Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Review of Two Legion Currencies

Whether it's to keep track of a player's in-game wealth or to serve as a middleman for premium products and services or something else entirely, many games have embraced the concept of currency. World of Warcraft has done so basically since its inception if only because gold, silver, and copper are a traditional measure of wealth in many RPGs. More currencies got added to the game as time went on to allow players to purchase various items in a relatively controlled setting.

The currency tab was eventually implemented to help free up inventory space and allow for better tracking. Legion has featured many currencies in particular, but only two of the many exclusive to the expansion have a broad scope of frequent usage: Order Resources, which I have mentioned a few times already, and Nethershard, an Apexis Crystal-like currency that was more "recently" added which can primarily be used to acquire gear relatively quickly. This article will briefly review both currencies.
Legion has quite a few currencies to keep track of.

A Look at Order Resources

Order Resources were once similar to Oil and Lesser Charms of Good Fortune, in the sense that a player can acquire an excess amount of currency that is difficult to sink or find themselves having to complete tasks on characters regularly to acquire enough currency to use. These types of currency are something I informally call "feast or famine" currency since dedicated play allows one to earn an excess of currency but more casual play tends to yield much less than the necessary amount to meet upkeeps related to the currency. In the case of having an excess of currency, there's generally a lack of an infinite sink such as a method to purchase reagents, consumables, and other usable, worthwhile items of value. Instead, the three currencies mentioned in this section tended to rely on upkeep sinks (missions, weekly quests for bonus rolls, etc) which drained up to a specific amount of currency each week. In some cases, the upkeep sinks were highly advantageous, which is why players may suffer a famine of currency due to how demanding it may be to periodically farm the necessary amount.

However, a recent hotfix changed Order Resources for the better to the point by allowing players to purchase Blood of Sargeras with Order Resources. Blood of Sargeras can be used to purchase reagents and BoA Order Resource caches, which allows for an effective resolution to the issues mentioned above regarding "feast or famine" currency. Since Blood of Sargeras can basically be infinitely sunk by using them to purchase reagents in addition to its uses in crafting, Order Resources can effectively be used to purchase reagents, albeit at exorbitant prices comparable to similar Justice and Honor Point sinks in the past. In addition, players can also purchase Order Resource to send to alts suffering from a "famine," which even at the premium exchange rate, allows the fruits of dedicated play on one character to be shared across the account. Ultimately, I'm pleased that Blizzard handled the issue with Order Resources after failing to do so with Oil and Lesser Charms of Good Fortune.

A Look at Nethershard

However, I cannot speak so kindly with how Blizzard has handled the Nethershard currency since while it was "added" in patch 7.2, it allows for the purchase of gear tokens similar to Apexis Crystal-purchased Baleful gear tokens. This means that Nethershard could potentially serve as another Justice/Valor Point-like currency that provides a relatively consistent method of gearing up characters. Unlike its predecessors, Nethershard can only be acquired from a few sources such as time sensitive Legion Invasions, Sentinax, Legionfall caches, and a time-consuming mission. Out of all of these, the least limited, and thus most repeatable source of Nethershard is the Sentinax, which has been criticized as not being a worthwhile source. Personally, I think the rewards for Sentinax are so poorly balanced they fail at being a "diminished reward" compared to its soft time gated counterparts, which is consistent with this statement I made from the article:
"...the 'diminished' reward should still be enticing enough to be worthwhile to earn for players with more free time."
I think Blizzard should embrace the fact Nethershard is such a useful currency that can serve its role of allowing players to reliably gear up to some degree for the rest of the Legion expansion. In order to do so, the currency should have more sources where it can be acquired from to make it more like past, similar currencies. For example, emissary caches and bosses could award some Nethershard in addition to current rewards. I also suggested that a Nethershard reward that scales with the time remaining in Mythic+ dungeons will provide some reward for beating timers by a significant margin. In a reward system rife with randomness, Nethershard and its consistent benefits could serve as an excellent form of stress relief for the playerbase assuming the rewards are balanced well.

Final Statements

Overall, I'm pleased with currency design at the moment if only because the issue of "feast or famine" currency that is Order Resources was resolved since it makes my altoholic heart rejoice. I would be more pleased if Nethershard, or whatever similar currency ends up seeing usage on Argus, ends up being used as a broader type of reward at some point very soon. Considering how many currencies Legion already has, I would prefer if Nethershard was used.

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