I'm glad to hear all of this (except maybe the spreading vendors around part). I think badges are one of the best ideas they had in BC, since it means that as long as you kill a boss, you walk away with something, even if the item you wanted off that boss didn't drop and/or you didn't win the roll. Reputation does this as well, but not all instances have reputation (like Zul'Aman), once you get to Exalted there's no gain, and there are typically not many items you want from a given faction. Badges avoid all these problems: all heroic and raid bosses drop badges, you can always use more badges, and there's always something to spend them on – even if you're kitted out in T6 or equivalent, you can at least buy epic gems or Nether Vortices to sell on the AH.
I'm a little ambivalent on the stratifying idea, actually. Currently, someone running heroics or Karazhan can, eventually, get best-in-slot or near-best-in-slot items like the Crossbow of Relentless Strikes or the Adorned Supernal Leggings, although it might take them a month or two. However, if it was the case that you needed a Mystic Widget from the Tier 9 raids, or special badges from same, to get the T9-equivalent badge gear, it would be completely inaccessible to players on the lower rungs of raiding, no matter how long they kept at it.
BitterCupOJoe and darian, in comments on the Blizzcast post, neatly addressed this issue through a simple mechanism: exchange rates. Let's say there are four types of badges; we'll call them A, B, C, and D for simplicity. We know (from this same Blizzcast interview) that they want the 10-man and the 25-man versions of the same raids to be separated by about a tier in terms of item quality. Therefore, it would make sense if:
- Naxxramas, the tier 7 raid, drops A-Badges on 10-man and B-Badges on 25-man.
- Ulduar, the t8 raid, drops B-Badges on 10-man and C-Badges on 25-man.
- Whatever the t9 raid turns out to be drops C-Badges on 10-man and D-Badges on 25-man.
- And so on, if they add more raids.
Then, you just allow players to exchange badges up at a rate of two-to-one: two As get you a B, and so forth. This allows Blizzard to make it clear that certain gear is "meant for" certain levels of play, and to make it easier to get the appropriate gear at the appropriate levels, while still making it possible for the dedicated t7 raider to get top-quality gear eventually.
Now you may be asking at this point: if you can easily exchange badges, why bother having multiple kinds? Instead of one D-Badge, just give players eight A-Badges. There are two problems with this. First, the number of badges could quickly become intimidatingly large; 150 BoJs for a weapon already is in my opinion. And second, then you basically wind up right back where we are in BC, with a huge, undifferentiated pool of items. Those of us who know what we're doing may not find it particularly problematic, but it's not as organized nor as flavorful (so to speak) as it might be.
I would probably also want downwards exchanges to be possible, just in case it seemed like a better idea to get a lower tier of items than I was currently raiding for.
This seems like a good opportunity to bring up a suggestion that was making the rounds a while back, before BC: a keyring for tokens. There are all sorts of tokens we collect throughout the game, from Badges of Justice to Battleground marks to various reputation turn-ins. Why not have an infinite-space bag just for tokens, like the keyring? Then you wouldn't have to worry about showing up at the vendor only to realize you'd left your tokens in the bank, or clearing an inventory space to pick up that Badge. They could call it the "purse" or something.
There's another, related option that I think might bear exploring: raid points. Currently, Blizzard hands out points for Arenas and Battlegrounds that can be spent on items; why not do the same thing for raids? Badges are really just a crude version of points anyway. You could give everyone that participates in downing a boss a certain number of points, and you'd be replicating the badge system, but without the clumsiness of having to remember to run to the corpse and pick up your badges (and clicking again in case you get a "that item is busy" error), and then bank them or keep them in your bag. Not to mention it takes forever for everyone to loot their badges out of a chest, like for the chess event in Karazhan.
But that's just the beginning of what a points system could bring. You could reward people much more flexibly; for instance:
- Finer control over how much the bosses are worth; instead of one badge for every Heroic boss, you could give (say) 100 points for most of them, 170 for the end bosses, and 200 for the Wrath equivalent of Magister's Terrace Kael'thas
- A bonus for guild-first kills
- A bonus for completing the encounter quicker, or with fewer deaths, or any other restrictions
- Give players more points if they're less well-geared, or less high-rated – basically, if it's a progression raid
- Let guilds earn guild raid points, which they could choose to spend on whoever they felt would most benefit from them (e.g. tanks)
- Share points in common among all of a player's characters on a given server, letting you much more easily gear up alts
These last points are probably going to be controversial, but it can be very hard to gear up tanks, and it would make me very happy if the credits I earn raiding on my priest (whether they're badges or points) could be spent on my rogue, who is rarely needed in my guild's raids.
The purpose of raid points would not be to replace the current token-based tier gear and random-drop-based other gear, but rather to complement this relatively random system with a less-random one, and to keep casuals with a way to gear up; it's not that much different than the Badge system really, just a bit more flexible and bit less convoluted. This is where you guys come in: I have relatively limited experience with MMOs other than WoW. Has an MMO used a similar system to reward PvE activity in the past, and if so, has it worked well?
Either way, I'm very pleased to know that the badge system will be continued and will be improved upon in some form in Wrath. Alternative gear acquisition methods are good.