On Solo Rewards for Group Challenges

Group content of any kind in a MMO can be seen as a social challenge. If you want the shiny mount/ quest reward/ epic then you need to find 4/9/24 other suckers to come and help you get it. Now, the standard way to do that is to either pledge your loyalty to a guild which will require some kind of ongoing commitment. Or maybe chance your luck with a pick up group, or asking random people on the trade channel. Or persuade some friends to come along.

And people enter into guild pacts because they know that they all will benefit. So where do legendary weapons fit into this scheme? One person in the raid has to be chosen to receive the main reward. I guess the social challenge for the rest of the raid is to pick the right person and hope that s/he will stay with them afterwards.

I wonder though what legendary weapons might look like in the new Cataclysm scheme of guild design. If it is possible to have guild bound items – something Blizzard have already been discussing with reference to crafted heirlooms – then how about a guild bound legendary item? You could let different people use it from week to week. So if you helped create a legendary that was of a type your class could use, you’d share the reward.

But people do also love solo rewards. They’re the only progression for soloers, and the main progression for everyone else. So there has to be a balance between guild rewards and individual rewards; how heavily it is tipped towards the individual will control how trapped people feel by their guilds. Would players even want shareable legendaries, and to give that power to a guild (guild leader, even) rather than to an individual player? Or will it make them feel less ‘used’?

My experiences with Shadowmourne


(These are some bad screenies of the legendary weapon in action)

I’ve been musing on legendaries lately due to a couple of experiences with Shadowmourne – the current WoW legendary axe.

The first was the guy who broke Gearscore, shown in the pictures above. I zoned into a random PUG with my Death Knight, and there was a player with the legendary axe. He did about double my dps, which wasn’t all that low to start with. And he was a nice guy too, he told one of the other dps to stop whining about healing. Everyone was ogling that weapon and asking about his guild. And when we left, everyone wished him luck on the hard mode LK25 fight.

The other was that we’ve been making a Shadowmourne in our raid group, which involved tackling some of the raid encounters in an awkward way to let him complete the quests. I think working together on a group achievement like that is something to be proud of, and wish him the best of luck with the rest of it. I think we’ll all be very proud to see a Shadowmourne in our raid too.

And yet. I’ve never owned a legendary weapon on any of my alts, although I have been in guilds which helped to create a couple. And frankly, even if there had been a tanking legendary this expansion, I would not have been first in line to get it (purely for attendance reasons, if nothing else).

I wonder if it’s selfish to wish for raid bound legendaries, just so that I could see what it’s like to carry one …

Dealing with Shadowmourne

With the latest WoW patch comes a glimmer of a new legendary weapon.

Legendary weapons in WoW have a long and ever-changing history, but have always been some kind of badge of pride for hardcore raid groups. They have also always been reserved for the largest raid groups in the game (40 man only in vanilla, 25 man in TBC and Wrath).

In vanilla WoW, they initially required rare raid drops, raid dropped materials which didn’t have many other uses, and lots of farming. Later in the game, the Staff of Atiesh tweaked the formula, requiring the deaths of the toughest raid bosses in the game, and a lot of raid dropped materials.

In TBC, the legendary weapons were just rare drops from the end bosses of the hardest raid instances.  Raid guilds would still be required to farm the raids for awhile and get lucky, and would still have the challenge of deciding who should wield the weapon, but the notion of collecting lots of pieces was dropped.

In Wrath, collecting lots of bits from raid bosses is the new black. Val’anyr required rare drops from Ulduar bosses as well as some hard mode kills. And what we know of the latest Icecrown legendary weapon – a two handed axe (spoilers behind the link) – it will require not only collection of special drops from bosses, but also a large number of crafting material drops. Guilds will have to decide whether to prioritise crafting items for lots of players, or saving them for a legendary weapon or two.

I’ve come to think that legendary weapons are deliberately designed as social challenges in Warcraft. We don’t get many of this type of challenge in the game these days, because it goes against the principle of greater accessibility. Grabbing one of these weapons needs the dedication and cooperation of a 25 man raid guild that is capable of hard modes over a period of many weeks. It isn’t trivial.

It also requires the guild to determine who gets the weapon, and when, and how without causing so much drama that the raid splits up before the weapon is able to be forged. That’s the real challenge of legendaries, and that’s why they are unlikely to be given out in a 10 man raid. You couldn’t make the social side challenging enough with only ten people, most of whom wouldn’t be competing for the same weapon anyway.

So, if you are raiding Wrath in a 25 man group, have you decided yet how to deal with the new legendary? Will it be a guild breaker for you? Have you considered that it’s best in slot for Death Knight tanks as well as melee dps who wield two handers?