Gear: What is it good for?

The Grumpy Elf wrote a post the other day Is Gear the Great Motivator? which really got me thinking. I’d had a conversation the night before with a friend, guildie and often fellow raider. He was saying that if Mists wasn’t released soon then he’d quit the game and wouldn’t come back. He said there was nothing to do, that all he was interested in was kitting out his character in the best gear he could, that the only better gear he could get was from heroic raids which he didn’t have the opportunity to run, so he was done.

People play for different reasons, this guy plays for gear, I personally can’t do that. I think that there’s a lot left to do in the game but he said he wasn’t interested in any of the content I listed. He’s all about the gear and once he’s got it (or as much as he’s able) then he’s completed the game until they bring out another tier of content.

What gear gives you?
I wrote in a previous post “You need the best gear to raid, therefore if you don’t raid then you don’t need the gear.” I meant it at the time and in a way I still do. However, The Grumpy Elf made a number of good points which I hadn’t fully considered. When I first dinged 85 on my paladin I saw a friend of mine on his dk in Northrend, I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was attempting to solo the old wrath heroics. I decided that I wanted to see if I could manage it and so I zoned in and did my best. It was hard for me, I died a lot, and it was probably one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in game. When you’re soloing you learn so much about your class as it’s all you have. It took a couple of hours for me to solo just one heroic. I go to Utgarde Pinnacle every day now and kill Skadi, it takes about 8 minutes.

What a difference gear makes, it can honestly completely transform a characters performance. When I started healing on my priest at level 85, I had real difficulty until I got a few pieces of new gear and suddenly I wasn’t struggling so much. When I can be bothered I solo Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle for the mounts on my pally. Yes these are normal dungeons meant for levelling players but they’re still current content. I soloed these relatively easily with no deaths, it was a lot easier than I expected actually. That’s the difference that gear makes. What was once really hard becomes very easy. I remember getting Stonecore and going through several tanks before we could start as they’d drop group. When I initially healed Ultraxion in Dragon Soul, on my holy paladin, I felt like a god. Then we got better gear (and the nerfs stacked up) and it became incredibly easy.

The great gear treadmill
I said to my friend who plays for gear that I couldn’t do that. The rng of drop rates would just be too depressing and besides I didn’t view gear as that important. I liked gear because of what it enabled me to do. I’m not a top notch player and I’ll never be a heroic raider, but with gear you can push on a little further as the extra stats help compensate for the lack of awesomeness. If you play for gear then you’re just on a treadmill where you gear up, and then you gear up some more, and you’re never done. I view gear as a happy side benefit of killing the bosses.

Now, if I understood right, The Grumpy Elf said that non raiders actually needed gear more and therefore the accessibility of gear was a good thing, that perhaps it should even be increased to encompass every slot. I do and I don’t agree with this. I have a lot of alts and the constant gear machine can get to be quite boring. Running dungeons for points every week, or lfr, is doable on one character or even two. However, finding the time for more characters than that, and more than the time actually not going stir crazy from repetition, is another. I have 5 characters with ilevel 380+ and I managed to gear the last two in a single day each as I learnt all the tricks to do it fast. As convenient as this is I’m not sure whether this is a good thing but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. The part of me that wants to keep the relevance of past content says it is, the bigger part of me that likes the convenience of gearing alts says it’s good.

Gear enables you to do things, and everyone enjoys different facets of the game. Putting limits on what people can achieve if they don’t partake in part of the game isn’t right. However, we’ve already got that in a way. If you play pve then you have a multitude of gearing options, you can gear quite fast because of the different options and you can soon get into the raids, or have a little extra boost for soloing or dungeons. On the other hand if you play pvp then there is a huge gear barrier. If you don’t start playing pvp at the beginning of the season then you’re screwed as you’ll never be able to catch up and be competitive. Sure you can get a little crafted gear to get started but then all you can do is grind honor until your eyes bleed. Good luck getting any conquest points (aside from the first battle of the day) until you’re fully kitted out in honor gear.

This is different from pve where you can get valor points while you’re gearing up, you can’t get conquest until you have. I find this incredibly frustrating and it means that so far I’ve not managed to get into pvp. A lot of people are turning to pvp until Mists but I don’t see the point. It’s the gear treadmill, sure I could grind out some honor gear now but it’ll be useless when Mists drops, and it’ll be pretty useless now as so many people are decked out in full conquest. Who would let me try arenas with them without any conquest gear? At least people can gear up for raids and won’t be excluded forever whenever they start.

Why should be pve and pvp be so different?

The answer is highly personal
As proven with my discussion with my friend, we play for very different reasons. As different as he and I are, you can bet that there are loads more reasons than that. I play for the achievements, to complete things by maxing out rep, collecting pets and mounts. I like gear because it enables me to do things but I don’t like it for itself, not unless we’re talking about transmog gear.

As much as people complain about homogenisation (with everyone having access to everything) I think the multiple routes thing actually works in everyone’s favour. It means you can level and gear up a couple times without getting so bored as you can do it in different ways. It means that whether you raid, solo, quest or dungeon crawl you can progress and have fun your way.

The big change that I think needs to happen is to open up pvp the way pve has. Lets have a couple of boe conquest items, lets have some epic drop recipes for boe items that you’ll get randomly given in a satchel when you complete an arena or rated battleground, lets have some random gear drops from completing battlegrounds. Yes have honor be like justice and how you gear up initially but lets have it not be the only way to access gear. Have purchasable gear from vendors at a certain reputation level, like you have pvp reputations now (ala Stormpike) well have a few more and have them offer some starter gear. Have conquest points available, at a lower rate but consistently from battlegrounds, so that if arenas and rated battlegrounds are like raids, battlegrounds are like dungeons and provide the alternate way to get points.

If we’re going to have accessible gear, so that people can play how they want, then lets truly have that. I agree with myself in that I think raids should offer the best gear as otherwise you’d alienate a lot of the playerbase, not just raiders either. Warcraft has a diverse playerbase and keeping everyone happy is impossible. It doesn’t have to be much better but if it is, just a little, then people still get to play how they like, and the vocal crowd can have their ‘superior’ stuff. However, I also agree with The Grumpy Elf, in that accessibility is a good thing so that people aren’t excluded.

To conclude
Gear is a controversial subject as it depends whether you view it as the end, or the means to the end. I think that pvp gear should be made as accessible as pve as the difference between the two is quite marked. I think it’s also possible that maybe we have, in pve at least, an appropriate middle ground already. There are always those that define what they have depending on what others have. I respect their right to think like that but I find it quite sad. You should be happy about what you’ve achieved, not define what you’ve achieved in relation to others. Pick your level and be happy with it. If you want to strive to go higher then it’s up to you to bridge that gap.

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