Thursday, September 11, 2014

Valorous No More - Gold Is The Universal Currency in Warlords

original badge vendor
In Warlords of Draenor, we are seeing the removal of justice and valor points. The original incarnation of the valor system was first added in TBC. Instead of "points" you obtained badges of justice. It was originally described as a way to "eventually guarantee" that you would get some upgrades. You got badges from completing dungeons and a bit more from killing raid bosses, so even if you didn't get a piece of loot to drop for you from your raid, if you put enough effort farming badges you would definitely be able to get some kind of upgrade from the vendor.

Non-raiders, too, would be able to get raid quality gear from these vendors, as they could get badges from completing heroic daily quests. While TBC heroics were very difficult, they were scaled back in difficulty at several points throughout the expansion, especially notoriously difficult ones like The Arcatraz, Shadow Labyrinth, and The Shattered Halls. In addition to the introduction of arena and powerful pvp gear available there (referred to as "welfare epics" when used in PvE), this provided viable gearing options for people who were not interested in being raiders.

In WotLK they adjusted the system - instead of badges of justice, they had emblems. As newer raid tiers were introduced, they added additional types of emblems. The older tier used their specific older emblems and the new tier introduced a new emblem and you could trade newer emblems for older ones with a 1 for 1 trade. As the game progressed, this system and how it was used changed dramatically. Cataclysm introduced the system as we know it today, with valor and justice in a point system.

There were stages in WoW's life where emblems and valor were too easy to get and other times where it seemed unfair how hard they was to obtain. Instead of just supplementing your raid gear, it became a method of gearing all on its own for raiders and non-raiders alike. In Mists of Pandaria, we saw valor gear gated behind reputation vendors and eventually becoming used exclusively for upgrading items. In Warlords (and as early as the release of the 6.0 patch), the valor system is being scrapped entirely.

Instead of any kind of point system, any available purchaseables from vendors will cost gold. This is a dramatic change, and honestly a very strange one. While grinding justice and valor points is a nuisance, it creates an even playing field for people to get the items they are required for. When you make gold the currency for items, you run into a lot of new issues. There are people who are fantastic at making gold and have MILLIONS of gold, while there are others who can't manage to hold onto a few thousands. We already use gold as a currency to acquire items from each other, and certain items from vendors. A lot of these vendors and items are seen as "gold sinks" so that incredibly rich players have something to spend their gold on and remove it from the economy. When you buy items from other players, that gold stays in the economy - when you buy items from vendors, that gold is removed from the economy.

Now, I'm not an economist and I'm not very good at playing the auction house minigame. I've read several guides and I've asked some of my friends who are gold makers, but it's something I'm not focused enough for or not interested enough in, or maybe I'm just bad at it. I have auctioneer and a bank alt, I have every profession maxed, and I'm good at killing monsters.

That's about my gold making expertise. I'm capable of making gold when it's easy and convenient. Expansions and, to a lesser extent, new patches are ripe for gold making - as long as you can kill monsters, you can make gold when new content comes out.

When I consider how little effort I put into making gold, it seems bizarre to me that there are people who have trouble with it - equally bizarre as the people who have millions of gold. This makes whatever items, upgrades, or other items incredibly easily obtainable for certain people, while making it a struggle for others. The grind for gold could easily be equated to the grind for valor points until you realize that that same currency is what those players have to use to repair their gear, gem and enchant their gear, and buy raiding consumables.

Now, I'm sure that you won't be able to purchase gear upgrades for a few thousand gold right after hitting level 100, at least not without some other kind of token or reputation gate, but we see from some mmochampion posts about beta changes that current Mists gear will actually cost gold and it looks like at the moment on beta, they are 15 to 200 gold each. Of course, all the vendor gear is ancient, and they have no obligation or reason to continue that trend into Warlords. We do see, however, they updated heirlooms and their prices, which are all between 750 and 1500 gold.

UPDATE: Looks like heirlooms won't cost gold after all, and will be unavailable until further notice.

UPDATE 2: Nope, they totally do.

Now, we aren't even completely sure what is going to cost gold in Warlords. It's easy to cross "current tier quality raiding gear for 1,000 gold" off that list, but they haven't actually explained it fully. There has been some discussion about item upgrades, but it looks like those aren't staying in Warlords. The fact that whatever they're planning is going to cost gold, something they can't reset or control directly, something that some people have in ridiculous amounts while others barely have any, creates a delicate situation for whatever they want to charge gold FOR. We can see from the heirloom prices that things are probably going to be on the lower end, around the thousand of gold range.

We can probably assume valuable, desirable items that everyone will be working for probably won't be 100,000 gold, but is 10,000 in that range? Ten thousand gold, to me, is doable, but I know some people where that number is absurd. With a controlled system like valor and justice, pricing things is simple - you know exactly how much valor a person is capable of getting a week (1000) and how they obtain it, how long it will take them to earn this currency, and that there is no other sink taking away this currency from players (repairs, gems, enchants, materials, etc).

What we notice though is that the revamp to raid difficulty and addition of LFR fulfills the purpose that badges of justice were originally added into the game to accomplish. Badges of justice were originally added to supplement the gear acquisition of non-raiders and raiders alike. They really have no need for that system anymore, and this latest raiding tier in Mists has proved that - there was no gear available for valor in the 5.4 patch. My bet is going on there being no gear purchased with gold, although I could see gold being required to augment or change gear in some way. Perhaps gold with the addition of raid tokens will be used for a certain purpose.

We may see that while using gold as the universal currency, it may help those people who have trouble obtaining and holding onto gold to get a little better at it. We might see a balance to the economy as those with tons of gold have more sinks to drop their gold out of the economy, while at the same time it could also be an economic disaster. Having some items cost gold, items that everyone will be after and attempting to farm gold for, could cause an arbitrary inflation - people who have trouble understanding the economy of the game and of their server may have issues making that gold, causing arbitrary price increases and decreases that do not match actual supply and demand for those items. We are seeing cross-faction auction houses in Warlords and the implications of that are unknown as well. Will the less populated faction suffer from the economy of the populated faction?

As I stated earlier, I'm no economist and I'm not a gold maker. I have a few gold making flips every now and then, though my method is typically "put everything on the auction house and hope it turns into gold." The implications of these auction house and currency changes are ripe with discussion. We won't know for sure until the time comes, but this is one change I am very interested in seeing in action.

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