Alpha beta soup

The development of Battle for Azeroth has moved into the next phase. Late yesterday Blizz announced the closing of the alpha servers and a new start with beta. Accompanying this announcement was a new round of invites, presumably rather large in scope and permitting many of the actual customer base for the game to try out BfA.

(No, I haven’t checked yet to see if I got an invite, but since I think there were roughly a gazillion sent out, I suppose there is a chance. If I did, and if it goes like the schedule for Legion, we can expect the PTR very soon. 🤨)

Today’s post is just a couple of observations about what has become Blizz’s standard testing cycle for new expansions.

The alpha —> beta phases are new starting with Legion. Sort of. That is, in the run up to Legion, Blizz called its customer test phase “alpha” but was coy about saying what exactly that meant. In previous expansions there was only a beta and a PTR — at least those were the two phases Blizz publicly acknowledged. When we saw the term “alpha” for Legion, many assumed it was because development was at a cruder stage than usual for allowing some of the public to see it. This made sense, because WoD had been such a disaster that it seemed Blizz would do anything to refocus their customers on Legion. As far as I can recall, Blizz never did put out anything they called “beta” — they went directly from several months of alpha to the PTR. Still, there were a few discernible phases in the Legion alpha — it started with the usual favored few, then gradually — close to the end — was expanded to include representatives of the hoi polloi.

This time, the BfA alpha started out the same, but apparently Blizz is now comfortable with actually calling the early tests “alpha” and the ones where they let in some of the Great Unwashed “beta”.

Why the difference? I think there is a clue contained in a blue post quoted in MMO-C here. Basically, Blizz now permits the pros (big Twitchers, world-first guilds, top 1% on various servers, etc.) to have actual input on important development such as class and spec tuning and profession paths, while reps of the other 99% get to have input on things like travel glitches and wardrobe malfunctions.

Okay, that was maybe a bit snarky, but the blue post I cited pretty much announced that no one participating in the beta should harbor any illusions that they are going to actually shape any of the important stuff. That has already been done by the big kids. Just log on if you got an invite, and help Blizz find all their bugs and stress their servers a bit. Oh, and maybe rave about the marvelous new Island Expeditions which are of course awesome. Because another reason to send out a ton of beta invites is to help generate enthusiasm for BfA. Maybe we will get some explanation of the test phases in tomorrow’s happy chat with Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas.

HAHAHAHA! I crack myself up! More likely it will be an extended infomercial for the expansion.

To be fair, even during the alpha it was apparent that not a lot of class changes were going to be forthcoming. There were a few in response to alpha tester comments, but for a significant number of classes what we saw is what we will get. Blizz had already designed the winner and loser classes/specs for the expansion, and they would not be swayed by such details as actual comparison numbers and professional opinions about the feel of the spec.

Some of the only important stuff we might see tweaked in the beta, I suspect, is the interaction between class mechanics and quests/instances/raids. That is, if Blizz has failed to take the new class changes into account for their group encounter and quest designs (almost certainly the case), they might tweak some of the encounters to make them more compatible. Maybe. And of course, Blizz will happily accept actual bugs that beta testers find.

But if you got a beta invite and expect Blizz to listen to — much less take action on — your frustration with, for example, all the new actions now subject to the global cooldown, forget it. If you are lucky, there will have been a dev that actually plays and understands your chosen class and spec, and thus you will have an engaging play style in BfA and will routinely appear near the top of the charts (if that is something important to you). But if changes were made by a numbers geek who has no clue about the very soul of your chosen class/spec and who frankly could care less, prepare for a couple of years of frustration.

Hmm. I seem cranky today. Maybe I should go check my email.

Dusting off alts

Last night I pulled out my poor neglected mistweaver monk and ran through a couple wings of Antorus the Burning Throne with her. It was pretty grim, but thankfully even really nasty LFR groups seldom pay any attention whatsoever to healers, so I have found it is easier to be very bad on a healer than on a damage dealer or certainly a tank.

Usually within the first half of an expansion I level all my alts. (I don’t have tons of them, only 8 not counting my main or my banker.) I was a little slower doing this in Legion than in previous expansions, mainly because the overhead was so high for my main. But I managed to level all my alts except my demon hunter, which to be honest I am thinking of deleting. (Not a big fan of the DH play style.) After an alt is leveled, I try to gear them up a bit and develop their professions, but then they pretty much sit on the bench until much later in the expansion. Also, I tend to ignore my melee classes longer because I am basically a ranged player at heart. (This is my main objection to monks — I like the mistweaver healing style, but I dislike having to maintain the melee windwalker spec for soloing.)

So in Legion, besides my main hunter, I leveled: another hunter, two mages, a warlock, a rogue, a monk, and a druid. Seven “working alts” total. My “main alt” this expansion is my druid, though I only play resto and balance on her. I’ve never felt the need to have one of every class, although I know a lot of players use that philosophy with alts. I do, though, have at least one of every profession except blacksmithing (because I don’t have any plate wearers, I suppose). In Legion, most of my professions have all the baseline recipes, but they have not progressed to level 3 on all of them. Still, I am pretty self-sufficient for gems, enchants, runes, raid food, etc. (*shhhhhhhh*, don’t tell Ion!) And earlier in Legion, when crafted gear was still relevant, I was able to outfit my cloth, leather, and mail wearers decently.

At any rate, last night I summoned my monk off the bench and put her in the game. Over the years I have developed a definite process for doing this. It invariably goes something like this:

  • Check gear/profession/questline status of alt. Make note of glaring gaps and set those as short term goals. For example, I noted my monk had not done anything beyond the initial Argus quest line. Also her gear level was sitting right at around 900, which I consider to be the minimum, so I will work on increasing it. And of her 3 legendaries, only one was level 1000, so 2 needed to be upgraded.
  • Determine which spec will be main and which will be off for the alt. In Legion, of course, sometimes this requires running through the artifact quest line for a spec you did not level as.
  • Head to Icy Veins or Wowhead for some book learning on the main spec’s crucial stats and baseline rotations. Both these sources often have a section that gives just the “Dummy” versions of recommended rotations, sort of a quick start guide. The main things I try to understand/relearn at this point are the spell dependencies and interrelationships, along with a lifeline rotation I can hang onto until I get more familiar with the spec.
  • Set up my action bars with the spec’s spells.

I actually study this stuff as if there were going to be a quiz on it. I have a notebook with a section for every class/spec I play, and each section lists the stat order of importance, recommended enchants, important spell dependencies, and my basic rotation. This last is very detailed, listing my actual keybinds in order of execution. So it looks something like “1-1-2-2-4-shift1 on CD-6 when it procs”. Sometimes I also copy the rotation sequence to a large sticky and put it on my monitor.

Yeah, I know, I am a nerd. Quit rolling your eyes.

  • Determine the things I will need to keep track of or be reminded of,  check online for an appropriate set of WeakAuras, import them and tweak to fit my needs. If no good ones already exist, I take the time to create my own.
  • Spend some time (usually about a half hour) at the target dummies, developing some initial muscle memory for the baseline rotation(s). Adjust keybinds and/or WeakAuras as necessary.
  • Venture out into the end game world. In Legion that has meant running some world quests and invasions, completing some emissaries, and progressing a bit along content expansion quest lines such as Argus, or part of Broken Shore, or Suramar far enough to get the mask.
  • Take a deep breath and plunge into the current tier of LFR.
  • Continue working on goals set way back in the first step of the process.

In Mists and WoD, I would run each spec through the Proving Grounds, but I have not done that in Legion, as what I need early in my learning curve is practice, not frantic time tests. Usually by the time I have run a couple of LFRs and done several emissaries, I have a good idea of whether or not the alt will be viable for one of our guild alt raids. If I feel it is not ready, I will either take a couple more weeks or just consign it to the “LFR-only” category. (My rogue is like this.)

I do like Timewalkers for alts, because everyone is more or less equalized for gear and whatnot in those, and they yield decent rewards for an undergeared character. Also, if my guild happens to be running groups for the Mythic instance weekly, I will sometimes jump in on one of those with an alt. But I rarely look for Mythic pug groups (even regular Mythic) with an alt. I guess I think if even my main hunter is frequently denied entry to these groups, there is no way I want to put up with the hassle for an alt. Also, I almost never run an M+ on an alt.

Anyway, that’s my prep sequence for dusting off unused alts and getting them into the game. And now it is time to dust off a beer and start the weekend. See you on the other side.

Saddle up

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not much of a collector in WoW. Even though I am a hunter, I usually don’t go out of my way to collect hunter pets, I hate foo-foo “battle” pets, I rarely go after transmog looks, and there are very few mounts I find worthy of pursuing. I understand some people love these aspects of the game, and more power to them, but it is just not my thing.

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Thus, I was more amused than intrigued yesterday when MMO-C posted the video for the new parrot mounts in BfA. Yes, that is correct, a parrot. You know, “Wraaaak! Polly want a potion!” This mighty steed is one of the new BfA mounts, a list that also includes a bee, a frog, a hippo, and several creatures I can only describe as “Whut the hell is that?!?” These mounts will be added to the game stable that includes hundreds of weird, wacky, and whimsical modes of transportation as well as a lot of “regular” ones like horses, elephants, airplanes, motorcycles, boats, well you name it.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the fun aspect of mounts. I have had — and will continue to have — my own giggly moments when I soar or gallop or galumph on some strange creature. And I admit I have actually lusted after a couple of mounts in the game — the Mekgineer Chopper, that Alliance flying boat from Blizzcon 2017, some of the jewelcrafting tigers, the Headless Horsemen mount, the hunter class mount, and assorted  others. And, even though I do not directly chase them, I like getting surprised with a mount from an achievement or as a loot drop. I just checked, and I have 114 mounts. You collectors out there are laughing your asses off at this number and muttering, “Amateur!”, but I mean how many can you ride at one time? Over a hundred is not bad for someone who is really an accidental collector. 😉

The one thing that really annoys me about mounts are the fly-only types that people insist on using on the ground. I really do not see the joy in riding along on something that is awkwardly wallowing along a road like a huge wounded beast, painfully galumphing through an environment it was never meant for. I enjoy soaring through the skies on some of these mounts as much as the next person, but clomping along on the ground, no thank you. Not to mention, it looks really ridiculous. I can’t help but think many of the players who do this on some ginormous bird or the ilk think they are really impressing others, when there are a lot like me who are laughing themselves silly.

Part of this has to do with the limits we all put on our game fantasy. This is an interesting phenomenon about fantasy games — we all set “rules” about which impossible things we will buy into and which ones we will draw the line at. We may easily believe in a world where there are orcs and big slobbering one-eyed monsters and flying horses. We have no problem believing in a world where no one ever has to go to the dentist or wash their clothes or pee or sleep or call their mom or deal with a grumpy spouse. (“You’re questing again today? Sure, go ahead, don’t worry about me stuck here with screaming kids and laundry and meals to fix!”) We do not bat an eye at magical portals or pink trees, or Jurassic-Park type areas full of dinosaurs, or hostile petunias. But when Blizz gave us the time-tunnel version of Draenor in WoD, tons of players cried foul — it struck them as “unrealistic” and a cop-out. Similarly, when Blizz arbitrarily designates some areas as permanent no-fly zones (like Argus), players complain about it not being believable because lots of things are flying there, including some of the very beasts we have tamed as mounts. Or think about this: of all the kinds of mounts there are in the game, there are no automobiles. Why? “Not realistic” in the game. Go figure.

The point is, we all — along with Blizz — draw our own boundaries about things we can accept in the game and things we refuse to accept. Things that are “believable” and things that are not. So, for example, while I can accept the premise of a flying boat, I am pretty sure I will draw the line at riding a damn frog! That’s just ridiculous! Or a lumbering hippo. And I have actually had a parrot in real life, and trust me, they can be nasty and mean and dirty and noisy and they have a vicious beak. No way would I ever try to ride a giant one, even in a fantasy game! None of this has any logic to it, except in my twisted brain, but there it is.

I pretty much stick to having four mounts on my action bar: my Headless Horseman mount, the water strider, my transmog yak, and one random one that I rotate out just for a change. I like the HH mount because it looks good both flying and on the ground, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting I have a ground mount and thus accidentally run off a cliff to my death. Often, early in an expansion when we do not have flying, I like to tool around on my chopper. But mostly I stick to rather mundane, “believable” mounts.

I may, however, have to have a bee. And maybe a bee hunter pet. Because that is totally realistic!

Things that need to be account wide

I have said it before, and my opinion has not changed, Legion is one of the most alt-unfriendly expansions in recent history. I don’t know how it was before Wrath because I did not play alts then, but the last two expansions have seen a steady diminishing of benefits for alts. Coincidentally (?) that is the exact same period as the reign of Mr. Game Director “I Alone Will Dictate How You Will Have Fun” Hazzikostas. (And those of you out there who have like 50 alts and always send me a comment about how easy it is to play a whole stable full of them, just save your breath and bytes, you are flat out wrong. Playing alts in Legion might be less painful if you have 8-10 hours a day to play the game, but for any normal person, it is getting harder and harder to maintain anything but one main character.)

This was driven home to me over the weekend when I took my void elf mage through both the Argus and the enchanting quest lines. It took pretty much the entire weekend, probably a total of 12 hours of play time.

The Argus quest line is not difficult, and I found it passably interesting the first 2-3 times I did it, but after that it is just a long boring grind. The only reason to do it at all any more is to unlock the full set of Argus world quests, which in turn help you to grind AP at a slightly faster rate than on the rest of the Broken Isles.

The enchanting quest line, like most Legion professions, is just painful because of the dungeon requirements. I do not mind doing quests in order to advance a profession, but when every alt with a profession is forced into group activity (including raiding for some of the higher level profession recipes), that seems like an unreasonable imposition of one and only one play style for every character in the game. I got somewhat lucky with my mage, and the queues for the specific dungeons needed for enchanting were only between 10-20 minutes, but please note that this can add over an hour (I think I needed 4?) of time just waiting.

I suppose Blizz’s twisted reasoning here is that by making us go through every quest line on every alt, they are padding their MAU. But for me it really has the opposite effect — there are alts I have just stopped playing because the time sink required to get them to true end game play is just too steep. And by “true end game” I am not even talking about regular raiding or Mythic+ dungeons — just daily emissary quests, some LFR once in a while, the basic profession recipes, and a reasonable shot at level 75 for an artifact weapon. In fact, there are times when I might have an inclination to play the game but the prospect of grinding the same quests are so off-putting that I do not even log in.

I have only a bare bones champion setup in my class halls on most of my alts, because the time sink required to grind the class hall resources and get max gear for them is daunting. And I have not even attempted the full Suramar quest line or the Broken Shore quest line on any alts — the prospect is just too depressing.

Contrast this with the way I played alts in Mists of Pandaria. I really enjoyed taking them all through the Timeless Isle dailies and weeklies, mainly because most of the perks earned were account wide. Even things like the special legendary cape had account wide perks in terms of being able to get to that one boss across the chasm high up. It was fun to have a little practice area for becoming more proficient on various classes, and you could progress to harder areas as your proficiency and gear level increased. It did not seem like a grind because even if the particular alt you were playing did not need any more of the vendor gear, you could get it for a lesser-geared alt. And you could always stock up on it by running your main through every day.

Plus, there was that rep perk, where your alts earned rep at a significantly faster pace once one character had gotten to exalted with a faction.

Those days are long gone.

I am at a total loss for the reasoning behind the change. It is apparently a matter of almost religious belief on the part of Hazzikostas that alts must not, under any circumstances, be played in any kind of role except exactly as a main. There must not be any set of perks that would allow them to, say, be primarily a mat or crafted gear supplier to a main. No, no, no! They must be developed as fully as a main, and their sole approved purpose must be to pursue the exact same end game goals as a main. And in fact, the changes implemented in WoD and most especially Legion all funnel alts into exactly that mode. Why does Blizz give a flying fuck how we play our alts? The more of them we enjoy playing — for whatever purpose — the more we log in. I do not get it, except as a power trip for Hazzikostas: “Not only can I determine for you the manner in which you must have fun, but I can also dictate exactly how you must play your alts.”

Blizz could significantly improve player quality of life in the next expansion by making certain things account wide. Making some of these changes, rather than inhibiting play time, would actually encourage more players to log in more and play alts even towards the end of the expansion when typically they lose interest. Some examples that would benefit:

  • Rep. Ideally, once you earned Exalted status on one character, that would apply to all characters in the same faction on the same server. Or, if that idea is too distressing to Blizz, at least do something like was done in Mists and make subsequent rep significantly faster to gain once one character hits Exalted.
  • Quest lines that open up additional game play. These, too, should be account wide once attained on one character. Blizz gains nothing by forcing the exact same process on every alt. After all, they recognized the boredom factor this entails in leveling, and they instituted the zone leveling concept for exactly that reason: to prevent leveling burnout by following the same path every time. So why not give us a break in the long quest lines at the end of the game? I would argue that the prospect of having to do them again and again actually discourages people from logging in at a certain point rather than forcing them to log in more often and for longer periods of time.
  • Profession leveling. Once you have fully leveled a profession for a given expansion, any additional alts with the same profession should be able to share the recipes immediately. If Blizz fears this would give rise to whole stables full of alts with the lottery-winner profession for that expansion (such as alchemy in Legion), they could limit the total number of crafted items per day or even the number of additional alts with the profession. Even better, they could design an expansion that does not have clear winner and loser professions!
  • Rep-dependent mounts. Same as rep — if you have earned it on one character, why not make it available to alts? (This is not the same as class-dependent mounts.) I refuse to do that stupid fisher rep on any more alts to get the raft — I ground it out on one, saved up my Mists timewalker tokens to get it on another, and that is it. Not going to do it. But I probably would spend more time fishing on alts if I had it. Not a lot, but still more than I do now.

None of these suggestions has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being implemented, but I make them anyway. The thing is, I really believe they would encourage people to play more, because then logging in to play an alt would actually be fun rather than an exercise in grim acceptance of yet another long slog to get to the fun part.

Of course, it would require His Royal Eminence Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas to allow some people to play their alts in a fashion he frowns upon, but possibly he could learn to live with the trauma or at least get counseling to help him accept it.

Alt raiding

Last night our guild did an alt run of Heroic Antorus the Burning Throne. We have been running normal for alt runs, but several people have got their “main alts” to a level where that is not really challenging any more. We set an ilevel requirement of 920 and ended up with something like 15 people. We made it as far as Kin’garoth fairly easily, but wiped repeatedly on him and called it for the night. That boss is really a DPS check (how fast you can down the adds) for the remainder of the raid, a sort of gateway to the hardest final bosses. But all in all it was a fun night, and we got further than I expected.

From a personal standpoint, I did get two tier upgrades on my druid — yay! But my healing was not much more than adequate, and it was only afterwards that I discovered a huge mistake in my keybind setup. Not necessary to go into details, but the result was that what I thought was my keybind for Nature’s Cure was in fact a dupe of my keybind for combat rez. Oops. No wonder I ended up with no debuff dispels on Imonar…. And that pretty much explains why the other two healers were hollering theirs were on cooldown, and for me to cast mine. I kept saying mine was also on cool down, because when I hit the key nothing happened (of course), so I just assumed that was the case. Not one of my finer moments. 🤭 Still, I am learning better techniques for conserving mana and for anticipating damage cycles, so I suppose it was a net learning experience. (Just don’t tell my GM about my faux pas!)

We will still do our Friday night normal alt raids, and at this point I am considering signing my void elf mage up for those, as there really is not anything loot-wise I need from normal for my druid. And heaven knows, I can use the practice on my mage. I expect the first couple of times I will embarrass myself with disgustingly low damage numbers, but hopefully I will improve in fairly short order. I know the DPS fights, it’s just a matter of figuring out how best to do my mage-y stuff for each one.

In truth, I am a tad conflicted about these alt raids. On the one hand, I almost invariably have fun doing them, and I enjoy figuring out how different classes need to interact in the fights. In the long run, I think it makes me a better raider because it gives me a broader perspective and ultimately better raid sense. On the other hand, I am kind of burned out on raiding, and going back to a 2-night per week “schedule” is a bit daunting, especially the heroic runs because I am still really stressed when I heal. But on the third (?) hand, we have four months left yet until BfA, so it is good to have a fun guild-sponsored way to really explore the advantages and disadvantages of my various alt classes and specs.

Plus, there is always alcohol to lessen the healing stress or to add to the Friday night party atmosphere. (🤫) And there is no “requirement” to participate in alt runs, like there is during the regular progression season. Sign up or don’t, whatever you want.

Okay, I talked myself into it.

Now maybe I should figure out which other alts I would like to run through the normal raids. It might be a good way to get an idea of another spec I might want to main in BfA since BM hunters continue to look like a lousy bet.

Yes, I know, I am probably deluding myself with talk of maining another spec in BfA, but I am trying to humor myself. Even given the terrible state of BM hunters now and likely for the entire new expansion, truth be told I am not sure I would ever be able to give up a hunter main. What is more likely is that I will kick dirt and grumble to myself and end up selecting either MM or SV for BfA. Okay, maybe not SV, as I really, really hate that it is melee, plus I am still stinging over the shabby way Blizz yanked this spec out from under me in WoD. Never say never, but I am still of the opinion that it will be a cold damn day in hell when I do melee SV except as a lark. Yes, I am obstinate. (Please feel free to taunt me with this statement if I end up going SV in the next expansion…)

Maybe I will buck the trend and try to do MM, even in raids, with a pet. From what I am reading so far, I doubt doing so will yield worse numbers than BM will. Except for Blizz skewing the numbers to strongly encourage MM hunters to go petless, the spec does seem like it will be engaging to play in BfA, especially with the changes that give it more mobility, along with active focus regeneration, and some decent procs. So far, MM is my  Plan B for BfA (a decent BM being Plan A, but this is looking more and more unlikely). But that does not mean I am not working on Plan C and even Plan D.

Hmmm, another idea for fun with alt runs — switch hunter specs and run as MM or even *shudder* SV….. Just as alts, mind you, not as a real hunter! Plus, I have all the legendaries for both specs.

Definitely worth considering.

Scatterbrained

There is at once so much and so little going on with WoW these days that I am finding it challenging to come up with topics for this blog. The “so much going on” is all quite a ways out yet, and the stuff we are dealing with in Legion now is unfortunately in the “so little going on” bucket. Thus, some extremely scattered thoughts I had over the weekend.

User interfaces. I know I will get some blowback on this, but in my opinion Blizz pretty much stinks at user interfaces in the game. They seem to be easily satisfied with the kind of interface only an elderly software engineer could love — clunky and non-intuitive but adequate to get at the guts of the game. Over the years, I will admit, they have tended to improve some of the more egregious clunkers, but there are a lot left.

Take the bag structure. It used to resemble my Aunt Dorothy’s huge purse — stuffed with everything she had accumulated over years, and none of it could be found without a lot of rummaging. Then a few years ago, Blizz gave us the “organizer” option for bags. That is a laugh. Honestly, I have never been able to figure out what principle they use to determine what item is in what category, you only get the categories Blizz wants to give you, there is no reasonable solution for overflow items, and you are stuck with Blizz’s idea of what “tidy” means if you decide to tidy them up. It is so lousy that they had to amend it a while back and add a feature that made recently-added items glow. Not a bad feature, I will grant you, but it is fickle and annoying if you have looked in your bag to find the new loot you just got, then close it to offer the item up for raffle — when you open the bag again to find the item for trade, it has suddenly lost its glow and you are left to search for it for a long time while the raid leaves both you and your recipient far behind.

Part of why Blizz is so lazy with their interfaces, I think, is because they have the luxury of a large community of addon writers that willingly fix the slipshod Blizz work. For years now, I have used an addon called ArkInventory for my bags (there are several good ones out there), and it has become one of the ones I almost cannot live without, right up there alongside WeakAuras and Bartender 4. It allows me to set up my own categories along with Blizz’s, it lets me see what category Blizz thinks an item is in, and if I don’t like  it I can redesignate the item’s category to another one of theirs or to one I have made up. I can also see my bag as one gigantic storage area and designate areas for each category. (Can apply this to your bank as well, and even to a guild bank if you want because it does not affect the actual way items are stored just how they appear to you.) Each area has a title, for example, “Food”, “Cooking mats”, “Pet Shit”, “Other spec gear”, even a separate one for “Trinkets” so I can easily see the ones I have. I also keep all my legendaries in a separate bin to rapidly sift through them, along with something I call “Gear I Need” to keep the various pieces I rotate as I change out tier and legendaries.

Yeah, the OCD organizer in me loves this app. Blizz could give us the same thing — clearly the capability is there in the code — but they don’t have to make an elegant interface because someone else does it for them.

Another trauma overcome. Many years ago, when I rolled my druid, I decided she would be primarily a healer. I was drawn to the idea that druids can fulfill any role in the game, including either ranged or melee damage dealers. I was about level 60 or 62 when I attempted to heal my first pug dungeon. (Drak’Tharon Keep) I really had zero idea what I was doing, but hey I had healed myself while leveling, puttered around in a couple battlegrounds, and even thrown a few heals at some players who happened to be on the same quest I was on out in the world. How hard could it be?

HAHAHA. It was a disaster. We wiped on the first set of trash in that long hall, and I was immediately kicked, but not before everyone had thrown some well-deserved insults at me. I had failed to grasp the HoT concept for druid healing, thought when someone got low on health I could throw out a heal and be good. These days I laugh at such experiences, but back then I took them very seriously, so seriously in fact that I did not attempt druid healing again for years. When I did, I took care to always be in a raid with other healers, so that I would not have sole responsibility for the group’s survival. Even as I became proficient at druid healing, the 5-man phobia remained.

Until last night. I took a deep breath and queued as a healer for a Timewalker dungeon. My hands were clammy, my heart rate was through the roof, and I was laser focused on every tiny health point for everyone.

Pfffffft. It was a piece of cake. I got through five of them easily. I don’t know what I was worried about. In fact, TW dungeons are so easy to heal I found I had a lot of time for dealing some of my puny damage as well. Another huge dragon built up in my mind was in fact a tiny cute kitty… 😂

LFR. (A never-ending source of blog material) I ran a few LFRs over the weekend, on my void elf mage and my druid. These things really are a study in psychology. In fact, there is someone in my guild who has 12-14 alts and actually loves running LFR on them every week. She is fascinated by the various group dynamics she encounters. Yeah, I know, right, go figure… I am pretty sure I could never go to that extreme on LFR, but it is still interesting to me how vastly different the group experience can be every time. One time you can get a sober, mature group that is helpful to newbies and very patient, and the next group can be toxic and completely dysfunctional.

The LFR queue process, though, is another example of a user interface that Blizz could really stand to improve. I understand it is not simple to do, but there are some really annoying things about it. The one over the weekend that annoyed me was the idea that you can be put into a group in the middle of a raid wing, maybe even for just the last boss in that wing. I understand this has to happen because of course players will drop out at any point in the raid and they need to be backfilled. It is frustrating to have waited for 10-15 minutes to get into a raid, only to only have a shot at the last boss and then get to queue all over again for the same wing. Once recently, that happened to me, and when I requeued I got put into a raid that was on the second of the 3 bosses, so I got to requeue yet one more time! At the very least, Blizz could put you at the head of the queue if that happens to you, and maybe even do some sort of check to make sure you get in on the first boss if you have to requeue.

Last, in what may be the least exciting news lately, Blizzcon 2018 tickets are going on sale shortly. (Yawn) For WoW players, this year’s event is likely to be a real snoozer, since BfA will have already launched months before. I suppose it may come at a handy time to hype the first BfA patch — and possibly a new raid tier — but that is about it. There are a few rumors that there may be an announcement of a Warcraft III remaster, but otherwise the focus will likely be on other Blizz IPs. The virtual tickets will go on sale later this summer, but I think the only way I will be interested is if there is significant inducement in the form of a really cool mount or something (like they did for Blizzcon 2017).

That’s it for this rather boring Monday.

Assholes and idiots

So over the weekend I tried to run a few alts through Antorus the Burning Throne LFR. Okay, I know I was pretty much asking for it by running LFR at the end of the week, but holy guacamole what a loony bin it was. Every time. All I wanted was some gear and AP, maybe some essences for legendary purchase.

Every group was like a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. People running around with no clue how to kill a boss, tanks rage quitting, people yelling in caps at dps below a million, kick votes every few minutes, people afk apparently on purpose, people begging for every piece of gear that dropped even if they were equipped with better stuff, some people trying to explain fights and getting yelled at for it, and trolls all over the place spreading debuffs and pulling early.

I don’t mind when there are people in LFR who do not know the fights, as long as they speak up and say so. I am happy to throw out some quick instructions like “kill adds over boss, stack on purple circles, spread on orange, stand in green, and avoid the flame that comes out of his claw hand” — I mean, that’s really all damage dealers need to know for Kin’garoth. I am even happy to type out instructions for the add groups coming up in Coven — “Get out of middle!” or “Slow/trap adds in corners” etc. And if we wipe once or twice just because it’s a lot to remember and some people just haven’t got the hang of it yet, no big deal. It’s LFR after all.

But what really trips my mad trigger is when there is an asshole in the group purposely causing wipes and killing people. For example, someone deliberately running around tagging people with the one-shot flame debuff in the trash leading to the Burning Throne. We actually had someone doing that yesterday in a group I was in. Luckily, I was healing and also for some reason the only one with a mass rez ability. I tried to get said asshole kicked, but no one was interested enough to follow through, so when we got to the bosses, I simply put him on focus and gave him no heals. To my surprise and delight, no other healers seemed to be very interested in him either, and he died quickly every time. Then after we either wiped or killed a boss, I methodically rezzed everyone individually instead of casting mass rez. He was the only one who had to run back a few times, and we didn’t always wait for him. He was pissed and called me out on it, so I explained gosh I thought he loved dying because he was so keen on causing it, dear me did I misinterpret his actions? He thought it was funny when he was causing it, why was he not amused now?

I’ve written about this before, but for the life of me I just cannot understand why some people do this kind of thing. Why join a raid if you have no interest in doing anything but deliberately screwing it up? I just do not see the attraction in spoiling the game for others. Blizz needs a “group troll” category for reporting these asswipes. LFR is challenging enough usually, without jerks adding to it.

Anyway, like I said, it was a very bad weekend for LFR. All I can think of is the little kids were bored already from spring break and decided to be bratty in WoW. (Trade chat was also worse than usual, so I am assuming the children were all showing off the naughty words they know, always a surefire way to impress others with how grown up you are… Pretty sure lots of them got reported.) Or maybe it was the full moon that brought out the trolls. Whatever, it was not enjoyable.

So much for the “assholes” portion of the post, now on to the “idiots” section.

Another phenomenon I just cannot wrap my head around in WoW is the selling of crafted profession items at prices below — sometimes far, far below — the cost of the mats to make them. And I am not just talking about mats someone can gather — more about that in a bit — I am also talking about mats that have to be purchased at significant cost from a vendor, like the ones for the engineer-made chopper.

I suppose a certain number of these bargain basement items are part of cheating scams — illegal digital clones or being fenced from stolen accounts. There are also a  few items (mostly gems and enchants) sold this way in order to drive competitors out of the market. But there are a huge number of these items coming from people apparently too stupid to understand the concept of profit. They think, for example, that if they spend 6 hours gathering herbs and other mats to craft something, that those mats are “free” and if they sell the item at a few hundred gold, that is clear profit.

I get that WoW is basically a way to waste time, so I suppose there is a certain amount of logic in the idea that your time in game is worthless. But the people who do a lot of time-consuming gathering are not smart enough to see they could actually make more gold by selling the raw mats than by crafting them into an end item. Or maybe they just don’t care about gold and can’t be bothered to do anything other than dump goods as quickly as possible.

But here’s the thing. Constantly underselling items undermines the entire profession system. Even if you yourself don’t give a rat’s ass about profits, there is a significant portion of the player base that does care, for whom professions are the most engaging part of the game. Players who vastly undervalue the market price for their goods are no better than the wipe trolls in LFR. The fact that they may do it out of ignorance or stupidity instead of malice does not change the result: deliberately ruining the game for others.

Early in every expansion there are clear profession winners and losers, and the winners’ products are often sold at outrageous prices. I am not a fan of this, either, but at least that phenomenon is a textbook example of the law of supply and demand. It is true that as the expansion goes on there will be greater supplies of items and for some things (like gear) possibly less demand, a situation that will inevitably result in lower prices and lower profit margins for sellers. But deliberately dumping goods on the market at a net loss is detrimental to the entire system, akin to real world dumping practices. It skews the profession system, and it makes that part of the game less enjoyable for many.

I have no idea how the macro WoW economy works. Blizz would have us believe it is simple market forces, but they have never been shy about putting their thumb on the scale if they think it necessary. Almost certainly, they try to regulate it to one degree or another. They have stated that in BfA they will try to make crafted items relevant for a longer period than they did in Legion (where crafted gear was worthless almost as soon as it could be made). If they are serious about this goal, they will have to implement some mechanism to seriously discourage selling at a net loss. I don’t know what such a mechanism would be, but if they do not do it then anything else they do to extend the relevance of crafted items will fail.

So yeah. Assholes and idiots. Quite a weekend.