Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Legion's Gameplay Loop: Legendaries

Click here to go back to the intro article on Legion's Gameplay Loop to view other topics.

Now that I've covered a significant amount of the gameplay that Legion has to offer (on the PvE side of things at least), the next couple of articles will review reward systems, which was initially covered in a big way in the article on Artifacts. As Garrisons have shown, a good, well-balanced reward system can serve as a major incentive for driving players to partake in certain gameplay for better or worse so I think they are important to review. While the next two articles in this series use similar systems that are considered controversial for various reasons such as randomness, my thoughts on them are a little different. This will be especially apparent when it comes to the solution I have devised for each, even if they are similar in a sense. In this first article of two on reward systems, the more controversial legendaries system will be reviewed.

As I briefly mentioned in the article on dungeons, legendary gear can be acquired from doing that specific content among others such as world quests. Because they are far more powerful than normal gear in terms of raw stats in addition to a unique passive effect, players can only equip one or two of them at the time of this writing. This power also means that the legendaries are made intentionally rare with a very low, unknown drop rate. However, much like with bonus rolls awarding gear with each subsequent failure, legendary drop rates will increase until a player acquires one as players to relevant activities, which has acquired the name of "pity timer" that is most likely adopted from Hearthstone discussions. Over time, the legendary drop rate has been supposedly adjusted, such as by increasing the drop rate of the first legendary and allowing pity timers to work after a player has acquired their fourth legendary, though pity time increases diminish as players acquire more legendaries.

Ultimately, the general idea of legendaries is they appear to serve as something of a major bonus reward that provides an incentive to do content that has uninteresting base rewards for certain players.

The Issues With Legendaries

As I mentioned above, the legendary system is controversial and a number of issues have been brought up. For example, some players don't like the randomness associated with acquiring a legendary that may take weeks or more to acquire with little to no sense of progression towards it. This is exacerbated by the huge power disparity between legendaries, meaning players can potentially get frustrated by acquiring a legendary they don't want, hence why the issue is being addressed to some degree in patch 7.1.5. Furthermore, gearing for an off-spec can be punishing since legendaries drop based on the loot specialization, prompting suggestions such as this one. Finally, while this is a minor issue considering this article is primarily intended to go over game mechanics, the way legendaries are acquired is heavily lore-unfriendly compared to how legendaries were previously acquired: by investing a large amount of time on a lengthy series of quests.

Ultimately, I think what can be said is the legendary system is frustrating for a number of reasons and that it could stand to be alleviated without compromising the purpose of rewarding players who invest a huge amount of time into content that awards such powerful gear.

Improving the Legendary System

Much like some previous formats, this section will present the suggestion then a follow-up explaining the purpose of the suggestion. The suggestions to improve the legendary system are as follows:
1. Rework the final order hall research that allows players to equip two legendaries to also greatly increase the chance to acquire a first and slightly increase the change to acquire a second legendary. The tooltip should be changed accordingly.
While patch 7.1.5 is apparently reducing the time it takes to do order hall research, I still think that it is going to be a major time gate that requires a good bit of work because the player has to farm Order Resources to fund the research. By the time the research even finishes, there's a good chance players have one or two legendaries to begin with, so this change is more to benefit players who are extremely unlucky but clearly spent a lot of time at level cap doing activities that can award legendaries. In addition, it makes sense to have two legendaries to equip after doing the research that allows it. The tooltip change is to reassure players that their hard work will be rewarded.
2. Have legendaries drop in the form of fragments instead of the full piece. After five are gathered, the player has to take them to the appropriate profession NPC in Dalaran along with high-end materials to create a legendary of their choice based on their class. Note that legendary fragments will drop at such a rate that by the time a player acquires five, they would normally have gotten a legendary under the previous system.
This change is probably the most important one, which, while not entirely original, has been refitted to better address many issues at once. 

Firstly, since it's a bit weird to acquire legendaries from nonsensical sources, the player would acquire fragments that they need to recreate the equipment, which is likely a little easier to consider as "realistic" in the context of WoW. Secondly, players no longer have to deal with toggling their loot specialization to acquire certain legendaries since they can loot any legendary their class can use. Thirdly, players can choose their legendary, which means they have more control over the gear that best fits their style and inevitable performance disparities between legendaries is a non-issue, a point not addressed by Lore when this suggestion was brought up. Finally, while the actual chance of acquiring a legendary is not increased, players will have a better idea of how much closer to they are to getting one since a more quickly earned fragment serves as an indicator of progression.

To compensate for this improvement in legendary acquisition consistency, I added a material cost, which arguably further helps to improve immersion since it serves as a throwback to certain quests.
3. Improve the Adventurer's Guide to better describe where to acquire legendaries and note that chances improve as a player invests themselves further into the activity.
This is a suggestion tuned for more casual players who might not know about the pity timer. In addition, for players who are aware of its (potential) existence, an official in-game entry would dispel any doubts as to whether or not it exists, which would help to alleviate frustration over the system further. The sources of the legendaries need not be explicitly stated in the Adventurer's Guide but rather a nudge in the right direction.

Final Statements

When legendaries were first mentioned prior to Legion, I remember that it received some criticism over how common orange text items would be. While what the expansion itself brought greatly increased the amount of legendary gear in-game, I wasn't too concerned since people used to make such remarks on epic gear and I considered the issue one of perception. The fact is that legendary gear still remains special due to the unique effects they provide and if anything, some may be too powerful. This doesn't mean the system isn't without its problems, but even if the suggestions I made above don't see the light of day, patch 7.1.5 will be a big help towards reducing the frustration that this facet of the rewards system creates among players. I still think Blizzard should strongly consider suggestions like the ones I made above, however, it would help to better maintain a gameplay loop that leaves many players satisfied.

No comments:

Post a Comment