Artifact weapon — the crap ideas just keep on coming

A day or two ago there was an interesting– and disturbing — post in MMO-C, laying out some data mined details of the costs for switching artifact weapon specs in Legion. Standard disclaimers that it is still alpha (why is that, btw?), the tool tips could still juse be placeholders, etc., but the bottom line: Looks like it will be prohibitively expensive to change your artifact talent selections.

Now, I do not have alpha access and honestly only have a vague understanding of artifact mechanics, but let me see if I can summarize what I understand so far:

As you go about your normal tasks in Legion you will accrue special artifact currency (“Artifact Power”) that enables you to open up various artifact talents. The talents in fact constitute a new talent tree for your character, bound closely not only to your spec but to the weapon you will be required to carry for that spec and only that spec. For all practical purposes these talents function the same as regular talents, in that they enhance your survivability, tankyness, deepsyness, or healyness.

Blizz has said that they expect it will take players months™ to complete their artifact talent trees. This tells me that either the currency cost for unlocking talents will be extremely high, or that the earn rate will be extremely low.

And now we learn that — should you choose unwisely in selecting your talents, or should there be some “balancing” tweak to your spec, or to a raid or instance, that negates the value of something you have already selected — you will essentially have to grind for more months just to change your selection.

Wow. Really? It’s not bad enough that you will have to grind out artifact talents for every spec on every character you play? And no, I put zero stock in Blizz’s big hand-wave about there will be “some mechanism” to maybe help you a little in your off spec. Because if it takes months™  to grind it out on your main, then even if you have only one off spec on your main, and say 4 alts who are single-specced — and really, who limits themselves to this very modest account makeup? — it could be 5 times “months™” to get a fully functional weapon for each. If you consider “months™” to be a conservative 4-5, we are basically saying that you will not be able to accomplish this before the next expansion goes live.

(Or that it is an attempt to make us love it if Legion lasts for several years….)

That’s assuming that you have your crystal ball in perfect working order and select the right spec at the start of Legion, and that you never make a mistake in selecting your artifact talents.

Now let us add in a complicating factor: nearly every class and spec — along with the entire secondary stat system — is being completely reworked for Legion. Do you trust Blizz to have this adequately (note I did not say “well”) balanced at the start of the expansion? Well, if you do, then please contact me about a great stock market deal I can offer you.

No, there is absolutely no way that class balancing — much less raid and instance tuning — will be even close to adequate when Legion goes live! I doubt if it will settle down until at least the second major patch. What does this mean in terms of your artifact weapon?

  • If balancing pendulum swings “tweaks” completely screw over your selected spec, you may decide to change specs. Lucky you, that will mean starting over again with your artifact weapon. And lest you pooh-pooh the notion that Blizz would ever completely screw over a spec, I have two words for you — survival hunter.
  • If the balancing tweaks don’t actually screw over your spec, what if Blizz drastically changes the weights and mechanisms of secondary stats (think “multistrike” in WoD)? Think that might affect your artifact talent tree selection? You bet your booty it might, and if you decide to go back and try to optimize it in light of the changes, guess what — yep, you get to start grinding again on the currency to do so, and it will take a loooonnnnng time to do so.
  • What might be the fallout to your artifact talent selection if Blizz starts tinkering with tuning in raids and instances? Honestly, I have no idea, but here’s the thing: neither does anyone else! But one thing you can be sure of — if it does affect your artifact talent spec, you are screwed until you can go back and grind for months to be able to change it, hoping that by the time you get there Blizz has not tweaked something else to affect it.

I have written before about my concerns with Legion artifact weapons. I am not necessarily against the concept, but I think Blizz, as is their wont, has gone way too far overboard with them. No one piece of gear should have that much influence over every facet of game play. In their current incarnation, they will become the hated symbol of Legion, in exactly the same way garrisons became the symbol of WoD’s failure.

Since Blizz has apparently already sunk too deeply into artifact pervasiveness in the game to go back, the one thing they can yet do to salvage the concept is to make it significantly less onerous for players to change weapon talents and even weapons/specs themselves in response to the inevitable swings in the game. I get that the execs make their bonuses by increasing active player monthly game time, but at some point inexorable grinds do nothing but demoralize players, many of whom will find the game rewards them negatively and only disproportionately for more and more hours spent.

I am not saying that the initial artifact quest line and talent table completion should be easy or even fast. I am saying that once you have put in the effort to maximize your weapon, you should not have to do it over and over again, as a virtual Sisyphus. Just as Blizz has come around to thinking that a long grind to achieve flying should award that benefit to the entire account, so should a long grind to maximize an artifact weapon. I would not even care if artifact completion took a couple of patches, as long as I only had to do it once. When completing something is a very long and arduous process, part of the reward must be that you don’t have to do it again. It most certainly cannot be that now you get to start over again, for every spec and alt you have.

In a more basic sense, Blizz, you should be encouraging players to experiment with different specs, with different artifact builds, not penalizing them for it! Sheesh, why do you not see that? Why must you adopt the tyrant style of central governance, of making all that is not compulsory, forbidden? By making artifact weapons required, critical to a character’s abilities, and difficult to progress in, you are once again pandering to the elite 1% at the expense of your bread and butter subscription base.

Thus I make yet another futile plea to Blizz: Please rethink your basic design of artifact weapons and their role in this game. Do not make them the garrisons of Legion.

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.

13 Responses to Artifact weapon — the crap ideas just keep on coming

  1. gruffertus says:

    For all practical purposes these talents function the same as regular talents, in that they enhance your survivability, tankyness, deepsyness, or healyness.

    Yep – they’re also a little like the old talent trees in that you can’t zip straight to the good stuff – here’s the Guardian Druid one that I’ve been looking at. The golden talents are the good stuff 🙂

    Blizz has said that they expect it will take players months™ to complete their artifact talent trees. This tells me that either the currency cost for unlocking talents will be extremely high, or that the earn rate will be extremely low.

    Well, those aren’t the only options – according to the graph in that MMO-Champion post, the amount you gather starts small and grows – everything up to rank 11 (which is co-incidentally about what you’d need for the first golden talent) is pretty linear, and then it takes off into the stratosphere. I would suspect that Blizzard is going for a “one golden talent per raid tier” model. I would imagine (speaking entirely out of my arse) that it’ll be like Valor points, a weekly cap but also a limited number of ways of getting them.

    And now we learn that — should you choose unwisely in selecting your talents, or should there be some “balancing” tweak to your spec, or to a raid or instance, that negates the value of something you have already selected — you will essentially have to grind for more months just to change your selection.

    Uh, no, that’s not what it says: “The current cost to respec your artifact is however much the next trait or rank would cost you.” – so whatever it would cost you to get the next rank, that’s what it would cost you to respec. As a comparison, imagine that back in vanilla, you could clear your talent tree for the cost of a level.

    And no, I put zero stock in Blizz’s big hand-wave about there will be “some mechanism” to maybe help you a little in your off spec

    Well, the mechanism seems pretty clear in the graph – by the time you’re earning enough to make EG rank 25 (by whatever artifact power multipliers they will have in place), you can take that, or you can fill out the entire first 18 ranks of an off-spec artifact.

    Because if it takes months™ to grind it out on your main, then even if you have only one off spec on your main, and say 4 alts who are single-specced — and really, who limits themselves to this very modest account makeup? — it could be 5 times “months™” to get a fully functional weapon for each.

    Um, what? Legendary rings in WoD (or capes in MoP) take you months to get them, but you don’t multiply by the number of alts you have – you progress your alts at the same time (because there’s a cap on how much you can progress them per week).

    Also I think it’s probably not helpful to think about a ‘fully-functional’ artifact – the last few talents, the ones after you’ve gotten all three golden traits, are by definition going to be the ones that you don’t care about that much.

    (I don’t think I’m better informed than you about this, I’m just a Blizzard Fan who really loves the ideas they’ve seen about Artifacts)

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, you are right, that was bad logic on my part about the months multiplication. Still, I think that this is an order of magnitude different from the pursuit of recent legendaries — for one thing, it is not optional. If you wish to kill stuff in Legion, you must have one of these weapons, and there is no way to improve it or to realize the potential of your spec without grinding the steps of the weapon. Whereas, with the legendaries, you could pursue them on alts if you wanted to, or not, your choice. The legendaries gave you a boost, true, but they were not integral to playing your spec. This means that if you wish to play your alts in Legion, you must spend the time to flesh out a good portion of your artifact talent tree. So while it is not a straight months multiplication, it still is a time requirement multiplier in terms of game months if not in terms of real months — much different than anything that has come before — depending on how many alts you wish to bring to Legion.

      If the snippet about using your accumulated AP to for either an off spec or to advance your main weapon, then I maintain that is of no “help” whatsoever in terms of making respecting less onerous for players. The way I read that, if it takes, say, 1 million AP to advance your main weapon to the max, then it still takes 1 million more to advance an off spec weapon — however you portion out the advances, in the end it takes 2 million. That is not “help” in terms of giving you some assistance on an off spec weapon. By “fully functional” I was really talking about however high you can get a weapon in a given tier, I am sure you are right that there will be additional talents made available gated by tier.

      In case it did not come across, I am not necessarily against artifact weapons as a concept, and there is no denying some of the more lore-connected ones are way cool. What I think is a mistake is to tie the weapons to almost every aspect of the game and to force players — if they wish to participate in Legion — to do the same endless grind on multiple characters and specs just to be able to play adequately. This in my opinion is what sank garrisons in WoD — the concept was pretty good, but Blizz ruined it when they began to tie large parts of the game to them, for example you had to have a level 3 garrison if you wished to participate in Tanaan, you needed to do missions just for the mats and gold since everyone else was doing them and this caused gold inflation on most servers, you had to participate in doing the shipyard if you wanted to finish your ring, etc.

      And not to worry, I don’t think you are better informed about this than I am 😉

    • Fiannor says:

      Your comment was auto-edited to remove the hyperlink.

  2. Let me chime in! Very interesting post, btw.
    I think Legion will be brutal to Alts; period, full stop. If the “catch up mechanism” on your main allows you to swap specs without too much pain, if I read this right, that does not flow over to your Alts at all. They have the same grind as your main, no one has the time to honor any other flavor than your Main.
    Trying to do World Quests (lots of travel time!) on any Alts will be too much.
    I don’t know the ilevel numbers but imagine my Alt in lovely 850 crafted gear with some nice fillers from the Auction House and carrying a limp flaccid 790 Artifact. Humiliations galore. The Artifact is supposed to be the pile hammer that drives your power; which on my main will likely be true but my Alts; not a chance.
    The fear we have for our mains is tangible. What if we pick the wrong spec — arcane vs fire, MM vs BM, arms vs fury; all of those — how screwed will we be if our choice sucks to raid with? I have no trust that the raid designers are talking to the class designers, especially since I see the classes changing so much in the Alpha — what if (like WoD) it is all “adds before boss” and certain specs are wonderful at doing that specific job?
    If I were to guess, seeing how the new Demon Hunters are quick and zippy, the raids will favor the classes that can have quick and zip — so, for example, with the slow movement of our pets across the room, Beast Mastery will suck. But, golly, I have no way to KNOW which spec on my favorite classes will thrive. “Pick the one you love” has not been the answer in any expansion, not yet, at least.

    • Fiannor says:

      Everything I have seen from the devs on the subject of artifacts points to no help for alts, and only marginal help for off specs. So I have the same worries you expressed about the weapons. And the consequences of mid-expansion class balancing “tweaks” — especially if they are on the order of the ones we saw in WoD — could potentially be devastating for players who have worked for months to chase artifact talents on one spec and then must switch to remain competitive.

      I really like your characterization of the weapon as “the pile hammer that drives your power.” That is how I also understand the concept. It is central to nearly every aspect of your spec and consequently to much of the game in Legion. In my opinion, far too pervasive for a single piece of gear.

      • Yes yes — I think they might be balancing the random comps in dungeons and raids by the level of the Artifact; it would be easy based on that alone. Until my Alt shows up!

  3. Grumsta says:

    A lot will come down to how “grindy” it is to earn the artefact upgrade points, and how many you earn by doing regular weekly stuff that you were probably going to do anyway, like killing Raid bosses (hopefully not just in LFR), clearing Dungeons, etc.

    If it’s like gaining Valor then it shouldn’t be too bad. If it’s like grinding for Emperor Shaohao rep then we’re in deep trouble. The reality will probably be somewhere between the two.

    The “1%” are going to have a ton of work to do as they’ll be required to have all three specs available for raiding now. I don’t envy them one little bit.

    I’ve already decided I’m going to revert my Mage to Fire for WoD and just stick with it. No point playing guessing-games about whether he’ll be viable or not.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yep, the grindiness of the process will make or break it, I think. To some extent, the fact that you will use currency (AP) to open the various talents is a good thing, assuming there are multiple ways to earn such currency, allowing for varied play styles. (No required PvP if you do not do PvP, quests and world bosses award the AP as well as raids and LFR, etc.) My understanding is that there will be some additional rune-type artifact enhancements that will be RNG drops also, but I hope these truly are just boost-type enhancements, not critical to spec optimization.

      I had not actually thought about the troubles facing the “1%”, but I can see where they might deserve a bit of sympathy! Maybe that is a bright sign for the rest of the Great Unwashed, in that possibly the anguished cries of the elite might push Blizz into amending their current plan (?)

      Had to chuckle at your plans for your Mage. About a week ago, I switched my poor ignored Mage from Arcane to Fire, just because I enjoy playing Fire and decided I would play that spec no matter what. Of course, she is my least preferred alt, mainly because I am so horrible at Mage-ing, but maybe if I actually enjoy the Fire play style I will get a little more proficient.

  4. Grumsta says:

    There’s a very good thread on Reddit about this subject. A lot is conjecture, but there are some good points made about the pros and cons of the system Blizz appear to be proposing:-

    “https://www.reddit.com/r/wow/comments/4hmjwo/for_those_with_alpha_access_how_hard_how_long/”

    • Fiannor says:

      That is an interesting thread. While I have my opinion, I can see the logic of the other side. I just don’t think it is a winning strategy for long term player engagement. I tend to agree with @wrathofkublakhan that in its present form Legion will be “brutal to alts.” I know Blizz has expressed disdain for anyone playing any alt for any reason other than to try to max it out in the same way you do your main, but the fact remains that many, many players love dabbling in alts or love having a whole stable of professions, and they just want to play them effectively, not as little mini-mains.

      For leisure activities like games, there is “hard and challenging” and there is “not worth my time”, and I think Blizz is pushing the whole artifact weapon thing for more than one spec or alt towards the latter for a large number of players. We will see how it plays out.

  5. gnomecore says:

    Well, the epic rings have their boosts. Once you’ve finished a step for your main, runes and abrogator stones drop is increased for alts. For runes it’s 9 -> 13 and 27 -> 31 per boss. I’m not sure about increased tome chance, cause they’re always a single drop.

    Shipyards, mission tables, garrison orders and those new quests in Tanaan camps – they are also nice boosts. With nothing to do in WoD now, I’ve decided to do extra epic rings for 2 of my 100s.

    It was a walk in the park. Starting roughly a month-and-a-half ago from scratch, I have 6 hellfire tomes on one character and the second alt will also start gaining them tonight. By the beginning of June I will have them rings of epic quality. That means – 2,5 months for 2 toons simultaneously.

    Can’t tell exactly what will be the catch up mechanism in Legion, but considering epic rings experience, it won’t be long.

    But at the same time we must not expect artifacts handed out for free if you’re playing alts. If you decide playing an alt, you are committing to leveling, leveling professions, suiting up in raids and what not.

    • Fiannor says:

      I, too have the ring on multiple alts. I do not find the end grind (tomes) too bad mainly because you can simultaneously earn valor, but more and more I hate the early part where you have to go through the first two raid tiers. Still, it is not too bad and as you point out Blizz has marginally assisted by increasing some of the drop rates once you have gone through the process on one character.

      But here’s the thing: Having a ring gives my alts a boost, but it is not integral to optimizing their spec. This will not be the case with artifacts. Failure to grind through your artifact weapon talent tree will have approximately the same effect on a character as failure to select talents from your regular talent tree. Imagine the hit you would take if your level 100 alt had only selected a talent from your level 15 row of your current talent table.

      So to continue your ring analogy, currently it is completely my choice as to whether or not I want to spend the time on rings for my alts. But if I choose not to pursue rings for them, my alts can still function very well in Draenor. They may not be raid ready, but they can do basically every other activity in the expansion, because they have fully functioning specs and talents. Their activities really are limited (somewhat) only by overall gear level and my own proficiency playing them. This will not be the case in Legion — as @wrathofkublakhan aptly pointed out above, “The Artifact is supposed to be the pile hammer that drives your power.”

      • gnomecore says:

        Yeah, I see. It’s one of my biggest concerns about artifacts. Blizzard introduces us something that big and complex that it will require an enormous class reload work if we are to play the next expac after Legion. Reworking classes, melting artifact traits into passive abilities and what not. That, and the name “Legion”, are the red signs of the last expansion.

        As for Artifact Power, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be grinding it. From what we hear, whatever you do you will gain some artifact power. The more active you are, the faster you unlock all the traits.