Sorry for the lack of updates yesterday, I just couldn’t find the time to write a full entry and I haven’t been writing content in advance yet for these situations 😉
Okay, we’ve got a lot to cover today, so let’s get going!
What will we talk about today?
- Reputation and dungeons: From classic, to TBC, to WotLK and Cata, to MoP
- Attunement and Heroics: Why in TBC and why not today? Also: itemlevel requirements instead of attunements
I’ll try not to get carried away too much, so I can finish the dungeonman series with tomorrows posting. I’ve got a lot more topics to cover and I’m sure dungeons and instances will still pop up every now and then. The “my personal vision of the perfect dungeon system”-topic will also be featured tomorrow instead of today. I want to cover all aspects of the dungeons before that, or else it wouldn’t make much sense.
Note: There are more factions than those I’ll talk about. I’m only going to address factions associated with dungeons, or else it’ll get out of hand again.
Before the Burning Crusade expansion was released, reputation was usually not a big deal. Most factions didn’t offer any rewards even at exalted level and some factions couldn’t even be leveled to exalted. A few had a purpose in the game, like the Hydraxian Waterlords, Zandalari, Argent Dawn or the Brood of Nozdormu. You’d get some item rewards for questlines, item enchantments, access to Naxxramas at a discount or the ability to summon Ragnaros. City factions gave a discount at higher reputation levels and allowed players to ride mounts of another faction at exalted level, which used to be a big deal. But for the most part none of that was required for anyone unless they were raiding.
With TBC Blizzard decided to spice up the farmable reputation factions, which was a good thing in my opinion as it added more things to do. You’d gain reputation through running dungeons associated with a specific faction and got several rewards: At revered level you were allowed to enter the heroic version of the dungeon. Sometimes you also had to finish a questline to do so, like for the Shattered Halls. This assured, to a certain extent, that players were familiar with the dungeon, which greatly helped with the very difficult heroic dungeons. I really liked that system, because you had to run dungeons to make progress. You learned the boss mechanics, you got loot through the dungeons and because each dungeon had a specific faction linked to it, you really got a feeling of “I’m helping the Cenarion Expedition by running through the Coilfang Reservoir”. Unfortunately most requirements were lowered or dropped at some point. The reputation requirement was lowered down to honored level, which was usually achieved by just questing through that area and pre quests were completely removed. Suddenly the average player in heroics was much less skilled and thus began the nerf-outcry which resulted in the easy WotLK dungeons.
Speaking of WotLK: They used an entirely different system here. Faction vendors sold tabards now and at low reputation levels instead of exalted like before. When equipped, these tabards would grant reputation for each mob killed in a lvl80 or heroic dungeon. Higher reputation levels weren’t required to enter the heroic dungeon, instead you got pretty powerful items you could buy from these vendors at higher reputation levels. Even epic items for a couple of slots. Some of these items were best in slot before raiding, if I remember correctly. The factions lost a lot of identity because you’d just slap on some tabard (usually the one which offered the best vendor items at revered etc.) and run random dungeons until you hit the desired level. While this system was much more convenient (uh, ah, convenience! Notice a pattern?) it gave players a huge amount of powerful rewards for a relatively small amount of work. In TBC you had to put effort into the factions just to be able to run heroic dungeons and didn’t get much else. Now you get to enter heroics much earlier, reputation would rise with less effort (due to the lower dungeon difficulty) and you’d get high level rare or even low level epic items from the faction.
In Cataclysm they pretty much kept the WotLK method. While the heroic dungeons were harder in the beginning, the role of the factions and the way of acquiring reputation and reward quality didn’t change.
Blizzard felt, rightly so, reputation factions had lost their identity. You’d buy a tabard and pretty much forget about the faction until you hit exalted with the faction without even trying. So, with Mists of Pandaria, they changed the system once more. Now you wouldn’t gain reputation by running a dungeon like in TBC nor would you gain reputation by running a dungeon wearing a tabard like in WotLK or Cata. Today, the only (!) way to gain reputation for these factions is by completing dozens of regular solo daily quests in the new areas each day. Now you could argue that Blizzard essentially got rid of dungeon factions. Yes and no. These factions still offer item rewards at higher reputation levels, but for justice/valor points instead of gold. And there aren’t any justice/valor vendors in the main cities like there used to be, so you have to grind reputation through dailies to be able to buy items for the currency you earned by doing dungeons. While you can’t argue about the revitalized faction identity, you can surely debate if linking them to dailies was a good idea. Free weekend with loads of time to grind reputation? Forget about it!
I already wrote about the heroic attunement in TBC. Revered got you access to the heroic dungeons and some dungeons required a quest chain to be able to enter them.
In WoW classic some dungeons had these prequests as well, but not that strict. You could for example finish a lenghty quest chain to gain access to the back entrance of stratholme, shaving some time off the run to Baron Rivendare and Scholomance was locked as well. But it was enough to have one group member with the key…or a skilled rogue! I often made a couple of bucks opening the back entrance for new groups at Stratholme.
With Wotlk and all following expansions, attunements for heroic dungeons (and dungeons in general, as well as raids) were removed. Why did they do that?
I can think of two reasons. The first being the reduced difficulty of heroic dungeons after TBC. Players wanted to run heroics, but they didn’t want to put in any effort (or actually be challenged in these heroics as it seems). The second would be the LFG tool, added in a later WotLK patch. With such an easy tool, allowing smooth access for all players to regular and heroic dungeons, Blizzard didn’t seem to think it was feasible to force these players to put in some extra work before entering a heroic dungeon.
They did, however, find a replacement for the old attunements and reputation requirements: item level! Now your character had to had a certain average item level of gear in his posession. This would guarantee (or so they thought) a minimum level of dps, hps and hit points on all participants of these random groups. You could easily cheat the item level requirement and the tool didn’t care if you wore totally mismatched gear or perfectly cared for equip with gems and enchantments. If the items themselves weren’t of a high enough level you wouldn’t get in. This resulted in players just keeping all items with a higher item level, even if they couldn’t use them properly (having an agility sword in your warriors backpack would count) or weren’t supposed to be used for that content (PvP gear).
That’s pretty much still the method Blizzard uses today, although they made the item level required for the dungeons, your own average level and the level of the individual items much more transparent. I can understand their logic behind this method because it ~theoretically~ would result in a somewhat decent group. Only it didn’t. I admit it…I’m totally OCD when it comes to gearing my character. I wouldn’t enter a heroic dungeon unless I had the best gear from regular dungeons…reforged, gemmed and enchanted, because I wanted to pull my weight and not hold the whole group back. If everybody geared like I would, I figured, dungeon runs would be a smooth an pleasant experience with fun DPS races and no wipes. Oh how wrong I was. Players don’t care for their equipment…why should they, everything gets replaced really fast anyway.
I still do it…putting a lot of work into shabby items, but I no longer expect players to do the same…or the dungeons to be tuned towards GOOD gear of a certain item level. The dungeons are tuned for ungemmed, unenchanted, non-reforged garbage with cheat items in the backback.
Blizzard can easily track the “quality” of equipment, at least to a certain extent. Is an item gemmed and enchanted? That should be another check. Sure, some players would put the cheapest gems and enchants on their gear, but some would put genuine effort into their gear and suddenly realize the effect it had on their performance.
Any differences these reputation and attunement systems made between solo and guilded players? Well, not really.
During TBC you usually ran heroics with a guild or friends and when the attunements got nerfed solo players probably had an easier time finding a group, but their chance of actually finishing that dungeon was slim to bupkis, as random players who didn’t meet the old requirements just weren’t ready. The change mainly helped only experienced players who wanted to gear alts more quickly. Not sure if that’s such a good idea. Oh and the alt-topic is another good one for later!
Later (except for the initially very hard Cataclysm heroics) you could probably save some time and reduce wipes by running in a guild group, but one you had the required item level, you could just as easily do countless dungeon runs as a solo player. Guilds and friend-groups had the advantage of being able to enter the heroic dungeons even without the required item level for the LFG tool and gear up much quicker. The item level requirement wasn’t really relevant for a group of skilled players who are used to playing in a fixed group.
But you could spend a solid weekend with an experienced group and quickly grind reputation by running through dungeons, while getting good boss loot. This was much faster and MUCH less stressful than by doing random dungeons. But that’s a thing of the past. You can still gear faster in a guild group, but there aren’t any other advantages anymore as reputation is gained outside of dungeons.
Here’s a random pic to round things off for today:
Tomorrow will be a really interesting topic. We’ll finally take a look at the rewards beyond the quests and drops in dungeons and my dream dungeon-system. See you then!