I am NOT prepared

Panic buttonIn guild talk last night, someone pointed out it is 10 weeks until Battle for Azeroth goes live. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but when I began to mentally list the things I want to get done before then, my brain began to yammer, “Sound General Quarters! AWOOOOGA! AWOOOOGA!”

BfA release in 10 weeks means we will likely see the pre-expansion patch about a month before the new expansion, or 6 weeks from now. For me, the pre-expansion patch is the effective end of the current expansion, because that is when I make the adjustments to become familiar with the class changes — change out WeakAuras as necessary, take a look at the numbers behind secondary stats, and spend time at the target dummies to develop some new muscle memory. Then I follow this with a few LFR or guild runs through some of the raid tiers to be fairly proficient when the new expansion drops.

But before I start this whole process, I like to feel each of my characters is as caught up in the game as possible. That usually means:

  • Banks and bags are cleaned out and tidied
  • Professions are maxed
  • Gear level is as high as possible for as much as I play each one
  • The spec is the one I expect to level with in the next expansion
  • Any important achievements are done (example in Legion: class mount)

As you might imagine, while this list is not very long, it has a lot of what we used to call “implied missions” for each item. For example, to know which spec I want to level with for each character, I need to do some research to get a few hints about what might be the most fun and/or “best” spec in BfA. That will include some reading as well as a few beta (or soon PTR) test runs in order to decide. Maxing professions would seem to be straightforward, but it almost always involves switching a few around, and of course it takes time to level these new ones up. That is if I decide to level them up — they can still take full part in BfA professions without leveling them up now.

Cleaning out bags and banks is nothing more than tedious. Usually I do not do it far enough in advance to make any real gold in the auction house, what with everyone else cleaning out their stuff, too. So it generally involves a lot of vendoring and mailing around. The mailing occurs when I decide which alt should be the main keeper of whatever mats I decide to save. Sometimes it is obvious, other times not so much. My main hunter is a LW/skinner, but honestly she has so much other junk in her bank that it is not feasible for her to keep all the current leather along with stocks of classic leathers that come in handy. So those go to my bank alt.

I would really love to see an account-wide shared bank tab in this game, but it does not look like it is in the cards any time soon. It would save so much tedious busywork. You would not, of course, be able to put soulbound items in there, but everything else would be so great to have access to by everyone. And while I am on the subject, it seems like it is time to end the small-guild restrictions on bank tabs. (I am talking about the single-member guilds many of us have just for our bank alt.) Why not allow more tabs for these guilds — go ahead and charge the same as for regular guild additional tabs? I suspect it has something to do with meta-storage in the servers, but still it would go a long ways to improving quality of life for many players.

Of course, the other big thing I still need to do is decide what my main will be in BfA. In all likelihood I will end up still as a BM hunter, but for the first time ever I am seriously considering a class switch for main. At this point I have narrowed it down to druid (balance/resto), monk (windwalker/mistweaver), or mage (pick a spec). While WW monk is fantastically fun to play in BfA, our guild already has too many melee raiders, and in the final analysis I really prefer ranged play. I have not looked into MW monk for BfA, so I do not know if that would be a decent raid option if I went with monk as a main.

I really enjoy resto druid play — the mobility strikes me as sort of a hunter style, which I like. But I am not sure about Balance changes in BfA — the one thing I have always hated about them is the excruciatingly long cast times for most spells, combined with the wimpiness of the small number of instant casts. Clearly, more research is needed on my part.

My mage — well, I have got her to artifact level 75 in all specs, and I find each of them engaging to play, though I would say fire is far and above my favorite, followed by frost, with arcane a somewhat distant third. At least in Legion, both fire and frost have quite a lot of mobility, but I have not rolled a mage in the beta yet, so I have no clue what may change, if anything. (My bet is no major changes, since it is well known that Blizz loves mages best!)

Still, if I had to bet, I would bet I will keep my hunter main for BfA. It is, after all, the class I love best in the game and the one I have loved ever since I started to play. But it doesn’t hurt to at least consider a different path.

So, while it may not be quite time yet to push the panic button, my finger is definitely hovering over it. We rally have only about 6 more weeks of Legion left before 8.0 is released. At that point for all practical purposes we will have begun Battle for Azeroth. So much to do, so little time!

Garrisons revisited

A couple of years ago, during Warlords of Draenor, anyone reading this blog would likely have been treated to a rant about how badly Blizz screwed up the whole garrison idea. Garrisons had become a second job, they made the game seem about as fun as spending your weekends cleaning house and mowing the lawn, they were the main cause the social aspect of the game was deteriorating, yada yada yada.

Well.

Last week I was doing some profession switching in preparation for Battle for Azeroth, making sure I had one of each crafting profession and getting most of them to level 800 before August. Recall that in BfA, you will level only the current profession recipes, and if you want to go back and learn recipes from earlier expansions there is a mechanism for doing those separately. My hope is that if you start BfA with a level 800 profession, you will not have to go back to learn the earlier stuff, you will automatically get credit for it. That’s how it should work, but I long ago learned not to count on Blizz to do the logical thing.

At any rate, while grinding out skill-ups, I rediscovered the usefulness of the WoD garrison. It is, of course, required if you want to learn the WoD crafting recipes, but it is especially terrific for leveling gathering professions — herbs, mining, even fish. (It is less useful for leveling skinning. But skinning is quick to level anyway.)

The key for leveling gathering professions is to get a level 3 mine or herb garden. (You can increase the number of work orders by assigning a champion to work in them, and also by getting a level 3 storehouse, but those things do not help you level up, only the actual gathering does.) Additionally, if you apply a small amount of effort, you can get a bank and an auction house, making it easy to dispose of your gathered materials without having to commute somewhere. (There are also vendors in the garrison if you just want to vendor your stuff.) Last, since all of Draenor is just outside your garrison, once you have gathered the daily take from your mine or herb garden, you can easily keep leveling, up to 700, by running gathering routes just outside your garrison gate. What’s not to love? Oh, and of course, you can get to your garrison with the special hearthstone, and if you need to run back to Stormwind for something and your Dal hearthstone is on cooldown, you can portal to Stormshield via your level 3 garrison tower in the back and from there quickly portal to Stormwind and a couple of other cities.

So the leveling potential in my garrison was kind of a forehead-slapping moment once it percolated through my brain. What I did not anticipate was the comfortable, homey feeling I would get when I went back. Seriously, it was like when you have been traveling for a long time and finally get home and kick off your shoes and sink into your favorite chair — “Ahhhhh”. I just would not have expected myself to have that kind of reaction, given how much I disliked garrisons when they were current.

Ever since Mists, I have considered my little Sunsong Ranch to be “home” for my characters. I always liked the cozy small room with the bed and neat shelves and bubbly stew on the stove, and to this day I frequently take a character there to spend the night or a couple of weeks if I know I won’t be logging in on them for a bit. It’s silly, I know, but somewhere in the back of my mind I feel good knowing they are in their own little place, snug and safe. This is the reason I have always gone to the trouble to become exalted (besties) with all the Tillers and have done the full Sunsong Ranch quest line on every alt.  I really value that little one-room place that is your character’s very own.

But now that garrisons are in the rear view mirror and I have had some time to distance myself from them, I am finding that I have similar feelings about them. While the Town Hall is not generally what I would describe as “cozy”, it does have a certain appeal — some of my characters have spent many a night sitting by the fire in the mission room, where I imagine they have come in weary and cold and pulled off their boots and clammy socks and warmed their feet while sipping a hot toddy, and fallen asleep in the chair because they were too exhausted to find a bed.

I also really enjoyed standing at the garrison gate and watching my champions walk out to start their missions — in my opinion this was one of the most clever mechanics in WoD. I really got a kick out of waving them goodbye, watching them march off in twos and threes to fight the good fight.

Upon occasion, I have also commandeered the gardener’s cottage in the herb garden. In my opinion, this would be a perfect and easy way to give players some housing — just kick the gardener out and put up a “Commander’s Residence” sign in the front, maybe add in a couple of quest lines to get some decorations for the inside. That way, Blizz can claim they are really not giving in on player housing (since they would not be adding much new), and players could actually have a house, everybody wins. They will not do this, of course, because they are stubborn shitheads, but still it is a nice idea.

I suppose almost anything looks better in retrospect, after all we generally like to forget the bad parts of experiences and remember the good parts. I suspect my newfound nostalgia for garrisons is part of the same foggy hindsight driving the desire of some players to go back to a classic WoW experience — I choose not to remember the parts I hated and instead remember only the sitting-by-the fire contentment. Of course, it also helps that now when I visit my garrison it is completely voluntary — I do not feel like Blizz is demanding I participate in a certain end game play style, because, well, it is no longer the end game part. I admit that I am prone to a certain amount of bull-headedness, too, in that the more I feel like I am being required to do something, the less I want to do it, even if left to my own resources I might actually like the activity. That is stupid and illogical, but there it is. (Yeah, for those of you wondering, I was like that in my soldier days, too, resulting in me being considered either an “independent thinker” or a “troublemaker”, depending on the commander I worked for. I actually valued both labels.)

So, as we draw closer to a new expansion, I am learning to love one of the previous ones. If that means my rear view mirror is smudged, I really don’t feel like cleaning it.

 

More on BfA professions

Standard disclaimer — if you want to be completely surprised about everything when Battle for Azeroth goes live, don’t read this.

Over the weekend I did a little more investigation of professions in Battle for Azeroth. For myself, it is one thing to read a general description of how they will work and another to actually see the system in action. There is still not a lot I could find, but I did get a couple of screen shots and saw a bit more of the new system in play.

Crafting professions

Recall that the next expansion will see the compartmentalization of professions into groups organized by expansions. The basic groups are:

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This is a tailoring screen, but the categories are the same for all crafting professions.

In the screen shot above, the little boxes are for keeping track of your progress in each category. I do not know if “progress” for each means a sort of leveling up to a proficiency  number, or if it is more of a tally of the number of each pattern or recipe or what have you for each category. It is, however, expressed as x/y (for example, 1/100).

(As we are not yet permitted to import Legion characters into the beta, and as I have not maxed out any new characters in a profession, all I can show is what the interface looks like when you first learn a profession. I assume when the expansion goes live, if you have characters who have had the same crafting profession for several expansions, that most or at least many of the categories will be already maxed out.)

As you can see from the screen shot, there is a baseline “vanilla” category and one for each of the expansions — BC, Wrath, Cata, Mists, WoD, Legion, and BfA. You have to get training for each category, and when you first do so you are given a few of the recipes for that expansion. To complete the category, you simply pursue more recipes and experience in that geographic area — visiting trainers, making items, getting random drops, or soloing old instances and raids. In other words, you learn the profession for each category the same way players did when the particular expansion was current. I think this means — though I am not 100% certain — that includes earning the appropriate faction rep for some of the recipes.

Here’s an example of what I am talking about when I say you get “a few” basic recipes to start you off:

bfa-tailor-learned

Where do you train for each category? You can train vanilla and Cata in your capital city. For the other categories, you must visit the geographic area of that expansion to train for that category. However, you can train in a new profession anywhere there is a trainer — in that case you will train in vanilla and in the baseline category for the area you are in. You go to the same trainers players went to when that particular expansion was current, so that means sometimes they are scattered about in the expansion’s geographic area. For example, I took a character to Hellfire Peninsula, to Shattrath, and I was able to learn baseline vanilla blacksmithing as well as baseline Outlands blacksmithing from Kradu Grimblade in the Lower City. I had to go back to Stormwind to train Cata blacksmithing baseline.

I have not yet discovered how you unlock the quest lines for crafting professions. For gathering professions, you get the quests the same way as you did for Legion — that is, the quest breadcrumb pops up randomly for you when you gather mats and you turn it in back at your trainer, where you will get some follow-ons.

Gathering professions

Gathering professions will eventually — I think — work pretty much the same as crafting professions — that is, they will have expansion categories you can level up in, and in general you need to train for them in the geographic areas for the particular expansion. So for example if you train herbalism in Tiragarde Sound, you get baseline herbalism plus Kul Tiran herbalism. That is how I think they will work.

However, they seem thus far to be incomplete.  Skinning and herbalism offer only some of the categories thus far. Mining seems to offer all categories, but you can only train in vanilla. Same with skinning as far as initial training goes, plus even when you train, you do not get any skill ups for actually skinning beasts (possibly due to the fact that you cannot train in Kul Tiran skinning).

Here’s what I mean about skinning categories — note these are “unlearned” even though I trained with the Tiragarde Sound skinning trainer.

bfa-skinning-unlearned

And the only categories I was able to learn were vanilla and Cata (though I had to go to Stormwind to learn that — if you train in KT you only thus far get vanilla):

bfa-skinning-learned

As to abundance of gathering mats, it is too soon to tell. Blizz is still working on node locations, so sometimes you will not have any mining nodes, or you may have masses and masses of herbs.

And of course the bad news is that, when you do finally get profession quest lines unlocked, nearly every profession (gathering included) will require running group activities such as dungeons and eventually raids to complete them. Most players absolutely hated this feature in Legion, so of course Blizz doubles down on it in BfA.

Still, that horrible Blizz practice notwithstanding, I do think professions in BfA are a slight improvement over Legion. I will try to level my LW up a bit as I continue leveling my character, so as to have more info on crafted items at higher levels.

That’s it for today.

Profession improvements?

Standard disclaimer — if you want to be completely surprised about everything when Battle for Azeroth goes live, don’t read this.

I have been reading up on the changes to professions in Battle for Azeroth. (Much of the information comes from data mining, as the actual profession implementations in the beta are still kind of sketchy.) With a few caveats — discussed below — I think there is some potential for some decent profession fun and/or profit and/or usefulness.

There are a couple of big changes to professions in BfA. The first is that each profession will have groups of recipes you can learn, sorted by expansion. Also, the max profession level will be 200. What I think this means for structure is that you will reach level 200 in your professions by progressing through the expansion’s quest lines, crafting current items or gathering current mats. Then, if you are so inclined, you will be able to go back and learn recipes from previous expansions, though it seems likely that doing so will not advance your profession level. (Perhaps there will be achievements for learning each expansion’s recipes or even for learning all the previous ones from every expansion. This is conjecture on my part.)

I think the fact that you will max out at level 200 is a good thing, as it probably means that is attainable pretty much by completing the current expansion’s profession requirements and crafting/gathering a bit more. In Legion (and for a couple of previous expansions), it has been possible to start a new profession from scratch and actually reach level 800 on it just by concentrating on the current expansion profession items, but it is interminably slow to do so. Take herbalism as an example. It is certainly possible to reach level 800 on it just by gathering herbs on the Broken Shores and Argus, but it is more difficult to do so than it is to go back and gather profession-advancing herbs in lower levels, where the mobs are trivial and herbs are often more abundant with a lot less competition for them.

It’s unclear to me exactly how the new system will work out for gathering professions in terms of getting “recipes” for previous expansions. I suspect it will take the form of, say, gathering X amount of herbs from Pandaria or Draenor or whatever. For crafting professions, it almost certainly will consist of obtaining X number of expansion-specific recipes. Basically, as I understand it, you will be getting “certified” for your profession for each previous expansion. But this will in no way — so far as I know — affect your ability to max out the profession in BfA.

This new system was pretty much inevitable as the game ages. Originally, the idea was to advance in your professions at the same rate as you advance in character level, but that synchronicity has not existed for several years. Even with the new leveling difficulty, you will advance your character level at a faster rate than you will your profession level, unless you decide to spend significantly more time in each zone than is necessary for character leveling.

At any rate, I am optimistic that this part of BfA professions will be an improvement. I wonder, though, about some of the economic implications of it. For example, will there be a lot more pre-BfA herbs available in the auction house if herbalists decide to go back and get pre-BfA certifications? Will Blizz come up with new uses for these older herbs, or  will they turn out to be mere vendor trash? Crafted gear fares better, as there is a market for many of these items for transmog, but some items — JC neck pieces and rings for example — are currently pretty worthless. (Might Blizz actually make these items visible on characters? I doubt it, but it would be a way to make them less worthless.)

The second significant change in professions is the attempted viability of crafted items for a longer period of time in the expansion. Some time ago Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas announced that crafted gear in BfA would remain useful longer than the approximately one week that Legion gear was. When he said this, I envisioned gear that could be upgraded to reasonable ilevels as the expansion wore on. But now it is becoming clear this is not the path Blizz will take. Instead, there will be a whole buttload of crafted gear with individual situation-specific features. For example, tailors will craft a cloak to reduce threat, one to prevent dazing, and one to slow falls. There are alchemist trinkets called “tinctures” that will give you some different combat buffs such as healing or flask enhancements.

I think of these changes to crafted items as a watered-down version of Legion legendaries — something for every special purpose. The good part is that the BfA ones are not random drops but rather items you can buy or craft. The bad part is they contribute to what has become a continuous gear shuffle, depending on what situation you are facing. In BfA, it looks like we can once again expect to have to lug around a whole closet full of gear, so as to pick and choose what we need for a given role or situation. (Come on, Blizz, for crying out loud, give us a gear closet tab like the ones for mounts or pets, so that we can get back to using our packs and banks for actual loot and mats…)

Also, if the various useful gear such as special-purpose cloaks do not keep pace with general gear levels in BfA, they will quickly become as worthless as crafted gear in Legion. And if there are upgrade mechanisms, these need to be able to be applied to non-soulbound items so that crafters can offer contemporary level gear for sale, rather than trying to sell low level gear and expect the buyer to upgrade it on their own.

We will see.

Last, which professions will be winners and which will be losers in BfA? With the stipulation that things could change (though they are not likely to), here is what I see. (Of note, almost every crafting profession will be able to craft weapons again.)

  • Tailors could be big winners. Not only do they have the special cloaks I mentioned (assuming these can keep pace with gear levels), but they also will craft battle flags that give certain group buffs, nets that mimic hunter traps, new 30- and 32-slot bags, and apparently most of the new first aid items (usefulness to be determined, but they will likely be the only ones providing them). If you gave up your tailor in Legion because it was mostly useless, it might be time to dust it off again.
  • Inscriptionists also look like winners in BfA. They will craft the normal glyphs (plus some new ones for druids) and vantus runes, but they will also craft one-time lockpicking scrolls for locks up to 550, and “contracts” with factions that will award more faction rep for world quests.
  • Engineers get a whole host of cool gadgets useful for everyone, not just the engineer. They can craft a new tinker-toy looking helicopter mount that will allow gathering without dismounting. They will once again craft scopes and such for ranged weapons, along with such nifty things as a gizmo that allows you to change the look of your armor, and — Attention hunters — a portable stable master.
  • Enchanters, alchemists, and jewelcrafters will remain viable because of the continuing needs for their consumables.
  • Other crafting professions each have one or two items that will be popular. LW can craft a new bow — yay! unless it looks like the ridiculous Lego gun that was the hidden artifact appearance in Legion. LW also will craft “diving suits” — I guess to allow extended underwater ops without having to surface to breathe. Blacksmiths can craft a repair gizmo for individual use.

Basically, my guess for relative value of professions in BfA, in order, is:

  • Tailoring
  • Engineering
  • Inscription
  • Alchemy, enchanting, and jewelcrafting because of the continuing need for consumables
  • Everything else

In general, I am fairly excited about professions in BfA. Here’s hoping they do not disappoint me.

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.

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.

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.