Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Are epic gems my new headache?

Reading around the wow blogosphere today, I stumbled upon an interesting post over at MMO Melting Pot regarding epic gems. Now I say interesting because just this morning I was in the shower (seething with my usual Tuesday morning irritation) thinking about the implementation of epic gems. It was a totally random thought - I even stopped mid-shampoo and acknowledged that. Maybe I'll start showering a few times a day.

Anyway, the implementation of epic gems is confusing at best with it's current design. With all the new content spilling out onto our computers with 4.3, the implementation of epic gems felt rushed. I wanted to make a short post about the currently model, where it falls short, and how to possibly improve it.

The Current Model - An Epic Failure
So you want some epic gems huh? For anyone who has raided the final tier in a previous WoW expansion knows that eventually you end up with epic gems in every single slot, hell even on some of your alts! I remember near the end of Wrath some of the epic cuts were actually CHEAPER than the blue versions with lesser stats. Unbelievable? Of course not, supply and demand hard at work. So is that were we are headed? With the current model absolutely not.

Blizzard seems to be attempting to make it painfully clear the divisions between rare and epic gems. They are doing this by making them some of the rarest items obtained via RNG. To make matter worse you'll need to work 5 days (or pay someone else) to obtain the pattern to CUT said super rare game. Why would they do this? It's simple - they want the experience of getting a epic gem representative of the term epic. They don't want you to be slamming these epic gems into every available slot for your main and all our alts just because that is the "socially acceptable" thing to do. It's an adventureous understaking at best - how can they do it?

Simple; by forcing supply and demand on WoW denizens. If you want the demand (and value) of something to increase, just decrease the supply. This is much like General Motors buying up all the Cadillac Allantes back in the mid 90's so the remaining cars in the public would become a hot commodity. (Side note - at one time it was rumored that GM had a warehouse of those cars just to thin out the supply. Some call it evil, some call it genius. I call it evil genius).

The only method of obtaining these gems is via raiding and I'm not kidding. The current method is via purchasing geodes and cracking them open. Those geodes are purchased with a mote that is automatically looted to your currency tab for killing a boss in the Dragon Soul 10 or 25 man. Currently LFR raid bosses are not included. So what is the drop rate like?

The first week my 10 man group cleared 3 bosses. There was 1 epic. The second week we gathered 25 people together and killed 2 bosses. There was 2 epics. The second day we had 10 people kill 2 more bosses. No epics. This roughly equates to 100 geodes and 3 epics. That is 3%........3%. Talk about controlling supply!

Why This "Sure Fire Plan" Will Fail
With the current incantation one can only assume Blizzard intends for these to be so rare that we have only a few of them at best. That is almost laughable really - any player spanning from the normal 10 man raider to the hardcore 25 man heroic raider will be pushing to be fully gemmed out - not to mention those with deep pockets. So the bar will be set at having all epics and anything less is scrubbery. Who does this make the experience epic for?

No one.

The super casual dungeoneer will look at those fully epic guys with a longing and sadness that they will never obtain all those "shinies". The casual raider will constantly have to balance dropping a bankroll (or selling their firstborn orc) on an epic gem or facing ridicule / removal on the few occasions they procure for raiding. The semi-hardcore will routinely be annoyed at the lack of supply and cost of the gems when they finally appear. They might not even be able to afford a 1000G gem, even though they are semi-hardcore. The hardcore raiders are probably the least affected, as most guilds of that nature would pool resources in order to make sure their crews are sufficiently decked out. That isn't to say they won't have to make changes in order to set that up, changes that otherwise would not have to be made. Non-raiders (the professionals, achievement hunters, and alt levelers) will never get to taste the epic life, however they might be the least affected by not even caring.

Does any of that sound attractive? Not to me.

How To Fix The Problem
First of all, let me say I like the whole concept of cracking geodes and finding an epic gem. To me that is just plain fun. That said there is a wrong and right way to implement that. The current drop rate of epic gems is mortifying - increasing that is a way to address the issues of supply and demand. For example, making the drop rate 12-13% would in theory allow a player who fully clears Dragon Soul a chance to obtain ONE epic gem. To say that the act of clearing all 8 bosses in Dragon Soul is not representative of that desired epic feeling is borderline asinine. But what if you want to keep that 3% drop rate?

Giving us other options to obtain epic gems is another great idea. While I like the geode idea very much, if Blizz wants to keep that rate LOW then simply allow us to buy them with VP / Honor, or maybe even make them prospectable from Pyrium ore. This is why the current system feels rushed. Blizzard has come out and openly admitted they want us to be able to play the game however we want - then they pigeonhole us into raiding just to obtain epic gems? Opening up gems for VP / Honor (like Wrath) will allow people who strictly run 5 mans or battlegrounds to "get in on the fun" without spending every copper they have. Making them obtainable from prospecting allows those people who just play professions to obtain, cut and sell epic gems for fun and profit. Currently they are left holding their..... auction gavels. What if both of those are ideas are just too logical and you want something super crazy to run with?

Give alchemists the ability to x-mute epic gems.
  • Require a rare gem and a flask
Let jewelcrafters smash rare games together to make epic gems.
  • Require 2 reds to make 1 epic red, etc
  • Require 1 blue and 1 red to make 1 purple, etc
Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with making something rare to obtain. Things like that are what make the game unpredictable and fun. That said something like gems (which we all have 10 or so slots for) is a difficult beast to incorporate that into. Blizz is routinely good about monitoring how these processes play out, I just hope they reconsidering the current incantation.

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