Closet cleaning again

Time to clean out my drafts folder again. At times it can get a little unwieldy with undeveloped topics — kind of like an untidy accumulation of paper scraps stuffed in a shoebox — and I am nothing if not a tidy person. I just trashed most of the items that were in there, but a couple were left over just as passing thoughts.

Official class fantasies. I find it interesting that, at the start of Legion, Blizz went to some trouble to rewrite the official class fantasies for most classes and specs, presumably as an important part of the disassembly and restructuring of them. Blizz thought it important enough to spend valuable resources to restructure the approved back-stories for the restructured classes. In a normal project-management world, then, the new class/spec mechanics and play styles would support the new fantasies and vice-versa. If a new fantasy does not match new mechanics, then there would seem to be no reason to waste resources rewriting that fantasy.

I have not investigated other classes, but I have noted a significant disconnect between the Beastmastery approved fantasy and the way the spec actually operate. The official story is:

A master of the wild who can tame a wide variety of beasts to assist him in combat.

Yeah. Not so much. Honestly, the way the BM spec works out in Legion, the fantasy is pretty much opposite of the way things work. This was driven home to me a few days ago when I was invited to do a guild speed run through Karazhan. I never ran Kara when it was current, don’t really have any kind of emotional bond with it, so even though I am attuned to the new dungeon, I had yet to run it at all. Nevertheless, the guild group promised some fun, so off I went. When we got to the chess boss, I was warned that my pets would be useless, and so they were.

Side rant: This huge bug in Kara has been there since the launch of the dungeon, and Blizz cares so little for hunters in Legion they cannot be bothered to fix it. (One can only imagine the flurry of fixes if for example mages were rendered useless in a boss fight…)  *steam comes out of ears*

Anyway, without pets, I was pretty much relegated to spamming Cobra Shot as long as my focus held out and cheering the rest of the group on. For kicks, I took a look at my dps numbers for the fight, and let us just say they were beyond pitiful. It is less true that a BM hunter’s pets “assist” in combat than it is that the hunter slightly assists the pets. More correctly, the hunter hangs onto some leashes, like a New York dog walker, and drops them at the start of combat, ceding control of much of the conduct of the fight to mostly-uncontrolled pets.

As I have pointed out before, the nature of this game play is such that a BM hunter functions much more like a melee damage dealer than a ranged one. There is nothing wrong with having a spec very dependent on pets, but to me that should imply — as the official fantasy does — that the hunter actually controls the pets. Not so in Legion, the hunter has very little control over pet damage abilities.

One additional thought on gear. Game Director Hazzikostas has frequently expressed his distaste for currency-based gear, for example valor points or the like. He believes it encourages overt grinding (as opposed to endless RNG grinding, but I am not going to revisit that particular thought) and is therefore bad. However, Blizz does employ something called “bad luck protection”. It occurs to me that such protection is nothing more than secret gear currency.

Think about it. The way valor or similar coinage works is that you perform certain acts — quests, kill bosses in dungeons or raids, etc. — and collect the currency until such point as you have enough to exchange it for gear. Once you spend it, you start over again collecting it if you still want more gear. You can watch the currency accumulate and generally judge how long it might take you to get the gear you desire.

Bad luck insurance — even though Blizz does not advertise specifically how it works — must operate on a similar mechanic. That is, there is some sort of programmed counter that keeps track of your activities that can award gear. When you do not receive gear, that counter is incremented some amount until it hits some secret tipping point, at which time you “spend” the accumulated secret currency and are awarded gear determined by Blizz.

The differences between overt currency and bad luck insurance are that 1) players are unaware of the amount they have thus far accumulated, as well as the “cost” of a piece of gear, and 2) players have no choice in the gear to be awarded when the secret currency is “spent”.

Otherwise, Mr. Hazzikostas, valor and bad luck insurance are the exact same mechanic. It makes no sense to oppose one and champion the other.

Micro-holiday events. I did a couple of these when they first started, but I have pretty much stopped doing them. I find them vaguely distracting and entertaining, but not enough to go out of my way to do them. For one thing, they take away time I feel like I need to spend chasing AP or legendaries, and with limited play time available each week, taking even 30 minutes or so away from these pursuits is significant.

I applaud Blizz’s creativity in these events, and I appreciate their sole purpose is a bit of fun, I just don’t find them fun enough for that factor alone to justify my participation. It will be interesting to see what the player base response as a whole has been to them, and to see if they continue as a regular feature in future expansions. In fact, it may offer us a clue as to whether the people regularly crying for more “content” actually mean just that, or whether what they really mean is “more loot”.

Legion’s hidden quests. This is one of those things I am not opposed to, but I do not care a fig about for myself. I do not look at WoW as a puzzle game. I am fine with having these kinds of quests in the game for those who do find them engaging, but I am not interested in doing them.

The one thing I do worry a little bit about is that Blizz will decide later that having a couple of these as required paths to professions or gear or whatnot would be a good idea. This is not an idle worry. Blizz has a history of introducing activities as purely optional, then inserting them later into unrelated player progression. The best example I can cite is the Brawler’s Guild. It was originally introduced as a fun diversion for anyone who wanted to participate, and indeed there were some mostly vanity type rewards involved. Then, in WoD, Blizz made achievement of a certain Brawler’s Guild level a prerequisite for certain mainstream jewelcrafting patterns. This to me was a bait and switch. There are of course other examples.

That’s it, drafts folder now squeaky clean.


An end game for the rest of us?

I have a few initial initial thoughts on Blizz’s new end game experience, to be rolled out in Legion.

I am intrigued by the new World Quest approach to end game play. It definitely seems like Blizz took to heart all the player comments about the major shortcoming of WoD, that is, that once you finished leveling the only productive activity available was organized raiding.

World Quests, at least in theory, might be a good answer to this. I like the idea of logging on, seeing what is available by looking at your world map, and planning what you might like to do for the evening. I also am ok with the concept of an Emissary, someone who will give you extra stuff if you focus on World Quests in a certain area. And I like the idea that the World Quests will involve several game activities, such as killing bosses, doing profession-related things, pet battles and world PvP for those so inclined, etc. And I really like the idea that this is structured so that it will provide challenge and reward commensurate with your advancement in the game — that is, Blizz has said that World Quests will continue to provide motivating rewards even for players who are geared up. I definitely like the concept.

Of course, what I am worried about is the actual implementation.

First, the idea of “voluntary”. We are told that no one will be required to do PvP or the like if they don’t want to, that there will be plenty of World Quests to choose from. But what if the Emissary wants you to do quests in an area that has only 4 offered, two of which involve activities you hate (PvP and pet battles for me)? I know nothing forces you to take an Emissary quest (do 4 WQs in their preferred area), but if you have to do 4 and 2 of them involve activities you detest, are they really voluntary or is Blizz funneling you to these activities? It’s a fairly minor concern, but still a concern. I would like to see Blizz provide a true selection of WQs for every Emissary quest, so that players could really have a choice.

Second, the rewards in terms of level. To carry out their intent of making WQs of continuing interest to all players, it seems like the rewards would have to be quite high. For example, if they are remain relevant to hard core raiders halfway into the expansion, they would have to award pretty high levels of gear, high amounts of gold, really cool mounts, and the like. Even early in the expansion, there must be something that will keep players engaged in these WQs — and that is typically gear. (Think about the WoD world bosses — everyone ran them every week until they got that once piece of gear they needed to progress, then they stopped.)

To be honest, I do not see Blizz continuing to offer raid-level gear from WQs throughout the expansion. For one thing, there will be a howl from some sectors that “No FAIRRRRRRR! Everyone should have to do high level raiding to be as cool as I am!” For another, unless there is a way to keep getting ever-increasing gear levels from the quests, people will stop doing them.

Third, the rewards in terms of drop rate. It is one thing to offer as a possible reward cool things like toys and mounts and great gear, it is entirely another thing to hit that sweet spot between “Everyone gets one” and “After a year of Legion, no one on this server has ever gotten such a drop.” Of course, there are a few people who will doggedly keep trying for years to get a certain drop, but most people will give up and consider it practically impossible to do. So I would like to see Blizz do something decent with the RNG for WQ drops.

While I like the innovative potential of WQs, I would like to see Blizz also be innovative with the loot mechanics. The easiest thing would probably be to give some sort of token or currency as quest rewards, then have a vendor where you could buy really cool stuff with the tokens. Barring that, because Blizz has seemed to think that is a terrible idea, the WQ loot system needs to be a smart one.

  • It needs to have a strong bad luck streak component, so that if you get nothing decent after X number of quests, your chances go up measurably for every quest, and this needs to be per character.
  • It needs to have an “already got it” component, so that if your character already has gotten a certain reward, you can no longer get it again (unless it is something like gold). No more Left Sharks, for crying out loud!!!
  • Gear awarded as loot needs to scale with your equipped level. For example, if you have a level 760 helm and you get a helm as loot, it should be greater than 760. If your equipped helm is 780, it needs to be higher than that, and so forth. And by “higher” I also include secondary stat improvements, because one of the most frustrating things about WoD was getting a higher level piece of gear that was less useful to you than your old one because the secondary stats sucked.
  • You should always have a choice in your loot when it drops, for example, a mount, a toy, or gold. Gear, or materials, or gold. Even gear slot choice — helm or shoulders or legs, for example.

I have not even touched on the possible implementation frustrations with profession WQs.

The skeptical side of me knows that Blizz has frequently destroyed good ideas by incompetent or clueless implementation. But the optimistic side sees a lot of excellent potential for World Quests as a way to give players a choice in the end game. I am really hoping Blizz can actually pull this off.