Reforged Loot Distribution

The recent developer chat on Twitter didn’t give us much information specifically related to guilds, but it did raise further questions about the changes originally announced at Blizzcon related to reforging.

My concern when the changes were first announced was related to the cost and/or priority of reforged items.

For all but completely random or open-bid loot systems, reforging may require you to re-think how you distribute loot.  Before we look at how, let’s go into some background on items levels.

The Math Behind Item Levels

The item level is something that Blizzard assigns to an item based upon the stats present.  Various attempts have been made to reverse engineer the formula.  If you’re so inclined, you can read about the gory details at Elitist Jerks.

Though the formula is stats to item level, it tends to be used in reverse by item designers.  A given dungeon at a given difficulty drops items of a given item level.  Blizzard throws stats on an item, runs it through the formula, then tweaks the stats until the item level matches the target.

Item level is a fixed attribute on that item, not calculated on the fly.  For items with only the standard stats, the formula is pretty simple.  Adding sockets or proc effects is where things get a bit more difficult to calculate.  Just how much of an item budget is used up by an on-proc effect is based upon some estimation of the value of the proc.  Obviously the opinion of Blizzard vs the opinion of the community may differ in this respect.

When people claim on the forums that “item x is under budget”, it’s because the reverse engineered formula says the item level should be lower than the item level in game, suggesting that some of the stats are lower than they should be.  When the math behind this is sound, Blizzard often adjusts an item.

Stat Changes and Reforging

In the post about stat changes in Cataclysm, there was a little blurb about reforging, which I’ll quote:

While these changes will go a long way to making a wider variety of stats more attractive, we understand that sometimes you simply don’t want more Hit Rating on your gear or you’d rather have more Haste than more Crit. In Cataclysm, we are going to give players a way to replace stats on gear as part of the existing profession system. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll be able to convert one stat to 50% of another stat. While some conversions (like converting Stamina to Strength) won’t be permitted, the goal is to let you customize your gear more.

So, what we do know is that:

But there’s a lot we don’t know.  First, the restrictions: is it possible to guess as to what we won’t be able to reforge?

in Cataclysm, every class cares about stamina, and every class cares about one other “core” stat: strength, agility or intellect.  I am going to assume that for the purposes of balance, we won’t be able to fiddle with these stats.

I don’t think the raw spellpower on caster weapons will be reforgeable, because that’s there purely to avoid the current formula where spellpower is a function of the other stats on the weapon.  You’re still going to see all weapons of a given item level providing the same total amount of spellpower, but rather than fiddle with stamina and intellect to get there, they want to just backfill the portion that doesn’t come from intellect directly.  Allowing us to reforge the spellpower off would quickly lead to an imbalance.

I think it’s easy to see that we won’t be able to reforge into or out of mastery, as there should never be a downside to that stat – it just boosts aspects of your spec that you always want boosted.

Spirit we probably will be able to reforge, as rather than making it interesting via talents and abilities to all classes, it is only of interest to healers and Balance druids.  Elemental Shaman, Warlocks, Mages and Shadow Priests will all have a valid reason to reforge Spirit into something else.

Resilience I’m not sure about.  There were issues at the start of WotLK where PvE gear dominated in arena because it was easier to get (much in the same way that PvP gear was used quite often in PvE during The Burning Crusade.  Allowing people to dump PvE stats for a PvP stat (and with the changes to how tanks will become uncrittable, resilience is definitely PvP-only now) might set us up for a repeat of that situation.  My money says we won’t be able to reforge for resilience.

That gives us:

In the current item level calculation, these are all equal (their stat modifier is one).

Item Levels Reduced

Because reforging halves the stat in the process, it effectively reduces the iLevel of an item.  Let’s take a simple non-socketed item like the Lungbreaker.  I’m using the WotLK calculations, because after 4.0 hits two of the ratings on this item will be folded into other stats.

The current item level calculation is:

106.29 * log( ( ( 691.7095 + (692/3)1.7095 + 461.7095 + (931/2)1.7095 + 461.7095 )1/1.7095) * (27/64) ) – 344.36

Which gives us 265.91.  That’s close enough to 264 (the actual item level) for the purposes of this article.

If we reforge the item to swap 46 critical strike rating for 23 haste rating, the calculation becomes:

106.29 * log( ( ( 691.7095 + (692/3)1.7095 + 231.7095 + (931/2)1.7095 + 461.7095 )1/1.7095) * (27/64) ) – 344.36

Which works out to 258.29.  The item level as queried in-game won’t change, but if you apply the formula to the item there will be a discrepancy between what the item level should be and what the game says it is.

This may turn out to be the only way to detect a reforged item – it’s not clear if the results of reforging will be invisible, or if they’ll be presented as a pair of enchants (i.e. “-46 Spirit and 23 Critical Strike Rating”).  The game does support the idea of negative stats, even though you hardly see them in current content.

Cost and Priority of Items

If your loot system uses the item level to calculate the cost of an item, will you change the cost based upon whether the item is going to be reforged?

Enchants and Gems only enhance an item.  You can make the wrong choices and not enhance it as much as is possible, but you can’t make an item worse through the use of these augments.

Reforging is different.  Let’s say you’re a warlock.  You don’t care about spirit.  An item drops that is an upgrade for you, but only if you reforge the spirit into haste.  Let’s assume that your guild uses EP/GP.  Do you pay the GP value of the item before or after it has been reforged?

What if a priest also wants the item, but can use it without any modifications?

A loot system that has a fixed price for items tends to derive that cost from the tier of content.  Most guilds that I’ve been in set a price for each set of gear, with a similar fixed price for non-tier items from the same instance.  Systems like EP/GP derive the GP value in part from the item level.  The idea is that the price you pay is related to the benefit you get from the item.

Since a reforged item is by definition less powerful than an untouched item, it follows that someone who can make use of the item in it’s natural state gets a higher benefit out of it than someone who reforges it.

Reforging is meant to make less attractive items more attractive, saving them from being disenchanted.  I don’t think (and you may disagree with me) that you are meant to be re-forging every single item that drops the way you chant and/or gem items today.

So should someone who plans to reforge an item be given lower priority on that item?

Some loot systems already break ties based upon the perceived value of an item to the various members.  For example, in EP/GP, some slots have different GP values for different classes.  A ranged weapon is worth three times the GP for a hunter than for a rogue.  In my loot policy, PR is a tie breaker only if two or more people declaring would be charged the same amount.  A hunter with a lower PR will get a gun over a rogue with a higher PR, because the higher cost means that the hunter will get more benefit from the item.

Granted, the item level difference that reforging will have is much smaller than the 3:1 ratio in the above example, but the principle is the same – more benefit has higher priority.  Loot council guilds tend to operate on similar principles, so they’ll have to deal with this as well.

Will you ask your members to indicate that they will re-forge an item when declaring to help you distribute loot?  Does your loot priority now change from “mainspec beats offspec” to “mainspec -> mainspec with reforge -> offspec”?

I’m not really sure how to answer those questions, but I do think they bear some thought before Cataclysm launches.  Nobody can make an informed decision until we see the full range of reforging patterns that will be available.  I am interested to hear what opinions you have on whether reforging will impact your loot policy.

Until Next Time