I had a plan for this post, I'll have you know. I'd already seen it had become the most contentious suggestion of my three 'future' predictions and I was ready for a fight. Gear normalisation is SUCH a tricky concept to either explain or grasp that it bought pretty much total strangers to my doorstep on Wednesday to call me a scrub for even suggesting it. No matter, I was NOT to be deterred. I'd bought in extra torches and pitchforks for people to wield as a result... until it dawned on me.
|Well, perhaps not me per se but the concept...|
There is no way on Elune's Blessed Azeroth that we will ever see gear normalisation in any situation other than those it already exists in. The concept is just SO AWESOME that it would break the game. However, by that point there would be nobody left to play it, because what is more significant is the concept of making the entire player base grasp the fact that gear suddenly didn't matter. This is a bigger deal, that became apparent when trying to discuss it in the week. Getting people to work on that principle alone was hard work. However, there's one final point that needs to be addressed, wrapped up in all this, that is worth a paragraph all on its own.
If this game solely relied on people's ability to play it without the use of gear as a crutch (which it ends up as) Warcraft would haemorrhage life faster than a Tauren attacked by a posse of Voodoo Gnomes. If you were forced to rely on ability and skill alone, the entire fabric of Azeroth's universe would alter forever. Gear doesn't simply act as a hindrance to progress, the door swings both ways. So, I'll accept that normalisation won't work. However, that doesn't make for a particularly entertaining Blog post. I feel duty-bound to offer some kind of alternative, but I doubt we'll ever see it in this game. It's not a particularly original idea either, and I'm aware other people have suggested this, but I have an obligation to come up with something...
Imagine therefore, if you will, a World of Warcraft where your gear didn't matter
from LEVEL 1.
First off, this is still a bit of a problem. A huge honking issue, because without gear you die. Gear gives you key stats, and cool bonuses. You have to wear *something* because running around in your underwear isn't an option. So when you start your journey in-game, you need something. So, let's offer you a choice from the start: PvP or PvE?
In my world, there are two 'sets' of gear you need to collect, before you reach L10 and start either PvP or PvE outside of your starting zone. You don't need to worry yet about a spec either, one set of class armour fits all. So, you quest and pick up 15/16 items that comprise your Basic PvE or Basic PvP set. You're not bothered that you look the same as anyone else because you can change that too, just not yet. Without every item slot filled however, YOU DON'T PROCEED. It would mean all new L1 bankalts would all have to train/equip before they left the Starting Zones, which would (of course) be phased. That entire set opens access to Dungeons/Battlegrounds, but don't worry if you don't want to do them and just level in the world, the basic PvP/PvE set fits everyone. Its the armour you'll wear for the next 90 levels and beyond, because it doesn't matter what's underneath any more.
The key is never the basic armour, because that simply scales as you do.
Access to every Battleground and Dungeon requires a token (a key! you could have a keyring! STOP MOCKING) which you collect as you level. As you complete an area of questing too (yes you can still quest, its okay) you're rewarded with a scale to your gear, that improves your abilities. From 1-90 therefore you're simply gathering reputation from factions and earning a universal currency, one you can choose to spend on ANYTHING YOU WANT. As gear is no longer a worry, you can buy skins to change your existing sets from a vast range of classic armours. Certain mobs drop classic skins you can sell on the AH for spare cash. No dropped item gives any advantage however. Once you get to 40 you're asked to pick a Talent spec and gain access to a talent system you can also customise with your universal currency. With gear not mattering, you can tailor your abilities to personal needs or specific CC. No ability gives a dps bonus or if you're just about looking good could give access to a special set of skins.
Oh, and don't worry if you're never going to do a dungeon or instance at max level. You could use that currency you've collected while levelling to buy Battle pets, or mounts, or crafting materials. Once you reach max level, Dungeons and Raids award tier sets whose bonuses give you access to different sectors of your talent trees. You'll be able to go back into old instances with an equal challenge if you desire with a token you buy that normalises your gear back down... or stay OP, the choice is yours. Needless to say, if gear normalisation and scaling were built in from thr bottom upwards, a system like this would work. But as we've established the Dev's aren't going to go back and change the old continents, I can pretty much guarantee the gear system's going to remain untouched for the foreseeable future...
As I said I'm not the first person to suggest this, and I doubt I'll be the last. I'm not sure I'd want to be the person known as breaking the game, so maybe we can just sweep this one under the carpet and pretend it didn't happen...