I was waltzing around Silvermoon a few days ago, doing my usual rounds. Auction houses, testing, engineering, doing some battlegrounds, and waiting for a heroic or two.
No, this is not a post indicating that someone sucked. Just in advance.
Some people starting talking in guild chat about how they were doing and doing the usual ego inflation thing that most people do at some point(I know I certainly do!) when they started talking about gear. Gear that they’ve gotten, earned, and played hard for. I piped up, and decided to show off some gear of my own: I decided to show off my tier 8.5 Conqueror’s Pants of Pwning. Bad idea.
“Got those off of Emalon?” was the response.
“I did. Lucky roll.” was my reply. Laughing ensued. Why? Well, let’s all be clear: Emalon is, despite being harder and more demanding on your DPS than Archavon, still an oversized, overstuffed loot pinata. Anybody can walk in and take the gear, so long as your DPS isn’t completely stupid. So why didn’t I show off my Envoy of Mortality, or any of my other gear I was so proud of? Because gear means nothing, compared to what it used to mean.
For a guy who began playing in the Burning Crusade, I’m really used to gear being an indicator of skill. Having the old Gronstalker gear would immediately tell you that hunter knew what he was doing in PvE. Brutal Gladiator gear was a sign of near omnipotence in PvP, and were to be feared and respected. I know it was easier to get this gear in TBC than what it was to get the same level of gear in Vanilla, but it still mattered.
Gear was an indicator of how good you were, and every epic you equipped was a badge of honour to be polished and cherished. That was something you could flash and link to people and they’d think you were hot stuff. When Wrath came out, gear lost meaning in the same sense. The simplicity of the content had people complaining and leaving the game, and anybody who hit 80 and had some basic dungeon blues could find a pugged Naxx and go and have fun. There’s nothing wrong with this, since the hard-mode fights provided the challenge most people were looking for; but hard-mode fights don’t provide gear. They provide mounts and titles, but nothing else substantial. You can turn off names, and you can turn off titles. You can try to show off your mount, but you can’t because all the major cities don’t allow for flying mounts(with Shatrath being the only exception, but it’s deserted). Besides, so what if you have a proto-drake? My gyrocopter goes just as fast the best of them, so there’s no real or practical advantage to working that hard.
Gear is easy enough to get, too. 3 days after hitting 80, I started raiding. A few weeks later, I have some really good gear. Does it mean I’m good? Not really. It means that I have good loot rolls. I do have some achievements, and I’d like to think I’m a good hunter; but can I show it off easily? Can people tell I’m a good hunter just by looking at me? I argue that no, you can’t. Even if I got the mounts and the titles, even if I got everything the titles give me, someone else who has been able to pug the stuff I’ve done could get the same gear, minus the title and mount. Otherwise, we’d be exactly the same.
This is especially true for PvP, when you can earn badges to earn PvP gear, or raid Ema and Archie. It’s never been easier to get your PvP groove started, but it makes it that much harder to tell who knows what they are doing.
I like that Blizzard has made the game more accessible. I like that more people can enjoy an endgame which, until recently, had been very hard to get to. I think it’s a good idea to make the normal mode fights easier than some would like, and make the challenging stuff an option for those who play this game for the harder stuff. What I don’t like is the fact that the hard modes are only that: a harder fight with minor reward. I walk through Dalaran, and I can’t tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly. They all look the same until you play with them.
Maybe that’s the idea? Who knows.
Either way, its an interesting new world we play in when the gear we get isn’t a marker of player skill, and where the only markers of said skill are easily ignorable.