Tokens! And why Ulduar-10 is a problem

Tokens have been fantastically popular in recent MMOs. The wonder of tokens is that they perfectly map onto grindy play.

Why we love tokens:

  1. They’re less random. You know exactly how many times you need to kill a mob in order to have access to the gear you want. But you will not have to sit there and watch the retribution paladin ninja the drop … again.
  2. They’re less class specific. No more gloomily disposing of drops which are for classes that aren’t even in your group.
  3. You get to choose how you spend them. If the vendor sells a ring, some boots, and a cool new mount, you can decide your own priorities for which order you want to buy. No more pretending to be happy because some gloves dropped again when you already have 3 spare pairs.
  4. More choices on how to get gear. If tokens can be transferred to other players, then you can grind cash in other ways and buy the tokens that you need. Or pick and choose between token gear and stuff that you get via other means.

Why we hate tokens:

  1. They’re boring. It isn’t as exciting to kill a boss, grab your tokens and move on as it is to get excited over that rare drop that might just be there.
  2. They take up bag space. Some games do solve this by providing special token bags. But WoW, as an example, still has plenty of tokens that sit smugly in your bags.
  3. They force grinding. Somehow the grind seems longer when you know that you need to kill a mob 200 times than it does when your item of desire has a small chance to drop on any of those kills. Even though the random mechanic could mean that you have to kill a lot more in the end. It’s intimidating to say ‘OK, I only need to clear this raid instance 10 more times’ … because that sounds like a lot.
  4. It’s confusing to newbies to have to deal with lots of tokens, many of which are totally devalued. Congratulations, you just picked up a heroic token! You only need 199 more and you can buy a totally awesome item which will be of no use after you have levelled to 80. The grind only makes sense if you’re there at the bleeding edge when it is introduced. Otherwise, it’s encouraging players to put in way too much time for the rewards.

So tokens are convenient, and give guaranteed rewards. But the grinds which they reward can become quickly outdated and there’s no indication in game as to which tokens you should just ignore.

This is a general problem with content becoming outdated in MMOs but not being either removed or explained. So what should devs do about old tokens? They become a foreign currency, useful only if you are travelling in the old content ‘world’.

Usually with foreign currency, you just convert it to the currency you want to use. The agent takes a cut and you get some cash you can use in local shops. But this is a problem for MMOs, because they don’t want you to get cash for local shops by converting old currency. They want you to get it from doing the newest latest grind.

The problem with 10 man Ulduar

OK, so the problem with Ulduar tokens is this:

Currently there are two types of raid token in Wrath.

  • Heroic and 10 man tokens, which share the same vendor.
  • 25 man tokens which use a different, higher level vendor.

In the next patch, with the next raid (ie. Ulduar) there will be 10 man tokens, which will use the old 25 man token vendor. And there will be new 25 man tokens which will use a different, higher level vendor.

Now the current 25 man token vendor sells nice stuff, to be sure. He sells 2 pieces of the tier 7 set, which is a great way to fill out the set if you have been unlucky with drops. He sells bracers and rings and cloaks. All nice raid gear. But not quite as nice as the regular drops from Ulduar 10 man. And of course, he won’t sell any pieces of tier 8. You want that from 10 man runs, you’ll have to get lucky.

The new 25 man vendor, on the other hand, represents nice upgrades. He will sell two pieces of tier 8, and also other items with better stats.

The problem is not that 25 man raiding provides for better tokens, gear, and upgrades. That’s fine. The problem is that 10 man tokens are practically worthless before the raid has even gone live. Lots of people currently run both 10 man and 25 man content, I’m one of them. I already have all the 25 man badge gear that I want for Spinks.

I’ll say it again, 10 man Ulduar badges are practically worthless as things currently stand. Blizzard can’t and won’t add better gear to the badge vendor because they don’t want people to log into the new patch and be able to immediately go clean him out because they had lots of Naxx-25 badges saved. They won’t add in a conversion from 10 man to 25 man badges in Ulduar for the same reason.

I think it will be more difficult now to entice people to run the 10 mans. The gear isn’t bad (hard mode 10 man gear is very good) and it’s still a great way to learn the encounters and have a fun, sociable, raiding experience. But everyone likes to achieve a variety of different rewards for doing the same content — tokens, chance at a good drop, cash, reputation. And cutting down the number of rewards from one type of raid while increasing it in another (with the addition of the legendary weapon) could well tip the balance.