Patch 5.1 brought forth a fantastic (or so I may have seemed at first) new feature – gear upgrades with points. This feature allowed a player to take their piece of gear (as long as it met item level requirements) and upgrade it up to 8 item levels with justice points for blues or valor points for epic pieces. This gave players the ability to continue to use their valor points long after they had already purchased or surpassed the valor gear available. In this way, players could keep gaining more power for their characters even if they have incredibly bad luck with drops. Heck, I’ve been able to upgrade my Raid Finder Sha Touched weapon to be nearly the item level of getting a normal drop and above the Mogu’Shan Vaults two-hander that I’ve had no luck on. So why, when I heard that patch 5.2 would remove the valor upgrade vendor, was I happy to hear about it? And why on earth would I hope they stay gone?
The Valor Pinnacle
Since the introduction of the points to gear system at some point in the raid tier, if you were active in raiding and gaining these points, you’d stop needing them. After gaining and spending points on gear and getting raid loot there would be no more pieces of gear that a character could use from valor (the same happens to justice points at a much quicker rate, usually). This means at some point – you’re done. This doesn’t mean you’ve beat WoW or that the game is over, but simply one grind doesn’t have to be pushed anymore. Some people use this time to take a small break, focus on alts or other activities like PVP and the recently implemented pet battles. It can be a nice moment to take a breath and not feel a need to continue doing dungeons you’ve done 20 times in the past month. Having gear upgradable via valor means that, in addition to the pieces you’d have already purchased, there’s a near infinite need for additional valor to keep upgrading those drops. 15 pieces of gear (for 2h users) x 1500 valor each is 22.5k valor and would take over 5 months of valor capping to reach. Never having a point where one can feel okay to take a break is a high cause of burnout.
Power Gain and Player Desire
It’s been proving time and again that if there is a way for players to increase the power of their characters that they’ll do it and call it mandatory. Now, I’ve always been pretty vocal that nothing in the game is “mandatory” and if you don’t enjoy it (or feel that it’s worthwhile for what you do enjoy) then you shouldn’t do it. As such, I don’t stress over reaching valor cap every week to maximize my upgrade potential – I don’t get enough enjoyment of having a few extra item levels on my pixels that makes the continued grind worth it. I do, however, understand the common player feeling that they’re being “baddies” if they don’t get their character as many upgrades as possible. I, too, would like to get all of those upgrades, but I understand my own rate of burnout and I wouldn’t be happier with the game as a whole if I did. Blizzard is fond of giving players meaningful choices to make (talents, specializations, gear progression options), but I can’t imagine they fully intend on the choice of, “do I feel bad that I’m not progressing as much as I could or do I burn out from grinding too long?” I stand fully behind the idea that it is better to stop the grind and give up some points if you’re not having fun so you don’t burn out, but it’s never a good feeling to “leave some on the table” so to speak. We want to be as strong as possible.
The Other Side
As always, every argument has an other side. What about players who want to keep progressing their main character? There are those who don’t really focus on alts or other avenues of entertainment in WoW and want to be able to keep working on their main – valor upgrades give them a way to progress regardless of loot drops or completed progression. They’re able to be even more prepared when entering the next tier of raiding and potentially get a leg up on their progression competition. The counter to this, however, is that I’ve yet to talk to anyone that straight up prefers having valor upgrades. So far, the most I’ve seen are those who are indifferent to having the upgrades available and will often use the argument above, without actually being someone who fits into the description. If you are not a high-end progression raider actually pushing server firsts, does it really matter to you and is it worth valor capping every week for a few extra item levels? Even then, for those racing to server first – are they really gaining any advantage? I’d have to assume that all serious “hardcore” raiding guilds expecting to get server or world rankings are going to be doing everything they can to get an edge. If everyone gets the same edge (8 item levels from upgrades) then no one has an advantage after all. If you are someone who fully supports valor upgrades and pushes yourself to valor cap each week without complain, though, feel free to drop a comment, I’d like to hear an opinion from the other side.
In short, it seems to me that valor upgrades are only going to add to player burnout rates by making players choose to either be “weaker” than they could or to keep up a grind months longer than would normally be necessary. Blizzard – after you remove valor upgrade vendors in patch 5.2 – please don’t bring them back!