I am NOT prepared

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My week in WoW

It was a quiet week in Lake WoWbegone…

Okay, nope, not going there. Bad parody. But honestly it was a quiet game week for me. I mostly just enjoyed puttering around here and there. Bopped around a bit in the BfA beta world, read some game-related blogs and forums, switched my arcane mage to fire, and finally used my 110 boost.

BfA impression of the week: I created a few characters and took them to target dummies just to see how the playstyles felt. However, there was no real depth to my research, it was more of a toe-dabbling, and of course I am pretty bad at most of my non-hunter classes. (I will say, though, that I found Windwalker Monk to be amazingly engaging, to the KA-POW! level of fun. This is in spite of the fact that I usually do not enjoy any kind of melee class. I am definitely going to look into this for a “main alt” in BfA.)

My efforts were admittedly scattered and slipshod, but I want to recommend to you a new series by Wowhead, Battle for Azeroth Community Opinons. This series is anything but slipshod. There is a separate page for each class, and what Wowhead has done is solicit feedback from a few of the top players for each class. So what you get is 2-3 very decent analyses of the spec you are interested in, from different players, addressing not only spec changes but also an opinion of the flavor and feel of the spec.

I encourage you to check it out. Unfortunately, I could not find a sub-topic home page for the series to link to, but if you do a web search on “wowhead battle for azeroth community opinions” you will get a list of all of them. It really is some of the best feedback I have seen lately. Even if you prefer to experience your spec for yourself, these other opinions may show you some avenues of research you had not considered.

Switching mage spec to fire. Although I leveled my void elf mage as arcane, I finally decided that I just have way more fun playing fire. So I switched about a week ago. Yeah, I know fire mages are mediocre damage dealers in Legion, but so what? Anyway, the process of switching has once again brought home to me the very significant difficulties Blizz has introduced in Legion for switching specs.

Let me explain. Certainly for what we used to call “hybrid” classes, switching specs to another role has always involved some complexity — different gear, primarily. Hybrids have always had to carry around a set of gear for each spec they wanted to play. This was a drawback, though the theory was that it was compensated for by the fact that a hybrid was conceivably more useful to groups than was a “pure” damage class. Also, originally to balance out the increased utility of hybrids — along with their perceived desirability for groups — so-called “pure” dps were deliberately made a bit more powerful than the damage specs of  hybrid classes.

But starting a couple of expansions ago, Blizz threw most of that out the window. There is no longer a damage advantage for pure dps classes, and on top of that the increased importance of secondary stats on gear has resulted in even pure dps classes carrying around different sets of gear for each spec. So pure dps classes now have the disadvantages of hybrids without the advantage of being able to change roles. And Legion compounded this situation by introducing the burden of AP and artifacts and spec-particular legendaries to the problem. (Yeah, yeah, I know there are “catch-up” mechanisms, but it still takes hours and days and even weeks depending on your luck to get a new spec up to speed for gear and gems and enchants and legendaries and artifact level and relics.)

I suppose I don’t have much of a point here, except to say that I am still pretty damn mad at Blizz for deliberately misleading us. I clearly recall that, in the leadup to Legion, Mr. Not Yet But Soon To Be Game Director Hazzikostas touted the idea that “you will be able to switch into any spec you want, no more 2-spec limit!” And, like baby birds anticipating yummy regurgitated worm from mom, we were all chirping and excited about this. What a load of crap, foisted on us by someone who knew full well there was a huge catch to it but who apparently considered us all to be gullible and stupid enough to think Blizz was actually giving us a break.

My 110 boost. Nothing very exciting here. After weighing some options and considering my game play style preferences, I decided to create a shaman and boost it. Of course I boosted it into Elemental (remember my preference for ranged), but I think as soon as I get a bit more comfortable with it I will try Resto. I have never really played a shaman at level. Once or twice in the past I tried to level one, but got frustrated with having to keep track of what seemed like a bewildering array of totems, all of which had different effects and cooldowns and which had to be individually managed. So even though good shamans may disagree, I like the totem changes in Legion.

Anyway, finally that 110 boost is no longer burning a hole in my pocket and taunting me every time I log in. I will make my new alt a blacksmith, so that will fill out all professions for my little character family. Woohoo, lots of new stuff to learn!

Off to do a weekend. See you on the other side.

Overcoming mage phobia

Those of you faithful readers that have followed this blog for a while now are probably aware of my love-hate relationship with the mage class. I rolled a mage as my second character years ago, mainly because I had a friend who swore it was the best class in the game. At the time he played what he called a frostfire mage, where he selected a complex set of fire and frost talents and touted it as the most powerful damage dealer that could be configured. I am not so sure about that, but I was sufficiently impressed to roll a mage when I decided one lonely hunter was not enough for me.

It was a disaster. For some reason I did not grasp the nuances of playing a caster, tried to power through everything the same way I did my hunter, and as a result died. A lot. As I am stubborn, I hung in there for a long time, though, and dutifully leveled her up every expansion, selecting whichever spec seemed best at the time, and of course cursing the class every step of the way.

Then finally late in WoD I deleted her. It is remotely possible alcohol played a role in the decision, but in a fit of pique I concluded I was never going to learn how to play the class, so why continue to torture myself. Stupid mages! DELETE CHARACTER.

Of course within a week I regretted the decision.

So I rolled a new one. I leveled her (a chubby little Panda mage) as fire, simply because I think fire mages have some of the best visuals in the game. To my surprise, the spec is quite mobile and I actually began to have fun with her. So when the allied races became available, in a fit of overconfidence, I decided to level a void elf arcane mage.

It has been a tough process, but I think something finally clicked for me over the weekend, because I started to feel not only confident in the play style, but also quite powerful. At level 110 and ilevel somewhere around 910, things began to come together. I no longer run out of mana after what seems like 4-5 casts, I can rather easily take on 3-4 mobs at a time, and I am no longer hesitant to engage mini-bosses in world quests by myself.

And it is fun. Who woulda thunk?

I am guessing a confluence of factors is at play here. Getting my gear to a respectable ilevel means more mastery, which in turn means better mana regeneration. This, along with more haste to slightly speed up casting times, has been a big quality of life improvement for me. It is still annoying, though, to have no reliable instant cast (if Presence of Mind is on cooldown) to preclude butthole horde from tag-stealing every mob in the area, or if other players are downing mobs faster than my shortest cast time.

In addition to gear helping, I am — finally, after all these years — learning to use the spec’s abilities instead of fighting them. I know that sounds basic, but I have had a real mind block on this. I am finding the Blink-Displacement-Blink combos to be pretty powerful, more so than a hunter’s Disengage in my opinion. And getting multiple Arcane Missiles procs in a row is super fun, there is just nothing in the BM hunter rotation to compare with that.

There is a lot — a lot — I still have to learn, of course. I really stink at any kind of AoE, and I am nowhere near close to being able to rapidly select the best talents for a given fight. (It does seem to me that this spec is annoyingly dependent on switching out talents in order to be effective in specific fights — possibly more so than most other classes and specs.) I have yet to do a successful Spellsteal (I think I will require an addon for that). I do not know how to use Rune of Power. And of course I am still a real novice at maintaining and using mana and arcane charges properly. But at least now I am interested in learning, which for me is a big step forward.

A mage will probably never become a main for me, and I expect LFR will be the extent of raid endeavors for this alt. But it is a nice diversion now that there is very little progression left for my main in this expansion. Not to mention, my void elf has some hawt transmogs!

All you great mages out there, stop rolling your eyes, this is a really big accomplishment for me! I think I can safely say I have finally conquered my mage phobia.

This is my happy mage dance.

January closet cleaning

Checking out my drafts folder yesterday, I see it is getting a little cluttered. Time to clear it out. So here are some scattered thoughts I never worked on enough to make an entire post on them.

Mage fear conquered? Regular readers know of my long-standing love-hate relationship with the mage class in WoW. I rolled a mage many years ago, as one of my earliest alts, but I could never get comfortable with the play style. I dutifully leveled her up each expansion, but could never rise above the terribad level of proficiency. Each expansion I tried all three specs, got adequate gear for her, even ventured into an easy raid or instance now and then.

But it just never felt right, so finally towards the end of WoD, after much soul searching, I deleted the poor thing. Within a month, I regretted the decision. So I rolled a new mage and leveled her to 100 before the end of WoD. When Legion came around, I decided the one mage spec I had always like best was fire, so I leveled her to 110 as a fire mage. But this time, for some reason, I am having great fun playing her. The play style, unlike my mental image of mages, is quite mobile (certainly as mobile as, say MM hunter), and every time those Hot Streak procs hit — and they hit quite often — I get a little tickle of fun.

Maybe that is the key: fun. I really feel like Blizz has sucked all the fun out of huntering. Certainly for BM they have turned it into a grim process of mashing buttons when they are off cooldown. The only really fun procs left for BM are the odd trinket or legendary effect. But my little fire mage rewards me every time I play. I love planning my chain of crits to be able to sustain high damage and instant casts, and the visuals — especially when I plan properly — are nothing short of spectacular.

Attention Blizz: Fire mages are an example of a fun play style. BM hunters are not. There is no real fun in merely not missing a Kill Command cooldown. Also the hunter visuals — when they exist, which is not often — stink. If you cannot see the difference, then there is little hope for the hunter class going forward.

Paying for game commentary sites. You may have noticed that I removed Blizzard Watch from my blog roll on this site. The reason is not that I think it is a bad site (I do not). Rather it is because they have recently started what I think of as a sleazy Eyewitless News practice of hyping some posts with salacious headlines, then locking them for anyone who does not pay for the site.

I do subscribe to the site with Patreon, but I was uncomfortable with being complicit in putting the arm on my readers to pay up in order to read a post I linked to. Blizzard Watch, of course, is free to put pressure on anyone they want in order to make some money. (And I suspect it is not like they are raking it in, anyway — more like just keeping the lights on.) But it is not my style, and I really don’t want to be a shill for them.

Begging for gear. As I play my alts more frequently now that Legion is winding down, I am running more LFRs than I used to. I am finding one of the more annoying trends is for people to whisper me every time I get a piece of gear, asking if  I really need it. Usually I ignore them or whisper back a rather stark “yes”. I refrain from saying if I did not need the gear I would tell people to roll for it, though that would be a small lie, since I often do not put things up for roll because it is cumbersome to do so and even more cumbersome to effect the actual trade. There are a couple people in my guild who do not even loot bosses in LFR any more just because they don’t want to be annoyed by these beggars — they get their loot through the mail from the postmaster.

In typical fashion, when Blizz introduced the possibility of rolling for personal loot in a group, they gave exactly zero thought to how that would inevitably play out for The Great Unwashed. Here is the usual scenario:

  • Kill boss.
  • Loot rolls by in raid chat.
  • Tank runs hell bent for leather to engage next trash in combat.
  • People like me don’t even realize what if any loot they got, much less have the time to decide to put it up for roll, type out the link and the announcement, then monitor who wins the roll and try to find them during a rare non-combat interval to open trade.
  • Multiple beggars whispering me does not help the confusion.

This is bad enough in a guild run, where I actually want to help people out with gear, but for the record I refuse to deal with it in LFR. Sorry, LFR-ites, you are not getting any of my loot. It’s nothing personal, just that I can’t be bothered.

If Blizz actually gave a damn — which they clearly do not — they would have created a better user interface for announcing, deciding, and trading gear in group situations. No doubt this is on the table for BfA.

HAHAHAHA, just kidding.

Try not to panic yet. A few days ago we got the first big dump of data on Battle for Azeroth, along with a class balance dev post and the announcements of the alpha test and an imminent Hazzikostas “Q&A”. I took a very cursory look at the hunter changes in this first flood of information and saw what I thought were a lot of MM and SV changes, but almost nothing on BM hunters. A small nugget of worry took root in my brain, but I squished it down as I had not really studied the data and could easily have missed a bunch. (Recall that I am a professional worrier…)

But then yesterday, Bendak in Eyes of the Beast posted his first thoughts on sifting through the data, as it pertains to BM hunters, and it was pretty grim. Responsibly, he reiterated that this is the first set of data, it is extremely early in the process, he has not had a chance to actually play on a test realm yet, and there will be much more to come. But a couple of his remarks really caught my eye.

I was hoping for more from my beloved BM. But I’m willing to accept that BM hasn’t seen as much attention as MM and SV at this point in development. At least I hope that’s the case, or else we’re in trouble.

….

This new version of Survival looks oddly similar to Beast Mastery but with the addition of a bunch of DoTs. Half the abilities and talents can be used from range, and you can even do your main rotation at 40 yards while Aspect of the Eagle is active.

I know they feel like they need to make some big changes to Survival to get people to play it, but I would have rather seen them improve what’s there by pruning the existing rotation, keeping the good parts, removing a bit of the excessive maintenance, and adding some new talents. Now it seems like all they’re doing is adding abilities that would be better served as MM or BM abilities. Is it a melee spec or not? How do they plan on balancing this?

I refuse to panic yet, but I can’t help but hearken back to the early days of Legion testing, when we all thought the same thing about the bad place BM hunters were in and the curious lack of any announced changes. Surely, we thought, it’s just a matter of Blizz not having got around to the major BM changes yet. Nope, indeed what we saw in the earliest data was what we got, and it sucked. Moreover, Blizz steadfastly refused to even discuss the lack of changes, refused to even comment on the very detailed and cogent results posted by some of the best hunters in the game, rudely and disrespectfully ignored every plaintive cry for at least an explanation of the crude play style.

So yeah, it might be too early to panic. But then again, it might not. Is BM hunter destined to become the next “experiment” in Blizz’s never-ending quest to screw with the hunter class?

As much as I have come to enjoy mages, Blizz, why don’t you take a break from hunters and go screw with mages for a change? Or druids? I swear, if you destroy BM like you destroyed SV in WoD, I will haunt you and curse you to the end of my days!

2018 – My year of alts?

I hope everyone had a great holiday. I certainly did, but I won’t deny it is good to be back to a routine. The house is back to its normal non-decorated self, all the bad-for-you Christmas cookies and fudge and such have been gobbled or otherwise disposed of, the relatives have gone home, the parties are over, and there is no need for constant cheer.

O, comfortable rut, how I missed you!

Anyway, I did get in a lot of WoW play time while on break. Mostly I took the opportunity to develop a few of my alts that have been so badly neglected this entire expansion. It occurs to me that our raid team will soon — probably within a month — be done with Heroic Antorus TBT, and then things will essentially be set on “coast” for the remainder of Legion. Sure, we will still raid a couple of times a week, but after progression it is mainly just fun runs and getting Ahead of the Curve for non-raiders, along with some gear. I doubt if we will be doing any Mythic attempts, as once we finish Heroic (currently 8/11) it gets hard to corral enough core raiders to get to 20. So I am not holding my breath on that, and honestly I am kind of looking forward to a respite.

I think we are in for a pretty long “content drought” this year — typical end-of-expansion doldrums. It seems unlikely that we will see Battle for Azeroth before Blizzcon. We do not even have a hint of an Alpha much less a Beta yet, and we are probably still a month or two away from Patch 7.3.5. Also, I cannot imagine Blizz going into a Blizzcon without something big to hype. So my main bet is that we will have Legion for most of the rest of 2018.

Still, I have to admit that Blizz has surprised me with their delivery of Legion content. I may quibble with their definition of the term, but I cannot deny that they have carried out the exact schedule they promised. If anything, Legion has given us too much to do. It is because of this recent history that I think there is a (slim) possibility that Blizz has a surprise or two left for us in Legion. Also, I do not think Ion Hazzikostas wants to risk players leaving Legion with a bad taste in their mouths because it dwindled to nothing for months on end.

I hope they are not banking on everyone being content to level their new allied race character for 8-10 months. (Although the cynic in me says that slowing down the leveling process while at the same time offering new races to level is absolutely not a coincidence…)

If there are Legion surprises (and remember I think it is a long shot), what they may be are anyone’s guess. After 7.3.5 there could be one or two small “fun” patches before we get 8.0 in preparation for BfA. These could offer some quality of life fixes, some new scenario-type activities, maybe some new timewalking stuff, maybe even a mini-raid.

Additionally, I think there is a tiny chance that all the WoW prognosticators and pundits are wrong, and we will get BfA much sooner than anyone expects. I have no real basis for this, but it still tickles at the back of my brain that there seems to be a very fuzzy line between BfA and 7.3.5 development. Patch 7.3.5 may be a Trojan horse of sorts, a way to sneak in a lot of BfA design and testing without actually admitting that is what is going on. If Blizz can limit the new things that a Beta has to test (and remember they have said that BfA will have very few major class changes), they might be able to bring the new expansion to live servers faster than most of us anticipate.

But as I said, both the “Legion surprise” and “early BfA” theories are extreme long shots. What is more likely is that we will have Legion for nearly all of 2018, with only allied characters to keep us busy. Which means I will have a nice long time to immerse myself in my favorite part of every expansion: the “content drought” period most people hate. With that thought in mind, I spent a good deal of my break time playing my alts.

Anyway, back to my alts. I am not even close to being an altoholic. I have basically a main and 7 alts, plus a bank alt and usually one or two low level alts that I play for a few days and then delete. Of my 7 alts, all but one are level 110, with varying gear levels. All are Alliance and all are on the same server. I have tried Horde alts from time to time but just do not enjoy that whole fantasy. Also, I have no dwarf or Draenei characters. If I had to pick a favorite race, it would be a tossup between Pandaren and Night Elves. All but one of my alts are female. My alt specs are either damage dealers (slightly more ranged than melee) or healers, no tanks.

My holiday surprise came when I spent some time on my mage. Regular readers will recall that I have struggled with mage play style forever, and that I tend to have a sort of love-hate relationship with the class. I stereotype it as a stand-still-and-cast class, and cloth-squishy to boot. So imagine my delight when I discovered that my fire mage is very mobile, and that she has some considerable defensive abilities. I am having a blast with her, trying now to get her gear level to a point where I can jump into a few of our guild alt runs in Antorus. I have always said I think fire mages have the best visuals in the game, and I think that even more now that I am actually playing one.

I get enormous satisfaction from a streak of Heating Up and Hot Streak procs, and these happen very frequently. Thinking about it, the absence of that is one of the things that makes BM hunter play so dull — you just do not get any fun procs to really get your adrenaline going. Back in the day, the thing I absolutely loved about SV hunter was getting that Lock and Load proc — it was pure joy when it went off and BAM! you knew you had a chance to do some very significant extra damage. It just never got old. The puny, yawn-inducing almost-unnoticeable procs you get on BM these days do not even come close. Thanks again, Blizz, for sucking the fun out of huntering.

I actually hope Blizz takes its time with Battle for Azeroth. I will be perfectly happy to play a lot of my alts for several months. As my game time is usually limited to around 20 hours a week or so, I have not so far had the luxury of both maintaining a raiding main and doing end game play on my alts. I am hoping 2018 allows me to give my main a rest and spend most of my game time on some of my favorite (and possibly even new) alts.

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.