It’s time

There being very little current to write about in WoW these days, I decided to venture off into wild suggestion land. Today’s wild suggestion: Make every class a hybrid class.

Back when Blizz first introduced hybrid classes, they promoted the idea that these classes would not generally be as strong as the “pure” classes for raid roles, but that their superior adaptability would make them valuable group members. So for example, they were designed — on purpose — to have healing abilities slightly inferior to the then-pure priest healers, or dps abilities slightly below those of pure damage dealers like hunters or warlocks or mages.

But over time this basis for hybrids completely disappeared — along with pure healing classes — and now certain hybrid specs frequently are at the top of the charts for damage, often leaving the “pure” classes far behind. In fact, the term “hybrid” is almost obsolete, and it actually describes the majority of classes — 8 of the 12. Only warlocks, hunters, mages, and rogues are stuck with no option but damage for all specs.

There used to be advantages to being a pure damage class. In addition to the early Blizz commitment that these classes would do more damage than the dps spec of a hybrid, there was the added benefit of gear. A pure class could easily switch specs and keep wearing the same gear — no need to carry around a tank set, a healing set, a dps set, etc. But that advantage, too is gone. Blizz destroyed it when they introduced high-importance secondary stats, artifact weapons, and tailored legendaries for every spec. Now, if you are a hunter who wants to switch between BM and MM, for example, you must carry two sets of gear, one for each spec.

So we are at the point where pure damage classes are not guaranteed to do more damage than hybrids, and where they are required to carry a separate set of gear for every spec they wish to play. Yet they do not have the same implied raid role flexibility that hybrids do. In other words, they have the same disadvantages as hybrids without any of the advantages.

Before I go on, let me hasten to point out that I like hybrid classes. I love my alt druid. I do some guild alt runs of normal ToS on her, and I love that I can easily switch between healing and dps, depending on which role is needed. It’s a fun class to play. Yes, it is a bit complicated to keep different gear sets and to have to keep advancing two different artifacts and chasing the “good” legendaries for both specs, but the point is if I wanted to play two hunter specs I would have to do the same thing and I would not have as much utility to the raid as my druid, at the same level of play.

So I think it is time Blizz made every class a hybrid class. This would of course cause howls of anguish from warlocks and mages and probably rogues, because undoubtedly their favorite spec would be the one Blizz decided to make a healer or tank spec. Well, boo-hoo, I would say, suck it up and join the club — SV hunters lived through having their favorite spec destroyed in Legion so you can, too.

Ideally, I think every class should have a tank, healing, and dps spec, but even my fertile imagination knows Blizz would never do that. They would claim it violates the “class fantasy” (even though that idea has long ago been tossed on the garbage heap in all but empty form). So here is my proposal:

  • Rogues and hunters would get a tank spec.
    • The clear choice for hunters is the currently-stinky SV melee hunter. It would be a tank with a pet, which would offer tons of opportunities for creative tank styles. Maybe the pet helps heal the hunter tank, maybe the pet can off-taunt for the hunter tank, fetch mobs to the tank, etc.
    • I know little about rogues, but the subtlety spec seems under-used at least for PvE, so that might be a good candidate for the new rogue tank. (And while I am at it, maybe it is time for an additional, separate, PvP spec for all classes, but that is a topic for another day.)
  • Mages and warlocks would get a healing spec.
    • I know the history buffs out there will argue for a warlock tank, and while I would not be opposed to that, I think the whole idea of dark magic argues for healing not tanking. Not to mention, warlocks already use mana, so there is that. I don’t have a preference as to which spec to switch to healing. Affliction currently has the single-target and multi-target flexibility plus high movement to make it an effective healer along the lines of a resto druid, but nothing would seem to preclude revamping either of the other two specs.
    • Mages — well pick one. Currently all three specs basically hurl big balls of magic at a target, so change the color of one spec from orange, purple, or blue to some other color and call them magic healing balls. Done.

Anyway, that is my wild idea for the day. Let’s lobby Blizz to make 2018 the Year of the Hybrid — if it’s good enough for 8 classes, it’s good enough for all 12! We pure DPS are as mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more!! Give us hybrid specs or give us death! Now is the time for all good DPS to come to the aid of their raid leader! We shall overheal! Tanks for the memories! ‘Tis a far far better thing we (shall) do than we have ever done!

Hunters don’t fit in Blizzard’s mindset

Blizz announced a couple of days ago that Patch 7.3 will bring some fancy new caster visuals for some caster classes/specs. Um, sure, whatever. I suppose it is nice that they are continuing to improve the game’s visual experience.

Side comment: I have often said that I think mages have the best visuals in the game, so I find it a bit interesting that all three mage specs will be showered with even cooler new visuals, while only a couple of the remainder of the caster classes will be so favored. But then, we all know mages are the teacher’s pet class for Blizz….

And please, no hate mail from all you mages out there — I have a mage alt which I am terrible at but which I really wish I could play better. I stink at it, and I admire anyone who can play a mage well.  I do not hate mages, but you have to admit they are pretty much the untouchable class in WoW. They may not always be top of the DPS charts, but they also never get royally screwed with major changes like, oh, say, making one of the specs suddenly melee. Just sayin’.

Anyway, moving on. In reading the blue post about new visuals, I was struck by one thing: Blizz clearly thinks only in terms of casters and melee. Not ranged and melee. This was a revelation to me because it goes a long way towards explaining why they seem to dislike hunters so much — they have no idea how to think of them. Thus, hunters almost always fall through the cracks or become a last-minute afterthought.

And when I think about it, by “hunters” I am really talking mainly about BM hunters. SV are not really hunters at all but rather just a bad melee class. MM hunters, by virtue of their requirement to stand still to maximize their potential, are very close to casters, only they cast physical damage not magic. But BM hunters fit none of those categories. BM hunters are basically “ranged melee”. Our pets are strictly melee, and they do the bulk of our damage. But we control them (insofar as we can) from a distance, and we can even lob a few rather puny shots in ourselves from range. We live in both worlds, melee and ranged, but when Blizz primarily thinks of ranged as casters, we just get ignored. (Okay, yeah, we did get that marvelous new super-wiggly Cobra Shot, I guess we should be thankful…)

Now that I think about it, I wonder if the major class changes Blizz made to hunters in Legion had less to do with their desire for “spec uniqueness” and much more to do with trying to cram hunters into existing Blizz categories of melee and casters. They succeeded in doing so for two hunter specs, but they failed with beastmastery hunters. We are still neither fish nor fowl, still the exception spec, still the spec none of the devs really loves or understands at anything beyond a numbers level. Blizz created us, but they have no idea how to design our visuals or our damage or our rotations.

They are uncomfortable when we get either a caster or a melee advantage. Think about the very foundation of BM hunters, for example — we are “beast masters” but we have really very little control over our pets, and none over Hati. Is this because Blizz does not want someone standing at range to be able to have any real control over events in melee space? Or look at our puny, focus-eating Cobra Shot — does Blizz consider it unfair for a player to have a powerful ranged shot that is not cast, would it make “real” casters angry?

Yes, BM hunters are still the exception spec. Personally, I love this. I like not being part of the melee or caster herd, even if it means we are always the afterthought for cool changes like new visuals. But I suspect Blizz hates it. Over the years we have seen more and more centralized control in the game, more of Blizz making decisions for us about endgame activities, of Blizz deciding what our playstyle should be, of when and how we may use our flying mounts, of how many weeks it must take us to see new content, of how quickly we may progress in our professions, of how likely it is any of us will see needed gear. In this mindset, a spec that does not fit neatly into some set category is a real problem, because it must be dealt with separately, as an exception. Thus, Blizz must either largely ignore it because it takes too many resources to deal with, or work steadily to squeeze it into a category so it can be dealt with as part of a gaggle.

This makes me worry about what will happen to BM hunters in the next expansion. Will Blizz continue to allow us to exist as the exceptional spec we are, or will they stuff us into one of their defined categories? I think we will have to wait until at least Blizzcon to get even a hint of this, but I will be listening intently in the coming months. If Blizz starts to talk about something like “exciting new changes to hunters”, I will know it is time to panic.

But for now, it is time to start a weekend. See you on the other side.

Housecleaning before vacation

I am going to take a short break from posting in this blog — maybe a week or so. Several reasons, actually. There are some real world work things I need to get to in my studio. I need to spend much of my game time between now and next Tuesday preparing my main for our guild raiding season. And — although things are settling down in the game for me — honestly, Legion still seems too chaotic for me to focus on something long enough to write about it.

Thus, before I take off, a bit of housecleaning so I can return to a nice tidy blog and drafts folder.

Ghostcrawler confirms what we have all suspected. In a recent series of tweets quoted and collected on MMO-C, Ghostcrawler finally came clean on one of the factors driving class changes in WoW, at least while he was at Blizz (emphasis in the quote is mine):

You’ve explained before that back in the days in WoW you wanted to nerf frost mages. How come frost mages were pretty much left untouched for such a long long time? What’s the process behind getting something nerfed/buffed like and who has the final word when something gets nerfed/buffed (at Blizzard and Riot Games)?

The less diplomatic answer is that there were a lot of WoW devs who played Frost mages, even though I wasn’t one of them, so there were always a lot of people to point out your potential mistakes when you try to make a change.

But above and beyond that, it was a tricky design space, because Frost mages were supposed to be good at both tankiness (emergency buttons that cover you in ice) and burst (ice lance combos). When you are good at defense and offense (especially burst), you are walking a razor’s edge all the time.

Who among the Blizz devs plays a hunter? Who speaks for hunters in the design process? Who is there to “point out your potential mistakes when you try to make a change” to hunters?

Answer, clearly, is: No one. And I have to wonder, why is that? If nothing else, why does Blizz not designate someone to be the advocate for each and every class and spec? Someone whose job it is to understand the heart and soul of a class and spec, someone who engages with that community regularly, someone who plays that spec regularly in every game venue, who understands at a gut level the synergy and play style of the spec.

No. No one at Blizz speaks for hunters. They don’t understand the class, they don’t play the class, and worse, they don’t care. This explains a lot. This is irresponsible for a game developer.

Secrets and surprises are overrated. This occurred to me as I — finally — finished my hunter class hall campaign last night and unlocked my third relic slot. Yes, I was happy about getting the achievement, and much of the quest line in retrospect seemed relevant and engaging. But not knowing where I was in the process for the last couple of weeks has been beyond annoying. My impression was that it was an endless series of more quests, and all I could do was slog along miserably ignorant of when it might be over.

Some people do not like to know the big picture, they consider any knowledge of where they are in a process to be “spoilers”. Not me. I am goal-driven, and I like to know exactly how many more hoops I need to jump through before I get to a goal. Contrary to spoiling the process for me, it enhances it, makes me more eager to finish, allows me to gauge when I might expect to be rewarded.

It is the same with Legion professions. Blizz deliberately keeps the profession leveling process murky, telling us repeatedly how much fun™ it is to not know when or where you might find a clue to leveling up! No, no, and just hell no! I want to know what the process is, even if it is a long and complicated one. I like knowing what I will have to do to achieve a goal. I do not like the juvenile game of I-know-something-you-don’t-know.

There are some third party sites that are starting to list things like all the quests in class hall campaigns, and how to level your professions in Legion. I use them, and I am grateful for them. But Blizz should do this for players in a centralized game guide location — no need to look at it if you don’t want to, but there for those of us who want to know how or if we are progressing.

RNG versus the Powerball Lottery. I am in a fairly large and active guild, we have had probably 30-40 people active almost every night since Legion launched. And so far, I do not know of a single person to get a legendary drop. It may have happened, I just have not seen it in any of the many hours I have been playing. Additionally, thus far to my knowledge no skinners have managed to get a drop of fel hide except for the world quest that awards it. The drop rates for these items is so low as to be virtually zero.

This practice, in my opinion, is not in any way related to the concept of “random drops”. It is much closer to the concept of a multi-million dollar lottery. Sure, it is mathematically possible, but realistically the chances are about as close to zero as you can get. These kinds of fairy-tale “drop rates” have no place in a game. Either make it so players have a reasonable expectation of getting them — infrequently, sure, but getting them once in a while nonetheless — or remove them from the game. This is bait-and-switch.

In fact, Blizz, why not publish once a week or once a month the actual number of drops — and the rate per active player — of some of these uber-rare items? If you think they are reasonable for drop rates, put your money where your mouth is and tell us how many are actually dropping.

In spite of everything Ion Hazzikostas says, it is not/not/not fun to be told “there is a chance” to get these items and then never get them. No, Ion, just no.

Plusses and minuses to zone scaling. I like the idea of being able to level anywhere and  still be challenged as well as get appropriate level XP and loot. That is the good side of scaling. However, the bad side of it is that every minor mob along your path becomes a significant threat. Of course, as you gear up they become less of a threat, but I am thinking now of my squishier alts, who likely will not get a lot of gearing up, and how much of a real pain in the patoot that is going to be.

Again, it is not fun™ or immersive™ to have to stop, dismount, and fight your way through that same bunch of mobs every time you are on your way to a world quest location. Every. Single. Time. Nope, nope, and nope.

At this point, most of my alt leveling will be done after flying, I am thinking. And it better be in 7.2 at the latest. Speaking of which, I think it is time for Blizz to actually stop being coy and announce when flying will be available. (Another example of me hating Blizz’s stupid ideas of “secret” and how much fun that is! Whee!)

OK, that’s it from me for a few days. I expect to be back here writing again next Wednesday — caught up, rested, and ready to go.

Aaaaand — we’re off!

Well. We are here at last, Legion will launch in the U.S. in a matter of hours. At this point there really is nothing left to do but wait. For me, I have been pretty much in pure wait mode since Friday. Over the weekend I found myself a little adrift in the game, no real last-minute goals — just busywork to fill a couple of hours. I did a final reorg and cleaning of my bags and banks, consolidated soon-to-be legacy WoD mats with my banker, helped out a few guildies running some old dungeons for mounts and the like. We did our final guild moose run last night, got a moose for some folks who had recently come back to the game, and it was fun to see how excited they were to get it.

I was actually so bored that I rolled another mage. Yes, I know, those of you who follow this blog are right now doing /facepalm and if you could talk to me you would point out that I only recently deleted my level 100 mage I had struggled with for years. I understand that I am perilously close to the definition of insanity here, but this time I really expect a different outcome from the same actions. Really!  OK, maybe not, but as I have said before, I think mages have the most awesome visuals in the game, and fire mages more so than the other specs, especially now with the Legion changes to them. Not to mention, I had a spare level 100 boost just lying around, and invasions give me the opportunity to painlessly get a gear level up to 700 or above. So, what the hell, a fire mage seemed like a good idea at the time….

I honestly think it will be difficult to max level all my alts in Legion, not that I have a ton of them compared to some people, but still the task seems like it might be daunting. I think I have settled on a leveling order, more or less.  After my main BM hunter (who has leather working and skinning as professions), my leveling order is primarily based on professions. I will go with an alchemist, JC, enchanter, and inscriptionist as top priority, then later do the professions of less immediate importance to me: tailor, engineer, blacksmith, and a couple of duplicate professions. Key, I think, is that with the exception of my enchanter, all my top priority crafting professions are paired with a gathering one so as to facilitate getting the rare BoP (!!! still a stupid decision) mat Blood of Sargeras.

In spite of all my whining and complaining over the last few weeks, I am looking forward to Legion, if for no other reason than to just get to it. I do think there will be a lot of very fun aspects to it, and no matter what, it is always great to have a new continent and a ton of new content to explore. What I saw from my short stint in beta was that the zones are very well-rendered, and the artwork is terrific. (I am not sure any expansion will equal the breathtaking scenery I found in Mists of Pandaria, but Legion might come close.)

I think the leveling process will be as good as, or even better than, the one in WoD, mainly because of zone scaling, multi-tagging of mobs and resources, well-developed quest lines that advance the lore story, and yes even sharding. I am not typically a power leveler, but I usually try to level my main as quickly as possible so as to have a sufficient amount of time to get raid-ready in a couple of weeks. In Legion, I think I may also try to do relatively fast leveling of my major profession alts, because that, too, allows me to prepare for our first raid. I have plenty of gold to buy things like enchants and flasks and gems for my main early in an expansion, but something in me just rebels at paying the exorbitant prices people charge for them. Yeah, yeah, I took Econ 101 and understand the concept of supply and demand, but price gouging just really annoys me.

At any rate, I will go to bed early tonight and try to get a few hours sleep before I get up around 2 AM for the 3 AM launch. I’ll brew some coffee, log in, and join the guild Mumble channel where most likely people will be both sleepy and excited — like kids awakened in the middle of the night to start the trip to Disney World. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that there will not be server-crashing technical issues and that I will be able to get in a few hours of fun to start off the expansion.

I am not someone who can play for hours at a time, so even at the start of an expansion I play for a couple hours, take a couple hours break, then repeat the process. I have arranged my schedule such that I can take a few days and play more than I usually do, but if there are massive technical problems I can also do normal work until they are fixed. Whatever happens, I am giving myself a week’s vacation starting next week, as it has been close to a year since I have taken one. (This is the best part of working for yourself — no vacation schedules to have to juggle!)

I doubt if I will be posting for most of the rest of this week, unless there are some massive server failures that prevent me from playing, so I will see all of you on the other side in a few days. Enjoy the launch, and let’s hope Legion is the expansion we all desperately want it to be.


Brain crumbs and drafts folder

***Late breaking news edit: Legion will go live August 30.***

(This broke after I posted today.)

I am having a little trouble engaging my brain this morning, and adding that fact to the veritable vacuum of Warcraft-related things to write about these days, I find myself at a real loss for a topic for today’s post. Thus, you will be subjected to me cleaning out my drafts folder again, along with a few tiny crumbs that have been rolling around in my brain for a while.

Class halls. I admit I am still puzzled over these edifices in Legion. First of all, I fail to see the reason to even have them. No, I am not talking about the horse hockey public claptrap about “Only your class, led by you the Heroic Sole Wielder of The Most Awesome Weapon Ever Devised (well, you along with every other member of your class, not to mention all other classes, but never mind) can save the Warcraft universe from Final Devastation”. No, I am talking about what game design imperative drove creation of class halls as a mechanism in Legion. My bet is that the initial Legion design, almost certainly begun about the time WoD went live if not before, was done using the garrison concept as a carry-forward. By the time  garrisons turned out to be such a colossal lightning rod for WoD hatred, it was too late to scrap the idea for Legion, so modifications were made that resulted in what we are seeing emerge now.

Anyway, we are apparently stuck with them. I have paid only glancing attention to the artwork we have seen on them so far. But my impression of nearly every one of them is — they are largely dark, cavernous, un-cozy looking places that make me want to conduct my required business there and quickly depart. Kind of like going to the DMV. Nothing I have seen for any of them makes me want to spend time there, they look like the inside of monuments or government buildings. Definitely not places you would want to take off your boots, kick back with a beer in a comfy chair by a fire, and swap lies with the other members of your class.

And the last thing is, honestly, Blizz has not even come up with a decent catchy name for them. I guess officially they are Class Order Halls, which sounds to me like something a committee came up with as a compromise. I tend to call them class halls, some others I notice prefer to call them order halls, but sheesh when even the name is murky and confused what are we supposed to think about their real purpose?

Neutral faction hints. Muffinus has recently had a couple of cryptic tweets (and I think maybe a poll a couple of weeks ago) about how people would feel about belonging to a new and neutral — a la Switzerland — faction. The kicker each time is that such a faction would apparently not be able to form or join guilds and would not be able to access the auction house.

So I am trying to figure this out. Apparently Blizz has decided to explore some of the suggestions from players over the years asking for such a faction. I see the comments and blogs from time to time, but my impression is that this is kind of a niche wish, not a massive groundswell, so the first thing I don’t understand about the recent official hints is, why even consider it? Because I think they clearly are considering it, Blizz never drops these little subtle hints unless they are about to actually do something.

The second thing I don’t understand is why would there be restrictions on auction house and guild activity? I mean, honestly, Switzerland is a big player in monetary transactions in the real world, and while the Swiss are not members of factionalized clubs like NATO, they certainly belong to non-factionalized clubs like the United Nations. The only thing I can figure out with Blizz is that the auction house and guild mechanisms are coded such that faction is a major component of them, and that to add another faction is technically complex to do — sort of like the 16-slot backpack problem.

Officially-sanctioned boutique server hint? Less obvious, but still there, is another hint dropped by Muffinus, sort of dipping a toe into the idea of a vanilla or other type of boutique server. This may or may not be related to the recent Nostalrius flap, but it is hard not to connect the two.

Jeremy Feasel – ‏@Muffinus

If you could make your own server, and state ONE rule for it, what would it be? E.g. ‘perma-death’, ‘max ilvl 100’, ‘only gnomes/goblins’.

Now maybe he was just bored and trying to generate some player interaction, but as I said Blizz almost never just casually mentions things just for the hell of it, especially lately and especially since the great curtain of silence has descended on the company regarding almost all official comments. So it is just something that makes you go “hmmmm”.

Delvar Ironfist bodyguard. I only recently noticed that this dude rides his horse by standing on top of his saddle. Which I am thinking, why have a saddle at all if that is how you are going to ride? Strange, but I suppose maybe his legs are too short to even go over a saddle much less use stirrups? Who knows, it just seems a bit weird to me is all.

Fire mages are still cool. Over the weekend I hauled my poor garrison-bound mage out of mothballs, dusted her off a bit, and spent several hours gearing her up and trying to get familiar with a fire spec rotation. She has spent this expansion so far as arcane, but I just have never been happy with that spec as it is. I know it is supposed to be the preferred mage spec for WoD, but I really dislike it. On the other hand, I have always been attracted to the fire spec, so I just decided to switch, damage abilities be damned. Fire seems a lot more complex than arcane to me, and in some ways it is more RNG-dependent (or so my impression is, remember I stink as a mage), but still I really enjoy the spell graphics. And I saw where they will get even more impressive in Legion.

A month or so ago I had decided to prepare my mage for, umm, “going to a nice farm in the country, where she will be able to run and play and be happy”. But when it came down to it, I just couldn’t do it. No matter how much I may not enjoy the mage play style, the fact is I have formed a kind of virtual emotional bond with her. She was, as I recall, the second character I rolled, after my hunter initial character, and, well, we just have history I guess. I have always leveled her to max for every expansion, but then really not paid any attention to her until time to level for the next expansion. But, since we still have months before Legion goes live, I might do a little more mage play to pass the time.

My radical idea for beta. Yeah, I know this will generate hate mail for me, but I am used to it. My idea is this: Blizz claims their selection of alpha testers was based on getting reliable and detailed feedback from their serious players, but at the same time they claim to need a lot of feedback from ordinary players, because they need to get a lot of varied perspective. So what if, for the beta test, Blizz specifically excludes anyone who was part of the alpha test. That way they can be sure to get a whole new set of fresh experiences from players who are not likely to gush over how much improved this or that thing is from the alpha version, and instead will get feedback on what the whole thing is like stepping into it with no prior experience, which is what millions of players will do when it goes live.

Of course, I know this has no chance to happen, because a huge number of alpha testers are professional players and star-producing guilds who would lose tons of money if they were shut out of beta, not to mention their pitiful howls would surely melt the cold hard hearts of the Blizz execs, so oh well. It was just a thought. And let’s be honest, even if some alpha testers are not pros, they all certainly have a sense of special entitlement because of their selection for alpha. I am not saying this as an insult, I am certain that had I been selected (which of course there was never the slightest chance of), I too would feel hurt if Blizz did not continue to recognize me for the special snowflake I am by giving me beta access when alpha ends. It is human nature, I suppose. (And to be fair, there a few — very few — players who are doing an outstanding job analyzing specific subjects and writing about them for the benefit of the rest of us, I am not sure I would want those people to be denied beta access, so clearly this is a flaky idea on my part!)

Still, I think there is something to be said for bringing in a whole new set of testers who have no preconceived notions.

OK, drafts folder is once again empty and brain crumbs have been swept away. Thanks for bearing with my housecleaning.

Legion release date? Take your time.

The more I read about Legion, the more I hope it is delayed as long as possible. I say this with full realization that the longer it is delayed, the longer we will be stuck with the debacle that is WoD.

Yes, that’s right, I believe Legion will be worse than WoD, and I am not anxious to get into it.

Before I list my reasons for believing this, here is my disclaimer: I am not one of the chosen, I am not playing the alpha and I do not expect to be invited to the beta if there ever is a beta. The most I can expect is to play the public PTR if and when we ever get to that point — a point at which for all practical purposes, the entire expansion will long since be set in stone. (And honestly, the same can be said for the beta.) No, I am forming my impressions of Legion from the few alpha testers who have very responsibly written about their experiences and put thought into interpreting them in terms of a wide range of possible play styles.

And not for nothin’, but Blizz has not exactly seized the moral high ground by granting alpha access to large numbers of streamers and others who make money from this game, to ensure they can keep making money during the long lull before Legion. Apparently the game would not be interesting enough in its current state for them to keep making money. For the plebeians, however? There’s plenty to do — Pepe and tons of old content and current achieves and what the hell we’ll throw in some valor as an incentive. And did we mention Pepe? Wheeeee! See? Plenty for the ordinary folk, just not enough for the streamers to actually be creative enough to generate interest.

Here is my second disclaimer: There will undoubtedly be a lot of good things about Legion — new transmog system, new zones to explore, some improvements to the way secondary stats are handled, a return to the Old Lore, etc. I know I will almost certainly be one of the ones who rises at 3 AM on launch day, takes the day off work, and plays for hours in my pajamas, chatting with my guildies, cereal bowl in front of my computer. That’s what I love to do on launch day (assuming there are not catastrophic server failures which is not exactly a safe assumption), and I am betting that is what I will do when Legion launches.

But the excitement of launch day, the fun of leveling to 110, and the quality of life improvements will not be enough to save Legion, because — from my worm’s-eye view — Blizz has taken a jackhammer to the foundation of the game. It’s like slapping a new coat of paint on a house where you’ve decided to raise termite colonies in the basement.

Bad Idea Number One is artifact weapons. In my opinion, the whole concept is flawed, not because of the cool notion (and in theory it does have some appeal), but because of the far-reaching implications they have for nearly every aspect of game play. (And, as I have pointed out before, Blizz pretty much stinks at being able to see or grasp far-reaching implications.) Here are just a few:

  • They are mandatory. If you want a functioning weapon in Legion, it must be an artifact weapon, and it must be the one Blizz has ordered you to have. You cannot progress in the game without it. This is just one more area Blizz has removed player choice, one more cattle chute Blizz herds players down. At some point — different for each player — the balance tips from the “wantas” (what you want to do) to the “gotstas” (what the game compels you to do in order to play it), a point at which people think it is no longer worth the trouble to play.
  • They are spec-specific rather than class-specific. (Why is that, by the way? Why could these have not been class-specific? And no, Blizz, do not give me a Trumpesque line of bull doodoo about spec “fantasy” because I am not having any more of that thank you very much.) This has a whole bunch of negative implications for many, many players.
    • It effectively makes every class a hybrid class, since there is a separate set of gear for each spec. For the traditional “pure” damage classes, this means they have the disadvantages of hybrids (completely different gear requirements) without the advantage of being able to fill a healing or tanking role.
    • It greatly complicates the task of leveling alts, requiring a much larger time commitment to do so, since without a weapon alt leveling is not possible, and the only weapon permitted is the artifact — requiring a quest chain not only to get it but also to level it up. Here again is Blizz closing a door to a play style choice, enforcing their view that alt play must only be done for the purpose of playing the alt as a mini-main, not for such nefarious purposes as to support your main with professions and gold.
    • It negates any touted benefit to Blizz’s announcement that in Legion you will not need to pick just two specs, you can play all of them! Except, of course, you will have to spend the time to get and keep upgrading a separate weapon for each if you expect to switch specs  with any degree of proficiency.
    • It promotes a degree of class elitism, because for some class-specs the artifact weapon is one actually wielded by one of the lore heroes, one we have seen in action over the years and many of us have wished we could have. These are cool and awesome weapons. But unfortunately there are only a few of these, not nearly enough to cover every spec in the game. So for those not smart enough to have chosen a spec with a real hero-derived artifact weapon? You get the idea Blizz just said, “Oh, hell, just make something up, no one will ever know the difference anyway.” So ret pallys will get Ashbringer — how cool is that, who hasn’t heard of Ashbringer? Whereas fury warriors get the “Warswords of Valajar” which no offense but whoever even heard of Valajar much less their weapon before Blizz had to invent something?

Bad Idea Number Two is zone scaling. I know, I know, many people think this is a terrific idea, but hear me out. It probably is a great idea while you are leveling, because it means you can choose your zone sequence for leveling, or indeed stay in one zone until all the quests are exhausted, all the while staying challenged as you level. It negates the idea of starter zones and thus lessens the competition for many taggable resources needed for quests and profession leveling.

But think about what it means once you have hit 110. It means that every zone will be tuned to 110 level for you. It means you will never be able to go into relaxed mode if you just want to farm some mats in a leisurely, laid back way. It means every mob you have to pass on your way to some objective will require a significant fight to escape — yes, even the nuisance mobs Blizz thinks are so “immersive” and “fun”.  Always. Every time you pass them. (And make no mistake, Blizz will ensure you have to pass them on the ground for a long time — it says something that they have not yet put the flying quest line into alpha. Mark my words, the earliest flying will be available in Legion is 7.2.)

Zone scaling will become a huge negative quality of life issue in the game.

Bad Idea Number Three is, of course, the massive class and spec changes. (And naturally I will focus on hunters here as the main example.)

  • Blizz has a dismal track record for balancing specs, and the result is that there are constant and wild swings. A spec that is playable one day can easily become unplayable the next — I offer the poor SV hunter as the prime example in WoD. It started out horribly, then became very playable in 6.1, then was totally trashed again in 6.2. This was bad enough in WoD, but think about the ramifications of such drastic seesaw effects when changing specs means you also have to change your artifact weapon. Making massive class and spec changes in Legion means any final tenuous balance Blizz was able to achieve in WoD will be gone, and the whole thing will start over again. This amounts to RNG for spec selection, good luck.
  • Having to completely relearn your spec every 18 months is extremely discouraging, and for many can make a new expansion more frustrating than fun.
    • Not everyone has the genetic finger-synapse mutation found in elite players. For many of us, becoming proficient in our class/spec takes months if not years, and getting close to it only to find it completely changed is beyond frustrating. It is Lucy yanking the football away from good old naive Charlie Brown.
    • This is yet another instance of the Favored Few having an advantage over us peons. They are already developing the muscle memory that will allow them to prevail early on in the game, getting the experience they will need to allow them to focus on refining encounter techniques instead of struggling to remember which freaking button to push next in an opening sequence and remembering that the spell they always rely on is now gone.
    • This is another of those things that can become a tipping point, that for some, the 6th or 7th time they have to relearn everything becomes the point at which they say screw it, it’s not worth it any more.
  • Last, but certainly not least, the Legion class changes have disproportionately fallen on hunters, to the point that there will no longer be a true traditional hunter class remaining in the game. This is not something new I have been saying — sorry to keep harping on it — but I am having a hard time accepting the arrogant, high-handed way Blizz seemed to decide that of all classes they had created, hunters for some reason offended them and therefore must be crushed. After all these years, suddenly the class could no longer be tolerated.
    • It is unthinkable that Blizz would have applied similar drastic destruction to, oh, say, the mage class. Think of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would occur if suddenly, arcane mages became melee, their staves were taken away and their artifact weapon was mandated to be something like a Magic Orb, they could no longer blink, they no longer had Arcane Brilliance as a raid buff, and Time Warp was removed as a raid cooldown. All in the name of “de-homogenizing” the class. But this will not happen, because there are Blizz devs who play and love the mage class, who see and appreciate all the nuances among its specs, who fell in love with it at some point and would never think of destroying the class they appreciate so much. Sadly, there are no devs, I am convinced, who play and love hunters in this way, so what the hell might as well screw with them.
    • Some may argue that at least Beast Mastery remains as a true traditional hunter spec in Legion. This — at least so far — is not true. In spite of the fact that Blizz said they thought BM hunters were “generally in a good place”, they have not been able to resist gutting the spec. They have succeeded in the alpha in making it a focus-starved mindless rote of a class, removing both engaging play and the thing they touted as part of the spec: pet control. From what I read so far about the spec in alpha, it has been reduced to little more than a play style any decent macro could reproduce. Don’t take my word for it, check out this post in Jade’s Forest. It is long, dense reading, but it is worth it if you are considering playing BM in Legion, even more so if you are hoping — as I am — that BM will allow you to continue to experience the awesomeness of playing a traditional hunter. (Spoiler: It doesn’t look like it will.)

Well, I have rambled on far longer than I intended to. But the more I see coming out about Legion, the less anxious I am to play it. I am happy that it looks like it will not be out before the end of September. If I had any say in it, I would delay it even longer. It has, in my opinion, some serious basic flaws that will negate any fun aspects to it.

Who are your alts?

As I usually do at the end of an expansion, I have been spending quite a bit of time with my alts. Getting reacquainted with them and in the process learning new things about them, I have to admit, is really one of my favorite activities in this game. If it weren’t for the time factor ( as in I already spend too much time on the game), I could see myself being a multi-account maxed-out number of characters type of player.

As it is, I feel like I can barely manage my current nine characters on my single account:

  • Worgen hunter main, level 100
  • Night elf hunter almost-main, level 100
  • Panda mistweaver monk, level 100
  • Gnome destro lock, level 100
  • Night elf druid I have never been able to settle on a spec for, level 100
  • Human mage (currently arcane) I keep threatening to delete, level 100
  • Human rogue I just rolled and leveled a couple of months ago, level 100
  • Human paladin I just rolled recently, level 30
  • Human priest that has been my banker for several years, level 18

The first four are the ones I feel most comfortable with, the ones I have raided with at various times, the ones I always level first in a new expansion. My night elf hunter was my very first character and my uncontested main until the current expansion, when for unimportant reasons having to do with various guild memberships and raiding activities, my Worgen hunter became my main. I run my Worgen as MM, my Night elf as BM, and I think of my BM as the fun hunter spec — the one I like doing old content on, the one I use to chase achievements, etc. If I had to dump all my characters but one, I would keep my Night elf hunter. Hands down, no contest.

I rolled my Worgen and my Panda when those races became available, just to see if I liked them. I did, obviously, and I have never looked back. I usually like to try new races, classes and specs when they come out, but sometimes it is just a passing fancy with me. I have tried DK twice, both times leveling to whatever the max was at the time, but just cannot make myself like them as a class. I will definitely roll a DH in Legion, but from what I have seen so far it will probably turn out like DK did for me. And — because I am stubborn and bull headed and still immersed in my tantrum — I will not roll a SV hunter. (As I write them, those look very much like Famous Last Words. I give you permission now to laugh in my face if I cave at some point on this…) I am certainly considering rolling a third — Gnome — hunter, though, when they become available.

As for races, I am not big on either Draenei or Dwarves. I have tried both, but I can never get past the aesthetics of hooves and a tail for Draenei, and although I think Dwarves fit the hunter fantasy well, I just don’t like looking at mobile fire plugs every time I log in to them. My only Dwarf, however, was female, so maybe at some point I would do better with a male. (And yes, I realize it is extremely sexist of me to think it fine for a male to be short, squat, and ugly, but not a female. I am not proud of it, but there it is. Sadly, we cannot always escape our cultural biases.)

I have two or three times tried rolling a Horde alt, but I just am not a Horde person. In addition to the ugliness of some of the races, I can’t get past the baseline fantasy of the whole Horde concept. I like my leisure escapism to be clear cut Good-versus-Evil, with me solidly on the side of Good. I get that the Horde are nuanced and conflicted, and have what seems to be a richer and more complex story than Alliance, but honestly I get plenty of nuanced and conflicted in real life thank you very much.

Anyway, back to my alts. I am fascinated by the fact that, as I play them, their individual personalities emerge, each quite different from the others. My Worgen is all business, very intense, competent, and professional. Also tends towards gruffness, gets impatient with frivolity. My Night Elf hunter, on the other hand, has a very laid back and balanced view of things. She is like someone’s really cool granny, who can enjoy being silly with the kids but who also has a strong grip on how to lead the family and who still stays on top of her professional skills. Nothing really fazes her, she takes it all calmly in stride.

My Panda is still figuring out her professional niche, hasn’t quite reached the top of her game yet, and tends to be a little insecure.  She is at heart a caretaker, a healer who dislikes doing harm to others except as necessary in the cause of saving those in her charge. I am not an expert healer on her, but I am respectable, and I find the healing mechanics very quirky and fun. We will see if they will stay that way in Legion.

My Gnome is all spit and fire, who gives off a clear signal of “Don’t f**k with me or I will kick your ass”. I think she is very cute, but I would never let her know that, because — well — she would kick my ass. But I find warlocks to be huge fun to play. If I feel the need to abandon my hunters in Legion, I think my lock will become my main.

I have had both my Druid and my Mage for a long time, but I have never really bonded with either of them. I think part of the problem is that I can’t seem to identify with a single spec for them. My Mage is all over the place on specs every expansion, although fire really is my favorite. I should probably just go with fire no matter what, and maybe then I would develop a bit more continuity and expertise with the class. As for my Druid, I like the idea of Boomkin best, think it is the most fun, but in WoD it has been horrible to play. I keep thinking I should learn to heal on her, because I think Resto Druids are quite powerful healers when played well, but so far I have found it to be a daunting learning curve. Still, I find Druids to be a fascinating class for their abilities to tank, heal, and be both ranged and melee damage dealers — really the most versatile class in the game.

My Rogue and Pally are experiments in melee classes for me. I rolled the rogue mainly to have someone to open lock boxes for my characters, and because I need one final profession to have them all. I find it to be an interesting class to play, but I am pretty bad at it still, and I get anxious when I have to just wait for  power build-ups and spells to become available. (I am a mad button pusher…)  My Pally is my only plate wearer, and is too low level yet for me to decide much about the class.

Well, this has been a longer and more rambling post than I intended. Possibly it reflects my scattershot, unfocused approach to the game these days. I’d be interested to hear how others view their alts.