Dev interview number 1

Yesterday Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas inaugurated what is promised to be the first of several weekly dev interviews on Legion. While I applaud the concept, I have to wonder:

  • What took them so long? We have just spent a year crawling through a veritable desert, parched for information on Legion, chasing after mirages. A weekly scheduled communication such as this would have made that whole time easier on many of us.
  • How much of what is disclosed in these weekly interviews can we rely on? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Blizz’s history is of telling players whatever is necessary to just shut us up, then feeling completely free to do whatever the hell they want, even if it is exactly opposite of what they said they were going to do. Remember “WoD flying will be in Patch 6.1” and “Garrisons will be completely optional”? As Watcher himself said yesterday, actions speak louder than words, and Blizz’s actions for the past couple of years have not been very reliable.
  • What is the schedule for the rest of the interviews? While we know that next week’s will be on professions, and that there will be one on PvP, it would be nice to have a schedule of what is planned for the next few weeks.
  • How long will they last? Blizz has a history of fits and stops when it comes to regularly scheduled player communication and interaction.

With that, let me just comment on a few parts of the interview that made an impression on me.

First, I liked the format. Not only did Hazzikostas answer actual player questions, but Josh Allen kept it moving so that they covered a lot of ground and answered questions on a wide range of topics. I also like the idea that each week from now on there will be a theme, addressed by devs other than Hazzikostas. Assuming these interviews keep occurring on a regular basis, this is a very positive step by Blizz. I hope they do not stop them just because Legion has launched, because such sessions give players a sense that Blizz is listening to their concerns, even if maybe they might disagree with player sentiment on a particular issue.

Second, I came away with the distinct impression that the next expansion will see even more sweeping changes to classes than we saw for WoD and will see for Legion. I base this on Hazzikostas’s comment that they are looking at the entire combat system, that stat squishes are only a band-aid solution to the system’s problems, and that he thinks there are much better ways to design a combat system. Of course, I have no idea what the specifics of a redesign may entail, but it could be so radical as to include such things as the elimination of secondary stats and maybe even primary stats, introduction of a “one size fits all” power metric that changes dynamically with the needs of each class, or who knows what. One thing is sure, though — any change to the combat system will mean mega-changes to classes. (Hopefully to all classes next time, not just hunters and one or two selected dumpee classes…)

Third, I was ever so slightly encouraged that obtaining and leveling artifact weapons will not be so onerous as to effectively preclude attempting it on alts or for secondary specs. Hazzikostas said that the plan is that the rate at which artifact weapons can be leveled will increase as the expansion goes on. This is so that players coming into the expansion late will not feel it is hopeless to try to catch up, as well as to help people with alts feel like artifact talent trees are worth pursuing. It remains to be seen if the change is noticeable to humans or if it turns out to be merely a numeric change that on paper “proves” the leveling rate is faster.

Fourth, I was gratified to hear him say that Legion will be the most “alt-friendly” expansion in some time. Whether or not I believe him, it was at least good to hear that Blizz understands there is player concern about the viability of the alt play style. As someone who enjoys playing alts, especially towards the end of an expansion, I want to believe him, although the trend over the last couple of expansions has been the opposite. Still, we are at heart creatures of hope and I am at heart extremely gullible…

Fifth, as I have predicted all along (sorry to be an insufferable I-told-you-so), flying will not be achievable until well into the expansion. Hazzikostas said it will be in the “middle” of the expansion, and since they are now aiming for 2-year expansions, that means we will not see it until probably summer of 2017.

As an aside, there is a truly awesome item in the beta — and I hope it makes it to live — that really addresses some of the annoying aspects to being ground-bound. It is the Flight Master’s Whistle, which allows you to summon a sort of taxi from the nearest flight point. It will pick you up anywhere you are in the boonies of Broken Isles and transport you immediately to the nearest FP. It has only a  five-minute cooldown, and it is one of the most fantastic toys I have seen in a while. It is currently a reward for attaining Friendly rep with all 4 Broken Isles factions, but in my opinion, Blizz could get a lot of player goodwill by making it more less of a giveaway, easy for all players to get.

Sixth, personal loot changes will allow trading of personal loot if it is not an upgrade for the player getting it. This is a terrific idea, and in my opinion it should make PL the defacto best choice in most circumstances, if for no other reason than that it pretty much eliminates loot drama.

Seventh, there was a discussion of the reasoning behind making Blood of Sargeras BoP. A couple of comments gave me pause. One was Hazzikostas’s rather bland assertion that essentially having one gathering and one crafting profession is the way you should play, and that gathering has been undervalued. As if it Blizz had nothing to do with making gathering professions irrelevant in WoD, as if it was just misguided player choice that caused people to give them up.  Having encouraged people to abandon gathering professions in WoD, now you are reversing yourselves completely and making them almost compulsory, and on top of that you are tsk-tsking players for not making the “right” choice for professions? Shame. (Insert George Orwell’s Animal Farm reference here: “Two legs good, four legs bad.”)

The other thing that struck me about the BoS BoP subject ion the interview was the comment that having critical mats BoP gives “market power” to the crafter. In my experience, this is just not true, because very shortly into an expansion there are always crafters who consider BoP mats to have no cost, even if accumulating them takes weeks, so they quickly begin selling crafted items at vastly undervalued prices. I do not usually rely on selling crafted items to make gold, so honestly if I can buy something cheaply that it would take me weeks or months to craft, I will do so. But I don’t think the “market power” argument holds much water.

Last, I continue to be thunderstruck at Hazzikostas’s insistence that RNG-awarded gear is more fun than gear you actually work at to get, like valor or rep-related gear. Is it fun to be surprised when you get it? Yes, but listen to me, Ion:

Seeing gear drop to seemingly everyone but you time after time after time is not fun, it is demoralizing. Knowing there is nothing you can do about it besides repeating the demoralizing process for god knows how long is not fun, it is annoyingly Sisyphean. Hearing others complain about how awful it is to keep getting Awesome Boots, when you have been trying for them for months, is not fun, it is enraging.

And, in an exasperating leap of logic, he went on to comment about how RNG loot was bad for PvP players in WoD — the implication being it was good for all other players — because “ratings were so gear-dependent”. Oh, the horror for those poor PvP players, to have to depend on RNG for their gear like the rest of us. Boo. Freaking. Hoo. As if gear dependency didn’t exist for PvE players for activities like getting into raid groups. As if RNG-awarded tier gear wasn’t necessary to properly play some classes and specs.

There were quite a few other subjects discussed, but these were the ones that most made me sit up and take notice. These interviews are a great idea — if not especially original in the world of communications — and I really hope Blizz does not abandon them as they have virtually every other scheduled player interaction in recent years.

I am off to start my weekend. You enjoy yours.

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.

2 Responses to Dev interview number 1

  1. Grumsta says:

    When I first heard of the idea of being able to trade PL items if they weren’t an upgrade my original reaction was enthusiasm. The main thing that concerns me about this idea is the inevitable horse-trading that will happen (both in Guild runs and PUGs) when one person has a highly-desirable duplicate and three or four others want it. At least now in our guild runs the RL choose who gets it, now it’ll be in the hands of individual players, and it’s unrealistic for them to have the team’s interests at heart when there’s good gold to be made.

    Tier tokens are another concern: you won’t know if the tier item is an upgrade until you’ve opened it, so if it’s something you find you can’t use it could only be given to someone of the same class, and small raid teams don’t tend to have duplicate classes.

    I would love to see loot removed from raid bosses and instead award each character a token for every boss kill, the player then trades these tokens for the gear they want at a vendor. Tier pieces and trinkets cost more tokens, and some tokens will require a specific boss to have been killed to unlock them. By all means keep the random rolls as in MoP and WoD, but reward players for effort as well as good luck.

    It’ll never happen of course because Blizz loves their RNG too much.

    • Fiannor says:

      I had not considered the human greed factor in the announced change, but you are right. I guess I have been lucky in my guilds that there has always been a strictly enforced “no selling to guildies” policy for raid gear, but I can definitely see the possibility for misuse in pugs.

      I have long been in favor of the token/vendor system for epic raid gear, but of course Ion Hazzikostas has patiently explained to us many times that such a system is not nearly as fun™ as week after week and month after month disappointment with the RNG system.

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