Legion! Yay, or something

As everyone probably knows by now, Blizz has officially announced that Legion will go live on August 30. Honestly, I’m not sure what I think about that. I’ve had a lot of thoughts darting through my head since the announcement. Here are a few of them.

First, there is the big fat obvious fact that patch 6.2 celebrates its first birthday on June 23 of this year. Which means it will be just a smidge over 14 months old when Legion goes live. Last June, I wrote this:

How did your first day go with 6.2? I can best sum mine up with a hearty “meh…” Some things were fun, some were almost unbelievably frustrating, but one thing I know for sure is that this patch will get very old very fast.

Which it did. We had two patches in the first year of WoD — although 6.1 hardly even qualified as a patch — and then zero, zip, nada for 14 months.

WTF, Blizz?

Things have come a long ways — and not in a good way — from this November 2013 quote from Ghostcrawler:

We find that expansions are what bring players back to World of Warcraft…. Really good patches will keep them, but they aren’t as good at bringing players back to the game.

We really want to get to a cadence where we can release expansions more quickly. Once a year I think would be a good rate. I think the best thing we can do for new players is to keep coming out with regular content updates.

Not only no new expansions every year, but no new patches either, much less “really good” ones.

Certainly a new expansion every year, if it is of the immense scope that WoD and Legion are, is extremely optimistic. To achieve that frequency, a company has to devote very significant resources and must be almost flawless in their project planning and execution. Also, they must be willing to ignore the Good Idea Fairy who seems to make a nuisance of herself throughout the expansion development cycle, causing original concepts to become as bloated and overgrown as a Pentagon defense contract.

Blizz has demonstrated that they are just awful at all of this. Thus we get attempts to completely rework nearly every facet of the game for every expansion, the projects grow far beyond their initial scope without increasing the development resources to compensate, deadlines loom, and the projects get rushed out the door with a vague thought that all the known bugs will get fixed in the first patch. (When did Blizz adopt the Microsoft model of project management?) In short, we get WoD. I can only hope this is not the case with Legion, but I will wait to see.

I am neither surprised nor disappointed that Blizz has had to back off of Greg Street’s 2013 comment, but I would appreciate the courtesy of a new statement reflecting their current goals for frequency of expansions and patches.

Second, you have to wonder what kind of marketing duel may be going on between Blizz and Square Enix, which recently announced that Final Fantasy 15 — one of the strong WoW competitors — would be released Sep 30. This is suspiciously close to the previously-assumed release date of Legion, clearly chosen for the competitive value. Now suddenly Blizz one-ups Square Enix and announces an Aug 30 release. One can only hope that this is an actual, reasonable release date, and not one pulled out of the air in the spirit of “Oh yeah? We’ll see your Sep 30 release date and cut it by a month! Hah!”

Third, what does this mean for a beta test? By my calculations, if you allow time for a beta test followed by a PTR, the beta should have started, like — before now? It will be interesting to see how the “alpha” experiment will be spun by Blizz. My hunch is that we will soon see something that will be labeled “beta” but will actually just be a sort of  pre-PTR, with no substantive changes made, no matter what the comments are from the testers. Let’s face it, the alpha was the beta, from now on things other than minor tweaks are set in stone. The PTR — well, it will mainly be there as a pacifier to players not invited to either the alpha or the beta. If Blizz is smart, they will use it as a system stress test, because …

Fourth, what if any technical changes have been put in place to ensure we do not have a disastrous release day and/or week? The experiences for release of Mists and WoD were monuments to incompetence. There is no excuse for Blizz to fail to anticipate these factors for release week:

  • There will be a HUGE surge of players at the release hour. This surge will continue for at least the first week of the expansion. This means that servers must be prepared to take capacity loads, and additional tech servers may be needed.
  • People will be playing during times they ordinarily do not, so standard patterns of peak play times will be meaningless.
  • Some group will almost certainly try to attack Blizz servers and network infrastructure on release day. Get ready for it, and don’t complain that it is an “unforeseen event”. I am foreseeing it right now, so you should, too.
  • Lots of things will go wrong, so start preparing now to bring in extra support personnel, including GMs to quickly address tickets. People will have taken vacation time and made similar arrangements to experience intensive play time at release, so realize that they will be more emotional than usual when they hit a bug that prevents them from playing. You will win a lot of fans if you can address their problems rapidly and successfully.
  • Realize that you will likely have a lot of brand new WoW players for whom this will be their first expansion day, and whatever their experience is will color their entire view of the game.

Last, what does this mean for a pre-expansion event and for the pre-patch? Typically, these are big guessing games, Blizz gives coy little hints and bats its eyes like a middle schooler trying to flirt for the first time, but they never really announce a pre-patch release date. But this time, given the extreme changes every class and spec will undergo, I think Blizz owes it to their player base to cut out the cuteness and tell us at least an approximate time frame for the pre-patch. Those of us still around have proven our loyalty, we have stuck with this game in spite of a terrible and seemingly-endless expansion, and dammit we deserve to know when our classes will change forever.

What provisions are in place for playing a Legion spec in a WoD world? There are a ton of concerns here, not the least of which involve changes for secondary stats, for new global cool down intervals (1.5 seconds, up from 1.0 seconds — subject to haste), for new healing paradigms in an old-paradigm expansion, etc. I suppose we need time to get used to our new rotations and spec play styles before we get dumped into Legion, but honestly I am not looking forward to it, and I would like to have as much advance planning notice as possible.

Everyone fasten your seat belts, securely stow your belongings, and make sure your seats and tray tables are in an upright position. Here we go!

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.

7 Responses to Legion! Yay, or something

  1. gnomecore says:

    I’m actually planning my “release date” as September 1 or 2 when the majority of people will rush forward and I could level in comfort 🙂

    Of course there would be bugs and all, of course many people would queue up for quest mobs. But Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom, DO NOT have a starting location in Legion. There will be an entering scenario, but then you’re free to go wherever you want to. People now have a choice between all the Broken Isles locations. There’s no Hellfire Peninsula, there’s no Jade forest, there’s no Frostfire Ridge or Shadowmoon. Which means that queues for quest mobs will be shorter, bugs to be found, reported and fixed faster.

    Considering class changes: they’re best learned “in the field”. I suppose that pre-patch event will do the trick, as we will have to fight the petty demon invasions with our brand new pack of abilities. It’s not like they will be elite and we would be put into a stress test. With that kind of training, it’s quite possible not to die multiple times at our following leveling experience. By the time we get ourselves into any Legion dungeons or even raids, I think we’ll be quite ok with our rotations. So that’s not my big concern, although I have an army of Legion-ready alts of different classes, each one to be revamped.

  2. I worry about those first hours/days of Legion also. I think the stress test will be Dalaran and, for me, my first place to go. I want my hearth at Dalaran like everyone else!
    I’m glad the addon guys can keep up-to-date now. Patches and Expansions used to break our addons and, while out-of-date, they lagged our computers down to a miserable crawl. Hunting down the culprit was a stultifying drag.
    AND (don’t laugh at me) I’ll miss my bodyguard quasi-tank!

    • Fiannor says:

      Amen to the addons, those authors are my heroes. I am habitually lost without some of my staples like Ark Inventory, Bartender, and Weak Auras. I remember — not so fondly — the days of “hunting down the culprit”, doing the progressive halving of them to isolate the one that was causing your game to crash.

  3. Grumsta says:

    I’m glad that Blizzard didn’t spend any more time developing WoD and that as much as possible has gone into making Legion an enjoyable xpac. I’ve been happy with the direction of the game from 6.2 onwards. While 6.1 was a non-event, 6.2.2 and 6.2.3 both brought a decent amount of content which kept me playing.

    It’d be nice to think that pre-patch will be a proper “event” with exciting stuff happening alongside the big changes to class rotation. A few weeks to get (somewhat) used to the new world and hopefully something to get us all excited about legion launching.

    Not having a mandatory quest path should help somewhat with go-live, but I’m fully expecting issues for the first week or so. There will inevitably be bugs, and with all areas being explored simultaneously there is likely to be a lot of bugs found at the same time, which will all need testing & fixing.

    I wonder if as we flit from zone to zone to dodge congestion our quest logs will fill up? I was chatting to a colleague who plans to level up four toons at the same time, one in each zone, and he will switch between them. Cunning, but personally I’d find that a bit cumbersome.

    I’m assuming about 3 months of filling time and then a month of the pre-patch and class changes. Sounds like I need to draw up a list of stuff to keep me busy catching up on old content like the Argent Tournament and other stuff I’ve been meaning to get around to.

    Once Legion launches I hope that there’s interesting, repeatable content to be done and that the raids aren’t rushed out. One of my big regrets in WoD is that our guild was barely half way through HM before BRF came out, and BRF progression was made obsolete by HFC. Then Tanaan gear made HFC normal obsolete (aside from Tier).

    A more steady release of content over the life of the xpac would surely better than it all being over and done in six months?

    I’m not looking forward to class halls but it’ll be nice to have a proper “home” in Dalaran with other players. I’ll happily put up with the posing and the fps drop to see others in the game like the Shrine in MoP 🙂

    • Fiannor says:

      I, too, am looking forward to being able to pick my zone path for leveling, and it should vastly reduce the congestion, certainly during the first couple of weeks. I thought the leveling process was fun in WoD, but it got to be a huge grind by the time I got to my 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. alts, so possibly the Legion setup will even help with that kind of leveling burnout.

      I think around a month of pre-patch class changes is about right, and I hope that is what happens. The only thing I worry about is that it might be longer this time because of the expected intake of new players as a result of the movie. It just seems counter-productive to get a lot of new players all excited about the game, get them in and acclimated to the complexities of their class, then in a matter of a few short weeks change everything on them. I think that will cause many of them to stop playing, and it has to be a possible result that Blizz has anticipated. The easiest way to prevent this drop off would seem to be to implement the Legion class changes around the time of the movie. We’ll see, I guess.

      And yes yes yes, it will be fantastic to once again see other players populating Dal and even the class halls. We have had far too long of an exile to our garrisons.

      I still find plenty to do in the game, so I am not one of the ones screaming about “more content”. But the pace of patches was undeniably horrible in WoD, and it seems to me they were rolled out not so much as part of planned expansion development as knee-jerk reactions designed to staunch the subscription bleeding.

      I have sequenced into prep mode now in the game, cleaning out banks, dumping mats, inventorying all my transmog, finishing up a ring or two on alts, etc. My guild is still doing weekly alt runs in HFC, but I expect that, too, will stop in a few short weeks to give everyone a breather before the madness of a new expansion.

  4. My prediction is that the forums are going to be on fire with people upset with changes. If you look at the class alpha forums now, just about no one is happy. (I know I’m not.) Now imagine how Joe Average player is going to react when he learns he’s lost about 2/3 of his abilities and most of the rest are completely changed.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, I agree. Just take the little mini-flap over Legion flying as an example. Blizz did nothing that they had not already said they were going to do, it should not have been a surprise to anyone. But just the data mining about some of the achievements needed for the flying quest line caused some sort of grand outrage, as if people were hearing for the first time that there would be a WoD-type lengthy quest line for flying in Legion. So yes, there will be huge cries once the pre-patch goes live, people will act as if all their class changes are news to them, they were never told in advance, etc.

      And you are right, very few of the class forums I see are about how cool the new changes are (Boomkins may be an exception) most of them have been pointing out some quite serious flaws in the new changes. Blizz seems to listen to some but ignore others. And remember, to comment in the Legion class forums you must have alpha access, which by Blizz’s own words means you are basically an expert in your class, the top 2-3% of players. So if these “experts” are upset, I can imagine how furious the average players will be when they go to try and play their spec after the pre-patch.

%d bloggers like this: