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    The evolving design of reputation

    Matthew Rossi

    I'm not going to pretend that I like the process of gaining reputation in World of Warcraft, because I don't, and I never have. I remember grinding Brood of Nozdormu reputation back in vanilla for a ring that I still have in the bank. I remember gathering Scourgestones so that I could get to exalted Argent Dawn (I also still have my Seal of the Dawn), and murdering bears in Winterspring to get enchants off of other bears. As an insanely old bearded madman it is fair to say that I have dragged my ancient, grumbling carcass from expansion to expansion, finding various ways to get various groups to like me (often via the application of murdering pixels or collecting pixels off of murdered pixels) and I have always come to loathe the groups I've gained rep with along the way.

    In fact, I'd go so far to call it an axiom. The more a certain group comes to like me, the more I'd willingly feed them all to a wood chipper if only that were an option. (Yes, Klaxxi, I'm looking right at you here.) That being said, it would be unfair and untrue to pretend that faction-based reputation hasn't undergone several design permutations over the years.

    During Burning Crusade, for instance, there were specific dungeons that rewarded reputation with specific factions. I ran Shadow Labyrinth for Lower City reputation until my eyes quit in protest and moved to Paraguay. One of the ways that design began to change was with the Isle of Quel'Danas, which itself built upon the foundation laid by the Ogri'la and Sha'tari Skyguard factions.

    These were faction grinds that allowed for the progressive unlocking of quests designed to be repeated daily, and these three faction grinds laid the basis for what we have today in Mists of Pandaria. And I'm starting to wonder if the reason I so dislike the Mists approach to reputation, with its copious daily questing, is not because of anything wrong with that system but rather because I'm incredibly spoiled.

    Becoming loved

    Wrath of the Lich King introduced the championing system to reputation, and for me, it was a godsend. Ironically, considering I'm the same person who complained about having to run Shadow Labyrinth to get Lower City rep, I was thrilled to slap on a tabard and run dungeons until my eyes (recently returned from Paraguay) howled in outrage and despair. My eyes are a touch melodramatic, I think. The ease of use for the championing system simply made reputation something that happened for me. It required no thought at all, outside of deciding which tabard to wear to my daily dungeon delves. I loved this design.

    The problem with a MMO the size of World of Warcraft is that the player base shifts in a tectonic way, colossal grinding masses of players with conflicting playstyles grinding against one another. It's fair to say that at this point, the Mists of Pandaria system (returning to daily questing as a primary way of moving reputation higher) is wildly successful. But it continues to evolve, and there's always iteration to discuss. Zarhym recently posted the following into a forum thread about Mists and its daily questing design.

    Zarhym - Farewell WoW, MoP = RIP
    I'm not naive and I know that if you invest more time into your character by doing dailies along side your group content, your rate of progression will be faster. And again, that's by design. But certainly we enjoy hearing feedback about the design and how things could be tweaked to improve the model.

    For instance, we talked recently to the developers about an evolution on the idea of being able to champion a faction via a tabard. What we don't want to repeat is the design that let players max out every faction reputation just by wearing a tabard while doing other content. So instead of endlessly getting reputation for every dungeon, maybe you only get a bonus once a day. It doesn't allow you to skip dailies altogether, but you can at least pad your rep gains a little bit.

    Another cool part about this idea is that we can probably make it work through the UI, rather than requiring you to wear a tabard you may not think matches your bracers (teehee). It could be as simple as making it so that you champion the faction you selected to show as your XP bar.

    And since it's brought up a lot, I completely understand the existing concerns players have about earning Valor through other sources and being locked from spending it for reputation rewards. It's something we'll continue to talk about -- be precise and feel free to suggest improvements!

    The problem with championing in my eyes wasn't that it allowed players to get access to reputation gear and dungeon gear at the same time, even though that's a stated design problem from the developers' view. My problem with it is simple - if you tie reputation to dungeons in an infinite, uncapped loop (as Wrath and Cataclysm did) then it will always be more rewarding to simply chain dungeons than to do anything else, and that means dungeon chaining will essentially push all other content off of the table. I say this, because it's exactly what it did. The only daily quests I did in Cataclysm were the ones I had to do to get a tabard, or the ones for which there was no tabard to gain reputation, such as the Tol Barad or Molten Front dailies.

    Unloved, compromised, but workable

    The idea of a limited championing system is probably the best possible compromise. Allowing you to pick, say, one dungeon a day and get reputation from that dungeon wouldn't eliminate dailies (and as much as we might hate them - trust me, my eyes are already registering for a passport due to them - they do serve an organic purpose in allowing the development of content) so much as supplement them. If your goal is to provide options, which is the stated goal of this expansion's design, then you have to make those options meaningful. Championing simply renders all other options pointless by its existence if it is not restrained in some meaningful way. I know it did in my case, and while I was and would be astonishingly happy at the notion of never having to do another daily quest again, it may not be the best design for the game moving forward.

    Of course, a limited form of championing doesn't have to be the only possible option moving forward either. Rare drops from dungeon bosses ala the old Invader's Scourgestone could be another possibility. The goal is to give players more ways to do it, not to render any of them obsolete. To my mind, more ways to accomplish the same goal is the ideal as long as none of them stands out as the best, and therefore only, way to gain reputation.

    I still hate rep grinding, though.

    Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.

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