Doubling down on bad ideas

Patch 7.2 will give us crafted legendaries. You can read the details of what we know about them thus far in this summary from MMO-C. Now, of course, Patch 7.2 is still undergoing a lot of changes, and the initial info on these legendaries could change a lot between now and live, but let me just say for the record:

What the hell, Blizz? Has the cheese finally slipped off your cracker?

Legendary implementation thus far in Legion has been a huge mistake, Blizz themselves have as much as admitted it. Yet they keep trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit, and no one is clamoring for the sandwiches, so part of their solution is to add a line of artisan breads.

There are so many things wrong with the proposed implementation of this, I hardly know where to start. The basic plan is that players will be able to do a whole new series of profession quests that will allow them to collect rare materials that will allow them to craft leather/mail/cloth/plate legendary gear for specific classes.

First, the — admittedly still vague — quest lines for each profession involve defeating various raid bosses. This of course is Blizz doubling down on the main complaint about professions in Legion — they require raid level gear not to mention In some cases regular running of raids so as to be lucky enough to get the RNG recipe drops.

Second, crafting the legendary items requires what appears to be a host of very expensive and/or rare mats — 65 Blood of Sargeras, profession mats, something referred to only as “legendary mats” from quests, and a new mat called Felessence Legion-Flask. The latter is one of those horrible crafted (we don’t know by whom — all crafters or just alchemists) abominations that requires making a gray item, then upgrading it until it reaches “legendary” status. This is Blizz doubling down on the whole idea of ensuring that no one plays an alt for pure pleasure or to help out a main. If you have not had enough time to get your profession alts to level 800, you will not have enough time to have them craft a legendary, I guarantee.

Third, the crafted legendaries are BoP. Yup, you read that right. BoP. Thus, any character can only make this gear for itself. Your leatherworker better wear leather or mail, because she damn sure will not be able to make a piece of legendary gear for any other alt. There may be more of these crafted legendaries not yet announced, but so far characters that do not have a “classic” armor crafting profession — for example engineers or alchemists or inscriptionists — are S.O.L. And remember, early on in Legion, Blizz pretty much pushed many characters into having only one crafting profession because gathering professions are much more lucrative for garnering Blood of Sargeras (also BoP). So chances are a lot of players no longer have dual-crafting professions. Oh, and of course, making these crafted legendaries BoP also means they cannot be sold, just another little gotcha from Blizz.

Fourth, the current tooltip for these legendaries indicates they count as a normal legendary for equipping — thus they will be the one or the one of two you are allowed to equip. However, none of these legendaries appear to have any special abilities. Yup, they are stat sticks. So they might up your gear level a bit, but if you have any of the actual ability-boosting legendaries equipped, crafted will likely be last choice as a legendary. (Unless, of course, Blizz goes ahead and negates all current legendary damage, defensive, and healing bonuses — do not count that out as a possibility.)

Fifth — and this is the kicker — it looks like they will be level 910. Yes, again, you read that right — after going through all I described above, you will be left with a level 910 legendary. Trust me, any character able to do all the steps necessary to craft one of these will not need level 910 gear. I presume you will be able to upgrade them as we now upgrade the “old” legendaries, but guess what? That means you get to add another couple of weeks to the gear just to get it to a level that benefits you. (Oh, and it also is a way for Blizz to keep that ridiculous legendary upgrade quest line going.)

I honestly wonder what is in the water or air at Blizz HQ. Think about it, what are the parts of Legion people seem to complain about the most? It is as if Blizz has a working list of these complaints and used it to design these crafted legendaries. They have doubled down on many of the major perceived problems with this expansion. It reminds me of their reaction in WoD to the massive complaints about garrisons: they doubled down on them by requiring even more garrison work just to be able to see the new Tanaan content. “You don’t LIKE this? BWAAAAAHAAAAAA, well then you will HATE this!!!! That will teach you to complain!”

So, if you hate Legion professions, if you think legendaries are a failure, if you have given up on alts because Blizz does not approve of the way you play them — stay tuned. Blizz appears to be sensitive to player dissatisfaction, and the louder the complaints, the more they are going to shove it down our throats.

Now THAT’S communication. I get the message.

It’s that time

WoW expansions, like many human constructs, seem to have predictable phases in their life cycles. This is in no way scientific, but in my own mind I list them as:

  1. Speculation
  2. Formal announcement/unveiling
  3. Testing
  4. Live implementation
  5. General player base fascination, often combined with righteous indignation over perceived Bad Design/Terrible Idea
  6. “Normalization” and acceptance of virtual life under the rules of the expansion
  7. Pundit analysis of the overall “flavor” of the expansion
  8. Interest in major patches
  9. Boredom and malaise
  10. Go back to step 1

I think we are at Step 7 in Legion, a conclusion I reached after reading some recent blogs — check out Marathal over at Deez Wurds and Ethan Macfie in MMO Games for a couple of examples. There are recent others with similar content, but these struck a chord with me.

For several weeks now, I have had a vague feeling of frustration with the game, but have not really been able to put my finger on the cause. The two blogs I cited have helped me at least start to define it a bit.

Let me say up front, I am not backing off my general assessment of Legion as a success, and as I have written before, there is a lot of fun to be had in this expansion. But remember the flap over “daily overload” in Mists? That same feeling magnified about tenfold is what I have been feeling in Legion.

The feeling is one of stress or burnout, insofar as these terms can be applied to a leisure activity like a computer game. No, of course it is not real stress — not like caring for an aging parent or worrying about the rent or raising a child or enduring an abusive boss — but it is a kind of “immersion stress.” When we play virtual games, we allow ourselves to be bound by certain sets of rules and expectations. We enter an imaginary world and operate in it on its terms. It is in that context that I refer to “stress”, and it can hinder our enjoyment of the virtual world in the same way real stress hinders our joy in real life.

Back to the dailies in Mists. There was a pretty significant backlash against them, and the main complaint was that players felt they had to do them and do them — lots of them — every day or risk “falling behind”. That is, the quests felt less like engaging content and more like a forced march that led first to faction rep and from there to gear and professions recipes and other items players wanted or thought they needed for their end game enjoyment. In fact, sometimes attaining faction rep only meant you could then start a different faction rep grind as a step in your progress.

The players complained about “too many” dailies, but I think their dissatisfaction was less about the number and more about the notion of “compulsory”. If you missed one or two days of dailies, that was one or two days longer until you were eligible to get the items you wanted. And yes, I understand there is a segment of the player population that will greet this idea with a shrug and a “So what?” But I think a sizable majority of what I would term “engaged players” — hardcore and pseudo-casual — felt pressure to log on every day in Mists just to avoid “falling behind”.

Fast forward to Legion. Mists gave many of us nervous tics if we could not log on for a couple of days, but Legion goes much further. For one thing, there are tons more “dailies” in the form of world quests, Mythic+ runs for the weekly chest, daily random heroics for the AP, and so forth. But another, more insidious difference exists: in Mists, there was an end to the grind, once you got your rep you could get your recipes and gear and move on to other parts of the game. But in Legion, there is never an end. We are all Sisyphus, rolling that boulder up the hill knowing that reaching the top only means we get to start all over again. Macfie, in the post I cited above, describes it as “the mind-numbing, spirit-crushing deluge of continuous progression”.

Blizz has confused the notion of “content” with “endless repetition”. I find this ironic, in that Game Director Hazzikostas has lectured us time and time again about the evils of “grinding” for gear, thereby justifying the use of RNG for everything because of the fun™ factor. Yet, Legion, with its endless chases after ever-increasing AP, random profession recipe drops, and lottery gear, is in fact one gigantic grind. The difference is, usually when you grind you eventually reach your goal — I guess what Hazzikostas believes is that grinding in and of itself is fun™, it is being rewarded at the end that is evil.

Once again, from Macfie:

Where it’s gone off the rails a bit is that this progression, after a certain point, becomes functionally endless, creating a situation where any player with even a semblance of a competitive edge feels an immense amount of pressure to grind to keep up. Those that don’t keep up with the grind run the risk of being excluded as AP levels gradually becomes the new gear score by which their character’s worth is judged (in addition to their actual gear score).

Many players feel like how well you play matters less and less compared to how long you play, and that’s not a healthy perception for your consumers to have. Whether you personally feel that way or not, artifact power is beginning to undermine the game’s other systems for a great many players.

And this, from Marathal:

There is so much to do, so why am I in a funk about wanting to do anything. Why is having too much to do, so depressing. Is it because there apparently is no end? I thought Artifact Power was done, until I saw it keeps going, I would like to finish leveling my professions, but they have made that “have meaning”. Maybe it has for some. The tailoring was engaging until the story stopped and kind of petered out. Did Enchanting have a story? I don’t know. The Class hall quests are so wrapped around Raids that I don’t know any more which I have to do and which I could skip. All of those missions every day. This begins a quest, so does this. No. No more raid or dungeon endless quest chains.

Attention, Blizz: Sisyphus is not an inspiring story, he is not someone schoolchildren are encouraged to emulate. He screwed up big time in life, and his punishment was an endless grind. Trust me, “Sisyphus the Game” is not a successful business model. 

And with that, let the weekend commence.

My imaginary friends

Chatting online with a former guildie a few days ago, I had a revelation: Not every WoW player is emotionally invested in their characters.

Who knew?

This former guildie — an excellent hunter when I raided with him — told me he was so dissatisfied with Legion hunter changes that he had deleted his main hunter and switched to a Mage. I happen to know his hunter had been his first ever WoW character, and he had played it for several years. Yet, apparently, he had no qualms or even second thoughts about ditching it when he was dissatisfied with it. He mentioned the change more or less in passing, as if he were commenting on the weather.

As I tried to wrap my brain around the idea of summarily executing a longtime character, I realized I was guilty of the particular mental bias known as mirror imaging: the tendency to believe that others operate on the same set of experiences and values that you do. This was a surprise to me, because in my professional life I usually go to great lengths to avoid this kind of bias, almost never assuming a shared set of values or motivations in those I interact with. Yet here I was, more or less assuming that this former guildie harbored the same emotional bond to his virtual characters as I do for mine.

No great conclusions from this, just an interesting personal revelation I suppose. But it did cause me to give some thought to the way I approach my WoW characters. I’ll try not to repeat things I have said in previous posts, because I have written about alts quite a bit (you can use the blog search function using the terms “alt play” or “kick-ass” if you want a few examples), but I was able to observe some things about myself and my alts.

First, I am not at all averse to trying out new alts and quickly deleting them if I get bored. Generally, I have no qualms at all about deleting a “test” class after a few days. I think a little longer about deleting it if I have leveled past about 60 — and I think a LONG time if I have completely leveled it up — but still if I don’t enjoy playing the class I will dump it. (There are some exceptions noted below.) Over the years I have probably created and deleted something like 50-60 characters — various classes, specs, races and on various servers — not a huge number, but significant. I find I tend to more easily delete melee classes, along with non-damage dealers. I am more apt to keep a hoofless Alliance ranged damage dealer than any other combination.

Second, I do actually develop an emotional investment in some of my characters. I am not sure what triggers this, as it does not always happen. Certainly one factor is the amount of time I have had the character, combined with my overdeveloped sense of loyalty. I had a mage that I almost never played but that I could not bring myself to delete, due to my twisted thinking that I had mistreated her for years by making her my bank alt and never letting her get out in the world and do fun stuff. Eventually I leveled her to 100 in WoD, ran a few LFRs with her, got her some smart transmog outfits, etc. When I did finally bring myself to delete her late in WoD, I felt so guilty about it that I leveled up another mage as a kind of penance. Even though I am terrible at playing a mage and really do not enjoy it. Like I said, twisted.

For a number of complicated reasons not worth mentioning here, I have two hunters — my main, of course, as well as another one. The other one was my main for years, and she was my very first character in WoW. I cannot even think about ever deleting her, whether or not she ever again gets much game play. I use the flimsy excuse that I need her skills as a miner and jewel crafter, but honestly so far in Legion those professions for me have not been worth leveling up.

I am particularly devoted to my gnome destro warlock, though again I would be hard pressed to say why. I don’t especially favor the current turret-style of game play. Still, I think of her as a tiny furious dynamo, kicking ass and taking names, and don’t anyone dare to call her “cute” (although she really is).

I don’t have as much of an emotional attachment to my other alts who are at or above level 100. I am pretty sure, for example, that I will eventually delete my Demon Hunter and my Paladin. I just do not like their play styles, and I have not had them long enough to develop any kind of relationship with them. I will, however, almost certainly keep my druid, monk, mage (sigh), and rogue (whom I rather grew to like in WoD and who is my only male alt). I expect I will eventually level them all to 110, whether or not I actually spend much time playing or gearing them up, or even developing their professions (too daunting in Legion). I retain the hope that the next expansion will be kinder to alts.

Third, I find myself incapable of making characters antithetical to my real life values. I know there are people who enjoy exploring alternate lifestyles and personalities when they create virtual characters, but I cannot bring myself to do so. I simply cannot invest my characters with personalities that are mean or swaggering or deceitful or sneaky, because I would be horrified if I discovered such traits in myself in real life. I admit some of them are a bit vain, some tend to be quite judgemental, and a couple can tend towards bossiness — but, well, *sheepish grin*.

Fourth and last, I am continually amazed at how “immersed” I let myself be in my characters. My logical brain knows they are nothing more than imaginary constructs — not unlike the imaginary friends I concocted when I was a child — made up of magnetic media clumping up to form ones and zeroes (more specifically, not-ones). They have no reality, no personality, no existence in the classic meaning. But part of the game experience requires a willingness to believe in magic, to suspend logic. Apparently, I have a real talent for this, an observation that makes me both proud and uneasy.

How about you? Anyone else have an emotional relationship with their WoW characters?

This game we play

It is a sodden, dark, wind-driven rainy day today in Virginia. For much of my adult life such a day would have meant my job as a soldier would be just that much more challenging. Now that I have left off being a soldier, on days like this I can sit inside, warm and cozy and sipping fresh brewed coffee, watching the wind whip the bare trees and the river outside my window. I can contemplate life leisurely, abstractly, rather than –cold and wet — do my best to survive its rapid and sometimes terrifying barrage of events. I am profoundly thankful for this, and I understand what an incredible privilege it is to be able to do so.

So it is in this contemplative mood that I consider this game of Warcraft we play. Last night as I sat down to spend a few hours with it, I actually sighed in contentment, there was a palpable feeling of weight being lifted off my shoulders. I do not mean to imply that I live a burdensome life of worry, but all of us carry around our grown-up responsibilities, and any chance we get to set them down for a bit is welcome. Like coming home after a long day on your feet and kicking off your shoes. Ahhhhh……

I am actually not sure where I am going with this, but I guess my point is that I feel extremely lucky to be able to play this game, to have the leisure and technological infrastructure to do so. I would certainly be fine if it were not available to me, but since it is, I spend a big part of my leisure time playing it. For all my hundreds of thousands of words dissecting it, criticizing it, complaining about the minutiae of it, the fact is I love playing it. When I have discharged my grown-up duties for the day and sit down to log in, I feel like I am coming home after a long trip.

WoW is a complex game, but its basic idea is very simple: Good versus Evil. Support the Good, kill the Evil. There are seldom any gray areas in the game, characters you meet are either friends or enemies. This is the heart of the game’s attraction for me. I get plenty of nuance in real life, thank you very much, and it is a relief to spend a few hours in a world where everything is clearly defined. (In fact, I think that is the reason I am not happy with the whole Legion Suramar design and quest lines — too conflicted with the whole notion of enabling addiction to make the burden of tyranny bearable.)

I am sure in my next post I will be back to blasting Blizz about one thing or another, but today I am grateful to them for creating and continuing to develop this extraordinary diversion.

And now, time to go shape some mud into useful vessels, and maybe throw another log onto the fire and brew up some more coffee. I am SO lucky!

 

Of patches and promises

Lots going on today — short post.

Today Blizz announced the opening of the Patch 7.2 PTR. I am often very hard on this company, but I am giving them a lot of credit for hewing to their promise of chained patches and new content. I am someone who sets great store by keeping one’s word, and the quickest way to incur my wrath is to cavalierly make promises you have no intention of keeping. Even if I do not agree with the nature of the promises, keeping them is a virtue in my opinion.

So Blizz promised us a veritable freight train of continuous content in Legion, and thus far they are making good on that. For me, this is starting to restore some of the trust shattered in WoD. I am still a little leery, for trust once destroyed is difficult to repair, but so far anyway — at least on the “content” promise — things are looking up. (I will reserve judgement on promises to make hunters whole again…)

For a good summary of the little bit we know of 7.2 thus far, check out MMO-C. As to be expected, there is not a lot there yet, but a couple of things caught my attention.

  • Hunters, Death Knights, and Balance Druids have new spell animations. This is probably good, but fairly minor. I know hunter animations — especially when compared to, for example, the gorgeous Fire Mage animations — are clunky, clumsy and downright cringeworthy. And I do think we may be getting to the point (again) where visual clutter around the boss is becoming an issue. I don’t play a melee class so I can’t speak from experience, but I have heard a couple of our melee players mention it from time to time lately. Also, apparently there will be some changes to combat sounds, so maybe there is hope that my hunter will not make that noise that seems to indicate “I am having a very hard poop” every time I cast Bestial Wrath.
  • Reputation earned beyond Exalted will now contribute towards earning additional rewards from Broken Isles faction emissaries. This, of course, is an attempt to keep World Quests relevant, even when the rewards have pretty much become useless. It is a good idea in my opinion — I am getting to the point where I grind my teeth and mutter every time I complete a Kirin Tor emissary quest and basically throw away the rep token, since I cannot use it on my main and it is soulbound. I wonder if it would be smart now to just start keeping these in the bank, if we will be able to stockpile and use them later in 7.2.
  • (PvP) players who have received multiple pieces of unwanted gear (will be able to use the Obliterum forge) to exchange them for a piece of their choosing. OK, I am getting a little annoyed at this. First, PvP players whined and pouted because *GASP* they were going to have to suffer the indignity of RNG-determined gear! How terrible, how awful, how unfair!

So now Blizz is giving them a way to actually get the gear they want without having to repeat content hundreds of times in order to win the lottery.  Come on, Blizz, remember? RNG is fun™, waaaaaay better than that icky old method of just picking out a piece of gear! Right? You have lectured us on that many, many times, so it must be true. So why exactly should PvE players have all the fun™, why shouldn’t PvP players share in it?

  • Pet spells can now be dragged onto the player action bar. Hallelujah! ‘Nuff said.
  • Class mounts. Yes! I am not usually very keen on collecting mounts, but I am excited about the hunter mount. Also, of course, about the implied flying ability (no mention of this so far in the patch notes, however.)

There were other, more major, announcements, but honestly it is too early to delve into them. There will be a lot of changes, adjustments, additions, deletions between now and the live patch. I encourage you all to dip a toe into the PTR if you have some time, and provide feedback in the PTR forums. It might be frustrating, but it can’t hurt to make the devs aware of your impressions, comments, and experiences.

Promise made, promise kept — that is encouraging, Blizz. Keep it up.

And now, time for a weekend.

Nighthold, tier tears, and hotfixes

Today’s post is a few bits and pieces on Nighthold, tier gear, and the most recent hotfixes.

Nighthold. Last night our raid team ventured into Nighthold (N). We had a good time and downed 6 bosses — Skorpyron, Chronomatic Anomaly, Trilliax, Spellblade Aluriel,  Krosus, and High Botanist Tel’arn.

Mini-rant: What is it with Blizz and their seemingly random use of apostrophes in names? As far as I can tell, there is no solid linguistic foundation for it, none of the Azerothian or ancient WoW languages has any real basis in descriptive or structural analysis. Do the apostrophes connote contractions? Possessive case? Glottal stops or whistles or some other phoneme difficult to render in a Roman alphabet? Or, like raising one’s pinky in an elaborate show of faux politesse, are they a pretention? My money is on the latter.

Anyway, back to last night’s raid. We one-shotted all the bosses except for Botanist, who did give us some trouble. (However, we wiped a couple of times on trash, go figure.) There was some muttering about Nighthold being “undertuned”, but I don’t agree. We are pretty much overgeared for Normal, which as some of you may recall was originally (in Patch 5.4 I think) structured to be the “friends and family” mode, with Heroic being the progression mode. Had it been a true cakewalk, we should have cleared it, but Botanist’s mechanics did in fact kick our butts — the individual mechanics are not complicated, but dealing with all of them in the last phase was pretty chaotic. I haven’t yet studied the 4 bosses we did not do, but I suspect they will give us a challenge also.

My previous guild’s raid team was actually a “friends and family” type organization, and I can tell you there is no way that team would have been able to down even Skorpyron the first time we ventured in. So my initial impression is that Nighthold is tuned about right. Most of us last night had glanced at a couple videos and explanations for the first 2-3 bosses, but after that we just pretty much played it by ear, relying on the in-game raid notes, normal raid awareness, and above-average healing and tanking.

The raid’s physical structure is visually appealing, kind of a mix of both Arcway and Court of Stars, with both indoor and outdoor areas. (Whatever else such a structure provides, it is nice to be able to repair periodically without having to zone out or have a well-prepared engineer in the group — I hope this is Blizz’s standard practice from now on.)

We’ll go back Thursday and hopefully finish the last four bosses. We got some decent loot drops last night (not me, of course, don’t be silly) with one random legendary and a few pieces of tier gear. (Well, I did get a non-tier helm from someone who offered it up because they didn’t need it. I gratefully accepted it, I am not proud.)

Hunter tier gear. This, too, is a mini-rant (okay, maybe a full-fledged rant). I don’t know how useful the tier bonuses are for other classes, but for BM hunters, of the 2-pc and 4-pc bonuses, one is pretty good and one is crap. Here’s the thing — prior to last night, the Blizz tooltips had this description (quoted in MMO-C and IcyVeins and a couple of other places) (emphasis mine):

(2) Set (Beast Mastery): Dire Beast reduces the cooldown of Bestial Wrath by an additional 8 sec.
(2) Set (Marksmanship): Every 35 Focus you spend reduces the cooldown of Trueshot by 1 sec.
(2) Set (Survival): Flanking Strike now has 3 times the normal chance to trigger Hunting Companion.
(4) Set (Beast Mastery): When you use Bestial Wrath, all of your currently summoned Dire Beasts gain 50% increased damage for 15 sec.
(4) Set (Marksmanship): Trueshot also reduces the cost of all your Focus spenders by 15%.
(4) Set (Survival): When Mongoose Fury reaches 6 applications, you gain 20% increased damage to all abilities for 10 sec.

 

Well, I thought when I first began reading about hunter tier gear, at least they gave us the good bonus with 2 pieces, and the 4-piece set — which I almost never am able to get — is blah. The number of Dire Beasts beyond one that you have summoned at any point is completely RNG-dependent, so the 4-piece bonus is pretty hit and miss, not really something you can depend on for burst damage. Par for the course, but the 2-piece Bestial Wrath cooldown is pretty powerful. Woohoo, I thought.

Silly me, haven’t I learned by now?

Imagine my surprise last night when suddenly, out of the blue, the tier set descriptions were magically reversed. Now the crap bonus with Dire Beast damage is the 2-piece, and the BW cooldown bonus is the 4-piece. Chances of me getting this? Close to zero.

Blizz,seriously, do you just enjoy screwing with hunters, or what? Do you derive amusement from telling us one thing for months and then pulling the rug out from under us? Was this mixup just a stupid error in not checking tooltips, or did you in fact arbitrarily switch it in the hours before the patch went live, not giving a flying flap how it affected your players?

The sad thing is, this might still be a mixup. I have no idea what the hunter tier bonuses are, which is the 4-piece and which is the 2-piece. Blizz is that incompetent.

Recent hotfixes. January 17 saw some fairly significant hotfixes. The ones I though were the most interesting:

  • Mythic Emerald Nightmare is now cross-realm. This is something the Mythic raiders have been asking for now for some time. My raid team is not actually a Mythic team, but one of the reasons we did not go beyond 2/7 in EN (M) is that we frequently had 18 or 19 raiders but could not find that last one or two on our server. People had friends who would have happily joined us, but they were on another server. So I applaud this move by Blizz.
  • Crafting costs for the talent-swapping tomes have been “significantly reduced”. Good, I suppose, although as I have written before this is in my opinion nothing more than trying to polish a turd …
  • Some significant buffs were made to hunters, especially to BM hunters. Again, this to me is a good news/bad news situation — the good news is that we got some buffs, the bad news is that Blizz is still flailing wildly trying to “balance” classes and to slap some gigantic band-aids on the gaping wound that is hunter mechanics. It just seems worrisome to me that at this stage in an expansion, Blizz is still making “adjustments” of this magnitude.

Beast Mastery
Cobra Shot damage increased by 46%.
Chimaera Shot damage increased by 10%.
Barrage damage increased by 10%.
Kill Command damage increased by 10%.

Tl;dr: Nighthold is fun, Blizz has no idea what they are doing with hunter tier gear or class “balancing”. 

It’s the little things

A couple of weeks ago in a tongue-in-cheek comment reply to a reader, I wrote that I had reached the “acceptance” phase in my grief over what I still consider to be Blizz’s destruction of the hunter class in WoW. I still bristle over the betrayal, but I finally realized they are not going to change it significantly, and I can either keep playing or quit. As I still enjoy the game itself, and as I am not willing to play a different class as a main character, that pretty much means I need to get on with virtual life. Doesn’t mean I won’t have some choice words for Blizz about it once in a while, just that it is not usually my main focus.

However, just like when you have a massive headache and consequently all of life’s normal little annoyances really really bother you, so too have I begun to notice a lot of annoying minor aspects of Legion. If I were not already cranky over the hunter thing, I probably would just take them in stride as part of a massive and therefore imperfect game. But the fact is, I am cranky and out of sorts over hunters, so these little annoyances grow in proportion.

Blizz cannot possibly repair the damage they have done to hunters, but here are some quality of life things that I think they can — and should — fix, if for no other reason than to make amends for the big things they screwed up in Legion.

Blood of Sargeras. This needs to be BoA. The fact that it is BoP means that it is yet another reminder of many of the major problems with Legion.

  • The huge time requirement levied on each character in Legion means that your main probably ends up with far more than can be used, while alts are starving for it. Yes, you can now trade it for mats — on my server that translates into something like 100-250 gold per Blood if you do a mat shuffle. This is not insignificant — although I would argue it is fairly low given the massive inflation in WoW economy in Legion — but the fact is, your alts do not need gold, they need Blood of Sargeras.
  • Blizz chose to make some professions winners and some losers in Legion. For example, if you have a skinner, you pretty much clean up on Blood of Sargeras. Blizz may claim that the drop rate is the same for skinning as for herb gathering or mining, and it may be, but the fact remains that you can do what amounts to mass skinning in a few minutes, whereas it takes hours to exploit the same number of herb or mining nodes. My main is in fact a skinner, and without even trying I have over 200 Bloods in the bank even after using a bunch early on for obliterum upgrades. Meanwhile, my poor engineer/enchanter can’t get enough for even one max crafted gear upgrade, and the same is true of most of my other alts.
  • This mat is an absolute requirement for upgrading crafted gear, both to make obliterum and to use it. It takes 2 Bloods just to use one obliterum. Almost always what that means for me is that my alts cannot gather sufficient Bloods for upgrades until they are well past the point when the upgraded gear is useful. This just serves to highlight the total failure of crafted gear in Legion, as far as I am concerned.

Obliterum. At a bare minimum, Blizz needs to allow this to be used on non-soulbound gear. Because as it stands now, it is almost useless as an upgrade mechanic. And while I am on the subject, let me just say I think the whole mechanic is one of the stupidest ideas Blizz has ever come up with, and honestly that’s a pretty high bar.

  • You can only apply it to soulbound gear. This means you cannot craft higher level gear and send it to an alt, nor can you sell it for decent gold. Effectively, armor crafters are nearly useless in Legion.
  • It requires Blood of Sargeras, both to make it and to use it. As I pointed out above, this effectively severely limits any alts getting significant crafted gear upgrades, until such time as the upgraded gear is useless to them. (Another example of Blizz being deliberately disingenuous to us. Remember their braying about “You can freely change to any spec in your class, no more 2-spec restrictions”? Yeah, right. And crafted gear — “You can equip as many pieces as you want”. Uh-huh.)
  • The quest line to unlock the forge is ridiculously expensive and annoying. I realize I may be an outlier, but I am so bad at pvp and I hate it so much, that I died on my main hunter 31 times just to finish the sewer part of that quest line. I suspect I am not unique in this. How is this fun? Because even when I finally did unlock the forge, I realized that it had almost no value to me going forward.
  • Obliterum can be bought and sold. However, the fact that you cannot use it without a stash of Blood of Sargeras means that it is of limited use to players looking for gear upgrades. Additionally, on my server it still goes for 3000-3500 gold each. Thus, even if you have the Bloods to do a full 10 upgrade to a single piece of gear, it will cost you upwards of 30,000 gold for just that single piece. Absolutely not worth it, especially since world quests award similar level gear for a LOT less effort and zero cost.

Weekly quests. This idea occurred to me last night, as I was trying to crank out another 20 world quests for one of my alts. Since Legion requires significantly more time on each character just to get to the same point most people are used to getting to, why not do a bit of pro-rating for the weekly quests? So, for example, if you don’t have the time to run 20 world quests on every max level character, why not award half the loot for running 10? Same for the Mythic and TW quests. I think this would actually encourage people to run these on more characters — and thus spend more time playing — because it would not seem like such an endless grind.

Talent swapping. OK, I probably should not get started on this, but here is another world-class stupid idea from Blizz. This kind of hit home to me last week on one of our raid nights. We had just finished Mythic Nythendra and had decided to try our luck at Ursoc. Knowing there was a ton of trash to be dealt with before moving to Ursoc, I spent a Tome of the Tranquil Mind to swap from Murder of Crows to Volley.

Only I did not get to use it, because we were immediately in combat. I had neglected to announce to the other 19 people that everyone needed to stop what they were doing so I could make a talent swap. I did say something, and the RL said they would stop after this bunch of mobs. We paused, I hit another Tome, and lo and behold a mob wandered near one of our players and I lost yet another Tome and still was unable to swap talents. At over 500g a pop this gets mighty annoying might fast.

Here’s the thing: I understand we have never been able to swap talents while in combat, no big deal. But this ridiculous doubling of  steps necessary to do it — open the talent table, find the tome, click the tome, click the talent — means we are now doubly penalized for swapping talents. And those extra steps can obviously preclude talent swapping in a group just when it is needed most, as my experience shows.

This comes at a time when Blizz is deliberately making us choose significant differences in talent lines for AoE or single target, and when they are mixing up these kinds of fights to extreme degrees. (Not even going to address the raid time lost when players without the expensive Tomes need to hearth to Dal, then get resummoned just so they can swap a talent.) Honestly, hunters aren’t even the worst affected by this — poor warlocks are way worse off.

Blizz has said they made a mistake in setting the price of the Tomes too high and they intend to try and fix it soon, but for me that does not answer the basic question: Why the hell did anyone think this was a good idea to begin with? What possible benefit to game play does this provide? And don’t tell me it was so that Inscriptionists could make money — Blizz had no compunctions about letting many professions become useless in Legion, why should Inscription be anything special?

I really need someone to explain this to me.

That stupid hunter eagle “perk”. As some of you may know, hunters can get access to a special set of flight points presumably serviced by the same eagle line that transports us to our class hall. As it turns out, this is less a perk than yet another punishment inflicted on hunters. These flight points are all located on extremely remote, high mountain peaks. And, while they are not tied in to the regular flight points, for some reason they are tied in when it comes to using your whistle. Thus, hunters often use the flight whistle only to be whisked off to a remote location of no use whatsoever, and are then forced to use a hearth of some sort or perform a fairly long and complex glide just to get back into the flight system.

Blizz, please do hunters the favor of pulling your head out of your ass and  fully integrate the eagle flight system into the regular one, or if that offends you too much, at least make it unresponsive to the whistle.

Hearthstone type access to class halls. A couple of classes — druids and monks come to mind, there may be some others — have the luxury of being able to transport themselves directly to their class hall no matter where they are. Less favored classes — for example warlocks and rogues — must first get themselves back to Dal, then wend their way to a sewer access and through some corridors and maybe even then through a portal — to get to their class halls.

This may be “immersive” or “fun” at first, but after a few times it is merely tedious and annoying. Blizz, we get it: there is a great story behind each and every class hall, but for crying out loud give all classes a garrison-type hearthstone to get there.

As I said at the start, none of these things is a show-stopper, they are all minor annoyances. But taken together and along with some of the really major Legion problems, they become constant irritations that detract significantly from the game. Seems like Blizz could fix them for us, and no, doing so will not “cost a tier”.

Anyone else have any quality of life annoyances in Legion?