Where do you see WoW a year from now?

Administrative edit: I am taking a holiday break and will see you all after New Year’s. To all my readers, whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I wish you warmth and happiness and love in this season of hope and throughout the coming year.

“Where do you see yourself five years from now?”

Most of us have probably had to deal with this by-now trite job interview question. Over the weekend I was writing some job and college recommendations for colleagues, and I admit my mind was wandering a bit. I found myself fantasizing about interviewing Blizzard for the job of keeping my money and occupying my time in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

I imagined myself as an interviewer, and Blizz as a job applicant. Honestly, the interview did not go very well, mainly because my imaginary Blizz applicant pretty much assumed he had the job all sewn up, and frankly had not prepared for the interview at all.

Me. Mr. Blizzard, very nice to meet you, please come in and sit down.

Blizz (dressed in wrinkled khakis, untucked shirt, no tie, sneakers, could use a haircut). Hey, how’s it going?

Me. I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place. Can I get you some coffee or anything?

Blizz. Nah, I’m good.

Me. Well, fine, let’s get started then. My first question is one I ask every applicant: why do you want this job?

Blizz. Well, um, you know. Guaranteed monthly income, plus big chunk of change every time I put out a new expansion. Not to mention it lets me develop games way cooler than the one you play.

Me. I see. And what do I get in return?

Blizz. Well, you get a pretty nifty game, and you get to play it the way I think is best. Y’know, immersion and stuff. Oh, and something I’m really excited about, you have an opportunity to watch people way better than you play it. For a spectator fee of course. Awesome, huh?

Me. Uh huh. Well, let’s move on.

(Interview wraps up.)

Me. Last question. Where do you see yourself a year from now?

Blizz. (Long pause) Errr, Legion and stuff?

Me. I mean bigger picture, where do you see your subscriptions, the composition of your player base, your goals for the game, that kind of thing? And in particular, where do I fit into this bigger picture?

Blizz. (With perplexed look of a pig gazing at a wrist watch.) So do I get the job or not?

Where, indeed, will the game be a year from now? And will I or you still be in the picture?

In contemplating Legion, especially in light of Blizz’s ventures into eSports and Hollywood, I find myself wondering who exactly they see as their player base any more? More to the point, do they see me as a part of that player base beyond being a means to finance their “real” players?

When I first heard about the WoW movie, I thought of it as a giant advertisement for the game, the purpose of which advertising was to pull new players into an aging game. Certainly such a strategy makes sense after a year like 2015, which has seen the loss of something like 5 million subscribers. Even if Blizz no longer counts subscriptions as a measure of business success in the game, that big a loss has got to hurt. Another year like that and it will be the end of the franchise.

So there are huge stakes involved in both the movie and Legion. But what does Blizz see as the nature of those stakes? How will they measure “success” a year from now? And how are they structuring the game to maximize what ever their definition of success is?

On the one hand, we see the company going pretty much all in on eSports, although WoW being suitable for that genre is a bit dicey in my opinion. Still, it’s possible if Blizz has the right showbiz approach. An interesting question is, what kind of player base is needed to support WoW as an eSport? I don’t claim to know the answer to that, but I know what kind does not support it: the super-casual-futz-around-when-you-have-some-time-to-kill player that I am betting has historically been WoW’s bread and butter even if Blizz does not want to admit it.

These are the players who always felt like they could play once every few days and still get enjoyment from the game, so they kept their subscriptions current. These are also the players who decided that WoD took away that possibility of casual enjoyment and thus made their subscriptions not worth the money.

So how is Blizz shaping the game to win back large numbers of mom-and-pop and other  casual players, while at the same time trying to re-brand it as a fierce professional “sport”? Again, I have no answers, but I do have a couple of observations.

First, I am not entirely certain that Blizz itself knows the answer, or indeed if they realize it is even a question. I say this because of the conflicting messages we have gotten in the game for the last year, and which I see continuing as we move into Legion. (I am talking about big conflicts here, such as making raiding almost the exclusive end game activity while at the same time implementing designs that make raiding more and more elusive for large numbers of players.)

Second, if Blizz is indeed looking to swell its subscription numbers with new players as a result of the movie combined with Legion, I doubt if they will be able to walk the thin line between new player accessibility and enraged cries of “dumbing down”? Character boosts and professional catch-up mechanisms notwithstanding, the learning curve for a brand new player who has no friend to help is almost impossibly high. Without dedicated study of third-party web pages, I maintain that your average casual player will abandon the game within a matter of a few weeks.

In short, I doubt if Blizz is on a path that will result in significant numbers of new players. Like it or not, and whether Blizz wants to admit it or not, the game is moving inexorably to a hardcore player model. They simply cannot make the game suitable for eSport pros  and fans while at the same time attracting the millions of casual players they need to sustain the business model. They might be in the same position with this dilemma that they were in regarding competing demands of PvP and PvE — until they admit that it is really two different games both approaches will suffer, but game design will inevitably favor one over the other.

So: Where do you see WoW in a year? Where do you think Blizz sees it? And most importantly, if you are interviewing them will you give them the job?

 

 

 

Legion 20810

Just before Legion Alpha goes on holiday break, Blizz came out with a huge list of changes to the latest build, along with a terrific explanation of how PvP will work in Legion. Here are the items that struck me as interesting or significant. (All my comments on talents and spell changes are hunter-centric, but do check out the MMO-C post if you play another class, because there were a ton of major changes.)

PvP. I do not do PvP in any organized fashion, pretty much limit myself to a few battlegrounds once in a while if I am bored. I stink at it anyway, not sure if that is because I don’t enjoy it or if I don’t enjoy it because I stink at it, but whatever, I am not a PvP-er. Still, I was kind of excited by the entirely new system in Legion. To my unprofessional eye, it appears that Blizz may finally have found the right solution to the massively unwieldy PvE versus PvP problems that have existed in the game to this point.

What they seem to have achieved is a system that properly rewards PvP expertise, does not affect class balancing mechanics in PvE, and encourages new players to dip a toe into PvP without having to re-gear to do so. If this works like it is supposed to, I think it will be a home run for Blizz.

Hunter talents. The new build gave us quite a bit of information about hunter talents, and I found several of the items very encouraging. Of course, the list as usual could be read a couple of different ways, so take my comments with a huge grain of salt, as I may be falling prey to wishful thinking as a result of not being fluent in Blizz-speak.

MM may have an option for hunter pets?  This was the biggest item for me. Aspect of the Beast was listed as a level 100 talent for every hunter spec, and its effects vary for every spec based on the pet’s specialization. And I quote:

Marksmanship: Kill Command and Flanking Strike cause an additional effect, based on your pet’s Specialization. Ferocity Your pet also bleeds the target for an additional 0 damage over 6 sec. Tenacity Your pet also takes 15% reduced damage for 6 sec. Cunning Your pet also snares the target, reducing their movement speed by 70% for 4 sec.

In the early Legion data-mined  talent tree, Aspect of the Beast was not found for MM.

Is it possible Blizz has heard the plaintive cries of  MM hunters anguished over the loss of the stable of pets they have spent years collecting and taming? Surely even Blizz — who clearly regrets ever creating a hunter class and who has done everything in their power to destroy it — even Blizz would not taunt us like this then whip the rug out from under our feet. Call me gullible (others have done so, with justification), but I just cannot believe they are so massively incompetent as to have this be a gigantic typo.

If MM has a pet option in Legion, I might even forgive them for the destruction of my beloved SV, because I will feel I at least have two options for more traditional hunter play, instead of the single BM option I was expecting.

Other hunter talents of note:

  • Black Arrow (MM only)  is instant and will have 3 charges, with effects stacking up to 3 times. I am sure the theorists will start crunching the numbers on this, but it certainly sounds great and might give MM a huge burst capability, something hunters have been lacking for most of WoD.
  • A Murder of Crows is a level 75 talent for SV only.
  • Camouflage is an MM-only talent, and it is now stealthed without the glyph.
  • Dash is now a level 30 talent for all specs instead of SV-only. Since it extends the length of Aspect of the Cheetah by 3 seconds, I suppose this means hunters will no longer have the option of using this aspect until such time as they take damage. Pity.
  • Exotic Munitions is a level 45 talent for all specs. (I don’t think this is new, except for the level change, but I had not taken note of it previously.)

Hunter PvP talents. The only thing I noted here is that, although I was expecting SV to be the spec of choice for PvP, it looks like BM may be viable also.

Hunter artifact powers. There were a ton of these, giving us our first glimpse into how BM might play out, with the big news that Titanstrike will be the basis for a second BM pet. Frankly, it was all a bit mathy for me to puzzle out, but check out Bendak’s first cut at how it might feel to dual-wield pets in Legion.

Overall, the huge list of these changes was fairly good news to me, because it gives a bit of faith that Blizz was listening to their alpha testers. It remains to be seen, of course, if they will pay similar attention to the beta testers — presumably that will be a bigger group and therefore not totally hand-picked for friends and family and those with big YouTube followings.

But I warn you, Blizz, I will never forgive you if you have lied to me about the return of pets for MM.

Never.

Ever.

Count on it.

 

Fruit hats and rum and Legion

Fruit HatHave you gotten your Fruit Hat yet? I know I got mine, on all my characters last night, and I suspect you have, too. Judging by the frenetic excitement about it on my server last night, nearly everyone still actively playing has gotten at least one  and spent some amount of time playing with the conga line in their garrison.

If you don’t have the foggiest idea what I am talking about, there is an item that was in the current Legion alpha that showed up in the live game a day or so ago. You go to Valley of the Four Winds, to the Imperial Granary, collect the basket of fruit under the stairs, then head back to your garrison. When you click on the basket of fruit, it becomes a Carmen Miranda type of fruit hat, and you start dancing. When you move, instead of running as usual your character does this funky chicken-like undulating walk, and as you sashay through your garrison various NPCs fall in line behind you, dancing and following you in a conga line.

I have to admit I had some fun with the hat. At one point I got 14 in my line and we wandered all over my garrison until some apparently got bored and drifted back to whatever they had been doing. I was kind of disappointed that none of my followers joined the line — Ariok in the line might have been pretty funny — but I guess only the peripatetic NPCs have the conga line code. So I was able to snare Oscaar but not the vendor dude that stands by the lunch wagon. I probably could have gotten that ginormous tree guy that is usually blocking access to my garrison resource stash, but of course when I wanted him to be there he was nowhere to be found.

Off subject, but have you noticed how very respectful and polite Oscaar is? He actually steers his big old elekk mount around you if you are in his path in the garrison. Try it. Go stand directly in front of him as he is meandering about, and he will alter course slightly to avoid you.

Which brings me to rum. It being the holiday season, and being most of my family and friends are partial to chocolate and liquor in most any form, I have been making rum balls and rum fudge. As I am an extremely responsible and conscientious person, I must of course ensure that any food I provide for others is of the highest quality. I am sure you agree that for me to do otherwise would border on negligent.

It is possible, therefore, that much of the giggly fun I had last night with my fruit hat was made more fun as a result of my diligent taste testing earlier in the evening. Still, I did enjoy the hat. I always like it when Blizz does silly fun things. Last night as I was playing with it, I was thinking it would be cool if you could use it in a raid — especially LFR — and it would cause everyone with the item to get the hat on their heads cosmetically and start undulating in place while they were killing the boss. It would be the same mechanic as that ridiculous ring, where one person can dictate when everyone else uses it. The effect would last for maybe 30 seconds, and at the end there would be an effect that caused everyone to shout Olé! or something. (But remember while I was thinking about this I was still under the influence of taste testing…)

Like I said, I enjoy these quirky little fun things Blizz throws at us every once in a while. Unfortunately, I can usually engage with them for at most only a couple of hours before I stop being amused. Any attempt by Blizz after that to stretch them out — like costumes for Pepe, for example — is lost on me because I am done with the mechanic.

Which brings me to Legion. Specifically, its timing and the effect that timing is having on my current game play. By all accounts, we are months away from it going live — remember we are only now in alpha testing, and usually live expansions take about six months from the time beta testing starts. That would mean — even in the most optimistic scenario — it will be at least July before we get the expansion. I am betting it will be closer to the September time frame Blizz put on their Legion packaging, although Marathal over at Rambling Thoughts About WoW has an interesting marketing point to make about the subject that might make the release sooner.

But whatever release time frame you are betting on, we are still months away from Legion. Little fun things like the Fruit Hat are cute and engaging for about an hour, but no matter how many of them Blizz throws at us they will not cover up the fact that we will be stuck in Draenor — a failed expansion — for a long time yet.

By all rights, we should have another patch to cover the remaining months, but there will not be one. Before WoD, Blizz told us they were moving to a one-year expansion schedule, something that was clearly a pipe dream. I don’t fault them for trying to do it, but the realities of the game’s complexity are such that they simply do not have the resources to meet such a schedule. Hey, no harm no foul in my opinion. It was an ideal goal, but they just can’t do it.

The problem, though, is that by hanging on to the one-year fantasy, they fail to plan for sufficient patches in the current expansion. Two patches are fine if they only have to cover one year. But two patches in the first eight months, followed by eight or so more months with nothing, is just extremely poor planning.

From a personal standpoint, as I have said before I do not tend to get bored when expansions drag on. And I am not bored now. However, one of the ways I use to stave off boredom is to turn to my alts and try to get more proficient with them towards the end of every expansion. And even though I am working at that now, I am not really interested in doing it, because I know that any muscle memory I pick up now will be completely useless in Legion. I will have to relearn everything then anyway, so what is the point of putting in a lot of effort now?

Similarly, the end of an expansion is often when I am able to really improve my hunter skills on my main. If I am on a raid team, I often volunteer to be one of the main carriers during alt runs, because I find that the easy runs really help me to get better at raid awareness as well as class skills.

But this time I am not doing that. Not only am I no longer on a functioning raid team (and yes, I blame much of this on Blizz’s design decisions for WoD), but I feel like any improvements I make to my hunter skills is a total waste at this time.

Frankly, I am really tired of complete class overhauls every two years.

Sorry, I have wandered rather far off topic. My tl;dr is this: Fruit Hat was fun, but it is more fun when you are fortified with rum balls, and Legion is too far away for Blizz to keep players engaged with more fruit hats for the whole time. 

 

 

The demise of guilds

I don’t think I would get much argument if I said that Warlords of Draenor was very hard on guilds. And so far I have not seen anything in Legion that will reverse that trend. In fact, if anything, the implementation of Order Halls will further hurt guilds.

Before I continue, a disclaimer — much of what I will say is anecdotal, derived from my server and my WoD guild experiences. I could not find any place that tracks the number of guilds in the game historically — WoWProgress follows something like 700k guilds, but I could not find any historical data on change in numbers. So I am left with my own analysis, influenced by my experiences.

The relevant personal experiences are, I left two failed guilds, and am now part of one that is struggling to maintain viability. The failed guilds had gotten to the point where frequently I was the only guildie logged on most nights, the raid teams had disintegrated, the GM and officers were ghosts, and all planned activities disappeared. My current guild maintains some semblance of social play, and there are 8-10 guildies on a few times a week, but the raid team — formerly in the top 25 on the server — ceased to exist even before Hellfire Citadel came out. So please understand that what I say is certainly colored by my own experience. Yours may be completely different.

For me, guilds have always been one of the bedrocks of social play in WoW. I did not join one until I was about level 50 on my first character (back in the early days of WotLK), but once I did, I was hooked on them as integral to my enjoyment of the game.

I think guilds reached their peak around the end of Cata and first part of Mists. Indeed, it was during that period when Blizz seemed keen on promoting guild membership, because they instituted a host of enticing guild perks. Cata saw the introduction of guild leveling, from 1 to 25, with perks awarded at each level. But by the time of Patch 5.0.4, Blizz began to remove or nerf several of the perks, including the wildly popular Have Group Will Travel, which allowed a guildie to summon other guildies to their location. In WoD, Blizz eliminated the guild leveling system along with many guild perks.

In particular, they axed the Cash Flow perk, by which the guild earned a small amount of gold every time a guildie looted gold in the world. The stated reason was that some GMs were using this to exploit their guildies and enrich themselves. I suppose what they really meant was that illicit gold sellers were using the mechanism to generate gold, but whatever the reason, it was a pretty serious blow to many guilds, causing some to revoke the free repairs privilege, which in turn hurt retention and recruitment.

Guilds were also indirectly — but seriously — impacted by some of the design features of WoD. For example, the lack of repeatable content, such as rares and such as the irrelevancy of dungeons, meant there was less reason to get up guild groups for some romping-about fun for an hour or two. This of course was compounded by the lack of flying, meaning it became a pretty major commitment to get a group together in the same place at the same time, and then spend most of your time just traveling to wherever your target was. Not to mention if you had just an hour or two to play, you probably felt you had to spend that doing your garrison and follower chores, not running about with a guild group trying to find an objective. And everything was further compounded by the widespread perception that WoD was just not very fun, which caused fewer and fewer guild members to log on, that is if they remained subscribed at all.

To make matters even worse, raid design in WoD was very detrimental to casual raid teams, be they “hardcore casual” or “laid back casual” in nature. For the laid back casual teams, most of the mechanics were too demanding for a flex-style pick-up group of guildies, unless there were a significant number of very good raiders to carry the group. Normal level was much harder than Blizz told us it would be when they introduced the new raid levels. Thus, the promised “friends and family” mode became progression, and players just looking for an evening of fun and camaraderie stopped trying to raid.

Ten-man teams with core members trying to do progression also faced a number of obstacles:

  • Blizz failed to follow through on its design promise that progression teams would be able to start on Heroic (since in theory WoD Heroic was previous Normal). You simply could not be properly geared for Heroic unless you had first cleared Normal, in most circumstances.
  • WoD raids were horribly tuned, such that small teams were at a disadvantage. But the mechanics were such that bringing in  guildies who normally did not raid with the team was impractical, since it significantly slowed progression while the augmentees learned not to commit the single-player raid-wiping errors nearly every boss had. Pugging via the Group Finder was tedious and annoying, not to mention going this route pretty much destroyed the feeling of team accomplishment people sought when they joined a progression team in the first place.
  • Overall decreased player participation in the game meant getting even ten players to show up on raid nights became difficult, which meant trying to plug the holes with more non-core members, which in turn meant there was even less team spirit in the group, etc. It was a continuous downward spiral.

All of these factors contributed to the WoD demise of many guilds. Social guilds no longer had enough active players to be really social any more, and casual raiding guilds found it increasingly difficult to field a viable team.

Looking at Legion, I don’t see anything so far that gives me hope that guilds will be revived as a robust social mechanism. Indeed, the focus on Order Halls would seem to be at the expense of guilds.

I have to admit, I still don’t see the real game design reason for Order Halls, except as a quest hub. And some aspects of them are downright stupid, such as the ridiculous notion that every class member on your entire server is the primary class leader, the one with the “unique” artifact weapon. Puh-leeze.

For myself, I would have preferred a simpler quest hub mechanism, and put the “home base” dev effort on something like Guild Halls. Now, there may be a technical reason that Guild Halls are not doable, but if so  I would like to hear it. As it stands, it appears to me that Blizz is just fine with the dwindling relevance of guilds in the game, and in fact their actions over the last two expansions indicates they are actively promoting such a trend. I think this is a shame, given the avowed social nature of the game. It would be nice if Watcher or someone would address the future of guilds, and how Blizz sees their continuing role, if indeed they see any role for them at all.

 

What is real?

I recently read a comment about “darker nights” being implemented in Legion, and it made me think about the whole idea of “reality” in MMOs, WoW in particular. When I read that Legion night times will be noticeably darker, I remembered a series of forum posts maybe a year ago where a great “dark” debate was raging.

Basically, the darkers were furious that the artificial WoW night times are not as dark and scary as, say their own suburban back yards or possibly their mom’s basement until she turns on the lights for them. (Can you tell which side of this I am on?) The daylighters were furious that it was always dark on their servers during the play time they had, and they would like to see a bright daytime environment once in a while, or at least not be subjected to intense darkness all the time.

In short, as is the case in forums, everyone was furious. Blizz eventually bowed a little to the darkers, making nights in some zones darker than they had been for a couple of expansions. As far as I could see, that ended that particular forum tempest. I was generally on the side of the daylighters, since most of my play time is in the evening/night on a server with the same time zone I live in, and it gets quite depressing to play a game when the environment is always dark. Not to mention, game darkness makes it harder to see quest items, road paths, and mobs. So I liked the semi-dark nights, more like evening light,  Blizz had implemented for most of the WoW world. But I can’t say my interest in the subject even came close to “furious”.

However, the point I am gradually circling around is that the main argument advanced by the darkers was that very dark nights were more “realistic.”

Think about that for a minute. This is a computer game where you can fly on mythical beasts, where you can ride giant chickens, where your character never needs to sleep or go to the dentist or pee and can run forever without stopping, where you launch impossible lethal magical spells at impossible monsters, where death is always just a temporary inconvenience, where you can teleport to various destinations, where — well you get the idea. In a game like this, people are complaining that part of it is not “realistic”??

This is an amazing mindset, but we all have it.

Virtual worlds all have their own set of rules, initially established by the game creators. Those rules define what is possible and what is not possible within the closed system. In other words, they establish baseline “reality” for the game world. We as players either accept these rules and play the game, or we don’t accept them and move on to some other pastime.

However, in complex games like WoW there are two factors that affect this artificial reality. First, the game is far too complicated to have rules governing every aspect of internal reality, and second, games evolve and change, which necessarily modifies — or in some cases completely reverses — parts of game reality.

It is in the space created by these two factors that players define for themselves what they demand as game reality. In my example of dark nights, this was something never well defined by the original baseline WoW reality, beyond the concept that there would be a graphical distinction between day and night and that the times for this would be diurnal server times. Additionally, it was something Blizz addressed as a change at one point, clarifying the concept of “darkness” and opting for player convenience (being able to see game features during times of server darkness).

Since the concept of darkness had not originally been clearly addressed in the game, players defined their own darkness reality. When it was later clarified and slightly altered, darkers became irate because that change clashed with what they had established in their own minds as game reality, whereas daylighters were fine because they had accepted the modified rule/reality as part of the closed system. It is absolutely certain that a Legion change to return to much darker nights will cause darkers to rejoice because they view it as a return to reality, whereas daylighters will complain because they view it as an unjustified abrogation of established operating rules.

Many of the great debates in this game, I think, boil down to what each player has built up in their own mind as game reality. Sometimes they have filled in gaps not well addressed by the game, and sometimes they have accepted as immutable certain “realities” of the game. If suddenly Blizz decides to address some of these vaguely-defined realities and if they conflict with what players have built up in their minds, then there will be complaints. Similarly, if Blizz decides to alter what players have perceived as unalterable game reality,  there will be complaints.

There are two sets of realities in WoW — what the game designers have laid out, and what each player has built up in their own mind. So when people complain about a certain feature not being “realistic”, I see where they are coming from. I do wish, though, that they would understand that the concept of realism in this game is entirely subjective, not some unalterable fact.

I know that I have a pretty fixed set of game realities in my own mind, and many if not most of my rants are the result of Blizz doing something to destroy them. If I step outside of the system I can see what is going on and usually can be more objective about it. I rarely do this, though, probably because for me the essence of the game is that it is an internalized fantasy, and any destruction of my own “fantasy reality” requires a major mental adjustment.

If I am honest, that is the root of my unease with Legion changes to the entire hunter class. Over the years, since Blizz never really addressed the game reality of hunters other than in a mechanical way (talents and shots and such), I built up my own hunter reality to fill the gap. For me, the reality was that hunters are defined as very mobile ranged physical damage dealers with a highly-tuned affinity for a wide range of natural pets. But now Blizz has decided to clearly define the hunter fantasy, and it conflicts mightily with the one I built up in my own mind. Thus, to me the hunter changes are not “realistic” in terms of what a hunter is.

What about you, have you built up some game realities in your own head that Blizz might shatter?

Admin comment: A combination of two broken fingers (don’t ask) and the demands of an impending major holiday means I will take a pseudo-break from writing and cut back to 2-3  posts a week instead of my usual 4-5. I’ll resume my usual schedule probably the second week of January 2016.

The emerging Legion big picture

I spent most of my weekend game time not so much playing WoW as reading about it. Specifically, catching up on some of the in-depth blog posts about experiences so far on the limited-invite alpha/beta Legion.

Obviously, it is still very early — I really do believe it will be September 2016 before Legion goes live — but I see what for me are some large-trend, big-picture design consequences that I find disturbing, possibly to the point of destroying the parts of the game I love the most. Let me try to weave the pieces together for you.

Item: Professions. Pherian over at alt:ernative chat is doing a series on her experiences thus far with professions in Legion alpha. I should say, with her experiences thus far with one profession — skinning — since that is the only one currently available. But, as she points out, it is fair to assume that skinning is representative of the whole new Legion profession template.

Taken in onesies or twosies, the new profession approach seems interesting. Leveling is done through a series of quests in the Broken Isles. Although there is no crafting to learn for skinning, Blizz has told us that crafting recipes will be learned through questing also.

While this may be a refreshing approach for your main, my prediction is that it will eventually drive a stake through the heart of alt professions, especially for those of us who have leveled one of every profession in order to be self sufficient. And indeed, Blizz has told us that having alts for that reason is not desired game play, it is frowned upon by Blizz. In fact, Watcher condescendingly instructed us in the correct/approved use of alts in the Patch 6.2 Q&A (quoted here from the MMO-C wrap up):

The team recognizes that many people play multiple characters. They prefer to see alts exist to serve themselves. You should have a healer alt because you want to heal, or another class PvP alt because you want to PvP as that class. The progression for each character should be on that character. Multiple alts shouldn’t exist to serve your main character.

By gating every 7.x profession behind a series of quests that must be carried out in the Broken Isles, Blizz has effectively required every alt to be viable in that environment. If they are not properly equipped, and if you are not proficient at playing them, you will not be able to level their professions.

And “properly equipped” may include having at least the initial artifact to weapon for each alt, which is yet another series of quests to go through. Not to mention any kind of pre-Legion scenario to actually get to the Broken Isles.

The big picture I get from this? Blizz does not want you to be able to level a profession in Legion unless it is on an alt that you have played, equipped,  and intend to continue to play in the “approved” fashion.

Item: Hunters. My opinions on the Legion changes to hunters are pretty well known, and I do not intend to itemize them again in this post. But a few days ago Bendak published his first impressions of Survival hunter, in a Locked and Loaded piece on Blizzard Watch as well as on his own blog. Now, Bendak is what I would call a hunter’s hunter, and generally he is quite positive regarding inevitable hunter changes, he always seems to find the gold nuggets in what most of the rest of us often see as a pile of “fertilizer mats”. But his pieces on SV hunter are the most pessimistic I have seen from him.

To be fair, he points out as I did above, that the current test version of Legion is extremely early in its development, and he notes that some aspects of SV hunter have excellent potential. Still, the one overriding negative factor he cites is that SV hunter is truly an entirely different class.

Those of you who do not play hunters, please think about that for a minute. For example, if you play a warrior — Arms, for example — think about how you would react if Arms were to suddenly become a ranged spec, and instead of a two handed sword, suddenly the only weapon available to you was a bow. On top of that, imagine one of your key raid spells, such as Recklessness, was removed. All of the skills you had learned would become worthless, and you would have to learn an entire set of ranged damage skills. In short, nearly all of the things that caused you to select Arms Warrior in the first place would be gone. All because Blizz had a notion that Warriors had become too “homogeneous”.

Add to all this Blizz’s very dismal history of successfully balancing any class when it undergoes change, the for-no-good reason removal of pets from Marksmanship hunters and of traps from MM and BM hunters, and Blizz’s track record of staying the course with bad ideas no matter how many numbers-heavy reports they get from their beta testers, and this is the big picture I get:

Blizz will destroy the hunter class in Legion. Some players will like the new class, some will not, but make no mistake about it, the hunter class will no longer exist in Legion. 

Last item: Change. Bhagpuss over at Inventory Full has a thoughtful article on change in MMO’s. A couple of comments are worth quoting:

MMORPGs were never meant to be “games”. Not really. They’re pastimes, hobbies, obsessions. They’re places to hide and places to go and places to live. They’re the virtual equivalent of the garden shed, the attic, a quiet night in by the fire. They stand with knitting, whittling, gardening or fishing as things you can do when you don’t have anything you have to do, something you can go on doing for as long as you want to go on doing something.

And,

For those of us who still enjoy our MMOs it’s not boredom we’re feeling; it’s comfort. Coming home from a rough day at work to a familiar MMO is like pulling closed the cabin door against the snow and settling down in front of the fire with a whittling knife and a stout log.

That’s not enough for most gamers. Gamers crave novelty. MMO “players”, by and large, aren’t gamers. If they crave anything it’s stasis. “More of the same” is their battlecry when they take to the forums, something they rarely do because most of them barely know there are forums.

Herein, I think, lies the foundation of my unease with Legion, and my extremely strong reaction to the very significant changes that will be part of it. I am not a gamer, I would never characterize myself as such. But I love WoW. I love it for the reasons Bhagpuss enumerates, and since I find refuge in it as a place of comfortable escape, I am resistant to change, and I am furious when that change is so large as to pretty much destroy my escape sanctuary, as I feel is happening with the destruction of alts and of hunters.

But Blizz is under the impression that most of its players are gamers, that they “crave novelty”. This, I think, is not the case — most of Blizz’s most vocal players may be gamers, but most of its bread-and-butter monthly subscribers are not.

And indeed, Blizz is moving forward with the assumption that it is creating content for gamers, ignoring the almost-certain fact that the majority of whatever player base they have remaining are probably not true gamers.

And this, I think, is the biggest big picture I get of Legion: Blizz is shaping the game in ways that will cater to their ideal image of who their player base should be, not who their player base actually is. 

This cannot end well, at least not for me and those like me.

 

GAAAAHHH! and other observations

Last night, as part of my project to spiff up some of my more promising alts, in case I need to abandon my hunter main in Legion, I was working on my warlock. She had pretty crummy gear, including a blue weapon and a level 4 crafted alchemy trinket. My plan was to get her a level 6 inscription weapon, get the trinket to level 6, and have her craft her own chest piece for the third crafted item. Other than having to spend a ton of gold to get the needed felblight, I was in good shape for mats.

The weapon and trinket were easy. I got lucky on the weapon and immediately got the peerless flavor, which is the best set of secondary stats for destro. All that was left was to tailor the chest piece, looking once again for peerless.

O.

M.

G.

I won’t bore you with the sordid details, but it took me 46, forty-six!, FORTY-EFFING-SIX tries to reroll a peerless chest piece. For you accountants out there, that is 1380 sumptuous furs, which on my server has a street value of slightly over 2000 gold.

Never mind the cost. Do you have any idea how incredibly frustrating it is to spend close to an hour to reroll stats 46 times?

I have said it before, and now I am saying it again:

The entire secondary stat mechanism blows.

Anyway, the whole experience just destroyed any semblance of concentration, organization, or sanity I had left, so today’s post is a hodgepodge of random thoughts I had while perusing MMO-C’s rundown of the latest Legion data mining and beta changes.

In no particular order:

Dalaran. Glad to see we are getting some flat screen TVs in the inns in Dal, because nothing I like better than coming back after battling monsters than to kick back with a brew and watch the latest episode of Wild Housewives of Ironforge.

And this tidbit:

The Citizens of Dalaran are stoically prepared to face the Legion, though it might mean the destruction of their beloved city.

Uh-oh. Please, Blizz, don’t let us suffer through permanently destroyed parts of Dal, like we have done with the park in Stormwind. I am pretty sick of nice places in the game getting all uglied up and never returning to any semblance of grace and beauty. Really, Blizz, not everything in the game has to have an end state of dark and/or ugly.

New item. Vantus runes “… with a weekly duration that buff your power on one dungeon, raid, or world boss.” Huh? They last for a week but you can only use them once in that time? Will these be a new way for butt-brained group leaders to add even more restrictions to the players they will allow to pug with them — “must have unused rune”? Does this mean the tuning on bosses is so high you will need this to down them?

New friendship reps. Disliked, Accepted, Trusted, Respected. What about Loved?  Appreciated? Ignored? Avoided at All Costs? Blizz has a lot to learn about the many levels of friendship….

Highmountain (location for the Hunter Class Hall).

The Highmountain Tribe has dwindled in numbers over the years, and with the drogbar threat looming, seek new allies to save their homeland.

Who the fig are the drogbars? I am not an expert in lore, but I don’t think we have ever heard of this bunch before. Honestly, I am getting more and more annoyed with Blizz’s treatment of hunters. First they completely destroy the class as it has existed since pretty much the beginning of the game. Then they invent a new place for the class hall — zero history in the game, zero hunter tradition, zero connection with anything any hunter has ever done in the game. And now they invent this new bogus threat of “drogbars”? Notice that all the other classes get some connection with history and lore. But hunters? Nope. Blizz has succeeded in obliterating the class, and now they are eradicating all vestiges of hunter tradition.

Legion has been touted as rich in lore, a return to the ancient beginnings. And that seems to be the theme that permeates every class except hunters. As far as hunters go in Legion, Blizz has just written them off as not worth the effort of integrating into the history. Who cares? Just give ’em some new place and make up some crap about drogbars, it’s not like they are an important class like mages or demon hunters for crying out loud.

And last, and hopefully not least — Marksmanship class spell changes.

Lone Wolf. Your damage dealt with Auto Shot, SteadyArcane Shot and Aimed Shot is increased by 30%. Hunter – Marksmanship Spec.

My realistic side says this is an error or a baseline passive attribute, but my eternally gullible optimistic side hopes this is a talent, therefore Lone Wolf is just an option, therefore pets might still be in the picture for MM. Doubtful (see above rant on Blizz’s intent to destroy the entire hunter class along with all traditions and history), but an elf can hope.