• September 19, 2021

Table of Contents

1. loot in WoW: times are changing2. The item level as the measure of all things3. Loot in Shadowlands: Circuit training instead of treadmill4. What's the problem with Loot in Shadowlands?5. drive your numbers up! These are beginner numbers!6. Group play a must: No chance for lone wolves6.1. Advocatus Diaboli: Solo players do not deserve a high item level7. Fair is fair: The advantages of the system and a ray of hope8. Play your own game: The power of good loot design

The Valley of Strength in Orgrimmar lies under a soothing blanket of busy hammering, clanking, and laughter. Even the opening of the Shadowlands could not take the heart out of this proud city. Meanwhile, in one of the small, smoky taverns, a troll huddles over his collection of notes. A jumble of crumpled paper rises ominously above the table. Several notes sail to the floor in slow motion, plans are crumpled and fired into the corner of the dark room with a curse. As the Orc waitress angrily stomps over to the guest, she is met with a look from bloodshot eyes that could melt bare steel. The orc lady backpedals with a quiet "Nope!" and expertly dodges the flying balls of paper as she retreats. A goblin pushes its way through the paper desert a moment later, catching one of the notes and carefully unfolding it. The notes read like the shopping list of a demented statistician: "World quests useless. Pact armor also useless, but pretty. Battlefield farming. High level! Dungeons? Too slow. Torghast every day at 6pm. Maw after. No items in the maw. Useless. Raid browser unreachable. Useless. Mythic dungeons good, but unreachable without PvP. Useless!" With a steep crease of worry on his forehead, the goblin reads the word "Useless!" another two dozen times and steps up to the table with a quiet clearing of his throat. Dungeons remain closed to some players because they can't get the equipment they need - is that true? And if so, how can the problem be solved? Source: Blizzard "Uh. Hi! This is an intervention. Your guildmates are worried." The troll stares at his friend with a visibly annoyed look, blinking like a night saber about to attack. With a fist-sized lump in his throat, the goblin continues, "Don't get me wrong, enjoy the game as you see fit ... But don't you think it's about time you did something with us again? You know, things other than scaring the waitress and writing psychopath diaries?" The wooden chair crashes to the floor as the troll jumps up and grabs his guildmate by the scruff of the neck. The troll's knuckles are white with exertion. "I'm trying to do something, but the game won't let me! I can't get into the raid browser because I don't feel like PvP, because that's the only place that has the items with the level I need! I can't get into heroic dungeons because I get picked on for not having the items that drop there! And I can't get into mythic dungeons because I can't get into heroic dungeons because I can't get into the raid browser because I'm an absolute cucumber at PvP! And because I have absolutely no way of getting decent items via world questing, I CANNOT PLAY THE GAME LIKE THIS!"

The last words still echo in the tiny taproom. The silence is broken by an afford cough and the floorboard creak of a patron trying to reach the restroom as quietly as possible. "Uh..." The goblin sweats like an oiled Kul Tiranian in the Molten Core. "Sorry to ask, but ..., if you don't feel like doing all that stuff and would rather play by yourself, why do you even need a high item level?" Silence. A toilet flush sounds in the background. The waitress very slowly reaches for the shotgun under the counter. Just in case the loon snaps. Instead, the troll sets his friend back down and awkwardly fixes his clothes with an embarrassed face. "Nevermind. You're right, I'll do something with you guys again. But just because I like playing by myself doesn't mean I don't need decent items!" A smile plays around the goblin's lips as he leads his guildmate out of the tavern by the hand. "I know dude, there's a thousand ways to play this game! But today we gamble together, promise?" The troll grins past his tusks. "Promise!" As the two move away, the waitress grumbles as she sweeps the jumble of notes from the corner of the room, which still smells of coffee and desperation. The restroom door opens with a soft creak. "Is the madman gone?" "Yes," grumbles the orc lady."The solo player's gone. All of them batshit crazy. Let them find a single player roleplaying game if they don't like company." Outside, the troll turns on his heel, but the goblin puts a hand on his chest and shakes his head. "Let them. Some just don't want to understand. Later, we'll get you that transmog you've always wanted." The troll nods eagerly and turns away again. "Very well! And then we'll help strangers in the Maw without saying anything, yes?" The goblin smiles proudly. "Sure we'll do that. We don't send a single message!" As the waitress slinks off into an adjoining room, the tavern guest looks wistfully after the troll and slowly raises a thumb. "Play your game," he whispers softly. "No matter what anyone says."

Loot in WoW: Times are changing

It's that time again: we complain about stuff! Well, it's not quite that bad. Rather, in this article we look at the differences, between Battle for Azeroth's Loot design and Shadowlands'. We'll start by explaining why thoughtful loot design is immensely important for WoW, and then explain the differences between BfA and Shadowlands. After laying the discussion foundation, we build on it by asking the question of all questions: Is the loot design good as it is, and if not, what could be done better? Also included in our analysis will be solo players, and a problem unique to them: If you're only playing solo, and thus leaving out the hardest content, why do you need a high item level at all? We're already looking forward to our exploding comments section. So grab your super-special-strength bitewood and follow us into the wonderful world of loot design. And don't forget: there's no wrong way to play. Let's go!

Table of Contents

1. Loot in WoW: Times are changing2. The item level as the measure of all things3. Loot in Shadowlands: Circuit training instead of treadmill4. What's the problem with Loot in Shadowlands?5. drive your numbers up! These are beginner numbers!6. Group play a must: No chance for lone wolves6.1. Advocatus Diaboli: Solo players do not deserve a high item level7. Fair is fair: The advantages of the system and a ray of hope8. Play your own game: The power of good loot design

Raids are like empty: players are now boycotting regular raids after timewalking raids. The loot situation is not exactly rosy. Source: buffed

The item level as the measure of all things

The Loot Game in World of Warcraft (buy now 14,99 € ) is THE fundamental mechanic that keeps the game going. This is not an opinion, but a fact. Please don't misunderstand us: of course we're happy every time we see our online friends again. We cheer everyone who helps us out in the Maw out of the goodness of their hearts, and every once in a while we sit down on a park bench on an RP server to just write our hearts out. None of this has anything to do with items or hard mechanics. And yet, at the end of the day, every player's eyes fall on their item level. Because it is the mechanic that tells you what you can and cannot do in the game. It's considered the measuring stick for your success as a raid player, and it makes every interaction easier, from beating up an NPC to forum discussions. Whoever has the higher item level wins. This all sounds very dramatic, but at its core it's not wild and it's a great thing. Of course, you get stronger as your item level increases, because WoW is still a roleplaying game. Growing numbers are the easiest way to give you a little dopamine boost, and they feel great to boot!
How you get those numbers, on the other hand, is far more problematic, because without a well-designed loot treadmill, Azeroth collapses under its own complexity. World of Warcraft is an online role-playing game, so it has to have something for everyone: Dungeon players romp through twisting dungeons, raiders conquer bosses that often require a dozen or more attempts, and PvP players pummel their teammates with whirling axes only to limp into the nearest Discord with a black eye, a Season item, and a lot of pride in their chest. Solo players, on the other hand, can relax and get their items through world quests and professions. All of the aforementioned player types, without exception, are happy to see their item level increase. So how does Shadowlands fare in the all-important loot design? Ve'nari and your pact require you to enter the Maw on a regular basis - even if you might prefer to just play PvP. Source: buffed

Loot in Shadowlands: Circuit training instead of the treadmill

What's coming next will have many of you furiously pounding your keyboards, but hear us out: Battle for Azeroth's loot design possessed better tweaking than that in Shadowlands. Easy now, let's explain first. In Battle for Azeroth, you could pick a division that was interesting to you and never had to do anything you didn't like. Are you an avid solo player? Stick to world quests and you'll get a solid item level sooner or later. Playing PvP? Look forward to great items with a high item level. Dungeon or raid players never had a problem with item strength anyway. Compare this to Shadowlands and it gets a lot more complicated. And just to be sure, we explicitly don't mean itemization by Battle for Azeroth's loot design. The Azerite Casino and Heart of Azeroth were not a good idea, even in retrospect.

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In Shadowlands, you can also ignore any areas of the game that you don't like, but then you'll be watching your friends pass you by at the speed of light. The reason for this is that the new expansion's loot design requires the exploratory spirit of a Renaissance scientist: Only those who simultaneously advance their story campaign, regularly rampage through Torghast, stroll around the Maw, tackle PvP battles, and roll through dungeons will be able to whip up a usable character in a reasonable amount of time. Even the raid browser requires you to play PvP or Mythic+ dungeons along with regular Torghast outings to get anywhere near it as well. Now, you could argue that it's good to look outside your online box for once. However, for players who have absolutely no interest in a multi-talented career change, the whole thing is extremely tedious. The loot treadmill has evolved into circuit training in Shadowlands. Regardless of whether you're interested in the new content, you WILL participate: If you don't fancy Torghast, you'll have to bite the bullet. Source: buffed

What's the problem with loot in Shadowlands?

"Stop!" we hear you exclaim, "Why is it a bad thing to take a little longer to get your item level?" WoW is a hobby, after all, not a race - and those who like to race, i.e. raiders and PvP players, get a defensible item level quickly anyway. Besides, don't let the players complain! If everyone had everything shoved down their throats, they might as well hang up the game. Only those who put a little work into an MMORPG will receive an appropriate reward.

All of this is correct, and it's not the problem at all. The problem is that it can force players into areas of the game that they don't feel comfortable with. You want to raid with your new guild in the raid browser? Then you'll be forced to bite the PvP bullet, at least if you don't want to wait a few more weeks. Once you're raiding, you won't have all the items you need in one fell swoop, so you'll have to do a little PvP every now and then to get a new weapon. And if you prefer PvP anyway, you'll be forced to raid through the PvE hell of Torghast to even stand a chance on the battlegrounds, because you can't get legendary gear without Soul Ash. Raiders who don't feel like competitive play are encouraged to PvP, and PvP players look to Mythic-Plus dungeons for better items, even though they might not be able to stand the PvE group content. At max level, you're strongly encouraged to take whatever the game offers you - whether you care for it or not. Mounts like the sinful Deathwalker are only available to the best players. Why should it be any different with a high item level? Source: buffed

Drive your numbers up! These are beginner numbers!

We can talk a lot, of course, but instead we'll give you a few numerical examples here. For example, if you level up tight and reach a decent reputation level with your brand new character, you'll see world quests with an iLevel of 155. Every once in a while, if you're extremely lucky, you'll get a world quest with a 174 item. We are at fame level 10 at this point, so we have already put some time into our pact. However, world quests are currently there to throw thousands of gold coins worth of anima and merchant junk at you, nothing more.If you're hoping for some solid gear, you'll have to get it elsewhere.

Table of Contents

1. loot in WoW: times are changing2. The item level as the measure of all things3. Loot in Shadowlands: Circuit training instead of treadmill4. What's the problem with Loot in Shadowlands?5. drive your numbers up! These are beginner numbers!6. Group play a must: No chance for lone wolves6.1. Advocatus Diaboli: Solo players do not deserve a high item level7. Fair is fair: The advantages of the system and a ray of hope8. Play your own game: The power of good loot design

The alternative for anyone who doesn't want to sit on their item level forever: You collect honor on various battlegrounds and instantly start at level 60 with an iLevel of 158. If you keep PvPing, you're guaranteed to upgrade your items to level 171 - while still sitting at fame level 0, mind you! And bam, you've unlocked the raid browser without waiting weeks or hoping for world quests with suitable items. Want level 177 items? No problem, at fame level 7 you can upgrade one more time. All of this means, first, that dungeons, the raid browser, and PvP items will stay up much longer because we simply have far fewer opportunities to climb the item ladder. Secondly, it means that solo players will have to squeeze their butts and jump into the fray. Not art, but junk: Itemization in BfA dumped junk at your feet week after week. Here Shadowlands has the nose far, far ahead. Source: buffed

Group play a must: No chance for lone wolves

Single players currently have no way to get their item level up in solo content anywhere near as much as their dungeon mates, and that includes creating Legendarys. Blizzard has pushed the player experience heavily back towards group content with Shadowlands - and we'd be very surprised if they didn't make that design decision intentionally. We certainly understand this approach; after all, World of Warcraft is an MMORPG and wants to market itself that way as well. Players being involved in group content attracts new players to Azeroth and makes for great events, such as the World First race. Single players are far less spectacular on the road here ... at least if your name isn't "Rextroy".

Now we come to the question that will probably cause the feedback on the article to go into total meltdown: should you be able to play WoW like a single player open world RPG? If the answer to that question is "no", you're taking the fun out of a gigantic chunk of the playerbase. If the answer is "yes", you're bumping extremely complex changes to the loot system that can't be easily implemented due to the heavily interwoven endgame. This also begs the question, why do lone wolves even need a good item level if they aren't participating in the content that requires good gear anyway... right? Neither the world quests nor the equivalent of Shadowlands' emissary quests are currently nearly as rewarding as they were in BfA. Source: buffed Wrong. At the latest with Torghast, a small but fine solo society has formed among players who love the Roguelite system and want to push it as far as possible on their own. This doesn't currently work to the extent that it might, as solo players need to participate in group content for good Torghast progression. Sure, you can farm your weekly soul ash with an item level of 155, but that's not the point. It's about the fun of the game, and that's what a decent item level (and thus the ability to advance further into Torghast) increases. That doesn't mean you shouldn't work hard for it - it just means that solo players are given the opportunity to reach a high item level in a reasonable amount of time by playing well.

We're not even taking into account the many players who go into ancient mythic raids alone to defeat bosses single-handedly. Because that's also valid content that keeps players playing, whether it was provided by Blizzard themselves or not. And seriously, why is it so bad if single player players are given the same gear as raiders? Because then they're both equally well equipped? Doesn't matter, it doesn't affect the fun of raiders. Because then it's easier to get the same gear? Doesn't matter, because raiders do what they do because they enjoy it, not because they necessarily want to work a second job or have higher numbers than their peers. Plus, of course, the loot isn't handed out to the filthy masses on the next street corner, it's earned through hard content. Both players arrive at the same destination via different paths; no one is taken away in the process. Does this mean solo players will have their theoretical iLevel 233 gear "shoved up their asses"? We hope not, because there are plenty of gear spots where you can carry your stuff much more comfortably. Solo players currently feel like hobos with a few scraps of clothing on their backs: the loot treadmill is currently extremely tedious for single players. Source: buffed


Advocatus Diaboli: Solo players don't deserve a high item level

In order to highlight every aspect of the issue, we will of course be arguing from each side - because if it were otherwise, you, the reader, would not be able to form an informed opinion. So here we go!
The solo player problem isn't really a problem because single players simply don't need a high item level. No, not even when they are tackling "heavy content". Even high Torghast levels don't even begin to compare to mythic raids or high level keystone dungeons, and anyone who has run in that kind of content knows that. The collusion, mechanics, and organization bear no relation to Torghast or soloing in old raids. Players who don't participate in challenging content simply don't need - and deserve - top-of-the-line gear. There are two main arguments for this:

Table of Contents

1. Loot in WoW: Times are changing2. Item level as the measure of all things3. Loot in Shadowlands: Circuit training instead of treadmill4. What's the problem with Loot in Shadowlands?5. drive your numbers up! These are beginner numbers!6. Group play a must: No chance for lone wolves6.1. Advocatus Diaboli: Solo players do not deserve a high item level7. Fair is fair: The advantages of the system and a ray of hope8. Play your own game: The power of good loot design

For one thing, WoW is obviously not a high-level sport. It's more akin to playing in an amateur league, but even there, there are better and worse players. That's no reflection on their quality as people, but a fact of life is that there will always be people within a hobby who are better than you. And those who put time and effort into a sport deserve the better prizes. Maybe your opponent's high skill level will even motivate you to give it a try yourself! Dare! Even if you suffer from social anxiety and don't like people, raiding with friends from a well-organized guild can be a very special treat. Don't see the difference in item levels as unfair, but as an aspiration, a goal that you too can achieve with the necessary effort. Look outside your box accordingly and it will be worth it. Promise. What do solo players need a high item level for anyway? There are also good reasons against equality for all player types in terms of loot availability. Source: buffed For another, handing out top-tier gear to single players would render useless the content you play day in and day out as a single player. Have you ever completed a world quest in a full set of iLevel 233 gear? The whole thing is akin to trying to punch a pillowcase filled with pudding: Perfectly satisfying at first, but it gets boring very quickly and afterwards you're sitting in front of the leftovers wondering why you did the whole thing in the first place. If solo content generally scales lower than group content, then no big deal. Why do solo players have to have the same numbers on their character sheet as raiders? Is it a matter of stat envy? If the single player experience remains challenging without becoming too easy, then even with low item levels it's a good thing. There are a massive amount of items, mounts, toys, armor, and companions in Shadowlands, all of which can be earned solo. Are the growing numbers really so important that they override everything else?


Fair is fair: the benefits of the system and a ray of hope

We like to get on soapboxes and preach doom, but of course it's not all bad in the state of Shadowlands. Quite the opposite, in fact. In fact, the current loot system also has one huge advantage: excellent itemization. You have much more control over what loot you get and when than you did in Battle for Azeroth. We always get a chill when we finally get our iLevel 200 Pact armor set after a long grind. The important thing here, however, is not the long grind, but the clearly visible objective. You know you're going to get your hands on that armor eventually, and with every little step you take, you're getting closer to the finish line. You get very little loot in the new expansion, but you're genuinely happy every time you get it; it just feels good to get new loot and upgrade it. Not because it's so rare, but because every piece of equipment you intentionally work towards in Shadowlands is a guaranteed upgrade. Compare that to Battle for Azeroth, and it's hard to suppress a gag: BfA espoused an itemization policy best summed up as "Here's a bunch of junk, good luck pulling out something useful. See you again tomorrow for another truckload of junk." If we had to choose, we'd bake Shadowlands' itemization and Battle for Azeroth's loot system into one delicious new cake. If there was one thing in BfA that was actually worthwhile for solo players, it was the world quests. The emissary crates were a great item source. Source: buffed The developers themselves have also recognized the problem and promise to remedy it: In an interview with the video game magazine PC Gamer in mid-January, game director Ion Hazzikostas admitted that Shadowlands' loot design is not yet perfect. In the conversation, it became clear that the guys and gals at Blizzard want to make big changes to the PvE loot in the coming months. So the feedback from the players has arrived! On a side note, Ion also mentioned that he thinks the PvP loot system is currently very good. And we agree! This is the reason why swarms of desperate PvE players are currently flooding the battlegrounds. A first step in the right direction is the bravery point system of patch 9.0.5 - but that's already causing problems.

Table of Contents

1. loot in WoW: times are changing2. The item level as the measure of all things3. Loot in Shadowlands: Circuit training instead of treadmill4. What's the problem with Loot in Shadowlands?5. drive your numbers up! These are beginner numbers!6. Group play a must: No chance for lone wolves6.1. Advocatus Diaboli: Solo players do not deserve a high item level7. Fair is fair: The advantages of the system and a ray of hope8. Play your own game: The power of good loot design

As an example of "not yet perfect" loot design, Hazzikostas cited raids in particular. For those who haven't had the pleasure of raiding in Shadowlands, imagine the following: You stomp through a buck-heavy raid with 20 friends, knock down Denathrius, and a luscious three items tumble out of him in the aftermath. That's right: three items. For a short time, the raids were bugged so that instead of three items, five would drop, but that has since been fixed by Blizzard. Those who don't get an item return home with a whopping 35 anima and feel like they just got ripped off. We advocate that until a permant fix is made, the number of items is set back up to five. While this isn't a permanent fix, it would calm tempers and is far from destroying the balance of the game.

Play Your Own Game: The Power of Good Loot Design

All in all, the loot design in Shadowlands has a lot of room for improvement, but is already trending in a very promising direction. Now, if the gals and guys at Blizzard can manage to combine the good feeling of working towards a clear goal with the "godrolls" of a random system, we'd have the best WoW possible. How that's going to work? No idea, we're not wizards after all! We'd rather leave that to the developers of World of Warcraft. If there's one thing we can be sure of, though, it's that the new content promised by Ion Hazzikostas had better hit the servers in April rather than July. We're already as eager as a longbow of the selfless blacksmith and await the new loot system with anticipation.

What are your thoughts on the loot design in Shadowlands? Are you a single player who would like to see better loot, or are you happy with your gear? Are you in the camp of the raid-goers who only want to see better gear through use? Let us know what you think! And in all of this, never forget: there is no wrong way to play. Have fun looting!

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