WoW Factor: Ah, yes, the chest of mystery in World of Warcraft’s Shadowlands

    
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Hey dudes.

Am I the only one who feels like there’s actually been a bit less news about Shadowlands ever since it opened up beta testing? Or maybe I just haven’t been focusing as well. Could be a bit of both. What’s definitely the case is that I was paying attention when some of the systems underpinning the new version of the previous weekly chest system that’s now been in World of Warcraft for two expansions was uncovered.

I think it’s an interesting change. Interesting enough, in fact, that I wanted to talk more about it. Partly because it could conceivably be an interesting alternative way to offer a more reliable source of gear than the random drops players have gotten sadly accustomed to, and partly because it’s a different way of arranging things where we don’t yet have a clear picture of how it’s going to work. So, hey, speculation! That’s a thing I do a lot anyhow.

For those of you who missed how the chest has worked in the past, either because you don’t particularly like running keystones or you just weren’t paying attention, here’s the basic idea: Running Mythic+ dungeons means that you’ll get a special weekly chest you can loot with stuff inside based on how well you did, and… eh, it’s not actually all that complex.

What’s been found in Shadowlands so far is that the weekly chest is actually designed a bit differently. There are three different challenge tracks for the chest: running M+, killing raid bosses, or earning Conquest points. The more of these boxes you check off, the more pieces of gear you get to choose between, but no matter what you will have to choose between the gear or an allegedly valuable currency. And you will only ever get one piece of gear.

Also, it looks as if the item level of your rewards will be somewhat organically upgraded by the hardest content you did over the course of a week. I’m not sure exactly where that will fall on the spectrum of high-end raiding compared to M+, but those are the broad strokes.

When the lights come on, this whole place gets ugly.

So. On paper, this looks like a… well, mixed approach to solving a consistent issue that has plagued WoW for years, and that’s actual protection against bad luck. I know I’ve mentioned before how tone-deaf the whole “with currency you could just mark on your calendar when you’d get upgrades” argument was from the start, and now it seems like we’ve finally actually changed that in some way. You can reliably get some upgrades.

Probably, anyhow.

See, we currently don’t know the actual algorithm for determining what upgrades you get or when you get them. We know that more objectives cleared means more choices and you will get to choose, but that could easily mean “if you’ve cleared one objective you get one random potential reward” or “if you’ve cleared one objective you will only get a chestpiece or pants.” The latter, obviously, is a kind of weaksauce option that doesn’t really fix anything.

Rather than being that doom and gloom, however, I think it would also make perfect sense if you essentially just got more rolls on a loot table comprised of the stuff you did in the last week that was definitely going to be spec-based. So more rolls is a good thing, but you can still fill in a much-needed upgrade even if you only get one challenge. More is just… more chances.

The fact that the alternative is some kind of currency is also interesting. It does open up the possibility of gear vendors, but it seems like that would have gotten some pop before now. Probably more related to crafting legendary items or something similar.

This particular setup also highlights the sheer pointlessness of Heroic difficulty right now. Honestly, that could be an article unto itself, but there is basically no reason to ever run a dungeon at Heroic at this point other than for a one-time achievement at best. I haven’t the faintest idea why it’s even there any longer, other than historical inertia.

But at its core level, I think this is a good change… allowing for some exceptions for execution.

Shoulder touch.

Right now, it looks like LFR still counts for the raid track, so players who prefer a more casual and less structured pace for content will have an option for advancement if they want it. That could change. I’m not saying it’s likely to change, but it could, and that would render the whole system pretty much irrelevant to the people who aren’t pushing for high-end  stuff.

There’s also, as mentioned, the potential limitations with how your expanded choices work. Again, I don’t feel like “no trinkets for you unless you do at least five challenges” or the like seem probable, but they are certainly possible. That would also do unpleasant work at cutting off the positive aspects pretty early.

Perhaps most notable among all of this, though, is the simple fact that the addition of an extra loot roll by itself does not address the central problem already being borne out by not having a currency system and a way to actually plan out your upgrades. You can say either that the system doesn’t mesh with what the designers currently want for the game or that the ship has sailed on actually making this sort of thing work correctly, but the fact remains that its still a problem.

If we don’t have Titanforging or the like, well, it’s good that we’re no longer going to have a nonstop game of hoping that maybe this time you get the drop you need and with enough upgrades and with the right secondaries. I appreciate that reduction in overall layers of randomness. But it’s still treating random outcomes as if they are exactly what we should be pursuing, that removing some randomness is good but we can’t actually just give you a reliable path to gearing.

Still, I don’t want to discount motion in the right direction, even if it feels like it could have been better-handled. And the core idea here is a solid one. It provides a bit more feedback and rewards for actually taking part in the game, and while it could stand to be a bit more inclusive it’s still a positive change for the game as a whole.

And if done right, it is something genuinely different in how the game handles its rewards for content and its overall pacing. It’s not the way that I personally would have necessarily wanted us to get here, but it is functional, and I can see a lot of advantages to the approach if done well. Heck, it’s the sort of automatic tracking that the game is well-equipped to handle on a whole.

So yeah, we’re going to have to see how this plays out over the course of the beta and into launch. But at a glance? I think it’s a neat idea, a good implementation, and something unique for the game that can potentially do a lot of good in the long run. The devil is in the details and support, of course… but isn’t that always the case?

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.

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Alyn
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Alyn

No, Blizzard, not this time-
“Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Alyn
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Alyn

Fare thee well, no more have I for thee-

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Rahayan_Darkleaf

All because of a chest..?

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Bruno Brito

I would say, a mix of everything that made people who loved WoW not love WoW anymore.

Alyn
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Alyn

data:image/jpeg;base64,/9j/4AAQSkZJRgABAQAAAQABAAD/

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Bannex

Man I actually like heroic dungeons… I like them for gearing up an alt and I’d prefer to run those over mythics. Totally bums me out that they’re mostly pointless.

I’d love to read that heroic article!

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Rahayan_Darkleaf

If you enjoy them, they’re not pointless :)

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Utakata

“There are three different challenge tracks for the chest: running M+, killing raid bosses, or earning Conquest points.”

What if I don’t want to do Mythic + dungeons, raiding or PvP? Which all my characters don’t do now…

…so if there isn’t any other ways made to obtain this chest, other than raid, grief or die, then it’s a completely shitty system that doesn’t respect other playstyles. And should die in a dumpster fire along with the rest of this next expansions end game content if it’s going to be exclusive and epeen like that. Just saying.

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Emiliano Lozada

Welcome to the WoW as we know it. It’s sad but it’s also the reason why I can’t play it really.

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Utakata

…so all to look forward to is the revised Character Creator. After that, I’ll probably should look for a new game to play.

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Emiliano Lozada

World of Warcraft: Art Team Carries II

It sucks becuase I really enjoy the setting, the history, and the lore. I LOVED RPing in it but lately I tend to find much more enjoyment in other MMOs which seem to have far smaller budgets than WoW has.

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Rahayan_Darkleaf

I’m sorry, but you’re just causing drama at this point.

If you don’t do M+, PvP or raiding, then you’re complaining about a system that doesn’t affect you in the slightest now, evolving into a system that will not affect you either.

What is it that you do then? Level alts? Which you can do perfectly in Shadowlands, and arguably better than in BFA.

Professions? Questing? Achievements? Socializing with guildies doing World Quests? Everything is still there.

Mythic 0? You’ll be getting gear options that correspond to Mythic 0, just as now.

What would you want? Piece of ilevel 475 gear for having completed 100 quests in the past week, or having fished up 75 rare fish?

Since raiding and PvP has always been WoW’s endgame, I’m surprised you’re complaining about that.

You want to optimize your character? What for? You want to be decked out in the best gear available without doing the content that rewards you for doing it?

If you’re a roleplayer, you’re better off in Classic to be honest.

Not trying to be aggressive here, I’m genuinely trying to understand.

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Utakata

Accusing me of “causing drama” is not tantamount to “genuinely trying to understand”…rather dismissing my concerns in wave of a tone troll.

…if it was just your other questions, your inquiry would be both fine and valid.

That said, are those systems going to be in place when Shadowlands go live? I’ve heard they’re changing a lot of things of how players acquire gear outside those 3 “sanctioned” activities. As well as, I would not be surprised in the least that’s where their narrative is heading to pressure players to acquire gear and upgrades from…while limiting/reducing rewards outside of that. So yes, I am very concerned about that.

But still, even if they left everywhere else the way it is now…why not make that chest available to everyone else who plays the game?

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Bruno Brito

Nevermind. I’m not going to bother.

Elitists have been sending this game down the gutter for years now. That’s all i have to say.

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Emiliano Lozada

Pretty much.

People have been asking for side activities for ages. Look how long it took something like M+ to come around and now it’s getting beaten into whole loop instead of being an alternative. It’s sad when the strongest thing of WoW is the world yet what the Elitist keeps wanting it to be Raid or Die. Hell, I had a lot of fun with Visions but it grew stale really fast especially due to the massive droughts blizz takes. Though Visions is still mandatory and a part of the big “raid loop” so it doesn’t exactly fix the problem.

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Utakata

I wouldn’t say sending down the gutter…as this have been an issue since raiding was introduced back in Vanilla. But it’s certainly had a very bad choke hold over the rest of the game that keeps shifting of how that’s applied over every expansion. Opposed to putting it in its place…which should been done after Wrath, IMO.

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Bruno Brito

I say sending down the gutter because it defined how WoW’s endgame was supposed to be…for 16 years now.

It’s the reason we have a lead dev being a former hardcore raider, and not a developer that understands all the side activities the game lacks.

And while Ion made the raiding the best it has been, the entire rest of the game suffers for it, because everything is balanced around it.

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Ben Stone

I mean, for the past 2 expansions you had to do M+ and/or PvP for a weekly chest. The solo gear from world bosses and world quests is likely to still be there. All this change does is make it so raiders don’t have to do PvP or M+ for a guaranteed bit of gear each week. This also stops PvP players from feeling forced to M+ or vice versa for the extra gear.

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Bannex

I guess I don’t see how this isn’t a step in the right direction. WoW endgame has always been rewarded for the highest level of challenge. LFR counts ffs… this could be the most liberal loot system yet.

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Utakata

It would be a fine system if it included all other activities. So I am not disputing that.

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Dug From The Earth

Am I the only one who feels like there’s actually been a bit less news about Shadowlands ever since it opened up beta testing?

Most likely due to them being much more open and transparent about things BEFORE the beta even started.

There really isnt much more to inform or surprise us with.

This is a good thing, because it means pretty much everything has been known and has been tested and talked about since before the beta started. Most of WoW’s issues, especially in BFA, were things that didnt even get noticed UNTIL the beta, and by then, it was too late.

Beta is for fixing bugs, and polish. There shouldnt be any big announcements or surprises. Hence.. slow news.

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Kevin Smith

In reality this just shows again that the devs don’t listen to players. Most I know or have read say they prefer currency drops instead of loot drops. I don’t think the devs like the idea of players being able to actually pick their gear. It would make it to easy to complete a build without having to run the same old content 1000 times. That is the goal of rng is to make content last longer because people haven’t gotten what they need. Tokens or currency reduced the life of content in reality. Think that is what devs are worried about. I mean they already have huge spans of content drought. Would make them more noticeable when everyone already has the best stuff.

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Dug From The Earth

“Most I know…” really isnt a demographic to base anything on.
“… or have read” also isnt, as most realize the fact that the forums make up a very tiny percentage of the total number of players.

For example, I personally dont like currency drops. It breaks the fantasy of an enemy having a specific treasure for me to seek. Currency drops make every boss feel the same as far as rewards go, to me at least.

Im probably not alone in my thinking, however I personally dont know the numbers on the majority of players, so why speculate?

Your comparison of RNG vs currency is due to making content last longer isnt entirely accurate either. Im sure Blizzard has data showing about the average runs it takes the majority of players to get the drops they want in a non-currency system. You dont think they adjust currency drops given (and needed) to simulate the same amount of time? If it took someone an average of 5 runs to get 3 items, you can bet that its gonna take you and average of 5 runs to earn enough currency to BUY 3 items instead.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

Except that argument falls flat when you consider FFXIV – where you run the content to gain the currency to get the gear. That, combined with being able to do random roulettes for different dungeons, down-ranked, that provide currency for gear means that there are actually *more* people running old content … again and again.

FFXIV’s currency system works, is consistent and enjoyable. The badges from Wrath worked – you got badges to get the most of the the gear you needed but with ‘boring skins’ — and you got the sexier looking gear from dungeon drops. It worked, people ran dungeons almost constantly. Nothing about your “shortens lifespan of content” adds up based on what other examples we have.

Also, DftE is right. The plural of anecdote isn’t fact, even if I agree with the sentiment of ‘currency is better than RNG’.

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jealouspirate

This is definitely an improvement over BfA, but personally I quite like the “with currency you could just mark on your calendar when you’d get upgrades” style.

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Paragon Lost

I really prefer tokens that I can then spend on the gear I need versus the random drop crap. Also allows me to save up for other specs. I have terrible luck with the rng gawds and I’m just flat out turned off by dealing with it anymore. Blizzard just keeps making choices that drive me off. :/

xpsync
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xpsync

Goals work so much better than slot machine mechanics.

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Rahayan_Darkleaf

Exactly, and XIV has been doing this since ARR I think? Random drops + currency by doing your daily tasks.

The issue with that is that people fall behind if they can’t play for a couple of weeks. With XIV for example, if you miss out on two weeks of 450 tomes, you’re 900 tomes behind, or books to upgrade your gear (savage content). You could be having a good streak of luck with the next savage runs, but you’re sure as hell ain’t gonna top the DPS meters, which is what people all obsess about, to optimize your character and min/max. The fact that the majority just reads a website and does the checklists instead of the actual theorycrafting, I’ll leave in the middle.

There’s advantages and disadvantages to both sides. Personally, I really like the idea that Blizzard had and is no doubt an improvement over what we had (the box of disappointment).

The one thing that has me worried that I haven’t seem them talk about, is the secondary stats that you were able to choose yourself. During the panel they did following the announcement of the Shadowlands, they said you could mix and match the secondary stats on your gear instead of hoping that your next drop has the exact ones you wanted.

Haven’t they talked about this, or did I just miss it?