A terrible saviour… and a worse fate.
A certain aspect of Legion has been problematic for certain players this expansion…
For the cyclical players, the infamous portion of the player base mooted by Watcher that would come and go on a regular basis, random upgrades & legendary drops are fun. These are the sorts of players who will soon stop playing once more until the next raid tier/major patch/expansion, when their tolerance for RNG has been refreshed through lack of exposure.
For long-term players, the players that stay the course and play their way through the expansion from launch until the final boss dies, players exposed to this sea of randomness day in day out, can find it tiring and detrimental to their enjoyment of the game.
Make no mistake, Legion’s systems are mired in RNG:
- World Quests & their rewards
- Raid boss drops
- World Boss spawns
- Legendary drops
- Secondary stats on items
- Sockets on items
- Hidden appearance items* for artifact weapons
- Items for mounts
- And of course, the biggest culprit of all, Warforging & Titanforging of items
*The fact that some specs really have very little chance of ever seeing their hidden appearance is unforgivable. Some specs, like a BM Hunter, can walk into the engineering shop in New Dalaran and outright purchase theirs for 8,000g. Ask a warrior when the last time they saw Nithogg was however, and you’ll likely be greeted with an irked, grunted response.
Now, it’s acknowledged that some RNG in an MMO is acceptable, in fact it’s downright expected. Drops from Raid bosses for example, these have always been and should always be random from the given loot table for that boss. Ditto pets that drop from bosses too. Both types of items dropping like this keeps players engaged on a weekly basis, and isn’t overly taxing on a person’s tolerance for randomness.
Imagine going on holiday to Las Vegas. For many people it would be one hell of a fun week/fortnight. I’d enjoy it immensely myself, in my own way.
However imagine you had to work as a professional gambler? Random chance afflicting everything you do? Day after day of your life being ruled by a set of invisible dice?
One version is fun (the temporary/only for a short while version), while the other longer-term version would be tiresome and annoying after a while, and just lead to simple good old fashioned burn out.
And when players burn out in Warcraft, the chances of them leaving the game for good are REAL.
‘Forging a worse path
During Warlords of Draenor, War-forging of items, where an item could drop up to 10 item levels higher than normal was introduced. This was meant as an incentive to keep players killing bosses during the massive content lull in HFC, in the hopes they’d still get an upgrade for their Best in Slot weapon/trinket/maguffin week after week, long after they’d already gotten the basic version of the item.
However Legion cranked this system up to 11, and now any form of content that gives a reward can not only War-forge something up to 15 item levels higher, but can Titan-forge it, anywhere up to the maximum item level available in Mythic Raiding. At the current time of writing, at the backend of Nighthold, that sits at item level 925. Theoretically you could enter a normal mode dungeon as a freshly dinged 110, and get an item level 925 Epic Titan-forged version of the item you had drop.
Of course you could also get a random legendary drop for your loot spec, but we’ll circle back around to that later.
Now, when it happens, getting a massive spike in item level for a drop is an amazing feeling. There’s no denying that. It feels great, but that only goes as far as being for you.
There are several main problems that arise as a result of this sort of luck:
Team mates who put in an equal effort may never see that same level of reward. I could kill Mythic Chronomatic Anomaly this week and get one of my BiS trinkets, the Erratic Metronome. This would drop as the base 900 ilevel version, without a socket. Now I could have OS-healed or DPS’d my ass off, and worked hard for that drop, and I’d feel justly rewarded.
However the following lockout, Jimmy Nobrains DPS comes along with his normal mode version of the same trinket, and dies in the first minute of the fight, and we keep the battle res for a tank. We manage to kill the boss despite being down a DPS, and he coins (or is given via loot council as it’s a bigger upgrade for him) an ilevel 925 version of the same trinket, with a socket no less!
Do I still feel like I was justly rewarded? Would you?
This is unfair, and I’m sure we all know that one guy who bonus rolls War-forged & Titan-forged loot all the time. The whole system has the potential to sow discontent and leaves a bad taste in the mouth for the majority who never get this lucky.
(I should point out that this scenario is purely hypothetical. It hasn’t happened to me in either guild, but it could, and that’s the takeaway here)
It is a direct disincentive to push forward into higher level difficulties, especially if it Titan forges close or up to the current 925 limit. If you’ve already gotten the best ilevel gear possible, or close to it, why would you bother pushing harder difficulties? Some people wouldn’t, because they see the game as a system set up entirely to reward them personally. However others may range from signing up for raids less, which has its own knock-on effect on the raid team, to making less of an effort. Only the truly team-minded players would continue to sign up, turn up and give 100% as normal.
Players will play for as long as they think they’re being treated fairly. Sure, the time it takes to see an item drop may take a few weeks, but players understand that the items that drop have a random chance of doing so when the boss dies. This sort of short term RNG is commonplace, accepted and keeps players engaged. But there comes a point when exasperation begins to set in, annoyance that something isn’t happening when it should have happened multiple times by now, given the laws of random chance and probability.
Trust starts to erode when patience begins wearing thin. When players start to feel like they’re being taken for a ride, cheated out of things they feel they’ve put in “enough” work in order to earn fairly then that’s when trouble begins to set in.
However, when RNG seemingly dictates your entire reward structure? When players feel that there’s nothing that they can truly work towards and earn for definite in a specific time frame?
Take Justice, Valor and Honor badges. Players earned these through dungeons, raids and PvP. They knew that if they killed X amount of bosses in the current raid tier, or completed Y amount of dungeons, that they’d be able to go off to the respective Vendor and purchase item Z that they really wanted/needed that would either boost their effectiveness, or was something fun to have like a toy, transmog or even a mount.
Today’s design? It gives similar rewards at the very start of the expansion through reputation grinds, but the main problem with these is that generally by the time you’ve got the requisite rep? You’ve long out-geared any piece of armour or trinket that the rep vendor can give you. These vendors become utterly pointless after several months beyond the varying shoulder enchants they provide, or the gear that then becomes transmog that they have for sale.
Similarly the new so called Paragon reputation mounts? Only a low chance to drop from the reputation boxes awarded every 10,000 reputation! A random chance every TEN THOUSAND REP!?
Players can no longer put in a measurable effort towards specific rewards in Legion. The chief culprit among all of this random reward design shenanigans? Only some of the most important items in the current game design…
Then of course we get the Legion Legendary system. Items that can range in value from “I can’t even disenchant this?” to “Mandatory for my under-powered spec, in order to produce anywhere near competitive Damage/Healing”. Some specs have a range of really good, throughput legendary items, whereas others may have class/spec specific legendary gear that’s all round “meh”, or worse still, have no legendaries with throughput bonuses, and are all merely utility enhancing stat sticks.
Now in all fairness, getting your first one is fairly quick. I’ve got one on 2 of my 3 alts at 110 (Demon Hunter & Hunter), and haven’t really played my warlock enough just yet to earn her first one.
But the random nature of these, especially when the players with certain legendary items are in a much better place than those without (the Hunter healing legendaries are atm essential for the Beast Master Mage Tower challenge), can mean the difference between players getting picked, and players getting benched. Especially at Mythic level where after the first 3 easy bosses, the tuning is tight.
For Rent, one room. Applicants must be orderly and un-chaotic.
All in all, Legion started off with great gusto, with some proclaiming it the best work Blizzard had ever done. And, to be fair, in certain areas there have been massive improvements (the lore, the class orders, the storytelling, the art and cut-scenes etc), but in others there’s been massive mis-steps (AP grinding, RNG, the whole legendary system, wasn’t particularly fond of the Oblivion-style scaling during levelling, a good deal of the class changes etc).
As a result, with scores of top-end raiding guilds calling it quits, it appears Blizzard have finally found the fabled line in the sand. The one that the e-peen crowd love to sidle up to and push across, just to prove that they’re the best. They’ve found a way to make the player-base grind the same content over and over, well past its sell-by date.
I hope Legion was an experiment by the Devs, because another expansion like Legion would, I think, kill it off finally. Players crave stability, and if they go for too long without any in Azeroth…well there’s only so much old content one can run until the well is dry.
During the last Activision/Blizzard Earnings Call, it was noted that Legion is faring marginally better than Warlords was at a similar time in its life. Need I remind you all that WoD bled subs from the game at an alarming rate throughout its lifetime. If Legion, with it’s glut of content up to 7.2, is barely beating an expansion that had less raid bosses all expansion than we’ll have had in Legion come Tomb opening?
For how many players will Argus be the final destination?
We shall see, but that RNGesus dude, he’s fun to hang out with a short while, but he’d make a terrible roommate…