Overly complex, overly simple

I have been dipping my toe into Legion, via the PTR and the beta, now for a little over a week, and so far my strongest impression is one of total confusion. I cannot keep track of all the various “things” I need to be working on, mainly because I have absolutely zero idea of how many things I should be trying to level and how they interact with each other. Take this “explanation” from Ion Hazzikostas supposedly enlightening us all on the details of artifacts weapons, artifact power, artifact knowledge, artifact traits and talents, class hall research and research tomes, and for all I know if you read it backwards and upside down it may reveal where Jimmy Hoffa is buried or summon Satan to claim your soul:

Max-level players in this build may notice an important new Artifact feature. The researcher/scribe NPC in your Class Hall will offer you a quest to retrieve a set of tomes from around the world. Once these are recovered, you can instruct your researcher to work on deciphering these tomes. Each step of research will require some Order Resources (which are primarily obtained through World Quests), and will grant increased “Artifact Knowledge.”

Increasing Artifact Knowledge permanently increases your rate of Artifact Power gains, and this bonus applies to all artifact weapons your character may possess. (And no, Artifact Power items obtained at a lower Knowledge level won’t automatically update, so hoarding items for future use won’t benefit you.) This system is key to the pacing of overall artifact progression, and to making it easier for players to maintain multiple artifacts if they so desire. For example, at Knowledge Level 7, you would be earning Artifact Power at over triple the base rate. Thus, if you wanted to switch to a spec you hadn’t yet tried at that point, you’d find yourself very quickly able to get that artifact up to par with your primary one.

As your scribes progress through their translation and research, you will fill in pages of a great tome in your Class Hall that provides more backstory and information about your artifact (this is not yet fully hooked up for some classes). Finally, in the live game, the speed at which your researchers can work will increase as the expansion progresses, allowing latecomers or alts to catch up on their artifact progress.

Well, that certainly clears that up. And the whole long comment does not even address the idea of Artifact Relics — which are a whole other thing — or the Rube Goldberg talent path you unlock as you gain Artifact Power at your appropriate Artifact Knowledge rate which is gained from tomes that you give your class hall researchers who do research projects that fill in pages in The Big Giant Tome in your class hall.

As if keeping track of this mess for your artifact weapon were not enough, now we learn that you get to do it for a special fishing pole artifact, too. Oh boy! It’s not clear if the  character-wide Artifact Power will also apply to the artifact fishing pole, but if I were betting, I would bet not, so there will be a whole separate set of AP earned just for this separate artifact, thus a second set of things to keep track of. And this will be for every alt that you wish to use fishing to collect the critical crafting mat Blood of Sargeras on.

Turning to other professions, these, too, seem unnecessarily complex. Every profession has a series of quests through which you level up, and these quests continue through your regular character leveling process, taking you to every zone in the Broken Isles. However, once you have learned your profession’s recipes, you are still not really done, as there is a process of “stars” that adds levels of efficiency with which you can create crafted items. In the case of gathering professions, there are also star levels that let you gather more things as you progress.

Then there is Obliterum.

The Obliterum Forge, unlocked with a questline at level 110, will allow players to destroy their crafted gear and obtain Obliterum. Obliterum, in turn, can be used to make crafted gear more powerful.

As far as I can understand — I do not yet have a max level character on the beta so have not reached this stage — the idea is you craft items for the purpose of destroying them so that you can add gear levels to other crafted items. (The max level to which you can upgrade crafted gear this way is not clear at this time, but each Obliterum upgrades the level by 5.) This strikes me as an overly complex way to force us to use up more crafting mats, since you need to use Blood of Sargeras and other mats to craft the items to be destroyed as well as the items you wish to upgrade, then more BoS to actually use the forge and destroy the sacrificial items. It is also not clear how many items will have to be destroyed in order to obtain enough Obliterum Ash to upgrade one item, but most of the comments I have read indicate it is at least three, possibly more.

All of this means that BoS assumes overriding importance for the entire crafting process. Without it, you might as well not have a crafting profession. And, as I wrote about a couple of days ago, it is currently BoP as well as incredibly scarce to gather when compared to the numbers of it you need to do most anything.

It is possible to argue the relative merits of the Legion profession system, and in general, in the small picture, making professions more interesting might be a good thing. But, as is my habit, I like to try and see the bigger picture. And the big picture I see is a game that is growing vastly more complex each expansion, at almost a geometric rate. I am not going to try and figure out if that is a bad or a good thing, but I also see that as usual Blizz is talking out of both sides of its collective mouth on this.

On the one side they are doing all the things I describe to add extreme complexity to the game. But on the other side, they are condemning any semblance of complexity in class mechanics as evil evil evil. Remember at the beginning of WoD when they told us we should not be bothering our little heads with icky math, and we should not have to go to a web site to see what was best for our character, so therefore they were removing reforging from the game? And then they gave us the “solution” of 12-15 different “flavors” of gear with so many permutations and combinations of secondary stats that if you did not have a degree in math to figure out what was best, well then everyone went to a web site to get the answer anyway.

And the biggest hypocrisy: WoD and Legion class “pruning” in the name of simplifying class mechanics. I take BM hunters in Legion as the prime example — it is a mind-numbingly boring spec to play in Legion, there is just no other way to describe it. And honestly, Blizz had already pretty much pruned it to death in WoD, so why they considered it needed even further dumbing down is just puzzling.

(Although, as a side issue, I note that Blizz is perfectly willing to keep fairly sophisticated and engaging play for its favorite classes, which in Legion seem to be Demon Hunter and SV Hunter. It is only the classes the devs have no love for they seem to want to simplify down into oblivion.)

So we should not have to suffer the trauma of engaging complicated class play, but we can easily deal with multiple and incomprehensible talent trees for class, artifact weapon, even freaking fishing poles, and with  levels upon levels of professions, and with a new multiple step process to just upgrade gear, not to mention the ever increasing madness of mechanics stacked upon mechanics stacked upon even more mechanics for raids? Yeah, clearly having those 3-4 extra buttons to push for your class is what was making the game too complex.

Blizz, I don’t mind you making a complex game, but for crying out loud have the backbone to admit that is what it is. Stop trying to tell us you have our best interests at heart by making our spec easy enough for a potato to play, when what you are really doing is trying to simplify your constant problem of class balance. We play our class and spec because we like it, we enjoy figuring out the nuances of spell interactions, we like getting really good at it when it is challenging — so please stop insulting us by saying we are too stupid to figure out a few extra rotation buttons but can easily deal with fantastically complicated mechanics for every other part of the game. And while you are at it, get down on your knees and thank third-party sites like Wowhead and IcyVeins and AskMrRobot and others, because without them your game would be too frustrating to play for all but the most hardcore of your players.

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.

4 Responses to Overly complex, overly simple

  1. The learning curve for WoW is notorious, a sort of dark infamy.
    I am running confused as well, professions scare the hell out of me (especially crafting to destroy; which just feels bad; much like the original complaint in leveling professions in making 20 scarves to get points, only to destroy them because who would want 20 scarves at ilevel 35?).
    Typically, I’d put professions on the back-burner to come back to learning but; dare I fall behind? It is so complicated that I feel the dedicated crafter will have his niche in the market established well before I arrive. As a Hero Defending My World, I don’t want to be the jolly blacksmith who stayed at home to sharpen weapons — I want to be heroic, fighting on the front lines.

    • Fiannor says:

      I usually pretty much ignore professions in a new expansion until after I have leveled. For Legion, though, I think I will try to do them as I level, even if that means leveling takes a tiny bit longer. The reason is that waiting until level will not mean the profession quests get easier or quicker, since all zones are tuned to your character level.

  2. Grumsta says:

    Firstly I’m glad that Professions aren’t as dumb as they were in WoD. In MoP I enjoyed unlocking the Blacksmith quests to make the better weapons. You needed to create a lower level item first, then that was consumed to make the better version, and again that was used to make the top level. The Legion system sounds similar to that. Plus ca change, etc.

    The only logic I can see to Blizz’s design philosophy is that combat needs to be simplified as it’s all done in real time, lives matter, etc. Professions are essentially done off-line, so if you need to look at a guide to figure stuff out, or ask advice, so it’s fine to introduce more complexity.

    It’s probably more likely that the two development teams don’t communicate and have their own ideas so off they go on their separate ways.

    At least we know there won’t be any recipes locked behind the Brawlers Guild this time…..

    Professions were a mess when WoD first released, it was really hard to get the mats that mattered, stuff was stupidly expensive. I have no doubt that Legion will be the same to start with, and through the player hive mind and Blizz’s softening of requirements it’ll all settle down in time. If Blizz can get the BoS drop rates tuned right so that you can obtain “enough” through a reasonable level of play then it shouldn’t be too painful.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, as I said, the Legion profession system is probably a good thing, a nice change from what I considered to be close to total destruction of professions in WoD. (The perplexing thing to me at the start of an expansion, though, is how I can be working my butt off to get mats for a single piece of gear, and within the first week there are AH sellers posting multiple pieces, as if they have unlimited mats. I suppose there is a lot of duping going on but I am too naive to realize it. *sigh*)

      “It’s probably more likely that the two development teams don’t communicate and have their own ideas so off they go on their separate ways.” Almost certainly, I would say. And that is perhaps the most maddening thing about Blizz — they seem to have almost no ability to set large scale objectives and then follow through on those objectives throughout a project. Now maybe they just don’t care to do this, but it strikes me as amateurish, as if they still think they are a couple guys writing software in a garage, not the world class gaming company they have become. I find it to be not “creative” but rather “sloppy project management.”