Sunday, December 6, 2015

[WoW] Artifact Weapons as Alternate Advancement

There's a little consternation in the community on Twitter at least that Artifact Weapon advancement is ultimately dull. Eventually you'll get everything, and it won't even take that long.
As far as I can fathom, there's two primary goals about Artifact Weapons that Blizzard wants to achieve:
  1. They want an alternate advancement method that goes beyond hitting level 110.
  2. They want to reward people for playing a specific spec (or just playing their character in general).
When Blizzard moved to the current talent system--which works better at end game in my opinion than the old talents did--they lost that zing when you ding. Even if it didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, choosing where you put your talent point as you leveled felt good. It made you feel like you had direct input on the growth of your character.

At the end of the day with respecs it actually didn't matter. At all, really. But it gave you a sense of steady progress and the illusion of choice, which might be almost as good as actually having choice.

Blizzard tried to return that to us in the form of Draenor Perks, but because they were random, it didn't quite have the same oomph. So with Artifact Weapons, Blizzard returns us to the benefits of the old talent system, but not tying it to levels means we can continue advancing beyond 110, adding longevity to the advancement system.
Of course, in modern day gaming, there's no way they could lock you forever into specific choices, so you'll be able to unlock the entire tree eventually. This means that short of world first raiding, there probably isn't much "game" to deciding what you want first outside of, "Oooh, that sounds cool!" There's still an open question of respeccing your Artifact Weapon as you level it, but I'd be shocked if you couldn't reset the point distribution on it somehow.

If you're looking at Artifact Weapons as a way to add choices to your character and interesting Theorycrafting differences between paths, you're barking up the wrong tree, as that's clearly not what Blizzard intends for the Artifacts based on the info they've handed out. And once Legion is over? They can just bake the Artifacts into the specs baseline (or bits and pieces of them) and drop them for WoW 8.0.

The part that doesn't fit this is, of course, relics. This is where Theroycrafters will get to play mathmaker and determine which traits are the greatest for adding extra levels to. Of course, we might not get that much choice in the matter; do we know yet if relics will increase specific traits? Or subsets of traits that we can choose from? But it's a minor amount of customization, throwing TCs a bone if you will.

Overall, it's a nice alternative advancement system, but it's not nearly as complex as some folks wanted. But that's why we (ostensibly) have talents anyway. #WorldOfWarcraft, #Artifacts, #Legion


  1. It needs prestiging like PvP so I can unlock even cooler looks/colors/modifications!

    1. Models and colours come largely from performing specific achievements, iirc. Prestiging is an interesting idea for the artifact though

  2. A few things come to mind with this info. Forgive me if someone somewhere else has mentioned these, and what is almost a blog post in and of itself.

    First. the progression on weapons if it's one month is interesting. For a single character, if the WoD release schedule holds, they'll be about 50% of the way down a weapon tree by the time the raid hits, and pretty much finished after two raid lockouts have been available. That's relatively short, but if it's extended another 2 months that's 10 weeks in raids before the tree is completed. I would assume that power creep based on a 12 week completion makes for rather odd boss balancing in the first raid, while a 4 week completion means it's not much for alternate progression, but having a much less drastic effect in raids, having only a few weeks to really affect outcomes. I foresee terrible effects on PVP for late adopters, but at least a shorter time frame would allow some parity (funny that they develop a catch-up mechanism for CP in MoP and then kind of break it again here for weapon points).

    Second, even though they've announced a catch-up mechanism of some sort for alternate specs, the fact that every spec of a class is available makes for an some issues. Will druids, a class with 4 specs, have a higher catch-up? Will it depend on the number of specs ahead of the one you are working on? Will it only kick in as one hits max, or if one is behind? Wouldn't be a huge issue, but imagine if you are working on a boss where an extra healer is more useful than a dps, if the catch-up mechanism doesn't kick in until your "first" spec's weapon is maxed and it takes 3 months to do that, even with a 50% increase in point procurement you are looking at probably another 4 weeks to make progress with the bonuses. How much that'll impact performance is hard to predict, but it's not negligible. Having said that though, there are some interesting possibilities across specs for what to focus on, at least for dps. Imagine that 3 fights each favor a different spec and that getting to one early part of each tree makes a huge difference. By making the decision to push to each weapon to that point limits filling out any single weapon, it potentially reduces the catch-up for all weapons, but improves the success of the raid. That seems to be an interesting choice. Distinct possibilities in decision making are available, but they are highly counter-intuitive to the current way the game is structured.

    Third, it seems like true alt characters are going to suffer in this system, especially if a person decides at any time after the first few months to reroll. In the same vein as how PVP will affect latecomers, rerolling will often put a character well behind any established raid group. Now not only do you have to climb the catch-up mountain of gear, but if it's an unavoidable 3 month grind to perform at the same level as someone who has filled out their weapon in similar gear, it puts them at a distinct disadvantage for even getting an invitation to play with a raid team as long as they can get another player with what certainly seems to be large bonuses that don't require the time investment.

    1. Nothing to forgive, you're good :)

      For your first point, yeah, as mentioned it would affect server first/world first races, but eventually not much else. I kinda forsee them erring on the side of 3 months to make it matter, then probably nerfing it late in the expansion (on top of catch-up mechanics).

      As to your spec swap debate, I *think* the Blizzard devs are on record as stating they prefer you to play the spec you want, so locking you into a spec a little harder isn't actually a downside with that design goal in mind. Frankly, unless you're pushing for World Firsts, again, spec swapping isn't going to net you as much of a gain as you might think. Especially given the generally compounding benefits of specializing in one weapon. You're almost certainly better off DPS-wise going deep, even if that spec isn't the "optimal" one for a given fight. I'd be more concerned about the different roles as you mentioned.

      Agreed with your third point. Though we don't know the details of the catch-up mechanics yet, but this is definitely the same issue we saw with Legendary Cloaks in MoP being a limiting factor, except writ large.