Backgroud: I never raided in vanilla WoW, and I was behind the progression curve in BC. My gear was never the best.
Back in the days when epics were rare, I used to like to inspect people in Stormwind (in vanilla) and Shattrath (in BC) and check out their epics. In those days, the higher-tier gear really stood out from the normal quest/instance blues. You’d be running through Shattrath City and say “Whoa! Look at those cool shoulders! They have eyes looking around in them! That’s awesome!” Then you’d /inspect and see what they were and get a bit envious.
I’m not advocating for the people who /afk on the bridge in Ironforge just to show off. That kind of narcissism is a little sad. But still, it was always neat to see something unique that jumps out at you. Do you remember the first time you saw someone with Terestian’s Stranglestaff? Or, if you go back far enough, seeing a rogue in full Bloodfang armor?
I had the fun of this experience this week.
With the current powerleveling that is going on, players have very few opportunities to pick up epics on their way from 1-80. Going through instances with the LFD system you have almost no chance of seeing epics (unless you do some BC heroics at level 70), and there are very few quests that give epic rewards.
Last week my guild did a quick run through Blackwing Lair for some people who had never seen it. It was fun (except the Suppression Room, of course) and quick. Since we had 10 level 80s doing it, they let me drag along my level 64 mage for some XP and loot. In the course of the run, I managed to pick up the Ebony Flame Gloves from Ebonroc, Ringo’s Blizzard Boots from trash mobs, the Netherwind Belt (T2! woot!) from Vael, and the Staff of the Shadow Flame from Nefarian.
The next day, as I went through my pug instances using LFD, I got repeated comments about my gear. The staff in particular is cool-looking, with a nice purple glow and so it attracts attention. I’ll admit, it was enjoyable to get oohs and aahs for my gear.
Maybe I should go /afk on the bridge in Ironforge now.
Seriously – it makes me hope that in Cataclysm the epics might be a little harder to get, and maybe a little more rare at first. In Wrath, with people running Naxx within the first couple of weeks, epics flowed like water. I no longer even notice people’s gear because its all epic and all blends together. I like gear that stands out, even if I’m not the one who has it.