I was thinkin’ about diamonds and the world’s biggest necklace

Is there anything in MMOGs quite as divisive as loot? (If you’re playing along at home, the answer is “Yes: PvP, raiding, forced grouping, soloing, class balance, skill systems, crafting, grinding, how long you should grill cheese toasties, and who’d win in a fight between William Shatner and Mr T. (Results 1 – 10 of 214,822)“) Still. Loot. Treasure. The shinies, the rewards that keep us desperately pushing those levers. To paraphrase Danny DeVito in Heist, “Everybody needs loot. That’s why they call it loot!”

I’m poised to kick off my World of Warcraft scroll of resurrection (not long ’til work is finished for Christmas and I can go back to glorious studenthood, crawling out of bed around lunchtime then gaming for twelve straight hours… for a couple of days, at least, before needing to be vaguely sociable for a family Christmas), and obviously the reason I’m going back is to spend some time with old friends, meet up with the guild again and casually enjoy the game at a relaxed pace, which is why I’ve been furiously googling away to see what “lewt” (preferably of the “phat” variety) might’ve been added while I’ve been gone. A couple of areas particularly stand out from the recent 2.3 patch: season 1 arena items being available for honour points, and additional epic items obtainable with Badges of Justice from heroic dungeons (together with only needing to be Honored, instead of Revered, with an appropriate faction to get into heroic dungeons in the first place). Cue massive outcry over “welfare epics” (principally applied to the arena gear, but you know how forums love pithy phrases like that and start applying them to… everything, really. I think my hamster might be a “welfare epic” now), and much learned discussion over the same Badges of Justice coming from both heroic dungeons and 10 man raids, the power of PvP weapons in PvE compared to the suitability of PvP armour, and the relative difficulty/effort required to gain items from battlegrounds, the arena, 5 man dungeons and raids. Well, I say “much learned discussion”, that might be a slight overstatement. The ideas of “earning”, and “rewards”, and particularly the word “welfare” map all too easily (and badly) to vague political notions of capitalism, socialism etc., and we all know there’s no better way of keeping a discussion sane and rational than chipping in with something like “handing out epic weapons just for turning up in the arena is the kind of UN-AMERICAN COMMIE LOVING FILTH that is CORRUPTING the NATIONS YOUTH”. It’s a marvellous flamewar, raging from hardcore vs casual to PvP vs PvE to raiding vs small group vs solo play, and really… what does it matter? Why is it an issue if Neville the Undeserving is wandering around in the same shiny gear as Reginald the Devoted?

Ah, now there’s the nub, crux and/or nexus, if you will, of the matter (Mr Fotherington, and an extra point for being so clever). Why do we want those lovely epic items? (Why do we want anything? Why do I want an automated bean-to-cup cappucino maker and a heated towel rail? Because I like coffee and warm towels, actually, but I fear I’ve strayed from the point somewhat.) Why do we *not* want others to have them? For some people, gear is all about the statistics, the improvement that better gear offers, enabling more challenging encounters to be attempted or giving an edge in PvP combat. For others, looks are the thing; who cares about stats so long as it’s stylish? World of Warcraft gear is also about accomplishment, though, it’s the main way of showing that you’ve defeated a certain boss (and been lucky that he dropped a particular item that you fluked the Need roll for) or that you’ve slugged it out in battlegrounds or the arena, and I think it’s that latter case in particular that can cause great annoyance with “undeserved” epics.

It’s a bit of everything for me. I’ve made quite a few posts about avatars and visuals, that’s quite important to me. If I’m going to have a crack at heroic dungeons, I sense my old gear is a bit lacking, so some upgrades from battleground honour (if I have any left, I really can’t remember) would be handy, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take a certain amount of pride in the odd epic item I do get hold of. If there was nothing at all on offer from running instances or battlegrounds, I’m not sure I’d bother (due to my achiever streak, but then I wouldn’t keep playing some aspect of the game I didn’t enjoy just for something shiny.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure there was a point to all this, except perhaps “WOO! FREE EPIX LAWL! TO ALTERAC VALLEY!”