Selection begins

It is getting down to crunch time. Which alts will I level first in Legion? And, even more anxiety-inducing, will my hunter still be my main? These are not questions I have felt I had to answer in the run-up to other expansions, but they seem important — almost key — to me as we approach Legion.

First, the question of main. I have always had a hunter as my main. In fact, by the end of Mists and all through WoD, I had two hunters as what you might call dual mains. (The reason is a long story not worth going into here, but it had to do with my guild-switching as my guild of many years was disintegrating.) Currently I have one adequately-geared MM hunter as my “main main” and a somewhat lesser geared BM hunter as my “off main”. The question I am dealing with is, will I maintain this hunter configuration in Legion?

I am not all that happy — and honestly not all that skilled — with the MM spec. Try as I might, I just can’t love it in its current incarnation. I usually run it with Lone Wolf  for the undeniable DPS boost. But it feels clunky and slow to me, from the need to be mindful of how often I am moving, to the puny burst capability. Even the 4-piece tier set seems to provide only marginal improvement — it is terrific fun in those rare instances when Careful Aim is active and Thrill of the Hunt has procc’ed, but other than that the 50-focus cost of Aimed Shot really limits its use except for being able to work maybe one more in during a regular rotation, possibly two more during a TotH when Careful Aim does not apply.

As for BM, it has never really been my favorite. I have usually had a BM off spec for my  hunters just to be able to tame rare pets and spirit beasts, and it is a terrific spec to level with. But it is frustrating to raid with, especially in any fight that requires a lot of target-switching. (And it seems like nearly all of the final tier raids in both Mists and WoD were this type of fight.) The DPS hit taken when your pet has to continually run to other targets is quite significant, and leaving the pet on a main target (by having it in passive mode) while you yourself switch is similarly unsatisfying, again because of the DPS hit you take when you remove that hunter-pet damage synergy.

This is why I loved SV before Blizz obliterated it — it really hit the sweet spot between the other two specs.

But back to my question of a main in Legion. With nothing to go on in terms of how each spec might feel to play, much less the raid environment they will have to deal with, it all becomes kind of a complicated coin toss.

All of this is complicated by two additional factors: professions and artifact weapons. Which leads me to my second question, which alts should I level first? Let’s leave artifact weapons aside — I have written about their game play complications previously — and focus on professions.

We are told that in Legion professions will all have their own quest lines, and that recipes will be learned as quest rewards and will also drop from various sources. I try to read everything I can about Legion, but the information on professions is extremely sparse. I don’t know if this is because Blizz has yet to implement most of the profession structure, if it is because the people who did the alpha had zero interest in professions, or if the people now in beta who are interested in professions are not interested in sharing their experiences with the rest of us. The Legion profession forums are sparse, and while there are a couple of bloggers writing very comprehensively about one or two professions, there just is not much information out there. I wish there was more, because it might help me decide which alts I should be gearing up most now so as to be able to level them efficiently in Legion.

My current lineup of characters/professions is:

Characters - pre Legion

(As you can see, Alchemy, Herbalism, and Inscription are duplicate professions.) All are level 100, with varying gear levels roughly in descending order. All but the mage either have the legendary ring or in the case of the druid and the rogue will have it within a couple of weeks.

With that rather long introduction, here is my current plan.

  • Leave the decision as to whether or not to main a hunter until the pre-patch, when I can get an idea of the play style for MM and BM. At that point I will decide first if I want to have a hunter as my main at all, and second, do I want to continue with the “dual mains” route I am on now or just have one main and a bunch of alts of which my other hunter is just one.
  • Within a week, decide which of my alts would be a candidate for main if hunter does not work for me in Legion. Right now the strongest candidate, given all that I can scrape up about Legion, seems to be my Druid. (I would love for it to be my Warlock, as I really love playing that alt, but I really don’t know how it will feel to play one in Legion.)
  • Also within a week, figure out the order in which I will level my alts in Legion. Some of this will depend on which is my main, of course, but I will go with a Plan A hunter main and a Plan B Druid main for planning purposes. The order of alts leveling will largely depend on which professions look to be either most lucrative or most useful to me. Right now Inscription looks to be a safe bet at least early on, mainly for the gizmos that allow for talent switching away from cities and inns. Beyond that, it is anyone’s guess, but possibly my LW will be useful for transmog items, and of course and enchanter is always useful for DE purposes if nothing else.
  • Last, decide within the next few days if I need to switch out some duplicate professions in favor of ones where duplicates will be more useful.

As I said above, this is not really a decision matrix I have faced before. But the twin factors of artifact weapons and what appear to be drawn-out profession leveling processes in Legion mean that it is now something to be dealt with.

Blizz really owes us a better picture of these Legion mechanisms — they are giving the beta selectees a huge advantage right now over all other players.

 

Memorial Day

This is a long weekend in the U.S., the semi-official start of summer, and in typical American fashion we celebrate it with cookouts and beer and beach time and big sales in the stores. When we all go back to work on Tuesday, it will be with a slightly more laid back attitude because it will be summer and we like to think our grownup selves can in some small way recapture those childhood days when summer vacation was the most glorious freedom we could imagine.

Every year at this time I take a break from my WoW writing to be a bit more serious. Memorial Day is for me one of the most sacred holidays we have. It is a time to remember those who gave everything in service to our nation — the people, young and not-so-young, who sacrificed their tomorrows so that we could have our long carefree summers. Each of them was the most important person in the world to someone, they were fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers and sons and daughters, and their passing left ineradicable sadness in the lives of those who loved them. Some of them died performing truly heroic acts, and some of them died just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but all of them died because they had decided to live a life of service, because duty and honor were not just words but a way of life for them.

We are engaged in a presidential political season here in the U.S., and politicians running for office will stand in front of masses of red-white-and-blue bunting and speechify this weekend about our military “heroes”, and they will wear their stupid little American flag lapel pins to advertise their “patriotism”, and their sound bite phrases about “duty” and “honor” will elicit cheers from their handpicked audiences and be replayed on the news shows. I suppose that is all to be expected. But I hope that the candidates, each of them, will privately take a moment to reflect on the unimaginable responsibility that they seek as commander-in-chief, that they will be humbled and awed and trembling at the power they will have to send Americans to their deaths. When they give their grand speeches, I hope that somewhere in the backs of their minds are images of the long and perfect rows of crosses and stars and crescents in our national cemeteries.

Somehow, these words, spoken long ago by a President who shouldered the awesome burden of his office, still seem relevant:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Have a good weekend, enjoy your cookouts.

Tempus fugit and the ECOD

I have been spending time lately doing some farming in preparation for Legion, and also trying to do what I can to increase the gear levels of my alts. My thought on the farming is it is easier now to gather mats I might need for transmog sales, classic enchants, and other facets of Legion. Plus, it is a nice break, laid back and kind of fun and relaxing. Or it would be, if I were not obsessing about all the other unreached goals I have set myself.

My thought on the alts is that the better geared they are the easier it will be to level them up through the first few levels in Legion. I think this will be important mainly because of the requirement to quest in order to level up professions, which of course in turn means I will need to pursue at least the initial quests for baseline artifact weapons on each just to have a usable weapon to quest for professions.

But in the process of doing these activities, I find that there is not nearly enough time to do what I want to do. Like many of you, I have a day job, family and social responsibilities, and other hobbies and interests. Even though I sometimes feel like I spend too much time playing WoW, it amounts to maybe 3 hours a night, call it a tad over 20 hours a week. Take out one night a week when I raid with my guild for 3 hours, and the time available for other game activities shrinks to well under 20 hours.

I decided to get a legendary ring on most of my alts. I already have it on my main and three alts and am part way through on two others. (Mage is not in the running for it, I am just too awful at playing a Mage, doubt if I could even pass the silver proving grounds, much less do the initial heroic dungeons without getting kicked multiple times. Mage exists for inscription profession, that’s about it.) So gathering the succession of various tokens and runes and whatnot takes up several hours a week. I still have not maxed out the ring’s ilevel on my main, so I try to run a full HFC LFR every week for the valor, which takes at least 2 hours, sometimes more. I used to run the weekly events, but I found they just take too much additional time for relatively small benefit, so I have pretty much stopped doing that.

I still run garrison missions and keep up with a few profession huts in my garrisons on all my alts, mainly to help build my stash of gold as much as possible before Legion. And of course the alts still working on their rings need to do shipyard missions, which in turn requires running the dailies in Tanaan for the oil and some minimal rep. All this takes time every night.

My estimate of time I would need to ideally do what I want to do every week is:

  • Garrison activities (follower and shipyard missions, minimal herb harvesting and profession crafting, turning in salvage crates a couple of times a week) on 7 characters — average 10 minutes per character x 7 characters = 1 hour 10 minutes daily or a tad over 8 hours a week.
  • LFR once a week on main and several alts, for valor and/or ring quest items — average (best case) 2 hours per character x estimated 4 characters = 8 hours per week.
  • Raid one night per week with guild = 3 hours per week.
  • Tanaan dailies, about an hour each on 2 alts = 14 hours per week.
  • Run Kazzak once a week on 7 characters, call it 15 minutes per character = about 2 hours.
  • Farming old content for Legion prep or just funsies — call it 30 minutes a night on alternating characters, usually two per night = 7 hours per week.
  • Miscellaneous admin duties such as bank and auction house functions, vendoring trash and repairing, etc. = maybe an hour per week.

Adding all this up comes to well over 40 hours per week. And I really only can usually manage about 20 hours per week. Which means something has to, and does, give. Typically what happens is I do my garrison stuff on 2-3 rotating characters per night, manage maybe a total of 2 LFR runs in a week, do Tanaan dailies more like every other day on one character, show up for raid, and squeeze in anything else in the time remaining.

Honestly, I don’t understand people who claim there is “nothing to do” in this game towards the end of an expansion. Maybe they don’t have any alts, or maybe they only care about raiding as a game activity, or maybe they can afford to spend 40 or more hours a week playing, who knows. All I know is that I seem to get more frazzled as the expansion goes on. Which is why I seldom care if a new expansion is delayed. In fact, I think I would be perfectly happy if every expansion lasted two years, minimum.

In any organization that deals with data and information, there is a concept of “cutoff time” — that point at which the data for a report becomes fixed, a point after which new information will not be included but instead saved for the next report cycle. In my corner of the military, we called one such concept the ICOD (Intelligence Cut Off Date).

I think I have pretty much reached my cutoff time for WoD, call it my ECOD (Expansion Cut Off Date). I need to establish my final no-kidding “must-do” list for WoD, concentrate on that until it is done, then completely abandon new  goals in this expansion and instead focus solely on preps for the next one. I think that “must-do” list will be simply to complete my ring on my last two alts. I will declare ECOD for my main’s and major alts’ ilevels as well as for my gold quantity. I will expend my remaining WoD profession cooldowns however I can; DE all that Baleful gear in my banks; sell off my excess pots, flasks, and other consumables; clear out the other useless junk in my banks and bags; make sure all my characters have max size bags in packs and bank slots; and use up any currency I have such as Apexis Crystals, Honor, Valor, garrison resources, etc.

Yes, that may leave a couple of months before Legion and hopefully before the pre-patch. I will use that time to organize all my bank and bag slots for Legion categories, farm and craft legacy mats for Legion use, and pursue some of the dungeon- and world-drop crafting recipes on my tailor, LW, engineer, and JC. I will also make sure I have the Shado-Pan rep needed on my Enchanter, so as to be able to pick up the Shado-Pan Illusion enchantment recipe as quickly as possible in Legion.

Last, I hope to have at least a couple of weeks if not a month to organize my main and alts after the pre-patch — reconfigure all their action bars, do some target dummy and actual group practice with the new spells and rotations, re-do addons like Weakauras and Healbot, and make my decision as to whether or not I will still main a hunter in Legion.

Momentous weeks ahead. Tempus fugit. Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus. (For those of you not privileged to have studied Latin: Time flies. But meanwhile it is lost, irretrievable time is lost. My own loose translation.)

Micro rant

Today I am on a very small, insignificant rant, one of those things that just makes you want to shake your head to clear it because you must be missing something.

Before I get started, some numbers and facts.

  • In a little over 90 days the WoW universe of classes will contain 12 classes, 36 specs. (Interesting, never thought of this before — is the reason Demon Hunters have only 2 specs a nifty little balancing thing to the fact that Druids have 4?)
  • Of those 12 classes, 3 can equip shields: Paladins, Shamans, and Warriors.
  • A total of 4 specs within the three classes actually use shields: Prot Warrior, Prot Pally, Holy Pally, Resto Shaman. (This is a tad subjective, because other specs can technically equip shields but at least in this expansion typically don’t because of the hit to their powers, so the number of shield-bearing specs may be off by maybe one or two.)
  • Shamans cannot equip any type of sword.
  • According to WorldofWargraphs, the three shield-bearing classes represent about 28% of all WoW characters. If you subtract Shammies, the number is 20%.

So with this little rundown of weapons proficiencies, we come to today’s subject: Yesterday Blizz started to send out their movie gifts to current players. As previously announced, it was a movie-inspired transmog set. I am not sure if they had previously told us the composition of the set, but it turned out to be a one-handed sword and a shield.

Now, of course I was brought up to always be appreciative of gifts, whether I liked them or not. When I got that 6-pack of plain white cotton underwear for my 7th birthday from my Great Aunt Dorothy, I put on my best smile, thanked her, and gave her a big hug. When I got that vacuum from my spouse for our first anniversary, I thanked him and smiled. (He later described the smile as “frosty” and “threatening” and naturally we subsequently had The Discussion about the difference between a gift and a household appliance….) But I was polite and genuinely grateful for the thought of a gift. It’s how I was raised.

So I don’t want to be rude about this latest gift from Blizz. It is after all the thought that counts, and in this case — probably for quite a few players — the thought is the only thing they can use. I will not deny that the set is quite attractive, plus it is BoA, but if I were not so polite, I would be saying, “WTF, Blizz, have you lost your marbles? What the hell good is a transmog set of a sword and shield that can’t be used by the majority of your players?

Seriously, someone at Blizz actually made the decision to hand out a transmog set that can be used as a set by fewer than 20% of the characters in the game. (I don’t have any statistics on how many Pallys and Warriors use shield-bearing specs, but it is certainly less than all of them, and together the classes represent only 20% of WoW classes.)

It’s like getting a Christmas present “for all you kids” that consists of a telescope that only your nerdy brother will ever use.

Again, I really don’t want to be ungrateful, but I would love to have been in on that particular staff meeting. I cannot even imagine what the discussion must have been, what weird pseudo-logic must have swayed the decision makers to go with this. I think the extent of it must have been:

Staffer 1: Boss, we need to give the current players some kind of movie-related freebie, or else they will feel left out of the promotions and may not even go see it.

Boss: Any suggestions?

Staffer 1: Well, we don’t really want to go to a lot of trouble over it, so it has to be something we can do easily. Maybe a digital item we can deliver via in game mail. Tech guys tell us it is possible to determine the first character each account logged on with and limit the item to that character only. Makes it more manageable if we only have to send one item per account.

Staffer 2: Hey, you know the faction swords and shields from the movie, those are way cool! Let’s send those out as transmogs.

Staffer 1: I dunno, how many players could really use those?

Boss: Great idea, do it! Now I gotta run, got an Overwatch meeting I am late for.

As I said, in the big picture of things, this doesn’t count for anything. Sure, I was annoyed when I discovered that what they sent me was something I could not use on any of my characters except my baby Pally (which I am not even sure I will keep), but mostly it just puzzles me that Blizz thought it was a great thing to do. I really do not understand their decision making process, in this or in many other things lately.

But, hey, I was raised to be polite and appreciative, so, Blizz, thank you thank you for the awesome underwear transmog set! It’s just what I wanted! *hug*

Reflection

image

It is — finally — a picture-perfect morning in my little corner of Virginia. After nearly a solid month of rain, today the sun is out, it is warm and calm, and I can believe that summer is about to arrive at last. It is so idyllic that I have decided to take the day off from work and just enjoy it. (I work for myself, so that is not such a big deal, the boss is usually quite understanding when I ask for a personal day….) So I am sitting on the deck, coffee in hand, listening to the birds and enjoying the woods we live in. Life is good. I expect the freaking blue bird of happiness to alight on my shoulder any minute now.

As you can tell, I am in a contemplative mood. More so because today one of my favorite bloggers, Marathal over at Rambling Thoughts About WoW, is calling it quits. He will still play the game, but he is not going to be writing about it any more. I don’t know Mara personally, but anyone who has ever read his blog knows that he is a decent, thoughtful person, and his departure from commentary is a loss. I will miss him.

Another of my favorite bloggers, the Grumpy Elf, has been MIA for close to three months now. He did not announce any plans to stop writing, so he may yet be back, but he, too, is someone whose insights I miss.

Daily, or near-daily, writing can be a grind, and it takes a high degree of commitment (some would say “stubbornness”) to keep at it, especially for years at a time. A blog is not Great Literature, and a niche game blog will never be something that influences or even touches many people. So why do we do it? Different reasons for different writers, I am sure, but for me it comes down to a love for the game and a desire to place it in a larger life context. I do this for myself, but I am always delighted as well as astounded when my efforts gain traction — positive or negative — with others.

I am acutely aware that computer games, especially MMOs, are a first world leisure activity, and any of us that play them have won life’s biggest lottery by being in a situation that permits us to pursue them. Every time I go on one of my rants in this blog, I step back and laugh at myself, because in the big scheme of things the words I have just spent a couple of hours hammering away at mean less than zero. They do not advance any worthwhile cause — they do not promote world peace or bring food to hungry children or give hope to the hopeless or even help to save endangered tree frogs. My tiny glimmer of hope is that by writing daily (mostly), no matter that the subject is a game, helps me to grow as a writer, enhancing my skills for some of the real writing I do, writing that has at least a chance of bettering the world in a small way.

Side comment: I am not a religious person, but I like to think that if there is a rule-giving god of creation, such a being would command humans to be happy and to pursue whatever it is that has meaning for us. For many, that means a life of working hard to provide for a family, doing what we can to improve our world and to help others, creating beauty in our own way, and maybe also taking delight in a game.

The departure of two WoW bloggers is by no means a trend, nor does it necessarily portend the End of WoW As We Know It. People change and move on, and we should be happy for them and grateful for the time our paths converged, knowing that we are better for their companionship. Still, I wonder if maybe we are in the midst of a changing of the guard in the game, one that started with Blizz’s new team at the start of WoD, one in which there are significant changes to design philosophy (started in WoD and to be continued in Legion), one that might certainly see a big change in the player base, one that will be forced to morph to keep up with mobile technology and tastes for spectator gaming, one that may soon bring  in a new “generation” of bloggers. I am not sure I believe the conventional line that MMOs as a genre are dying, but they are certainly changing, and it remains to be seen whether or not WoW will be flexible enough to keep up.

Meanwhile, I have some sunshine to enjoy.

Overwhelmed

The more I read about Legion, the more confused and overwhelmed I feel. This is probably because I am only able to read about it, not experience it yet, but my impression is that nearly every aspect of it is designed to be tedious, drawn-out, and in some cases deliberately and unnecessarily complex. It seems to me that Blizz has started to use selective complexity as a way to stretch out content while at the same time forcing certain play styles.

Take artifact weapons. I read a very informative — but very intricate — post yesterday about artifact weapons in the context of how best to level as a healer in Legion. You can read it for yourself here at heliocentric. As I say, it is a good run-down of many of the mechanics of artifact weapons, but honestly I came away from it thinking it was something I was going to have to eventually actually study, you know, with yellow highlighter and note taking and everything. I feel the same way about the Wowhead, Ten Ton Hammer, and other artifact guides.

The sheer number of mechanics for artifact weapons just makes my head hurt. Here’s all I know about them:

  • You somehow get Artifact Power that is used to unlock weapon traits that are integral to playing your spec.
  • You get relics that go in relic slots that have something to do with leveling your weapon — yes the weapons levels with you apparently, I guess like your hunter pets used to. (?)
  • There is something you get at some point called Artifact Knowledge that has something to do with how fast you accrue Artifact Power.
  • Relics and some other pieces of the weapon and I guess even Artifact Power are awarded as quest rewards and random drops (oh good), and maybe even just from leveling up to a point.
  • Blizz has said it will take “months” to fill out your artifact tree, and it will have various appearances to differentiate the godlike players from the hoi polloi.
  • You get to go through this morass of mechanics for every spec on every alt.

Really? After Blizz has made such a damn fuss now for two expansions about how horrible and complex the various class and spec rotations are, after they have cut iconic and useful spells from nearly every class, after they have “pruned” the low level talents and spells to the point where you literally have only two buttons to push for 20 or more levels because, you know, don’t want to confuse the poor players — after this, they decide to introduce an intricate, arcane series of traits for a freaking piece of gear?? Yeah, pushing more than a couple buttons in a rotation is too hard, but requiring a spreadsheet to figure out a weapon is fun!

Lets take another example — professions. Prior to WoD, professions were a nice, simple, straightforward part of the game. You figured out which ones you wanted, based on things like what kind of gear you could craft or how profitable they might be or sometimes what small boost they might provide your character. You leveled them up, and prior to the start of their decline in Mists you could pretty much level them up as you leveled your character.

But in WoD, garrisons rendered professions almost irrelevant. There were no longer any profession perks. Elite players whined that they were “required” to have certain professions so as to eke out that extra .05% edge in raids, so gone they were. Gathering professions were superfluous, as were crafting professions for baseline functions and gear. And then in 6.2, Blizz introduced real gating into professions with the random garrison vendor and with the series of quests required for Jewelcrafters. Now, of course there had been gating of a sort in professions all along — have to be a certain level to advance, some desirable “cool” recipes were a dungeon or raid drop, and so forth. But the 6.2 gating was of a different order, because it gated the baseline patch profession items for max level professions. In the case of the random garrison vendor, it was more annoying than truly effective, but in the case of JCs, it was a pretty steep hill just to learn the basic patch gems. (Seriously, my main in the first part of WoD was a Survival hunter with JC as a profession — Blizz dealt her a very rough hand, it was as if they looked at my character and decided to make her the biblical Job of  WoW.)

In Legion, all professions are going the way of WoD JCs, and more complex wrinkles are being introduced. This is what I know about professions:

  • Professions will have to be separately leveled with specific progressive quests.
  • Quests are also the only way to learn recipes.
  • Even once you level your profession, there is a second and third tier of leveling for every recipe.
  • You will have to craft items in order to destroy them to get something called Obliterum, which you will need to craft more items (I think). The ultimate self-licking ice cream cone.
  • Even secondary professions will be gated behind quests, apparently, with a long draw out Archaeology quest line, a return to bandages for First Aid, and a promise to make fishing “more exciting” (not exactly a big challenge).

One effect of the type of complexity described in my two examples is to increase the perception of “content” — certainly if you have to spend months leveling a piece of gear or a profession, you have more to do in the game before you get to the point of “OK, done. Bored now.” I don’t really disagree with this approach, I am just pointing it out for what it is.

A second effect of this type of complexity is that it continues to limit player choices in the game. The fact that achieving a reasonably effective artifact weapon will take “months” and involve many many hours of game play means that most players will be quite limited in the number of such weapons they can pursue. This in turn effectively limits the number of alts, and indeed specs, that a player can play at a decent level. Similarly, making professions so complex and gated tends to discourage having alts to provide all professions to a player. Blizz has stated that they dislike this practice, and that players should not have alts for the purpose of filling out a “support system” for a main. In Legion, they are doing all they can to enforce this view.

A third effect of this complexity is that it tends to drive some players away. If I am confused, think how lost new players will be — those that join the game after seeing the movie, whether as brand new or returning after a long absence. They will initially join a system that is already fairly complex to learn, only to have it suddenly changed for Legion and made even more complex than it is now. Yeah, okay, they may have a couple fewer buttons to press because the dread button bloat monster will have been once again stuffed into a cage, but in every other way the game will change significantly in the direction of complexity. Once again, the cumulative effect of the game seems at odds with Blizz’s goals and objectives.

As I said at the top, I am feeling confused and overwhelmed. I did not feel this way before Mists or even before WoD. I felt like I had an idea of what to expect, and I was excited to dive in both during the pre-patches and on launch day. But for Legion, at least so far, I am filled less with excitement than with dread, as if it will arrive and I will have zero idea what I am doing. I feel there is a chance that small mistakes in choices in the beginning — or even now in failure to prepare adequately — will have huge ramifications later on, and that recovering from them will be both painful and long. This may not be the case, but at this point I have no way to tell.

Movie

Now that we are only a few days out from the premier of the Warcraft movie in some parts of the world, I suppose it is time for me to write a bit about it. Honestly, I haven’t written on it before this because, well, I have no interest in spending money to go to a theater to see it. I might possibly shell out $5-$6 for it when it comes around on Pay Per View, but even that is iffy.

There. I said it. Try as I might, I just cannot work up anything more than passing interest in the “Warcraft story”, the lore supposedly behind the game. I have tried to read about it — lore summaries on third party sites, official Blizz lore histories, even some of the fanfic stuff — but it all leaves me cold. If you had a cartoon picture of me after reading about it after just a few minutes, it would be one of those where a stick figure is lying on its back with tongue hanging out and X’s for eyes. My first thought after a page or two is “Just kill me now, don’t I have some laundry to do or a root canal appointment I can make?”

This is strange, because I am an avid history reader as well as a lifelong fan of the science fiction and fantasy genres. But with WoW lore, it just all seems far too contrived to be interesting. I feel like the game mechanics and expansion code drive the lore rather than the other way around. I can’t shake the feeling that every new raid tier gets developed, then someone goes back and patches the lore to give the raid some sort of thin pseudo-historical basis.

As a result, there is no real overriding theme to the lore, in my opinion. Yeah, I know about the Titans wanting to save the universe and failing miserably because of the treachery/madness of Sargeras (here’s a tip for next time, Titans: get regular psych evals for your major commanders). Then they set their sights a bit lower and tried to terraform Azeroth, but they ran up against the Old Gods and couldn’t figure out how to deal with them, so they put a few dragons in charge, and hauled ass out.

The only other thing I know is that Azshara was in charge of the greatest power source on Azeroth, and when Sargeras showed up and asked for access she said, sure what could go wrong. This gave rise to all the problems we now find on Azeroth. Idiot, what the hell was she thinking? (I think she eventually got turned into a Naga, so haha Azshara, that’s what you get, not going to get into those sexy skinny jeans now, are you, huh?) Anyway, after this it all gets far too wonky and ridiculous for me to follow.

But even though I have close to zero interest in the movie, I know there are a lot of people who will stand in line for hours or days at theaters to get a good seat for the opening. Some will see the movie because they already play the game and love the story, others will do it because it they have heard of WoW and want to see what it is all about, and some just because it is a cool date night movie, or because their kid or their bf/gf or spouse play the game and they are being dragged along.

Which, finally, brings me to my point today: What if any real lasting effect will the movie have on the game? No one knows, of course, so that allows me to do what I do best — speculate with no factual basis.

GAAAAAAAHHHHH! I had about another 1000 words that finished off this post, was just getting ready to hit the Publish button, and WordPress had a glitch that caused it to revert to this initial draft. It’s Friday, I have a ton of stuff to do, and I am not going to recreate it in its entirety. What follows is a quick reconstituted summary.

  • The movie, assuming it is not a total failure, will have a better and more lasting effect on ATVI than on WoW in particular. It is a gigantic infomercial that will generate interest in ATVI’s other franchises and may bring viewers to eSports.
  • The WoW effect will to bring a significant number of new players, but the effect will be temporary, as most will not become long time players.
  • The reasons they will not stay are many, but include:
    • The game is extraordinarily complex and can be intimidating to brand new players. Blizz rather stubbornly continues to rely on third party sites to explain the game to players.
    • Certain aspects of the game — chat and pugs — are often very toxic and can easily scare new people away, or convince them they do not need to pay out money to be continually humiliated.
    • WoW is still basically an aging genre, and many will decide that newer franchises such as Hearthstone are more engaging for their gaming preferences.
  • I am going to do my best to help defray impressions of toxicity in the game, by coming to the assistance of new players every chance I get. I hope to set an example that may spread through my server. The more of us that do this, the better chance we have of improving our game, no matter how many new players stay or leave.
  • Guilds may yet have a major role to play in helping out the influx of new players — check out yours to see if there is a way to organize this.
  • Blizz might do new players a favor by setting up specific new player servers for those who might be a bit timid about jumping in to the more established community.

Enough. Everyone have a great weekend.