WoW Factor: The return of Valor is far from valorous

It just keeps happening.

This week’s announcement that World of Warcraft will be bringing Valor back as a currency piqued my immediate interest, especially when we’re not that far out from talking about the virtues (and relatively few vices) of deterministic gear systems. Of course, it then became immediately obvious from actually reading the announcement that far from actually addressing the problem, the return of Valor was actually completely missing the point of the gearing problems and would instead just offer a minor upgrade path for people who have already gotten lucky and…

In all honesty, I do think that having an upgrade path is categorically a good thing. It’s just that once again, this system has been deployed in such a way that it not only fails to solve the existing problem that gearing has in this expansion but instead wholly elides the longstanding issues people have with the gearing system. It not just misses the point but pretends that the point doesn’t exist, and it’s a sadly expected element of design that is basically just bringing back Titanforging in a way that prevents most players from benefiting from it.

One of the the things I’ve written about before is how Titanforging was, in fact, a mess of bad system ideas, but it was also one that did have some genuine upsides for players. It turned everything into a constant slot machine of praying for the right drop without any fixed state, but it did have the actual benefit of helping a certain segment of players get upgrades and new stuff. Its removal makes sense, but instead of replacing it with a better system, Blizzard replaced it with nothing.

Only now… it’s been replaced with Titanforging, but only for people clearing Mythic keystones. And more importantly, people who have already been lucky enough to get the gear they wanted.

No, the rest of your party is not your pet.

I can’t stress enough how bad a system that is right there. Let’s say, just for example, that the problem you’re consistently having involves getting a trinket. The addition of Valor helps that, doesn’t it?

Oh… wait, no it doesn’t. If you’re consistently not getting a trinket drop, you’re still equally unlikely to get one now. All that changes is that you can upgrade that trinket whenever it finally does drop. This isn’t any form of bad luck protection; it’s just a case of getting more out of whatever already dropped instead of praying for better from another equally random source.

The fact that it’s limited to people who are already doing high Mythic keystones only limits it more. If you’re struggling to get drops you need, odds are good that your problem is getting specific slots of gear, which this addresses… not at all. You’re likely to still have the same problems, only now you’re getting points to upgrade your gear in theory. But if your luck is bad, you’re still out of luck.

You know what would actually be an interesting solution? If Valor allowed you to upgrade everything, even quest rewards, so you could actually turn whatever you had happened to get into viable endgame gear or at least good enough that it wasn’t actively holding you back. But of course, that would take away from the current random loot model, which is substantially broken.

“Ah,” say certain bright sparks, “but this is necessary to slow down gear advancement! This prevents the problem of people gearing up too quickly, getting bored, and leaving the game!”

And that is technically true. Instead, it leads to people getting bored because they’re getting no rewards or because their particular playstyles are effectively discouraged by these changes. I’ve already seen people reacting to this news as a moment of interest followed immediately by disappointment, here in our comments and elsewhere. When you announce a major shakeup to your game’s gearing paradigm and the reactions are negative, you have probably screwed up somewhere along the line.

It probably goes without saying that these changes also contain absolutely no allowance for the fact that gearing is also affecting raids and is in fact a major sticking point of every current facet of the game’s design, with all of that seemingly reserved for “we’ll figure this out later.”

That’s just weird, especially when they’re returning a currency to the game that actually addressed these problems.

Nah, you're gonna make it, buddy!

I think this is what’s really baffling a lot of people here. Saying “Valor is coming back” brings to mind an era of the game’s design when Valor was a currency you used to, well, buy gear. You could get it from a variety of sources and use it on various items. That sort of deterministic system actually addresses the problems people are having with gearing.

It wouldn’t even be hard to put the system in game right now. Make sure that Valor-bought items can’t be upgraded and there’ll still be reason to chase the better rewards from M+ and raids. Give a variety of sources for earning Valor and suddenly so much of the game’s content stops being optional in theory and starts being actually optional. “Oh, I could run Heroics for Valor, slowly… or I could just do some Mythic runs. Or some LFR runs. Or Torghast. Hey, I have options! Options are neat.”

Oh, it also makes it look once again like the game’s designers don’t have a coherent or thought-out plan for this stuff because that plan apparently involved first launching with this system not being fully realized just yet and then later introducing a currency for upgrades once the sheer volume of complaints about gearing became overwhelming.

The core problem here is the same one the game has been running into for quite some time now. What the game’s designers seem to want is a situation in which everyone is consistently playing from patch to patch, with no breaks in playtime in any substantial amount, as players continually chase the next gear upgrade and no one ever burns out or gets bored. What seems to go either unrealized or unacknowledged is the fact that this is darn hard to achieve, maybe downright impossible.

Placing lulls in gearing isn’t a design mistake; it’s a chance for players to do other things. In a robust game – especially one where gearing feels deterministic rather than random – it’s a chance to level alts, craft, and otherwise engage in the game beyond chasing the top end. But that would imply that the top end isn’t the only place worth being, and if you just keep pushing people, everyone will be pushing Mythic keystones, and why do all of these people keep leaving? Why are people complaining?

More succinctly, the problem is that all of these systems make it more likely for people to just drop off and leave, something that gets easier to do each time it seems as if there’s no real point in chasing another tier of item upgrades that are entirely luck-based.

It’s all so depressingly predictable, and it all comes back to the same central problem and the same decisions being made despite contrary evidence. It’d be nice to be happy about the return of valor, but it’s clear from even this early vantage point that it’s being engineered not to fix the problems with gearing in Shadowlands, just to spackle over one very specific crack.

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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I full agree with this opinion piece.

Only now… it’s been replaced with Titanforging, but only for people clearing Mythic keystones. And more importantly, people who have already been lucky enough to get the gear they wanted.

This bit right here is exactly as I see the problem. I went into WoW Retail at the start of the expansion. I wanted to scratch an old MMORPG itch and I thought I was going to enjoy the endgame of M+ and Raiding. But to the contrary I found myself in a position where if I was to advance any further I would either:

1) Have to wait for more covenant gear releases to increase my ilvl
2) Switch specs and learn how to play a whole new spec for the content

Honestly I didn’t see either as very fun to be perfectly frank. I’ve seen constant scores of players defend this system with arguments such as:

You want better gear, you have to do harder content

If you’re not doing harder content why do you need gear?

I think there’s a severe lack of critical thinking on these players parts because they fail to understand the core purpose of WoW retail in it’s current state is progression of gear. The main goal of WoW right now, is furthering your gear advancement. But as it stands the jump in difficulty, and the severe limited gameplay that happens when you go from keys 2-6 to 7+ is astounding. The game essentially becomes laughable with how restricted the gameplay, and the choices you make become, it’s so limited that calling WoW at end game a RPG is a joke. It’s not, it becomes a tab-targeting action game with 14 different abilities.

This is why they lost me as a player. You see online all the time players and gaming “influencers” in the genre praise WoW as this complex deep fulfilling game; but on the contrary it’s rather limiting and the game now effectively tells you that the only content the developers are working on is content for the high-keys and mythic raiding crowds. Which leaves the majority of the player base in the cold wondering why should people play a game that doesn’t value your time, nor doesn’t value you as a player. The other day a reviewer said WoW values your time; but this person was only looking at it from the perspective of someone who’s not struggling to get into high keys, or trying to figure out how heroic raiding works.

It seems the problem WoW faces now is that it’s gone in reverse of where it came from. Originally WoW as an MMORPG was the easier casual-friendly MMO. The raids weren’t overly complex, leveling could be done via solo, and there was a means to stay relevant at end-game without having to commit too much. Now? It seems the development team is hell bent on creating content and systems that revolve around a gamer base that’ll never see this hard content due to lack of skill or lack of time.


Not creative Blizz. Been there did that-
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They know exactly what they are doing: Psychologically stringing players along to milk them as long as possible.

If the content is good, it shouldn’t matter how often you get rewards, honestly. I know progression is fun and gear upgrades are a huge reason to even play the game in the first place, but this seems also like a standard case of not being able to see the forest because all the trees are in the way. Eventually you are going to hit a wall and then make the choice to either continue to enjoy the game’s activities because they are fun, or quit.


Wholeheartedly agree with everything you said here. When I saw an article that said “Valor is returning,” I was excited but with reservations. And I’m glad I had the reservations. In my mind, I thought, “there will be a catch. No way Blizzard will be giving us Valor the way it was.”

They are misguided in thinking that END GAME is all there is. I completely agree with the virtue of LULLS. That’s when many of us enjoy the game THE MOST. We are DONE with the gearing / rep treadmill and can do the more “fun” things, be it mog runs, achievements, work on alts, etc. Let’s be real – those that LEAVE after a tier (or season) WILL DO SO ANYWAY. But they are screwing over the people who play the game year-round, no matter if it’s a fresh season or not. They are making the game less attractive to those of us who had planned to stay anyway, thus driving off the NON-seasonal playerbase.

This isn’t the type of game that’s got excitement all the time. Let’s face it – a lot of it IS a grind. The trick is to make the grind feel WORTH IT, be it making it less painful, making it even FUN and especially, by making it rewarding. Going for a long time without rewards (or being constantly rewarded the thing that we LEAST need) makes doing things feel like a waste of time.

I also agree that they should make ALL content viable. Many people just don’t WANT to do content where they are judged before being able to do the content. If they want to queue up for Heroic Dungeon or LFR and YES YES YES, even soloing Torghast, and get SOME worthwhile reward for it, why not make that possible? Some people lack time. Some lack social connections. Some just don’t WANT to put up with the kind of atmosphere you might find in a keystone group or PUG (non-queueable) raids. They may have social anxiety, or have had enough negative past experiences that they don’t want to do that anymore.

If they are going to do this, they really should have the decency to call this new currency something else. Many of us remember VALOR as a wonderful system that worked well for ALL KINDS of players, from casual players slowly acquiring gear, to raiders who may have been having bad luck in a certain gear slot. They will now sully a system that many of us remember with great fondness.

Nathan Aldana

Kinda why honestly I just play wow for rp nights with my guild and don;t actually play the game anymore. Theres just no joy to be found at endgame.

Danny Smith

Its so strange that World of Warcraft seems to be the only mmo where getting gear isn’t fun, its a chore.

Remember when gear was the reward and not the obstacle?


Blizzard, once the undisputed titan of the MMO universe.
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Paragon Lost

Yep, just reinforces my desire not to come back. Still haven’t bought Shadowlands and crap like this just strengthens my desire to actually uninstall the game. :/ Great break down Eliot.


10/10 on this analysis of the design.

It seems yet another design intended for only the top end players which will allow them to further distance themselves from the riffraff.

I will just go sit over there with the rest of the undesirables. :)


Your comments are always right on the money.

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*Insert Blizzard logo on a monkey’s paw here*