A Possibly-Controversial Take on Corruption

Titanforging and Warforging are gone!…for Season 4 of BfA, but maybe forever, and replaced with something new.

Corruption, the new mechanic, is sort of an oddball idea that is intended to be more fun and also a bit more fluid and interesting than -forging. Items can randomly roll with corruption, along with a few items (crafted gear for the new raid tier and some weapon drops inside Ny’alotha) that always come with Corruption. Corruption is basically a two-component buff/debuff pair, with a positive benefit that can cause a large power growth (a percentage increase to critical strike damage, a percentage increase to a specific secondary stat, etc) but then negative effects as your corruption scales higher (low corruption is intended to trigger smaller, personal level negatives you can play around, while higher corruption begins to cause more annoying effects that can also negatively impact other players in your group like AoE circles). The idea here is interesting, because Blizzard’s intent is twofold:

1. Corrupted gear should be exciting and interesting, but also:
2. There is an upper-threshold of Corruption one player might equip before the effects become obnoxious enough to ruin things.

These are both good goals – the problem with Titanforging (well, one of them) is that there is no endpoint, while Corruption quite notably has one, albeit one that is player-specific and left to each player to manage. In my raid, there are players who I would never want to see with Corruption past that first tier, since they barely notice raid mechanics, much less that they just dropped a big shadow puddle on everyone, but there are also players who I could see managing at least somewhat well with tier 3 levels of Corruption.

The system makes use of one additional modifier – the legendary cape from Wrathion (this time, not the Mists ones) includes a Corruption Resistance stat on it and also additional Corruption Resistance granted by your Heart of Azeroth, which grants 1 point of Corruption Resistance for every level from 85 onward.

With all of that in mind, the way it works is that you acquire Corrupted gear as your random luck drops in Season 4 content – dungeons, Ny’alotha, PvP, and the Heroic version of the Darkshore Warfront. The gear will come with a fixed level of Corruption should it roll as Corrupted, and then a modifier. The gear individually contributes its positive modifier, and then the Corruption on it is a stat that you can see on your character sheet, and is pooled from all Corrupted items, then reduced by the Corruption Resistance from the cape to arrive at your total. That total then places you into a tier of effect, and that determines how big and unbearable the negative effect of wearing the gear is.

So that sounds kind of annoying, and at first, I was in that camp. However, I ultimately think that I kind of like it. There are a few reasons for this which I will break down here!

(Future me note: hey, it’s me, from about a few hours after this draft was ready to publish. Glad I waited, because the new PTR build has changes to Corruption, and one that is somewhat negative. If the balancing stays how it is on the PTR, it is probably still okay by me, but I will call out the change in italics when we talk about the first point below!)

It’s Avoidable: If you find your eyes rolling into the back of your head reading the description, good news – any gear that is Corrupted can be purified at the Heart Forge in Silithus, removing all the Corruption at no cost. (Future me again, hello. So, “no cost” is now “5 Corruption Essences”, the new currency from Horrific Visions. This is…worse, than the initial offering, but the number of essences, if it stays at 5, is very low and obtainable. However, it is bizarre to create a system that players have to pay you to fix it. We’re lucky under Activision that we pay using easy in-game currency and not $5!) Now, something I see quite commonly from the “retail WoW is made exclusively for pro-players!” group is that this is actually unavoidable because you’ll be expected to farm good Corruption in order to improve your performance. The truth, however, is that in most Heroic-level groups, if you need 4% bonus Haste rating to get over the hump on a boss, it largely boils down to execution errors rather than undergearing, and as long as the fights are tuned as they have been for most of the expansion to date, you’ll likely be fine without any of it. Even then, you can gain some small measure of benefit from a low level of Corruption, especially if your Corruption Resistance makes a net-zero total of the stat. There are ways to enter this system without suffering at all, and opting out doesn’t mean you’ll be benched – unless you are in an uber hardcore guild, and then, well, you might be a pro player and therefore more likely to opt-in.

Growth in the Game Lets You Handle More Items: The legendary cape in 8.3 seems like a hail-mary, the realization of the fact that BfA has had no legendary items as player equipment to this point, and so it is a minimally effective design. The core benefit it offers remains boosts in the Horrific Visions scenarios and on N’Zoth fights specifically, and Corruption Resistance was clearly a late addition designed to make it actually-legendary. That’s fine and it works because it means you can take on a Corruption effect, or more Corruption effects, and use them as straight-up bonuses rather than trade-off pieces. Corruption effects are no Legendary effects in their own right, but taking enough of them without all the downsides could feel pretty comparable in their own right. It is, in effect, a backdoor to make the cape itself seem important, but hey – it works for me. (Depending on how bad the Sanity effects are in the N’Zoth fight, it might be sufficiently “Legendary” there too, so I am waiting to see!)

Random, But Less So Than Titanforging: The randomness of Corruption is basically “is this item Corrupted?” and if the answer to that is Yes, “what effect does it have?” with the final question of “what tier is the effect?” The item is assigned a Corruption value that is fixed by effect and tier of effect – the Tier 1 version of the Critical Strike damage increase will always carry the same value, with the Tier 2 version of the same effect offering more Corruption in trade for more damage, and so on. There are only three tiers of effects, with the highest point value of Corruption that can be on a single piece capping at 25. The negative effects also appear at fixed levels of Corruption, and some have effects that scale up based on Corruption. Why is all of this important? Well, for me it says a few things – one, once the final values are set on PTR, you can pre-plan for how much Corruption you are willing to take on and what that would mean for your damage. Two, the pre-Corrupted pieces like certain weapon drops and crafted armor can be used to help further plan that – if you know the bonus percentage Haste value is absurdly good for your spec, than you can target those pieces specifically. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still a fair amount of randomness tied up in the system, but at the same time, I feel like it is better than the infinitesimal randomness of Titanforging. Further, it actually flattens the randomness curve – if you only raid LFR, than gear in the current tier could make as many as 10 Titanforging rolls (8 for +40 item levels, 1 for tertiary stat, 1 for socket) where Mythic gear only needs 4 Titanforging rolls to max out (+10 item level and the tertiary stat/socket rolls). Under Corruption, every piece stops at the same level regardless of difficulty – a tier 3 bonus. You could still, theoretically, try to farm endlessly for that perfect set of bonuses at their best tier values, or try to main-spec/off-spec farm, but either way – the endless path of Titanforging is no more under this system. Why do I believe that? Let’s discuss a bit more in its own point:

Corruption is Not Bottomless: My single-largest complaint about Titanforging is that the system is designed in such a way that the perfect piece is nearly unobtainable until Mythic raiding, and even then, such a fractionally small percentage chance to drop anyways. Corruption fixes that in two ways – one, by limiting the bonuses, and two, by creating a sort of skill-based soft cap at which point you’d stop wearing Corrupted gear. While the second point is squishy – you might decide to wear as much as possible, negatives be damned! – the first point is the one I find exciting. By limiting how far the rolls can go on gear, you no longer have an endless farming exercise unless you make it one. It is clear the design intent is that everyone gets to maybe 5-6 pieces of Corrupted gear they really like, and then back off at that point and stop farming it. If you hate the negatives, you might not wear most of it until your cape is a high enough level to offset the Corruption. If you are a less-skillful player, you might stop even lower to avoid any negatives or to keep it to the most tame, simple effects to deal with. My opinion of Titanforging is that it generally feels bad that you can never truly cap out your gear, but this system (mostly) sidesteps that. It still has moments where a particularly hyped player could push for ever more Corruption, but I imagine that will be a minority of players even at the top end. For most of us, there are simple combos of Corruption stats worth getting, and the rest is not as worthwhile – if your spec loves Critical Strike and leans on big crit damage, getting the Critical Strike chance increase effect and the Critical Strike damage increase effect are two easy grabs, and once you have them, the rest might feel less significant. Either way, if you do decide the system offers you something, it isn’t waiting at the end of an endless path of bonus rolls hoping for the best – it seems like it will be relatively easy to obtain, provided that the corruption roll rate is about as generous as Titanforging.

All these factors together, overall, lead me to a conclusion – Corruption is not what I want to “solve” Titanforging. Titanforging was a massive problem, and if it comes back in 9.0, it still will be a huge problem with tiny upsides in only certain circumstances. However, Corruption allows a better middle ground for Blizzard – it isn’t as objectively awful as Titanforging and creates a better state for gear farming, but still has too many random elements in the number of effects, although the possibility space there is much lower.

Therefore, overall, while I’d rather see an upgrade path where Titanforging is just raw upgrades that a player decides on in an order they like and with a currency that is obtainable to all, moving to something with less overall randomness is a slight improvement. I’m glad to see something being done to try and at least rein in the possibility space for these random events, and it is my biggest hope that 9.0 sees Titanforging leave the game, or at least be retooled in a way that enhances player choice and allows for deterministic upgrades. This is (probably) something I will be writing more about this week!

But for now, small victory – less randomness is better, and while I would love to see some better changes (the ability to use Corruption Essences to change the bonus!), less random rolling is better and I am happy to see Blizzard starting on a path that could lead to the end of Titanforging.

 

4 thoughts on “A Possibly-Controversial Take on Corruption

  1. “less randomness is better…less random rolling is better ”

    Matter of taste, isn’t it? For me, the random element of MMORPG gameplay is a huge part of the attraction. I’d generally rather have the fun of the reveal and a bad result than certainty with no surprise and a good result. That element of surprise is a huge part of what makes the game fun for me. Without it it’s not a game, it’s just shopping.

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    1. True – but to a point. Getting or not getting a loot drop is randomness. When you then get a drop that initiates an unfurling chain of additional random rolls to determine if the item is upgraded in service of “hooking” you in to repeat content even once you have the base item you want, it does start to wear you down a bit. I like some randomness and it is necessary for the RPG side of things to continue to exist, but when it is a Matryoshka doll of random rolls for a single event, it does feel slightly contrived.

      I think there’s a balance to be had somewhere in the middle, and Corruption definitely gets most of the way there. One of the core arguments in retail WoW for a long time now has been about excess randomness, where Blizzard has taken things that work relatively well (loot drops) and then introduced these extra systems layered on top in a way that dilutes the value of a loot drop. I think there are ways they could get back to that older excitement while maintaining randomness, but some of it may mean peeling back the loot shower to the older trickle it once was. I’m not sure that is the right solution, but it is worth thinking about!

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  2. Well, my initial thought when I heard about corrupted gear was, at least I can clean it up for free and use it like normal gear. Now that I have to pay for the privilege? Well, I guess disenchanted or scrapped.

    I can’t understand why on the one hand the hem and haw about the difficulties of class balancing and why tier set bonuses, too many gem slots etc, make it even harder. But then introduce so new system with +\- bonuses that people will take none, some, all, and at different levels and abilities.

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    1. The way they initially introduced cleansing seemed like a slam dunk – no cost, just do it, but with any cost tied to it, it seems just slightly weird. The cost on PTR is currently minor and the patch isn’t out for at least two more months, sure – but it’d be nice to see them move it to free, because now it means opting out is an annoying choice, at least, more than having to just cleanse the armor was already going to be.

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