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WoWSep 27, 2018 3:00 pm CT

Blizzard says Azerite armor isn’t the worst itemization in the game’s history, but agrees that it’s pretty close

As defenses of a game system go, this isn’t the worst thing you’ve caught me doing is certainly a novel one. I suspect Tony Stark’s mantra might not be all that much of a palliative for World of Warcraft players who are unhappy with the Azerite Armor system as it has been implemented. We’ve talked about the attempts to balance the Azerite traits before, but to be honest Lore’s most recent forum post didn’t leave us with a ton of optimism for the future.

Originally Posted by Lore (Official Post)

First off, thanks for putting this thread together. Even if phrases like “Worst Itemization in WoW’s History” are a bit hyperbolic (seriously, I can’t be the only one who remembers farming level 30 dungeons for AQ40 resistance gear), you’ve summarized a lot of the discussions we’ve been seeing around the community very well. It really helps us clarify exactly what we need to be focusing on.

Now, certainly, I absolutely can think of worse itemization than the Azerite system, and not just back when I was wearing cloth booties to tank Huhuran in AQ40. I mean, I remember when people were using Thunderfury to tank in The Burning Crusade because it was still better than every drop they could get in current content so Blizzard nerfed TF. I remember the disaster of Wrath of the Lich King with seeing gear levels explode thanks to special hard modes and added difficulties. I remember Armor Penetration. I remember trying desperately to get a weapon upgrade in this very expansion, so yeah. There are worse itemization problems in WoW‘s history than Azerite Armor.

But this is akin to saying stop complaining about that broken ankle, remember that time you broke both ankles? It’s not a compelling argument. Azerite Armor may not be the worst thing ever, but it has some pretty significant flaws.

Diminishing levels of power

I’m going to break Lore’s long post up so we can respond to it as we go.

Originally Posted by Lore (Official Post)

Regarding targeting specific traits: I think we’ve said this a few times now, but just to reiterate, we believe that’s merely a symptom of the imbalance between traits. Ideally, the gap between them isn’t so large that you feel it would be hugely beneficial to grind out the perfect set.

Currently in game there are two approaches to this. One approach is to try and find the perfect piece of Azerite gear that has exactly the traits you want, and the other is to throw your hands up and simply take the best piece you have available to you. Traits like Reorigination Array only make it more confusing, as it ties your power level directly to your Uldir progress. With Reorigination Array, you may have a 370 helm from outside Uldir and a 340 helm from Uldir LFR, and you may well have to swap to the 340 helm whenever you’re raiding Uldir because a 10 stack on Reorigination Array’s effect would be such a big DPS upgrade.

Elements like this make the Azerite system constantly counter-intuitive. It’s not just that the gap between traits is so wide that you have to grind out the perfect set, it’s that some traits are so powerful they completely invalidate massive ilevel increases. A 10 stack of Reorigination Array can be up to 750 Haste while you’re inside Uldir. That’s a pretty massive amount of Haste, or Crit, or whatever your highest secondary stat is. And that’s just one example of one trait that’s not balanced well against others.

Can we have useful and interesting?

Originally Posted by Lore (Official Post)

The point about traits being “useless and uninteresting” is interesting considering that you also make the point of “every gear change requires simming.” These two points are kind of at odds with each other. The way to solve the simming issue would be to make the traits more simplistic in nature. Similarly, making traits with more outside-the-box designs leads to more complicated questions of “is this better or not,” which in turn encourages more simming. Either way, it’s an interesting challenge, and one we’re taking to mind as we move forward with traits in future updates.

I think we agree that re-farming traits doesn’t feel great. I don’t have a solve for that issue to share today, and to be completely transparent it may be something we simply have to accept as a downside to the system for other reasons. But we agree it can be a bit of a downer.

I don’t really agree with what Lore is saying in the first paragraph above. Traits can be useless and uninteresting and still provide a flat buff that requires you to run sims to determine which of the boring Traits you want, and for that matter, something can be useful without being interesting, or relatively unimportant but have a lot of flavor behind it. I also don’t really see that the way to solve simming would be to make the traits simplistic — or at least, I see that is one way to solve it, but not the only way imaginable. You could simplify the number of Traits instead of their complexity, for example.

But I think it’s a fair point that outside the box design like Reorigination Array is going to lead to more need to sim out how good a particular Trait is. Perhaps that’s simply a cost we’re going to have for Traits that do something more than just make X do more damage.

Farming up the same Traits does not feel good. They know this, but they don’t have a solution for it they can share with us. At least they know it’s bad, but I feel like this needs more attention and focus. I don’t see how you can leave it at yes, this feels bad.

Play the way we say

Originally Posted by Lore (Official Post)

I mentioned the imbalance between traits before, but just to expand on that: that’s why we’ve focused so much effort into tuning Azerite traits over the past few weeks. With this most recent round of tuning, we think we’ve gotten most of the really egregious outliers dialed in, but please let us know if there are any you still feel are so good that they’re worth huge sacrifices in terms of item level.

As to the point about reforging costs: these costs get so high because we want the behavior you’re describing — reforging constantly depending on what you’re doing — to be unsustainable. Our intention is that you either build out multiple sets of gear for different situations, or you lean towards traits that work in a variety of roles (even if they’re maybe not the absolute best for each in particular). We added the reforging system to help ease cases like, for example, a DPS who suddenly finds themselves needing to transition to being their guild’s main tank, not as a means for constantly re-adjusting traits like a second set of talent points. Maybe the current system isn’t achieving that, but if it isn’t, we’re likely to become MORE restrictive on reforging, not less.

I should say that I do feel they’ve made strides towards getting the traits closer, although there’s still a lot of work to be done. But I think this section is indicative of a real problem in terms of Azerite Armor and why it feels bad to a lot of players — it requires them to farm up multiple sets of gear and it punishes them for trying to make one set work in a variety of situations.

Back in Warlords, Blizzard made conscious efforts to reduce the need to carry around variant sets of gear. If you were a Holy Paladin who liked to quest and PVP as Ret, you could wear pretty much the same gear for both — maybe you’d switch weapons and trinkets, but armor would pretty much just stay the same. It reduced the need to farm up multiple sets of gear. It made upgrades much less ambiguous and meant that you could switch on the fly if it was necessary — your raid only needed four healers so you’d switch to Ret, for example.

The idea that you shouldn’t be able to reforge your gear casually and that you should instead be farming up multiple sets of Azerite Armor for whatever role you’re expecting to perform has a chilling effect on players who simply don’t have the means or the luck to do so. Some players simply aren’t getting the pieces necessary to build multiple sets like this, due to RNG or a lack of access to multiple loot sources or both. I raid fairly extensively, and I haven’t seen a single chest piece drop since I first killed a boss in Uldir weeks ago now. Not from a World Boss, not from any raid boss. The pieces simply aren’t dropping, and I’m still using a 340 piece from a World Quest because that’s what I have.

Telling players that your design is to force them to farm up multiple sets or to lean towards general purpose traits even if they’re weaker for a specific role is telling them not to deviate from their role. Don’t volunteer to switch to DPS if your raid has too many healers. Don’t offtank when a tank can’t make the raid. Don’t tank dungeons on your non-raid nights. Do less. It’s a very restrictive and punitive design choice that I believe is the real heart of why Azerite Armor feels bad — not only do you feel like the gear itself punishes you for getting it, you then feel doubly punished because the game itself wants to force you to either choose Traits that are less useful for your desired role or to lock you into a cycle of gear farming we thought we were liberated from two expansions ago.

I understand that they don’t want us treating Traits like a new talent system to respec at will. But that would feel significantly better than being locked into suboptimal Traits because we can’t get the best pieces to drop, which is where we are now. Saying we’d make it more restrictive sounds like if you won’t play right we’ll take your options away and that’s a bad position to take here in my opinion.

How do we make this better?

Originally Posted by Lore (Official Post)

And finally, regarding the tuning passes: like I mentioned, we think we’ve got most of the major outliers dialed in to an acceptable level at this point. There’s likely to still be some adjustments here and there, but we don’t believe we’re going to need another big wave of Azerite trait tuning like you’ve seen over the last few weeks. To put it another way: if one trait is far and away the best compared to every other option, sure, we should probably do something about that, but we don’t expect that to take the form of a widespread tuning pass going forward.

Also, to Ion’s comment about new traits being introduced: he was referring to new traits on new gear added in new content, with higher item level, that replaces your old gear entirely. We’re not planning to add in new traits to existing items, so don’t worry about holding onto old Azerite pieces just in case their traits change.

I’m relieved that they won’t be going back and adding new traits to old items because wow, the idea of being forced to farm older content for a Trait upgrade on a piece of gear that’s otherwise a complete downgrade would make me want to start taking up a new hobby. Perhaps a flea circus. And yes, tuning is important — if they can get Traits closer together so that it doesn’t feel like you have to chase the absolute best traits to get the damage you need to stay competitive, I’d be all for that. But Traits like Reorigination Array are always going to be hard to pass up, and I think Blizzard’s stated goal to make you feel required to farm up multiple sets really needs to go the way of Armor Penetration.

Making you feel punished when you want to Reforge your gear for a situation is a bad move. It’s a bad design choice that makes players feel unhappy and restricted. Whether or not you want players to view Traits as a new talent system, that’s what they’ve become. It’s time to steer into the skid and use the reforging system to correct flaws that make the system feel bad, instead of compounding those problems. This may not be the worst itemization ever, but it is bad, and it needs solutions outside of tuning Traits. Let us compensate for RNG and sub-par Traits without draining all of our gold in the process. Let us at least reforge this gear without a penalty.

There have definitely been improvements to Traits and balance. I definitely have seen progress. But it’s time to be flexible and let player behavior in the game inform the design.

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