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.

4 thoughts on “Overwhelmed

  1. Like you I have no Beta access, and I’m hoping that what sounds complicated when someone tries to explain it to you via the written word is actually reasonably straightforward when you actually have it in front of you on the screen and you’re interacting with it. Whether that hope is deluded or accurate only time will tell.

    If Blizz make the weapon trait process overly complex then expect an AMR or MasterPlan-type solution, as we saw with Reforging and Garrison Missions respectively. The mix of possibilities of gems, enchants and gear per spec for Reforging, or Abilities for Missions was too much (or just plain boring) for most players, so we used third party tools to quickly make the decisions for us. If the decisions on how to spend points are more like Talents then it could simply be handled through Icy Veins guides which most people will simply adopt and then try to get the best out of them. Either way I doubt that too many players will agonise over the class fantasy of their choices.

    The risk for Blizz here is that they create cookie-cutter spec builds that players blindly copy because they’re so scared of mis-spending resources and sucking at their chosen spec. Expect the forums, Reddit, etc to be groaning under the weight of these questions and concerns.

    Imagine if the Legendary weapon choices for PvP and PvE end up being totally different, and a PvP player tries to pug a raid run later in the xpac. Many groups would refuse to take them if my pug experiences from MoP and WoD are anything to go by, because the perceived wisdom is that PvP choices “suck” and the whole weapon needs to be re-done before attempting raiding.

    My weapon choices will be made around raiding, and there will be a finite number and type of bosses in Legion. That will almost certainly decide which choices are the best ones, and once the encounters are known the list of desirable (or even possible) choices will instantly reduce. The risk here of course is that if Blizz then decide to re-tune a boss raid it could immediately affect the performance of a group of players. The howls of anguish will echo across the Twisted Nether when that happens. And it will.

    Your observations about Blizz changing Professions to deter Alt play are spot on, and I approve of this approach. Whilst I hated having the actual mechanic for JC in 6.2 (I never did get the top Mastery gem with my Mage because he’s not exactly the character I want to do Brawlers with) the idea of unlocking abilities out in the game world instead of being in the Garrison for everything is a sound one. As always the devil is in the detail, and if it means that we end up doing endless weekly runs through content relying on RNG to drop recipes then that will suck immensely.

    A “casual” alt should be able to carry out basic tasks in their professions, but a character who goes out and faces dangers to unlock cool stuff should be able to do more. There is then a link between effort and reward which was a gaping void in WoD where simply building a Garrison to a certain spec was all you needed to do.

    1. I agree there will be addons and web sites to make any complex decisions more or less painless. The thing is, Blizz is on record as saying this is just bad game design when players have to resort to such sources. It was the entire public justification for removing reforging from the game. So I am frustrated that, having stated this as their view of how not to design, they then go ahead and design artifact weapons this way. As you point out, of course, it may be one of those things that is difficult to explain but easy to execute, so we will have to wait and see.

      The other thing about artifact weapons is, at least insofar as I can glean from just reading, that eventually you will be able to fill out the entire tree and there will be no more decisions, that the initial talent paths you choose are just a way to get to the end state of having them all. (I have no clue if this is the same case with the relics and relic slots — ??) But, since Blizz has warned us that it will take months™ to “complete” a weapon, I imagine we will be in the decision-making mode for much if not most of the expansion. And, again from what I read, it will involve a great deal of grinding to go back and “correct” an ill-chosen path.

      As to professions, I hated the WoD garrison approach that essentially gave every profession to every player. To me, this cheapened the profession leveling process players had undertaken to max out their professions; some of these processes were indeed quite painful — JC and LW come to mind. So I completely agree with you that we should have to invest some time and effort to max out our professions and thus be able to actually reap some rewards from them. But on the other hand, I don’t think a maxed out profession should be the sole purview of a main character — that is, of a character who is geared enough to take on tough quests and on whom you spend many hours of game time. The Legion approach dictates that all alts, in order to quest at all, will be required to pursue an artifact weapon. It remains to be seen how much more will be required for them to complete their professions, but based solely on the JC experience from WoD, I am not especially optimistic.

      I was just lucky that my JC was a hunter, thus I bit the bullet and ground out the Brawlers Guild rating for the mastery gem, and honestly it was more annoying than challenging. And I was irate that Blizz had turned a “completely voluntary” activity into a required one for a totally different game activity. But if my JC had been a squishier alt or a healer, there would have been no way I would have pursued it. I imagine more of these kinds of requirements for professions in Legion, but again time will tell.

  2. I’m with you. I fear the Artifact grind. They said during MoP that they were surprised at the need for players to “fill the bar”, meaning rep, I think. The Artifact will be one nasty three month grind with the specter of failure riding on our shoulders; the fear of being behind everyone else (driving us to play at odd hours or do stupid stuff).
    If, once the tree is filled on the Artifact is done, will we care anymore?

  3. 1. Artifact grind.
    Well, you’re forgetting about catch-up mechanics for alts. I’m sure they’ll be inherited from WoD to Legion.
    Doing my latest Legendary Rings from scratch was like this: April 2 I took the very first quest for 2 alts, May 24 I have 29 and 32 tomes respectively. Obviously I’m getting them in the next raid cooldown. One LFR a week is not a big time waste – it’s two or three hours only.

    2. You will get a class order quest chain which will give you a significant boost for artifact power. Each class chain will be different, so it’s at least lore-compensation per each different class (of course if you’re not playing 10 hunters)

    3. We shall see about professions – I pesronally like all the fuss about crafting, and I always did. Anyways, any complex new stuff like garrisons, shipyard and whatnot is complex only at the beginning. Then you learn how to do it without thinking. And what is more important: you learn how to focus on the things you need. I just miss most missions except those which bring me gold (or items to sell for gold), and I’m managing my mission tables in 30 seconds per alt.

    So I guess it will be overwhelming when the expansion starts, but then you reach some goals, level up artifact and professions. And sooner or later we all just sit at the world missions map with nothing to do 🙂

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