Archmage Callinon wrote:
It's a side effect of having such wide horizontal progression (and the ability to macro pieces of gear in and out during combat).
One of the primary reasons WoW and other MMOs are designed with tiers of endgame content and eventual increases in the level cap is to avoid this exact problem.
The primary reason WoW and other MMOs are designed with tiers of endgame content and eventual increases in the level cap is because it's really f*cking easy to do things that way. In fact, it's the easiest possible route they can take. It's as simple as that; any other results are simply side-effects.
Need some new content? Just slide everything up an arbitrary 5 levels on your exponential curve. All the old stuff is obsolete, all the new stuff is unquestionably superior... then do it again next year.
Now, I know that there's more to gear sets than a single stat, and I know that set bonuses come in to play, &c., &c., but here's a quick example to illustrate WoW's incredibly simple, exponential curve in action using all of the tiered Mage body pieces in the game (the best sets within each tier are referenced for brevity):
Tier 1 Mage body piece: INT +20
Tier 2 Mage body piece: INT +27
Tier 3 Mage body piece: INT +40
Tier 4 Mage body piece: INT +42
Tier 5 Mage body piece: INT +47
Tier 6 Mage body piece: INT +53
Tier 7 Mage body piece: INT +74
Tier 8 Mage body piece: INT +106
Tier 9 Mage body piece: INT +120
Tier 10 Mage body piece: INT+ 137
Tier 11 Mage body piece: INT +146
Tier 12 Mage body piece: INT +345
Tier 13 Mage body piece: INT +489
Tier 14 Mage body piece: INT +1140
You can readily observe how they began at the lowest part of a basic exponential curve, and now just move the slider to re-balance the game upon every new expansion. Developers don't do this because of some grand commitment to stave off horizontal progression, they do it because most of the game balances itself that way.