Last week I divided my WoW time between some concentrated raiding and just doing whatever the hell I felt like doing when I logged in. It was fun. I also pretty much ignored Blizzcon, catching up with the headlines when they hit MMO-C or Wowhead. Today’s post is just some scattered thoughts about all that.
Raid. We finally downed Heroic G’huun. It was mostly just painful, but there was a tinge of satisfaction in it. First, the painful part. The fight, in my opinion, remains flawed in terms of design. It is not even close to balanced, either for small raid sizes or for raid composition. We only began to close in on the kill once we were able to field a team of 15, and when we included at least one warlock and another heavy-dot class.
Even with those additions it took us nearly eight hours of attempts. Now, of course, we are not hardcore raiders, and possibly more “professional” types would have had no problems, but beyond the design flaws I listed above there are two aspects of the fight itself that make it extremely challenging for non-pro teams. One is that a single RNG-generated bad luck circumstance can wipe the raid, and there is really nothing to be done about it. For example, if the person rooted by Blood Feast also gets Explosive Corruption, not only will that player almost certainly die, but depending on how many other players have been assigned to stand in the circle there can be catastrophic consequences for the raid. This happened to us at least 6-8 times.
The other challenging aspect of the fight for non-pro teams is what I call the anti-casual factor. That is, one player making one small error can easily wipe the raid. There is zero forgiveness in most of the phases. And for casual teams — even “semi-casual” teams — the more players you have the higher the chances are that one player will have momentary lapse. And remember, the raid is skewed to actually require more players. There are not a lot of casual raid teams able to sustain that kind of extreme concentration for hours at a time. Of course, when we did finally kill G’huun, by the hairs of our chinny-chin-chins about 5 minutes before the end of raid on Thursday, there were whoops of celebration. It felt good, but it had also been exhausting.
The facet of the fight that was very gratifying has to do with the huge number of mechanics. Every member of the raid team had a special job in addition to their normal stay-alive-and-heal/tank/deal-damage role. With only 15, we did not have the luxury of allowing people to escape additional duties. And to kill this boss, every raid team member had to carry out their assignments perfectly. It felt good when it finally all came together.
Probably for that reason, anyone looking to logs for ego-reinforcing parses on G’huun will be disappointed. This is especially true of damage dealers. There are long segments when your job is just to deliver orbs or stand around and not die, and that really cuts into your numbers. I don’t care much about numbers, but I did feel frustrated because I was on the first orb team, which meant I could not ever execute my opening sequence — there was not even a good reason to pre-pot since the only initial “damage” I could do was take a few pot shots at the cysts on the platform. I was surprised at how much that one change made me feel totally out of sync for the entire fight, as if I just could never get into a comfortable rotation.
So the best feature of this painful fight, I think, is that it only works when everyone functions as part of a team. That sense of team accomplishment is what keeps me in the game and raiding these days. Still, G’huun really does have serious design and balance flaws, in my opinion.
Blizzcon. Since I last wrote, Blizzcon has come and gone. As far as WoW is concerned, it was a real yawner. I noted three points of interest. First — and most surprising — was that Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas actually admitted that Blizz has gone too far with RNG on nearly every aspect of the game. Yes, you read that right — apparently you can actually have too much RNG fun™! Amazing. I suppose we can expect a return to some kinds of currency for certain activities. We will see.
The second thing I noted was that we will not get flying until 8.2. There was no mention of a Patch 8.1.5, so I don’t know if that means Blizz has abandoned the “major half-patch” strategy. I do know that the Legion patches came like clockwork every 11 weeks, whereas the first BFA patch will be released 17 weeks after initial expansion release. Whether that means this will be the patch release schedule for BFA or not remains to be seen. Perhaps Blizz is still sticking to a patch release schedule, perhaps they are back to their “whenever” schedule, perhaps there will be a major patch before 8.2, perhaps not. In the worst case, I think, it could be deep into next summer before we get flying (assuming a 17-week schedule for 8.1.5 and 8.2). Even in the best case, assuming no 8.1.5 and a less-than-17-week schedule, it will be well into spring of 2019 before we can once again fly.
The third thing I paid attention to coming from Blizzcon was, of course, the Classic demo. As I had by mistake bought the virtual ticket, I decided to go ahead and try out Classic.
Within approximately 5 minutes I wanted to poke hot sticks into my eyes. I rolled a hunter, of course, and it was beyond awful. I never really thought I would enjoy a return to the Bad Old Days of WoW, but even I had forgotten how bad they were compared to what we have now. Things like having to feed your pet or it runs away, carrying bullets/arrows that take up a lot of space in your very small backpack, minimum distance for ranged weapons, your pet running amuck and attacking every mob in sight. I had also forgotten things like no multi-tagging of mobs, making crowded areas almost impossible to collect/kill your quest items.
I will most definitely not be playing Classic. I actually wonder how popular it will be, even in the face of all the purists clamoring for it. Something tells me that Ion was right when he opined “You think you want it, but you really don’t” — I suspect many of the purists will get a rude awakening.
Moving to mobile? The quarterly Activision-Blizzard report to shareholders was made public last week. I did not read the entire transcript this time as I usually do, but there is a relatively complete summary on the MMO-C page. The one thing that struck me on this is ATVI’s apparent huge push into mobile games. That, of course, is where much of the money is these days in gaming — games you can play on your phone, and which offer the company almost unlimited opportunity for advertising revenues, micro payments for game doodads, and so forth. Right now most of the Blizzard publicity on mobile seems to center on some version of Diablo, but there are very strong hints that Blizz is working on new mobile games as well on mobile-friendly versions of successful other-platform IPs.
I doubt if we are ever going to see a full mobile version of modern WoW, but there are some Warcraft games that certainly could be candidates for mobile. Thinking, for example, Warcraft III. Or — and this certainly veers into tinfoil hat territory — even Classic WoW. Think about it. When Classic was current, computers were much slower and limited than what they are now, and you could make an argument that modern smart phones are more powerful than desktop computers were 14 years ago. If some of the Classic keyboard interfaces can be streamlined to work efficiently on a mobile device, the game might easily be a candidate for a mobile game.