The game indicator of winning in WoW is receiving an epic item. In vanilla WoW, the vast majority of epic items came from 40-man raiding. I’ll grant that there was an epic hunter quest, a few limited crafting bits, some world drops, and a top-level pvp set that only a handful of people could get. But overall, if you wanted a reliable way to get epic gear (and win), you hooked up with a raid guild and started raiding… whether you liked raiding or not.
Compare with the current WoW, TBC. The reliable ways to get epic items include:
- 25-man raiding
- 10-man raiding
- heroic five man instances
- participating in arena
- participating in battlegrounds
- purchased at a vendor with tokens (Badge of Justice) obtainable from 10/25-man raiding or even daily questing
- world drop/auction house
People who play in hardcore raiding guilds miss the days of when they were the only ones with epics. Despite their complaining, Blizzard has consistently introduced more ways to get epic items, not less. They’ve made the game more accessible to those who can’t or won’t hardcore raid. This is great for players like me: a new father, full-time working, and so on. If I get spend one or two nights a week online, I’m happy and will continue to keep my account active. And the game will reward me for it. When I do participate in raids, my gear won’t be the liability.
With 2.4, every last crafting profession yields BoP benefits akin to useful epics, even alchemists. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next expansion, Blizzard expanded the BoJ purchasing scheme even further, allowing (in essence) crafted Badges of Justice.
The best part is that these paths to success aren’t finite anymore, either. Now when a higher-level of loot is released to 25-man raiders, a waterfall of upgrades cascades down to those who aren’t involved in 25-man raiding. New heroic loot, new badge of justice rewards, a new arena season, upgraded battleground gear, another tier of crafting or relaxation of material requirements. Basically, they’re giving everyone new ways to continue improving, without ever having to set foot in a 25-man raid. You’ll never have gear as good as all those dedicated raiders, but you won’t be left in the cold, either. Blizzard now adds loot across the board.
In short, there are many ways to win.
This hurts guilds trying to build up to 25-man raiding (including my own), because in vanilla wow you had a lot of players who were in raiding guilds solely for the loot. Now, the primary reason the people are in my guild stick around is because they like each other! This makes my guild more fun, and therefore the experience of playing the game more fun.
I’m looking forward to the next expansion to see how this trend continues.