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What does legendary really mean?

What does legendary really mean?
Anne Stickney
Anne Stickney|February 28, 2013 7:00 PM
What does legendary mean
Legendary. The color orange was once one of the most revered, whispered-about intangible things in vanilla WoW. People had heard rumors of legendary weapons, but nobody knew how to actually get them -- they were just as much a source of speculation as any lore in Warcraft today. When those legendary items finally first began to appear, it was a moment of sheer joy for those lucky enough to receive them.

And for those that were not that lucky, it was a source of constant envy. People got really, really ticked about legendaries, how it was determined that they were rewarded, and who they were rewarded to. In the end, when it boiled down to it, anyone who watched someone else get a legendary immediately questioned what made that other player worthy, when they themselves had put it so much more perceived effort. Legendaries had the power to tear guilds apart -- or, in some cases, the power to pull a united guild into an even stronger front.

The history of legendaries is pretty fascinating in and of itself, but more fascinating is the evolution of the color orange. It's changed over the years, and in Mists of Pandaria anyone can start a chain to get their very own legendary -- and that's got some bloggers talking.

There have been a couple of really interesting discussions on the nature of legendary weapons. Tzufit over at Tree Heals Go Woosh wonders exactly how a legendary can really be a legendary if everyone has one. Tzufit has a really good summation of the history of legendaries in WoW, and makes a really good point as well. The very nature of a legendary weapon has for so long been one of exclusivity, something that brought guilds together to work as one and get that orange item. And the extreme availability of legendary items in Mists seems like a far cry from what a legendary "should" rightfully be.

Over at The Daily Frostwolf, Navimie responds to this post with one of her own, and a question -- what does legendary mean to you? It's a legitimate question, and one that ties into what Tzufit was discussing. To most players, legendary weapons are an item to be prized and cherished, items that represent months of farming for that rare drop, months of collecting and gathering to finally obtain that amazing prize. They represent the collaborative efforts of a guild coming together and helping out. And to some, a legendary is just a simple, cherished, beloved reminder that they are in a guild that appreciates and values everything that they do.

To some, they might represent the slightly more negative side of introducing exclusive items to the game. They may represent the months of hard work ignored in favor of giving that orange item to someone else. They might represent that breaking point a player had with their raiding guild -- the moment they quietly realized that perhaps they were not as important to their guild as their guild was to them. Or they might represent that bitter memory as an expansion ended and their legendary item was left incomplete as everyone moved on.

This really got me to thinking, however. Both Tzufit and Navamie outlined the history of legendary weapons -- in vanilla, they were drop items that players used with rare recipes or quests to create. In Burning Crusade, they were simply extremely rare drops from raid bosses -- there were no quests associated with the items. In Wrath, they evolved into a combination of gathering items and quests, and in Cataclysm, they moved one step further -- the legendary quests in Cataclysm were full-blown lore-filled amazing experiences, reserved for players on the hunt for that legendary.

But I think maybe the wrong question is being asked, here. It isn't really about what a legendary means to a player -- it's about what a legendary means to Blizzard. And I don't think the availability of legendary items in Mists says anything about catering to one part of the player population over another, I think it's likely an exploration and an answer to that very question. That answer has changed over the years, and its evident in how the legendary items are placed in game.

In vanilla, that answer was very obviously "something really cool and really rare reserved for a few players that raid the hardest content we have to offer." In Burning Crusade, that meaning was kept by and large the same, but we started to see a shift in Wrath. In Wrath, the answer shifted slightly to an item that was yes, very cool -- but it was more about the challenge of obtaining that item in the midst of a collaborative guild effort, and it rewarded that collaborative effort.

It required the player not only to collect the items required, but to rely on the help of their guild to get to the place where they could finally chuck that item into Yogg-Saron's mouth. It rewarded guilds that worked together by that little box of gifts left at the Lich King's feet -- gifts that could be kept, or handed out to your guild as thanks. And with each of these, there was a little story involved. In Cataclysm, that changed to a full-blown storyline, one that directly involved the player that received the item.

Were the items amazing in Cataclysm? You bet they were. Were they exclusive? Not as much, no -- because the meaning of legendary wasn't so much about the exclusivity of the item as it was about the player themselves. Casters and rogues both were tested by personal challenges that required some skill to get through successfully. In fact, it was almost a mesh of those early epic weapons for priests and hunters, back in the days of vanilla, and the rare nature of legendary items.

And in Mists, that evolution seems to have moved one step further. Yes, legendary items are available to all who want to work for them -- but the tricky part is that you have to put in the work. It's not about the item or the rarity, it's about your character, the hero. It's about who that hero is, and what they can do. Wrathion is testing us all, putting together an army for his own reasons, and we are working to prove our place in that army.

To that end, the legendary chain in Mists is one of the more innovative and amazing things we've really seen. That chain tests every aspect of playing the game, from PvE battles and defeating bosses to PvP encounters. It requires working together as a group to defeat champions both Alliance and Horde, and according to Dave Kosak, some significant personal tests of skill in 5.2. It encompasses everything that makes a player a good player, and rewards that effort accordingly.

If you are willing to put in the time and effort this expansion, a legendary could be yours, too. And it's not simply a matter of farming a boss, a matter of paying for a guild run through a raid zone. It's not something that can be sold for the highest DKP, or gifted to someone who maybe doesn't deserve it as much as you do. It's not an item wrapped in bitterness, it's not an item made solely for that one class you don't play.

It's an item that, in the end, has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the people you play with deem you worthy. It simply boils down to what kind of player you really are -- whether you are the kind of player willing to put forth the effort to obtain it, whatever it takes. I don't know about anyone else, but that feels pretty legendary to me.

I'd highly recommend checking out both Tzufit's and Navamie's posts on the matter -- they're really good reads, each with their own interpretation of what legendary means. And as a player that's played and watched how legendary items have been implemented and received since day one, I'm really curious to see how everyone else feels about the matter. Are you working on a legendary right now? What does legendary mean to you? How do you think legendary items should be treated? Over the course of so many expansions, how do you think legendaries were best handled?

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What does legendary really mean?