Yesterday, of course was Pi Day. As has become traditional in our house, I picked up a couple pies I had previously ordered from The Happy Eatery Bakery in my town. (If you are ever in Manassas, do not miss this place, it is really superb, totally unsolicited endorsement.) The pies do double duty — Pi Day celebration, of course, but also birthday pie the following day (today) for my husband’s Ides of March birthday. It’s one of those happy coincidences that works out all the way around.
Anyway, this really has absolutely nothing to do with today’s post, the subject of which I will reveal to you when I figure it out.
Which is a real problem. There is just not a lot to write about Battle for Azeroth that has not already been written. Yes, I could describe how hokey and demeaning the whole toy system for Hati is — seriously, Blizz, you spend two expansions building up the Great Epic Legend of Hati, then sell a damn stupid fez hat to dress him in?????? As if he were one of those obnoxious disgusting little pug dog foofoo pets?? No, no, no, not only no but hell no.
Or I could register my overall disappointment over the latest installment of the Alliance War Campaign — an uninspiring set of quests, including a totally pointless 1-day mission table quest, followed by an anticlimactic final turn-in that doesn’t grant you much of anything but a rather puny amount of azerite power. No piece of gear, no special mount, no achievement, no seals or badges or whatever, not even a lousy tiny cutscene with some celebratory congrats from Jaina. Just here’s your AP, don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, we’ll let you know when there are more hoops to jump through. Until then, buh-bye!
Similarly, I could describe the futile feeling I got pursuing the Kul Tiran allied race after what seemed like an endless number of fedex quests — spread out all over Kul Tiras and Zandalar, in what seemed like a deliberate attempt to place as many of them as far as possible from any flight point — with one final decent but not awesome cutscene. At least, I suppose, we got something from this, another Alliance horse mount! Wow, what a rarity!!! Oh, plus of course another race option for characters. (Though honestly I think Blizz is going too far with some of the racial characteristics that can actually make a combat difference. The stark difference between the winner and loser races is starting to make me feel used and manipulated again.)
But honestly, none of those topics seem like reasonable ones for an entire post. Three days after the launch of 8.1.5, I am left feeling “Is that it?” We still don’t have flying, BM hunters still suck big time in terms of potential damage output and play style, and the patch is so uninspiring that it did little or nothing to stop the tide of players leaving the game either temporarily or permanently.
We had 2 healers call out from raid last night and thus we had to cancel, because we are so thin on raid members we can’t afford to lose even one or two (Blizz no longer bothers to balance raids to accommodate 10 players). We regularly have people calling out because they have to sit up with a sick parakeet, or they think they might be coming down with hay fever, or some similar excuse, but the real reason is they just aren’t interested enough in the game any more to make an effort — they would rather sit out the progression phase and come back when they can be carried for their AotC. And the sad thing is, we can’t even kick these unreliable people, because then we would have no raid team at all, just the regular half dozen or so who can be counted on.
I wish I could put my finger on what is wrong with Battle for Azeroth, but for the life of me I can’t. On paper and viewed objectively, it is not much different from Legion. It should work, it should be popular. But it isn’t. It stinks. I feel the same indifference to it as my guildies who call out of raid. There is some ingredient that is missing. I have defined it as “fun”, but that is so subjective as to be useless.
The best I can come up with is that Blizz crossed some invisible line in BFA with the combination of things people hate about the game — RNG, content gated by time and rep, the attempt to force players into specific end game activities (and the commensurate destruction of M+ as a fun casual activity), the never-ending grind for AP and gear traits, the continued erosion of professions, the steady devaluing of guilds and classic social structures. Probably other factors, but you get the idea. It’s not that they have done anything really different in BFA, it’s that they have doubled down on the very parts of the game players have voiced objections to for the last couple of expansions, instead of doubling down on the things players loved. And some — a noticeable number — have finally reached their breaking point with it.
In fact, it seems like once there is widespread approval of a particular aspect of the game, that is cause for Blizz to remove it. (Portals, flying once you reach max level, ability to make professional gear you can sell or send to alts, guild perks like summoning, gear reforging, free talent changes out of combat, raid feasts that do not involve extremely rare mats, et cetera). In the past, while not everyone was necessarily happy with every aspect of a given expansion, at least there were a decent number of quality of life balancing factors to mitigate the bad stuff. But in BFA Blizz is steadily eliminating quality of life perks and steadily increasing endless grinds designed to force a certain end game play style.
So no, I really do not have a topic for today’s post. I don’t think I care enough to come up with one. Except to say Blizz’s game design lately seems totally irrational from a customer point of view. Which reminds me, time for some pie, a cure for many woes.
I will be taking a week off next week, sort of an early spring break, to hopefully recharge my creative batteries a bit. See you back here March 25.