Welfare epics, calulators, and the Amish

| Monday, April 26, 2010
What is a welfare epic? It's a piece of gear which is much more powerful than would be expected based on the difficulty of the content. They started as arena gear with no rating requirements and not especially high costs, leading to the trend of losing to get gear. Then there was more and more badge gear, though price inflation and poor stat allocation made it less powerful than it would have been and too expensive to seem trivial. Now we have fairly cheap badge gear, either nearly unlimited T9 badges or time-limited T10 (frost) badges, both available from trivially easy heroics.

Why are they called welfare? A dev made an offhand comment about losing for PvP gear, and that stuck. Quite stupid if you ask me, since welfare is something for free. What would be a better real life comparison?


Mere decades ago, this oldish computer I use would have been awe-inspiring. It has multiple colors of text! And graphics! COLOR! Not to mention a bigger CPU cache than some computer would have on the entire hard drive, more RAM than they could count back then.

Let's downgrade a bit to calculators, since I think it will work better for this topic. These days, or even the previous days, calculators were cheap enough that every stupid could have one. They're a bit like epics for Naxx. You don't need them; any reasonably intelligent and educated child should be capable of simple mental addition and subtraction, some multiplication and division, and much more if given a pencil and paper. The calculator isn't needed.

I'm reminded of the recurring debates about calculators, about how they'll never learn to do math if a machine does it all for them. The counter-arguments tended to include things like "once you know how to add and can demonstrate consistent ability, doing it by hand is just wasting time." In other words, the mental development has happened, so more addition isn't going to help any.

Gear needs the calculator treatment. We need to discuss why we have it, when to get it, and without throwing around concepts like earning or deserving or the inevitable claims that this or that group of people are moronic noobs who will never learn. As with calculators and math, we should learn to play before we start floating by on gear.

This doesn't mean that there is no place for easy gear. It is technology, and technology, in most cases, is good. But technology brings change and change is not always good. Technology changes society, and society doesn't always keep up. The Amish know this. That's why they appear anti-technology: they aren't, but they are wary of technology and take measures to ensure the stability of their society.

I wouldn't want to live in an Amish community, but I do think we can learn from them. We can learn that technology cannot be simply unleashed upon humanity, unregulated, unrestricted, and unprepared. Similarly, we should keep a closer on on easy gear. It is having a negative effect. It is giving children calculators before they've even learned what numbers are, so they spend all their time punching in 58008, flipping the calculator, and laughing. That's no way to learn.

Blizzard should address this problem. It doesn't appear to have yet. There must be a middle ground, someplace between the trickle of guilds into AQ40 in Vanilla and the torrent of over-geared and under-prepared PUGs in WotLK raids. We shouldn't be doing calculus in our heads or 1+1 on a calculator.


caerphoto said...

I think the problem is also, like technology, newer generations of gear make the older stuff obsolete. Part of the reason nobody goes to Naxx any more is that the rewards are outdated, and you can get better for cheaper now.

HP said...

The thing is technology improving is always good because we're going to use it to develop bigger and better things.

That is just not the case with "welfare" epics. It's just inflation because the whole point of playing WoW at max level is to get more gear or whatever achievement you deem necessary. There is no bigger or better unless the devs release it.

So within such a constrained model, "free" epics do seem like welfare. In WotLK, it really seems like the rate of gear accrual completely outstrips the content release by far. The inflation part also makes older content obsolete.

I think they shouldn't make gear too easy to get but they shouldn't make it so hard either. It's a fine line to walk and this expansion, they didn't really hit it.

Anonymous said...

I liked Naxx since if you had tier gear you raided and did not do mindless heroics to get emblems.

A simple after the fact idea would of been to have Naxx drop tier gear. Every raid instance after Naxx would drop upgrade tokens for tier gear.

This would mean no content would be old since if one did want tier gear they would have to do every raid instance to improve their tier gear.

Dwism said...


what did you say?

I am not certain that it works that way you describe. Just like my little cousin of 11 did not learn how to bend latin verbs, nor level in content where wanding was a valid priest dps method, do I think that there is anything to be learned for fresh level 80's by doing the heroic-naxx-uld-ToC-ICC route.
They will learn what it takes in the current content with people to actually play with, or they would have never learned to play no matter how long time you gave them.

Learning to dance on Heigan then learn to move from the rockets on mimi to finally understand defiles on LK are not really true.
Learning to move from defiles is all that is needed, in order to defeat LK.

Copernicus said...

I agree with Dwism that you don't need to learn the Heigan dance to know how to avoid defiles.

I think the real issue is that we get sick of TEACHING new raiders how to raid at EVERY tier of content.

By the time we get to ICC, many just want to go in, down the bosses and move on to the next; Not spend the first few weeks training three new DPS and a healer on how to stand 10 yards apart.

Quicksilver said...

Its a really interesting and important question.

First of all what is the purpose of wellfare epics? Simple enough its catching up.

(Of course its that, or the illusion of catching up, and all the noobs who cant get past jaraxus in ToC10 need the gear grind in order to have something to do in game.)

Now the problem is there are three types of characters that need to "catch up".
1) The newly dinged 80 of a new player.
2) The main of someone who has been into the last prior tier of raiding but didn't get enough gear from that one.
3) A newly dinged alt.

Now we go back to the welfare part. Clearly all three types of players above would prefer new content instead of a repetitive one.

The newly dinged player:
This guy has to learn the game. But how can he? All the heroics which were a learning point at some time, are now just silent aoe-fests. If he doesnt utterly suck (as in wipe the group) most can simply stand back and pull their 800dps while the ICC25 people destroy the place. All he learns is that, just like the leveling, mobs die and are looted. How can he be ready for a raid.

The player who lagged behind:
This guy probably has some gear, but not the full set. He has *some* raiding experience, but clearly not enough because he is still stuck in prior tier. Does he need to grind boring heroics again? Well clearly not! He has done them before.

What he needs is to clear quickly the content he has left, and move on to the new content.

The alt:
The alt knows everything inside out already, how to play, tactics for everything. The only challenge an alt is about is learning to play a different class in the current raiding system.
Extra grinds to gear up are just a complete bore.

So how do we make up all these players, without introducing welfare epics? My solution is that Heroics should scale with gear level and heroic instance bosses drop last tier items (e.g. 232 items from all heroics, and 245 from ICC-heroics). In addition the prior tier raids can be affected by a sort of ICC-like aura, to make them easier.

In these, the new player can learn how to play, while gearing up. The gearing players have some challenge doing them and catching up while the alts spend relatively less time doing a boring grind.

The Problem(s):
1) People are retards.

Blizzard understood long ago that in order to succeed, they must give rewards on a silver platter to the bunch of drooling morons in search of instant gratification. Players would rather spend dozens of hours aoe-ing trivial content than wipe in challenging content.

2) If gear is faster to get, players get bored much faster.

Most part of the player base won't see beyond [Storming the Citadel] and the Deathbringer. That's not much. So by introducing a long pointless heroic farm, people will spend more time in game and boost blizzards profit.

Quicksilver said...

3) Most players dont even want challenge in the first place


Screenshot in HHoR

Gronthe said...

There should be one governing guild per server. They should act like Soviets or East Germans of old, like the Chinese of today, and as somebody reaches 80 they place that player on a track.

Troll: You run heroics all day for two weeks, then go in to ICC.

Human: You must run Naxx 100 times, then Ulduar 200 times. Then if we're feeling generous you will only have to run ToC 300 times, unless you cheat, then it's the coal mines for you.

Gnome: There's nothing that you can really do or are useful for, why don't you just hang around Dalaran or any of the capital cities and troll the trade channel.

This would be efficient, people would never need to worry whether their gear is welfare or well-earned. We wouldn't have to worry about learning curves or lazy people because we would all be compelled. We would all be under the control of the master guild. This would be the ideal situation and solve all of the problems. :)

Klepsacovic said...

@HP: Technology is good, but not all effects of it are good. Plastics and cars are great, but oil-dependence is not. For some the purpose of life is to gather cars, money, houses; doesn't the assembly line make all of those much cheaper and easier to get? I don't see a big difference between that and gear in WoW. There are those who chase challenge, and for them money and virtual gear will have much different meanings.

Why do you say "free" and "welfare" when "cheap" is much more accurate? Either you cannot think beyond the bandwagon words or you're intentionally using them to imply something negative.

DWism and Copernicus: I'm not suggesting that Heigan is critical for success in ICC and more than 3x5 is critical for learning calculus; but the general processes of raiding and multiplication should be learned, and often it appears they are not. Would more time in 'school' help? Maybe, maybe not. I honestly don't know.

@Okrane: Maybe I'm not understanding, but wouldn't that just cut out the middle man of badges and drop disproportionate gear directly? Avoiding failure isn't retarded, it's actually quite a smart thing to do if one isn't in search of challenge, which many are not.

@Gronthe: I'm not sure introducing a caste system would make for a fun society.

Copernicus said...

Perhaps heroics should drop two badge levels below current content, rather than one. This would probably split guilds into those that run Ulduar/ToC and those that run ICC.

This would let newer people cut their teeth on easier content without much hurting Blizzard's ideal of letting more people see all the content.

If it was viable, I'd love to lead some sort of feeder guild where we run the second tier dungeons training the new people, and when the top tier guilds need a fill in or a permanent replacement, they come to us first.

Quicksilver said...

simply put, as I said instance would scale with gear so if each 5 man instance is like a little raid in difficulty, new players can learn, veterans can do smth challenging and ppl can get loot.

And ppl dont avoid failure. They avoid putting effort into smth. Like, when you get to like Festergut in a pug, 2 wipes is all it takes for the group to disband. I remember with my guild trying at least 5 or 6 times until getting it right. And we had vent and what-not.

SlikRX said...

I'm not sure how to help "newer" players or the "less than ideally guilded" folks like myself.

Possibly, something like an Achievement "Ran every Heroic 5 times" (or something) and give you a larger chunk of badges. My big issue is that running your daily for 2 Frost isn't teaching you anything, and needing 200 days to get a full set of T10 is just masochistic.

Grinding 200 days (or however you need to get a full T10 set) is just painful, and doesn't teach you much. An easier to use raid-finder would be helpful.

As for Alts, I really think heirloom gear should be purchasable with gold or honor OR badges, and should be T9. If you've seen content once, twice, twenty times, running it another 40-50 time, with slightly better gear isn't teaching you anything.

The Gnome of Zurich said...

You don't need T10 to raid unless you want into a guild doing hardmodes.

Full T9/ICC5 gear is plenty enough to pull your weight in an iCC10/25 normal group. You can get a 5k gearscore without using a single frost badge.

I agree it's silly that you have to run 100 heroics or whatever to get the triumphs and ICC5 gear, but it's an easier situation than the last expansion where full badge gear took just as long to accumulate and was inferior to last tier gear (T5) in most cases. But again, as long as I could do 1k dps and stay out of the fire, non-top-end guilds (which included the best guilds on my server) were happy to have my mage even in crap gear.

Similarly today, you could perform reasonably if below average in ICC raids with nothing but blues and medium expense (200/226/245) crafted epics. If a raid leader is not stupid, needs to fill a spot, and knows you are a good player, you shouldn't even have to complete your T9 to get in.

Unknown said...

"Full T9/ICC5 gear is plenty enough to pull your weight in an iCC10/25 normal group. You can get a 5k gearscore without using a single frost badge."

Depends on how far you want to get. Ya, you should be able to get the first wing fine. After that, i think the encounters might be pushing it a bit, especially LK. I don't think a t9 tank can survive Soul reaper (but i haven't ran the numbers).
The 5k gearscore comment is true, my warrior has done it.
I'm not sure on the blues performing reasonably well in ICC. Maybe the first wing, again. Which will give you a foothold to start with, but you won't waltz through the whole thing.

*disclaimer: I'm part of a hardmode group, so my numbers may be skewed. I haven't run with an 'average' group in a long time, i'm spoiled like that.*

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