Gear and “tier”

As I am sure you all know by now, over the weekend, Bashiok dropped a little blue “nugget” telling us that there will be a hotfix this week to upgrade gear from Black Rock Foundry and top level crafted gear by 5 ilevels. After announcing the change, he went on to tap dance like crazy to make sure we all understand this by no means implies that BRF is a second “tier” in this expansion, nope, no way, don’t even think it. See, what it is, is just a different “zone” that happens to be a tiny bit harder than the Highmaul “zone” and so maybe it should give slightly better gear. That’s all. No biggie.

Well.

First, a short comment about the gear change itself. I am not sure I care much one way or the other, but if I had to pick a position I guess I would say it’s probably a reasonable change, given the realities of both raid “zones.” As Bashiok explained, people feel kind of cheated when they finally fight their way to victory over bosses harder than Highmaul, only to be rewarded with gear no better than or worse than they already have. I mean, why even do it? You are much better off moving from normal HM to heroic than starting BRF — you know the fights and you get better gear. So I think it makes sense to increase the gear levels for BRF.

But the bigger question is, why all the fancy footwork to explain away what was clearly a miscalculation on Blizz’s part? Bashiok sounded positively Clintonesque  — “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” — when he redefined “tier.” When someone splits hairs over lexical nuances in order to make their point, it’s a sure sign their argument is weak.

Just a few short weeks ago, I praised Blizz for coming out and explaining their raid strategy for WoD. Whether people agreed with the strategy or not, at least and at last Blizz was laying out what it was and where they wanted to take it. This, I wrote, was a huge step forward, hopefully on the way to more transparency in their design decisions. Bashiok’s comments are a step backwards.

Look, the simple fact is, Blizz had a vision to make BRF a sister raid to HM, and they overtuned it. So much so, that BRF really qualifies as the next tier. So why not just admit that the whole “sister raid” strategy didn’t work, fix the gear issue, and move on? I applaud Blizz for trying new raid concepts, some of them will work and some won’t. There is no shame in failing, the shame comes in refusing to admit it and papering it over with flimsy definitions of “tier” and “zone,” just so they would not have to admit the initial concept might have been flawed.

And that original strategy might indeed have been flawed, even if BRF had been perfectly tuned. For the sake of argument, let’s say when BRF was introduced it was tuned exactly the same as HM. What that ends up feeling like is a single raid with 17 bosses and a location change. I don’t know about you, but that does not sound like fun to me. Most likely it did not sound like much fun to the devs either, so they made BRF more challenging and therefore more interesting, but in typical Blizz fashion the project manager failed to coordinate all the pieces. Apparently, after ten years, no one at Blizz remembered that players expect better gear for harder fights. Possibly they could send an intern down to Staples for some sticky notes, so they could post such reminders on their computer screens.

As it turned out, with BRF having been tuned pretty much a tier harder from the get-go, Blizz handled it badly. First, they failed to understand that it was more difficult than HM. This is a puzzle — the PTR comments certainly should have warned them this was a problem. Had they paid attention, they could have retuned it before it went live, or admitted they had created a second raid tier and adjusted both the gear level and the release dates. That they did none of these things is baffling.

So Blizz, thanks for fixing the motivational problem of gear in BRF. It’s a decent band-aid. But for crying out loud, don’t insult us with lectures about the various possible meanings of “tier.” The emperor is buck naked, and no matter how much you try to define “magical clothes” the fact remains that his arse is still hanging out.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

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