Tired and cranky

Warning: Disorganized, general rant follows, no doubt partially due to sore muscles and lack of sleep from shoveling snow (31 inches, plus several 5-ft drifts) for three days straight. Not to mention not playing WoW at all during that time.

Everything I read about Legion lately just annoys me. Most likely the main reason for this is because everything I read is third hand rumor — “official” dev comments remain obscure little 140-character tweets of no value to anyone, and the flow of information from the privileged few alpha testers seems to have dried up.

Perfect example is a recent little flap over an alpha mechanic that charges players 100 gold each time they switch specs. The only official pseudo-comment we have had on this is that 100 gold is a “placeholder” and that “We are still working out what the cost will be!”

The concept of paying to switch specs is already a done deal, we are down to haggling over the price!

Really? A cost to switch specs? What’s next, a cost to stay overnight in an inn, or to enter the city gates of Stormwind, or to use your hearthstone, or to enter a dungeon? Maybe WoW should take a cue from the old versions of the Sims and require our characters to pee every so often, and then Blizz could charge us to use the toilets!

Think about it, the virtual monetization possibilities are endless. In-game communications could be monitored and charged like phone minutes. (Wait, maybe that’s not such a bad idea, it might actually cut down on the trade chat idiots.) Blizz could charge a licensing fee for herbing or mining or skinning, or a sales tax for selling anything in trade instead of the auction house. There could be a stabling fee for every one of your pets and mounts. A leveling fee, you get charged a certain sliding scale of gold every time you ding a new level. Mandatory malpractice insurance for healers and liability insurance for tanks and damage dealers. A driver’s license fee for your chopper or goblin glider, not to mention a taxi charge every time your new alt avails itself of the chauffeured service. A banking fee every time your level of certain reagents falls below an established minimum level. A graduated income tax on the gold you make. A Value Added Tax on everything you buy.

With just a little imagination, Blizz could ensure that no one could ever accrue gold, that we would be trapped in an endless cycle of having to play in order to get gold, while at the same time having to pay gold for every game activity. The perfect self-perpetuating gold sink!

Can this really be anything other than another brilliant idea from those creative folks in Blizz’s Screw With the Players Department?

So, okay, I will get serious for a moment. I think I understand a possible Blizz reason for charging gold to switch specs — currently we are allowed to switch between two specs for free, but if we wish to change one of them to a third spec it costs us a small amount of gold. In Legion, everyone will be able to maintain all their specs without having to retrain in any of them. So a small amount of gold sink would disappear. What I don’t understand is why that is a problem, and more to the point why the solution to such a non-existent problem is to start nickel and diming us to death for something that has always been free.

As usual, it seems like none of the geniuses at Blizz have thought this through. Now raiders who change specs to help out the raid will be penalized for their cooperation. Will there be a mechanism to charge the spec-switching fee to the guild bank as there currently is for repairs? Will there be increased opportunities for guilds to earn gold for their increasing expenditures? What about classes who routinely level as one spec but raid or run instances as another? What about people not important enough to have been given a chance to try out the huge changes to their specs beforehand — now just trying out each new spec will cost them.

This is exactly the kind of development that has caused me to dread rather than anticipate Legion. How many other little gotchas are lurking out there?

In the big picture of a new expansion, this little flap over paying gold to switch specs is probably very small potatoes. But it is exactly the kind of “news” that helps to sink an xpac. Consider:

  • The existence of a privileged-people only alpha test, combined with a looming closed/exclusive beta (if there ever is one) means that the vast majority of players feel completely powerless to influence any aspect of Legion. When people feel small and powerless, they develop a strong we-they mentality, and every perceived change becomes evidence that “they” are out to get us.
  • As Blizz has seen fit to eschew all official transparency about the alpha testing of Legion, small snippets about annoying changes are the only things people have to discuss.
  • Complete turn-arounds to long-established game mechanics — no matter how small — tend to be the hardest for people to accept. (*cough*flying*cough*) When game companies intend to change them, they can ease player angst by explaining why they are doing it and possibly what the compensatory gain will be. (Honestly, though, not a bunch of horse hockey full of meaningless phrases like “class fantasy” or ” immersion”.) Of course, that would require actual communication, not just a couple of worthless tweets…
  • In this case — and rightfully so, I believe — many people are already worried that the implementation for artifact weapons will practically preclude effective spec switching anyway. To add a fee to what is already perceived as a burden seems like piling on. Rather than some patronizing tweet that amounts to “Don’t worry your empty little heads, it’s just a place holder,” maybe Blizz should consider an in depth discussion of the whole spec picture. What actually will it take to get the appropriate weapons for each spec on a single character? How exactly will the problem of healer leveling be addressed? What benefit is conferred by charging to switch specs, and what safeguards will be in place to ensure certain classes are not penalized by this more than others?
  • Last, and certainly not least, the last year saw Blizz squander a huge amount of trust. Whereas small things like this announcement would probably not even have caused raised eyebrows before WoD, now many players are are suspicious and wary of every move by Blizz. It’s like someone tapping you on your arm — normally no big deal, but if you are battered and bruised you are much more likely to howl in pain at even the slightest touch.

Well, I did warn you I am cranky today…



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.

6 Responses to Tired and cranky

  1. Onwuka says:

    “Really? A cost to switch specs?”
    “nickel and diming us to death for something that has always been free.”

    Dual spec was introduced in in patch 3.1.0 – and it wasn’t cheap (I think 1000g) when introduced. Prior to that changing specs required visiting a trainer and paying a fee to unlearn you talent selections. The fee rose each time you reset them to a cap of 50g.

    50g per was not an inconsequential amount in Vanilla or BC – so most people didn’t respec very often. I knew many healers and tanks that had ‘farming alts’ for specifically this reason. It was easier and cheaper to jump on your hunter or rogue to farm up some mats than slog it out as an under-powered tank or healer.

    It was one of many “quality of life” changes that came about in wrath (like the group finder) that fundamentally changed the nature of the game – for better or worse depending on who you ask. I understand the pro-“quality of life” perspective, but the game really did lose something that isn’t easily verbalized. All of those things, which taken individually seemed like encumbrances, really did imbue the world with a sense of depth.

    I think that is what people miss when they moan about whatever it is they are currently moaning about. It’s the reason that unsanctioned Vanilla and BC private servers still draw large and active communities of players.

    • Fiannor says:

      LOL! YEAH! And we had to walk to our raids. Uphill. Both ways. In the snow. Without feet! And we felt lucky to be able to do it!

      I was not “moaning”, just pointing out that when the game has had a certain feature for a long time, when that feature is taken away suddenly, people feel put upon. In fact, ever since there was dual spec option, changing within your two specs has been free. And, really, what is the reason for this change? If it is to act as a gold sink, then maybe there are better ways to accomplish that than to nitpick with a paltry amount of gold. If it is to truly discourage spec switching, then that to me signals a gigantic change in what has been WoW’s focus for a couple of years, and a good company would have a serious dialogue with its customers over such a change. (Not saying they should bow to customer desires, just that the reasoning behind it should be honestly explained.) Moreover, if the move is in fact designed to discourage spec switching, then it is inconsistent with other new game mechanics, for example the very fact that all specs within your class will be available.

      One of the points you hint at — the concept of “depth” — is very real, but it is often in the eyes of the beholder. One person’s “loss” is another’s “thank goodness that horrible thing is gone.” My personal opinion of the reason some players are drawn to unsanctioned atavistic servers is that they are searching for that feeling they had when the game was new to them and all things were shiny and fun — in other words, they are searching for something within themselves, not within the game.

  2. Onwuka says:

    I think I was pretty clear that the ‘moaning’ are the complaints of the overly nostalgic, not you. I’m honestly confused by your angry, defensive response. I’m not even sure we disagree, but I apologize for trying to contribute to a discussion here. It won’t happen again.

    • Fiannor says:

      Not defensive, probably just the limitations of writing versus conversation. I encourage you to keep commenting, I value your input.

  3. Grumsta says:

    It’s the mixed messages about Legion spec and talent switching that baffle me.

    On one hand we read that we can now switch between all three specs instead of just two (yay?), and then there’s a placeholder mechanic to charge for it. I read this at about the same time as I saw that the Tome of the Clear Mind for swapping out talents was being removed. [I find it curious that the placeholder for spec swapping has a charge at all – why not make it free during Alpha while people are just trying stuff out? They don’t want to set a no-charge precedent…?]

    Currently it appears that you can swap specs and talents at will, but it’ll cost you financially. For the WoD millionaires out there it’ll be trivial, but there are plenty of players in guilds I’ve been in this xpac who have struggle to pay for gear repairs, let alone charges like this.

    My biggest concern is still the Legendary weapon for different specs though. It’s bad enough for dual spec characters like a Druid tank/healer who currently have to split their ring upgrades between different rings for each spec. Now that pain will be experienced by all classes and all roles.

    As a Mage I want to be able to choose Fire and stay that way, and not be forced to spec switch between raid boss fights to min/max my contribution. However those who play Healers or Tanks and want to be able to solo stuff outside of raids could be at a severe time and gold sink disadvantage. I can see most non-hardcore healers switching to Disc Priest so they heal by doing damage and not spec switch at all.

    Currently I’m genuinely unsure as to whether Blizzard want us to be able to switch at will or not. Maybe they’re not sure either. Okay it’s Alpha, but I’ll be watching for what changes get made in these areas with close interest as we move into Beta.

    As it stands, it looks like any dps or dual-spec character will need to obtain and upgrade two or even three Legendary weapons for their class and keep a healthy gold flow going if they want to be able to fully commit to a hardcore raid team and min/max for each fight. I can’t see Blizzard’s apparent core target audience taking that workload lightly.

    • Fiannor says:

      It is most certainly a baffling mixed message, on a scale that makes me very uneasy about Legion because it hints at confusion regarding design goals for the expansion. It makes me suspect that the various design groups each have their own goals and that no one manager is overseeing that they fit with whatever the goals are for the final product. This, in my opinion, was one of the major contributing factors to the worst parts of WoD.

      As you point out, spec switching is not a small isolated game mechanic. It is tied in with many of the very foundations of the game — all the ones you mention, along with others such as raid design. If most bosses are not more or less balanced in terms of the mechanics required to defeat them, for example, it could require raiders to switch between, say, their AoE spec and their single target spec, or even more obviously for hybrids between damage and healing specs depending on the focus of the boss. Large, elite guilds may have either the bank gold or the bench to make this trivial, but most semi-casual raid teams will be in no position to do it easily.

      I do not think the cost to switch specs will be trivial for most players, because if it is only a few coppers or one or two gold, why would Blizz do it at all? I think it will be meant to make most players think a bit before switching specs. That, combined with what Blizz’s silence leads me to believe will be a difficult road to obtaining artifacts for each spec, indicates they are going to greatly discourage spec switching. The reason they could “allow” every class access to every spec is because very few will be able to do it anyway in Legion. There is no need for the 2-spec limitation, because most players will effectively be limited to one spec anyway.

      Sorry for the wall of text, but as usual your comments got my brain to go into overdrive.

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