Thursday, March 15, 2012

World of Warcraft: An Idea For Reforging and Gear Itemization

When it comes to being an optimal player, it’s all about having the rating stats in the right amounts (such as the hit and expertise caps) and, furthermore, understanding rating stat priority and developing your character on that basis. This involved using the optimal equipment enchantments and other augmentation, such as gems. Before Cataclysm, players also had to determine which piece of gear was strongest for each slot on the basis of comparing several potential candidates. At the current time of Cataclysm, choosing the most optimal piece of gear is still somewhat there, although there are often fewer candidates as a new optimization tool known as reforging came into being.

Reforging allows players to choose a single rating stat on their gear and convert 40% of that rating stat to another rating stat that isn’t already on the piece of equipment, at a cost. This made it easier to achieve hit caps and optimize towards rating stats that are higher on the priority while pruning away lower priority stats. It also allowed Blizzard to design fewer pieces of gear for each slot each tier for each class/specialization; a gear slot that once could have had as many as several candidates degraded down to having as few as one or two.

However, while the system is great, there are some rather bothersome discrepancies such as cloth spirit gear (only “usable” by Priests) or PvP strength weapons (three 2-handed weapons and they all have crit, which is suboptimal for Death Knights and Retribution Paladins to a degree) that I believe a new system of reforging and gear design can resolve completely.

The Idea

To put it simply, rating stats should not be automatically allocated on gear, as the current design does. Instead, each piece of gear with rating stats will have a specific amount of “stat points.”

For instance, Dragonflayer Vest would have 599 stat points because that’s how many points of rating stats there are. All items at first will begin with these stat points ready to be used. They can be allocated in up to four rating stats of the player’s choice, but no rating stat can be greater than 50% (rounded up) of the total available stat points on the item. Allocating these points would feature an interface where the player can type out exactly how many stat points they want allocated and toggles to choose the rating stat. Allocating points is as simple as right clicking a piece of already equipped gear (or some other simple method). Reforging would then allow players to “reset” a piece of gear so the stat points can be reallocated again.

As with the current system of reforging, only some rating stats can be allocated towards using stat points. This means PvP stats are excluded (and considering Power and Defense will be “free” stats in Mists of Pandaria, it is even more likely PvP stats will not be subject to reforging). The cost to “reset” the stat points should be lower than it is now to reforge, however, since there is far more experimentation potential with the ability to freely make gear the way a player wants.

In a nutshell, here’s the idea:

I always wanted to be a Resto Hunter!
The Benefits

This change would be beneficial because it would make equipment design a bit easier. Some equipment may need to still receive stat allocations by the development team, such as trinkets (maybe just the procs/usage effects). However, considering how many items have rating stats that can easily be changed (they already did it at least once and this transition is much easier if the system is implemented).

Furthermore, it gives players a large amount of control over their character development, allowing them to, as mentioned before, experiment. Because of this fact, theorycrafters would probably have a field day with this sort of implementation. It also works the other way as well, allowing developers to keep an eye out for scaling as a result of rating stat inflation (something that got out of control to a degree in previous expansions) and allow them to easily test it without programming in extra spells to buff their own characters. In addition, it makes it easier to design stronger gear with better precision (i.e. add just a few extra rating points to stronger gear to differentiate).

The Issues

I’m also prepared to state and address any potential issues that may rise as a result of this change. For instance, gear with random prefixes would essentially be obsolete. Personally, I like prefixed equipment as it adds some randomness to greens and even blues a player may find while leveling up. This is why I believe the change should have no effect on randomly prefixed equipment, although there may need to be some changes to prefixes (i.e. prefixed gear will now always have even rating stats) and prefixed gear from raids may also need to be eliminated. However, to keep with the theme of having some level of equipment customization, reforging prefixed gear will change the prefix, just like in this game and be either very cheap or completely free of charge.

Another issue is that suddenly many classes will be rolling on the same pieces of gear as never before. The reason I think this won't be as much of an issue as it sounds is because there will be fewer pieces of gear overall. To address this issue, however, bosses should be able to drop multiple pieces of the same gear (probably on 25-man only, where gear competition would be fierce) to a degree (we don't need four of the same piece dropping on a boss). Plate and cloth gear especially will have some serious competition (three classes will be rolling on it for all or almost all of their specializations), so drop rates may need to be slanted a bit in their favor (with an algorithm to ensure that plate gear is not all that drops off the boss). In addition, it's also worth noting that some equipment will be unaffected or minimally affected.

What about people who don’t want to use this system? For that, there should be an option to set preset stats based on the player’s general desires (having the developers set gear stats would be the equivalent of the current equipment design). To help out with this, there will be interface options to choose which stat to prioritize, with the system making general suggestions like “you should go for the hit cap” and obviously some sort of general tutorial on rating stats. There would obviously be some logical checks to ensure that there will be no excess of “cap” stats.

The system should also automatically generate presets (prioritize hit and expertise) and/or ask the player what presets they want when they actually obtain a piece of gear that’s eligible for the first time. Like equipment sets, players should be able to make multiple presets and save them (for different specializations and the like).

Here is an example of making a preset:
My photoshop skills are >| |< this big. Click here for the original picture.
Final Statement

The current gear system is not that bad, but it has some flaws. With my suggested system, which allows the characters to customize their equipment to a larger degree than the current implementation of reforging brings, not only will some gear issues be resolved, but there will be more freedom to customize characters while minimizing chances of other issues arising.

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