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Risk vs. Reward

Darren Bridle Posted:
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World of Warcraft - Correspondent Article: Risk vs. Reward

In his first submission to MMORPG.com in this role, our new World of Warcraft Correspondent Darren Bridle files this article discussion risk vs. Reward in the most populated MMORPG ever created, Blizzard's World of Warcraft.

Risk Versus Reward Analysis

It’s Friday night, you’re sitting down after a long hard day at work/school, you decide to fire up World of Warcraft and try your hand at one of the heroics. Whether you do it out of a love for challenging instances with friends or you’re still progressing through the game and looking for gear upgrades, the overwhelming objective is to be rewarded for your hard work. This is risk versus reward (RIvRE). For the risk you undertake, what reward do you get at the end of it? RIvRE is everywhere, not just instances, solo play and raiding, but crafting, questing and even the auction house! Follow me now as we explore where the game does RIvRE well and … where it doesn’t.

The RIvRE “Pecking Order”

Solo Play

Strangely enough, solo play has some great rewards that are often better than group rewards and instances. For example: if you’re on the alliance side, there is a cloak quest where you have to kill a bird after stealing its egg. This cloak is hard to replace for casters, but I digress.

Group Quests

For me, the group quests have been fairly disappointing. There is a fundamental issue here with group quests. Firstly, it’s very hard to find players interested in helping you with a five-person quest, especially using the “LFG tool”. The best way to finish these quests is with a guild or friends that you group with quite a bit. After you do finally get the players you need together, the quest is fairly uneventful and not all that difficult. So, where does the risk come in? Completing the event or the time taken to achieve the goal? It is my personal opinion that both should be taken into account when giving a reward, this clearly has not happened with group quests. Medium Risk, low reward.


Speaking strictly for Burning Crusade (BC), the items that each type of class needs is spread out across several instances. Risk for instances is certainly high, with the success of the instance based entirely on player skill throughout the group, and I feel the reward is sufficient with plenty of great quest lines that wrap around the instances. This does not change for heroics. The increased difficulty with the reward of heroic badges on each boss is the perfect blend of RIvRE, but hold that thought for just a minute.

Shattered Sun Offensive

With the release of patch 2.3, a new heroic badge vendor emerged. For me, this is where RIvRE takes a sharp turn in direction. This must have been a huge decision by Blizzard; weighing up adding heroic badge reward loot that was better than tier four raid loot (A tier loot based on Karazhan, Gruul and Magtheridon raid instances). On one hand, there is an option for tier five raid quality loot without stepping into raid content (Heroics). At the same time offering the raid loot at a much quicker pace by raiding Karazhan, where you can amass a large amount of heroic badges quite quickly. The balance between the two styles of player has been achieved through the RIvRE system. This is a perfect example of how RIvRE has a huge impact on the player base of a Massively Multiplayer Online game like World of Warcraft.

Fantastic! So Blizzard got it right and we can all sleep well knowing that there are no problems with the game. Well, not quite. Things get a little hazy on the crafting vs. raiding vs. raid questing.

Lets say, for arguments sake, crafting aside there are three main ways to gear your character up, from low risk to high risk. As explained above, solo play, instancing, raiding. The problem is that crafting produces better rewards than solo play and instancing and in some areas, better than the entry level raiding. What I would like to do is take a tailor crafted set and review what it takes as far as risk to create the item.


Spellstrike Hood and Pants. The pattern themselves drop in Shadow Labyrinth and Shattered Halls. The risk for these two is instance, so medium risk. The drop rate is fairly low, so the time invested is quite high. An offshoot of this, is that the pattern is bind on pickup, however the actual result is bind on equip. Therefore, anybody can make it for you.

The ingredients to make the set are a lot of spellcloth, which has a 3-day cooldown and a lot of primal mights, which also have a cooldown. So the risk is low for these since the materials to make them are solo, however the time it takes to create them is significant.

Of course, you could just save up the gold and outright buy the set. To get that much gold is quite easy in World of Wacraft, so all in all, I consider the risk in which to get a very high reward item, is low. This is an example of imbalanced RIvRE.

Raid Quest Lines

For me, this should be where the best rewards are. There should be better rewards on quest lines for raiding than the actual bosses themselves give. Lets face it, if you’re given a quest that involves you clearing an entire raid zone, your having to kill multiple bosses and spent quite a bit of time completing the quest. This hits every definition of RIvRE right at the heart. I’m going to use one of the Karazhan quest lines as an example. It involves several quests that start with talking to various NPC’s in the raid zone, then killing Shade of Aran and finally offing Nightbane, a dragon boss at the end. Your reward for clearing Karazhan is a gem, that is very similar to a non-epic gem crafted by players. This is a high risk quest line with a low reward.

In contrast, the risk to get the same quality item is vastly higher, simply because you would either have to raid, or do many heroic instances for badge loot. Crafting for other items and for different skills (Blacksmithing etc), is similar in terms of RIvRE. If we were to plot this into some type of RIvRE chart, the result is as follows:

So there you have it. This is always a fun discussion when you delve even deeper into the system, this article should be sufficient to start a nice healthy debate. All in all, World of Wacraft does a good job with its RIvRE system, it does need improvement and when we all look to Wrath of the Lich King expansion, hopefully some of these issues have been addressed.


Darren Bridle