I like situational gear in MMOs

In a recent World of Warcraft Classic session we attempted our second-ever run on Scholomance with our instance group. In discussions about the apparent difficulty we were facing, we started talking about gear we could farm to make the runs easier. Weapons that do extra damage against undead were mentioned, as were resistance armour pieces for specific boss fights.

Undead slaying, go!

In principal at least, I really like this kind of gear as it is one way the devs can make the MMORPG feel more like a RPG to me. Having choices to make, and options that need hunting out, is a way to add motivations for replaying content. If the only choice, ever, is to have the highest item level or highest stat gear then that’s not much of a choice. Sadly, the modern game went this way a long while ago: the gear grind consistently has settled on waiting for RNG to bless you with a higher item-level piece. Side-grades or alternatives aren’t a thing anymore.

Resistance gear, not for Scholo, but great for Sunken Temple

Back in Vanilla and now in Classic, uniquely almost in the game’s history, there was/is a lot of overlap between items in later dungeons and the end-game content. The whole gear system hasn’t yet started the dizzying upwards-march that rendered earlier items very quickly obsolete, and also threw out the idea of having parallel or situational alternate items. I imagine the game would have had to evolve in a *very* different direction for these types of encounter-specific gear to have survived for broad use. It’s difficult to imagine if a much flatter item level progression and more horizontal progression mechanics in subsequent expansions might have allowed for richer item variety to have been carried forward into the game’s future.

Dungeons & Dragons Online seems to offer a good model here. There is a huge variety of weapon types and armour properties, plus buff spells and items that also add the resistance or damage boost effects I’m writing about here. Carrying a variety of weapons around, and a selection of resistance potions and other items has been a standard for our leveling characters in that MMO since we started playing.

Wow, so many bonuses!

The seemingly super-powered freebie Barovian weapons do rather break this concept, or has done for our progression in that campaign so far. We’ve been in the unusual situation of it never being worth swapping to other weapons because our Barovian gear has so many bonuses on it. Prior to this gear I had a mix of different conjured bolts (fire and arcane) to switch between on my crossbow-focused Artificer character. Other characters in the party have ghost-touch weapons to deal with incorporeal enemies and special weapons for fighting acid-dripping oozes (ooze-bane). As yet, with our highest-level characters at level 11, I cannot attest to whether this is a momentary blip or if item variety ceases to matter in the game’s content after this point.

‘Immune’ isn’t a happy combat text to see appear

What do you, dear reader, think of having specific gear for specific opponents, dungeons or situations? Did WoW Classic do this better than the modern game, or vice versa?

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4 Responses to I like situational gear in MMOs

  1. Asmiroth says:

    Bit of context here, but I raided in Vanilla and I experienced the “resistance requirements” mindset of WoW. The idea is neat, where you can optimise with horizontal choices. The reality was actually the opposite, where a giant wall existed until you hit resistance breakpoints. Eventually WoW moved from putting this on gear and just nerfed environments over time (or applied raid-wide buffs).

    I do still like the model. Fire/acid weapons to kill trolls. Or silver/+4 items to hit Liches. D&D hits this well (PnP, or various games).

  2. bhagpuss says:

    Situational gear is one of the many things that I like in theory but not in practice. It’s great in tabletop gaming, where all you have to do is say “I swap to my fire resist gear” and the DM says “ok that’ll take you a few minutes”. In an mmorpg you have to carry the stuff around with you, taking up bag space, then you have to fiddle around finding it and equipping it and it actually does take you a few minutes, none of which are any fun at all. Even worse, when you’ve done whatever it is you needed to do you have to take it all off again and put it back.

    If you have a system that allows you to automate that (you could macro it to a single click in EQII, for example) first you have to make the blasted macro, which is a pain, and then you have to remember to ammend it every time you change any of the gear in it. And once you’ve done that – or if there’s a system that does it automagically – you end up with a single-click that changes your resists or damage type or whatever, which all but negates any point in doing it in the first place.

    Basically, if all you have to do to change resists or damage or whatever is click a key it’s so nominal it might as well not be happening and if you have to actually do something that takes time it becomes busy-work you’d rather not have to do. That applies to a huge amount of things that work well in pen and paper rpgs but not in video games, in my opinion.

  3. kiantremayne says:

    I like the idea of situational gear as an interesting choice in a game – do I take the +4 longsword that’s good in every situation, or the +2 flaming sword that excels when I’m fighting trolls but averages lower damage against other enemies? Unfortunately MMOs have tended towards players collecting the optimal tool for every job and swapping as needed, at which point it stops being an interesting choice and turns into another hoop you have to jump through to be endgame ready. Having to make a choice and live with it seems to be engineered out of modern games.

    Also, there’s something ridiculous about the idea of an adventurer carrying multiple suits of armour and half a dozen different weapons in their backpack and swapping them at will, at least if you have any experience of actually putting on medieval armour and trying to tote more than one weapon around. Pen and paper RPGs tend to have encumbrance rules and a games master to enforce some common sense. Maybe every warrior should have a weapons caddy who follows him around, bent double under enough gear for an entire squad, just so he can hand the hero the right tool for the job at each encounter.

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