Scattered thoughts today, so I apologize in advance if this post is hit and miss. I have contractors here for some light repairs, so there will be interruptions as I write. Also I am packing for a girls-only trip with some friends to Asheville, North Carolina, to poke around the craft shops there, eat good food, listen to live music, and kill off a bottle of wine or two — basically indulge our collective artsy-fartsy tendencies. Also laugh a lot.

Anyway, it’s a hectic day here, so here’s my best shot at a post.

Blizzcon. In years past I have been interested enough to shell out $$$ for a virtual ticket, but not this year. Mainly I don’t expect there to be anything wildly exciting in terms of World of Warcraft, certainly nothing I can’t wait for regular gaming news to report. My prediction is that there will some overhype about Patch 8.3 (yawn), and a few vague hints about the next expansion. The only thing Blizz has hyped so far about the event is the esports stuff. (And not for nothin’, but what does it say about esports for WoW when much of the winner prize money comes from a lottery for the viewers?)

For a gritty analysis of Blizzard these days, and how they need to up their game in terms of what seems to be lost passion, check out this recent Blizzard Watch post by Scott Andrews. His words on WoW really capture the mood of BFA:

In WoW, the art and music have been top notch as always, but the story, systems, and gameplay have all been disappointing in BFA. BFA offered rehashed elements from Artifact Weapons and Garrisons. Welcome innovations from Legion of World Quests, Mythic+, and Allied Races carried over, as they should, but BFA‘s new contributions, Island Expeditions and Warfronts, landed with a dull thud. The story of Sylvanas — so far at least — is far too similar to that of Garrosh in Mists of Pandaria. At launch, classes offered fewer options and abilities at max level than at 110, a design decision that still floors me.

Anyway, definitely not worth $50 to me. And no, I am not sorry to miss out on the grotesque Wendigo onesies being hawked with the ticket….

A surprise about myself. Having gotten the Alliance bee mount last week, I expected to be completely done with jelly hunting in Stormsong Valley. I mean, I found it completely distasteful — unimaginative, boring, and frustrating. Imagine my surprise when I found myself devoting a few hours to it again this past weekend.

What I discovered was that, once it was no longer something I was pushing myself to finish for the mount, I put my brain in neutral, cranked up a great playlist, sipped an adult beverage, and relaxed in the same kind of way I used to do flying routes to gather ore or herbs. There are very few  jelly locations surrounded by angry mobs, most are just swoop down and get. I added stirrups to my mount so I would not have to dismount, put on my jelly goggles, and used up whatever jelly magnets I could get. I ended up with several stacks (250 each) of jelly along with some of the multi-jelly versions of the stuff. I probably could have sold it all for several thousands of gold, but I had a lot more fun giving it to guildies still grinding for the mount.

This is what mat gathering used to be like in the game, and what it should be again.

Thoughts on the neck piece in BFA. Initially I was fairly neutral on the neck piece mechanic in this expansion, but the more it drags on and gets extended, the worse I think it is as a design. Basically, Blizz has given it the distasteful parts of Legion’s Artifact weapon — the endless grind, the badly-balanced complications with talents and gear — and none of the cool visuals or story. No one has the kind of personal investment in their neck piece the way they did with the Artifact weapon in Legion. 

Also, whatever story it does have is not logical — if the BFA story line is that the Horde/Sylvanas have greedily plundered Azeroth in order to get azerite, and as a result Azeroth is dying, then why does everyone now have a thing that requires azerite to function? Shouldn’t that be a bad thing to do, like using plastic straws or styrofoam?

The bad design of the neck piece has been driven home to me as I try to level up some alts. (And by “level up”, I mean the secondary leveling required to actually have enough firepower to participate in a few end game activities.) It is not especially difficult, with the catchup mechanism, to get the neck piece to a decent level. But the addition of essences, with their skewed power effects for certain classes and specs, is horrible for alts.

Most of us expect that alts will not reach the same gear level as our mains, but the problem is that Blizz has made essences such an integral part of effective power that failure to get the “good” essences for a given spec means that spec simply will not function at a level that makes it fun to play in the game. Worse, a given “best” essence can be locked away inside raids or behind faction rep, it can require PvP achievements or high level M+ completion or multiple successful runs through the raid-like Operation Mechagon dungeon.  What this means is that some essences — maybe even the ones needed by the alt — are not going to be attainable by many alts.

Sadly, Blizz did not learn the right lesson from their Legendary gear experiment in Legion. Back then, they endowed some Legendary gear with abilities so crucial to effective play for a spec, that failure to randomly win the piece meant the player was at a distinct disadvantage in nearly all game play. For some specs, Blizz realized this and actually incorporated the “required” ability into talents, but the whole thing was terrible design.

In fact, Legion was the expansion where Blizz began the wholesale offloading of class and spec talents onto gear. Sure, previously there had been a piece or two that might have a desired proc for players, but such incursions of gear into the fabric of spec play style was minimal, pretty much limited to one piece and one proc. But in Legion suddenly there were almost too many possible gear procs/abilities to keep track of. There was the additional talent tree of the Artifact weapon, as well as the dozens of Legendary possibilities.

Blizz has continued and expanded this trend in BFA, a move that boggles my mind, given that they have been unable to balance classes now for several years. So because balancing classes (36, for all practical purposes, ever since the extreme spec changes in Legion) is too hard, they add multiple layers of additional talent trees and specialized-action gear??? Now there is almost no gear that does not have a special aspect to it, or at least a version with a special aspect to it. With the exception of wrists and back, now virtually the entire left side of the gear table has its own talent trees. For those pieces that do not, there are “special” situational talents, such as the gear that has procs for a certain raid only. And don’t even get me started on trinkets, where it is impossible to calculate the best one for your character unless you plug in variables to a supercomputer and let it churn away long enough to give you an answer.

Just a suggestion, Blizz, but maybe it would be easier for you to balance classes and specs if you limited yourselves to, oh, say, maybe a dozen talent variables each, instead of the hundreds you keep injecting into the game? Then again, I am assuming Blizz wants classes to be balanced, so that may be a flaw in my logic… Bring the class, not the player.

Okay, enough brain meandering for today. I will be geeking out on pottery and assorted artistic endeavors for the next week, so no new posts until Wednesday, October 16th.

4 thoughts on “Meandering

  1. Given that bees have been a big topic here, combined with the fact that you are heading to Ashville, I want to mention something related to both. An artist named Matthew Willey works out of Ashville and heads an organization called “The Good of the Hive.” Willey paints bees all over the world to bring attention to the sad plight of bees and other pollinators due to humans being a virus. (My take on our species.) Anywho, his work is amazing and his murals are truly something.

    I kept bees for over a decade and they are near and dear to my heart. Willey did a fundraiser by selling paintings of bees when he was just getting started with this project and I purchase one to support him. It never fails to make me smile.

    I’m not exactly sure what he might have available to see in Ashville, but I would suggest checking. Enjoy your trip!

    1. Probably not — to me it is less of a free speech matter than it is a contractual agreement between Blizzard and the competitors. I completely agree with the player’s sentiments, and I am sure he saw that, after winning, he had a platform to amplify his voice. I applaud his seizing the moment, as it were. But Blizz’s rules were pretty clear about basically not causing controversy, whether it was for a good cause or not.

      When you think about it, yes he lost his winnings, but he absolutely brought his protest front and center for people who may not have been paying much attention to it — so in that sense he was successful. Loss of a game title and some money may be a small price to pay for that.

      Check out Marathal’s piece on this, also I did comment on it there.

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