Q&A, and servers, fail

Yeah, so I watched the latest episode of the Hazzikostas show, and it ranks right up there as one of the crappiest ones Blizz has done. You probably should not waste your time watching it, but if you insist, or just want the text summary, MMO-C has both.

Here are the takeaways from my notes:

Allied races are now available with BfA pre-purchase. This was a pretty badly-kept secret, lots of people seemed to be privy to the “leak” several days ago. The amazing thing to me is how ineptly Blizz rolled it out. Clearly they had been planning it for a while. But the rollout, combined with whatever they did in yesterday’s maintenance patch, was a total disaster. That they finally got many of the worst parts under control by about 9 PM ET last night does not mitigate what a total technical failure it was.

The first thing that happened was that the Blizzard store crashed, apparently under the stress of lots of people rushing to pre-order BfA. Blizz claims it was not their problem per se, rather the money people that handle that sort of thing for them let them down. Whatever. Blizz’s customers were kept in queue for hours, usually only to eventually be kicked out of it. Some people actually seemed to get to the “click this button to charge your credit card” part only to once again be flung into an endless loop that kicked them out of the process. Others had their credit cards charged multiple times, with some of this group actually getting the pre-order and some not.

Whether part of a cascading failure or merely by unlucky coincidence, some set of the game servers also crashed, with the result that no one could log into the game. Blizz issued an emergency patch around 7 PM ET, but that only worked for Windows users. Unlucky Mac users were forced to wait another two hours before Blizz got their butts in gear to fix whatever that problem was. (But not before a clueless CM made the blue comment that Blizz was “actively working” the Mac problem, but they had other higher priority stuff they were working on, the implication being just shut up and wait until we get around to it. Oh, and any readers tempted to make a snarky comment about Mac users, be aware I am in no mood!)

Was Blizz really surprised that a whole bunch of people would try to pre-order BfA immediately? I mean, how long have they been in business? And where the hell was their stress testing before going live — any testing at all, really?

I have said it before and I will say it again. Blizz is a worldwide company that still operates like two guys in a garage. They are woefully incompetent at what they apparently think are the un-fun parts of maintaining the game. Their attitude seems to be, “Yeah, but that part isn’t kewl, dude!”

PvP. A lot of people were pretty annoyed that Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas and Mr. Emcee Lore spent probably 30 minutes of the hour-long session talking about PvP. I will admit, I was one of them. Yeah, I get that PvP is a major part of the game for some people (although I doubt it is half the player population). Truthfully, if I had known they were going to spend so much time discussing PvP, I would not have even watched the event.

Upon reflection, maybe that attitude is why they did it. I am getting the definite idea that Blizz is very slightly ramming PvP down people’s throats for BfA. All servers will be for both groups, just a matter of setting a player switch to decide. (I can hardly wait until that goes live, no chance for disasters there….) BfA will also feature scenarios that are basically modified PvP arenas, the only difference being that the game will simulate PvP opponents using AI for their NPCs. These scenarios (“islands” in the BfA parlance), in addition to being pseudo-PvP in nature, seem designed for esports — they are short, timed events, basically a new addition to Mythic+ dungeons for BfA.

“Utilities pruning” for classes. The main thing that came out of this for me was Hazzikostas officially lecturing us that “Bring the class not the player” is a good thing. And in fact, he pedantically Blizzsplained to us that we have stupidly misunderstood the whole “Bring the player not the class” thing from the beginning — if we had not been so dense, we would have grasped that it never meant groups should have the freedom to bring good players irrespective of class, nor was it any sort of design philosophy.

“Four legs good, two legs bad” has at last morphed into “Four legs good, two legs better”. It has always been so, we are just too confused to remember, poor brainless little things we are…

We will, of course see how this utility pruning campaign works out. But I remain skeptical. There is almost no way to structure it to avoid clear winners and losers in the pruning lottery. Some classes will get the “always good” utilities (hero, battle rez, etc.) and some will get the “good for a few types of fights” utilities.

Of course, I am particularly interested in this because until Legion hunters were the utility class. We had all kinds of useful stuns, traps, mobility moves, misdirects, pet saves. Nearly all of these were removed at the start of Legion, then begrudgingly a few were restored in an early patch. But we are still nowhere near the level of utility player we have been for almost all of WoW. And now it appears even our meager set of utilities will be pruned once again, all in the name of “class uniqueness”. Whatever the hell that is, other than an excuse for designating winners and losers in the class lottery.

BM hunters may be screwed. Clearly, Blizz’s plan is to make SV the winning hunter spec in BfA. We don’t know exactly what it will look like yet, but apparently, according to the esteemed Game Director, it will remain melee-ish, but in a kind of ranged way(?). Hazzikostas actually admitted they went too far out of the hunter play style when they destroyed SV and replaced it with what was effectively  another class. And so this spec will receive a rather major makeover in BfA.

In a sense, I suppose I should be glad that my beloved old-style SV may begin to make a return. But honestly I am still pissed that Blizz treated us SV hunters so shabbily, that they forced many of us to switch to BM to maintain any semblance of what we loved about hunters, that they arrogantly dismissed every comment we had to make on the change, and now they are saying “Oops, heehee, guess we went too far, silly us.”

Worse, it is starting to look like SV will get some major changes at the expense of the BM spec. Apparently Blizz picks one hunter spec each expansion now to be the one they make unplayable. It was SV at the end of WoD and pretty much in Legion, and it could easily be BM in BfA. So all you hunters out there who begrudgingly gave up your SV for BM: Psych!!! Blizz was just kidding, you should go back to SV in BfA.

Hahahahaha! They are such great kidders! Screwing with hunters just never gets old for them.

BfA release date. We now know this will be “before Sep 21st”. This is before most of us were predicting. I am happy to eat my words on this if it indeed comes to pass. (I predicted not before November.) But it means that BfA is further along, more set in stone than we had thought, and it really seems what we see in the alpha and beta will be very close to what we get in the live version.

Anyway, that was pretty much it for yesterday’s Q&A. If you did not watch it, congratulations, you just saved yourself some wasted time.

7 thoughts on “Q&A, and servers, fail

  1. From a the standpoint of wanting to see new content — I’m guessing we’ll more or less stop raiding altogether within the next month — I was happy to see the by-September release date. From the standpoint of playing a BM hunter, it filled me with great fear. This means that they are indeed farther along that most thought and it leaves them less time to get BM to a playable, competitive place. Of course, one could look at the timeline and say that it also gives Blizzard less time to further screw us over, but I have a great deal of faith in Blizzard’s ability to screw hunters on whatever timeline they set themselves.

    1. That pretty much sums up my thoughts, too. I admit I rushed out last night, after the *ahem* “unpleasantness” with the store servers, and did the pre-purchase (regular, not deluxe) of BfA, then quickly finished up the scenario to be able to roll a Void Elf Mage. I am looking forward to a few weeks of leisurely leveling her (ok, enforced “leisurely” due to the stretching out of leveling times by at least a third). It will indeed be fun.

      But I cannot shake my sense of impending doom for BM hunters. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think I am. Blizz has not only a great talent for screwing over hunters, but also a LOT of experience.

  2. My big fear as well that we are probably past a point of no return for design changes and now are entering first round of tuning. What I read of the first Shadow data left me feeling like they are doubling down once again in the hopes that it may stick. And perhaps that’s our fault for asking them to stop changing things every two years.

    1. Sadly, I think you are right. From the small amount I have read on Spriests, it seems Blizz is in love with the current play style and are not about to make any significant changes. But I think it is in no way our fault — they clearly bit off way more than they could chew with the massive changes to nearly every class and spec in Legion, and they are not about to repeat that mistake. It’s not about us criticizing them for frequent changes, it is about them not having the resources to carry out such an undertaking.

      1. I think a part of it too may be who they are inviting into Tech Alpha, and planning sessions. I recall seeing a slip up comment by someone about certain players being asked to assist in design changes.

  3. When briefly talking about Affliction Warlock, Watcher smugly said “no man is a king forever”. I wanted to punch him in the nose. What a crappy thing to say!
    Personally, I think all of this talk about Utility is only for Mythic Plus speed runs.
    Finally, it astonishes me when we hear talk (like the SV spec) and they admit that they screwed it up and never fixed it; are they just going to walk around that pile of … in their living room for two years and not clean it up?

    1. Yes.

      I hadn’t thought about the M+ aspect of the whole utility pruning thing, but I think you may be onto something. It could end up forcing an M+ team to have a rotating bench, depending on the affixes for the week/tournament. They probably have something like that now, but if utilities get seriously pruned, such strategy will become even more critical, just the kind of thing to draw more interest from fans. And I definitely think Blizz is setting up the BfA Islands scenarios for esports competition as well.

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