WOW – It’s Just a Cosmetic Appearance

Something’s been bothering me a little, lately, with both the most recent Q&A session and a couple of prior forum posts from Blizzard. Specifically, statements that have been made that imply the WoW team thinks unlocking appearances doesn’t really “count” as a form of progression when compared to the more “power-based” side of progression.

In other words – they seem to think that getting an ilvl920 trinket is much more important than unlocking an appearance to a player, with reasoning of “because of course it is.”

Now, of course the game needs power progression – this isn’t a complaint about raiding. But I’ve admittedly been a little surprised at how deeply the idea seems to be ingrained at Blizzard that people aren’t playing the game with customization-based rewards as their primary motivator.

Personally speaking, I haven’t raided “properly” since the Lich King version of Heroic Naxx(!). There are a few reasons for that, but one of the primary reasons is that I found raiding too unrewarding in the long term. The gear you spent 6 hours a night raiding for is close to worthless 6 months later – the “power” side of progression is very temporary.

And again, that’s just fine! But obviously I’m still playing the game. And if I had to pinpoint a specific reason I still play, character customization would have to be what comes out on top. I enjoy unlocking the armour and weapons I get to unlock, and the new account-wide system with Legion has been a huge boon.

The important thing about appearance unlocks, though – whether it’s armour, or mounts, or whatever else – is that they’re really the only PERMANENT progression in the game. Your Mythic Siege of Orgrimmar stats will only be useful for so long, but getting an appearance is something that can stay with your character long-term while still being useful.

Psychologically, that’s very important. It’s the difference (to some people) between something being “worth the time” and something being “not worth the time.”

So now, in Legion, we have the artefact system – a system that bothers me on a few important design-based levels:

* It’s very heavily luck-based
* It’s very heavily time-gated
* It’s very heavily time-limited
* It’s very heavily alt-unfriendly
* It single-handedly bucks the overall system of unlocks that’s been in place since Vanilla

That last one is really the important one.

Legion will be the first expansion where the MAJORITY of weapon item appearances won’t be (by all accounts – happy to get some clarification, of course) unlockable by players after the expansion ends. The end result of that choice – and that choice alone – is that it places a HUGE amount of time pressure on people who use unlocks as their primary gameplay motivation.

Speaking only for myself here – there hasn’t been a point in the game before where I’ve felt like I was truly up against it for time on every single character I have. There have been other time-critical things the game’s had (raid-based mounts, challenge modes, etc) – but they’ve always felt like a side activity.

In Legion, because unlocks are my primary motivation for playing alternate artefact appearances have had to become almost my entire gameplay focus – and the time pressure involved makes it feel utterly exhausting to the point where the design choices involved feel almost openly hostile. There’s no “it’ll be nice to get that item one day” – it needs to be done now, or never, in basically every case.

So here’s what I’d like to suggest:

* Rethink the “end of Legion” time limit on appearance unlocks. It’s just plain player-unfriendly, and it’s counter to the way the game has worked with every other post-expansion period (with very few exceptions).

* Treat most raid-based “dropped” appearance unlocks like post-expansion raid mounts have been treated in the last couple of expansions (~1% drop chance).

* Allow raid-quest-based appearances to be gained beyond Legion (consistent with most pre-Legion legendaries).

* Make time-unfriendly criteria for appearance unlocks (100 dungeons, 1000 kills, etc) account-wide. Having to run 1200 dungeons is going to be next to impossible for some people, but unlocking a hidden appearance for each class and then running 100 dungeons sounds both time-consuming and – dare I say it – not like the insane time-sink expectation it is now.

* Make Prestige-based PvP artefact appearances account-wide unlocks. Someone who gets max Prestige is unlikely to have been able to do a lot more in terms of appearance-hunting on alts. Let them unlock their appearances on every class they have the artefact for, because they’ve sunk the time appearance-hunting just as long as anybody – just with less appearances to show for it!

Obviously I understand that not everything needs to be available to every player – but these changes would go a long way towards making some of the expectations

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