WoW Factor: We’re all farming Nature Resistance gear now

    
45
And here, we see yet another thing thrown away for no damn reason.

First and foremost, I’d like to note that I am writing these columns consecutively and immediately, so all I can do is hope that when I write this it is in the wake of comments from last week’s column about how World of Warcraft has long since stopped making us farm up Nature Resistance gear. It’s not even a thing any more. And in the strictest sense, that’s true, but for all intents and purposes it’s wrong. We’ve been farming Nature Resistance gear for the past three expansions.

For those of you coming into the game a little bit later, here’s some history. In The Burning Crusade, one of the bosses (fairly early on) was known for dealing lots and lots of poison damage. The “strategy” for this boss was to stack on lots of Nature Resistance gear, which meant that your stats would be lower for the most part, but you would be able to weather his damage and thus tank and spank the boss until he died. Nature Resistance gear somehow became the flashpoint for this, but there were a lot of old raids designed like this, where you just tried to stack up resistances to deal with a specific damage type that would otherwise kill you.

This is pretty bad design. Success in this fight was not determined by developing a strategy or dealing with mechanics, but instead by whether or not you had gotten enough gear to compensate for the poison damage. It was, in many ways, a poster child for a specific sort of gameplay. You slapped on your resist gear for that fight, and then you went back to the gear you would actually use to play as soon as it was over. It was just pointless busy work that only mattered because you were told it does for this raid tier.

You know, like Azerite armor. Or Artifact weapons. Or Garrisons.

Azerite armor is, of course, the problematic system du jour because it’s the system introduced in this expansion. It’s a bad system that has lots of bad aspects, some of which can be improved and some of which cannot without tearing down the system to the ground and starting over. It’s a system I was excited for at one point, but its implementation is terrible. But we also all know that it is a system with a limited lifespan. When the next expansion rolls around, we won’t have to deal with it any longer.

Go ahead and throw it all away.

It seems to me that this is part of where the discontent stems from. It’s not just that it’s a bad system; it’s that it’s a bad system we all know is being pushed for a while without any permanence. That means the designers have less incentive to fix it and actually do the work that should be done to make it work because it’s just getting discarded in a couple of years, after all.

For this, I’m going to go ahead and blame Ion Hazzikostas because he’s been at least assistant director on the game during its “throw away every big mechanic” phase from Warlords of Draenor on. To some extent, I understand why. I can understand sitting down, asking “how can we rescue Garrisons to not be awful” and deciding “it’s too much work, scrap the whole thing.”

And that’s a note he’s hit multiple times, talking about how every new system added to a game increases its complexity. This is a true statement and he is entirely right about that, in the same way that a doctor would be right to explain to you that if he stitches up this wound, any further wounds will still cause you to bleed.

If said doctor used that as an excuse to not bother stitching up your wound, however, you… well, you might pass out from blood loss, but hopefully you could at least smear “MALPRACTICE” on the wall in bloody letters. Or possibly “THIS DOCTOR IS AN INCOMPETENT NIMROD.”

Yes, every new system increases the overall complexity of the game, but that’s why you add them sparingly and think about their impact. It doesn’t mean you remove them from the game entirely, which is what functionally was done with Artifacts as soon as Battle for Azeroth hit. If you don’t want Artifacts around in the next three expansions, you don’t introduce Artifacts in this one, and you don’t introduce them saying from the start “yeah, we’re going to gut the hell out of this later.”

For that matter, you really shouldn’t spend your time saying things like “don’t worry, you won’t just replace these with a random green” (spoiler: that’s exactly what happens) or “there’s a good reason why this is what we went with” (spoiler: also not true). Instead of keeping a useful system in the game to expand, the developers opted to just treat it as a throwaway thing with no long-term investment.

We figured this out, what's your excuse? You could have stolen more from us after Hearthstone.

Saying that this design philosophy is short-sighted is an insult to vision. It’s just plain stupid, something that we have a great example of when Magic: the Gathering rewrote its own stance on mechanics after nine years of operation and only seven years after it started making expansion-wide mechanics a thing.

See, starting with the Mirage block, every MtG set had a couple of new explicit keyword mechanics, like “Flanking” or “Cycling” or “Buyback.” The original plan was for these mechanics to be used in the expansions for that block, but never again; the result was that designers could explore these mechanics in these sets and it would lend distinct flavor to those sets.

Mark Rosewater realized that this was a dumb plan while developing the Onslaught set, and it was thrown out happily when that set brought back the Cycling keyword. He explained his reasons in a column which I can no longer find (the official site periodically updates its code and everything gets borked), but the short version is that it was a bad plan for two reasons. The first reason was that it took something away players liked, meaning that keywords which had good resonance (like Cycling) would go away forever even though players wanted more Cycling cards.

The second, and in this case more relevant, reason? There’s still more design space to be explored with these concepts. Sure, a lot of what you can do with the mechanic probably got done the first time, but there’s still more stuff you can try out, variations on a theme and so forth. Throwing out an avenue of exploration when the game necessarily has limited design space to explore is kind of a bad idea.

“But what about complexity?” As he put it, the complexity in and of itself is addressed by having an environment where players won’t run into it and one where they will. The base set doesn’t include returning keywords, and new expansions have a limit on how complex they get. So the overall complexity of the game remains more or less fixed.

Whenever you're ready.

Obviously WoW is not a card game. But there’s no reason why, say, level 100 isn’t the level when you unlock artifacts, or why you couldn’t have multiple artifacts for any given spec. Aside from the fact that Hazzikostas thinks it’s much better to throw out the baby, the bathwater, and possibly the entire tub in the process.

In light of that, well… we wind up farming up Nature Resistance gear. We spend an expansion doing stuff in a very narrow field knowing full well that it’s all going to be thrown out. And the net result is that if we’re not having fun with the expansion, we don’t even have the sense of long-term progress to consider. It’s all getting thrown out once the next one rolls around, after all.

Feedback is still welcome down below or by mail to eliot@massivelyop.com, but there is a part three, and it covers that long-term progress I’m talking about. It also covers cosmetics, customization, and intellectual laziness. It should be a fun ride.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Jokerchyld

Two things. Blizzard lost its focus. Never committed to making a true virtual world.

Adding things and removing them in the next expansion plainly is stupid. When I look at Vanilla and where we are now they are two totally different games. Vanilla was an MMORPG created by ex-Everquest players. BFA is an Arcade RPG. Both are fun but for fundamentally different reasons.

Vanilla gave that old school virtual world feel without the hardcore pain aspects introduced in EQ1. BFA feels more like a visual board game where you have a bunch of systems to get achievements in.

Because of this I can see why there is such a huge interest in a WoW Classic server. Its bringing WoW back to its RPG roots which (to me) is what made the game fun to begin with.

My second point is simply if Blizzard evolved Garrisons into a form of trophy-hosting housing, evolved order halls into a guild hall mechanic, spread world quests throughout ALL of Azeroth, and made world-wide scaling it would be in a much better spot.

This is what ESO is doing and its working. They keep building on their existing world to make it better as opposed to replacing.

We’ll see what they do with the upcoming patches.

Reader
kelathos .

Azerite Armor is, in all respects, a downgrade from Artifact Weapons. Forced pruning of major, beloved, features is a critical flaw in modern WoW. If they wanted something new, they could have replaced the traits on the weapons.

And if they weren’t making themselves busy, “wasting” development time on the replacement with entirely new systems from the ground up, they might have had time to improve other systems (Islands and Warfronts).

Yes, the failure of modern WoW design is quite a clear picture, and you helped paint it rather well, thank you. This from a self admitted WoW addict who is still subbed, but thinks BFA misfired on ALL cylinders.

Reader
Jiminy Smegit

The transition between Legion to BfA reminds me of the awful transition from The Force Awakens to The Last Jedi. Old characters with new motivations that make no plot sense, a general feel that there was much less care invested in the new installment and just a vague, doomed air of a slowly dying franchise having its shriveled teat desperately milked for all its worth.

Its not a perfect analogy because I hated The Force Awakens and I mostly enjoyed Legion but WoW and Star Wars have now both headed off in directions that I have zero interest in. Maybe Azerite armor is imbued with midichlorians, who knows?

Reader
Nascent Visions

Wow’s been around, what, 15 years now? I just feel like they’ve run out of ways to re-invent the wheel. You change a class too much, people complain they have to relearn how to play every 2 years. You don’t change enough and people complain it’s just more of the same. Even the good mechanics that have been rolled out are now used and abused to death. When heroics were added in BC and we loved them Blizz was like “Alright, let’s make every raid/dungeon have even MORE difficulties” and now we’re in the mess we have right now with 4 seperate tiers for each dungeon (more of you count variable mythic difficulties) and 4 tiers for each raid. Like, heroic difficulty was enough guys. In any case, one gets the impression there is no long term vision for the game beyond “Run this expansion for ~2 years, launch another with a bunch more one off features. Repeat until we’re not making any money.”

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
TomTurtle

Huh, I’m reminded of Guild Wars 2’s first season of the Living World, how it used temporary content and how ArenaNet thankfully did not return to that specific model again.

From what I’ve seen from the community, there’s been mention here and there of wanting Legion’s artifacts back due to how awful the Heart of Azeroth system feels.

Personally I find it strange that they’ve chosen this design model, but I’m not against it if they do it right like with Legion to a degree.

I don’t know if it ties in directly, but a lot of complaints over the years have been due to drastic class changes and Blizzard’s seemingly erratic need to change the classes up. Change for the sake of keeping things fresh can really suck. I skipped a few expansions, so I didn’t get to experience every iteration of shadow priest, but the current one feels so awful. It really doesn’t help with how aggressively tuned mob scaling has become.

It all makes me wonder what the game would look like if Blizzard tried to stay more faithful to its systems and move forward with what works.

I can only imagine that their focus on cyclical player activity ties into their current design choices since that involves always having something different for returning players to experience.

I don’t know. I’d much prefer how other MMOs do it where it’s much more about largely adding onto the game and making it stronger.

harbinger_kyleran
Reader
harbinger_kyleran

I’m confused. This design philosophy of tossing away all former gear progression with every new expansion started with the launch of BC where all of my hard fought raid gear was instantly bested by level 63 greens.

It is a significant reason why I quit immediately right before BC’s launch and never went back, as I despise losing progression.

So people still playing are just realizing the way of things now?

Bunch o’ noobs.

;)

Reader
thirtymil

I think the difference is that gear being superceded was an expected part of the progression cycle given that it happened from levels 1 to 60 anyway. So players expected gear progression from 60 to 70 – although probably not as painfully as it was for raiders (I didn’t raid in vanilla so I just got surprise massive gear upgrades instead in BC).

But what they’re doing now is obsoleting entire game mechanics (garrisons, artifact weapons, etc) and that’s no longer dealing with a set of slowly incrementing numbers that make your character more powerful, that’s actually throwing away bits of the way you play.

I don’t mind throwing out gear with lower numbers on it, but I do mind someone saying “That thing you were doing you were having fun with? Stop doing it because it’s old, do this new (rubbish) thing over here instead!”

Reader
Sorenthaz

Yeah basically it’s like Blizzard keeps replacing most of the wheels on their car every expansion and each time they do it they try to come up with completely new wheels that get discarded for the next expansion.

Like I don’t think we’ll be seeing Warfronts in the next expansion, and Island Expeditions probably won’t make the cut either.

Reader
thirtymil

I think you’re right.

square-wheels-round-wheels.jpg
harbinger_kyleran
Reader
harbinger_kyleran

OK, I see I focused too much on one part of the OP, and it would be very annoying to have entire systems tossed out each release. In a way that’s how I felt about the decision to toss out 40 man raiding when BC launched, it destroyed the raiding guild I had worked hard to become a member of, and the play style which I had invested considerable time in. The near instantaneous gear replacement was secondary, but still not something I had experienced in the previous MMORPG’s I had played to that point. (DAOC, L1, L2)

Reader
Carebear

This is pretty bad design.

No its not… If I am going to fight the Fire Lord I will need some fire protection… this is RP. I dont understand why Hit rating or Armor was more interesting than Resistances..

And yes gear shoud play a big part on the result of a conflict. And you make it sound like there were no strategies because there was gear with resistance…

Reader
thirtymil

I think the problem is when what starts as RP starts being used as a gating mechanic.

Back in vanilla WoW there were a few cases where part of your rotation just flat out didn’t work on some mobs (not even bosses, just standard world mobs – such as fire mages in the centre of Un’goro). And at the time I’d shrug and go ‘Fire doesn’t work on fire elementals… makes sense’. That was RP.

But then you see a lot of design decisions that creep towards gating, starting with rep grinds that begin with one or two factions who don’t trust you needing some reassurance before they trade with you… but leading to entire xpac endgames being based around grinding rep with every faction (Pandaria) because reasons.

And they can’t really have it both ways. Either they put in unique cases that make the world a slightly more random, more interesting place – or they design everything for a progression treadmill and make sure there are no shortcuts or bits that make players scream that the world is being unfair to them or their spec.

So yes, nature resistance for one boss = interesting. Designing entire xpac around a similar concept = bad.

Reader
Carebear

I consiser “gating” only something i cannot progress on my own pace! Old reputation was not locked behind dailies or world quests. You can grind them at your own pace. Thats not gating, that working toward a goal.

Gating means that whatever you do you need x weeks/months to get rep and unlock content…

Reader
thirtymil

Well that’s one form of gating – but there are other forms too. Blizzard often time-gate the end zones in each xpac but in MoP they locked a lot of stuff behind rep grinds. To me that’s gating content behind repetitive daily tasks but even if you see it as working towards a goal, my point is still the same – if you take interesting ideas and use them simply to lock whole swathes of content off, it’s poor design.

Reader
Carebear

Nop :) pandaria had dailies.. thats not working towards a goal! Thats pure gating! But vanilla – wotlk had no gating..

All reputation could be farmed at your own pace, either through dungeons or through repeatable turn-in quests. Except Ogrila which didnt had any content locked behind..

Andy McAdams
Author
Kickstarter Donor
Andy McAdams

I would expand Eliot’s argument to WoW’s treatment of the world in general–it’s hard to get invested in a story, setting, or zone when you are like “well, in 2 years it’s not going to matter and I have will have zero reason to even look at this again”. The game is this huge gorgeous world rich with Lore and tons of side stories (Mankrik’s wife!?!) that Blizzard just doesn’t care about.

How much of the old world matters in BfA? Stormwind + a tiny section of Silithus. They have the technology and the ability to make ALL of the expansions part of the game again which would almost guarantee a higher sub rate because there would be a huge amount for players to do.

That’s just working with stuff they already have — nothing more. I think WoW has lost it’s stickiness explicitly because they completely invalidate literally everything to do with every expansion as soon as the new one comes out–it’s a scorched earth policy. As soon as you done, you move on and might as well burn it down.

Your character is the only piece of permanence and even then your character often changes drastically expansion to expansion.

When I think of games like FFXIV or GW2, or ESO, they are constantly driving players back into the old world and with the new stuff. They give reasons for people to go back and spend time in these zones and it blows my mind that Blizzard basically gives the middle finger to itself with every expansion release.

ziboo7890
Reader
ziboo7890

Totally agree with you. It’s amazing how little they use this immense world. I know they need to keep things ‘fresh’ xpac to xpac, but it’s so frustrating knowing everything will just be thrown out. I still use the Garrison and that’s something that could be added to every xpac. Legion artifact weapons same thing.

Seem to be spending more and more time in ESO, less and less in WoW.

Reader
Sorenthaz

I don’t know why but Blizzard doesn’t seem to be capable of building on top of anything anymore, they either keep things largely the same (i.e. raiding tiers, Mythic dungeons, etc.), whittle stuff down (i.e. Garrisons, Artifacts, etc.), or scrap things entirely and try to create something brand new that likely gets scrapped in the next expansion.

Reader
Matt & Krissy

Yes totally agree. There is no reason to keep raising the level cap anymore. The attraction to the new zones should be the storyline, interesting mechanics and involving gameplay together with social dynamics.
Its one reason I keep GW2, ESO still installed.
So many missed opportunities squandered by Ion and team.

Reader
Sorenthaz

It’s a mess of a system for certain. I think if they really wanted to go with this they should’ve had our drained Artifact weapons be built back up with the Heart of Azeroth. That would’ve made more sense than this awkward, unintuitive Azerite Gear system. Weapons are actually a problem in BoA anyway when it comes to actually getting them, and the designs have been quite lackluster… so I don’t even understand why they bothered to free up Artifacts like this.

With Artifacts getting their power wiped, it put things on a blank slate where we could rebuild them again with new powers or such. If Blizz wanted them to be more generic they could’ve done so. Instead, they go with a garbage replacement system that doesn’t feel good, and the actual amulet feels completely useless on its own beyond being a number booster.

Reader
Ben Willows

I agree. Blizzard could have influenced the way NPCs interact with the player due to the stories and uniqueness of the artifact weapons. The class order halls could have been split along faction lines, with new halls built in the respective capital cities to accommodate new and existing orders.

This could have also been a third aspect of the expansion’s story campaign. How would the order hall for X class respond to the conflict? It also adds the possibility of creating new allied orders (New race / class combos) as the expansion progresses.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Shintar

Just a detail but I’m pretty sure the nature resist comment was in reference to Vanilla’s Ahn’Qiraj. Nobody was freaking out about the resistance requirements on Hydross as far as I remember, especially as you only needed one person in the raid to have any.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

There was one boss in MC that required tons of fire resist though… could be wrong… been so long.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Yeah pretty sure resistance stopped being a big deal in BC, it was only really Vanilla where folks used it quite a bit for Molten Core, AQ, and I think Blackwing Lair.