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.

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!