Probably one of the biggest concerns lately among WoW subscribers has been the rampant proliferation of epic weapons or “purple pixels” as a long time WoW friend of mine calls them. This issue has become one of the hottest forum topics at the official discussion forums. Long time WoW players are worried and rightly so. Blizzard has seen fit to abandon time honored item distribution models based on risk vs. reward, in favor of an incentive system that hands out epics like candy. It’s almost as if Blizzard is a virtual weapons dealer, recklessly supplying both sides in an escalating war. One wonders, like Dr. Strangelove have they’ve gone completely mad?
It’s one thing to talk about this problem and hear anecdotal stories from players. It’s another thing entirely when you see hard evidence that proves conclusively that Blizzard is literally handing out epics at an alarming and disproportionate rate. In the past week, I noticed a very interesting post on the official WoW discussion forums from a player named Guumm entitled “There are more epics then blues”. In it he basically claims that by doing a few simple searches at Wowhead a popular WoW database, one can easily see that there are more epics then blues from level 61-70. Yet when you search epics vs. blues from levels 50-60 you’ll notice there are far more blues then epics which seems entirely reasonable.
I did the search on Wowhead for myself and came up with similar results. I did a search of epics (purple), rares (blue) and uncommon (green) for both the original WoW (levels 1-60) and The Burning Crusade (levels 61-70).
Wowhead.com Search of WoW Levels 1-60 Items
- 4660 uncommon items
- 2609 rare items
- 1426 epic items
Wowhead.com Search of WoW Levels 61-70 Items
- 1068 uncommon items
- 1506 rare items
- 2461 epic items
Any reasonable person would conclude that the current itemization for The Burning Crusade expansion levels 61-70 is out of whack. There are clearly more epics then blues. In fact the total number of epics almost equals the number of blues and greens combined.
If you look at the distribution percentiles of the original WoW they are consistent with what is normally found in most RPG’s and MMO’s. Epic (purple) are rarer then rare (blue) and rares are rarer then uncommon (green).
Here are some pyramid graph representations of WoW item rarity that I have created:
World of Warcraft levels 1-60
The distribution of items according to rarity scheme created by Blizzard follows normal MMO and RPG conventions.
- Epic items are very rare and hard to get as they are more powerful
- Rare items are rare and a bit easier to obtain and moderately powerful
- Uncommon items are not as rare and much easier to obtain and less powerful
World of Warcraft levels 61-70
The distribution of items is aberrant and problematic. This goes against established itemization and rarity paradigm’s found in other MMO’s and RPG’s.
- Epic items are the most common yet are more powerful
- Rare items are rare yet moderately powerful
- Uncommon items are extremely rare and the least powerful
The first thing we notice is that the pyramid has essentially been turned upside down. No game designer worth their salt would ever implement a bloated itemization scheme like the instable pyramid above. It’s laughable. It’s hard to fathom how Blizzard allowed it to happen with all of the talent that they’ve recruited. They most certainly must have been aware of the numbers. How is it that it’s come down to the players to point out the absurdity of what’s going?
One possible explanation for the proliferation of epic items at the level cap is that Blizzard has created a meta level system that is a replacement for levels beyond the level cap and expressed through itemization. Meta levels are one way that a player can progress via itemization — in other words not all epics have equal weight or power. Yet Blizzard employed a similar meta level system in the original WoW with the introduction of advanced raiding content in Blackwing Lair, AQ20/40 and Naxxaramas and the ratio of epics to other item types is not overwhelmingly lopsided which is the case in the Burning Crusade itemization.
To be fair, it seems Blizzard is aware of their errors. Jeff “Tigole” Kaplan (the Blizzard designer that coined the term “welfare epics”) in an interview with Gamespy stated the following:
Jeffrey Kaplan:Yes, we’ve really thought a lot about the reward structure. We’ve learned a lot of lessons in Burning Crusade about what worked and what didn’t and how PvE and PvP itemization need to co-exist. [We’re] trying to address what we consider missteps in Burning Crusade in itemization in Wrath of the Lich King.
IGN: What were the missteps?
Jeffrey Kaplan:Not having the complete balance between PvP and PvE itemization. In the sheer quality of items you could get. An example would be the barrier to entry to doing something like Zul’Aman and the skill required to kill a boss there versus the barrier to entry to getting a pair of boots out of the honor system that are very high quality. Just not having enough levity there to balance out between the two. I also don’t think we rewarded PvE enough, meaning not enough items dropped in PvE instances.
While Kaplan’s admission is welcome news, the fact that epic gear will still be easier to obtain via PVP is a huge problem that has created a massive imbalance within WoW. Epic gear is no longer “epic” these days and it’s lost most of it’s prestige and status value. Everyone knows it now. Clearly Blizzard’s experimentation with PVP reward mechanics has damaged WoW’s reputation with traditional MMO players and RPG enthusiasts. However those people no longer are the focus of Blizzard. What we are really seeing here is the physical manifestation of a grand strategy to expand the demographical base of WoW in order to generate more subscriber revenue. One wonders how long they can keep watering down their MMO before they ultimately alienate their core subscribers. Blizzard is playing a dangerous and risky game.
Bravo! Quite a nice article, with charts and all.
The simple fact is that due to Blizzard’s actions of basically giving away epics like candy, they mean nothing any more.
When I think back to pre TBC when I had just gotten my first epic in molten core, it was like WOW!
When you saw someone decked out in epics, it really meant something.
It’s sad that this is no longer the way things are.
Oh, by the way, this is going to get WORSE not better in Wrath of the Lich King.
With every dungeon having a form of 10-man, I’m sure all these ten mans will give you plenty of ‘tokens’ that you can turn in for epics.
Blizzard does not see this as a mistake. They see how easy it is to get PvP epics and instead of fixing that problem, they intend to make it even easier to get PvE epics.
Quote: “I also don’t think we rewarded PvE enough, meaning not enough items dropped in PvE instances.”
Right there, they intend to have a lot more items drop in PvE instances, and with their love of the ‘token’ system you just KNOW that this means more and more and more epics.
Blizzard sold out as soon as they decided that the so called ‘hero class’ death knight would be available to ANYONE basically.
Nothing ‘hero’ about death knights at all and nothing ‘epic’ about epic loot.
Thanks for the comments Robert!
We seem to be seeing a pattern of incremental deception here on the part of Blizzard. They have twisted and warped the English language to suit their purposes. Heroes are no longer heroic. Epics are no longer epic. Nothing is sacred it seems.
Yet why would they create just a normal class yet call it “heroic”? Clearly, they are banking that most players will *want* to play a hero class but they know full well that most players won’t read the fine print i.e. it’s just a normal classes but only labeled heroic.
It’s all about marketing and selling more copies of the expansion. It’s too bad that Blizzard doesn’t have the integrity to be honest and forthright with their customers. Not all of us are as weak and vain that we need a undeserved title like “hero” bestowed upon us.
It’s even more troubling to see the Blizzard fanboys on the official WotLK forums defend the propaganda without stopping to question if what is being proposed is really good for the health of WoW. Even the MMO press seems to be asleep lately. Most so-called gaming websites refuse to do any serious reporting on Blizzard for fear they will be excluded from the next all expenses paid junket to Irvine, CA. You rarely see a critical article on Blizzard these days.
I’m going to keep telling it like it is.
I have been an endgame raider since pre-tbc (clearing up to the twin emporers – guild couldnt get C’thun and disbanded like many) and kalecgos so far in tbc and quite frankly i didn’t fully understand your article. The prestige and rariety off items is still in the game although admitidly the colour system is off.
For example in pve gaming t4 gloves off curator are “purple pixels” as are azgalors t6 gloves however anyone who inspects will clearly see the marked difference in player accomplisment as one requires 5 easy kills in KZ which can be easily pugged these days and one requires a massive amount of time spent raiding (even more so if you consider shoulders: t4 off maulgar and t6 off mother deep in BT.) Pre-tbc this difference would have been shown with blue items (i.e. ZG) and epic (MC onwards) although the colours of the items are now the same the difference in skill and prestige is not.
Even with the removing of attunemnts this is still the case as if I see a player with epics from the first 3 bosses in MH or BT without the title Hand of A’dal or without being in a recognised raiding guild i tend to assume they do not have the same skill level as people of the same class within my own guild.
Likewise with PvP elements if you examine someone in pvp gear and see 4/5 veng and the rest merciless I generally assume they are relatively unskilled in pvp and have just spent a massive amount of time farming arenas (myself included i must admit as I play a prot warrior in pve and have very little pvp skills!) However the veng shoulders and weapons carry massive prestige as very few people have them (and especially in my battlegroup “cyclone” due to the huge number of farmers in the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets making it hard to push up.) This will be further improved (hopefully) in S4 with all gear, including honour gear of the same standard, requiring personal ratings of above 1600 (most well above 1800.)
So my personal conclusion (although you may well disagree and apologies as this is badly written i know) is that pre-tbc when you inspected a player the colour of their gear instantly marked out their skill level and style of play. Post-TBC and most likely in WotLK as well you will need to actually look at the individual pieces of gear to identify the skill level of the player (once again comparison of tier gear of even s2 versus s4 gear.)