On Epicness: A Personal Take

Every week, A Paladin’s Tale does a Monday Morning Breakfast Topic. I really enjoyed their latest topic: “Why ‘epic’ no longer means epic, & what the WoW Dev team could do to resolve the issue to bring back some meaning to gear.

I find this general fixation on loot/gear to be a fascinating phenomenon, mainly because it kinda goes over my practical, practical head. Kurn also recently wrote about how loot has lost its value (and when someone who doesn’t even play the game is writing long dissertations on a topic, you know it’s a good a topic), which triggered a reaction from me.

Here is my confused interpretation of our conversation:

Me: But gear matters! It took my guild months to get our first heroic Horridon kill! Now that we have gear, he just falls over. Gear still makes a difference.
Kurn: It does matter for killing things, but with upgrades and resets every patch, gear in itself doesn’t matter.

What is “Epic”?

I vaguely remember in Vanilla, I’d sometimes find myself in trouble and some level 60 would stop and help me. Sometimes they would have purples. I would draw the following conclusions:

– They have a lot of time to play the game (it took me over a year to reach max level the first time).
– They have a lot of friends.
– They got lucky with the RNG.

Then I would thank them, be on my way and totally forget about the encounter.

Apparently that is the wrong reaction. The correct reaction should have supposedly been awe. But I don’t understand why I should be awed by someone who plays a lot of video games, has friends and is lucky.

I am awed by people sometimes. People with strong personalities. People who are much smarter than me. People who work hard and don’t give up. But I can’t draw any connections between those traits and having fancy WoW gear.

A Paladin’s Tale argues that LFR and crafting (and even normal mode raiding) should reward rare/blue gear instead of epic/purple (a side note on crafting, though, I find the higher level craftable gear a gazillion times harder to make than merely killing a heroic raid boss). Me, I really don’t care either way. Blue, purple, they’re just colours. What matters are the stats on them, how well those stats are used and how much those stats will assist me with a boss kill.

So, what is epic to me?

Facets of the game art, maybe. I mean, some gear pieces do look badass. (This is coming from someone who’s never transmogged anything in her WoW life, ha!) But the only things in game that feel really “epic” to me have very little, if nothing, to do with players: huge mysterious dungeons, creative bad guys (and gals), brave heroes, and beautiful details that you only notice when you stop and look around (check out Katherinne’s blog to see some of WoW’s cool details spotlighted)

In my mind, then, those worthy of my awe were never the best geared players, but rather WoW’s art, story and encounter design teams.

Motivation beyond gear

Conversation, circa the end of Dragon Soul, with a few interpretive liberties:

Healing lead: Do you need anything off Dragonwing?
Me: I thought we already killed the last boss this expansion.
Healing lead: Yeah, but do you still need anything off it?
Me: Why would I need anything? We already killed the boss.
Healing lead: You don’t make sense.

An argument that A Paladin Tale brings up, and that comes up fairly often in other discussions around the topic, is that WoW centers around making your character as strong as possible and loot is kinda the only motivation toward that.

I suppose it shouldn’t have, but the idea of the game being strong-character centric actually surprised me. I’d never thought about it in that way before.

Originally, WoW for me was just an escape from reality and thinking. Tired of writing stupid papers for school? Go kill 10 wolves. With some music playing in the background. In my early raiding days, playing the game became a fun learning experience (I love learning. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. My goal in life to learn EVERYTHING.) and an activity to do with cool people. When I got more serious about raiding, the game became about teamwork and perfecting my WoW gaming skills.

If I make my character stronger, my end goal is never her strength. I want her strong so she can keep up with the team, I want her strong as a result of me discovering how to be a better player, I want her strong so we can see content faster. Without a team, without a kill and without learning experience, her strength is worthless. WORTHLESS.

While a lot of gamers cling to the outdated notion of “people are motivated by epic gear“, I personally think that Blizzard is frontward thinking by moving away from archaically using player hierarchy as the ultimate motivator. Concentrating on making the game intrinsically fun to play and investing in potential teamwork situations (also known as “fun things to do with friends and maybe strangers who aren’t annoying“) will make the game far more adapted to the kind of gamer we want to be around in MMOs.

Me and my gear

The other day, I was in a heroic. You know, just Denouncing my way to easy VP, when the hunter whispered me.

Hunter: Sick gear!
Me (very awkward): Thank you….
Hunter: Have you been raiding long?
Me (still very awkward): Kinda. I love to raid.

I love to raid. I wanted to insist on that. Love it, love it, love it. I find working on raid days very difficult because I’m so excited to get home and raid. The hours just crawl by. The gear… The gear is nothing. I don’t want people to look at my character and be all”OMG she has fancy ilvls!“. I’d far, far rather people look at me and say “Wow, she sure loves what she does.

Some nights are rough. Raids have me in tears pretty often (one of the many reasons I’ll never stream!) and I don’t mind. In the end, I think getting through those tough moments just makes the experience more rewarding.

I love feeling us learn a new fight, I love that satisfaction when we finally “get it right” but above all, I love the teamwork. Discovering who my teammates are as people, adapting to more…difficult personalities and, most of all, sharing ups and the downs with fellow gamers from all walks of life. It’s like magic.

And there’s no loot colour in the world that could be more epic to me than that.

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20 Comments on “On Epicness: A Personal Take”

  1. Megacode Says:

    Great post O. Epic is definitely something that is unique and subjective for every individual. For me its always that first time tapping into that new world (expansion) for the first time. I started playing WoW first week of WotLK and I remember just looking at that world map and just going, “OMG, I have so much to explore”! Well I got that same reaction beginning of MoP. Like you I love raiding and its definitely an incredible epic feeling after you’ve white knuckled it for weeks to finally get that kill. That teamwork and comaraderie are second to none. Us healers are definitely in a strange place now, where were being judged by hps instead of hey, did you stay out of the stupid, keep other players healed up, and get the kill. Because of this, I feel that the game is all about that “Epic Loots” 😦 I myself get caught up in the loot race, looking at WoL and comparing hps. I have to remind myself not to get frustrated if I go weeks without a drop. You did your job and had a blast playing with your friends. Sorry for the long rant. Your posts always get me thinking 🙂

    • Ophelie Says:

      That was hardly a long rant, haha!

      I don’t get the epic feel at the beginning of every expansion, but I certainly did for MoP. I don’t know how Blizzard made pandas and a colourful Asia-inspired continent epic, but they did.

      I think I’m pretty spoiled where my guild leaders don’t really care about hps as long as you’re actually doing something and people aren’t dying (and you’re not constantly dying – nothing gets you hated faster than failing mechanics). We actually have two newer members who base their self worth on ranking, and you wouldn’t believe how annoyed everyone else is by them, haha. I’m often surprised to hear how many normal modes guilds berate their healers based on hps. I can see how high hps is necessary in world first guilds or in high profile guilds (since other healers are using their logs to learn, their execution has to be impeccable). But when learning normal modes…high hps isn’t going to fix any problems.

  2. Tree Says:

    At the end of DS I had a similar “do you need anything” experience. I had main switched to help with the raid composition and was geared up well enough, except for my darkmoon healing trinket and some other bad trinket. For weeks I was running LFR and even Firelands trying to get a better trinket for our Heroic Spine attempts, to no avail, obviously.

    Finally after we killed Spine/Madness, the heroic version of those amazing stacking buff trinkets dropped, and I passed them to people with the regular versions, because why bother?

    That said, the only pieces of gear I have been attached to are trinkets, the Darkmoon Card: Volcano along with The Black Heart from the normal ToC 5-man, mainly. Both of those were far better than their ilvl would suggest and readily available, which leads back to the “helps kill bosses” thing.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Isn’t that always how it goes, haha. I remember back in Kara, there was that shield from Chess. I ran Kara week after week for, like, all of BC. My guildies tormented me constantly, jokingly telling me it dropped when it hadn’t. I think the first time I even saw the stupid thing was well after I’d gotten a better shield from somewhere else, way later.

      I have a few pieces that I’m attached to, but they’re all based on the circumstances I got them in. I have the first piece of gear (a cloak) that a guildy crafted for me, the first tier piece I got at my first raid, bracers I was given on my birthday, a Darkmoon Card that a guildy put together for me…all that sentimental stuff.

  3. Balkoth Says:

    I completely agree. Though I’d settle for

    “Wow, he’s sure killed some cool raid bosses.“

    I always find it interesting when people judge their worth by their gear instead of by what they’ve accomplished with the gear they have. I respect someone far more who is 12/12N with 512 ilvl than someone who is 2/12N with 520 ilvl.

    P.S. The correct Deathwing “answer” would be “I need anything that will speed up my leveling next expansion so I can get back to raiding faster.”

    • Ophelie Says:

      Haha, very true, very true! I probably could have built a heroic ret set to help with the first two levels of MoP. But by the end of Dragon Soul, I just really, really needed a break!

      “Killed some cool raid bosses” works for me too, though I don’t seem to care about the race when I’m in a guild I’m comfortable in. It’s just about doing the best job I can. When I’m guild shopping, then yeah, all I can think about is my raiding resume and how it compares to everyone elses. Not because I want to boost my ego, but because I want to find a new homes ASAP.

      • Balkoth Says:

        The “Wow, he’s sure killed some cool raid bosses.” was meant as an alternative to “Wow, she sure loves what she does” when we’re talking about replacing ”OMG she has fancy ilvls!“ Hard to tell whether someone loves what they do at a glance, easier to see they’ve killed awesome bosses.

        Speaking of not caring about gear, I think we’re on our third or fourth week of extending our H Lei Shen lockout (let’s not talk about how many <1% wipes we've had – two nights a week, so our raid time is rather limited). I wonder if that idea would blow some of these people's minds. "Holy cow they're SKIPPING MORE LOOT to work on killing a boss? Why would you skip MORE LOOT?"

  4. Kurnmogh Says:

    Thanks for the link, although I’d counter that just because I write a long post on something doesn’t necessarily mean something’s a great topic. ;D

    I think my overall point from my post was to say that gear no longer matters because we can achieve varying levels of character strength and power based on what Blizzard wants us to be. The scaling down of Challenge Modes, the scaling up of PTR testing, we’re all just a bunch of numbers in a database and they can screw with that as they like.

    Thus, gear doesn’t really matter in the grander scheme of things, while it’s still very important in certain circumstances. But even then, world first guilds need a lot less gear than others do in order to meet those enrages. Method killed Ra-den on April 11th. That’s 5 weeks of progression through Throne of Thunder, 4 if you just take heroic stuff into consideration. Obviously they didn’t have 10, 12, 15 resets to gather all the best loot before they killed him. So in that sense, gear matters less than skill, despite the fact gear still matters in that circumstance.

    And, by the way, I completely agree about gearing in order to keep up with the team and to kill bosses, because, well, why ELSE would anyone play the game? 😉

    • Talarian Says:

      Here’s the thing that I don’t get with your post Kurn. It’s a game, with programmers, and they’ve always been able to arbitrarily tweak our numbers, all the way back to Vanilla. And they did. Liberally.

      What ilvls they wanted for gear in 10s vs. 25s in Wrath? Arbitrary.
      What ilvls they wanted for ToT and Thunderforged? Arbitrary.
      Trinkets getting nerfed in PvP, or even in PvE? Arbitrary.
      Gear gettting nerfed (or buffed!)? Arbitrary.
      Scaling of Heirlooms, which existed since Wrath? Arbitrary.
      Sunwell Radiance/Chill of the Throne to nerf gear? Arbitrary.
      Heck, when they nerf bosses compared to us, it’s the same effect as buffing gear or scaling us up.

      Also, Gevlon already largely proved in Wrath that Skill > Gear with his Blues raiding team, where they managed to take down Ulduar, ToC, and a good portion of ICC in nothing but blue gear, until they finally hit a boss where it was mathematically impossible to put out the DPS required in their gear, at which point, yes, gear mattered in progression. But you are correct, world firsts certainly don’t have as strict a gear requirement as they can make up the statistic deficit with skill and clever planning/class setup.

      We always were just numbers in a database. The only difference is now they have systems to do so automatically, rather than hand-tweaking everything. I feel that the “automated” portion is what’s bothering you, but to me, that’s like complaining that digital distribution makes games worth less because we can automate the content delivery. Automation or reduction to a mathematical formula isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’d argue that it allows them to get closer to “balanced” as far as classes vs. other classes, or player vs. game.

      But to me — and this is something I learned about myself in the Diablo III era — is that I think the quest for perfect balance has kinda killed the soul of a lot of games. Contradictory to my previous paragraph, I realize, though I get the need for balance in an MMO, and I’d say hooray for them continuing, but in a game like DIII? For myself, a lot of the fun of early RPGs was breaking the systems, because they weren’t mathematically perfect, and if you can automate the numbers, it means you have a system, a formula.

      Personally, I think gear matters insofar as making progress. If you can make progress without it because you’re skilled enough? Great! For the rest of us, I’m with Ophelie. Gear is great for getting to your goals, and then after, gear reset away. It’s a means to an end, not an end to the means. Gear isn’t like art, where you put it up on your walls for 40 years. It’s like video games, books, or television shows. It’s awesome when you first get it, you get your immediate joy out of it, and perhaps you revisit it later down the line, but once you’ve consumed it, you’re mostly done with it, and move onto the next set of entertainment.

      • Imakulata Says:

        I agree with Talarian too; when I read Kurn’s blogpost, it took me some time to understand it (as I considered gear to be just a tool) but then I was surprised – after all, loot never mattered in that manner. After all, when we got “stronger” thanks to gear, the monsters we faced were upgraded to make us only as strong as we used to be before.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I think if a aspect of the game catches your attention, it’s because it stands out and is worthy of discussion. Though, ok, maybe “great topic” is in the eye of the beholder.

      World first guilds back in the day killed stuff with less gear too, so I’m not sure exactly how much has changed. I was also listening to an interview with Nodozz from Blood Legion and he was explaining how, even after they finished an instance, they still farmed it every night of the week on all their alts, just to maximize their gear to be top-shape for the next tier/expansion. So while they definitely killed Heroic Lei Shen with a lower ilvl than my guild will, they still do put significant effort into their gear.

      What confuses me, though, I think, is that I’m not sure why it matters that gear is less of a focus in the game. Sure we can upgrade our gear with VP (someone, I can’t remember who, actually, made a really good point awhile back by pointing out that gear upgrades is a sneaky way to nerf content, much less controversial than, oh, say… the Great Firelands Nerf). But stat increase with VP or stat increase with new gear, what does it matter? (You’ll still want to replace your pieces when the next level of gear drops anyway, since upgrades aren’t THAT powerful.) And why is it a bad thing? Wouldn’t skill over gear be a good thing?

  5. AliPally Says:

    I remember in vanilla having no real clue about gear and stats.

    I was in a level 60 dungeon once and an item dropped with +1% hit stat on it, and I thought “+1% to hit? What possible use is that? What a rubbish item”.

    Back then I didn’t care much about what gear did, I was more interested in what it looked like. I would choose a pretty robe over something ugly every time. This all changed because of two instances that happened to me.
    Firstly someone absolutely ripped into me in a dungeon pug because of my gear. I was a noob and a scrub and whatever else. That was quite upsetting.
    Secondly, someone posted a damage meter in a Scholomance run, and I was bottom. Then I got berated for doing so badly, to which my honest reply was something like “I thought we were doing ok, but if I need to put in more effort I will do”, which went down like a lead balloon.

    That was the point at which I started looking at my gear and looking at other people’s gear. You could say I lost my WoW innocence at that point. That is when the colour of my gear suddenly had meaning and I think the colour of gear in vanilla did actually mean something unlike today.
    Tio my mind back then, ‘good players’ had blues, because they could do all those hard dungeons like Scholo and Stratholme; raiders were even better because they did awesome things like Onyxia and MC, places I thought only the best players could go to (ignorant me haha).

    These days of course ilvl is the dominating factor; you don’t hear people saying “LFM to Heroic scenario, must have purples”. That’s because last year’s purples are worse than this year’s greens. The colour of your gear doesn’t mean anything any more really.

    These days I don’t raid except LFR on my Warlock. I still look to get the best gear I can though. Why? So that I can do things quickly, whether it’s dailies or scenarios or old content or whatever, and I can also join pugs that insist on minimum ilvls despite the content being beatable with much worse gear. In that respect, upgrading gear still matters, at least to me.

    Remembering when you beat a hard boss with your friends (Sindragosa heroic springs to mind) is what lingers on in the memory for me, not what gear dropped, though my rogue friend who got the Twin Blades of Azzinoth when Illidan was current content might disagree!

    • Ophelie Says:

      I had similar experiences in my early days of WoW! I choose my upgrades based on armor because I thought the other stats were so tiny, they wouldn’t matter, haha. I volunteered to heal an instance once and one of the hunters refused to do anything until I changed into my “healing gear”. I’d healed instances just fine in the past with my gear so I had no idea what he was talking about. When I joined a guild and started raiding later on, they explained it to me…

      I think you’re onto something with ilvls. Ever since gearscore, ilvls have mattered so much more than colour. Which makes sense. With all the different levels of raid, there just aren’t enough colours in the rainbow.

      I don’t pug often, but I do see those silly ilvl requirements in trade. As my guildies always say (with irony and amusement in they voices) “Of course, gear equals skill, yes.” Collecting gear to do pugs is a practical thing, so it matters in a useful sense and not only “for teh epeen”

  6. Sam Says:

    Your attitude to gear is different to many people I’ve met. While I try to be high-minded and only care about the challenge, I can’t resist the loot-greed taking over. I think its because I see my character as a representation of myself in the game. When he increases in power through a new piece of gear, it feels like I have increased in power. And it feels great to increase in power.

    • Ophelie Says:

      You know, you’re paying your 15$ a month just like everyone else and you’re absolutely allowed to find your enjoyment where you want!

      The concept of power in real life is confusing to me too. For me, good food, good wine and an adventure are all I need to be happy. But if everyone was like me, humanity would have never escaped the stone age, haha.

  7. I can so relate to the discussion you had with your healing lead back in DS, but that’s pretty much how I feel all the way through an instance, I don’t NEED any gear, it can make my job easier, but truth be told I’d rather be a little undergeared, I don’t want to be carried by it, I enjoy the struggle. But at the end of a tier I do like to somehow have the gear to show for it, it’s just vanity though :/ But at the same time, once I have that gear the game become much less fun, and that’s when I make little baby paladins that still can oom in 5mans ^_^

    • Ophelie Says:

      Yeah, I love the early days in an expansion where I have to use all my ressources to keep a group alive in a 5 man. I’m building a little baby pally now, but I don’t think she’ll be doing much healing until she reaches Pandaria.

      Really working at healing does get tiring at times for me, though, and I enjoy getting to a point where I can relax a little more during my raids. Mechanics generally keep me on my toes too (I sadly wasn’t blessed with the jedi reflexes the people I play with seem to have) and gear can only help so much with that.

  8. […] The Bossy Pally: On Epicness: A Personal Take […]

  9. acbarberi Says:

    I have always thought of “epic” as “high ilvl purple gear.” I am epic when I have awesome purple gear. However, I do not enjoy the game much when I play by myself. Perhaps I have been thinking of this game all wrong….

    Along those same lines, I thought you were the one that made no sense with the whole “Dragon Soul” thing about gear from “Deathwing” (haha; no offense). If any loot upgrades drop off of Deathwing, then you need something off him. But now I see what you were trying to say…

    1) You have convinced me I should focus more on interactions with other players than on simply upgrading my gear. 2) Teamwork seems to come naturally to you and I would probably give you a job anywhere. 3) I have a lot to learn about teamwork.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Sorry for the late reply! I haven’t been on the site in forever and didn’t see your comment.

      You know, as long as no one is getting hurt, I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong way to go about loot. I like to present the way I think about loot (and maybe suggest a new perspective) but it doesn’t make anyone’s elses less valid. Besides, one of the nice things about fantasy games is that they’re fantasy games. In real life, most of us can’t go around collecting fancy stuff and looking like a badass (at least not without some pretty nasty consequences!) so I can totally understand how someone might appreciate having that option in game. (I may not have understood it at the time I wrote the post, but I’ve done a lot of thinking between then and now, haha.)

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