Chromie? Really?

Am I the only one who does not get the whole Deaths of Chromie thing? Last night, as I was desperately trying to find something besides the new raid tier to get excited about in 7.2.5, I watched the MMO-C video on the Chromie scenario and read all of their detailed notes.

I still don’t get it. To me, it looks like a whole bunch of annoyance for a less-than-stellar cosmetic fluff reward, a title, and a mount. Maybe I am puzzled because I am not very big into transmogging or mounts, whereas players who really love these aspects of the game will be over the moon at the prospect of spending hours listening to Chromie’s headache-inducing squeak.

If I understand the scenario right, here are its “features”:

  • A series of five quests that bring you into the various sub-scenarios run out of Wyrmrest Temple. The last 2 quests seem to require a significant amount of dedicated play time in one chunk.
  • A garrison class hall set of class hall traits talents you “research” or something over time. (The visual representation of these is the same exact model of the class hall research traits.) Only when you accomplish all of these do you have a chance at completing the final part of the quest line/scenario. I think, by a quick calculation, that earning these talents takes a minimum of 10 days.
  • You must earn rep with Chromie. I am not clear on the reason for this, but it can apparently be done by moving through the various portals and killing mobs.
  • You are auto-bumped to level 112 with gear level 1000. (This should tell you something.)
  • You must clear each portal separately before you may move on to the final scenario. The first time you clear each, you must do a full clear of all trash plus boss(es). Subsequently, you may go directly to the boss in each.
  • The next-to-final quest puts you in a scenario where you must clear all portals in one go.
  • The final quest/scenario requires you to complete all portals in a total of 15 minutes. If not, presumably you must start over.

None of this sounds fun to me, nor do the rewards motivate me to suffer through it. I hate timed events anyway, they are too nerve-wracking for me to enjoy them, certainly I do not see them as part of what is supposed to be a leisure activity. Also, I absolutely do not see how this event relates in any way to the lore story of Legion.

The whole idea strikes me as one of those things an intern came up with and their supervisor said sure go ahead and develop it, just to give them something to do and stay out of everyone’s hair. Either that, or the dev team got marching orders to come up with something — anything — that would continue to boost Blizz’s Monthly Active User stats over the final days of the second quarter earnings period. Whatever, this Chromie thing strikes me as the WoD jukebox and Pepe events of Legion — a total time-filler, designed only to keep some number of players from becoming bored and disgruntled enough to stop playing until the next expansion.

Legion has reached the point where, other than raid tiers, there is little left to keep some players engaged. Hard core types and semi-casuals will do the raid tier, and along the way will do enough Mythic+ dungeons to slightly increase their chance to get the new legendaries. (However, even this activity is nerfed in 7.2.5, since there are no more multiple chests, so the payoff is significantly less in terms of legendary chances.) World Quest AP awards are largely insignificant and probably not worth the time once one has reached the billion+ AP requirement for a Concordance increase. Neither WQs, world bosses, nor BS dailies will give gear awards worth anything to anyone with even 875 or so ilevel. For these players, only the raid tier will yield the gear needed including t20. For non-raiders, Tomb of Sargeras will not be available in LFR until starting June 27, then will release new wings in 2-week intervals over the summer through August 8.

Add to this mixture the fact that it is summer when people typically stop playing computer games in favor of lots of outdoor activities, and I suppose if you are Blizz you are pretty desperate for anything to keep your second quarter metrics from falling off the chart. Clearly, adding in hours of quality time with Chromie indicates desperation.

Look, I know there are a lot of you who will love this little Chromie part of 7.2.5. More power to you, I hope you will have fun with it. But for me, if I ever do it, it will be in the waning days of Legion, when there is absolutely nothing else to occupy my time. Even then, I think farming mats would be more enjoyable for me.

Tomorrow is a 10-hour announced patch day to implement 7.2.5. That strikes me as a very long time. Let’s hope it is overkill on Blizz’s part, not that they are anticipating having a rough patch. See you on the other side.

Of mounts and imagination

Well, I got my hunter class mount last night. It is definitely cool, and I say this as someone who normally does not give a hoot about mounts — mostly I just think of them as transportation. Until last night, my main mount has been the Headless Horseman mount, which I got years ago the first time I ran the world event instance and have used ever since.¬†I have always liked the HH mount because the movement mechanics flow gracefully whether it is in the air or on the ground — unlike most of the other flying mounts that may look impressive in the air but ridiculous waddling along on the ground.

I usually keep 3-4 mounts hot-keyed. HH is the main one, but at the start of an expansion (when we are ground bound), I switch it out for the Mekgineer Chopper, which I like mostly because I am amused at how certain alts look on it, especially my worgen, my panda, and my gnome. I also keep the Azure water strider from Mists on my action bar, because it is just so handy to have quickly available.

The third action bar mount is my Grand Expedition Yak. I actually just bought this about a month ago, because I am a real miser with my gold and it seemed like an unnecessary luxury. Prior to the yak, I had the much cheaper Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth, which does pretty much the same thing except transmogging. I found this mount to be invaluable while solo questing or leveling, because of the repair and vendoring functions. And its utility has only gotten more important with our dwindling bag space. I must admit, though, the upgrade to the GEY is very nice, because, well, it means I can always be well dressed in the field, no need to run around looking like a rummage sale until I can make it back to a city with transmog NPCs. ūüėČ (The one improvement I would most like to see on the GEY would be a mailbox.)

I usually reserve a fourth action bar space for a “mount du jour” — something just for variety. Maybe it is a new mount I have gotten, or an old one I haven’t used in a long time. Most often it is some kind of fiery mount, because even though I am not a big collector, I do like the ones with fire themes. If I know I will be doing a lot of underwater work, I will put my sea turtle in this fourth slot.

All this is by way of saying I usually do not go out of my way to collect mounts. But I liked the hunter class mount from the moment I saw the first pictures and videos of it. It combines the two animals I like most in the game — wolves and birds of prey. And the movement mechanics are nice. On the ground it moves like a wolf, but in the air it soars with the grace and ease of a hawk on a high thermal. Actually, in that aspect it is even better than my trusty HH steed, which rather awkwardly continues to move its legs and feet in the air. The wolfhawk looks at home in either medium.

The main thing I dislike about my new hunter mount is, once again, Blizz has felt the need to give a terrible sound to the summoning action. Instead of a whistle or even just silence, they have reused the same obnoxious sound they use for Bestial Wrath — ¬†something that sounds to me like you are having a very hard poop.

This is a constant annoying thing Blizz does: they come up with some of the most creative, elegant designs, then it’s like they lose interest or get tired of the idea and finish up the details in an amazingly slipshod manner, anything to get it done and move on. It drives me crazy.

I was thinking about this a couple of days ago while flying to Broken Shore. The flying mechanism has some terrific details. For example, if the zone you are in is sunny, you can see a very realistic-looking shadow of yourself and mount far down on the ground keeping perfect pace with your progress. It is a small artistic detail that most of us would not miss if it were not there, but which raises the level of the whole experience when you notice it. But on the other end of the spectrum, if you look closely at many of the riding postures in the game, frequently there are no reins — the rider has their hands in a rein-holding position, but in fact there is nothing there. Why go to such incredible detail to put in a tiny ground shadow, then neglect something as basic as rendering the artwork for reins?

Which in a roundabout way brings me to the hunter quest line for the class mount. It, too, was an example of incredible creativity combined with incredible laziness and lack of imagination.

Let’s start with the latter. The first thing I was confronted with when I got to Broken Shore to finish the Breaching the Tomb achievement and unlock the class mount quest line was — wait for it — “Kill 100 demons on Broken Shore”. No, I am not making that up. My first thought was, this must be a glitch because we just had a kill-100-demons quest a couple of weeks ago. Nope. No glitch, just a breathtaking lack of originality or indeed of any thought process whatsoever. The previous demon-killing quest got a lot of well deserved ridicule at the time, so I really don’t know what more can be said of the most recent one. It did not take long to do if you found a group doing Sentinax portals — less than 5 minutes in my case. Which begs the question, why even have it?

Blizz, in response to a lot of criticism of the whole BS weekly quest line, actually admitted that yes the quests were “fillers”, but hey they needed a breather so they could work on the next patch and stuff. Okay, I get it, they have somewhat overextended themselves with their commitment to “content” in Legion, and they needed to throw in some time wasting stuff so they could catch up. But sheesh, two “Kill 100 demons” quests almost back to back in the same quest line? That is either a staggering lack of imagination or a staggering refusal to give a shit. And it is yet another example of Blizz’s recent too-frequent tendency to abandon its commitment to excellence in favor of a commitment to good enough.

But once the hunter class mount quest line was unlocked, I had great fun. I will not spoil it for those of you who have not yet done it, but suffice it to say I found the final scenario to be imaginative, perfectly in line with the hunter class, and a whole lot of fun to do. It was neither too long nor too short, and the artwork and animation were just stupendous. The story line hung together, and it made perfect sense to get the mount at the end. I was almost sad when I realized that I would not get to do it again on my alt hunter — it turns out that the class mounts are account bound, assuming you have two of the same class and spec. (I do not know how it works out if you have two of the same class but different specs, but I assume your second character only has to advance their spec artifact to Concordance to be able to buy that spec’s class mount.)

I have not done any of the other class mount scenarios, so I don’t know if they are as engaging as the hunter one. I have heard some grumbling from some of my guildies — mainly priests and druids — that the class mounts are barely worth the effort, but beyond that I cannot say. I do know that the hunter wolfhawk was totally worth it for me.

Alt reality

As I have written over the last few posts, I am starting to develop some of my alts in Legion. What I should say is I am trying to do so, but it is a long, frustrating road. This was driven home to me last night as I was working on my little gnome destro warlock, who has herbalism and tailoring as professions. It seems like everywhere I turn, every part of progression for this alt runs smack dab up against huge roadblocks, usually in the form of dungeon or raid requirements but also in the form of very specific zone progressions, for even the most basic accomplishments.

All I wanted was a few upper level tailoring patterns and to complete the Champions of Legionfall achievement so I could finish up my last two class hall order advancement ranks.

What a journey through frustration it has been. And no, I have not reached either goal yet.

Start with the tailoring. I had only gotten as far as getting the blue tailoring items. So I dutifully took up the quest line again. Just the basic quest line (38 quests, some of which are time gated) requires the running of 3 separate dungeons. This gets you two upper level (“imbued silkweave”) items. However, to even get there, you must complete enough of the Suramar quest line to get the Suramar City mask, as all your upper level items must be crafted in a certain Suramar building. If you want to craft useful bags, you must run two mythics — upper and lower Kara. Additional upper level items — beyond the chest and bracers you get from the basic quest line — require achieving exalted with multiple (four, I think) factions and completing¬†one or two additional quests. After you do all this, you will be at skill level 1 for your patterns. I am assuming the remaining skill levels are parsed out by the RNG gods at some rate similar to Nomi’s recipes, which is to say one or two every few months, assuming you pursue them every day.

Late edit: You can, in fact, buy several of the imbued silkweave patterns, level 1, from vendors scattered about, and they do not all require exalted rep or extra quests.

Champions of Legionfall achievement. The kicker for this one is, it requires completion of the entire previous class hall campaign, which is a 47-quest project that includes two required dungeons, Black Rook Hold and Vault of the Wardens for warlocks. I got to step 36, which is Vault, and was stymied because I could not find a group to do it. Frustrating does not really begin to describe it.

Here’s the thing. Most of us did these quest lines on our mains — Yes, they were annoying because Blizz designs quest lines not for the fun and enjoyment of the players but rather for how long they can drag them out and thus improve their MAU metric for the stockholders. But we and our friends were doing similar ones at the same time, and we usually had some help with the dungeons and even the raids later on for higher skill level patterns and recipes. But when you are leveling an alt, it is unlikely anyone else in your guild is at the same spot in their alt progression. Even if you are in an active and helpful guild, it is a real imposition on guildies to ask them to run a specific normal or heroic dungeon just so you can get that one recipe or that one warlock class hall campaign quest completed.

Yes, I know there is the auto group finder and the custom group finder. They are useless, especially if you are a dps. Over the weekend, I waited a total of 3 hours to get into a Vault group, and was unsuccessful. There were a total of zero custom groups forming for that dungeon, which is a crap shoot anyhow since my lock hovers around 870 ilevel, and of course that is garbage if you are looking to join a group for anything. I tried forming my own group Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and the most interest I got — during prime evening play time — was 2 additional dps.

Basically, I have hit a wall on my lock for advancing either my profession or my order hall campaign — and thus, of course, also my gear progression since I cannot so far unlock my third relic slot and thus my artifact weapon level seems stuck. Could I prevail on one of our guild tanks or healers to help me run Vault or the Karas? Yes, but honestly I have already done that for the previous dungeons I needed, and I am someone who hates to beg for help especially if it will inconvenience others. My other option is to beg to be included in some of the mythics and M+ runs they do several times a week, but that, too, would be pure charity as I would have to be carried in order to complete them.

And the requirements for dungeons and raids to progress are not even the worst requirements of the game. Some professions require running rated battlegrounds to progress. Rated battlegrounds! Not just random ones, but rated, where if you are not a dedicated pvp player already in a regular group, you must ask a group to carry you, and in doing so they likely will diminish their own rating just to help you out.

These kinds of dead ends are the most demoralizing parts of Legion, in my opinion. There are no alternate paths, no player options. If you don’t want to give up (which is apparently fine with Blizz, they seem to be in dream-smashing mode these days), there really is no way to get past them other than to hope for some good luck.

Which, in a way I guess, kind of summarizes the state of the game these days: hope for good luck. Skill and perseverance are becoming less and less important, unless you are talking about persevering in rolling the dice.

Blizz has done a few superficial things in Legion to “help” alts — speeded up some of the champion mission times, added the catchup mechanism for artifact research, made flying account-wide. I am not knocking those things. But they have, as usual, failed to acknowledge a basic flaw in their design, much less do anything about it. Or worse, they know it is annoying and frustrating for players — that it limits the potential for advancement for many — and they do not give a damn. I do not mind running long quest chains to achieve my alt goals, and I grumble but do not really mind grinding things like reputation to advance my alts. But when I get to the point — multiple times for almost every progression goal — where there is nothing I can do on my own to advance, when I must either beg or hope for assistance from others, then I feel stymied and angry. And that is NOT fun.

Gadgeteers and purists

Last night as I launched a new sim on my Balance druid, it occurred to me that I rely a lot on third party sites and addons to play this game. I mean, really, a lot. Here is a sample, off the top of my head:

  • Over 20 addons — DBM, GTFO, ArkInventory, Weakauras, Bartender4, Healbot for my healers, Shadowed Unit Frames, Pawn, Tradeskill Master, Skada, World Quest Tracker, TomTom, Paste — to name a few.
  • Wowhead — my go-to site for guidance on where to find patterns and recipes, mats needed for crafting, various Legion guides, gear info, transmog ideas, and quest info. The latter is especially important to me. If I run into a problem with a quest, I immediately turn to Wowhead for solutions to whatever is stopping me. I am not worried about “spoilers”, I am just interested in finishing the quest and moving on, and I derive no satisfaction from figuring it out on my own after beating my head on a rock for hours or days. Thank goodness for the Wowhead users who unselfishly post their insights into quests as soon as they get them figured out.
  • Icy-Veins — I use this for class/spec info as well as for quick and dirty raid guidance. When I am coming back to an alt I have not played in a while, it is always my first stop to brush up on rotations, talent builds, and the order of stat importance. In Legion, I use this site to make my way through artifact traits and to get their list of BiS legendaries. The class/spec guides are always up to date and are written by world class players. I can’t imagine trying to figure out a rotation on my own for every alt by evaluating the various spell and talent and artifact interactions.
  • Sims. I use SimC on my own computer, and I also use web sites like Beotorch and recently Raidbots to run quick sims for importing into my Pawn addon. I know sims are only partially useful, but honestly I do not know of a better way to evaluate the complex factors in gear these days. (It would be interesting, I think, to compare the results for a player using all these complicated methods to select gear and talents versus selecting solely on the basis of ilevel increases and gut feeling for talents. I wonder if there would actually be much difference?)
  • Quest guides. I confess I use a quest guide to speed my way through leveling and also through dailies, profession quest lines, class hall quests, artifact quests, and even long achievement chains. (I am not going to say the one I use because it is a paid service and I do not want to plug a commercial product.)

There are probably a few more outside resources I use, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately. As I said, it’s a lot.

I know there are purists out there who are horrified by a list like this. I respect that point of view. Intellectually, I am even drawn to it, but realistically I am far too impatient to actually try to deal with a Blizz-only interface.

The native game UI itself, to me, is clunky, un-intuitive, and not responsive to player preferences. This opinion is reinforced every time I log in to the PTR and have to set up the Blizz-only interface. It just does not work for me, from the lack of raid frame options to the multiple-bar action bar setup and separate keybind interface, to the horrible bag space viewer, to the inability to set up reasonably-located spell cues and proc notices.

Additionally, the game flow — especially in Legion — seems confusing to me, possibly even deliberately vague. Blizz sometimes thinks they are running a puzzle game, not an adventure MMO, and they love to obfuscate in the name of “challenge”. Sometimes, for example, quests follow logically from one to the next, but equally as often you have to search for the next series without knowing whether or not it is a line you are interested in or where it might lead. And the “secret” quests — they are not my cup of tea. If I wanted to figure out puzzles, I would be playing a different game than WoW. I honestly cannot imagine a new player figuring all this out for themselves with zero outside help.

So I tend to go a bit overboard in third party assistance. I know this. I wish it were¬†not necessary for my enjoyment of the game, but it is. In an ideal world, Blizz would provide a wide range of player options, permitting an approach like mine as well as the purist one. But even I know that is not really possible — they seem to have all they can do to keep the game from imploding without adding in a lot of complicating player-option code.

To be fair, periodically they co-opt some third party ideas and try to bring them into the native interface, but to my eye they usually do it badly. For example, there is the in-game Dungeon Journal now, a Blizz version of third party raid and instance explanations. It’s okay, but it falls short of most outside¬†ones, in my opinion. The bag-sorting algorithm introduced in WoD is a slight improvement over what we had before, but it does not come close to the categorizing and display options in an addon like ArkInventory. I could give a lot more examples, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I do not think I would continue to play this game if I could not use third party resources to the extent I do. I like gadgets and gizmos and convenience and efficiency too much to give them up. Those of you who are purists, I salute you — try not to judge me, I am weak!

Is quantity content?

Last night as we were cranking out our weekly H Nighthold farm run, there was a semi-lively discussion of Legion — mainly Patch 7.2 but also Legion in general. No great insights, but the comments did start a few chains of thought for me, focused on the whole idea of “content” that is Blizz’s main claim for Legion.

Patch 7.2 gave us a lot of new quests, no doubt about it, but beyond the one big “The Legion is coming, the Legion is coming!” story, there is not a lot to advance the expansion. The daily and weekly quests on Broken Shore are not much more than “Kill 20 demons/harpies/spiders or fill up this progress bar.” Ya, okay, there is a space ship, so that means we are dealing with interplanetary travel pretty soon — hardly a new¬†revelation. And there is poor doubt-wracked Anduin, dithering and wringing his royal hands over whether or not he can step into his father’s boots. (I actually liked the Anduin quests, especially the last cutscene, but they were hardly significant in the Legion story. And for crying out loud, what rule dictates that every escorted NPC must walk as slow as my Great Aunt Dorothy?)

What I am getting at is that I see almost zero creative effort in the 7.2 quest lines. True, there are a lot of them — beyond the dailies and weeklies, every time you turn around you are getting yet another long ass quest line and achievement matrix for your order hall or your class mount or some artifact appearance or to advance your profession. Just my opinion, of course, but they seem to be longer and longer quest lines for less and less ultimate reward.

Even the time gates are uninspired, Blizz-controlled slow releases¬†that do not begin to compare to the innovative player-influenced releases of Isle of Thunder in Mists, for example. Basically, we can do only what Blizz Central permits us to do, at the virtual pace of Anduin’s slow saunter. Oh, right, we do have the player-influenced BS buildings, but¬†this is pretty much a sham, since their completion does not open up new content, only a couple of temporary buffs, and at least North America is now in the mode of a pretty steady and predictable rotation.

(One wonders what would happen if we all just stopped contributing to their construction — would we truly get no buildings, or would we get them anyway because who the hell knows if “player contributions” are just a cover story¬†and the real “progress bars” are computer-generated automatic fills?)

When Blizz announced the Legion expansion, one aspect they stressed over nearly all others was that it would pretty much be a never-ending stream of “content”. This was, of course, a reaction to the perception that WoD had almost none of the “C” word. As I have noted before, content almost certainly means something different to every player. I think we are at the point where we can say that what it means to Blizz is “lots and lots of quests.”

In at least one case¬†this has worked in Legion, I think. I was not personally a fan of the Suramar quests that unfolded during the weeks preceding the release of Nighthold (I just have a general objection to the whole drug-addict story line), but they were certainly creative, they significantly advanced a side story in Legion, they were relevant to the opening of Nighthold, and they continued long enough after the raid release to award a pretty cool mount. And while you were doing them, you could see the advancement of the story line. So while they filled Blizz’s¬†“lots and lots of quests” content philosophy, they also engaged players and made us¬†feel like we¬†were personally guiding the story to its next major chapter.

It may be my unfamiliarity with WoW lore, but I find no similar unifying thread in the 7.2 Broken Shore quests. They are just variations on the “kill a lot of boars” theme. They seem like time fillers, not story advancers.

In the bigger picture, when¬†you think about it, Blizz’s pre-Legion promise of lots more content — which I admit they have made good on so far — has turned out to be nothing more than their normal expansion plan stretched out by adding many more quest requirements to every aspect of the game. Legion’s basic blueprint so far is almost identical to WoD’s, except it has been designed to ensure that players who expect to achieve their game goals in, say, 6 months, now cannot achieve them in anything close to that time frame, because every goal in Legion has far more requirements — usually in the form of long quest lines or endless currency accumulation — than in any other expansion.

Is this “content”? Well, it’s not to me, but then again I do not write the game. Blizz has gambled that by making everything take longer for players to accomplish, by piling requirement upon requirement even for simple game goals, players will actively commit to the expansion until they meet these goals. Basically, Blizz is betting that players only complain of being bored when they have met¬†their game goals and see no new ones on the horizon. By vastly stretching out the time necessary to meet any goal (for example, think of the “maxing out my weapon” goal some players have), Blizz hopes they can show their corporate bosses¬†that they have licked the “boredom” complaint.

The danger here is that they hit a tipping point where people just give up on their goals because they see no reasonable chance of achieving them — certainly not in the time they feel they can commit to the game. For these players, the only remaining attraction of the game then becomes the “in the moment” enjoyment they derive from it. This is where uncreative masses of quests to “kill 20 demons” become a liability, because honestly you can only do that so often before being bored out of your skull. Add to this feeling one of betrayal that suddenly you can no longer meet your game goals in the same general time frame you are used to, and many will just stop playing altogether, exactly the same outcome as we saw in WoD.

It turns out you can have a boring expansion by letting players achieve their goals too quickly, but you can also have one by fostering a player perception that there is no hope of achieving their usual game goals at all and combine it with uncreative activities. It’s a delicate line to walk, but I see little evidence Blizz even recognizes there is such a line. ¬†Certainly 7.2 does not indicate they do.

What a difference

After a week of flying, I am astounded at what a difference it has made in my approach to Legion. It’s like it’s not even the same game I have been slogging through for the past 8 months. I am actually having fun again, for the first time since maybe the second¬†month of the expansion. I am not sure why this one ability should make such a huge difference in my outlook, but I think I can identify a couple of factors.

Time. This is certainly the biggest factor. It now takes me what I consider to be a reasonable amount of time to crank out world quests and daily Broken Shore quests. Just as an example, prior to flying I was spending close¬†to an hour just doing the usual 4-5 BS quests, and now I spend 30 minutes or less. I don’t see such a dramatic change in the time it takes for WQs — probably because I am not especially efficient at planning out my quest routes — but it is still significant.

I don’t do my own flying everywhere. If I am going a long distance I usually still use the flight points. It’s just easier, and it gives me a chance to stretch, take a bio break, get a drink, put in a load of laundry, whatever. (But it is awesome to have the choice!)

The other aspect of the time factor is finally I am freed from the need to fight or outrun every little nuisance mob along the road. This alone saves a huge amount of time. And while I am at it, as a side rant, when did Blizz decide that sticking to roads was no longer a safe option? Now not only do mobs encroach on the roads, but they even block them, so that you cannot avoid fighting them or at the very least running like hell to get past them. (Thank you, Stonehide Leather Barding, possibly the single greatest craftable item from leather workers.) For years, Blizz has promised us that if we stick to the roads we will almost always be safe from hostile mobs. Now that they are delaying flying longer and longer in new expansions and forcing us to be roadbound, suddenly that rule no longer applies?

I spend almost no time now trying to figure out how to get past the many invisible walls Blizz has incorporated into the Legion terrain, especially in Stormheim, Suramar, Broken Shore, and Highmountain. I just fly over the area. It is glorious.

And Suramar City? It is absolutely great to be able to fly over those gangs of blue-circled thugs that account for so many deaths. Flying over them now, I often flip them the bird and cackle to myself. I no longer avoid WQs in Suramar City for that reason alone.

Alts. Mainly because of the time factor, I now feel I can spend some time several times a week on my alts, getting them to Broken Shore, doing world quests to gear up, and even venturing into LFR with them once in a while for the gear and the rotation practice. I still think Legion is the most alt-hostile expansion yet, but flying certainly helps a lot.

My alts tend to be a lot squishier than my main, of course — worse gear, plus I am not even close to proficient on them — so being able to avoid trash mobs helps me to focus on the quests more. Far from Blizz’s oft-expressed disdain for “avoiding” their annoying obstacles, flying actually encourages me to spend more time on my alts and thus playing the game.

Getting out of Dodge. I find many of the BS quests extremely unpleasant, not because of the quests themselves, but because of another ugly turn in game mechanics: Mobs that spawn as fast as, or even faster than, you can kill them, making it nearly impossible to leave the area even once you have finished the quest.

My main is a hunter, so there are very few things I cannot deal with solo, and these continually-spawning mobs are no exception. I can get to a safe spot then feign death, for example. Or I can just kill group after group after group after group until eventually there is a break long enough for me to escape. But it is annoying. Especially since Blizz still has not fixed the clunky problems with pet pathing and pet placement — these continuous mobs often mean I cannot loot at all since looting usually requires a kind of dance to get around my pet blocking the corpse, and spending the second or two doing this in these areas means another group has spawned and is attacking. And forget it if there are skins to be taken — not going to happen. No, it’s not a big deal, but it is terribly frustrating and annoying.

So having flying helps in escaping these areas, because if you can get the time to summon your flying mount (not always a given), at least you can be gone without having to run through dozens more of spawned mobs.

Gathering. On my gathering characters, I often fly from point to point, even great distances, just so that I can gather some mats along the way, even if it would be faster to use flight points for the actual trip. I don’t gather for sale, just to use the mats myself, but it still helps. (I think even flying does not help that much if you are a mat seller, unless you have level 3 gather for the mat it still takes a lot of time to get enough to sell in any decent quantity. This may account for why we have seen very little in the way of downward price movement for gathered items in our auction house.)

Fun. I sill get a real kick out of just hopping on a flying mount and swooping and soaring over an area. I love it when I see some little spot I have never before seen and can just set down and enjoy it. I like seeing the zones from a different perspective. I enjoy the art work far more, I think, when I can see it this way than when I am forced to slog along on the ground. I guess I just love being able to see the forests, and if I want to examine the individual trees I can do so on my own terms.

Freedom. This to me is second only to time as a factor in having flying. I feel like being able to fly restores some options to me as a player, some measure of play style freedom that Blizz has steadily eroded over the past couple of expansions. I have mentioned before that Legion more than any other expansion has put players into a virtual cattle chute for end game play, profession development, alt progression, and gear acquisition. There are just no options other than the Blizz-approved path to reach these goals. I have found this philosophy to be stifling.

Flying, by virtue of the fact that it gives us a third dimension for movement, seems to offer a metaphorical third dimension for some aspects of game play. It may be just an illusion that I feel freer to explore the game on more of my own terms, but if so it is a powerful illusion. I will take it.

And on that thought of freedom, it is time to begin the freedom that is the weekend.

Not impressed with 7.2

We have had a little over a week with 7.2 and I am extremely underwhelmed with it. If pushed to come up with one reason, I guess it would have to be that it is just more of the same bleak Legion never-ending grind. Some random thoughts and observations:

New artifact trait system. This just depresses me. For BM hunters the new traits are decidedly uninspired, and I think Blizz as usual took the lazy path by adding one more tick to the old 3-tick traits. Nothing about this system makes me excited to progress in it. There is no “WOOHOO” moment anywhere in the path — nearly everything is a dull unimaginative tiny increase to some boring passive trait. I do not deny some of them are useful, but the whole idea is just freaking boring. The snakes? Yeah, they are about as powerful as the old snake trap, which is to say useless.

Gazillions of AP. Yeah, see above. I get that we are now earning AP at a much greater rate, but there is something demoralizing when you get half a million and it barely nudges the little AP bar. And I just feel hopeless and beat down when I need tens of millions of AP in order to get that next boring uninspired .5% increase in some passive trait. I am starting to get quite sullen over the “bonus” AP events and mechanics, too, because I feel manipulated — like everything in the game is pushing me towards amassing AP.

What we have is an endless chase after in-game currency to buy tiny incremental power increases for a central piece of gear. There is no end to it, no achievement, no sense of accomplishment, no cool fun result. Even if someone could reach the final trait — and there will be people who do this — it is hopeless because Blizz will then add on more grinding just like they did after that 54th trait.

I am absolutely dumbfounded that Ion Hazzikostas and other devs can lecture us — with a straight face, mind you — about the evils of “grinding” for gear, and then hand us this, the greatest and most obnoxious gear grind the game has ever seen. In this, their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Broken Shore. Ugh. First, there is nothing aesthetically inviting about it, it is desolate and ugly. At least Timeless Isle and Tanaan Jungle had some decent artwork attached to them, some nice eye candy to reward you for all the time you spent there.

Second, it is chock full of invisible walls, dead ends, and obstacles to ground travel, making getting anywhere an exercise in annoyance. Add to that the fact there are only 3 flight points, and that there are armies of imps and other mobs that dog your every step no matter where you set foot, and you have a recipe for extreme frustration. And don’t forget, Blizz has kindly made these mobs scale to your gear level, so none of them are truly trivial. ¬†I do not know if we will be able to fly in this zone if and when we ever are allowed to fly again, but I can tell you if I cannot fly there I will probably spend very little time there. It is just not fun.

Third, the daily quests. That is exactly the problem — they really are dailies, not world quests. Which means if you miss¬†a day, you miss a lot of rep. There is no emissary, no skipping a day or two and catching up. This is exactly the situation Blizz said they did not want to repeat after the rep grinds of Mists — they did not want people to feel they had to log on and do the dailies every day or risk falling behind.

WTF, Blizz?

Fourth, those buildings. Their mediocre perks aside, this whole mechanic is going to get mighty old mighty fast for me. I am pretty sure that after we have had one of each type, I will deliberately withhold my war supplies and refuse to contribute them to a building I know will be destroyed in a couple of days. Just for spite, because it is a stupid mechanic.

Mage Tower challenge. Nope, just nope. For one thing, the unlocked BM artifact appearance is butt ugly. For another, as usual, there is no appearance change for Hati. Last but certainly not least, the challenge is stupid hard, designed for 1% or less of the elite, and at least thus far dependent on having equipped a couple of very specific legendaries. Oh, and it costs you currency to try it more than once, and it is designed to take many, many attempts to successfully complete. Oh, and just out of spite apparently, Blizz seems to have removed the Ignore Quest option, thus guaranteeing that big ass yellow quest marker will be there every time the Mage Tower is up.

So let’s see — spend currency to enter, spend hundreds or more likely thousands of gold in repairs, suffer huge and continuous frustration because Blizz wants 99% of players to fail, add additional difficulty because I am not one of the lucky few with the “right” legendaries, all for an ugly appearance for a weapon I always transmog anyway?

Not only no, but hell no.

Demonic invasions. I really thought these would be like the pre-Legion scenarios, which I found fun, quick, and even rewarding. Nope, definitely wrong on that one. They are nothing more than world quests in a certain zone, followed by a 3-person scenario. Oh, and of course you cannot get the scenario until you have knocked off most of the invasion quests for the zone. Got to keep those monthly hours up for Ion’s bonuses after all.

I did the first set of these — Aszuna — last night. Well, I say I did them but the truth is I did not compete the actual scenario because after 15 minutes of running back and forth between two sets of mobs and killing them over and over again, we finally got to Stage 2 of the scenario (no idea how many stages there are), but by that point it was time for our guild raid so I had to drop group. It’s certainly possible that in time we will learn the layout of these scenarios better, but my limited experience last night is that they are unimaginative, boring game¬†play extenders.

By the time we got done with our raid, the invasion had disappeared. And of course since I did not complete the scenario, I assume I get no credit for completing one invasion. Thus, the next time the Aszuna one comes around I get to start all over again with the world quests.

The invasions spawn randomly in a zone for six hours, so even though this is a rather large window, it still means it will be possible for some players to have the bad luck to not be able to play while the invasions are active. I have no idea how often “randomly” is, but this seems designed once again to force players to keep checking the game and rearrange their schedules to log in when any needed invasions are active. I will do each of them once then pretty much ignore them, I think.

More hate for hunters. A couple of 7.2 developments are/were decidedly anti-hunter, and show once again that Blizz has no understanding of the downstream effects of their Brilliant Ideas, no one among the devs who has a clue how to play a hunter.

I am a BM hunter, not MM, but Blizz really screwed MM hunters at the start of 7.2. They initially set up the Unerring Arrow trait bonus as 10% per point, for a total of a 40% bonus for filling in all 4 points. This of course was very attractive to MM hunters, and many if not most of them immediately filled out this trait with their traded AP when 7.2 went live. Within 24 hours, however, Blizz nerfed the bonus from 10% down to 4%, more than halving it.

It is possible that 10% was too high, but why in the world would they wait until AFTER MM hunters had taken these points to nerf it so drastically? This is not something Blizz might have noticed and fixed on the PTR? Here are the optics for this: Blizz cares so little for hunters that they have no qualms about making them spend precious AP on a trait only to nerf it into oblivion once the AP is spent. No attempt to put themselves in the place of players agonizing over trait decisions, no notion of refunding the AP fully in light of the sudden reversal of value for the trait. And of course no official comment on it because, hey, who gives a damn about hunters, the throwaway class?

Blizz¬†recently “improved” certain visual effects for some specs. Among these changes was one to Multishot for hunters. I have no idea what they¬†thought they¬†were doing, but the effect has been to render the shot far less useful than it was before the change. Specifically, in the old version the number of arrow or bullet representations were roughly equal to the number of targets you were hitting. In particular, it was very easy to see if you were targeting only two mobs or a single mob, in which case Multishot was probably not what you wanted to be using. But with the change, you no longer can tell if you have killed most of a pack and are down to one or two targets, since the representation now shows multiple tracers even with just one target. This can cause a net damage loss if applied over time, as Multishot is wasted on just a single target.

No idea if this was done on purpose, or if as usual Blizz failed to anticipate this complication. Did none of the dev hunters try the new graphic and see this? (Never mind, we know the answer.)

Are there some good things about 7.2? Of course there are — if nothing else, we are getting a bunch of new world quests and a story line extension. But for me, the never ending grind Blizz continues to foist on us — for profession recipes, AP, class hall quests, class hall research, champion gearing up, the eternal carrot of flying, etc. — outweighs most of the positive points. I am sick of garrisons class halls, sick of artifact weapons, sick of Legion’s insane “legendary” acquisition mechanics, sick of eternal grinding for

every.

single.

game.

activity.

Because, as we all know and have been told over and over again by the esteemed Game Director, grinding is a bad thing. Unless it serves Blizz’s bottom line and not players.