Thoughts from my week off

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.

Oh.

My.

God.

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.

Just sayin’.

8 thoughts on “Thoughts from my week off

  1. They did mention an 8.1.5–it’s going to have Legion Timewalking and the Brawler’s Guild stuff. Nothing special, but they are still doing the intermediate patches.

    1. Thanks, @Nathaniel, good to know.

      Knowing there will be a half-patch schedule for BFA, as there was for Legion, brings up the question of timing. In Legion all the major patches were released on the same schedule — every 11 weeks like clockwork. If that same pattern is followed in BFA, that means we will get 8.1.5 some time around the end of March 2019, and 8.2 around the tail end of July 2019 or even close to the 1-year BFA release anniversary in August.

      I do not really want to open up the screaming emotions on flying again, but that means that we will not get to use our flying mounts in the new zones until almost a year into the expansion. That seems unnecessarily long to me. WoD launched mid-November 2014, and flying was unlocked (after some significant “debate”) in September 2015 — about 10 months later. Legion launched at the end of August 2016, and we were able to unlock flying in March 2017 — about 7 months after expansion launch. If Blizz extends the time in BFA to almost a year after launch, that is going to make a lot of players very unhappy.

      Of course, we do not know what the patch release schedule will be. It is possible that the 17-week release time for 8.1 is an aberration, and subsequent patches will have less time between them. We will see, I guess.

      1. I assume the .5 patches are going to come out quicker. If they are going with the 5 month tier system and the next raid launches in January, I would expect 8.2 sometime in May/June.

  2. I played back in Classic and I quit after getting to about lvl 45 back then because I didn’t really enjoy the game. I came back just before Ruby Sanctum. I have zero desire to play Classic again now… I’d maybe play on a Cata server because I think that’s when I enjoyed the game mechanics the most.

    I basically had no expectations for Blizzcon this year and still ended up sorely disappointed; mainly due to the Diablo mobile news “Do you not have phones?”… ugh….

    Even with the 8.1 and 8.2 news, I still don’t see myself playing BfA; if I survive long enough in WoW, I’ll probably mess with it like I did for Legion, when it comes out for free just before the next expac.

    At least Warcraft 3: Reforged looks interesting to me.

    1. I am with you on the reaction to Blizzcon — very low expectations and Blizz still managed to not live up to them. I am not a Diablo player, but I know you are not alone in your reaction to the announcements on it.

      For me, BFA is the most boring expansion ever released. And that is from someone who was never bored even in WoD. There just seems no substance to it, even though on its face it should have everything — it is visually stunning, there is a strong (if flawed, imo) story line, there are tons of new activities, the first raid tier is extremely challenging and includes some creative mechanics. I have only limited anecdotal data, but I am not the only one bored with the expansion. Our guild participation has fallen drastically, and my friends on other servers note the same thing. A significant number of players already feel there is no reason to log in.

  3. Grats on the kill. I have not had the success yet, though I have spent my share of time try. One guy can kill your raid and (sometimes) you even wonder if you are being trolled or the subject of a psychology paper.
    As a hunter and a resto-druid healer, I kind of resent not being one of the “special” classes that can do the extra stuff. Watching a DH solo run an orb or a monk spin and clear all the cysts is very discouraging.

    1. Definitely. It’s beyond frustrating to be having a good run, then one person drops the orb or dumps an Explosive Corruption in the middle of melee or makes one of a dozen other small mistakes that will cause a wipe. But humans are not perfect, and the chances that in a 20-person raid one person will have a moment’s distraction that causes such a wipe are very high indeed. It’s bad design, in my opinion, or possibly it is design solely for hardcore and pros but definitely not for the majority of players.

      We ran Uldir last night and cleared 7/8 Heroic but came up short again on G’huun. And it was exactly because everyone must perform perfectly, but by the end of the night people are tired, they lose focus after hours of required intensity. We have only one class (monk) that can solo the orb. Which means, since we have to have 6 teams we have to use 10 orb carriers plus the monk, plus we usually have a disc priest accompany some of the teams to heal and help damage cysts. As we only had 15 last night, this meant that everyone except tanks and 1 healer were part of orb teams. If anyone died prior to their team going up, that was a wipe. If any one team dropped the orb or failed to dunk it, that was a wipe. If a tank took more damage than one healer could deal with, that was a wipe. If someone got the Blood Feast and also got zapped with Explosive Corruption, that was a wipe. Et cetera.

      I do not mind having a lot of mechanics in a fight, and tbh I think the orb-carrying mechanic is interesting and creative. If G’huun were properly tuned it could be a fun fight. But as it is, it stinks.

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