“We’re as mad as hell, and…” Oh forget it

There comes a time in every firebrand’s life when they just have to admit defeat. I think I have, at long last, reached that point with hunters in WoW. Oh, out of stubbornness and habit, I will likely continue to play one, but for me the joy of it has gone. Worse than that, I have finally lost all hope that Blizz will ever restore the fun of huntering. I think they are truly too clueless to know they have destroyed it, but it is also possible they know and simply do not give a damn. And there is zero evidence this attitude will change.

As often happens, the final straw for me was a tiny one, insignificant and irrelevant when taken alone, but it tips the final balance when added to the pile already accumulated. I am not going to rehash here the “accumulated pile” — suffice it to say Blizz has systematically dismantled the hunter class in the last two expansions, to the point where someone who huntered even as late as Mists likely would not recognize the class if they had quit the game then and recently returned.

The straw? It was a chain of thought that started when I read about the 7.2 “challenge” to unlock some new artifact appearance for each spec. I have nothing against Blizz implementing this, I am sure a lot of players will really enjoy it — both the challenge and the appearance reward. But when I read it, my thought was basically, “Not worth the effort.” Why?

One reason was what I alluded to above — it is no longer great fun for me to play a hunter. There was a time not too long ago when I loved the class so much that any challenge was something I wanted to do, simply because I enjoyed pushing my hunter play to its limits and maybe a bit beyond. But now? I no longer get a rush of joy from “good” hunter skills, mainly because most of the skills currently consist of having fast enough synapses to mash a button when a computer-controlled spell comes off cooldown. There really is almost no player strategy or finesse that enters in.

The second reason — and the actual straw realization — was that hunters pretty much lose out when it comes to weapon appearance in Legion. For example, no hunter ranged weapon can have an enchant effect. Blizz simply does not care enough about hunters to give us some cool enchant effects like they have for every other class weapon in the game. I don’t know why, it can’t be any harder to configure a visual for a bow or gun than it can be for swords and staves and so forth, but apparently Blizz as usual can’t be bothered with hunters.

In Legion, BM hunters in particular suffer even further from Blizz’s negligence regarding weapon visual effects. After going to some trouble to hype the importance of Hati as an integral part of the BM artefact weapon, Blizz pretty much proceeded to design a dull and uninspiring model for it. When hunters complained, they finally gave us a gizmo to make Hati look like any pet we have, and even eliminated the major bug in it (you couldn’t change Hati back to original appearance) after a few more weeks of further hunter complaining. But here’s the thing: none of the hunter weapon appearances have any effect whatsoever on Hati’s appearance. I see no reason, for example, that Blizz could not have allowed hunters to choose a red glowing Hati as part of the “red” gun appearance. No reason, that is, except no one at Blizz can be bothered. It’s only BM hunters, after all.

In fact, even the BM hunter “hidden appearance” is pretty crappy. In the first place, it’s not all that hidden — you basically go into the Engineering shop in Dal and plunk down 8ooo gold, and it’s all yours. And this magical hidden appearance? It turns your gun into a bow. I am not a big fan of hunter guns, especially for some races, so I transmog my BM weapon into a bow anyhow. But this hidden appearance bow is a real monstrosity, possibly the ugliest bow in the history of WoW. It looks like something your four-year-old would do with Legos, except a little less creative.

Anyway, to return to my point. When I saw that 7.2 would offer these really cool weapon appearances as rewards for what look to be considerable skill challenges, I wasn’t even the tiniest bit excited. Mash designated buttons in timely sequence for an appearance change in a weapon I never see anyway? And do quests just to get the currency needed to repeat the challenge if you fail? (This mechanic is nothing more than another way to force people to play content over and over again, since you have to pay with Nethershards from the Broken Shore scenarios in order to retry this challenge. Another way Blizz is trying to up its monthly hours played metric come quarterly report time.) No thank you.

I realized that Blizz was not going to do anything whatsoever to make this challenge worthwhile to me as a BM hunter. We have not seen the new visual for BM hunters yet, but it seems extraordinarily unlikely, given previous history, that they are going to give me a cool Hati makeover. Similarly, it seems improbable that the gun appearance will be anything other than an over-the-top behemoth of a cannon that I would not be caught dead with. In the last two expansions, Blizz has proven they are not the least bit interested in applying their normal excellent creativity in any way to hunters.

And with this realization for some reason it came crashing down on me that Blizz will not restore any of the baseline fun to hunters, not in Legion and possibly not ever. They will throw us a few bones in the form of easy band-aid fixes, they will nominally include us in new stuff like this appearance thing, but it is crystal clear that they do not want to expend anything more than minimum resources on this class. For months now, I have harbored the illusion — okay, probably more accurately a delusion — that there was still time in Legion for Blizz to come to its senses about hunters and make some substantive and positive changes. But when I began to examine this whole weapon appearance thing it started a chain of thought that forced me to realize no such hunter changes will be forthcoming.

For Blizz, hunters are that cousin you really dislike and try to avoid as much as possible, but to keep peace in the family you have to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner every year. Still, there is no way are you going to let him have the drumstick.

Congratulations, Blizz, you have worn me down. I no longer kid myself that the hunter experience will improve in Legion, and I am losing hope that it ever will. I am no longer mad as hell. I am just tired.

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.

6 Responses to “We’re as mad as hell, and…” Oh forget it

  1. Marathal says:

    😦

    Yeah I know those feels. I have felt that way about my Shadow priest since the pre-launch when they upended the entire talent system, yet again. They took the complaints and criticism of orbs as a resource, and instead gave us Insanity as a resource. I am no one special in the player base, I don’t have my finger on the pulse of all that play. What I do know is a lot of people that play are battling mental health issues, or they have family members that are. Why they would ever come up with going insane as a play style, I will never know. Building up to a point where we enter Shadowform, and get two new attacks, while we watch as the longer we are in our resource starts dropping at an ever increasing rate, until it hits 0 then we start it all over again. It requires an amount of haste that no player doing anything short of Heroic raiding will ever see, I have just over 8,000 haste, from reading I need over 10,000. But hey, I have a decent amount of versatility. I even passed on a ring someone wanted to trade, iLvL 900 with Haste Mastery, because I had a different ring at 860 with more. The gear is a mess, the classes are a mess, the level of skill to play at the encounter design is beyond a great deal of players, I have a dagger for a weapon. I wanted to use a staff, there are tons of great looks for staffs, but I have a dagger and a book. Because it is part of the class fantasy I guess.

    I am not happy, I have not been happy the entire expansion. Usually by this point I am starting to grasp how to play, I still have no clue, especially since they redid things once already, and I understand they may again for 7.2.

    • Fiannor says:

      Ya, interesting you should say that about the level of skill required to play at the encounter level. Just last week I did the LFR Gul’dan encounter on an alt. I was quite taken aback by the fact that all the mechanics from normal were in it. True, the damage levels were reduced, but honestly the mechanics and coordination required are very challenging for most LFR groups. I have done that fight several times on normal and we expect to nail it on heroic this week, and the mechanics are pretty much second nature to me now, but my LFR group wiped six times before we got it. Now, much of that was due to idiots thinking they don’t need to do anything other than join a group in LFR, and to the usual self centered jerks who refuse to kill adds, but still it was a struggle. And this was even with a decent and patient tank explaining the fight details.

      I know elite or even wannabe elites will disagree, but I do think Blizz has gotten way too carried away with piling on mechanic after mechanic in boss fights. I very seriously doubt, for example, if very many “friends and family” raid groups have much of a chance at the last few bosses in Nighthold. I know my old guild raid team would have given up somewhere around after Emerald Nightmare, if they had even been able to complete that. ToV would have been too much, as would NH.

  2. Garfurion says:

    I had already given up any hope on improvements for the hunter class in Legion some time ago but once Blizzard announced the continuation of the endless AP grind in 7.2 I’ve given up on Legion as well. I canceled my subscription in February and I can’t say I miss the game.

    I have no idea when or if I will ever return to the game. There are just too many things in WoW which annoy me, including basic things like hunter animations.

    • Fiannor says:

      I understand completely. Once I was asked by a young employee in the agency I was with, “How do you know when it is time to move on from your current job or assignment?” My answer was that every assignment has good and bad parts, but at some point you realize you are focusing more on the negative aspects than the positive ones. That’s when it is time to move on.

      I think the same is true of leisure activities like games, especially MMOs. They are supposed to be fun, and when you realize you are spending most of your time being annoyed or stressed from them, it is time to move on. Sorry you reached that point, but I applaud your honesty in admitting it to yourself and doing something about it. I don’t think I am at that point yet — my crabby blogs notwithstanding — but if I do reach it, WoW will be history for me also.

  3. A friend recently got me into Swtor, and I’ve been playing the free 2 play access for about two weeks. While the MMO systems are all pretty much what you would expect, I find the story line system potential responses and choice based consequences incredibly engaging and entertaining. I have laughed, grunted, and been far more emotionally invested in playing a character in these last two weeks than I have at any point in wow.

    Why the aside? Because, there is a complete lack of agency in wow. Blizzard develops a single story and puts you on the rollercoaster of going through that story. They do offer some choice few and far between, but so obviously not impactful beyond the canned response at the moment. This story on rails while entertaining, as Blizzard can tell a good story, doesn’t invest the player with agency and ownership of their character like the Swtor storyline system and consequences does. At first glance, this may seem like a small thing (maybe not for real “roleplayers”), but I think its indicative of the largest weaknesses of wow design.

    At the end of WoD, we effectively had functional classes that were moderately well balanced. The vast majority were functional and fun. Sure we had our exceptions like Survival Hunters etc, but the majority had been time tested and a part of the desired play experience. It still doesn’t make sense to me why you would redesign every spec and risk alienating your current audience (which the large majority are longterm players) to entice what has become with the game’s age, an incredibly small subset of potential new players. (We’ve heard many times that more potential players have played wow and left than brand new players.) But I digress.

    So you redesign each spec for “class fantasy.” Which is in my opinion, short hand for more personal gameplay, agency, and personalized experience. Ironically, this is the exact opposite of what was delivered. Every aspect of the game was less personalized, and more automatic rails. Legendary items? Just wait for it to randomly drop from whatever you are doing, instead of going through trials and quests, and struggles to acquire the legendary item. Half or more of the legendary’s worth is that it took such an incredible amount of personal investment to obtain them. That increased the value of the item emotionally, giving it a worth, no stat stick or special ability will compare with. Sure players love a dps increase, but it was the investment overtime in building up my ring, building up my cape that gave it the worth that said LEGENDARY instead of REALLY GOOD DROP.

    Similarly with the artifact weapon. If at the end onf the day you have all the talents, abilities and choices in an artifact tree completed or activated, are you really making choices concerning it when you elect to start with that ability over the other? Its just a sequencing change, not an actual consequence for your choice to develop in one direction over another. It just reinforces that every one of the same artifact weapons you see is the exact same thing instead of a nuanced individual take on the possible use and abilities of such a weapon.

    Likewise with crafting, but that started earlier. In wod and mop, certain recipes were RNG based. You performed a daily CD and got a random recipe off a list of potential recipes. None of these systems actually invests the player with individual agency They don’t have a choice to cultivate this style of blacksmith over that one. A flask oriented alchemist over a potion oriented alchemist.

    Each one of these changes has reinforced the “on rails” feel of wow. Each one of these changes decreases the game play experience of agency of the player. Every one reinforces the treadmill and grind feel of activities. Blizzard wants to blame the grind feel from players who just don’t know when to stop. To some degree this has merit, particularly in the mythic, world 1st oriented guilds. But for the masses? No. This feeling, this malaise is the consequence of systemic changes that rob players of a sense of agency in their play.

    • Fiannor says:

      Your comment goes to one of the most disturbing trends in WoW over the past couple of years — removal of player control and choice from many, many aspects of the game. WoW has never been a “sandbox” game, but it used to allow more options for player preferences in such areas as alt development, crafting professions, end game approaches, gear pursuit, play styles within your class and spec, etc. But as you point out, the trend has been to coal-chute most of those activities, force players into an “approved” play style for all aspects of the game.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, this removal of control from players started, in my opinion, at the time Ion Hazzikostas took over as Lead Game Designer just before WoD launch, and it has continued and gotten more pervasive since he became Game Director. I am not one to engage in armchair psych evals, but it is pretty clear he is more comfortable with a game controlled by developers than with one controlled even slightly by players. The most obvious recent example of this attitude is his insistence that alts are NOT to be played as a support team to a main, they are only to be played in the same way as mains — and now Legion mechanics are extremely alt-hostile, thereby enforcing the “approved” alt play style. Why he cares how I play my alts is beyond me and strikes me as obsessively nosy, but there you have it. He is now in charge of this game, and we will play it the way he says.

      The thing about this is that for some players, and I know I am one, the less control they have over their play style, the more they feel annoyed over changes in almost any aspect of the game. It is as if they jealously guard what few choices they have left, and when those are removed or even slightly curtailed it causes much more anguish than if the game offered tons of player choices. It is human nature to want to feel in control of one’s activities, whether they are in a job or a game.

      Once again, I get the feeling that these kinds of big-picture considerations are not even part of the equation in Blizz’s development cycle. No one is standing back and looking at the forest, they are all concentrating on their particular trees and branches. Even the Game Director seems focused less on wide-scale player satisfaction than on implementing his own opinions of how everyone should play the game.

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