Saturday, September 3, 2011

Staves: What Not To Wear in 4.3


Welcome to Part 2 of 2 for our analysis on Staves for 4.3.  

If you recall, in our previous post, Part 1 of 2 discussed staves from purely a wireframe model standpoint, accounting for how many other staves share the same model in-game, and giving a visual representation of the results. 

So is the chart we posted in our last article enough to determine what you should be using for a staff to stand out among your peers? The short answer is 'no'.

Data mining and determining how many items are truly unique is easy enough. But to really put these models to the test, you have to cross reference them with a qualitative, aesthetic analysis. Which brings us to our next exercise and more, after the jump.

For the rest of our analysis, our editor's picks and our review of Anathema/Benediction, read on after the jump below.

First, a brief introduction to the methodology you see used here.  What you see above is what we refer to as a visual positioning matrix (click for larger image). We use this tool as a means to provide a visual landscape to the subject matter we're trying to break down.  For this case, we're again positioning every Epic, Rare and Uncommon Staff currently attainable in-game.  If you own Anathema/Benediction and you'd like to see where it stacks up as part of the visual positioning analysis to follow, jump to the end of the article but prepare to be humbled!


The vertical axis here is a continuum of Introverted forms (singular geometry, quiet) to Extroverted forms (intersecting geometry, loud). Things are visually quiet the further South you go, and conversely they get flamboyant if you head North.

The horizontal axis here is a continuum of Static forms (rectilinear, sharp transitions) to Fluid forms (organic, smooth transitions). Things appear stoic and angular to the West, and as you head East they start to feel more smooth and organic.

The goal here isn't to determine the exact placement of each individual item, rather to identify deltas between them as a means to flush out some conclusions. In this case, we're trying to determine what the landscape for Staves will be for transmogrification in 4.3 and provide players with some insight into the choices they'll be making.  So if we cross-reference this visual positioning with our earlier differentiation analysis we referenced above, we can start to predict just how unique a model truly is.  To keep this post relatively short, let's simply cross reference the top row of "truly unique" staves from the differentiation exercise above and plot their locations on the visual positioning map and see what we can learn.

In the above image, we've projected red and green highlights over the locations of the "truly unique" staves (click for larger view).

Red ellipses identify a staff that is sitting amidst a sea of sameness, where the macro geometry of forms are extremely similar.  A great example here being the Staff of Infinite Mysteries (48,20). A popular item back in early Karazahn days, but unfortunately lost amongst all the other hybrid sharp and fluid extroverted forms introduced in Wrath and Cataclysm.  

Green ellipses identify a staff that is far enough from the fringes of parity that it can maintain a unique visual identity.  Wear one of these staves, and you're more likely to stand out among your peers because not only is it a "truly unique" model, but it's also carved out a nice little visual niche among the competition.  A great example here is the Exodar Life Staff (17,25) a BOE drop from Doom Lord Kazzak, a former raid boss and rare spawn in Hellfire Peninsula.

So from a macro level, this chart helps us put a bit more weight behind the recommendations we can submit to the player base below.  But what else can we draw from this?  First, holy balls, look at that mass of red clustered up the middle! What a mess. We would have expected such parity from early vanilla WoW models, but not from the aesthetically advanced expansions of Wrath and Cataclysm.  What this tells us is while the models of today's staves are visually intense and aggressive and a lot of expressive work has gone into them, they're all doing more or less the same thing - even among the majority of the "truly unique" staves as we've identified above in red.  The stages of Dragonwrath, for example, are lost in a sea of sameness, where only the subtle details of form transitions, color and iconography can generate visual differentiation.  Designers would call this a successful attempt at maintaining aesthetic consistency throughout an expansion, and while we can identify with that from a design standpoint, it just doesn't feel like a stable base for personalization.

As a side note to the conversation, similar to what we saw in our Shields analysis, I'm personally surprised how empty the Northwest and Eastern regions of the chart are.  In our Shields analysis, the Eastern region was sparse as well, and it's too early to tell based solely on an analysis of shield and staves design, but this tells me the Blizzard art department may have an art style that's very fluid and organic up their sleeve for the next expansion.  Doing so would certainly enable them to trend away from the sea of parity above in terms of staff design, and generate an entirely new look and feel to staves that hasn't been seen yet.

We hope you've enjoyed our review of Staves for 4.3 and our take on what to wear and what not to wear.  If your goal is to truly stand out among your peers with transmogrification in 4.3, we encourage you to draw from these charts.  For those that would like a kickstarter, we've included our editor's picks based on the analysis below.  Thanks again for reading, and stay tuned for more content here at Disenchanting Azeroth.

Bye for now!
-Keelhaul

The items to follow are in no particular order.

1.Exodar Life Staff.  Mentioned above, this item has really carved out a genuine niche for itself.  Incredibly bold, particularly with the uber glow to the triangular crystals, this item maintains a delicate balance between mostly angular and just slightly fluid.  The handle flowing down from the crystals has a really elegant turn in it that softens the blow of an otherwise sharp and powerful icon.  One of our team's faves, and unfortunately your only option if you've already completed the Cipher of Damnation questline from TBC and sold off its equivalent.
2. Charmed Cierge.  Sitting just on the outskirts of parity is the Charmed Cierge.  Very subtle, very elegant, very delicate and enough to set it apart from its peers.  With so many of the current models opting for the opposite of "delicate", this would be a great conversation starter in a dungeon or raid.  Definitely one that will go overlooked in 4.3 so hit Naxx and take it when nobody else is aware they should want it.
3. Draenic Wildstaff. Yes, it technically shares its model with a few other options, but given their availability and the fact that this one is extremely unique in terms of where it fell out in our visual analysis above, it remained in our top 25 for the last few days.  What put it over the top into our recommended top 10?  The animation.  The design is already in a solid place, so the animation is just enough to really make this intriguing.  Great item for transmogrification because it's the perfect mix of visual differentiation and animation.
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4. Twin's Pact.  Horde only, and quite the opposite of something like the Charmed Cierge is this hoss.  Extremely expressive with those antlers, and really nothing else quite like it in-game.  Sure there are plenty of horse-heads and antler-like elements adorning the staves in the vacinity of this bad boy, but nothing is going to hang off your back quite like Twin's Pact.  Highly recommended.
5. Lupine Longstaff.  Alliance only, and sheer coincidence that it's the faction alternative of the same drop as Twin's Pact.  The two have been in our top 25 for the last few days, and while we knew Twin's Pact was easily top 10, we weren't sure about the Lupine Longstaff until we really examined some of the other alternatives.  The thing with the Longstaff is there really is nothing else quite like it in-game, in terms of a staff model.  It almost belongs in different game entirely because the art style and contrasting colors really give it more of a futuristic feel.  Really very unique, and definitely one that is best suited to players who will pay it some respect and accompany it with gear of a similar style and color scheme.  You could argue there is a potential Starcraft look brewing with this one if you could secure the right garments...
6. Staff of Immaculate Recovery. Priest blogs everywhere unite!  Everyone is likely recommending this staff, so we're not going to doll out our description of why it belongs here.  The proof is in our analysis, this one has carved itself a niche, and is an easy recommendation.
7. Grand Scepter of the Nexus-Kings.  Likely to be one of the most forgotten staves for 4.3, this item is actually a rare drop from Mana Tombs.  Quiet and unassuming, but that's the point.  There's nothing quiet and unassuming in WoW anymore in terms of weapons, as everything has boomed into the extroverted region.  This one strikes a careful balance keeping it in the more static, rectilinear region of the West, but the animation certainly helps maintain its extroverted position.  Easily another conversation starter, because players are bound to ask where did you get it, and what made you decide to use it.

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8. Zhar'doom, Greatstaff of the Devourer.  An item we've mentioned before, and surely one other transmogrifying counselors will be recommending for 4.3.  We've selected it for strategic reasons, leveraging our visual positioning and differentiation evaluations, and the icing on the cake is the animation of the twitchy little bugger.

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9. Apostle of Argus.  Back in TBC, this was one of the most sought-after staves because of how different it looked from anything else in the game, and that desirable aesthetic is likely to maintain its allure into 4.3.  Initially on the outskirts of our top 25 because from a form standpoint it, like each of the other TBC "ethereal tractor beam with floating objects" staves are pretty average in terms of form.  So clearly what separates this one, and why we've decided to roll with it in our top 10 list is because omg it's AN ETHEREAL TRACTOR BEAM WITH FLOATING OBJECTS!!!  Archimonde awaits.

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10. Funeral Pyre.  Introduced in the Firelands raid of 4.2.  We're not normally fans of recommending current content if you want to stand out from your peers, but this staff is a marvelous exception.  Incredibly organic by Blizzard's wireframe model standards, this one has fluid twists and turns all over the place.  Very expressive, and for the most part stands alone in our evaluation above.  In fact, if Blizzard does go Emerald Dream and shifts into more of an organic aesthetic as we mentioned earlier, we wouldn't be surprised to see this guy get reskinned with a woodsy theme.  Get it now, wear it now. 
Finally, for those players who were lucky enough to acquire Anathema/Benediction prior to its removal from the game, here's where your prize stands against the competition (click for larger image).  The Anathema model is clearly pushing the envelope of every other staff in the game into the extroverted/static quadrant, which is a fantastic place to be because for the most part nobody else is going to be there.  The Exodar Life Staff is going to be a tough drop to get because it's not only a random drop, but it's a random boss spawn as well.  Even Benediction can hold its own, though it's slightly less expressive in form.  So really both models should serve players extremely well, and yeah nothing to be humble about.  And when you're touting your prize around town, if anyone gives you any flack, send them here to us and we'll set them straight for you. ;)


8 comments:

  1. Fantastic analysis Keel. Don't kow how you do it but keep it up!

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  2. This is brilliant, combining some of my favorite things; data mining, unique WoW items, and incredibly well designed charts and graphics. You are now my #1 favorite blog, I look forward to your upcoming posts!

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  3. This is awesome information, seriously! I now have a superb staff (Draenic Wildstaff) for my resto druid thanks to your analysis :) I'm so glad that blogs like yours are popping up and encouraging people to think about their visual style instead of focusing on the latest bling.

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  4. Why not mention http://www.wowhead.com/item=31038 as a far easier to obtain and visually identical alternative to the Exodar Life Staff? When I was doing loremaster of outland back in wrath I picked this one up and hung onto it cause I thought it was so cool looking and I'm glad I did. I'm gonna have to design a Naaru themed outfit for my worgen druid hahaha

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  5. Spot on Aarkan! Hard to recommend it as an easier alternative, though, since a number of players have likely already completed the questline. But it definitely deserves some counter value to the Exodar Life Staff. Good catch! - Keel

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  6. Hey Keel. I'm looking for a good mogging staff for a warlock. And I can't help but notice a staff on this that's out in the middle of nowhere. Quadrant 4 (introverted, fluid) approx coords are (30,-25). It's that black orbed one being held by a claw/undead hand. What staff is that? And thanks for the wildstaff! gives me somethin to go after on my druidess!

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  7. Hey Jonathan, that would be Braxxis Staff of Slumber, a BoE commonly found on the auction house (though these days it's fetching about 500g - 1500g for auctioneers so tread carefully). The list of items in this article can be found in the previous article on staves, where a link to every one identified here will send you to WoWhead.

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