Yesterday was another in Blizz’s series of dev interviews on Legion. You can see it all by going to this MMO-C site. The subject for this one was artifact and order halls in Legion, as presented by Craig Amai and facilitated by the irrepressibly positive and optimistic Josh Allen. I still give Blizz good marks on conducting these weekly sessions, I just hope that they will continue through at least the first few weeks of Legion. There were no startling revelations in yesterday’s session, nothing anyone who has been following Legion development did not already know, but I am sure it was informative for those who have (probably wisely) not been following it.
Even though Amai gave us nothing really new, I was struck by one constant theme: Artifact weapons will be THE all-consuming gear chase for the entire expansion. In spite of a few limited “catch-up” mechanisms, each artifact weapon, on each spec on each character, will require months to “complete” — even if the definition of “complete” is something like 75% of an artifact talent tree.
Think about that for a minute. If you have even just a couple of alts, or if you like playing hybrid classes, you will likely spend the entire expansion chasing artifact weapon power/knowledge/gizmos. Everything you do in the game will have a tie-in with that infinite chase — leveling, world quests, dungeons and raids, dailies, class hall missions, gaining faction rep, every game activity. This is not to say that these activities will not be fun or engaging, I do not mean to imply that. But it means that everywhere you turn in the game, on every character for every activity, you will bear the burden of your artifact weapon. It will be Legion’s albatross.
I said a few months ago that I question the wisdom of making a single piece of gear the central feature of an entire game, and the more information we get about the process the more I am sure this move by Blizz is a mistake. It would be less of a problem if Blizz had implemented it so that it was more spec- and alt-friendly, but they clearly do not wish us to pursue more than one spec on one character as an accepted way to play the game.
Yes, I know that their words tell us otherwise, assure us that of course they want us to be able to have fun with other specs and with alts, but their actions not their words speak their true intent. If indeed they wanted to promote multi-spec and multi-alt play in the game, they would not have crafted the artifact mechanisms the way they have. They would, for example, have made it so that having attained a certain number of talent unlocks on one spec, if you switched to a different spec it would automatically receive the same number of unlocks. They would have made the artifact power catch-up mechanisms account wide instead of character-specific. They would have allowed you to purchase an alternate spec weapon at an equivalent level on a character if that character already had one on another spec — similar to the way you could buy an alternate cape in Mists or legendary ring in WoD.
I am not complaining about the fact that “completing” the artifact weapon on your main will take months™, there is nothing wrong about making such an accomplishment a reward for intense game play, nor is there anything wrong about using it as an incentive for participating in content. What I do think is a mistake is requiring basically the exact same process over and over again, a virtually endless cycle of grinding content in order to grub out maybe one more talent unlock for your third or fourth alt.
As they always seem to do, Blizz has taken a perfectly reasonable mechanism — the idea of pursuing a powerful weapon that will last for an entire expansion — and stretched it out of all proportion, turning it into an uncontrollable behemoth that will consume most of the game. This is why I call artifact weapons the garrisons of Legion, because in that instance Blizz could not control themselves and made what started out to be a very nice side concept into one absolutely central to major aspects of the game. We saw garrisons start out as “completely optional”, then morph into “completely optional after you have established a baseline Level 1 garrison” and finally into “required to have a Level 3 garrison and expand it into a shipyard if you want to see the new patch content.” I can hardly wait to see how Blizz will expand the already-extensive role of artifact weapons in the course of Legion.
Now, of course, my criticisms of the length of time necessary to pursue reasonably-filled-out artifact weapons in Legion is based on Blizz’s stated intent to adhere to a 2-year expansion cycle. If we expect Legion to last 2 years — 24 months — then players with a lot of alts will just not have time to outfit all of them with artifacts at an appropriate level. (Even if they pursue several simultaneously, grinding content is still a linear activity.) But what if Blizz is hedging their bets on the expansion cycle? What if they think Legion may have to be stretched out for 3 years? In that case, having very long artifact chases may keep some players engaged for a few extra months. Just a wild theory….
And on that tinfoil hat note, I begin my weekend.