Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gear matters

It didn’t take me more than ten meters of skiing before the insight dawned upon me, like a Hot Streaked Pyroblast: Gear really does matter!

For over 20 years I had been clinging to the skiing equipment I had bought in the mid 80’s. Since I only go skiing a few days a year – at the most – they still looked quite new and fresh, not worn out by any means. And being just a casual skier – why should I strive for anything better?

This year however, I had got a new idea into my head. I wanted to try a pair of rented carving skis, more than 10 years after everyone else had switched to the new standard design. I wasn’t expecting too much; I think my intention rather was about to proof to myself once for all that I was doing fine with my current gear and that an upgrade was a waste of money.

Two turns in the slope was all I needed to decide that my old skis were doomed to destruction. Suddenly I could change direction whenever I wanted to. Suddenly I could ride pretty quickly (for being me, I’m still a bit of a coward, afraid of the steeps), still feeling that I had things under control. I could chain pull the whole way down from the top to the valley, not stopping even once to rest because my legs hurt so much because of the heavy, sorbet-looking, winterspring snow.

It was amazing, it was thrilling and I couldn’t stop smiling out of sheer pleasure.

Good enough
And I thought about WoW. You don’t need to be a perfectionist to have fun in the game. There are even good reasons to settle for a level that is “good enough”, where you feel that you can pull your weight, not being a burden to anyone else. (Where this threshold goes is a subject for discussion. Gevlon has a pretty clear picture of it; Rohan, Matticus and Big Bear Butt have also made some great posts that you should check out if you’ve missed it.)

However, even though there is a “good enough” limit, you definitely shouldn’t settle with the “not-good-enough” gear just because you’re casual, thinking that gear doesn’t matter to you. Sure, it’s POSSIBLE to make your way down the hill on 20 year old skis, but the experience is far from what it could have been with different gear. Better skis didn’t make me OP for the hill. It enabled me to go down with a higher amount of control, speed and self confidence.

I’ve often heard it said as some kind of truth that you shouldn’t bother going to AH while levelling a character. You’ll get all the gear you need from quest rewards and drops. I must say that I disagree on this. While I don’t suggest that you invest tons of gold into luxury twink gear, I still think that it can be pretty worthwhile to throw in a handful of gold to give your toon a smother levelling ride.

My daughter is still levelling her druid, now level 19. I still try to stay away as much as possible, letting her explore the game at her own pace. But I did send her 100 g, a bunch of 18 slot bags and a pair of levelling shoulders to make things a little bit easier. And when I one day found her exploring the content of AH, I didn’t advice her against it. On the contrary, I helped her to invest some 20 g to fill some still empty slots, getting her a better staff, a necklace, a ring and a few other things. She’ll grow out of it, sure, but it won’t happen tomorrow, considering her pace of levelling.

And what a joy it was to see her on her first killing assignment after the gear upgrade! She was all sunshine, not having to take breaks after every mob for self-healing and mana drinking. She could ride the whole way down the hill on her new carving skis.

Reasons for improvement
We all have different reasons why we want to improve our gear. Some players feel that they haven’t beaten the game until they have best-in-slot everywhere, be it for vanity and status or just for their urge to feel complete. Other players work on their gear because they think that it will miraculously take them from mediocrity to awesomeness. (They’re wrong!)

I don’t think I belong to either category. Hopefully my view on gear is more balanced and down-to-Earth. But still. Gear matters and there’s no way around it. It’s strange that it took me so long and a skiing experience before I finally could embrace it.


krizzlybear said...

Some reasons why people don't let go of their gear is often due to attachment due to investment. Ask Gnomer, who spent 1000g on an Ebonweave robe, just to have it replaced by Frostfire.

Surely, it was somewhat odd for him to let go of the robe after that sort of investment, but imagine if he had held onto it for a little bit longer, perhaps for a long time. It would probably be even more difficult.

Larísa said...

Attachment to investment, huh? Yeah I guess I was overly attached to those old skis of mine. Silly really. I always thought "I'll just have them a few days anyway". But if those few days are spent skiiling in an unefficient, unpleasent menner, what's the point?

But it's true that you always wonder, no matter if you're investing gold or dkp in some gear: for how long will I wear it? What's the cost/hour? and you can rarely tell, there's some RNG into it....

And idea just came into my head: I rented my carving skis. I'll probably stick to renting from now on, since I ski so little... What if you could rent gear from NPC:s? You could have it for a limited time and after that the gear will vanish unless you pay some more? Hm... just a thought.

HP said...

I kinda feel that way about my 4 piece valorous along with my mace and shield. They're not best in slot but they look very nice together. I also enchanted everything with the best enchants in anticipation that I will use for a while (which I have). I don't know, maybe that's a little bit different but I think I can relate a bit.

Gevlon said...

Low level enchants during leveling helps more than buying new (twink) items. A +3 intellect or +3 strength can make big difference for a lvl 10something and it cost like 50 coppers.

Anonymous said...

I have really really mixed thoughts about your position. On one hand, I agree that equipment matters. I learned that lesson with computers and especially video cards. The game playing experience you have with an on-board video chip and the one you have with even a mid-range video card is world apart.

On the other hand, I think there is a a great deal of truth that part of the fun of the game is the journey, not the destination. I enjoy playing the AH. During the last 24 hours I have made just about 3000g selling glyphs off of my level 51 mage. Yet during about the five hours I spent on-line, I came across a person who got the server first drop of the Sprouting Seed who turned and sold it for 8000g. And the person who got the first drop of the new book for glyphs sold his for 5000g. So they both got much more money than me for a lot less effort. Was I stupid? Should I have rushed my alt to level 80 in the weeks before so I could be out farming? Maybe so. But I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun as I did flipping glyphs.

There is a good reason why some people love to ride classic cars. They may not go as fast, or get as good as gas mileage. But if you have ever driven a classic roadster, oh boy are they awesome.

I guess the point I want to make is this. The equipment is better only if it gives you a better *experience*. The difference between your old skis and your new skies wasn't the age of the skis, it was the experience it gave you. Giving your daughter 100g is giving her a different experience of the game than if she had struggled to earn that gold all on her own. It's not my place to judge which of those routes would have been in any sense objectively better for her. But I do think that the focus of the game should not be on the money, or on the equipment, but on the quality of the experience that was had along the way. Because I bet that if instead of feeling thrilled by your new found sking power you had felt terrified, that would have been the only time you ever used them.

(ps. at last no longer DeftyJames.)

Fish said...

I find quest gear to be inadequate for leveling for the most part. the AH, although unnecessary for armor, will give you a HUGE boost in terms of weapons. Everytime I level a caster, I look for the windweaver staff. Int, stam and SP, yes please!

Crafted gear is also great for leveling if you have an alt that can craft for your lowbie.

I can appreciate the "new skis" experience. I am ALWAYS looking at new hockey gear, even though I don't need it, something is always newer with a certain feature that might be helpful.

Scotty said...

Gear matters for sure, but so does "skill"

Put a member of Ensidia in my gear, and you will see better dps stats than I can produce, give me his gear for a day and sure, I'll improve on my own performance, but I wont be producing the same numbers he does !

(this works for the skis analogy too)

Anonymous said...

I imagined you as a little pink pigatiled gnome on skis when I read this.

Not relevant, I know, but I felt like sharing :)

Larísa said...

@HP: better not to get too attached to it with new bosses incoming... but I know the feeling :)

@Gevlon: thank's for reminding me. I'd better inform her aobut that. Just remembered that inscriptions are available for lowbies too...

@Daniel: I agree fully. You have to have a finger top feeling for what's the "best experience". In her case I'm conviced that she needed a little push, some better skis. But I can absolutely understand the "feeling" of an old car. Hey, I wrote a whole post about my nostalgia for mimeographs!

A beautiful comment by the way and, Woot... You're opening your own blog, is it true?!!! Can't wait to read your first post! I'm sure it will be wonderful and interesting.

@Fish: the sad thing is that when you first roll a toon you have no idea. I didn't dare to go into AH until I was 30. (Don't know why really, did I fear they would eat me alive in there?)

@Scotty: so true, so true. But let's put it this way: if I have better gear it can help me compensate just a LITTLE part of the skill gap. Definitely not all of it, but every little piece counts.

@Oriniwen: Well, I AM smallish, but don't have pink hair, rather dark with grey strokes in it. I won't judge if I'm a gnome-lookalike though...

Anonymous said...

After increasing my spellpower by 400 in the last week via replacing my level 70 gear (at last) with an assortment of AH gear and sweet sweet loot.... well yeah...

I was at the bottom of the meters...

Now, I am getting reinvited to groups.

I would love to say it was my winning Gnomish personality.. but I didn't crack one /silly the whole weekend...