Closet cleaning time

Time to clean out my Drafts folder — so here are some short, disconnected, rambling thoughts and comments.

— There is something to be said for mindless busywork in WoW. Sometimes after a long and difficult day at work, after I’ve hit the gym, fixed supper, and finished my household tasks, I like to log in and do things I can do on cruise control. Things that very slightly engage my brain but not too much. Things like fly mining routes, or look for stuff that’s easy to find, or kill hundreds of mobs for the leather, or go explore a corner of Azeroth I never spent much time in — you know, your basic bubble gum for the mind. Maybe throw in some friendly guild chat, crank up some music. In Mists, I loved looking for those dirt piles that yielded gifts for all the Tillers — perfect mindless relaxation.

For some reason I can’t figure out, garrison chores do not fit into that category. My only explanation is that they are too similar to real life chores,  too much like dusting or scrubbing the commodes — you know you have to do it or your quality of life disintegrates, but there is nothing uplifting about it. Whereas the other things I mentioned are more like going for a bike ride in nice weather.

— I rolled a Horde hunter a few days ago, a Blood Elf male. Just for something new to do. No idea if I will actually level him, but I am having a bit of fun with something different. Not different in terms of class, I have leveled a lot of hunters, I really never get tired of playing them. Different because he is Horde and because he is a he. I know lots of people have characters of both genders — although it seems like real life males with female characters are the most prevalent — but I myself have never done it. Don’t know why, probably some deep psychological reason.

—  I remain very disappointed that WoD is so unfriendly to playing alts, and that it has pretty much killed professions. Of all the  things wrong with this failed expansion, those two are the biggest for me. I enjoy raiding and chasing achievements on my main hunters, but for the last few years playing around with alts and doing profession crafting have been a large part of how I define “fun” in the game.

—  I finally just pulled the plug on trade chat. I don’t mind bad language, hell I even use the F word and a few other pieces of profanity myself in talking with friends. I am not offended by cursing. But trade chat at least on my server has become a cesspool of undisguised hatred for anything or anyone who disagrees with or is perceived as different from the chatter. Worse, the hatred is expressed in vile threat-laced terms, usually involving sexually explicit violent acts. Political screed and rants against women are common, expressed in caps with lots of exclamation marks. People asking perfectly reasonable game-related questions are immediately set upon by the pack, roundly ridiculed and denounced. Anyone daring to use trade chat for actual offers of trade is usually accused of being an idiot, a bot, or a gold seller, in very nasty terms.

I do not buy Blizz’s explanation that they have no way of controlling trade chat. I guarantee you if a few of the worst offenders were suspended on the spot, word would get around. All it would take is a couple GMs to randomly monitor trade chat on a few servers each night, and they should publicize this policy. Just the chance that you could be suspended immediately would go a long ways towards stomping down the very worst offenders.

—  How do you decide when it is time to leave a guild? This is something I have given a lot of thought to, and it turns out that for me it is a very complex question. I have no answers, unfortunately. I do think that guilds have finite life spans, and there are probably identifiable stages they go through, much like humans — childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, maturity, and yes old age. Guilds do die, sometimes very suddenly and sometimes in a long lingering way. How do you divorce a guild you have been with a long time? Are you a jerk if you dump it for a younger “trophy”guild? I know for some people changing guilds is no big deal, but for me it would be a huge step. Loyalty gene, I can’t help it. As I said, no answers, and no I am not going to leave either of my guilds, but it is a question I have thought about a lot. Probably some social scientist has done a Ph.D dissertation on it, who knows.

—  I think I’ve reached the bottom of the Drafts folder. Everyone have a nice weekend. Go forth. Do good. Rinse and repeat.

Patch 6.1 experien…..zzzzzzzz

Patch 6.1 is close to the most underwhelming patch Blizz has ever issued. It would absolutely win the prize, except that they did add some annoying, customer-hostile features that have generated quite a bit of (negative) feedback. Apparently they have implemented a policy often employed by politicians and movie stars, that any publicity/interest is good, no matter how awful the public response.

I will admit that when I logged on to my main after the patch I had a bit of fun just checking out some of the new stuff.  But, like this entire expansion, it was fun once on one character but after that it is boring at best and teeth-grindingly awful at worst.

So no, I will not be chasing all over Draenor on my alts to get a jukebox that plays the same elevator music I have heard over and over and over again for years in this game. I will be sticking to my iTunes playlists, thank you very much.

And no, I am not interested in publicizing all of my alts to everyone by joining so that I can Tweet about how boring the patch is. The requirement for using Twitter in game was a nice little last-minute gotcha by Blizz. A blue post yesterday explained that it was the only way they could implement parental controls, which I suppose is a decent reason, but — ummmm — just possibly this could have been explained IN ADVANCE?

Side rant: So, Blizz, it’s nice that you are concerned about all the innocent little children playing this game, really it is. It warms my heart. I mean that. However, I suspect your concern has more to do with possible lawsuits than any real worries about exposing children to the seamier side of social media. I say that because, damn, HAVE YOU LOOKED AT TRADE CHAT LATELY???? If you are suddenly so protective of young players in your game, maybe you could hire a couple of server trade chat bouncers to crack down on the vile, hate-filled, often threatening comments usually expressed in sexually explicit terms, and the filthy language deliberately misspelled so as to circumvent the language filter. Just sayin’. You know, since you’re so worried about protecting the little children and all.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Back to the patch.

I have not yet had the “pleasure” of taking any selfies in-game, because as usual the RNG gods have it in for me and I have not gotten the S.E.L.F.I.E mission on any of my characters. Not that I think this will be fun more than enough times to get the achievement, but — you know– it would be nice to have that opportunity.

Which brings me to my main observation about Patch 6.1. Even though Blizz admits there are problems with RNG (they did implement the bad luck streak fix for bonus rolls) — most especially the frustration players have when they are in a run of bad luck — they insist on making that the deciding feature on more and more aspects of the game. By doing so, they remove more and more control from players. For me, the truly fascinating part of this game was always the thinking part, embarking on Decision Tree X so as to achieve Goal Y. But lately I feel like it just doesn’t matter, since many decisions are no longer mine but instead a roll of the dice.

Everyone (I think) understands that the guts of this game is RNG — chance to land a killing blow, chance to win certain loot, chance that a mob will spawn, etc. But that doesn’t mean everything has to be based on a pseudorandom generator. And until recently there were many game features that were based on player choice. Choose to do dailies or not so as to get currency that resulted in gear. Choose to raid or not to get gear that way. Choose to level up a jewelcrafter so as to make your own gems or sell them for gold. Choose to tweak your gear stats with enchants, gems, or recently by reforging. Choose to have alts or not, along with a reasonable opportunity to actually play them.

Those things are gone, and Blizz keeps narrowing player options. For example, it is beyond stupid in my opinion to have the RNG method of learning new profession recipes for this patch. WoD already pretty much destroyed professions for those of us that enjoyed that aspect of the game, and now it seems like they are just rubbing it in. Why gate the availability of profession recipes FOR ENTIRE REGIONS AT ONCE? Just to stretch out the newness of the patch? News flash, Blizz, the patch stinks, and gating non-content is not going to make it less odoriferous. And why not at least make the profession recipes BoA? As it stands now, if the fur trader shows up in my leatherworker’s garrison, I have to log onto my tailor and beg someone to invite me to their garrison in order to get the tailoring recipes. Another news flash, Blizz, this does not force me to have more social interaction in the game, it only annoys me and forces me to spend valuable game time doing administrivia. I get enough of that in real life, thank you very much.

The only explanation I have for this entire patch is that it was the leftover punch list from the expansion. Blizz dragged their feet so long in getting WoD out, there were certainly a lot of things they knew were broken but hey the villagers were gathering with pitchforks and they had to push out the xpac or have their collective butts chased across the countryside. So they had a “fix later” list. Also, the patch was a great opportunity to give the citizens bread and circuses so as to distract them from the awfulness of the xpac. (“This blows, there’s no content, garrisons take up all my time, OOOHH LOOK, SELFIES!”)

And of course, the ever-vigilant Screw With the Players Department saw opportunities to add in annoying “features” such as RNG-based profession recipes.

All in all, 6.1 is a non-patch. Why bother, Blizz?

Patch 6.1

As I don’t want to get thrown out of the WoW Bloggers Union, I figured I’d better post a few comments about today’s 6.1 patch. Not that I have a lot to say about it. As many others have pointed out, most of this patch is really what should have been part of the initial release of WoD, if Blizz had not tried to push out a beta product as a finished expansion.

Be that as it may, the things I am most excited about interested in are the level 4 crafted upgrades, greater availability of Savage Bloods due to the new transmute ability, and some of the garrison quality of life changes. I will probably try out the selfies and maybe do a couple of Tweets, but those seem like very temporary interests for me. The jukebox is intriguing, although I suspect I will still prefer my own iTunes playlists and keep using those when I want accompanying music to my game sessions. And of course I will run both BRF LFRs for the legendary quest items. I will also make sure my heirloom tab is set up on all my alts, maybe even buy a few upgrades for the ones I have not yet leveled.

I have some commitments that will keep me from logging on until late tomorrow. That’s probably good, as any new patch bugs — you know there will be some — should be worked out by then, and I really see no need to hurry into the patch as soon as it goes live. But for the next few days my plan is to:

1.  Upgrade my crafted weapon on my first main hunter, also upgrade the crafted ring and craft a helm for level 4 upgrading. That will take, by my calculation, 120 savage bloods, so obtaining those will also be high on my list. (I am now regretting selling so many of them, but assuming the prices don’t skyrocket I should be able to buy what I need for less than I sold them for.)

2.  Learn the new profession recipes, especially the 125 food ones, and cook some multistrike dishes for my hunters.

3. Start cranking out savage blood transmutes on my alchemist for additional upgrades to crafted gear on alts.

4.  Start leveling a few more alts, at a leisurely pace, now that there is the possibility of using heirlooms once again. I might even start a baby hordie hunter, never tried horde before, might be kind of fun.

5.  Kick back and listen to some music, launch a few follower missions and work on upgrading their gear.

Happy patch day.

More than you ever wanted to know about the loot process

Patch 7.0.3 edit: Please be aware that the Legion pre-patch has significantly changed the loot process. I will be writing about it at a later date, but for now be aware that this post  is now useful only for some very general principles and possibly for historic context.

Patch 6.2 edit: The loot system has changed slightly from when I first posted this. The details are sketchy, but the number of personal loot drops is now guaranteed to be at least equal to the number of drops for group loot, with the chance of personal loot mode dropping possibly one more piece than group loot would.

What this means for the discussion below is, there will no longer be a chance in personal loot for zero drops, and there likely will also not be a chance for everyone to receive loot. However, the overall diagram still generally works, in that the system “rolls” for people in personal loot mode, determining if they do or do not get loot, but if it is awarded, then the loot will be appropriate to class/spec (without regard to secondary stats in the case of pure DPS classes).

Tl;dr: Here’s how loot systems work. There is a new kind of raid team, the Guild PUG, and Personal Loot seems the best option for it. 

Loot Process

I think I have mentioned before that there is an ongoing debate in one of my guilds about what the best loot system is for our raid team. Since we can’t agree on Personal vs. Group Loot, the Raid Leader has been leaving it on PL for the time being.

I’ve been doing a bit of research in anticipation of the inevitable Big Raid Meeting on what system we will use going forward. It should come as no surprise that Blizz has published almost nothing on the details of how the game determines loot awards. That is probably a smart decision on their part, but it does make it challenging and frustrating for someone like me who usually wants All The Facts before committing to a course of action. Above is a flow chart I put together to summarize what I could scrape up about the loot process once a boss is killed. (“Auto-calculate” in the descriptions means the game does it for you.) Bear in mind it is a summary, so there are exceptions and special circumstances not covered by the graphic.

Facts I could find about each system:

Personal Loot

  • The RNG determines if a player will receive loot after a boss kill, rolling on the basis of Get Loot/Don’t Get Loot.  Best guess, according to a few reputable 3rd party sites I found, is that the chance of rolling Get Loot is between 10%-15%, but some sites guessed it could be as high as 20%.
  • Each player’s chance is calculated independently. Theoretically, every player could Get Loot, or none of them could get it. (See edit notes above.)
  • For every player that wins the initial RNG loot roll, the game then looks up spec-appropriate gear in the boss’s loot table, selects an appropriate item at random, and awards it to the player. This means that it is possible for multiple players to receive the same item. It also means it is possible for a given player to keep getting the same item each week. (Which of us has not been there?) Prior to WoD, I recall Blizz dropped some hints that they were looking into the “same drop every week” problem, but I don’t think anything ever came of it.
  • For every player that does not win the Get Gear roll, they will be awarded the ever-popular Gold.
  • Personal loot is not tradable, it is BoP.
  • According to a blue post by Rygarius, everyone will receive a guaranteed drop from the last boss of a dungeon in LFR. I am confused about this, because it seems like I have run LFR several times and received only gold from Imperator, so maybe that change never got implemented, or maybe the guarantee is just for the first time you ever kill that boss. Or maybe I am getting senile. If anyone has any insight into this (final boss loot, not my senility), let me know.

Group Loot (including Master Looter, need before greed, etc.)

  • The RNG keeps track of how many players were in the raid when the boss was killed, and determines how many pieces of loot will drop. The formula is one piece per every 5 people (except Mythic, which always drops 6 pieces). If the number of players is not a multiple of 5, there is an added chance for an extra piece to drop. For example, if there are 17 players, in addition to the guaranteed 3 pieces, you will get a 40% chance of a fourth piece dropping. (2 “extra” players, 1 in 5 chance per player, so 2/5 or 40% chance.)
  • Once the loot drops, the raid’s loot system takes over, and RNG is essentially out of the picture except in determining /roll amounts if those are used. If there is a Master Looter or Loot Council, they will determine who gets loot, in accordance with whatever rules have been established.
  • Again according to Rygarius, in LFR with need before greed active — is that even possible? My hatred and lack of familiarity with LFR is showing here — the final boss will always drop 3 items. Which seems to contradict the one item per 5 players rule, so once again I am confused. I think at this point I am just going to ignore the Rygarius post and dismiss it as an outlier.

Bonus Rolls

  • Players with the right currency (Seal of Tempered Fate for WoD) can roll an extra roll on every boss. There are no weekly limitations on how often you can do this, except that world bosses and final dungeon bosses can only be rolled on once a week. However, each raid difficulty level (LFR, Normal, etc.) is treated as a separate raid for loot purposes. This means even if you cannot get loot from BigBadBoss Number One in a LFR, you can still use a seal and get a chance at loot.
  • Bonus rolls incorporate Blizz’s “Bad luck streak protection” algorithm. That is, if you use a seal and don’t get any loot from a bonus roll, your chance of getting loot on the next roll will increase. It keeps increasing every time you fail to get bonus loot, resetting only after you have got something. It carries over from boss to boss and instance to instance. As long as you don’t win on a bonus roll, your chances keep increasing. Although it’s not officially stated anywhere that I could find, the streak protection seems to be on a per-character basis, not per account.
  •  Bonus loot — like other loot — is awarded based on what you have selected as your loot spec. You can select a different loot spec any time prior to your bonus roll — even a few seconds before — and get loot for that spec.
  •  The RNG mechanics of Bonus Loot work just like those for Personal Loot — auto-roll to see if you will get loot, if so select according to loot spec from loot table and award it, if not then award gold. Also, the chance of getting bonus loot is close to the chance for getting personal loot — around 15% best guess.
  • Some specific items (often mounts and quest items) cannot be gotten from bonus rolls.

So What?

So how does this information help a raid team decide what kind of loot system is best for them? Clearly, both Personal and Group loot systems have pros and cons. (Bonus Loot is always in force, so it is not really a further consideration in selecting a system.) Some of the obvious distinctions are:

  • Gear is guaranteed to drop with GL, not so with PL. (See edit above.)
  • If you do win loot with PL, it is guaranteed to be appropriate to your spec. With GL, no spec-appropriate gear may drop for you.
  • If you are in a group with several people who wear the same kind of armor you do, your chances of winning gear may be less in a GL system. Example: If you are the only plate wearer, you absolutely want GL because you will get all plate that drops, so you are only affected by the random chance of any plate dropping at all. But if you are one of 4 cloth wearers, you then have only a one in four chance of getting gear even if cloth drops, so you are affected by the random chance of cloth dropping, plus random chance of a roll. (Or, if a roll system is not in place, you must be the neediest/most deserving/etc. clothie.) Looked at from the other side, PL is much kinder to people who often compete with others for loot, and harsher on those that have no competition.

Most of the conventional wisdom says that PL is better for pugs, and GL is better for traditional guild raids. At first glance, this seems to make very good sense. After all, GL offers more control and in the long run should improve a raid team’s composite gear levels, enabling them to take on harder and harder bosses, get even better gear, succeed in progression, etc.

The problem is, most “casual” guilds no longer have traditional raid teams. With the introduction of the flex model, raids are now a kind of hybrid — “Guild PUGs”. There may be a core of people who almost always show up, but there is also a sizeable group of people who tend to rotate in and out, sometimes participating, sometimes not. It is not unusual for these players to be undergeared or have less than optimal raid skills or be unfamiliar with the specific mechanics of the raid bosses, but hey they are guildies and most raid leaders will let them run.

In such circumstances, PL is probably a better model, since it bypasses all questions of who most “deserves” a piece of gear, or even who should be allowed to compete for a certain piece of gear. In Guild PUGs, there is little advantage to GL, since the people winning the gear may not contribute in any ongoing way to the progress of the raid team. New people every raid night also usually means more wipes per boss and consequently less gear.

Yet PL also has a problem that makes it sub-optimal for guild raids. If there is in fact a core group of raiders (maybe fewer than 10, but still a core group), PL does not allow for any organized approach to improving the core group’s overall gear level. Gear upgrades are determined solely by random chance.

Then there are the psychological factors. Yes I am talking about Drama. Any Group Loot structure inevitably leads to drama, it is just human nature. Where there is human judgement involved in awarding of desired items, there will be perceptions that the human making the judgement favors someone over someone else, thus the “someone else” perceives the system to be “unfair.” This is true even when the human judgement is far removed and may only have been involved in setting up “rules.”

For example, on one of my raid teams the group loot rule is that you /roll 300 for main spec and /roll 100 for off spec, except that any main spec roll takes precedence over any off spec roll (need before greed). Only one main spec item may be won per player per night. Even this apparently “fair” system caused hard feelings. For one thing, the team rarely downed more than one boss per night, so people on a lucky streak seemed to win main spec gear all the time and people on a bad luck streak never received any gear. Some players did not gear up outside of raid, consequently they always without fail “needed” the gear, increasing the competition for other players who did gear up on their own but may have needed a specific piece from this boss. Rotational players would often join the team after we had spent weeks working on a boss and finally seemed poised to down him — you guessed it, the rotational players seemed always to win the gear while the ones who had worked at it for weeks and spent hundreds on repairs got zilch.

You see where this is going. It does not matter what the group loot system is, there is a 100% chance that at some point it will cause hard feelings for someone, and drama — either overt or submerged — will ensue. Hard core raid teams are prepared to deal with this, and if the drama causes people to leave, the teams usually have deep benches and can carry on with only minor disruption. This is not true of the majority of semi-casual raid teams.

The best argument I can come up with for PL is that it eliminates the drama. It is by no means perfect, but it seems the best option available for Guild PUGs.

UI Woes

Been wondering lately if it is time to simplify or at least drastically alter my user interface and/or my style of mousing and keyboarding in game.

Here’s a shot of what my combat UI generally looks like, of course some procs and cd’s come and go in it. If I were in a raid, the raid frames would be in the upper left of my screen.

Combat UI 2015-02-20 14.29.08






I use mainly Weakauras 2 and Kharthus’s Hunter Timers to keep track of my cooldowns and procs, along with a couple of the better Blizz proc graphics. I also use Bartender 4, keeping most of my raid and combat action bars at the bottom of the screen and my “admin” bars on the right side. Overall, I don’t feel like my UI is too complicated, although I could simplify it even more by having the action bars disappear in combat, since all my important stuff is keybound. It stays on my screen mainly as a security blanket, in case I have a brain fart and suddenly can’t remember how to throw Master’s Call in an emergency. Silly, but there it is.

The source of my current angst is my mouse and keyboard interaction. I have the feeling it is not very efficient, and if I could make it better I might improve my DPS. I use a Logitech G510S keyboard and a Razer Naga Epic mouse. With my DPS alts, I use the mouse to move and the keyboard to cast. But there is a lot of crossover. For example, since I have about a bajillion buttons on my mouse, I have most of my quick-reaction spells available there — things like Disengage, Counter Shot, Explosive Shot, Glaive Toss — so I can easily throw them while moving and still have my keyboard hand poised to hammer down on the next part of the rotation. And I sometimes — OK, maybe even “often” — revert to some good old wasd movement, especially for strafing and backup. Nothing prevents me from binding strafing and backup keys to my mouse so I could use it for all movement, I just have never done it and now think it might be awkward for quite awhile.

So my keyboard-mouse habits seem disorganized and inefficient to me.

Worse for my sense of tidiness, when I play a healer, my habits become pretty much opposite of my DPS ones. Due to the limitations of Healbot, my healer mainly uses the keyboard for movement and the mouse for healing. And since I have more keybinds than mouse buttons, I generally have to use my keyboard for some spells as well as for movement. (Luckily, Blizz foresaw this problem for me and nicely made it so healers rarely cast and move at the same time any more, thanks Blizz!)

This means I have to do a brain reset when I switch between heals and DPS alts — it’s not hard, and I don’t really have to think about it, but it is a process I have to go through even if subconsciously.

I don’t have any solutions to this, but I can’t shake the nagging voice in the back of my head that says I am wasting a lot of healing and damage power with my inefficient setup. I would be interested in how you set up your casting and movement.


Pandas in the Mist

No game expansion is ever perfect, but some are way less perfect than others. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why I am so fed up with Warlords of Draenor after just three months, and why I was so engaged in Mists up to the bitter end. Both expansions had their problems, both had some very nifty innovations. I suspect if it were possible to list all of the hundreds of thousands of features of both expansions and compare the lists, we would find only a small percentage are different in any meaningful way. I wish I could do such a dispassionate study, because I think it would be fascinating (yeah, I know I’m a geek), but since it really is not feasible, I am stuck with listing the features that matter to me and doing a subjective analysis.

Rather than list all the things wrong with WoD, I thought it might be more useful to list the things that kept me interested in Mists. This turned out to be a harder exercise than I thought it would be. But here’s what I came up with:

1.  Pandas. Before Mists went live, there was a lot of criticism of Blizz for going all squishy and cutesy and anime. I was pretty doubtful myself, but somehow it all worked for me once I got into it. I am not into WoW lore at all, but I found the entire Pandaria story line both cohesive and intriguing. I thought the pseudo-Eastern philosophy bits worked well. I thought the story flowed well as a follow-on to Cataclysm. I liked the Pandaren. I found them to be fierce, funny, loyal, sneaky, spiritual, worldly, principled, and flawed all at once. Very human, in other words.

2.  Pandaria. The landscape graphics were breathtaking, I thought. That quest in Kun-Lai Summit where you took the balloon ride up to Zouchin Village just blew me away with its beauty. The beaches and endless blue water in Krasarang never lost their ability to draw me in, and make me close my eyes, take a long slow breath, and smile. Valley of the Four Winds reminded me of the Midwest farmland where I grew up, and it just felt right every time I went there. Which was often, once I had my own little farm-house. Every zone in Pandaria had something special for me in terms of ambience or scenery or both.

3.  Raids, instances, and scenarios. I did a lot of random heroics in Mists, through the dungeon finder and as part of guild groups. They were interesting, balanced well for the intended gear level, and awarded valor points. I was less a fan of scenarios, but I did a lot of them because they were a quick and fun way — once again — to pick up valor points. As for raids, even though my guild team was extremely slow in clearing them, they were all very logical progressions in terms of expected gear and skill levels. (Although I will admit I was at the point of screaming every time I saw the entrance to Heart of Fear because it felt like we spent months in there. I dubbed it Bugistan.)

4.  Alts. Partly due to the reasonable difficulty progression for instances, partly due to class balance especially while leveling and gearing up, partly due to the useful rewards you could get from valor points, leveling and gearing alts was fun in Mists. I love my hunters and will never main any other class, but I really enjoyed gearing up and raiding once in a while with my Mistweaver and my Destro Lock. Heck, I even did it a few times on my mage.

5.  Pandas (the ones you can create). Having a new race and class to play with was kind of exciting. It gave me a good reason to roll a new character and explore the fun I could have with it. In fact, my choosing a Panda Monk is one reason I got so engaged with Pandaria, I think.

6.  Professions. You had to work at them to level them, especially certain ones like JC and LW. But most of them were very reliable gold makers once you got them leveled. Even the gathering professions were profitable if you didn’t put too high a value on your time, and some nights I found it very relaxing just to fly around and pick herbs or mine ore or skin critters, maybe along with some friendly guild chat going on. Mindless, stress-reducing, and there was all that beautiful scenery to look at.

7.  Dailies and weeklies. I will admit I hated them during that period when everyone was fighting for faction rep, but now that they are gone I kind of miss them. Timeless Isle quickly lost its attraction for me, but I faithfully ground out dailies and weeklies on it on all my alts up to the end of Mists. Why? Currencies that actually led to useful gear or other goals, for one thing. For another, it was something relaxing to do if you didn’t have anything else on your agenda. And it was a way to practice skills on alts you might not play very often.

8.  Time commitment. I never felt like I HAD to log in on every alt every day. Once a week, certainly, and maybe a quick daily cooldown login if I were crafting something for sale or use. But even at the height of the reputation dailies, I never felt like I didn’t have lots of time for the fun stuff. I played no more than I do now, but in Mists I felt like I had tons of time to explore the game in whatever way appealed to me at the moment, and still complete any “tasks” I had set for myself.

9.  Flying. There. I said it. Much of the enjoyment I got out of Mists was due in no small part to the fact that I did not have to fight annoying mobs just to get somewhere to do whatever I was interested in that evening. I could take in vast panoramic views of what I think is still the most beautiful scenery in the game. I could easily and quickly join a meandering group of guildies if they were hunting rares. It was a terrific motivation for leveling alts, even ones I rarely played. It gave me immense pleasure, and it allowed me to be truly “immersed” — to use a phrase currently popular with Blizz devs —  in Pandaria.

I am not saying I was not critical of many facets of Mists, I certainly ranted about lots of things. Ranting is sort of what I do. But I think each of the factors I listed above added up in a way that made the whole greater than the sum. Together, they made the expansion seamless in its story line, its characters, its game experience. They added up to fun for me. If I were to list the main things that make Draenor not fun for me, it would likely consist of adding “not” to everything I just wrote.

Therein lies the difference.

I’m over it

There is an interesting post by Torvald, published a few days ago in the forums, in which he summarizes and analyzes most of the arguments others have made about Warlords of Draenor. Specifically, he points out why people are complaining about being bored and/or annoyed with this expansion. I recommend the post, and although I don’t agree with everything he says, one particular point really hit home for me:

Players are logging on, feel compelled to go through their Garrison chores, getting those rewards that are placed right in front of them… Even though that very content is not fun and drains their stamina for engaging in other content. It reduces their stamina for engaging in other activities that absolutely require large blocks of time to give a reasonable hope of success. And for activites that don’t absolutely require large blocks of time, so many of those lack structure that the player defaults to assigning them large blocks of time for what it would require to be “worth it” (i.e. very few players want to make a trip for an unstructured rep grind just to grind for 15 minutes).

This all leads to the ultimate result of:
Log in
Do Garrison chores
Feel unenergized to do more
Log out
“I feel bored, forced to do garrison chores, and like there’s nothing to do.”

And the longer this goes on, the more the player feels the lack of energy BEFORE they do their chores, because their mind is already anticipating it. Whereas before they felt lack of energy to do things after the chores, soon they feel a lack of energy as they are logging in. They start to feel like they are forcing themselves to log in to do something they don’t enjoy.

A series of RL “challenges” over the weekend — frozen kitchen water pipes, extended power outages — meant that I have not been able to log on for a couple of days. Far from being annoyed over it, I found that I was relieved(!!?!) Today things seem to be settling down, and I am able to log in, but I am putting it off, thinking maybe I’ll start on taxes, or do some laundry, or tidy up some of my web sites, or anything other than log in.

I think the one point Torvald missed is that most people who play this game have a finite amount of time to do so. If you feel like you have to do certain things every day, and those things take up more than half your allowed play time, you are just unmotivated to do much of anything else because of the time constraints. At least I am.

One other note that I have about Torvald’s post is the lukewarm, patronizing response Bashiok gave it. Kind of a “Thank you for your interest in game development,” or “What a creative drawing! Mommy’s going to put this on the fridge!”As I said, I don’t agree with everything Torvald wrote, but he put his finger on a HUGE problem with this expansion, and once again Blizz decided they do not give a damn about real player issues. Bashiok, as usual, missed a great opportunity to really explain Blizz’s philosophy for this expansion, and how it plays into future development strategy.

As it is, I have written this entire expansion off as a failed one. Thing is, I don’t even really care enough to rant about it any more, because I now realize it is so fundamentally flawed that no patch can fix it. I am in my end-of-expansion mode of playing, which is to say, log in to raid and if there is time left, do a couple things I think will help me in the next expansion.

After just three months, I am over WoD.