An hour of nothingness and delusion

Today’s post is about all the juicy tidbits Ion Hazzikostas dropped for us in yesterday’s Q&A — some of them make me righteously indignant, I am excited about others, and still others have given us startling insight into not only 7.3 but also the direction the game is going for the next expansion.

HAHAHAHAHA! Just kidding. It was a real yawner, so much so it looked like even Josh Allen aka Lore got bored enough to semi-surreptitiously start checking out his phone texts about halfway through the session. A coincidence of irl scheduling allowed me to watch it live, and what a mistake that was — truly an hour of my life completely wasted. Unless you really have nothing else to do, do not waste your own time listening to it — if you are interested, read the MMO-C summary notes.

Nevertheless, herewith a couple of comments:

Who selects the “questions” for these things?

Okay, I get that not everyone has the same game interests I do, and that there will be subjects that cause me to roll my eyes but that are totally absorbing to someone else. Story lines would be an example — some people are real nerds (meant in the nicest possible way) about the game’s lore and can’t get enough of it, while I on the other hand…

Lore nerd: OMG!!! Did you hear that in the next expansion we might finally find out why G’Thun’De’Fxxxgrlk treacherously sold out the Squeakyoldfart Creators of Every Aspect of the Universe, causing the rise of the orcs and the demise of the Curlytoed Elves? And that he will finally be reunited with his centuries-long love Mp’K’Qrj’kunda? And that we will get to fight the Fel Caterpillar of Fuzzy Doom in the Temple of Gassygreenvapors? Sorry about the spoilers, but I’m so excited!!

Me: Zzzzzzz

But I digress. Luckily for me there were no story line comments yesterday (if there were, I blocked them out). There were, however, long minutes during which Hazzikostas droned on (and on and on and on) about a burning question of great interest to at least .001% of the player base — what is an acceptable amount of time for a world first guild to complete a new mythic raid tier?

Really? You have a total of one hour to address questions from actual players, about a ton of topics that truly impact their game experience, and this is what you choose to spend a huge chunk of time on? I really would like to know who chooses these “questions” and where they actually come from, because this sounded a lot like it might actually have been submitted by player “Rehctaw” in a special forum limited to  maybe the Game Director.

Patch 7.3 and artifacts, artifacts, artifacts

We learned it will take 3 weeks to unlock all parts of the patch, and that the whole point of unlocking it all is to be able to — hold onto your hats here — grind out more shit for your artifact weapon!

There were a lot — a lot — of questions related to artifact weapons, at least three asking about their appearance and transmog. (Again, what moron chooses these questions? I could see one question on this subject but three?) Of course, being a BM hunter, artifact appearances mean almost nothing , since Blizz has decided in their infinite wisdom that even though Hati is the main part of our artifact weapon, there will be no appearance changes. They gave us the Essence Swapper, we should just shut up and be grateful. This is in line with their refusal to allow hunters to use any cosmetic weapon enchants. It’s all, well, too hard, and what the hell it’s only hunters and why should we waste any dev resources on them? Not that I’m bitter or anything….

Sorry, I digress again.

I have said it before and I say it again: artifact weapons are the garrisons of Legion. They have shaped the expansion in a way that in my opinion completely distorts the entire game, and Blizz just keeps shoving them down our throats in new ways with every patch. The fact that something close to a third of the Q&A time was spent on discussing them demonstrates that in fact artifacts are Legion and Legion is artifacts, in the same way garrisons were WoD and WoD was garrisons.

Alts

One bit of bright news revealed about Patch 7.3 is that there will be some decent catch-up mechanisms for alts. I still think Legion is alt-hostile, but there will be at least a couple of concessions to help players. For example, the time necessary to grind out gear for your champions will be greatly reduced, quite a few of the Argus unlocks will be account wide, and there will be more shortcuts to milestones for your artifact weapon.

Reforging

This was one of the weirdest excursions into the mind of Ion Hazzikostas I can remember. The question was basically, is there any chance we might see the return of reforging — possibly the best question in the whole Q&A, and it was also the most out-of touch answer I have ever heard from any Blizz dev. Here are the MMO-C notes  summarizing Ion’s response:

  • Reforging had lots of downsides, such as trying to perfectly get the hit or expertise cap and reforging all of your items every time you got a new item.
  • Every item that doesn’t have your best two stats you would reforge to have your best stat. This didn’t really make for interesting choices.
  • This also narrowed the distinction between items, making them feel more similar.
  • It also made it harder to evaluate upgrades, as you had to look at the item in its current state as well as how you could reforge it.
  • There were some good parts, such as giving players choices to make.

Not included in the summarized notes is this astonishing quote regarding the current state of gear in Legion without reforging:

“A new helm drops for you, just put it on.”

Yes, folks, he actually said that. Just like he actually said one of the evil things about reforging was that it “made it harder to evaluate upgrades.”

One wonders just exactly what game it is that Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas spends his time playing, because it most certainly is not World of Warcraft Legion. My mind is too boggled over this whole Twilight Zone answer to even rant about it, all I can do is shake my head in astonishment and disbelief.

And maybe drink a beer. It is, after all, the weekend. See you on the other side.

Crossing the line in Legion

Blizz’s announcement yesterday that they are effectively making full artifact trait progression not only pointless but impossible got me to thinking. In every expansion I reach a point where I put my main into a “maintenance” mode and move my game into end-of-expansion pursuits — going after achievements I want, playing around with my alts, finding isolated spots and just chilling, spending a lot of time gathering mats while listening to music. At such a point in an expansion, I still do some raiding and gear improvement on my main, but that no longer is the focus of my game.

Last night I realized I have hit that point in Legion. I reached Concordance on my main, and there is no cost benefit to further pursuit of artifact power. As I have no intention of playing any hunter spec except BM, I am not interested in developing any other hunter artifact weapons.

The only reason I have been doing world quests on my main for the last few weeks is for a chance at legendaries and for AP, but those rewards are no longer applicable. I have more legendaries than I can use, so the prospect of getting another no longer motivates me. Blizz’s coy little tricks with artifact traits have rendered AP valueless to me now. I am exalted with all factions, and the rewards for extended rep stink, so rep is not useful to me. I have about 200k order hall resources, over 300 Bloods of Sargeras, close to 3k leather, and way more gold than I can ever spend. Gear rewards from WQs have long since ceased to be of interest to me — I am relatively well geared at ilvl 908 (904 equipped, because of Blizz’s bizarre secondary stat mechanism that makes my 860 and 880 trinkets more useful than the 900+ ones I have). In short, I am done with world quests on my main, other than the odd one here or there. Even emissary quests hold no value for me now.

I will likely continue to pursue the hunter class mount, and I will raid with my team when the next raid tier comes along, likely getting some better gear in the process, but other than that, I am done with this expansion on my main. In a normal environment, I would try to max out my main’s professions, but Blizz has made that close to impossible with their dice-roll approach and their introduction of the tiered crafting system — the minimal additional benefit from level 3 recipes is not worth the time required to get lucky enough to get them. In any other expansion, this would be the point at which I start crafting high level items to sell on the auction house, but again Blizz has made that too painful to be a meaningful pursuit — the crafted legendaries, which are useless anyway except as stat sticks, require completion of an entire quest line, including certain mythic dungeons, for every legendary you wish to craft. Something in me rebels at that kind of blatant manipulation, and I just refuse to do it.

Even when we get 7.3, I do not anticipate significant changes in my feeling of being done with Legion. Yes, there will be some new quest lines and possibly some spacey stuff people will oooh and aah about, but I do not see the new planet zone in 7.3 as being significantly different from Broken Shore. In fact, my prediction is that it will be Broken Shore remastered — same daily grind, some temporary world bosses, some kind of new currency to grind for, some sort of random space ship bombardment, possibly a new dungeon and raid in the area, etc. I give Blizz credit that they do often come up with creative ideas, but unfortunately once they do, they drive them into the ground, using and reusing them for months or years regardless of how players receive them. Garrisons is a perfect example — players hated them, yet Blizz doubled down on them with patch after patch in WoD and even recycled them as class halls in Legion.

7.3 will be Broken Shore with a different artistic rendering. If I am wrong, I will happily eat my words. But I am not wrong.

The thought that strikes me about reaching my “the expansion is basically over” point is that we are still only 9 months into Legion, earlier by some months than I have reached that point in any other expansion. This seems ridiculous in an expansion widely touted as the “more content than you can handle” expansion, the one Blizz presented as “we heard you loud and clear in WoD and believe us we are not making that mistake again!”

But here’s the thing: I am done with Legion because there is no chance of achieving the normal game goals I set for my main each expansion. No, let me amend that statement: there is no point in pursuing my normal expansion goals any further because their completion relies on a lottery system, and in the case of my weapon, completion is simply not possible. There is almost nothing I can do to work towards those goals in a meaningful way.

Legion, for all its touted “content” and innovation, has revealed its dark side — players may only aspire to the goals Blizz sets for them, and they must pursue those goals in a strictly prescribed manner. Any deviation will almost certainly delay, if not prevent, their attainment. Anyone who does not like this is free to set their goals lower or abandon them altogether. Blizz seems to think quantifiable content is all that is needed to make a game great, and they have sacrificed player options in favor of it. They have lost sight of the fun players have when they can set a goal, work towards it in the way they find challenging or exhilarating, and achieve it. Content is fine, but from my worm’s eye view, being able to chase a dream is better.

As demoralizing as this is, it does not mean I am about to abandon the game. (Yeah, I know, that is sad.) As I have said before, I am someone who actually likes the latter part of expansions, because it is then that I permit myself to just be free to do whatever the heck I want to do, with no thought that I am letting others down because of failure to gear up a main or something. Normally, of course, I go into this end stage of an expansion feeling good because I have met my goals for my main and can now move on. In Legion, the feeling is more acceptance that such achievement is not possible, but move on anyway. Still, the end result is pretty much the same.

Like all metaphorical lines in life, you are usually not aware of the exact moment you step over them. But sooner or later you know for sure that you have crossed them. I have crossed my Legion line.

Let’s talk AP

I don’t normally post on Tuesdays or Thursdays, but today I felt the need to comment. With the reset,  Blizz announced in the latest hotfixes that the cap on artifact knowledge (AK) will now be 40 instead of 50, the level it was set to at the beginning of 7.2. Their reasoning is worth quoting (emphasis mine):

Developers’ Notes: We raised the Knowledge cap from 40 to 50 very late in the 7.2 PTR cycle, out of an abundance of caution: We wanted to ensure that players of all playstyles, as well as alt characters, would view the Concordance trait as accessible. However, between the additional Artifact Power gains added in 7.2 and others that were hotfixed in after the patch released, we’re now well ahead of that mark. Knowledge 40 now seems more than sufficient for players to reach Concordance, and the prospect of months’ worth of additional Knowledge still left to research makes some players feel like their efforts in the interim aren’t meaningful. Therefore, we’re rolling the cap back to 40.

Just so we’re clear — Blizz claims they rolled back the cap out of concern that we would feel like we were doing an endless grind for something we might never attain.

Yes, they actually wrote that. With no apparent sense of irony, much less shame.

First, let’s translate their concern into what I suspect is really going on: Blizz has noticed a decline in the number of players chasing artifact power through world quests and mythic instances. They theorized, possibly correctly, that these players were instead stacking AK so that when they did start chasing AP again they could accumulate it faster. That is, if now it takes you a week of world quests and the odd instance or raid to get that next trait that costs 300 million or 600 million AP, or whatever level you are at, why not instead just keep working on AK and get to the point where you can get that next trait doing just one or two WQs?

If you are reaching your saturation point with Legion anyway and would just as soon spend less time playing, this strategy seems like one way to make that happen. All you have to do is use your mobile app to keep hitting your AK research button on time, take a break from WoW, and when you come back you can easily catch up on your AP and artifact traits with just a few world quests.

This, of course, hits Blizz where it hurts: the Monthly Active User metric. Clearly, they had to do something about this threat to their bottom line. And the solution is to cap AK so that players cannot stay away for very long and still be able to catch up.

See, in my fantasy world, Blizz would admit this and we would move on. Instead, they tell us how concerned they are about us having to grind endlessly for something we might perceive as unattainable. When in fact what they are concerned about is that some players might actually have found a way to ease the endless grind for artifact power and traits. That grind, of course, is not only good according to Blizz, but is one of the finest features of Legion.

Puh-leeze. Once again, Blizz has demonstrated, with this specious explanation, their total contempt for their player base, their corporate opinion that we are all a bunch of idiots who will believe anything they say.

For the record, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about the rate at which I accumulate AP once I get my Concordance trait, because I don’t care if I get another tiny increase in artifact power or not. Ever. The implementation of endless artifact traits and endless AP to attain them is hands down the worst part of Legion, and for Blizz to claim that clicking a button to increase the rate at which we accumulate AP is a horrible grind they must save us from would be laughable if it were not so vastly hypocritical. I am insulted not by Blizz’s action but rather by their ridiculous lie about why they are doing it.

 

Patch 7.2 is upon us

Well, the big news from yesterday’s Q&A is that Patch 7.2 will go live at the next reset. I suppose this is good news — the current content is getting a bit worn, although honestly I would be able to find too much to do in it for weeks or even months yet. Still, it is always fun to get new shinies.

No question in my mind, flying will be my main and most frenetic focus for the first couple of weeks until I get she achievement. I am heartily sick of bumbling around on the ground and being forced to take commercial air to get to far away places. Flight paths are still too roundabout for my tastes, and if I am going to take scenic tourist flights, then I want to be able to swoop down or stop at interesting points I see from the air.

Not going to lie, I am also waiting for flying to get some profession quest lines finished on alts. Some of them are too lightly geared to deal efficiently with mobs encountered getting to or getting out of quest areas. If the quest is to kill 12 bears, for example, I do not want to have also fight my through an area packed with spiders or rabid plant life, both entering and exiting the quest area. And I am also waiting on flying to level a couple of my more problematic alts (looking at you, Mage).

I have Pathfinder Part 1 finished, so it will just be a matter of grinding out the new rep and other requirements for Part 2. I am not really that happy with Blizz introducing an entire new faction for us to get rep with for this achievement, however. It just strikes me as Blizz once again — in what has become a depressing pattern — screwing with us, moving the goal posts just as we get close enough to think we are finished. To add insult to injury, no existing rep tokens count for the new rep.

Similarly, Patch 7.2 will permit (ok, “force”) us to increase the gear level of our class hall champions if we wish to use them for new missions. But all those gear upgrade tokens you have been collecting ever since your champions all reached level 850? Yup, you guessed it, worthless. There will be new ones we can grind for endlessly.

The other goal post that has been moved is of course the artifact trait one. I would not ever characterize myself as a completionist when it comes to achievements in this game, but there is just something mean about letting me get a whiff of success at maxing out my artifact traits — I am at 52 right now — then move that goal nearly out of range (there will be something like 50 more traits or trait levels in 7.2, and each will cost millions or even tens of millions of AP to get).

It just feels like Blizz ran out of good ideas and decided that redoing artifact traits, class hall quest lines, champion missions, faction rep, and class hall research was the way to go. Yeah, take what are arguably the most annoying parts of Legion and make everyone do a do-over on them and pass it off as new content….

I have not played the PTR lately, so I only have what I read to go by for some of the upcoming changes. In general, I kind of liked the world scenarios we got at the end of WoD as prep for Legion. They were fun to me because they really were completely optional. I am not so sure how much I will like them now that they will be a requirement for another achievement.

I don’t really understand the mechanics of establishing a new class hall base on a new island — this is beginning to smell like more garrisons to me. And I surely do not get the building mechanic. Apparently, each region and/or server group somehow “votes” for the kind of building (one of three possibles) they want. From what I can glean, you “vote” by collecting and giving up nethershards (something new to grind for, but remember Blizz hates collecting currency except when they don’t). At some point there are enough votes for the building to be constructed, it gives a local buff, lasts for 72 hours, gets destroyed by the Legion, then everyone gets to start all over again.

Forgive me if I am not jumping up and down in anticipation of what appears will be yet another depressing Sisyphean activity.

There will be some number of user interface upgrades in the new patch. Again, this is always nice, but the ones I saw were ones I have long ago fixed by using an addon. Blizz’s UI is generally poor, and they remain extremely lazy about fixing it because they know addons will fill in the holes until they get around to making a stab at it.Reading about the upcoming changes, it seems like my addons will still be leagues better than Blizz’s “fixes”.

I have not seen any updated official 7.2 patch notes yet, which makes me wonder if once again — like for 7.1.5 — they will only be published a few hours before the patch goes live, and even then they will be incomplete and straight out wrong in some instances. I would think if a new patch is deemed ready for prime time, that part of that includes having well-written and complete patch notes, but I guess this is not a priority for Blizz.

Still, for all my crabbiness about 7.2, I have to give Blizz credit for thus far sticking to their promise of continually pumping out new Legion content. I honestly did not think they would be able to do it, and I am happy to be proven wrong so far. In my opinion, “content” is at once the best and worst feature of Legion. The best because, well, there is undeniably a lot of it and it keeps changing and morphing at a pretty furious pace. The worst because too much of it is required rather than just optional — I say required because it is part and parcel of nearly every conceivable game goal for almost any player.

(For example, running dungeons is required in order to complete zones, develop professions, do class hall quest lines, etc. There is no  path to accomplishing these activities without running dungeons. Just my opinion, I know, but to me this is cramming certain content down people’s throats, forcing certain very narrow play styles on every character.)

There is a ton of stuff in Patch 7.2, and I have not even touched the surface. It will be here in a few days, and at that time we will all be able to judge for ourselves what works and what doesn’t in it.

Apologies for the rather disorganized comments today, I am on the phone fighting with customer service over what should be a simple door opening mod to my new dryer, and I am at wit’s end over trying to explain the problem to what seems to be someone with the technical grasp of a carrot on the other end of the line. I thonk I see alcohol in my near future.

Artifact weapons – still uneasy about them

Yesterday was another in Blizz’s series of dev interviews on Legion. You can see it all by going to this MMO-C site. The subject for this one was artifact and order halls in Legion, as presented by Craig Amai and facilitated by the irrepressibly positive and optimistic Josh Allen. I still give Blizz good marks on conducting these weekly sessions, I just hope that they will continue through at least the first few weeks of Legion. There were no startling revelations in yesterday’s session, nothing anyone who has been following Legion development did not already know, but I am sure it was informative for those who have (probably wisely) not been following it.

Even though Amai gave us nothing really new, I was struck by one constant theme: Artifact weapons will be THE all-consuming gear chase for the entire expansion. In spite of a few limited “catch-up” mechanisms, each artifact weapon, on each spec on each character, will require months to “complete” — even if the definition of “complete” is something like 75% of an artifact talent tree.

Think about that for a minute. If you have even just a couple of alts, or if you like playing hybrid classes, you will likely spend the entire expansion chasing artifact weapon power/knowledge/gizmos. Everything you do in the game will have a tie-in with that infinite chase — leveling, world quests, dungeons and raids, dailies, class hall missions, gaining faction rep, every game activity. This is not to say that these activities will not be fun or engaging, I do not mean to imply that. But it means that everywhere you turn in the game, on every character for every activity, you will bear the burden of your artifact weapon. It will be Legion’s albatross.

I said a few months ago that I question the wisdom of making a single piece of gear the central feature of an entire game, and the more information we get about the process the more I am sure this move by Blizz is a mistake. It would be less of a problem if Blizz had implemented it so that it was more spec- and alt-friendly, but they clearly do not wish us to pursue more than one spec on one character as an accepted way to play the game.

Yes, I know that their words tell us otherwise, assure us that of course they want us to be able to have fun with other specs and with alts, but their actions not their words speak their true intent. If indeed they wanted to promote multi-spec and multi-alt play in the game, they would not have crafted the artifact mechanisms the way they have. They would, for example, have made it so that having attained a certain number of talent unlocks on one spec, if you switched to a different spec it would automatically receive the same number of unlocks. They would have made the artifact power catch-up mechanisms account wide instead of character-specific. They would have allowed you to purchase an alternate spec weapon at an equivalent level on a character if that character already had one on another spec — similar to the way you could buy an alternate cape in Mists or legendary ring in WoD.

I am not complaining about the fact that “completing” the artifact weapon on your main will take months™, there is nothing wrong about making such an accomplishment a reward for intense game play, nor is there anything wrong about using it as an incentive for participating in content. What I do think is a mistake is requiring basically the exact same process over and over again, a virtually endless cycle of grinding content in order to grub out maybe one more talent unlock for your third or fourth alt.

As they always seem to do, Blizz has taken a perfectly reasonable mechanism — the idea of pursuing a powerful weapon that will last for an entire expansion — and stretched it out of all proportion, turning it into an uncontrollable behemoth that will consume most of the game. This is why I call artifact weapons the garrisons of Legion, because in that instance Blizz could not control themselves and made what started out to be a very nice side concept into one absolutely central to major aspects of the game. We saw garrisons start out as “completely optional”, then morph into “completely optional after you have established a baseline Level 1 garrison” and finally into “required to have a Level 3 garrison and expand it into a shipyard if you want to see the new patch content.” I can hardly wait to see how Blizz will expand the already-extensive role of artifact weapons in the course of Legion.

Now, of course, my criticisms of the length of time necessary to pursue reasonably-filled-out artifact weapons in Legion is based on Blizz’s stated intent to adhere to a 2-year expansion cycle. If we expect Legion to last 2 years — 24 months — then players with a lot of alts will just not have time to outfit all of them with artifacts at an appropriate level. (Even if they pursue several simultaneously, grinding content is still a linear activity.) But what if Blizz is hedging their bets on the expansion cycle? What if they think Legion may have to be stretched out for 3 years? In that case, having very long artifact chases may keep some players engaged for a few extra months. Just a wild theory….

And on that tinfoil hat note, I begin my weekend.

Crazy versus cute

Today’s post may be a bit scattered, I am dealing with contractors and estimates and so am pretty distracted. It’s a good chance to deal with a couple of quick observations, basically unrelated to each other.

Findle’s Loot-a-Rang, I see from one of the forums, will only work in Draenor once Legion goes live. This is one of those things that just makes you scratch your head and wonder why. It is one of those minor quality of life improvements that everyone pretty much approved of. I certainly have not seen any ranting about “It’s way too easy to get your loot now, we need to get rid of that Loot-a-Rang thing so people have to walk over to far away corpses again, and hopefully it will be near a boss so that they will pull the boss in the process!”

Apparently an engineer can still use one in Legion, but everyone else will be out of luck.

Why would Blizz do this? They are once again “fixing” something that works fine, everyone likes, and so far as I can tell absolutely no one is complaining about. Is this yet another “immersion” item that some dev thinks takes away from the game? Will it be replaced with a Legion-only version just to give engineers some way to make gold?

I saw someone offer an opinion that it might be being removed because to make one in Legion will require legacy mats, and new players might be inconvenienced if they had to do so. ????? To that argument I offer one word: Jeeves. ‘Nuff said.

This is one of the things that Blizz habitually does that just makes me crazy. What can they be thinking? It’s like they cannot stand it when people actually really like a feature, they just have to screw it up. They did the same thing with the really nice guild perks like guild summon, with getting next-level loot from garrison missions, with scenarios, with the ability to change talents on the fly, with a lot of nice features. But no, every activity must have an annoying aspect to it! And if Blizz can’t just add an annoying aspect to a popular feature, then naturally they have to get rid of it. Can’t have people actually enjoying this game, for crying out loud!

What’s next, remove the “loot all” AoE, so that you have to walk around and loot every corpse again? Institute a “no running” policy so that now in addition to not being able to fly in a new expansion you also will not be able to run, you will have to actually walk everywhere? Require you to buy a bank slip every time you want to deposit or withdraw something in your bank? Require you to pay money to relearn every glyphed mechanism you already know? Remove the ability to efficiently optimize your gear’s secondary stats and replace it with a complete random process?  (Oh wait …)

On the bright side, I have been noticing some of the small nice touches once again. I spent a lot of time in my garrisons last week, and I noticed a lot of the very cool detail that went into them. It struck me that the whole garrison experiment was a kind of a good news bad news sort of thing. For all the annoying, frustrating, things about garrisons, there were a ton of very creative things, too.

I still get a kick out of sending all my followers on missions, then going out to the garrison gate to see them off as they leave. This little animation was, in my opinion, a real stroke of creativity. It’s the one activity in WoD that actually makes me feel “immersed” in the whole garrison commander fantasy.

I like that my pets rove around randomly, and even if I was forced to do pet battling just to complete the Menagerie so this could happen, I like the result of seeing them wandering around. It’s cute, in a way that isn’t in your face. (And speaking of “in your face cute”, I hope if Blizz is going to disable Loot-a-Rang in Broken Isles, they also disable Pepe and that stupid nasty little pug. Just sayin’.)

I like that my garrison has practice dummies, it’s a very decent innovation. I actually use them, especially when I am brushing the dust off an alt I haven’t played in a while.

Although I would have liked a choice in garrison architecture, I like the detail of the little out of the way houses scattered about (but I can’t for the life of me understand why there was not one designated for the commander….). I like the artwork for the alchemy and other profession huts, and I like the fishing area and herb garden. They are just chock full of beautiful artistic and animated details.

I also like the moving NPCs, there is a lot of detail in their movements. One thing I have noticed, though, is that they sometimes sit down alone at the eatery and commence to have a conversation with themselves, gesturing and all. That’s a little weird… I also like that they “notice” your presence and talk at you or salute or something, and that they actually navigate around you if you are in their path. Heck, they will even come to your aid if they are close and you are attacked by an herb garden creature.

The one thing I have noticed missing in garrisons is weather. I don’t think I have ever seen it rain there like it does out in the rest of the world.

I think when I look back at WoD, I will consider garrisons to have been a net plus for the expansion. I wish they had been account-wide, and I wish there had been some rudimentary player housing, but overall I liked them. I think much of the dissatisfaction with them was due to there being very little repeatable world content in the expansion, so people focused on their garrisons. Also, in typical Blizz fashion, they took a good idea and tried to make it The Ultimate Idea, so they went way overboard on the garrison’s centrality to the whole game. (Like they are probably going to do with Artifact Weapons in Legion, I am afraid.) This is a shame, because I think what Blizz took away from the experience is that players hated garrisons, not that their integration into the game was flawed.

So I doubt if we will ever see anything approaching garrisons again in the game. Sadly, the good things about them will become as yesterday as Findle’s Loot-a-Rang. My worry for Legion is that Blizz will institute class halls that have none of the cute, fun things that garrisons had, but that will retain an unhealthy centrality to game play that will cause them to become as unpopular as garrisons were.

In Blizzland, no good fun thing goes unfixed.

Artifact weapon — the crap ideas just keep on coming

A day or two ago there was an interesting– and disturbing — post in MMO-C, laying out some data mined details of the costs for switching artifact weapon specs in Legion. Standard disclaimers that it is still alpha (why is that, btw?), the tool tips could still juse be placeholders, etc., but the bottom line: Looks like it will be prohibitively expensive to change your artifact talent selections.

Now, I do not have alpha access and honestly only have a vague understanding of artifact mechanics, but let me see if I can summarize what I understand so far:

As you go about your normal tasks in Legion you will accrue special artifact currency (“Artifact Power”) that enables you to open up various artifact talents. The talents in fact constitute a new talent tree for your character, bound closely not only to your spec but to the weapon you will be required to carry for that spec and only that spec. For all practical purposes these talents function the same as regular talents, in that they enhance your survivability, tankyness, deepsyness, or healyness.

Blizz has said that they expect it will take players months™ to complete their artifact talent trees. This tells me that either the currency cost for unlocking talents will be extremely high, or that the earn rate will be extremely low.

And now we learn that — should you choose unwisely in selecting your talents, or should there be some “balancing” tweak to your spec, or to a raid or instance, that negates the value of something you have already selected — you will essentially have to grind for more months just to change your selection.

Wow. Really? It’s not bad enough that you will have to grind out artifact talents for every spec on every character you play? And no, I put zero stock in Blizz’s big hand-wave about there will be “some mechanism” to maybe help you a little in your off spec. Because if it takes months™  to grind it out on your main, then even if you have only one off spec on your main, and say 4 alts who are single-specced — and really, who limits themselves to this very modest account makeup? — it could be 5 times “months™” to get a fully functional weapon for each. If you consider “months™” to be a conservative 4-5, we are basically saying that you will not be able to accomplish this before the next expansion goes live.

(Or that it is an attempt to make us love it if Legion lasts for several years….)

That’s assuming that you have your crystal ball in perfect working order and select the right spec at the start of Legion, and that you never make a mistake in selecting your artifact talents.

Now let us add in a complicating factor: nearly every class and spec — along with the entire secondary stat system — is being completely reworked for Legion. Do you trust Blizz to have this adequately (note I did not say “well”) balanced at the start of the expansion? Well, if you do, then please contact me about a great stock market deal I can offer you.

No, there is absolutely no way that class balancing — much less raid and instance tuning — will be even close to adequate when Legion goes live! I doubt if it will settle down until at least the second major patch. What does this mean in terms of your artifact weapon?

  • If balancing pendulum swings “tweaks” completely screw over your selected spec, you may decide to change specs. Lucky you, that will mean starting over again with your artifact weapon. And lest you pooh-pooh the notion that Blizz would ever completely screw over a spec, I have two words for you — survival hunter.
  • If the balancing tweaks don’t actually screw over your spec, what if Blizz drastically changes the weights and mechanisms of secondary stats (think “multistrike” in WoD)? Think that might affect your artifact talent tree selection? You bet your booty it might, and if you decide to go back and try to optimize it in light of the changes, guess what — yep, you get to start grinding again on the currency to do so, and it will take a loooonnnnng time to do so.
  • What might be the fallout to your artifact talent selection if Blizz starts tinkering with tuning in raids and instances? Honestly, I have no idea, but here’s the thing: neither does anyone else! But one thing you can be sure of — if it does affect your artifact talent spec, you are screwed until you can go back and grind for months to be able to change it, hoping that by the time you get there Blizz has not tweaked something else to affect it.

I have written before about my concerns with Legion artifact weapons. I am not necessarily against the concept, but I think Blizz, as is their wont, has gone way too far overboard with them. No one piece of gear should have that much influence over every facet of game play. In their current incarnation, they will become the hated symbol of Legion, in exactly the same way garrisons became the symbol of WoD’s failure.

Since Blizz has apparently already sunk too deeply into artifact pervasiveness in the game to go back, the one thing they can yet do to salvage the concept is to make it significantly less onerous for players to change weapon talents and even weapons/specs themselves in response to the inevitable swings in the game. I get that the execs make their bonuses by increasing active player monthly game time, but at some point inexorable grinds do nothing but demoralize players, many of whom will find the game rewards them negatively and only disproportionately for more and more hours spent.

I am not saying that the initial artifact quest line and talent table completion should be easy or even fast. I am saying that once you have put in the effort to maximize your weapon, you should not have to do it over and over again, as a virtual Sisyphus. Just as Blizz has come around to thinking that a long grind to achieve flying should award that benefit to the entire account, so should a long grind to maximize an artifact weapon. I would not even care if artifact completion took a couple of patches, as long as I only had to do it once. When completing something is a very long and arduous process, part of the reward must be that you don’t have to do it again. It most certainly cannot be that now you get to start over again, for every spec and alt you have.

In a more basic sense, Blizz, you should be encouraging players to experiment with different specs, with different artifact builds, not penalizing them for it! Sheesh, why do you not see that? Why must you adopt the tyrant style of central governance, of making all that is not compulsory, forbidden? By making artifact weapons required, critical to a character’s abilities, and difficult to progress in, you are once again pandering to the elite 1% at the expense of your bread and butter subscription base.

Thus I make yet another futile plea to Blizz: Please rethink your basic design of artifact weapons and their role in this game. Do not make them the garrisons of Legion.