Breaking news: Cobra Shot to wiggle more

It’s no secret that I am beyond disgusted with the way Blizz has treated hunters ever since they trashed and then abandoned SV hunters in WoD. After promising to make SV better in “the next expansion”, they proceeded to complete their destruction of it by making it a melee spec in Legion, and a pretty puny one at that. Then they moved on to MM, basically turning it into a turret style damage dealer, removing two of the signature features of hunters — mobility and pets — in one fell swoop. Last, after Ion Hazzikostas told us how BM hunters were “in a pretty good place” just prior to Legion, Blizz went on to ransack that spec, too, removing nearly all possibility of skill play in favor of a couple of cooldowns the player had almost zero control over except to mash the button as soon as they were up.

When the Legion Alpha test went live, skilled and well-respected hunters diligently measured, analyzed, and described to Blizz the many ways the hunter class came up short. Their focus was on play style, not on numbers, and they tried every way possible to make Blizz understand that the very soul of hunters had been ripped away.

Blizz ignored them.

Then when the beta test finally went live, a lot more hunters voiced their anguish to Blizz, again not so much about numbers, but about the fact that the class they had played and loved for years had been stripped of every trace of what made the class unique. Again, these players wrote thousands of pages of feedback in the approved forums, detailing all the factors that contributed to what they perceived was the death of the class.

Blizz ignored them.

By this point, sadly, the leading community hunters had pretty much given up, bruised and battered after months of talking to a brick wall. But then the PTR went live, and hunters who had not previously tried the Legion hunter class expressed their keen sense of loss and anger, again writing reams of comments about the mechanics that made them feel they were no longer true hunters.

Blizz ignored them.

And when I say “Blizz ignored them”, I mean not just that no changes were made or design explanations given, but that Blizz met the entire hunter outcry with a steadfast, impenetrable wall of silence. There were no blue posts that even deigned to acknowledge there might be some problems with the Legion hunter class implementation, no hunter class adjustments as builds were put out (even though there were tons for other classes), no dev mention of the problem, no recognition whatsoever of the near-universal condemnation of the changes they had made to the hunter class. Not even so such as a “F**k you, hunters, we like things the way they are.”

Then, one week before Legion went live, a CM had the chutzpah to make a blue post asking for hunter input on Legion problems. As if the thousands upon thousands of previous posts did not even exist. As if, one week before launch, it would make a difference. He even called the thread “Let’s Talk”, implying that at long last, this late in the cycle, Blizz’s wall of silence would finally be broken. Like Charlie Brown rushing to kick that football he just knew Lucy would hold still for him this time, hunters once again posted thousands of thoughtful, detailed, specific comments about every aspect of the class they felt had been ripped from them.

Blizz ignored them.

In the first Q&A after Legion launch, a few warlock trolls and scumbags bullied their way into it, spamming the pre-event thread and using flame and shame tactics to downvote every question not submitted by a warlock, and then further spamming the live event feed with spittle-flecked tantrums. After very slightly scolding them for their tactics and telling them such actions would not be successful, Ion Hazzikostas proceeded to explain how Blizz was going to fix perceived warlock class problems. Long blue posts were written on the subject, and immediate changes were made in hotfixes, along with a detailed plan for long term fixes.

Meanwhile, hunters, who had played by Blizz’s rules for feedback, who had not thrown public tantrums, continued to be ignored. Then, finally, months after the “Let’s Talk” thread appeared, weeks after the warlock meltdown, there was one relatively short blue post in the hunter forum promising significant changes to the hunter class, but hunters had to be patient, wait for 7.1 and 7.2 because of course these things take time.

Hunters waited. In 7.1, a few paltry changes appeared, nothing of course for BM, but a nerf for MM (as if that were all that was wrong with MM mechanics!), and some stiff for SV presumably to try make it at least semi-viable as a spec.

Hunters continued to wait. In 7.1.5, all hunters had traps restored, and a very slight adjustment was made to correct the awful Aspect of the Cheetah, but it cost a talent to do so. There were multiple other changes, but of note every change to BM dealt with numbers designed to buff the spec’s damage. Nothing Blizz did even began to address the fundamental problems with the spec. Pet pathing — other than slightly speeding up Hati’s slow amble to a target — remained horrible. BM hunters still had no surge ability beyond the worthless Stampede talent. Pet control remained problematic, hit-and-miss in terms of setting your pet on passive for example and having confidence it would remain so. BM hunters themselves had almost zero damage ability without a pet, effectively making them a melee damage dealer who operated out of melee range. The play style — unless you had “the” appropriate legendaries and a 4-pic tier set — remained clunky and slow, with no player control over focus generation, no skill abilities beyond mashing a cooldown button or key as soon as it became available.

Similarly, most of MM changes were to adjust numbers, little was done to address the turret play style, and nothing was done to address the underlying fact that all MM damage was RNG-dependent at its origin.

In short, in spite of months of hunter comments that the class problems were about play style, not about numbers, most of Blizz’s fixes have been to tweak numbers.

Now we are into the 7.2 PTR, and there seems to be no plan to make any further changes to hunters. Except one — shown here.

Yes, at long last, hallelujah! Hunters are finally getting the spell animation changes NO ONE has asked for! And what changes they are! Brace yourself now — Arcane Shot  will soon cause much bigger weapon kick and be more purple! Barrage will have more muzzle flash! Bestial Wrath will cause that symbol to only appear over the hunter’s head, no longer the pet’s!! (Of course, there is no change to that pleasant “I am having a really hard poop” sound that accompanies it…)  A few other similarly HUGE and MOMENTOUS changes, such as Black Arrow will have a bigger bullet!!  (I guess it is a bullet, the demo showed a hunter with a gun…) But the big one, and the one I know all BM hunters have been waiting for: Cobra Shot will wiggle more!!! OMG, I have to sit down, this is too much.

Really, Blizz? Really? Everything that is wrong with hunters, and this is what you decide has priority?

Words fail me at this point.

Unofficial and pertinent views

Admin note: We are having a terrific 2-day windstorm in my neck of the woods, and our power keeps going out, so today’s post may end up being a bit choppy.

Ghostcrawler has a piece on his Tumblr page that really caught my eye. If you have a couple of minutes, I encourage you to read it.

I was never a particular GC fan when he was with Blizzard and was the most visible dev interfacing with players, but in retrospect I wish we had someone doing that thorough a job now. Yes, he was often reviled — he took an incredible amount of player abuse — but say what you will, he was always out there explaining and debating design issues. Even when I disagreed with the path of the game, I always felt like GC was being honest — sometimes brutally so — with us, and more importantly that he respected the player base. Those feelings evaporated as soon as Ion Hazzikostas took GC’s job and began to put out piles of snarky, disingenuous doublespeak to a player base he seemed to disdain. That he has backed off this approach over the last year or two does not erase that first awful impression. Since Hazzikostas has gotten away from everything other than canned Q&A sessions, there is no one who has been able to fill the void and create a regular, trusted, respectful — if often contentious — dialogue with players.

All this is by way of saying that I think GC still has insightful things to say about WoW, even though he is no longer with Blizz. I like the fact that he still responds to questions about the game, and I take his comments for what they are — general views of how things developed years ago in WoW, and insights into much of the messy process of designing and maintaining the complex enterprise that is an MMO. Does he know anything about current Blizz design problems and plans? No, but he is still the only one out there willing to address valid player concerns in any meaningful way. He fills a void, even if imperfectly and unofficially, in Blizz’s customer interaction.

So the cited piece on Tumblr caught my eye. There are actually two discussions there, the main one answering a question about why players unsub, and a second one below that about why WoW players keep playing.

One part that got my attention in the unsub piece was that in the big picture, when you have millions of players, the vast majority who unsub do it for personal reasons of not having enough time, or their friends stopped playing or the like. It is rare indeed when there are significant numbers of people who quit out of protest for a certain game design or trend, and even then generally that group still ranks below, in terms of numbers, those quitting for personal reasons. (Translation: rage quitting WoW likely gets zero attention from any part of the dev team…)

Another interesting observation, I thought, was that games — like nearly every human enterprise — have life spans with long-term ups and downs in numbers of players. Unstated, but what I presume, is that sometimes there are identifiable causes for these fluctuations, and sometimes probably not. GC says there is usually a predictable dev set of responses to this:

When you see a lot of players leave over the course of say half a year, it usually spurs two diametrically opposed views on the development team. You will get one faction of “Players are getting bored – we must be bold and innovate!” You get another faction of “We are changing the game so much that we’re losing our soul! We need to get back to basics!”

I think we have really seen this scenario play out in Legion. A lot of players did in fact unsub in WoD — recall the famous 3-million player loss in the first quarter of 2015 — and there was much criticism of the expansion throughout its existence, most of which centered on some version of “There’s nothing to do” with sprinklings of “It doesn’t fit with the lore, this whole time machine idea stinks”.

So what did we get in Legion? I think we saw the “bold and innovative” group dominate, but there was a nod to the “back to basics” group in terms of the main story and lore. The dominant group led to many of the mechanics in Legion — complete class rewrites, the idea that specs become what amounts to their own class, artifact weapons and the eternal AP chase, the complete repudiation of the WoD profession model, severe curtailment of alt play, Mythic+ dungeons, world quests, zone scaling, etc.

But the kicker point made by GC is this:

My perception has been that the players and developers in the “We’ve changed too much!” camp tend to be those who are less engaged with the game than they once were. Losing track of change usually happens to players who once played every day and are now playing once a week or once a month. They remember being super engaged with the game and knowing everything that was going on, and so the dissonance of that no longer being the case for them is really striking, perhaps even alienating. On the other hand, players who are still really engaged are the ones most likely to need something fresh and new so that they don’t run out of stuff to do.

What this comes down to is a game company knowing who its intended audience is, understanding what kind of a player base they are courting. Do they want lots of new players, or are they content to design for what will almost certainly be a gradually-dwindling group of dedicated players? I think Blizz has still not figured out the answer to this.

Legion seems to be favoring the latter group, the dedicated player base. As I count myself in this group, I am not totally unhappy with that trend. But I can’t help but wonder if it is ultimately a strategy designed to gradually — and hopefully gracefully — ease the game’s final demise. I had hoped that Legion, maybe in conjunction with the Warcraft movie, would bring in a rush of new players who would soon love the game as much as I do. Sadly, that turned out to not be the case. The movie, let’s be honest, was a stinker for anyone not already involved in the game (and even for some of us predisposed to liking it, it bombed), and Legion added an incredible leap in complexity for what was already a complex game. The buy-in for new or even returning players, especially if they do not have someone to help them along, seems almost insurmountable.

We will see what happens in the next expansion, but it is looking to me like WoW is moving towards catering to a small group of dedicated players, and Blizz is not especially interested in significantly increasing its player base. Whether that vector is ultimately beneficial or destructive remains to be seen.

Bottom line and communicating

Yesterday we got the Activision Blizzard 4Q 2016 Earnings Call. It was — as nearly all these public announcements are — a rosy picture. The company is making money hand over fist — $3.6 billion, more than double the previous year. Blizzard itself is doing well, and World of Warcraft is still a money-maker even if it is no longer the main profit engine.

There were some interesting tidbits in the report. For example, ATVI customers racked up over 43 billion hours of time in 2016 either playing or watching  others play the company’s products. This is approximately on a par with the amount of annual time people spent watching Netflix. Never would have guessed that.

One metric, though, really caught my eye (emphasis mine):

Blizzard’s fourth-quarter play time surpassed the previous record set in the third quarter. Overwatch had its second and third seasonal events, Halloween Terror and Winter Wonderland, each one driving new records for engagement with the game. World of Warcraft saw an increase in total play time for the quarter, surpassing the Q3 expansion launch quarter and all non-launch quarters in the last four years.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy the game is doing well and continues to make money for ATVI. WoD gave me the distinct impression WoW was in its death throes, but Legion has erased such thoughts, and I am ecstatic at the apparent turnaround. Still, the professional worrier part of me can’t help but wonder if there is not some fancy smoke-and-mirrors manipulation going on here.

From my worm’s-eye view of the game, it is absolutely true that I have increased my play time in Legion, as compared to the time I spent playing in WoD and even in Mists. But that is not because I love the game more, it is because the game has changed in a way that more or less forces me to spend more hours playing. I have a certain set of personal progression goals that I pursue in each expansion, and before Legion I could accomplish those goals with a mostly constant amount of play time. But for me to accomplish the same goals in Legion, I find that I must significantly increase my play time. I suspect this is true for most players. We are faced with the choice of adjusting our personal goals or increasing our play time. Apparently, given the quote above, many players have opted for the latter.

I do not want to make this a Big Thing — it is after all just a game, and we all face far more searing choices in our daily lives. I do wonder, though, if this is actually a good long term strategy for WoW. It certainly looks good on paper, it probably reassures stockholders, and it is likely a featured bullet in a certain Game Director’s annual performance review. But how long can this strategy be sustained? How long before a sizeable number of players decide that the ever-increasing effort is no longer worth the ever-decreasing payoff? I don’t know the answer, obviously, no one does. I do think the question is worth asking as food for thought, however.

Shifting focus, I was intrigued by a spate of blue posts (nicely collected by MMO-C) about Blizz’s recent epiphany that they are lousy at communicating with their customers. Who knew?  (No, no I will not be snarky about this. Much.) Apparently Blizz has discovered that having an actual, formal communications team and organizational setup might be a good idea for a multi-million dollar worldwide company. What insight! (*slaps self* No! Bad blogger!)

Seriously, I do applaud the efforts of the CMs who seem to be the instigators of this change of course for the company, and I hope they are successful. But we have had a long history — pretty much ever since Ghostcrawler left — of Blizz promises to do better in this area, lots of fits and starts, and the end result is they still stink at it. It is a sad commentary, in this age of social media and well-established professional communications methodologies, that a world class company like Blizz still thinks they can wing it, as if they are a couple guys operating out of a garage and can just run out on their break and throw some pacifying words at a customer.

I think the CMs have a decent plan and a true desire to improve, but ultimately it is actions that will speak, not good intentions. For this to work, it will require company commitment of appropriate resources as well as dogged follow through on the part of the devs and the CMs. Not to put too fine a point on it, we have had at least one recent example of total communications failure when a CM started a “Let’s Talk” thread in the hunter forum, then proceeded to disappear for months, ignoring hundreds of pages of comments, effectively harming communications more than if he had done nothing.

Blizz is by no means unique in its desire to make everything seem successful and pretty with their product. Of course they want their stockholders to see growth in all areas, so they tout a mostly-contrived increase in quarterly play time for the game. It’s a good placeholder while they figure out how to actually improve player experience and satisfaction.  Of course they want to be seen as receptive to customer comments and concerned about customer complaints, so they talk about a great new communications process. Nothing to see here, folks, lots of companies engage in these mild forms of puffery. Legion has made good on many of Blizz’s promises after WoD — let’s hope they can also come through on these larger-picture ones.

And now, I’m going to start my weekend! Enjoy yours.

Obligatory Blizzcon post

Blizzcon starts tomorrow, officially. It will be the eleventh such event since the first one in 2005 (the 2012 event was cancelled), and it is Blizz’s 25th anniversary year. If you haven’t yet checked out the schedule and want to, Wowhead has a good summary of events here.

I am almost always interested in what happens at Blizzcon, but only in a peripheral way. I am not really a convention type person, and even if I were, I can’t imagine myself shelling out the money to attend this particular event, either in person or virtually. I am glad there are people who do enjoy the experience, but I am just not one of them. I am not sure why this is, but my armchair self-analysis tells me it has to do with keeping my virtual game escapism completely separate from the harsher realities and complexities of the real world.

All that said, I will be following some of the Blizzcon events through delayed videos and the tweets and other reporting from those there. Like most people, I am not expecting any big WoW announcements. Legion is barely started, so it is way too soon to even think about a next expansion — the most we might expect in terms of concrete announcements is some idea of the scope and possibly timing of Patch 7.2.

The scheduled events I find most interesting are always the dev talks, along with the usual spate of “exclusive” interviews granted to various gaming media. Often, by stringing together common themes and odd comments made during these, it is possible to glean some wisp of a glimmer of Blizz’s game plans and/or true intentions. Over the past couple of years Blizz has clamped down on both the message and the messengers in interactions with the player base, but there is still hard information to be had if you know how to parse the communications.

There are really only three Warcraft panels with the potential for non-fluff content: the “Legion — What’s Next” today, and the “Legion — Design Retrospective” and Q&A panels tomorrow. I fully expect the What’s Next panel to be a unicorn-and-puppies-and-rainbows picture of upcoming raids, more Suramar quest lines, general timelines for patches, mention of world quests, and plans for class halls and artifact weapons. For the latter, expect an extension of the class hall campaigns as well as an expansion of the artifact trait tables.

For the design retrospective tomorrow, I expect a lot of self-congratulations about how awesome the Legion design has been, which is fair, but I would also like to see some admission that some designs have had unintended and in some cases far-reaching consequences, along with some thought on whether those consequences are good or bad for the game. Among them:

  • Professions.
  • The time burden imposed on alts by class hall and artifact requirements every character must perform in order to do almost any aspect of Legion’s end game.
  • The centrality of Mythic and Mythic+ dungeons, especially in relation to players not in guilds that are active enough to run these regularly.
  • The wisdom of making one single piece of gear — the artifact weapon — absolutely central to every aspect of an entire expansion.
  • Somewhat in line with the above points, a consideration of the theory that recent design decisions (reliance on end game advanced raids and dungeons, time required to be spent for character progression, etc.) have made the game less friendly to casual players.
  • The decision to add two new melee classes/specs to an already overcrowded space.
  • Suramar — especially the absolute gating of quest lines behind faction rep, and the focus on enabling addiction that is central to the story line.
  • Class design and constant redesign every expansion. Of course, I focus on hunters, but there are plenty of classes that have legitimate design concerns. Mainly, I would love to see an honest discussion of the design reasons for major reworks of classes (except of course mages, the third rail of WoW) nearly every expansion, and an assessment of whether or not this improves the game.

For the Q&A session, I have no clue. By definition, the attendees are extreme fans of the game, so there is likely to be a mix of fawning softball questions and emotionally outraged ones. Still, there is the potential for some actual information to emerge from the session. Often these sessions produce at least one “I can’t believe he went there” type question. If there is one this year, I am betting it will have to do with vanilla servers, still an emotional point with some players, and one Blizz has specifically said they will not address at this year’s Blizzcon.

Short post today, expecting another glorious fall weekend in Virginia, so I am off to enjoy it. Whatever you are doing this weekend, enjoy!

Freeze warning in hell!

Holy cow, finally we get a reasonable Blue post from Ion Hazzikostas on the subject of hunter concerns. Not only linked above but also quoted here just because it is such a Big Effing Deal:

Hi.

If it seems like there’s a lot of “listening to feedback,” and not much in the way of answers or concrete plans, it’s because we haven’t yet formulated those answers, not because there won’t be any or because we don’t care to.

Overall, the 7.0 patch and the Legion expansion probably saw more total change to class mechanics than any other single update in the game’s history. And hunters were among the most affected. That sort of revamp represents the beginning of a cycle of feedback and iteration, not an endpoint, and we know there’s a lot of work left to do here.

In the weeks immediately following launch, the team has primarily been focused on fixing bugs and on overall spec balance. Numerical tuning isn’t everything, but it can be done straightforwardly, often via hotfix, to get changes into players’ hands as quickly as possible. The team’s goal in this phase is for players of each spec to feel like they can succeed in the Legion endgame. But, of course, numerical viability doesn’t mean much if you aren’t enjoying the feel or mechanics of your class.

The next phase of iteration will focus on talent rows that seem devoid of choice, often because there is one dominant “correct” option. Through a mix of numbers balance and some redesign where needed, we’ll aim to improve talent diversity, opening up new playstyles and options in the process. That is our plan for all classes, but it applies especially to hunters, where talent diversity is often sorely lacking. These types of changes require more testing time and iteration than pure DPS tuning: This is why planned changes to priests’ Surrender to Madness, or paladins’ Crusade, were delayed until a later patch in order to allow for more thorough evaluation.

Finally, we’ll move on to evaluating base class and spec toolkits. Those types of changes are the riskiest to make, especially in the middle of an expansion, because they affect the core experience of every player of a given spec. But we don’t plan on waiting an entire expansion to address concerns like the ones that have been raised in this thread. All sorts of potential changes are on the table. For example, in retrospect, while a focus on traps strengthened Survival spec identity, taking so many traps away from Marks/BM entirely was harmful to hunter class identity. But changes like those can only happen in a full patch, and will benefit from a lengthy PTR cycle.

PS: Yes, I realize that hunters don’t have an ability called Deterrence anymore, and I should have said Turtle instead. Force of habit – I also still called Hand of Protection “BoP” for years (though now it actually is BoP again…). Sorry.

I realize I am gullible, but this is a substantive communication, and it really gives me hope for the class I love. Thanks are due to the entire hunter community for keeping the pressure on Blizz — in a respectful way — through months and months of disappointment and rejection.

I’ll parse a little more of this in a subsequent post, but I wanted to get it out there for now.

Groveling for crumbs

I finally forced myself to watch last Friday’s “Q&A” session with Ion Hazzikostas. It was exactly what I expected, basically an infomercial for 7.1, with a few hugs thrown in for the classes Ion loves and a couple of nasty pinches for the class he hates — hunters.

Here are a few facts:

  • Since the earliest days of Alpha, there have been literally thousands of well thought out, serious forum posts detailing fundamental problems with Legion hunter mechanics, overall play style, and failure to adhere to even the class fantasies Blizz espouses.
  • Two months ago — a week before Legion went live — CM Ornyx started a “Let’s Talk” thread in the hunter forum, requesting hunters to tell him what their concerns for the class were. In spite of there being thousands of such posts in the Legion test forums. Hunters responded with detailed examples of poor mechanics and lost “class feel”. Thousands of them, nearly all of which were expressed thoughtfully and respectfully, and which echoed the same concerns that had been expressed throughout the Legion Alpha, Beta, and PTR.
  • Well respected hunters in the community have all written about these fundamental class problems in their blogs and other social media — again since the earliest days of Alpha — even though some have now given up and accepted that the class they loved no longer exists.
  • The overwhelming nature of the concerns is not about damage numbers, rather about the removal of iconic hunter abilities, some terrible mechanics, and the perception that the hunter class has been stripped of nearly everything that drew players to it in the first place.

Here has been Blizz’s response to this:

  • In the “Let’s Talk” thread, a grand total of 3 Blue posts, two of which were admin announcements of the thread initiation and extension, and one of which was a short, insulting comment whose basic message was “Thank you for your interest in class development.”
  • Re-institution of pets as an option for MM, although without any other talent balancing, so that the only real choice is Lone Wolf.
  • Nerfing BM in PvP, because apparently Blizz could not stand the fact that even one hunter spec was viable in PvP.
  • Several “fixes” to Barrage that have arguably made it even more uncontrollable than it was. Note that almost no hunters had ever complained about Barrage in Legion — it was a talent most had learned how to use in WoD, and it was what it was, dangerous if not used judiciously and with the correct positioning, and powerful when used appropriately. But Blizz designed many bosses and trash in Legion such that Barrage was a disaster if used, then had to do some emergency tweaks to it when other players, not hunters, complained about it.
  • In Friday’s Q&A, hunters were banned from the stream when they tried to insert hunter questions. This, despite the fact that in the previous Q&A a small group of asshat warlocks spammed the stream and had previously used bully tactics to take over the Q&A forum — Hazzikostas gently slapped their little hands for their tantrum and then Blizz went on to reward them for it with a ton of attention and a lot of warlock hotfixes as well as plans for substantive changes.
  • Also in Friday’s Q&A, Hazzikostas fell all over himself to apologize to Fury warriors for saddling them with a bad mechanic and for not listening to their Beta feedback. What. The. Hell. Hello? Hunters here. Alpha. Beta. PTR. Live forums. Blogs. Tweets. Lousy mechanics out the wazoo. Ring a bell? No, of course not.

I suppose I am being a tad hard on the new WoW Game Director, but it is difficult to believe your class is being taken seriously when he is conversant in nearly every Legion ability of every class and spec, but casually refers to “Deterrence” for hunters.

I remain totally baffled as to why Blizz is steadfastly ignoring the legitimate concerns of hunters in Legion. At this point I would be happy if they came out and said, “Hunters, stfu, we hate your class and intend to drive a stake through its heart,” or “Hunters, we have screwed up your class so bad that it is not salvageable in this expansion, oopsie, hehe,” or, “Yeah, no one here plays a hunter so we just have a committee throw together a few things for them,” or even, “Hunters, we don’t give a damn about you, you are the throwaway experiment class, live with it.”

Instead we get nothing. We have begged, pleaded, groveled. We have obeyed all of Blizz’s rules for providing feedback. We have seen other classes like warlocks throw a tantrum and get recognition and consideration for their complaints. We have seen Blizz bend over backwards to apologize to warriors for not listening to their Beta feedback. We have seen long Blue posts explaining the entire philosophy, background, and intent for the Brewmaster Monk major changes. We have seen dozens and dozens of hotfix and patch changes for DKs. We have seen great response to the rough time Shadow Priests have had over the past couple of years and a real effort to make them whole again.

But hunters — who have arguably gone through the most significant class changes in the game in Legion — hunters get zero, zip, nada, nothing but contempt and a few lazy, easy changes designed mainly to respond to other classes annoyed with hunter abilities. Not even the courtesy of recognition in the form of a “Fuck you”.

For crying out loud, Blizz, can you at least throw us a bone here? Tell us what is going on with hunters, have a rare moment of honesty and talk to us about our class and what the hell you think about the current state of this class as well as any plans you may have for the next few months for it. 

WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO IGNORE US?

Leftovers and ruminations

Today’s post is really just a few unconnected thoughts that have been dancing around in the back of my brain for a bit. Sorry, but every once in a while I have to run the mental Roomba just to tidy things up for later…

Q&A session. Today there will be another in the more-or-less regular series of “Dev Talks”, this one being Ion Hazzikostas answering player questions about Patch 7.1. I am not expecting much info, to be honest, more of an infomercial about Karazhan, so I doubt if I will take the time to watch it live. I’ll catch it later this evening when I don’t have much else to do.

I am still glad that Blizz is continuing these pseudo-Q&A sessions, even if they seem to have devolved into a series of softball questions hand-picked for their toadiness. Don’t get me wrong, I do not approve of in-your-face, impolite, selfish, whiny type questions, but there are some very valid and tough conversations to be had between players and devs, and these sessions scrupulously avoid them, it seems.

Two subjects we will not hear about in today’s session (and I will happily eat my words if I am wrong):

  • Timetable for flying in Legion. (I have long predicted it would not happen before the second major patch, and honestly I think now it might not happen until whatever is the last patch of the expansion.) If the subject is even mentioned, expect some kind of saccharine cutesy evasive answer from Hazzikostas.
  • Any mention of the hunter class other than maybe a passing reference as part of a 7.1 attempt to do “minor balancing” of classes as a whole. Blizz seems hung up on the numbers game and refuses to address the wholesale selling out of the entire hunter class play style, along with completely ignoring even their own “fantasy” descriptions.

Game management changes. Today it was announced that Tom Chilton will be moving on, and Ion Hazzikostas will be moving up to take Chilton’s position as Game Director. Chilton will remain with Blizzard but be working on “another project” — unspecified. Stay tuned.

I have no idea what if any effect this management change will have on the game. I am guessing — but it is only a guess — that we will see more and more “prescribed” and “approved” play styles. Hazzikostas, at least as gleaned from his public statements, is a big fan of dictating what is and is not fun in the game. He has said he does not believe that earning gear is fun for anyone, but rolling the dice for it is great entertainment. So I expect to see — if it is even possible — even greater reliance on RNG for more aspects of the game.

Hazzikostas has also told us repeatedly that there is a certain style of alt play that is approved — only for the purpose of emulating your main but with a different class —  and indeed we have seen Legion implement mechanics that actually preclude any but the approved alt play style.

Last, let us not forget that it was likely Hazzikostas who pushed through the disastrous no-fly policy in WoD, the one who stressed to us how “immersive” it was to be road-bound. Expect longer and longer times between flying capability in Legion and subsequent expansions, with, I think, the goal of eliminating the capability altogether. (But of course we will still be able to hand over cash to the Blizz store for cool flying mounts that can easily waddle along the roads!)

My one optimistic hope with this change in management is that Blizz finds someone to fill Hazzikostas’s position who is serious about communicating with the player base, someone unafraid of getting in there and having even the difficult conversations, someone who will institute a professional system of customer communication instead of the “read the forums if you have nothing better to do” approach they currently seem to have.

I finally hit 110 with my druid. Last night I finally dinged 110 with my balance druid, who is also an herbalist/alchemist. Obviously the reason I have been pushing to level this alt first is so as to eventually stop spending upwards of 20k gold a week just to buy flasks and pots for raiding. Of course, I am still not there, as there is a ridiculously long and complex route to even being able to make the flasks I need, much less get to a profession level where there is a chance of getting a few procs. I expect that by the end of next week I should be able to do at least the basic stuff.

I still think the Legion character leveling process is well designed. It moves along fairly quickly and you can vary the experience for each character by varying the zone rotation you choose. But I do find it onerous to be forced to go through the artifact and class hall quest lines just to be able to function in the expansion. Not to mention the requirement to chase artifact power. There really needs to be an alternative to using an artifact weapon for a character you have no intention of raiding with. Of course, this cannot happen, because Blizz now requires you to run instances up through Mythic on every character you wish to use for professions.

Sorry, but alt development and professions in my opinion are still a huge Legion failing.

Escape versus complexity. This is entirely personal, but I find myself in the position of disliking Legion’s political complexity with the whole Nightfallen thing. Alternative Chat has a piece today discussing how refreshing it is to explore these issues in Suramar, and I suppose it is fun for many to sift through these nuanced layers. I am much more simplistic in my game needs. I look to games as pure escapism, as a sort of bubble gum for the mind where things are clearly Good versus Evil and oh by the way Good always wins in the end.

So I hate Suramar, I do the World Quests and achievement quest lines there, but I am most decidedly not drawn to political complexity in a game. Unfortunately, I get far too much of that in real life these days, especially now that the USA is embarrassing itself on the international stage with its soap opera Presidential election. As I said, I like my games to provide escape, not a microcosm of real life. Maybe in a year Suramar will seem fun to me, but just not now.

I’m out for the weekend, and it is looking to be a glorious one in Virginia, with perfect fall weather. I think we can assume there will be grilling on the deck, some bike rides and leaf peeping, and drinking a couple beers in my future. You enjoy your weekend, too.