Why no marketing?

In yesterday’s post I made a flip comment about my night elf hunter falling prey to a marketing influence. It was just a joke, but it started me to thinking. I realized that, except just prior to a new release, I hardly ever see any advertising for World of Warcraft any more.

Why is that? It seems to me that a way to stop the decline in subscriptions, especially during the predictable cycles between expansions, would be to advertise the game in a way that would bring in new players. I am not a marketing professional, but I know for a fact that slick advertising works. Just ask Apple.

Activision Blizzard seems to be advertising everything but WoW these days. I mean, you can hardly visit any game-related web site without seeing over-the-top ads for Hearthstone, which, let’s admit it, is a card game! So why no WoW ads?

Actually, now that I come to think of it, even back when Blizz was running the ads featuring Mr. T, Ozzy Osbourne, William Shatner, et al., the ads seemed less targeted to a new group of potential players than they did towards keeping the ones they had and possibly getting people who already played online games to try WoW. I mean, really, Shatner saying “I’m a shaman,” doesn’t do much to entice new players who have no idea what a shaman is, right? I don’t think I have ever seen a WoW ad targeting people who don’t already love online games. This is not to say Blizz has not made them, just that I have never seen one, so if they have made them they are not in any media that I frequent, except for the pre-expansion Super Bowl ads every couple of years. And even that venue is arguably skewed towards those who already love computer games.

When subscriptions are down, why not pump up an advertising campaign designed to bring in a whole new crop of players, people who would be happy leveling through old content and who would not be continually whining about being bored? People for whom playing an MMO is a new experience? The period between expansions, in fact, would seem to be an ideal time for such a campaign. Why not put an ad in People magazine, or Better Homes and Gardens, or the Washington Post Sunday supplement? Or a short TV/streaming video spot in one of the reality series that are popular?

(Okay, okay, I know you are rolling your eyes at the Better Homes and Gardens example, but the point is to try some venues that are not frequented by veteran gamers.)

I could go all tinfoil hat here and speculate that Blizz has always not-so-secretly considered their flagship game to be for elite gamers only, and that any concessions to mass markets was only done in order to get operating capital for the “real” game and “true” players. Which would kind of explain the all-raiding all the time mentality we have now. But of course tinfoil hat theories are far beneath me *coughbullhockeycough*.

If I were the kind of lowlife that indulged in wild speculation, I might advance the theory that Activision Blizzard knows that WoW is on its way out, and that they do not want to bring in a whole new crop of players, because that becomes problematic when it comes time to pull the plug on the game. It could be a  media nightmare to suddenly axe a game that you have recently made hugely popular with a whole new generation of players.

But I am not that kind of lowlife. If I were, I might go even further and speculate that Blizz is saving its advertising budget for markets in China and the Far East, because those are more lucrative these days than the Americas and Europe.

But as I said, I am not that type of lowlife.

Still, it is puzzling as to why, especially when subscriptions are in significant decline, Blizz does not deign to advertise to bring in new players.

(Short post today, as I am sitting at the dealer waiting for my car’s service to be done and it is about ready. Not to mention it is reset day, and I need to get home and grind out my LFRs while there is a chance at some decent groups.)

Transmog : Shoulders from hell

Before I start, let me say that I am not a huge transmogger. I really like that Blizz implemented the concept, and I end up transmogging almost all of my alts. But I am not exactly what you would call fashion conscious, either in game or real life. Still, I do have definite ideas about how my characters should look.

I think a character’s look is closely tied with the little fantasy persona we give them. I am not talking about formal RP character stories, but we all have a certain sense of each of our characters’ personalities, and what they wear reflects that. For example, I like to think of my hunters — one worgen and one night elf — as quietly competent, not drawing attention to themselves unless they are forced to fight, blending in with the background so as to be better able to observe and learn about their enemies. Thus, they tend to dress in browns, greens, black, with as little bulk as possible in order to easily slip in and out of the shadows. (OK, my alt hunter did have a flirtation with stunning blues, but that was mainly because she was entranced by a particular blue bow, needed an outfit to go with it, and really she is over it now. We all fall prey to Madison Avenue once in a while.)

My panda mistweaver is just a bit vain, but let’s face it she has a definite tendency towards chubbiness, which means many things that look maah-velous on a long, lean night elf just aren’t for her, to her everlasting disappointment. Her fashion challenge is her backside, which in addition to being “ample” has the requirement that all pants have a tail hole cut in them. Personally, I think she should stick to skirts or dresses, but she insists on pants, so what are you gonna do? Also, she has very large wide feet, combined with short fat legs, so tall boots are a real disaster for her. At least I have been pretty successful persuading her to stay with sandals. Still, transmog for her is tough, and she looks her best in simple garb that downplays her natural bulkiness, with maybe just a touch of color around her head.

My gnome warlock is completely uninterested in fashion, she is strictly about kicking ass and taking names, and she won’t have anything that gets in the way of that. We have discussed it a few times, and she understands that her tiny size means there is an unfortunate tendency towards cuteness — an idea that enrages her, but then most things enrage her, so…. I do my best to keep things very basic and business-like with her wardrobe. Sometimes I have to lie to her a little, to persuade her that she is absolutely NOT cute! No! (“See? This basic black outfit looks just like the one that the Big Bad Worgen Hunter wears. Ferocious! Mean! Grrrr!”)

My mage is my clothes horse. She loves nothing better than to get all dressed up in a stunning gown, with eye-catching headgear. She often complains that it’s a shame her gowns frequently cover her trousers and feet and even wrists and hands, because she goes to great pains to make sure they, too, are stunning. One of her biggest fashion disappointments is that rings, neck pieces, and trinkets are not visible. She is not flashy, exactly, but there is nothing she loves more than something that screams elegance. Unfortunately, she is not all that active in the world these days, so does not have a great number of acceptable transmog items. Isn’t that always the way, my hunters who are interested only in utility have a huge wardrobe, but my fashion-conscious mage has a very skimpy one.

Which, finally, brings me to my point: shoulders. WoW has absolutely the most god-awful assortment of shoulders anyone could imagine. Those of you who have read everything up to here might notice that most of my characters favor clean, classic lines in their outfits. Very few shoulders in this game qualify as “clean, classic lines.” No, most are better described as “drug-induced hallucinatory nightmares that make you wake up screaming for your mommy.” They feature carcasses of dead animals, human and other skulls, giant spikes, burning embers, live snakes, actual blinking eyeballs, and who knows what the hell else some of those things are. One popular item is something that looks like the dead body of a set of bagpipes, big old sticks of some sort. A few look like they were inspired by moldy shower curtains. In Cata, there was a popular set of priest shoulders that I swear looked like matching bird baths perched precariously on the priest. Even the ones without disgusting features are invariably massive, to the point of looking ridiculous.

This makes it very hard — often impossible — to achieve anything close to the understated look my characters favor. Usually I end up finding a crafted set of shoulders, many of which are actually reasonable looking, but they are limited in color so I often have to amend everything else to accommodate them. It has gotten to the point where my first choice for a transmog item is the shoulder piece, then I build the rest of the look around that.

Blizz, I implore you, please do something about this. Here are some possible fixes:

  • Allow shoulders to be one of the items you can elect to not display, like you can do for head and back gear. In fact, I would not be opposed to making every piece of gear something that you could elect to not display. If your character wants to run around naked, or fully dressed except for no pants, or barefoot, while fighting mobs and bosses, what’s the harm?
  • Allow players to transmog the invisible shoulders from mission salvage. Yes, I know it is against your high moral principles to do so, but I am not asking for all invis pieces to be moggable, just the shoulders. Surely we have the technology.
  • Hire a gay guy to design your shoulders, or even all your gear. My friend Dave (who reads this blog and said I could use his name) would be perfect for this — he is not much of a gamer, but he certainly understands the principles of good design, whether it be understated classic, contemporary eclectic, bikers gone wild, or punk rock. And I believe it is safe to say he would never ever include matching bird baths as part of any design.

As I said at the start, I am not overly involved in transmogging, but I do like my characters to look organized and professional rather than disheveled and ridiculous. I am hoping that the transmog changes promised for Legion will be more than just storage tweaks, and that they will make it easier to get the looks each of my characters wants.

(And see, I told you I would eventually be reduced to writing fluff fashion pieces in this dry info period prior to Blizzcon!)

What makes a boss fight fun?

After procrastinating for a few weeks, I finally queued for an Archimonde group in LFR a couple of days ago. After all the player complaints and anecdotal horror stories, I was expecting my experience to be an exercise in frustration. Imagine my surprise when I found it to actually be fun.

I was in what I imagine must have been a good (Tuesday) group. We started fresh and downed him on our third try, with very few deaths. After the first wipe, someone calmly explained a few of the mechanics, no name-calling, no personal insults or rage quits, all very grown up and polite. Of course, Blizz has nerfed the LFR version of this boss a couple of times, so that was a factor, too. But in its current form, I found the fight mechanics to be very straightforward, at least for damage dealers, and not too complex for a group of strangers to manage. My only real quibble with the fight is that once again Blizz has designed it such that the fail point comes near the end, and it is a very long fight. Too long for LFR, even for a final boss, but that is a pet peeve of mine.

Nevertheless, as I said, I thought it was fun. Which got me to thinking, what makes a boss fight fun for me? Turns out this is a hard question to answer. Like Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of porn — “I know it when I see it ” — a “fun” boss is easy to identify when you experience it but very difficult to define in advance. Also, I am certain that — like porn — everyone’s definition varies somewhat.

What are some boss fights I thought were fun? As I only really started raiding with a regular team near the end of Wrath, I won’t go back to the fog-enshrouded of BC and before. But here is a list of my top ten boss fights (not in any particular order):

  • The Lich King (from Icecrown Citadel)
  • Theralion and Valiona (from Bastion of Twilight)
  • Alysrazor (from Firelands)
  • Ultraxion (from Dragon Soul)
  • Spine of Deathwing (from Dragon Soul)
  • Warmaster Blackhorn (from Dragon Soul)
  • Murozond (not a raid, but last boss of End Time instance in Cata)
  • Sha of Fear (from Terrace of Endless Spring)
  • Siegecrafter Blackfuse (from Siege of Orgrimmar)
  • Brackenspore (from Highmaul)

I really don’t know what it is about these fights that I like, but I know I do. One thing that I notice is that in most of them I had some sort of special raid duty — part of the price of being a hunter, lol. I always kind of liked raid duties, didn’t try to avoid them like most people do. I wonder if that particular aspect of being a hunter will be gone in Legion. Actually, it may be gone now, with the destruction of SV as a viable spec. BM hunters lose a lot of dps in any fight requiring a lot of target switching, and MM hunters really are not nearly as mobile as all hunters used to be. SV hunters were perfect for flame thrower duty in Brackenspore, you could leave your pet on the boss while you bopped around burning moss then stepped back in range for some great dps, rinse and repeat. It was fun. As was Siegecrafter, once you figured out how to jump while on the conveyor belt, and dodge the fire. Those kind of extra duties break up the monotony of long fights. Even though Garrosh was not one of my favorite bosses, I always like having Engineer duty. And I loved the extra duties I had in Ko’agh and even The Butcher.

The other thing I notice is that most of my favorite fights required a reasonable, but not excessive, amount of movement. As a hunter, I am extremely mobile compared to other damage dealers, but I like to move when I want to, for better positioning, etc. I do not enjoy constant movement just for its own sake. For example, I always did quite well on the Hanz and Franz fight in BRF, but I never really found it fun, too much required movement. Same with the trains one.

(Ultraxion is an obvious exception to everything I just listed as reasons I liked the bosses. I think he is in there because it was fun for a change to just stand still and unload everything you’ve got on a target dummy type boss. Kind of a live fire exercise for everyone!)

Last, but not least, my favorite bosses were challenging when they were current, but they did not seem impossible.

I like mechanics that are easy to understand but challenging to execute. I think the toughest set of mechanics to understand in my list were on the Lich King — not because they were so complex, but because there were so many of them, they changed every phase, and almost any one of them could kill you if not properly dealt with.

I like mechanics that are novel and creative, too. So that usually means I like bosses with new mechanics the first time they are used, but when Blizz incorporates the “new” mechanic into the next several bosses, I lose interest. Thus, I liked Siegecrafter for the conveyor belt mechanic, but I did not like that same mechanic in Hanz and Franz or the trains in BRF. I liked the whisk-you-away mechanic in Sha of Fear, but it was not nearly so much fun for me when repeated in Kargath Bladefist in Highmaul.

And some mechanics I just hate, no matter what. I could never get the hang of the maze in Durumu the Forgotten in Throne of Thunder, and so that boss would be very high up on my list of most hated fights. The mechanic was novel, I will grant you, but it was just impossible to execute for some people. (And yes, I tried every conceivable camera angle, every possible graphics setting, every hint ever posted anywhere, so please don’t write me about the one foolproof way you found to do it. I guarantee you I already tried it and it did not work for me. When a significant number of players who are not idiots cannot manage a mechanic, it is a terrible one.)

I like bosses that can be defeated with good teamwork and individual alertness, not ones that can kill you just by bad luck, for instance that target random raid members (including tanks and healers) with raid-wiping debuffs.

There is, however, a fine line between “challenging” and “almost impossible without pure luck”. My all time worst boss was Ragnaros. Our guild almost disbanded over him. I have lost count on how many wipes we had on him, but it went on for literally months, to the point where raid night became one long painful trudge with sullen guildies driven only by a rapidly diminishing sense of loyalty to a raid leader with more stubbornness than good sense. Several people did in fact leave the guild over his refusal to allow us to start the new tier until we had downed Ragnaros. When we finally did get him down, it was due to fantastic luck and came down to our one pally left alone, eking out enough damage and self heals to kill Rags just milliseconds before he himself died. I have never gone back to that boss since.

Anyway, I still don’t know if I can define what it is that makes a boss fun for me, but it certainly includes:

  • Having a specialized role to play, beyond straight DPS.
  • Enough movement to highlight hunter mobility, but not so much as to force it on me and not so much as to make all ranged casters miserable.
  • Easy to understand mechanics that require practice and alertness to execute properly.
  • More or less guaranteed success if the fight is properly executed at the level being fought. That is, the fight has zero dependence on RNG factors such as random selection of players for catastrophic debuffs, The harder the fight is, the more this last stipulation is important.

That’s it for me, I think. I would be interested to know what it is that makes a boss fight fun for you.

Bah humbug

Elizabeth Harper, over at Blizzard Watch, has a short piece today about her being pretty much over WoW holiday events. Not only do I agree, but for me I would have to say I have never been very interested in them. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Blizz should get rid of them, just that they are really not my thing, never have been. To me, they are like pet battles — cute, of passing minor interest when first introduced, and many people find them fun and absorbing. Just not me.

I tried to participate in every world and holiday event the first year I played WoW as a leveled player. They all seemed to cause a lot of excitement among my guildies, and I wanted to be part of that. (This was during Wrath.) As I recall, the first event I really tried to experience was Noblegarden. After about two hours of madly searching for rabbit turds or whatever we were supposed to collect (eggs?), I gave up. There was such a mob of players all over that the only way to collect them was to find one tiny spawn spot, guard it like you were sitting on the Crown Jewels, and grab the thing as it spawned. This was not compelling game play to me. Nor was “eating” chocolate, or turning people into rabbits, or any of the other activities. I could see that they might be fun for some, but they were not for me.

Side comment: I have a thing about having someone else altering my game appearance. I hate it. If it is possible to undo it by right clicking on the buff, I always do so immediately. I am not sure why I have such a strong reaction to it, but I do. Maybe it is the idea that someone else can control the most basic part of my character (my ever-brutally-honest spouse hints that I tend towards extreme independence in all things, and he does not mean it as a compliment). In large groups like raids, changing my appearance actually makes a difference in my performance, since I identify myself — and thus my positioning — visually, and I do not use a self name plate because it clutters up my UI too much. So if I do not look like me, it means that I often do not know where I am, whether that is me standing in the red area where the fireball is about to land, etc. Hey, if I wanted to look like a skeleton pirate or a tiny bunny, or have a big ugly pumpkin head, I would, okay? I don’t need someone else making that decision for me!

I think the next event I tried was Children’s Week. Go find an orphan, check him out of the orphanage like a library book, take him with you while you battle vicious monsters, buy him some stuff, then return him to his life of hopelessness. Nope, don’t think so.

Brewfest — drink until you puke, ride a goat back and forth around Ironforge, go kill some guy who pops out of the ground in the hallucination room of a pub, kill some pink elephants? No. This past weekend, thinking I was being unfair in my harsh judgement, I made another attempt to do some Brewfest activities. Nope, still not fun.

Part of my immediate boredom with world events, I am sure, is the fact that I am not especially interested in achievements, or in collecting mounts or pets or toys. I do some achievements for titles I think are cool, and once in a  while there is a mount that I covet. And if a pet or toy happens to fall into my lap, I accept it. But, in general, these pursuits do not interest me much. I was lucky enough to get the Headless Horseman mount my first time through the Halloween (Hallow’s End?) instance years ago, and to this day it is my favorite and most-used mount on all my characters. For a while, until mounts became account wide, I ran the instance on every character every day of the event to try and get it for all, I thought it was so awesome.

For a couple of years, I liked participating in the activities for Feast of Winter Veil. But I stopped when other players decided to have their fun by interfering however they could with those who were just trying to enjoy the event. (As I have often said, I do not understand what sort of sad twisted people derive fun from messing with others. They must  be truly wretched, powerless, insignificant little worms in real life.) At any rate, after last year’s horrible mess around the Winter Veil tree — and Blizz’s arrogant and untruthful declaration that blocking access to it was “legitimate game play” that they could do nothing about — I swore off the event. Whatever fun I had found in it was gone.

Still, I like that Blizz has such events. They are a nice reminder of the whimsical part of this game, of the time when all of it seemed like a great fun adventure, before the devs got all crabby and defensive and sullen, before the community turned so selfish and mean and toxic. Besides, if lots of players are participating in them, that gives me more chances at gathering mats, camping rare pets, etc. Everyone wins.

I hope Blizz keeps the world events and holidays, although they will probably need to update most of them pretty significantly or risk drastically lower participation. However, I fervently hope that they do not make them any sort of real or implied “requirement” by attaching actual gear to them (unless it is BoE such as the Darkmoon Faire trinkets), or by making event achievements part of larger perks like they did with the “optional” pet battle sub-game as part of garrison completion. Or like they did with the “optional” Brawlers Guild achievement as a gate to current level jewelcrafting.

World events and holiday activities should remain completely whimsical, fun, and optional. They are a little diversion gift Blizz gives the players, and even if I choose not to participate in them, I think they enhance the game.

Weekend Mythics and stuff

How was your weekend? Mine was terrific, we have just started a period of glorious fall weather where I live, so I spent a lot of time enjoying that, gathering some last bits from my garden, grilling eggplant and peppers and green tomatoes, serving it up with crusty bread and good olive oil and splurged-on expensive wine, sharing it with friends, laughing and talking. Honestly, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

But I did manage to spend a few hours playing WoW and actually having some fun at it. For me, being able to sit at my computer and play the game while the windows are wide open and the cool night air fills the house is both calming and invigorating at the same time. It affects my whole outlook on life. Which may be why I enjoyed running Mythics for the weekly quest. I was just in the right mood for them.

The first one I tried was with a guild group, but unfortunately the tank and the healer were not quite up to it. Plus, it was Skyreach. We never got past the first boss. We called it after about an hour of trying. It was late, people had to log off, we weren’t making much progress, etc. Still, it was not a frustrating experience, it was kind of fun. The tank and the healer were not guildies who usually raid with us, and they were not doing badly, they were just undergeared and under-experienced for Mythic Skyreach. Especially that first boss.

The first boss in Skyreach is, in my opinion, a gigantic gotcha from Blizz, one of those things that was cooked up by the crackpots in the Screw With the Players Department. Even on normal, it is an extremely hard boss for leveling players. Skyreach is the first hurdle to start on your legendary ring, so a lot of players experienced it as level 98’s, and that first boss was a huge obstacle. Why? Because Blizz took away the ability for casters, both DPS and healers, to cast on the move, promised they would adjust boss fights to allow for the change, then — Bang! — first dungeon boss out of the box REQUIRES CONSTANT MOVEMENT. This is just wrong, and it is one of the many breaches of trust they have committed over the last year that have caused many players to no longer believe anything they say.

Anyway, the night after the guild group foray into Skyreach, I hit the Raid Finder to pug my four Mythics. Ended up doing four different groups to complete Auchindoun, Iron Docks, The Everbloom, and Grimrail Depot, in that order. The Auchindoun group was the best one, everyone knew the fights, was pretty well geared, and we sailed through without a wipe.

Iron Docks was a little harder, mainly because we had a tank with a severe anal-cranial inversion and a couple DPS who did not know the fights. We had a few wipes but at least no one rage quit or got into personal insults, and luckily our healer was really outstanding. Everbloom was probably the quickest one, only one wipe on the last boss, everyone knew what to do and did it.

Grimrail Depot was the worst group, mainly because only the tank and myself knew the fights, the healer was borderline competent, and even though the tank was competent he was a real butthole. But then, Grimrail is one of the dungeons I really hate, so possibly that influences my judgement. That fight on the moving platform against the big cannon could have been fun but it is poorly designed, and the mechanics border on being too complex for a group of strangers to manage. Just my opinion. As for the rest of the dungeon, I think the main reason I hate it is because it is too cramped and constricted for my play style. You really can’t run around at range or you will aggro new mobs, and for the same reason you really have to curtail your use of Barrage, one of a hunter’s most fun shots. Usually I can position myself properly to use it so as not to hit unintended mobs, but in Grimrail such repositioning risks getting in range of other mobs and thus doing the very thing you were trying to avoid. We wiped probably 6-8 times, but did finally finish.

All in all, it took me about 4 hours to do them. That includes the ridiculous dance of applying for groups — getting declined, refreshing the list every few seconds, trying to find a group without 3 DPS already, meeting the gear requirements, finding a group doing one you have not already done, etc.

Still, it was a nice diversion, and on top of that I got some actual gear upgrades, two from Auchindoun and a heroic warforged neck piece in the quest completion cache. The new pieces pushed me legitimately to 700 ilevel equipped (no artificial inflation using bad secondary stats), so that was satisfying. Especially since I am doing very little raiding these days. And since I have abandoned all hope of getting any tier gear.

All in all, a good weekend.

Who are you?

(Be forewarned that I am not sure where I am going with today’s topic, so expect a little bumpiness.)

I have written several blogs about my feelings for the hunter class. In those blogs, I have laid out what I love about the class, and what I feel is iconic about it, namely that it is a highly mobile, ranged, physical damage class with complex damage-dealing pets. To borrow a civil engineering analogy, for me these four characteristics together form the keystone of the hunter class. Take away any one of them and you weaken the keystone so severely that the entire class collapses. In my opinion, this is exactly what Blizz intends to do in Legion — Marksman hunters will have limited mobility and no pet, Survival hunters will be melee, and only Beastmastery hunters will retain the keystone intact. This is why I say that the hunter class as a class will no longer exist in Legion. Beastmastery will be the last vestige of what was once an entire class.

Anyway, today’s topic is not about hunters. It is about how any of us define the class and/or spec we love the most, and about how Blizz apparently not only has no such definitions, but that they are oblivious to the need for them. To explore this, we will do three practical exercises.

As a starting point, think about how you define yourself as a player. What is your first response if someone asks you what kind of character you play in WoW?  The first thing you think of in answer to that question tells you a lot about what is important to you in the game. For example, I have noticed that many tanks and healers define themselves exactly like that –“I’m a tank,” or “I’m a healer.” On the other hand, most damage dealers define themselves by their class — “I’m a rogue,” or “I play a mage.” My sense is that players who play a hybrid class damage dealer will usually define themselves either by class — “I’m a druid” — or by spec — “Oh, I’m a Boomkin.”

I am not going to overthink this, but it seems pretty clear to me (drawing on my vast psychological knowledge from Psych 101) that for someone who says “I’m a tank,” the game is all about raiding. That is not to say the same is not true of someone who answers “I’m a rogue,” it’s just that there seems to me to be a fundamental difference in how the two players perceive their game experience. Maybe it’s a function of population — there are a lot of damage dealers but comparatively few tanks and healers, so maybe it is important to immediately define what kind of damage dealer you are. I don’t know.

At any rate, the point of this exercise is to get you thinking about how you define yourself, and what if anything that tells you about your play style, your perception of what is fun in the game, and so forth. There are no right or wrong answers, and your response may change over time. For example, right now I define myself as a hunter, but I suspect after Legion goes live I will feel the need to always define my spec, “Beastmastery hunter.” (Or whatever new name Blizz may give the true hunter spec.)

The next exercise is to think about what it is that makes your defined character unique in your mind. This is harder than you might expect, but one way to get at it is to consider what characteristic Blizz could remove or change, that would make you feel like it was a betrayal. For me, I did not arrive at my definition of hunter uniqueness until Blizz announced they would be taking away the characteristics of ranged, mobility, and pets from two of the specs. I felt there was something fundamentally wrong with that, and it caused me to consider that these traits are key to my perception of hunters as a class.

When you are done with this part, you should have a list of characteristics that make up the keystone of how you perceive yourself as a player. Removal of any one of those characteristics will weaken the keystone so severely that your entire perception collapses.

The last exercise is to guess what list of characteristics Blizz has for your defined character. Do you think it matches yours, either wholly or in part? What makes you think it does or doesn’t? Unfortunately, all we really have to go on is guesswork, since Blizz has not defined classes or specs for many years, and even when they have done so, they feel no need to adhere to those definitions. In spite of devs from time to time nattering about the “fantasy” of a spec or class, it seems evident they really have no notion of what that is, let alone what most of the players perceive it to be. As an example, the hunter page on Battle.net seems to describe the hunter class, but Legion will pretty much destroy everything written there, except for one spec of the class. Thus, the hunter description does not represent anything fundamental about hunters, at least in Blizz’s opinion, else they would not feel so easily able to violate it at will.

Now, of course not all hunters agree with my class definition, and not all players who define themselves as you do will agree with your definition either. That is fine, it is to be expected, it is part of the wonderful variation of being human. I do not expect Blizz to subscribe to my hunter class definition. But what I do expect — and what every player has a right to expect — is a good explanation of how Blizz does define each class and spec, the foundation of each, the principles they will honor over the course of the life of the class or spec, the keystone components they will not break, no matter what changes they may make in the name of variety or balance or homogenization.

One of the greatest sources of player objections for class changes is when Blizz’s supposed definition of the class is wildly different than the one held by many players.

By giving us their vision for each class and spec, Blizz could let us know what to expect when we choose that class. They would be giving us a way to trust them, that there would be some baseline principles about the class we could rely on and confidently structure our play style around.

I honestly don’t know how you go about developing a class and spec without such a statement of class principles. If such statements exist, why will Blizz not share them? If they do not exist, well, I suppose you end up with the class balance chaos we have now.

At any rate, I am going to stop thinking about this now and go start my weekend.

Greed sets in

Towards the end of every expansion my brain undergoes some sort of chemical change that causes me to develop an intense desire to make a huge pile of gold. Normally, I am not interested enough to actively pursue getting more of it, but like a squirrel madly stashing acorns in the fall, my primitive instincts kick in at the end of an expansion and I start working like crazy to get as much of it as I can.

I can’t explain this. It’s not like I need the gold to buy things. I actually buy very little either in Trade or in the Auction House. Sometime about mid-Cata I leveled enough alts to be self-sufficient in professions (except for blacksmithing, which is no big deal as I have no plate wearers). Since then, I have not bought a single gem, enchant, flask, potion, glyph, crafted mount or gear. Wait, I take that back, I have bought a few pieces of low level crafted gear for transmog if I cannot for one reason or another obtain the recipe/pattern. Mostly I end up buying mats, either because it would take me too long to gather them myself and they are cheap, or because they are not cheap but are prohibitively time-consuming to get on my own. Felblight is an example. Early in Mists, I bought a lot of Golden Lotus, too, until I got to the point where I could grow it on my farm.

Being self-sufficient is in itself a terrific gold-making strategy. I have not bothered to do any rough calculations, but I am certain that over the years it has saved me tens — if not hundreds — of thousands in gold. Every once in a while, usually when I am re-gearing for some reason, I take a look at the current AH prices for the gems and enchants I am using, and I chuckle to myself at how much gold I am not spending. Self-sufficiency is even more lucrative in this expansion, when the changes to professions have made the prices of almost everything skyrocket. Not to mention the vast amount of gold that practically falls out of the sky with garrison missions (even still after the big nerf) — most of which is pure profit if you don’t have to buy all the expensive crafted stuff.

I am not especially good at making gold when I try to do so. Just don’t have the true entrepreneurial mindset, I guess. (Sadly, this also applies IRL.) Interestingly, though, this is only true when I am trying to make gold for myself. I was the banking officer in the guild I left a few months ago, and in the course of a year — most of which was during Mists — I added close to 200,000 gold to the guild coffers, all from selling guild bank donated materials that were often just dumped there because the guildie wanted to clean out their own bags or bank tabs. When I Ieft the guild, they had enough gold to cover guild member repairs for a year or more, even if they never added more from guild dungeon runs and the like. Why I can’t turn my own junk into gold is a mystery, though.

Most of the significant gold I make is from selling mats or specific crafted items. Of course, any real AH goblin will tell you that is the least efficient way to do it, but it works well enough for me. In Mists, I tried to compete in both the glyph and gem markets for a while. I did okay, but it was far too much work to keep adequate inventory as well as stay on top of the hourly price fluctuations. And it was annoying when some Donald Trump wannabe decided to control the market by flooding it and selling at a huge loss, just to drive everyone else out.

Most of my money in Cata came from selling fish, leather, herbs, and ore. Especially fish. I was doing a lot of fishing anyway to keep my raid supplied with Fish Feasts, and I guess lots of others wanted to cook them too, but didn’t have the time or inclination to catch the mats themselves. In Mists, most of my gold towards the end of the expansion came from selling Living Steel, Golden Lotus, and a few high-end engineering mounts like the chopper and the Sky Golem. The key to most of that was being conscientious about doing every profession cooldown every day as soon as I could start doing so, and to keep Sunsong Ranch at max production on every alt, in order to maintain a decent mat inventory. For the Living Steel, it helped that I had two alchemists.

I don’t know yet what my big gold maker will be in WoD. I don’t think it will be mats, as they are virtually free to anyone with a garrison, although as people lose interest in their garrisons the market may pick up. Crafted gear at the basic level is pretty much worthless, and the prohibitively high price (or farming time) for felblight and to some extent savage blood means that to make any kind of profit you have to sell 6/6 items at a price most people are understandably not willing to pay. That pretty much leaves fish, gems, and enchants. A more lucrative market may actually be older mats that are needed for some of the “humps” when people level professions. Except it seems like no one will really need to level professions any longer if Blizz continues the current model that lets anyone craft all but the highest level items without actually having the profession.

Seems like some market study is in order for me. My goal is to finally make it to one million gold — on my account, not on each character. I am close, actually, what with how profitable WoD has been with no effort. It would be fun to have a million as a cushion, and spend only what was above that. Until I quit the game, at which time I will go on a grand uncontrolled buying spree!

Well, off to peruse The Consortium, WoWuction, and The Undermine Journal. And set up some new TradeSkill Master groups. I’m gonna be rich, rich I tell you! BWAAAHAHA! 😎