker players, but by mid or late season everyone was wearing the same level of gear (with the exception of 2.2k weapons). The problem with the upgrade vendors in PvP is that it is impossible for players at the standard cap to ever catch up to the higher rated players, who will be continually upgrading their gear up to the release of 5.2 while the rest lag behind. This is reminiscent of the old system in which higher rated players, while clearly more skilled than their counterparts, are given a further and quite unnecessary gear boost due to game mechanics and is probably causing a similar outcry on PvP forums.

  13. Ended up biting the bullet and upgrading my raid finder Kri'tak just in case beforehand (also, my pants finally dropped from Sha of Anger, so my VP was spared the cost ;)).

  14. @Redbeard I totally agree with you man

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