New leveling, continued

In Friday’s post, I described my experiences so far with leveling a void elf under the new leveling structure. As nearly all of my weekend play time was spent leveling my new alt, this will be an update on additional observations.

Having now played a total of 17 hours in the new system on my void elf, I have to say I still have mixed feelings about the leveling and zone changes.

In my 17 hours I managed to get my VE to level 50. Allowing for the fact that they start at level 20, and allowing some non-leveling time for afk’s, incorporating new talents into action bars, setting up a bank and getting new bags, running back and forth to the Darkmoon Faire to get the leveling buff, etc., that is probably — very roughly — 2 levels per hour. (Not sure how much the DMF buff speeded things up, but it did help a little, even though it seemed like every time I freshly applied it, my next series of quests involved long intervals of road travel, with not much actual leveling going on. 😡)

That really is not a bad rate, but it is quite a bit slower than before the patch, so of course it feels really tedious. (Plus, I expect that rate to slow as I get higher.) These days I consider myself to be an efficient leveler — not a speed leveler, but also not wasting time on things like professions and extraneous exploration. I handicapped myself a bit this time by choosing a mage to level, and an arcane one at that. One of my guildies started out yesterday at almost the same level I was, and by the end of the day she had reached 60 while I only got to 50, playing about the same number of hours. But she is leveling a monk, and that xp buff they get is pretty significant. Also, my leveling an arcane mage means I have to spend time after every 2-3 pulls to replenish mana (arcane really eats mana fast) and health (squishy clothie). It adds up.

Pluses so far:

I do like the idea that I can select any zone I want to level in. For example, I am really burned out on Redridge, so I am avoiding it this time around. I did Western Plaguelands but when it came time to go to what traditionally would have been the next zone — Eastern Plaguelands, which I hate with a passion — I opted for Theramore instead. You can jump from zone to zone or continent to continent easily and not suffer any bad effects on the leveling process. (With the possible exception of some additional travel time.)

I also like the addition of zone quest sets. I was never big on going after the Loremaster achievement, but I do like the mini-achievements you get now when you finish a set of related quests in a zone.

I still like the heirloom gear, even after Blizz nerfed it. (A lot.) It saves me having to re-equip most gear after quests, and of course the added transmog expenses every time you re-equip. (Because of course fashion while questing is everything, Dahling!) Yeah, I know void elves get a slight break on transmog costs, but I am still a cheapskate in that area. (More about heirloom gear below.)

Minuses so far:

Something that did not occur to me before I started this process, but which I now find is pretty important, is that I never get the “oh, I must be making progress” feeling, because every mob is always pretty hard. They level up as I do, so I never get that “cool, this used to be hard but now they are dying much faster” internal feedback. Everything is just as difficult at level 50 as it was at level 20, even the exact same mobs.

In some ways, this absence of a sense of progression reminds me of the Legion AP chase — you never really feel like you have finished anything, it just grinds on and on with no noticeable change. Leveling an alt is now like leveling your artifact weapon, and it feels bad. I am astounded that Blizz just does not seem to understand this. It apparently is not important to the devs, but I can assure them it is very important to the majority of players.

I have not done any dungeons, so I can’t speak firsthand as to how or if that would affect the leveling process. However, the guildie I mentioned above ran a few on a different alt — a tank she is leveling — and described her experiences as a “disaster”, mainly because healers just could not keep up with the extra damage to the tank and dps. She is an excellent tank, knows the fights and is very situationally aware when it comes to pulling, and she will stop to let healers get mana and such, so when she says dungeons are “disasters” I tend to put some stock in it. If they give extra xp, is it really worth it if they take longer to do and require more repair costs?

I have also heard that the healer leveling process is significantly more difficult now than before the changes (if any of you have direct experience with this, chime in). Of course, it is not new that some classes and specs have an easier time leveling than others, this has always been the case. But I wonder if the new system, because of rushed testing or slipshod balancing, disproportionately punishes the “loser” classes and roles. It’s just a thought, I really have no data to go further with it.

Doing a major overhaul of the entire leveling system is certainly a daunting task, and I suppose we should be somewhat understanding if Blizz has not covered all its bases in the process. But honestly, my patience shelves for Blizz are pretty bare these days. They seem to rush things out the door, rarely if ever listening or reacting to the serious feedback they claim to want from players.

Not everyone wants the new prescribed and approved leveling “experience” every time they level an alt. The forums are full of people loudly braying this truism. It seems to me that Blizz might, for a change, listen to the drumbeat behind the comments and realize they could actually — and easily — appease both camps in this case. They could keep the new system in place, but structure heirlooms this way:

  • Keep the new nerfed versions, but add a level of enhancement, based on the player having attained certain achievements (max level, certain level of gear, certain reps, a high level quest chain, whatever) on at least one character.
  • The new enhancement would be purchased tokens, applied to each piece of heirloom gear after each has reached level Level 3 for that piece.
  • This new “Level 4” token would go into effect immediately and would basically grant greater gear power (yes, rendering mobs and many bosses trivial), as well as significantly increase the xp bonus for each piece. (Essentially restoring the old leveling experience.)
  • The token would be applied once the heirloom gear was equipped and soulbound, thus applying only to the character being leveled. (Like enchants do now.) If a player wished to level another alt, they would have to re-purchase these speed tokens for that alt.
  • The cost of the tokens should be reasonable, neither too cheap nor prohibitively expensive, maybe something like a few hundred gold each.
  • Players not wishing to rush through the leveling experience would not have to add this token and would get the full benefit of whatever “immersive experience” they want. (Of course there would be the inevitable argument of “I love playing this way, and so everyone else should have to play that way, too”, but that is an argument that should be ignored.)

I honestly do not see who would lose with such a system (except, probably the Blizz execs who now equate “tedious grinding” with “my quarterly MAU bonus”). But I think what Blizz has done with the new leveling system actually will discourage some players from leveling new alts (especially once the newness of Allied races has worn off), and by giving an option for speed leveling it might entice more players to participate, which in the long run will increase MAU.

None of this will happen, of course. First, Blizz has shown they do not give a rat’s ass if players feel they are being shoved into one endless grind after another. (All while Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas sanctimoniously tut-tuts about the evils of “grinding”, a prime example of alternative-reality thinking.) Second, Blizz is in the midst of a major game redirection — ongoing now for a couple of years — away from any form of player option or choice and towards a highly centralized and prescribed play style.

Meanwhile, I need more mage food.

Allied races so far

On Wednesday I plunked down my money to pre-purchase Battle for Azeroth and get the opportunity to recruit and level a couple of allied races. As I don’t play Horde at all, for me that meant Void Elves and Lightforged Draenei. I am not big on hooves, so I will leave that race for later, and I opted for a Void Elf mage (arcane).

As much as I see through why Blizz is making this part of BfA available now (monthly active user metrics), I have to admit it is a pretty shrewd move. I am having some fun with my VE. I had already (several weeks ago) met the rep requirements, so for me the recruitment was a simple matter of running a few Fedex-type quests and doing the final scenario. I found the scenario appropriate — it established a bit of lore for the VEs, and it was long enough to be engaging but short enough to not be tedious.

I think the VE models are attractive, and armor really seems to look good on them. (Though I was disappointed at the paucity of hair styles available. ☹️)

five-02

There was a lot of to-do over some of the Allied Races racials, and there was some speculation that the VE Spatial Rift racial would break PvP. I have tried it out, and honestly it is not big deal. It seems to transport you about the same distance or even less than Blink, and it is not really instantaneous — you have to hit it twice to make it work. Some of the other damage-reduction and damage-enhancing racials for VEs may be more useful, but even they do not seem anything much to write home about. I suppose at max level they might make a tiny difference for all the min-maxers out there, but I am kind of underwhelmed by them.

So far I am just leveling her up regular. Some of my guildies went ahead and used their boost on their Allied race character, but I think I will save mine. When you use the boost, your character does not gain access to the special armor for the race, but that is not a consideration for me — I think the armor set is bulky and ugly, but then I am sort of a minimalist when it comes to armor. I just want to save my boost for a while and see if I might have a really good use for it. At the very least, I will level this character to whatever level necessary to get the profession boost too, if I decide to use the character boost. (I am guessing that is still a thing, but honestly I don’t know, as it has been a long time since I have used a character boost.)

Late Edit. Couple more things have come up regarding leveling and boost. For one, Blizz has weaseled out on the normal profession boost accompanying a character boost when you do it after a certain character level. They now grant professions up to 700, but are requiring the entire long, dungeon-and-raid-and-quest-lines profession leveling to ge to 800. (MAU, baby!)

Second — and this is strictly anecdotal, I have not done any calculations yet — I have noticed what seems to be a significant decrement in the length of the rested buff you get when you log out. I had my VE mage logged out in an inn for about 36 hours, and the buff disappeared within 20 minutes after I resumed leveling. I was not doing any crash xp turn-ins or anything, just normal quest chasing. Could be a bug, could be my imagination, but it was pretty disconcerting, given how slow it is to level now anyway.

In general, I am not happy with the “experience” of slogging through low levels, nor am I pleased that Blizz has seen fit to nerf the character boost regarding professions.

The Allied Race characters start out at level 20. I have leveled my mage to 36 after a couple of nights. I can definitely see the difference the new zone leveling and xp amounts make. It takes noticeably longer to level up and even to kill some mobs. Our GM did some research, and apparently it is about 30% longer to level up across the board now, so that for example if it took 60 game hours to get to 110 before, now it takes 90. I have not run any instances yet, so I cannot speak to any changes in those in terms of relative difficulty.

So far I am enjoying the leveling process, but I think it will wear thin fairly soon. I expect somewhere around level 50 I will just want the process to be over and will want only to get to 110 as fast as possible. Even when it was current, I did not enjoy the level 50-90 zones. In theory the new zone leveling helps with some of that, but I still think it will be tedious. By level 50, I have had all the “classic experience” I can stand.

At any rate, so far Blizz’s move to give us access to some of the BfA Allied Races gets a thumbs up from me. I don’t know how much longer I will continue to enjoy the “experience”, but it is definitely a nice diversion for a while.

And speaking of diversions, time for a weekend diversion. See you on the other side.

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.

Why do you have alts?

My plan today had been to write about the effects T2 is having on alts, but The Grumpy Elf beat me to it, and honestly he did a way better job with it than I would have, so please stop by and read his post. But thinking about alts and the shabby — in my opinion — way they have been treated in WoD got me to thinking about the various reasons people have them, and the various ways they play them.

I will take myself as an example, because I think I have a representative number of alts but I am not what you would call an altoholic. My main is a Worgen hunter, and my alts are:

  • A level 100 Night Elf hunter (who used to be my main but who has fallen behind in WoD, due to not being with a decent raid team for most of the expansion, but who still has most of my account achievements).
  • A level 100 Pandaren monk who is my healer.
  • A level 100 Gnome destro warlock.
  • A level 100 Human arcane mage that I have never learned how to play and that spent over a year being a bank alt.
  • A level 91 Night Elf balance druid. (See mage comments above.)
  • A level 90 Pandaren elemental shaman that is mostly a bank alt but that I had fun playing around with in Mists.
  • A level 18 Human priest that is strictly a bank alt.

Over the years I have created a lot of alts, but I deleted most of them and the ones above are the ones I am left with for now. The first two alts I ever created were my druid and my mage, and my newest alt — created in Mists — is my lock.

The only reason I have ever created alts is to try out play styles on non-hunter classes. You will note that with the exception of my healer all my alts are ranged damage dealers. This is because so far I have not been able to really get into melee style game play. I have tried every melee class but never stuck with them beyond about level 60 or so, I end up getting really bored with them and deleting them. I chalk this up to it being a bad habit of mine, and I still intend to pick a melee class and level it to max, just haven’t picked out the right one for me yet. I have toyed with the idea of making a strong melee off spec for either my druid or my monk, but again I have not devoted much time to that. But it is still an option.

The other thing about my alts is that they are all Alliance. I have tried a couple of Horde side alts, but my imagination is so strong and my game immersion (can’t believe I am actually using that term) is so great that I cannot shake the feeling that I am being a traitor, so I always end up deleting them. Plus, to be honest, I think all the Horde races are disgustingly ugly, and I just can’t enjoy being surrounded by them. (I know, I am shallow!)

Of all my alts, I enjoy playing the healer and the lock the most (not counting my alt hunter, because nothing could be more fun than a hunter). I like the healer because it is so completely different from damage dealing. I find healing stressful while I am anticipating it, challenging while I am doing it, and fulfilling when I am done. If I were not mainly a hunter, I would be a healer.

I like my lock because she has a ton of personality. She is tiny and cute but totally kick-ass. If you met her in a dark alley, you would back away as fast as possible because one look and you would know she is no one to mess with. In Mists, the destro lock play style was great fun, but it has become less so in WoD. I still find it engaging, just a tad slow and tedious to get going in that you have to build up your embers before you can have fun spending them, and you are pretty much dependent on standing still to do well. And locks are fun to level and quest with because like hunters they have their own private tank.

Anyway, this is not about the things I like or don’t like about each of my alts, the point is that I created them in the first place to play them. If/when I create another melee class it will be because I want to explore that play style.

If you believe Ion Hazzikostas, that is the only “approved” reason for creating and having alts. But I have another reason for maintaining my alts (and I suspect many of you do, too). I take care to ensure that between them they have all the relevant professions, so that I can be self-sufficient with crafted gear, enchants, glyphs, gems, mat gathering, etc. Apparently Blizz frowns upon this and is taking steps to make it more difficult. But it remains for me a very strong reason to have them, and I don’t intend to change. (*sticks out tongue at Blizz*)

In addition to exploring different play styles and being self-sufficient, a third reason I have alts is to be a good raid team member. I feel like having a couple of viable alts is the responsible thing to do if you are on a decent raid team. They don’t have to be top performers, just viable in a pinch. This means that you should do your best to have them raid-ready by gearing them as best you can and by maintaining some level of proficiency with them.

The last reason I have for alts is as boredom insurance. As expansions wear on and you have done pretty much all you care to do on your main, you can always turn to either a new or existing alt and experience the expansion in a new way on them. I guarantee you that T2 will be a completely different experience on my mage than it was on my hunters, for example. Same with LFR — it may be the only way I can get close to raiding on my weaker alts, so it will be quite a bit different from my hunter LFR token-hunting reason. As I have mentioned, I was never bored in Mists, even though it went on for a long time, and I attribute most of that to being able to spend quality time with my alts.

So that’s it. I enjoy alts, I have multiple reasons for creating them, and I wish I had more time to play them. I also wish T2 was not such a hostile environment for them. I intend to create more alts, especially as WoD ages. They are a way for me to keep the game fresh, reminding me again of the reasons I started playing in the first place.

What about you? Why do you have alts, or if you don’t have any why don’t you?

Proving Grounds revisited

Yesterday I decided to try and gear up my destro warlock and discovered, when I went to queue up for the 3 instances needed for round two of the legendary, that I had not yet completed the proving grounds requirement. So I took a deep breath and entered the PG instance.

I have only done the WoD version on my two hunters and on my MW monk, all of them when they were at relatively low ilevels. The instance starts at 615 and scales up the difficulty if your gear is above that level. I think my three characters were all around ilvl 600 when they did it, but the instance does not scale down the difficulty to account for anything below 615.

The DPS PG is ridiculously easy for a hunter — even an undergeared one, and especially a survival hunter — and I had zero problems getting silver on both of mine, first try, plenty of time left over.  (And no, I have no interest whatsoever in getting gold or god forbid endless.) My MW was a little more challenging, it took me about 6 or 7 tries to get the silver. It’s been awhile, but I seem to remember that I got much better results when I pitched in with some damage to help out the pitiful DPS NPCs.

My lock is somewhere around 652 ilevel, and honestly getting silver was not a walk in the park. I got bronze immediately, but it took me a few tries to get the silver. I attribute most of this difficulty to my lack of recent practice with my lock. Once I switched around a few talents to get more AoE power and had regained some proficiency with using my cooldowns, I was fine.

The experience made me think a little about the whole PG concept. I recall that I was pretty excited about it when it was announced for 5.4, thinking it would be a great way — finally — for tanks and healers to practice without subjecting a group to the painful realities of their learning curve. In fact, Blizz promoted it this way, saying it would be a tutorial  experience, a hands-on way to improve your skills. Unfortunately, I envisioned a somewhat grander and more useful tool than what we got, but still it was a good game addition.

In the hype leading up to WoD, Blizz said that the PG would be improved by providing much more in the way of tutorials, and also that it would be a requirement for heroics. I think this was yet another example of Blizz over-promising, as what I see is that the “more tutorials” consists of that NPC “teaching” you to not stand in bad shit and to interrupt casters. Big whoop.

I don’t feel I can comment on the heals PG, as I have only done it a couple times. But I’ve done the DPS one now something like 10 times on various alts, up to silver. It has one or two extremely limited uses, which I will discuss below, but in general it stinks as a DPS tutorial or even as a DPS gate for heroics. In my opinion, it is basically just an AoE race. The single target guys are easy to deal with, and the required “movement” consists of getting behind the shield dudes and kiting that Big Ball o’ Wax so that it hits a mob.

Where the challenge comes is when you have to apply AoE on those disgusting little rabbit creatures as you are killing the single targets. You cannot engage the rabbits one by one or you will run out of time. This is simple for a hunter and a lock, not so simple for some other classes. Classes/specs that lack a robust cleave or AoE will have a significantly harder time completing silver in my opinion. Not sure I will even attempt it on my arcane mage, but that is one example that comes to mind.

The only use I can see for the current PG is that it forces you to practice with your class/spec buttons. That’s it. So if you have not used your character for awhile, it serves as a quick refresher. Or if for example you leveled your hybrid as DPS but really want to play it at level as a healer or tank, the PG  can help you practice a couple of rotations as a practical exercise that is different from using a target dummy. Will it teach you how to tank or heal? Not even close.

There is no good reason to require PG silver for heroics. Beyond a pre-school kind of “training” it is meaningless as a predictor for competence. I am not saying Blizz should get rid of the requirement, just that it is useless as one. It’s like requiring players to visit Goldshire before they can queue for heroics — possibly interesting, more likely annoying, but completely unrelated to performance in an instance.

I still believe there is a lot of potential for the idea of Proving Grounds. For example, offering a better variety of scenarios would be interesting. You might choose, for example, among scenarios including little to no movement, high movement, single target or lots of adds, tank switching, raid-wide damage versus heavy tank damage for healers to contend with, etc. You could also work on certain mechanics in a PG. For example, the conveyor belt mechanic has been used a lot since 5.4, so having that in a PG  might be useful as an option.

Another nice innovation would be the option to take one or two people into the PG with you. This would be useful in lots of circumstances. For example, someone just learning a new role or class might ask the guild expert on that to give them pointers while in the PG. One or two raid team members might want to work on some specific coordination techniques. Lots of possibilities.

Proving Grounds in their current state are close to useless, in my opinion. But that doesn’t mean Blizz should abandon them. It would be nice to see them expanded and improved in the next expansion.

Odds and ends

No great topic for today’s post, just a bunch of thoughts, most of which are unrelated, but none of which are well developed enough to merit a separate post.

After a huge amount of dithering about my hunter spec — for both hunters — I finally just decided to stick with Survival as the main spec for both, with Beastmastery as a secondary. Much of my gear on one hunter has mastery as a secondary stat instead of multistrike, but I’ve decided to pretty much ignore secondary stats, certainly not going to go to any great lengths to get 670 multistrike gear  if I already have the same piece of 670 gear with mastery. It’s just not worth the annoyance for a few hundred or a thousand DPS difference. I would rather spend my time honing my SV skills than chasing gear I may never get. In my opinion Blizzard has completely screwed up the whole stat system. I need to take my own advice, which I always give to other hunters when they ask what spec they should play, that is, play what you love.

Think I posted that I did finally pick up a secondary spec for my destro warlock. Went with demonology, but I gotta say I am having some difficulty getting the hang of it. It seems very complex to me for some reason, whereas destro seems very straightforward. Most of that is due to practice I am sure — I mean I did the 5.0.4 Green Fire quest which required in my case over 100 battles that used every talent and spell a warlock has, and I did it as destro, so I am very well practiced with that spec. More quality time with the target dummies is clearly in order before I even venture into LFR with my demo spec.

We are having what is becoming a huge debate about loot in one of my guilds. Most of the raid team favors personal loot, but the Raid Leader is bent on group loot. I see the pros and cons of both opinions, but what it comes down to for me is that personal loot eliminates the drama. Period. The RL insists that group loot will ensure more equitable distribution of loot and improve the raid team overall. In theory this is correct, only it never ever works out that way. Our raid loot system is roll 300 for main spec, 100 for off spec, and you only get one successful main spec roll per night. Loot master reserves the right to redistribute as he sees fit. But one problem is that we typically only down 1-2 bosses per night, sometimes not even that. We have some people who are uncannily lucky and some who almost never are — the lucky people pick up loot every night because they always get a main spec roll every raid night, the unlucky people tend to go weeks without getting loot. We also have some people whose only gearing up mechanism is guild raids, so they are always pitifully undergeared and of course are the ones who need gear most. The people who work hard at gearing up outside of guild raids tend to get penalized for doing so because someone else always needs the gear more. We also get people who do not normally raid with us but like to cherry pick bosses they need gear from, so they will jump in on a night they think we’ll down that boss and get the same chance at group loot as the ones that have spent hundreds of gold on repairs after several nights of wiping.

So our group loot scheme is really no better than random luck, except when the loot master intervenes to award one of the slackers with gear “because they need it more.” My point is, since it is really no better than random luck anyway why not eliminate the drama and go with personal loot?

Speaking of loot, it looks like I have just as rotten luck with follower gear as I do with my own gear.

And speaking of follower gear, I think I read that in patch 6.1 the Salvage Yard will no longer award follower gear. You will only be able to get it from the Dwarven Bunker. Which begs the question, why even have the Salvage Yard any more? The odd transmog pieces, crummy personal gear, and paltry few mats along with all the grey junk just don’t justify it any more. I wonder if Blizz is planning on increasing the drop rate of follower gear from the bunker as compensation?

And while we are at it, why can’t we trade in all those useless 615 pieces of follower gear for 630 or 645? Or trade a weap upgrade for an armor or vice versa?

Still haven’t worked up the courage to go back to healing with my monk after my disastrous effort in normal Skyreach. Got to make myself do it, but I am not looking forward to it.

Finally started to level my mage. As Frost, but I am not liking it. Think I will go back to Fire/Arcane spec sets. Kinda the same thing as my SV hunter decision. I just don’t enjoy playing Frost, never have. Not that I am very good at any of them, mind you. Mage is not really my thing, but I have to admit they still have some of the coolest visuals of any class.

Thinking about starting a melee alt. Every time I’ve tried this before I have deleted them by about level 30, just can’t seem to like the whole  melee play style. But humans are basically optimistic creatures, so maybe this time it will work??  I suppose I could just configure a Windwalker spec for my monk, maybe that would work out better for me. I’ll see.

My new computer arrives today, excited about that. But I know it will take a couple days to set up, not really excited about that part.

Took a couple hours last week and went back to Pandaria. Needed some ghost iron, so I went back and flew some of my old mining routes. It was great! I swooped and soared and had more fun than I’ve had in weeks in this game. Blizz really has to bring back flying, I miss it tremendously. Also stopped in at my humble little abode in Sunsong Ranch, got kinda nostalgic. It was never fancy, but it was cozy and it was mine. I miss having my own place and no, garrisons are not the same. Not even close.

Oops, UPS guy was just here with my computer. Later, all!