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.

 

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

2 Responses to The emerging Legion big picture

  1. In Cata, when it got super easy to level an Alt, I decided to make specific Profession Alts. Happy am I that they are hunters because they were easy to level as I knew the class. Some quest chaining a few months into the expansion to catch up on my recipes will not be a burden really. All they do is sit in a garrison or capital city, they got geared from gmissions. So … Watcher can suck it.
    As to the hunter class. It only has two specs now. Clearly Blizzard needed melee badly — the new demon hunter is melee and now Survival. I won’t be playing melee, I won’t touch it. I think players who have enjoyed rogue or feral kitty will like it just fine.
    If the weight of the artifact is as heavy as it looks to be, we’ll be only picking one single spec anyways. They can herald tri-spec but it’s only nice on paper.
    Kudos on the range of your post — I’d never thought of an MMO has just that, it’s kind of nice.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, I have yet to hear anything resembling a logical explanation from Blizz as to why they decided to add two new melee classes to an already overcrowded melee space. For WoD, they went to some pains to reduce the visual clutter around a boss, toning down many of the various melee class spell graphics. Now not only have they added two new classes to that area, but at least one of them — SV “hunter” — has a significant number of new ground clutter visuals in the form of traps, and who knows what kind of ones DH will have. I just don’t get it, and I would love to hear a dev talk about the reasoning here. Like you, I will not be playing a SV “hunter” — if I decide to play a melee spec I will go with my rogue or maybe try a DH.

      I am beginning to wish my alts were all hunters, too! I am sure I will eventually level their professions in Legion, but I am also sure I will have to drop a ton of gold to buy crafted items for my main before I get them all leveled, which is something that just breaks my miserly little elf heart.

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