Never-ending grinds

Tier 20 Set Bonuses
The latest PTR build added Tier 20 set bonuses. Keep in mind that these haven’t been tuned, some are missing, and some have already been changed.

When I saw this little blurb in MMO-C, I pretty much just wanted to give up. Seriously? T20 is on its way? While unlucky sods like myself are still grubbing for their 3rd and 4th pieces of T19? Why am I bothering? Because, if history holds, I will get my 4th piece of T19 the day before 7.2 goes live. If I get it at all.

And to be honest, I am still irate that Blizz — once again — pulled a fast one on hunters for the T19. For the entire time that 7.1.5 was on the PTR — and in fact from the time we first got any inkling of the T19 sets — all the gear tooltips said this:

(2) Set (Beast Mastery): Dire Beast reduces the cooldown of Bestial Wrath by an additional 8 sec.
(4) Set (Beast Mastery): When you use Bestial Wrath, all of your currently summoned Dire Beasts gain 50% increased damage for 15 sec.

Finally, I thought, there is a reason to actually seek and equip a 2pc tier set. I might have a chance at last to derive some actual bonus from the 2pc set I almost always end up with, try though I may to get the 4pc set. I was optimistic. In fact, I was over the top when, on the first night of the patch going live, I got my first piece of tier! WOOHOO, I am on my way, I thought! Though I had not done any of the math, I felt certain that the additional 8-second cooldown of Bestial Wrath was a much more effective bonus than the contorted situation you would have to be in for the 4pc bonus to make a noticeable difference — that is, have multiple Dire Beasts up (RNG-dependent situation) with most of their active time still remaining, at exactly the same time BW comes off cooldown.

HAHAHAHAHA! Stupid gullible me. When I got that first piece and made some comment in raid chat about the nice 2pc bonus, another hunter said he was not that impressed with it, that the 4pc looked much more powerful. Sure enough, I double checked, and Blizz had apparently and sneakily reversed the bonus effects of the 2pc and 4pc sets, between the time the PTR came down and the patch went live. Even worse, they never announced the change — it was one of their famous stealth nerfs. 

See, this is just mean, there is no other way to put it. It may have been a result of sheer staggering incompetence rather than diabolical intent (recall they did not even have their stuff together enough to get patch notes out until a couple of hours before the patch went live), but no matter what the reason, I perceived it to be yet another example of Blizz selling out hunters. They just do not give a damn, because hell it’s only hunters, we can screw them over whenever we want.

Anyway, I got 2 pieces of tier in 2 nights of raiding, and of course I have seen no more pieces — other than duplicates — since then.

And now we know there will be yet another tier set in 7.2. A first look at the bonuses for it seem to indicate that once again the 2pc is a yawner and the 4pc is significant, but history tells us there is no way to know what they will be until the patch actually goes live, so it is futile to test it out at this point. Blizz can capriciously change it on a whim.

In the bigger picture,  the sinking, gut-punch feeling I had when I read about a new tier set in 7.2 really kind of sums up the worst aspect of Legion for me: it is a soul-sucking endless chase. It is one thing, I think, to provide “content” — things like world quests, weekly bonus events, additional zones, repeatable dungeons in the form of Mythic+, and additional quest lines like the Suramar ones. It is quite another to introduce mechanics that, by design, can never be “finished”.

I am not an obsessive achievement hound or completionist, I am not bothered by having unfinished achievements lying around. But there is something that just wears me down about the infinite pursuit of AP for never-ending weapon traits, something completely demoralizing about the lottery-ticket approach to getting items like profession recipes and what have become critical legendary gear. These things are not “content” — they are ass-kicking grinds, the very thing Ion Hazzikostas professes to despise. Except these grinds, unlike others in the game, have absolutely zero guarantee of success — you could theoretically keep at them 24/7 and still not achieve your goal. They are designed to manipulate, like dangling the never-to-be-obtained carrot in front of the horse to make him run faster.

As I was writing this, we got a lengthy Blue Post from Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas in one of the forums. Let me say up front that this is exactly the kind of post I love getting. It is detailed and thoughtful, and it really helps players understand a crucial aspect of the game — in this case, Blizz’s thinking on the whole Legion AP grind. I happen to not totally agree with the implications of some of the new AP design Watcher lays out, but that is just a difference of opinion. Reasonable people can respectfully disagree on many points, and of course it is Blizz’s game not mine, and they can design it any way they please. I am encouraged, though, when they have enough respect for the player base to explain why certain mechanics are as they are, and to lay out remedy plans when the mechanics do not work out as intended.

Anyway, I am not going to repeat the whole Blue Post here, I encourage you to read it. But the main point is that Blizz has identified some problems with the AP mechanic, and they are making some major changes to it in 7.2. Specifically, Blizz intends to address two problems:

  • The fact that the last 20 points of artifact traits require more or less the same amount of AP each (slight arithmetic progression), whereas the first 34 require exponentially-increasing amounts of AP.
    • The unintended result of this is that, for the last 20 artifact traits, players putting in 40 hours a week can in fact get twice the artifact power in a week than can players putting in 20 hours a week.
    • This is exactly the situation Blizz was trying to avoid, and which they did avoid with the first 34 traits. That is, they wanted to lessen the power gap between players who play a lot of hours and those with less available time but maybe the same degree of interest.
  • Some activities currently reward inappropriate amounts of AP, when weighed against time spent and level played. For example, short “Maw runs” have emerged as the best and fastest way to earn max AP each week. These normal Mythic runs award more than, say, hours spent in Nighthold, or running more difficult Mythic+ instances, or cranking out lots of World Quests.

Watcher explains all this by way of more or less preparing us for some major changes to AP in 7.2.

  • First, we can expect what seem to be insane amounts of AP for each new 7.2 artifact trait, so as to narrow the gap in weapon power between the top end and the middle-of-the road players.
  • Second, there will be some adjustments to the amounts of AP earned by various activities — specifically, it will no longer be possible to chain run regular Mythics as the fastest way to get large amounts of AP;  other more advanced activities will award proportionately more AP per time unit spent; and “harder” Mythic instances will also award more AP than, say, a quick Maw run.

I understand why these changes are being made, and it seems like they may well be a partial solution to the problems Watcher laid out in his post. I am skeptical, however, that they will accomplish the lofty ideal he laid out as his conclusion:

All of the above changes are aimed at allowing players the freedom and flexibility to decide how they want to spend their time, and which goals they wish to pursue, while limiting the difference in power between players who arrive at different answers to those questions.

I don’t actually know if these changes will improve the game for me or not. I think they may well exacerbate the problem with leveling and gearing alts, for example. And I am not certain that they will, as Watcher claims in the body of his post, make it easier to develop off specs for one’s main.

Last, I think they will magnify my main complaint about the whole artifact and AP thing: it is one of the main factors contributing to the part of Legion I perceive as an endless, Sisyphean, soul-crushing grind. I know this is not a Blizz concern, it certainly plays no part in the announced changes to AP. But it still is important to me.

And on that note, let the weekend begin!

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.

12 Responses to Never-ending grinds

  1. demonnick001 says:

    I too greatly appreciated Watcher’s post. I never really appreciated how clever the artifact knowledge system was in lessening the power gap between players who play a lot and players who don’t…and honestly now that it has been laid in front of me I am struck with a sense of admiration in its ingenuity, and also embarrassment that I had not realized its purpose before.

    I’m still not entirely sure how applying the principle of artifact knowledge catch-up to the artifact talents beyond the first 34 traits will correct the gap that has been established now, as Watcher mentioned. Won’t it just level the playing field for the players going for the new talents in 7.2, and leave the 10-15% power gap in play for those who have invested heavy amounts of time into one character? This doesn’t seem to solve the problem retroactively. Maybe I need another coffee before I read it again…

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, interesting point, I hadn’t really thought about lessening the gap that has already been established. I kind of doubt if they will do anything about that, although it would certainly be possible — a matter of giving less “refund” AP, maybe in a graduated scale, for progressive artifact levels from 34-54. So if for example the refund rate is something like 3 million AP for each trait above 33, give the 3 million for levels 34-39, maybe 2 million for 40-45, 1.5 million for 46-50, 1 million for 51-54. Just off-the-top-of my-head examples, I am sure there are better numbers and progressive rates.

      As I said, I don’t expect Blizz to do this, they would undoubtedly have a real poopstorm on their hands if they did. Still, it is not out of the question. I suspect no matter what happens, it will pay for anyone interested in maxing current traits to pursue them as tenaciously as possible before 7.2 goes live.

  2. Marathal says:

    Honestly? For me the last several weeks the AP I have been earning has been mostly just what my followers bring in. I have only done a handful of normal Mythic dungeons. Usually if I feel like it and there is a group of heroic guild raiders doing it. I think I am 2 and a half upgrades beyond the initial complete, so 36 1/2?? I means nothing to me any more. My relics are what’s keeping my weapon level down. And I will quit WoW before I spend 4 hours trying to do a +14 to maybe get an 880 one in the chest. I don’t even want to run a +2. My only other source is when Viking Emissary is up, my last rep, and the one run through an LFR wing. I saw I only needed 5 points to get my 50 to upgrade my 910 gear, I got 1 off the first LFR boss, then left group. Someone there, Watcher maybe, has decided that doing something 30 times or more is rewarding. It is just turning me away. And I have given thought to disenchanting the one piece of tier I have since the secondary stats are horrible. No caster wants to trade 1100 Haste for Versatility.

    • Fiannor says:

      I don’t run a lot of Mythics either, which accounts for the fact that my weapon level lags behind many of my raid mates’. I tend only to run Mythics when a guild group is short one of their regular dps-ers, or when we have a lot of groups going for a weekly Mythic bonus event. I am not a fan of timed events, and even though I like the nice treasure chest each week, I usually don’t like it enough to go for high level Mythic+’s — I still have yet to run anything higher than a +9, although quite a few in my guild regularly run at the +14 or +15 level.

      I see me becoming less and less interested in artifact traits as Legion wears on — they just will not be worth the ever-increasing effort.

  3. gruffertus says:

    “Because, if history holds, I will get my 4th piece of T19 the day before 7.2 goes live. If I get it at all.”

    It’s possible, but remember you’ll still have 9-10 weeks to use it before the raid opens, as with 7.1.5

    • Fiannor says:

      LOL, well, I can only hope! In WoD, I only got my 4-pc sometime around June 2016 (a bit over 2 months before Legion went live), and that was only because I doggedly kept running my main in our guild alt runs ….

  4. Garfurion says:

    Watchers blog only dealt with the final 20 traits and their effects. He ignores the 7 mandatory traits in front of the infinite traits which people will have to grind AP for. This makes it yet again harder to switch specs or class or level alts.

    I’m not sure there is any point in playing if Blizzard keeps moving the finish line. It’s kind of ironic that they created an expansion with more class specific content than ever before and at the same time lock people out of that content with the endless AP grind.

    • Fiannor says:

      “… keeps moving the finish line” is a spot on characterization, and it really describes how I feel about much of Legion. Just when I think I am about to cross the line, Blizz sends their little guys out to paint a new one another mile down the route.

      I have no numbers to back it up, but I think this a far more widespread player feeling than Blizz realizes, and I think it may be significantly impacting “ordinary” (which I define as “like me” — LOL) players’ perception of Legion. We will see what the player base looks like come mid-summer, but I suspect we may see a larger-than-usual dropoff of activity as people start to feel frustrated at their inability to make whatever they define as normal progress in the game.

      As a side note, it will be interesting to see if the normal group of players who complain about being bored, still complain about it because they perceive Legion’s continuing presentation of “new content” to be standard fare and therefore nothing new!

    • “It’s kind of ironic that they created an expansion with more class specific content than ever before and at the same time lock people out of that content with the endless AP grind.”

      This is exactly my own analysis.
      1) For a number of expansions (since MoP) they’ve moved into each spec (for tri-dps classes) specializing more and more, eliminating or reducing effectiveness in situations and enhancing them in others. I learned all 3 specs very well in MoP fleshing out my toolkit to be the best player I could be, adaptable to nearly any situation.
      2)Their response to critique’s that the specialization isolated or reduced character playability at the end of MoP was to the effect of “you have your other specs that are strong in different situations.” (discounting the fact that stat/gear priorities can change significantly and secondary stats in WoD were a huge influence in effectiveness.)
      3) Then with the announcement of Legion, they say, “We’ve made all your specs available so you have access to everything in the classes toolkit but we want to make decisions mean more.” They exacerbated the niche situations specs are at their strongest, increasing # of situations they are weaker in and reduced the size of our toolkit to adapt. Then added barriers to talent changes, barriers to spec changes in the power of the artifact weapon; barriers that effectively means you have access but at a significantly reduced power level and effective level, so much that your main spec even though its weak in the situation often outplays the strongly situated spec because of the power differential.

      Its poor management and failure to see the bigger picture while tinkering with the little bells and whistles.

      No thank you.

      • Fiannor says:

        You have described a perfect example of my pet peeve with Blizz — “…failure to see the bigger picture while tinkering with the bells and whistles.” Every expansion, they seem to build their end product around a set of details rather than around a grand idea. Even when they do have a grand unifying idea, they have demonstrated they are unable to make the details of their product support it.

        That, I think, is why I am so utterly frustrated not only with the hunter class rewrite, but even more so with the so-called “fixes” Blizz claims they have implemented. They have completely failed to grasp that the problem with hunter play is — in the big picture — a matter of feel and flow, NOT a matter of numbers. Yet nearly every “fix” they have made is centered on readjusting stat ratios and spell math. Ironically — and by accident — the only improvements we have gotten to hunter rotations have come about because of certain legendaries.

  5. I hope Watcher isn’t asking for feedback.
    We don’t have all of the information. We don’t know the overall design, future plans or what will shape our goals. An overview of our current experience is fine but without knowing how the house will be built, we are critiquing the kitchen and can not see the entire mansion.

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