Q: This seems awfully complicated. Why can’t you just give us more Valor?
A: One of the philosophical underpinnings of this system is that we want to encourage players to challenge themselves when they want to improve their character’s power. Farming low-level keys is not challenging for most players who routinely time keys in the teens or higher. There are a lot of moving pieces to this system because it’s been engineered to handle all kinds of situations in an effort to more closely align “doing the optimal thing” with “doing the fun thing” while still keeping the base player experience simple. And some of the complication is there specifically to minimize the losses for making mistakes; we don’t want people punished for upgrading the “wrong” thing.
Kill stuff, get Flightstones. Kill hard stuff, get Crests too. Take Flightstones and Crests to item upgrade vendor. Item upgrade vendor tells you how much it’ll cost and upgrade the gear as long as you can afford it.
If you didn’t read the big post from last week at all, but you took an item to an upgrade vendor and read the tooltips for Crests and Flightstones, you’d get enough of the gist to use the system just fine.
Q: The article you wrote talks about how gear from Mythic raid bosses can be upgraded in the intro. Then it goes on to detail how gear can’t be upgraded once you get to Mythic raid level.
A: Yep. Sure does. That should have said “or a Heroic raid boss”. Oops.
Q: Does this system and its hardcaps mean that I have to get the same item again from every upgrade track? I need to farm my BiS trinket at Veteran, then again at Champion, then again at Hero?
A: While that’s certainly an option, it’s not required, no. Getting an item on the Veteran upgrade track means that item can be upgraded to Veteran 8/8, which is the same ilevel as Champion 4/8, which is only 4 item levels lower than Hero 1/5. If you upgrade your gear to Veteran 8/8, you’ll be more than ready to do content that drops Hero-track gear.
That said, this is a known concern and we’re looking at options. I can’t promise any specific results, because there are a lot of moving parts going on here, but this is under active investigation. We won’t be making any changes to address this concern in the very early weeks of the patch, but if it turns out that the data bear out this concern, we will step in. Thanks to player feedback, we have developed a contingency plan.
Is this “Chimes says don’t delete your trinkets from +2 keys!”? If you like. We’re being careful here with the rollout of this new system. It might mean that those items will still be useful later and it might not. This is not a promise at all, but if I were still a player on the other side of blue posts like this, reading those words a blue poster just typed, I would keep mine around just in case.
Q: Okay, but we don’t know where exactly Hero-track gear comes from. For that matter, we don’t know where each level of Shadowflame Crests will come from either. Can you clear that up?
A: Sure thing. In retrospect, that would have been good to include in the initial blog post. I omitted it because it seemed like the post was already longer than most players would want to read and I wanted to focus on the system itself. But yes, how players will get the items to interact with the system is worth specific inclusion, so here goes. Please keep in mind that these details, like just about everything else on the PTR, is subject to change. As a reminder: 15 fragments combine into a full Crest.
For clarity on all of the above: these crests do not have a chance of dropping. They will drop every time. Crests acquisition is purely deterministic. (In some outdoor-content situations, there is quantity variance, but even in those circumstances they will always show up as long as you’re not at the acquisition cap.)
Please note that Shadowflame Crests are intentionally available at some key levels below the gear that would require them for early upgrades. For example, a +11 Mythic Keystone dungeon provides Wyrm’s Shadowflame Crest fragments. This allows players at this level of play to upgrade their Champion-level gear (also earned from +11 Mythic Keystone dungeons) above the 4/8 level, and creates a reason to run this more challenging content above the +9 keys that also drop Champion-track gear.
Q: Why cap item upgrades at all?
A: Because this is a (nearly) universal system, it includes things like outdoor gear. We’re going from a world where the Valor system only lets people who play a lot of M+ upgrade their gear to a world where everyone gets to upgrade their gear, even folks who are focused on outdoor play. The challenge here is that we’re still creating specific gear ecosystems for competitive players. We don’t want to create a world in which players need to run off-season M0s to get their BiS gear. We don’t want players feeling like they need to watch world quests to find the trinket that they need for raiding. And we don’t want to create incentives for players optimizing for Mythic raids to spend extra time to do Normal raids in order to get their best items. We want players to get their best rewards when they’re challenging themselves, and we want to minimize the amount of farming easy-to-them content that you need to do.
Q: These item names–Flightstones, Shadowflame Crests–are really specific to Dragonflight. Why not give them names that would work for a more evergreen system?
A: Well, for starters, this system isn’t evergreen. This is a system specifically for 10.1 and Season Two. It’s certainly designed with the potential for it to be evergreen, but it’ll be evaluated over the course of the season. We can’t tell you whether it’ll be here in Season Three because we don’t know yet.
There is a tentative plan for naming these upgrade components going forward, though. If the system continues in Season Three, we’ll swap out “Shadowflame” for an adjective more appropriate to the theming of that season. So in Season Three you’d collect a Season Three version of Flightstones, plus Whelpling’s [NEW ADJECTIVE HERE] Crests, Drake’s [NEW ADJECTIVE HERE] Crests, etc. Each season would change the adjective on the crest. Each expansion would change the name of the levels of crest to something more appropriate to that expansion’s theme. And the name “Flightstone” would probably change to something thematically appropriate as well.
I want to stress that this is a tentative plan and could easily change. And that’s assuming we keep the system. Right now, speaking only for myself and not the rest of the development team, I think it’s very likely we keep it and make small iterative improvements. But I can also see a world where it’s not quite the improvement to gearing that we’re looking for and we either return to the previous system or try something new for Season Three. The simple truth is that none of us can see the future, but this is what we’re trying for Season Two.
Q: For Shadowflame Crests, are we limited to how many times we can get them or how many times we can use them?
A: The cap is on acquisition. Every time you would get a crest fragment, the game tracks how close you are to cap and only gives you enough to reach the cap. So if you’ve already earned 140 whelpling crest fragments in the first week, and you would get another 12 crest fragments for finishing a +2 Mythic Keystone in time. Because you’re 10 fragments away from the cap, you’ll only get those 10 fragments.
Once you have crest fragments, you can combine them into Crests freely. And once you have the Crests, you can spend them freely at item upgrade vendors. The cap increases by 150 fragments (10 crests) weekly.
The cap does not apply to rewards from one-time quests (you’ll always be able to get those, and they won’t count against future earnings either) or from downgrading your Crests with Vaskarn in Loamm.
It’s great to see so much discussion about this system and hearing what people are looking forward to and worried about. I’ve been watching a lot of videos and reading forum threads and commentary on a bunch of different websites. And I encourage y’all to keep discussing it. Thoughtful, critical, and constructive player feedback is catnip for game developers.