Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bad To The Bone

Yesterday Anne Stickney at WoW Insider wrote an excellent article on the Pandaria Reputation grind. Maybe after the event Anne is able to sugar coat some of the worst experiences of this expansion, but on the whole it is a very well written historical document of our progress so far.

As players we got used to the Lich King way of strapping on a Tabard and representing a faction in your Heroic pursuits in Heroic 5 Man Instances. The introduction of Looking for Dungeon and the rampant gear inflation resulted in Gundrak runs which could be completed in 12 minutes. Players were running Heroic 5 Mans anyway because of the Daily Instance, which rewarded Tokens for your efforts. The whole system became too easy and too well rewarded. It was not always like that, and for those hankering for the good old days let me remind you what we used to get up to.


In the early days of WoW we spent days travelling, weeks levelling and months grinding. 1-60 was harder and longer than 1-90 is now. At endgame we didn't raid, there was too much progression to be had from the super long 5 man instances. Dire Maul was 3 wings, Blackrock had Depths and Spires which went upper and lower, Stratholme and Scholomance. These places took preparation and you needed to get a guide or get lost forever. The pre quests for these instances would take you around the world all in a time before portals (except for mages). Reputation grinds would take you into these instances again and again and we did it because that was all there was to do.

On occasions we would meet the factions as we levelled and would spend whole nights trying to ingratiate ourselves with Timbermaw Hold and the Thorium Brotherhood. Many of these factions actively disliked us and would attack on sight. The Timbermaws had some nice recipes and enchants which kept us busy looking for headdresses long after they allowed us to run through their tunnels.

The mother of all reputation grinds was the Wintersaber Trainers, these guys really wanted their pound of flesh. In the words of WoW Head:

"The faction used to be noted for having no Horde counterpart, as well as having the longest and most repetitive reputation grind of the entire game. However, things have drastically changed in 4.1."

The change now allowed for a streamlined version which required the completion of dailies and the issue of getting to Winterspring every day. From Neutral to Exalted now takes 20 days, and if you think that is bad it used to take months of the most repetitive grinding and the need to get special rare drops. I would like to say that I was hardcore enough to obtain a Winterspring Frostsaber before the change but alas I was probably only half way.

Of the other three exalted factions all were achieved after I vastly out-levelled the content. The Cenarion Circle and Argent Dawn were just ground out in solo instances or running around Sithilus picking up documents and items of clothing. The Darkmoon Faire was only really achievable after the relaunch, giving the Faire its own island.

The Burning Crusade

Reputation did not get any easier with the dawning of the Burning Crusade. The starter zones introduced the Cenarion Expedition and Honor Hold. Reputation was gained via questing and running certain instances. This worked fine but after Friendly Honor Hold required the new Heroics of Hellfire Ramparts and Blood Furnace or the universally reviled Shattered Hall.

Cenarion Expedition offered quests across all the zones, then the same technique of 2 heroics Underbog and Slave Pens and a level 70 instance in the shape of Steamvaults. Things were helped along with the hand ins for Plants Parts, Uncatalogued Species and Coilfang Armaments.

Whilst doing Underbog it was possible to advance yourself with Sporeggar by finding the odd Shrubbery (Ni!) which is always a nice way to kill two birds with one stone.

The Keepers of Time was a mixture of quests and doing two instances Old Hillsbrad and the Black Morass. The instances were fine to run it was the number of times that we needed to run them with full clears awarding 2300 and 1725 rep for the Heroic versions and the hassle of getting to the Summoning Stone.

The easiest rep grind was the Violet Eye, because everybody was doing Karazhan every week anyway.

The two grindy reputations were the Consortium and the Kurenai. The Kurenai was an easier grind based on mobs and drops, and the Consortium wanted drops. The catch was that both Factions wanted the same drops. Did you use the drops for Consortium and grind the Kurenai on mobs only? or did you try to finish the Kurenai just to get one of the grinds out of the way. The Kurenai had the Talbuk mounts which I really craved for and the Consortium gave a monthly gift of gems depending on your reputation with the faction.

In my opinion these were all easy options compared to the Shattrath City reps. The Lower City was the easiest. The Aldor/Scryer rep was a nightmare and I applaude anybody who managed to get Exalted with both for the achievement "Hero of Shattrath", some things in life are just not worth that much hassle, and would need to be "Insane in the Membrane".

The Shattered Sun Offensive was an experiment by Blizzard which as been copied many times since. An island full of Daily quests, all leading to reputation gains for the sake of buying nice rewards.

I never finished what are possibly the two worst rep grinds from the expansion which are Ogri'la and Netherwing. Any rep grind that starts at Hated gets a thumbs down from me. I can see why they do it, but in Lich King the Sons of Hodir, awarded a large sum of reputation to move the pendulum in the opposite direction.

The Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm

The refinement from TBC to WotLK was championing a Faction by wearing their Tabard. The biggest issue with the Burning Crusade model was running a set of instances, whether you liked those instances or not. In WotLK you could just do the instances that you liked over and over again (ad nauseum). Not all Factions worked this way and of course there was the small problem of buying the Tabard in the first place. This model was transferred over to Cataclysm, and was probably one of Cataclysms successes. Blizzard thought that this method was proving too easy and resulted in Championing Tabards being withdrawn and back to the trial and error of the Pandaria experiment.

It could be argued that the above picture demonstrates how much easier it was with the Tabard method. The only two factions without the exalted status next to them are Factions that could not championed.

Mists of Pandaria

Coming full circle to the current expansion, it is clear that the reputation grinds are not as extreme as Vanilla and TBC, but they are more difficult than simply donning a Tabard and steamrollering our way through Heroics.


Judging by the amount of Exalted or Best Friend, the rep grinds are essentially easy enough to complete for one character, but if you look at my alts then you will get another picture. As a group we moaned about dailies, then moan when we don't get dailies, we want everything and nothing, but what we don't want to do is return to the good old days of Vanilla rep. Things are definitely better now, and Blizzard needs to learn to mix up the the grinds, without putting gear behind gates and expecting everybody to jump through the hoops multiple times and then blame the players that nothing is mandatory.

Max level play is being pushed down an LFR/Flex alleyway, then Blizzard needs to stop putting too many roadblocks in the way. Gating should be used to slow down consumption not for locking the gate and throwing away the key. Make reputation Account Bound and let the player, play the game that they want not how Blizzard think we should play.

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