3 Mar 2010

What the stat?

One of the things that really irritates me sometimes is the huge number of stats that accompany games these days. You tend to expect it a lot in RPGs, where each attribute can be measured, quantified and manipulated by your choice of character class or equipment. Don’t get me wrong, I like the ability to customise and tune my character the way I want. I just think that we’re getting a little stats-crazy these days.

Let me break it down a little. In World of Warcraft, I’ve been playing a mage now for five years. I like the immersive game world, the landscapes and soundscapes. I like the way combat feels when playing a mage, how the class works and what the sweet spots are. I even enjoy the multiplayer aspects of doing dungeons and raids. It’s all good fun, with some cool encounters and a nice bucket of storytelling and lore to go with it.

What I don’t enjoy is the “meta-game”. It’s when you start scratching the surface and digging deeper into the mechanics of using this spell vs. that spell, or choosing one item of gear over another. Pick up an item of loot from your typical raid and you might find five or six different attributes that it can improve. Is it an upgrade? Is it worth me taking? Hang on while I grab my calculator…

This whole theorycrafting part isn’t something I’m a huge fan of doing myself, but I’m grateful that there are others who are happy to run the numbers and share the results. The RatingBuster addon is a huge help for me as it makes identifying gear upgrades much easier. There’s also a shedload of information over at both Elitist Jerks and Epic Advice, with the latter also encouraging questions from players that just want to raise their game.

It’s why I’m slightly worried with the stat changes that are being planned for the latest expansion. It’s not so much the stat changes themselves as the intent behind them that has me confused. I hate having to make predictions based on partial information, but I’d really like to know what Blizzard are trying to achieve:

  • Reducing the overall number of stats I have to track and worry about?
  • Reducing the amount of gear I find appealing so that I stop grabbing stuff that priests and holy paladins want?
  • Increasing the difference between classes?
  • All of the above?

One of the things I really liked in the change from Vanilla WoW to Burning Crusade was that gear choices became a lot more fluid. Class specific gear was replaced with tradeable tokens, while gear that was good for caster DPS also became pretty cool for healers. It meant that it became easier to gear up in dungeons and fewer items got sharded or trashed because they weren’t useful to anyone. With these proposed changes it feels like we’ll be going back to basics, with fewer classes competing for gear and more stuff getting junked as a result. This wasn’t such a big deal back when you had 40 people to distribute loot between, but now that raids are as small as 10 people, making items useful to as many players as possible should be a consideration.

Maybe I’m just getting grumpy in my old age, or maybe I’m missing something, but I’m glad there are still people who are happy to “do the math” and help us all with what we should be doing.

As for me, I guess that as long as I keep seeing big yellow numbers I’ll be OK.

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