Saturday, March 14, 2015

World of Warcraft: A Reincarnation of Old Concepts - Reforging

When Warlords of Draenor came rolling around, Blizzard overhauled secondary stats, with the most significant change to stats prior to that occurring around the Cataclysm pre-patch (which added Mastery, normalized Spirit and removed mana per 5, etc). Versatility and Multistrike were added while Hit and Expertise were removed. This meant that while there were desirable secondary stats to stack, such as what a specialization favored using due to associated bonuses, as opposed to being forced to stack Hit and Expertise up to a cap to ensure attacks didn't miss against raid bosses and the like. As a result of no longer having to optimize around those two stat caps, reforging was removed.

However, the removal of reforging had the side effect of making certain pieces of gear very undesirable to use purely due to the secondary stat budgeting. This slows down the progression of gearing since the most optimal pieces of gear will likely be far stronger than equivalent pieces. The slowed progression from gearing can be beneficial, as it stretches out content for longer and the randomization may fascinate some players, not to mention the feeling of getting an optimal piece of gear may be more satisfying, or punishing, as it increases the frustration players feel when they don't get the optimal piece of gear for weeks on end. This concept may have been okay as a one-pass form of randomization, but other forms of randomization were added or retained, such as most gear being able to roll as Warforged, increasing the item level by 6, and/or (very powerful) gem slots. The resulting amount of farming to become completely optimal (even with the Warforged and gem slot randomization) is likely staggering due to the multiple passes of randomness (the gear has to drop with both a Warforged bonus and a gem slot).

Ultimately, my point is that reforging could return to help smooth out the randomness of getting suboptimal pieces of equipment. However, if the reforging system were to return, why stop at rerolling 40% of a single secondary stat? While even that option is nice, there is easily more room for customization through the concept of changing one stat to another through reforging. In this article I will present a suggestion that takes said concept to the extreme.

The Addition of Budget Points

Budget points would allow for almost total customization of a player's stats. Instead of gear rolling specific secondary stats that must then be altered at a reforger, gear would instead provide some amount of budget points. At the moment, budget points are initially assigned to items, then converted to secondary stats on the development side. This change would "remove" the second step for developers and put it in the hands of the player. Budget points would work in this way for players:
  • Most gear with secondary stats would have budget points. This includes trinkets with fixed stats (not procs or use effects though), items with spirit and bonus armor, and items that normally roll random secondary stats.
  • The total amount of budget points obtained from equipment will be shown on the character sheet, with an option to distribute them between the secondary stats (Critical Strike, Haste, Mastery, Multistrike, Versatility, Bonus Armor, Spirit) on the interface.
A mock-up of the addition of Budget Points to the character sheet.
A mock-up of the Budget Points interface.
  • Points can be distributed individually or in larger sets of values (such as half or all of the remaining Budget Points).
  • Budget Points can be reset at nearly any time. However, they cannot be reset in combat or while fighting in a PvP zone (such as a battleground or arena, though they can be reset prior to the match starting)
    • To put it another way, Budget Points can be reset any time one can change specs using the Dual Specialization system.
  • Budget Points can be automatically allocated. This means that the stats originally set by Blizzard would be used for every piece of equipment currently worn and summed up.
Addressing Possible Issues

It is worth noting the addition of this system brings some potential problems, such as the ability to stack a single secondary stat or make multiple pieces of similar equipment (mail shoulders, for instance) of the same item level "obsolete." This section addresses many of the possible issues that could arise from the addition of Budget Points.
  • A single secondary stat cannot have more than 65% of the total budget points available (rounded down). This value can be changed but is set to ensure some semblance of balance since some classes being able to stack a single secondary stat in such a way would be incredibly strong.
    • For Spirit, no more than 20% of Budget Points can be allocated. This is to account for Spirit only being present on trinkets and jewelry slot items.
    • If, when using the Half or All button to distribute Budget Points, the value exceeds the amount of Budget Points allowed in a given secondary stat, it distributes the allowed amount instead.
  • When Inspecting other players, Budget Point distributions should be shown since otherwise there's little way of determining what sort of stats a player has. This can be done in a few ways such as...
    • The entire character sheet could be shown just as if a player were to open their own character sheet, with the arrow button to pop the statistics in and out to save on interface space if needed.
    • The allocations could be shown somewhere on the current Inspect interface, such as the sum secondary stat values overlaying the character model.
  • While Allocate partially addresses the issue of similar pieces of equipment not being unique anymore with the addition of this system and allowing developers who allocate those budget points to stats to continue to do so (though they will essentially be hidden short of using Allocate), other factors justify the allowance of multiple pieces of the same type and item level to exist. For instance...
    • Equipment looks different, allowing for more transmog options.
    • More importantly, multiple drops of the same type give players more chances to earn the piece of gear instead of being forced to kill a certain boss for equipment, thus smoothing out the randomness factor mentioned above regarding equipment acquisition mentioned above. This is especially helpful to have in the case of larger raid tiers with many bosses.
      • It is worth noting that there are still pieces of equipment that are exclusive to some bosses that will slow the progression curve (such as trinket drops). I'm leaving that particular design intact intentionally for the aforementioned reason of slightly curbing progression (but only slightly).
  • For players not interested in optimizing or even touching the Budget Points interface, an option could be enabled to automatically use the Allocate function. Equipment could show the secondary stats as they do now were this option to be enabled.
    • Equipment that randomly rolls stats would be rolled normally if this option is enabled when the player acquires the piece of equipment. The suffix would show, even if the item were to be traded to another person. However, players who want to allocate Budget Points can still do so despite the suffix.
Explanation of Implementation and Final Thoughts

Budget Ponts would give players almost total control over their secondary stats without having to resort to NPCs or trying to farm for a piece that is best in slot because of its stat allocation. This design is intended to especially be appealing to min-maxers, players who like to experiment, and players who like the pre-Mists of Pandaria talent system. In the case of the former, a more "casual" min-maxer could try to squeeze out as much power from their secondary stats by trying to find efficient usage of their secondary stat allocations, even if it just means putting 65% of the points into their best secondary stat and the remaining 35% into the next best. Players who like to experiment, on the other hand, could potentially discover a more complex combination of secondary stat setups that is even more efficient. They could also fiddle with secondary stats for a variety of situations, such as for soloing old content. In the case of the latter, which may overlap with the other two types of players, players who liked having a lot of points available to spend (almost) as they wished will now have the ability to do so. While the allocations are more generic than the old talents were, it'll hopefully serve as something of a "fix" for those players who likely want to feel more invested in their characters and building them.

I really hope a system like this makes its way into the game. It may seem simplistic, lazy, and almost like a step backwards in terms of designing a game especially given the current design direction of World of Warcraft, but in a way it gives players more tools in terms of character building and customizing how one plays. Since it is an option players can opt out of it if they so desire, providing even further versatility in terms of letting the player have it their way. This idea was inspired by a mix of playing the mobile game Inflation RPG and talking with friends about reforging and pre-Mists of Pandaria talents. Also, "Budget Points" is a placeholder name meant to better express the concept. Were this to be implemented (which would probably take a significant amount of work), it would likely be better off with a different name.

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