Badges: Tokens found on the bodies of dead bosses. Can be exchanged with merchants in order to get newer gear.
When badges were first introduced, I loved them. L-O-V-E was in the air! I was running heroics every day for upgrades already, and badges made it easier for me to get some choice pieces, replacing those items that I had crafted myself, but were a little short on the stat allotment. Badges made sense to me — I could upgrade a piece of gear when I spent enough time killing baddies to earn it, not when it arbitrarily dropped off said baddie.
This trend continued when raiding in Northrend became available. I was killing bigger, meaner, nastier baddies that required me to have more help. The rewards were greater, but again, I got this nifty token, and if I spent enough time killing enough baddies, I could turn in a bushel of them for a great piece of gear instead of waiting for a random drop that may or may not be destined for my backpack.
Then, another rank of raid dungeons and another set of badges. Again, the difficulty was harder, but the badges served the same purpose — giving me equivalent gear to the danger I was facing in order to get gear to fight the same said baddies. Awesome!
And then comes the conundrum, the part I just fail to grasp in a non-ambivalent way — new badges, for better gear… at the earliest content level available. Whaaaa?
I loved the old system — it made sense to me. I fight an easy boss, I get a low level badge good for low level gear. I test myself, commit more time, try a harder boss, I get a mid-level badge good for mid-level gear. I step it up, really put my nose to the grind stone trying the hardest available content, I get a high-level badge, good for high-level gear.
Badges were a reward. Now they feel like a right.
My first problem is that badges allow you to completely miss content. WoW expressed the philosophy that dungeons weren’t accessible enough, hence the rebirth of Naxx. However, with the new badge system there is zero reason for a NEW player (yes, they still exist, albeit rarely) to enter Naxx — ever. Are more players going to enter Naxx because they are overgeared for it? I doubt it — even overgeared, Naxx takes a time commitment greatly over that of a heroic run, and it gives subpar rewards — 16 badges *snicker*
Although I’m not much of a roleplayer — ok, I’m just not a roleplayer, still, the badge system as it stands now seriously tilts my view of the universe. Progression is overused when discussing WoW and raids, but still…. where’s the feeling of progression from easy to harder raids? The sense of accomplishment from walking in front of a boss with less than 30k health and still being alive at the end of it? And then, at the end, getting a piece of shiny gear that’s a wonderous upgrade, a truly magical gift. How does that compare with walking in with 40k health from running 5-mans, downing the “epic” bosses with no trouble, and then, you don’t even get anything good out of it. Oh, stuff to d/e! Yay!
All that being said, I do enjoy the rampant cheatery inherent in the new badge system when it helps me out (that’s right, I’m hypocritical and greedy). I just started a brand new alt on a brand new server butt naked. You betcha that gearing up and becoming Naxx ready was helped along by the badge system. I got an awesome totem, and a shiny necklace with little of no effort on my part. For those gearing alts, the badge system is a great way to get yourself raid ready with less time investment than you spent on your main — and that’s what you have an alt for right? Alternate asskicking?
Overall, I think this is Blizzard’s attempt to even out the “hard-core” (i.e. too much time on their hands) and the “casual” (I can only play when my kids are sleeping). Gear has never really equated with quality in my view of reality — I’ve been in too many guilds, and seen plenty of bad players carried along because they’re good… enough. However, when I’ve been a casual player I never envied players with better gear running harder content. I didn’t have time for that, I didn’t want to make that kind of commitment to a game, and so I ran around the world in lesser gear. It didn’t diminish the fact that I was a good player. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the game.
Apparently there was a reason I hit the save draft button on this topic last week — there’s a couple other badgesque type discussions going on this week. The first at Big Butt Bear Blogger has some questions for readers about the fun of destroying content as overgeared players and Righteous Orbs takes a look at the new progression schema.