“We’re as mad as hell, and…” Oh forget it

There comes a time in every firebrand’s life when they just have to admit defeat. I think I have, at long last, reached that point with hunters in WoW. Oh, out of stubbornness and habit, I will likely continue to play one, but for me the joy of it has gone. Worse than that, I have finally lost all hope that Blizz will ever restore the fun of huntering. I think they are truly too clueless to know they have destroyed it, but it is also possible they know and simply do not give a damn. And there is zero evidence this attitude will change.

As often happens, the final straw for me was a tiny one, insignificant and irrelevant when taken alone, but it tips the final balance when added to the pile already accumulated. I am not going to rehash here the “accumulated pile” — suffice it to say Blizz has systematically dismantled the hunter class in the last two expansions, to the point where someone who huntered even as late as Mists likely would not recognize the class if they had quit the game then and recently returned.

The straw? It was a chain of thought that started when I read about the 7.2 “challenge” to unlock some new artifact appearance for each spec. I have nothing against Blizz implementing this, I am sure a lot of players will really enjoy it — both the challenge and the appearance reward. But when I read it, my thought was basically, “Not worth the effort.” Why?

One reason was what I alluded to above — it is no longer great fun for me to play a hunter. There was a time not too long ago when I loved the class so much that any challenge was something I wanted to do, simply because I enjoyed pushing my hunter play to its limits and maybe a bit beyond. But now? I no longer get a rush of joy from “good” hunter skills, mainly because most of the skills currently consist of having fast enough synapses to mash a button when a computer-controlled spell comes off cooldown. There really is almost no player strategy or finesse that enters in.

The second reason — and the actual straw realization — was that hunters pretty much lose out when it comes to weapon appearance in Legion. For example, no hunter ranged weapon can have an enchant effect. Blizz simply does not care enough about hunters to give us some cool enchant effects like they have for every other class weapon in the game. I don’t know why, it can’t be any harder to configure a visual for a bow or gun than it can be for swords and staves and so forth, but apparently Blizz as usual can’t be bothered with hunters.

In Legion, BM hunters in particular suffer even further from Blizz’s negligence regarding weapon visual effects. After going to some trouble to hype the importance of Hati as an integral part of the BM artefact weapon, Blizz pretty much proceeded to design a dull and uninspiring model for it. When hunters complained, they finally gave us a gizmo to make Hati look like any pet we have, and even eliminated the major bug in it (you couldn’t change Hati back to original appearance) after a few more weeks of further hunter complaining. But here’s the thing: none of the hunter weapon appearances have any effect whatsoever on Hati’s appearance. I see no reason, for example, that Blizz could not have allowed hunters to choose a red glowing Hati as part of the “red” gun appearance. No reason, that is, except no one at Blizz can be bothered. It’s only BM hunters, after all.

In fact, even the BM hunter “hidden appearance” is pretty crappy. In the first place, it’s not all that hidden — you basically go into the Engineering shop in Dal and plunk down 8ooo gold, and it’s all yours. And this magical hidden appearance? It turns your gun into a bow. I am not a big fan of hunter guns, especially for some races, so I transmog my BM weapon into a bow anyhow. But this hidden appearance bow is a real monstrosity, possibly the ugliest bow in the history of WoW. It looks like something your four-year-old would do with Legos, except a little less creative.

Anyway, to return to my point. When I saw that 7.2 would offer these really cool weapon appearances as rewards for what look to be considerable skill challenges, I wasn’t even the tiniest bit excited. Mash designated buttons in timely sequence for an appearance change in a weapon I never see anyway? And do quests just to get the currency needed to repeat the challenge if you fail? (This mechanic is nothing more than another way to force people to play content over and over again, since you have to pay with Nethershards from the Broken Shore scenarios in order to retry this challenge. Another way Blizz is trying to up its monthly hours played metric come quarterly report time.) No thank you.

I realized that Blizz was not going to do anything whatsoever to make this challenge worthwhile to me as a BM hunter. We have not seen the new visual for BM hunters yet, but it seems extraordinarily unlikely, given previous history, that they are going to give me a cool Hati makeover. Similarly, it seems improbable that the gun appearance will be anything other than an over-the-top behemoth of a cannon that I would not be caught dead with. In the last two expansions, Blizz has proven they are not the least bit interested in applying their normal excellent creativity in any way to hunters.

And with this realization for some reason it came crashing down on me that Blizz will not restore any of the baseline fun to hunters, not in Legion and possibly not ever. They will throw us a few bones in the form of easy band-aid fixes, they will nominally include us in new stuff like this appearance thing, but it is crystal clear that they do not want to expend anything more than minimum resources on this class. For months now, I have harbored the illusion — okay, probably more accurately a delusion — that there was still time in Legion for Blizz to come to its senses about hunters and make some substantive and positive changes. But when I began to examine this whole weapon appearance thing it started a chain of thought that forced me to realize no such hunter changes will be forthcoming.

For Blizz, hunters are that cousin you really dislike and try to avoid as much as possible, but to keep peace in the family you have to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner every year. Still, there is no way are you going to let him have the drumstick.

Congratulations, Blizz, you have worn me down. I no longer kid myself that the hunter experience will improve in Legion, and I am losing hope that it ever will. I am no longer mad as hell. I am just tired.

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.

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.

A farewell to hunters

Yesterday another hunter I respect, Delirium over at The Thrill of the Wild, threw in the towel on hunters as a class in Legion. He joins a number of excellent hunters who, after months of frustration trying to get Blizz to understand their very real and legitimate concerns about overall hunter play style in Legion, have finally given up and will just try to make the best of it. That is, if they play a hunter at all in Legion or indeed if they play the game at all. Some, like Delirium, hold out a very slim hope that it will turn out all right once Legion goes live, but really no one believes it will.

Even though you can read Del’s piece for yourselves, I am going to do a lengthy quote here, because I think he really captured the feeling of many true hunters. He certainly captured mine.

So, here we are; the Legion pre-patch likely less than a week away, and hunters are still in a fairly terrible place, from my perspective. All three specs received complete overhauls (now having only the names in common with the previous three hunter specs), and all three ended up significantly less fun than they have been for the last two expansions.

. . .

While I’d like to think that in general I’m appreciative of the developers trying new things, experimenting and trying to make the game better. In the case of all three hunter specs, they’ve ended up with results that are significantly worse than what they had when they started. And really, that wouldn’t be a problem either, except, as far as I can tell, the developers who are in charge seem to legitimately think that they’ve made a good class, despite months and months and months of feedback from hundreds of different hunters in the beta expressing dissatisfaction with every single hunter spec.

And that is the essence of it. Hunters may in fact turn out to compete well on the damage charts in Legion, but that is not the point. Blizz has succeeded in draining every bit of fun out of the spec, they have gutted its soul, they have removed every vestige of joy from it. The hunter class in Legion will remain, but in name only. The hunter class we have loved to play since the beginning of WoW will be gone.

Blizz has steadfastly refused to tell us why they have done this, beyond blithering idiocy about “class fantasies”. I can only conclude their actions are the result of one of two reasons: 1) They have no one on their staff who has ever understood and loved the hunter class, or 2) They made a deliberate decision to destroy the class, because it was too popular or because non-hunters hate it a lot, or whatever. No matter the reason, WoD and Legion have made it clear that hunters are the throwaway class in Blizz’s mind, the class they can screw with however much they want whenever they want.

This is bad enough, but it is compounded by the fact that Blizz has so little respect for hunters that they have not even bothered to have a real discussion over the changes and why they decided to make them, why they have stubbornly ignored the concerns of the best, most conscientious hunters in the game.

I will play a Beastmastery hunter in Legion, but I am not excited by the prospect. I look at it as something to endure, not something to look forward to. Though it retains the most flavor of traditional hunters, it, too has been stripped of its essential fun. It does not even come close to Blizz’s own ridiculous “spec fantasy”. How can you have a hunter with no skill whatsoever in camouflage or traps? How can someone be a “Master of Beasts” with many of them at his beck and call but with actual control over only one of them? (And in truth not a lot of control over even that one, as there are still serious pathing issues as well as issues with your pet failing to attack when it is on Assist.) The poverty of this shallow “fantasy” is exposed in the actual spec implementation.

The destruction of the hunter class puts a shadow over all of Legion for me. I know there will be many fun innovations, and I think there will be a lot of engaging content. But I will be reminded of Blizz’s hunter sellout every time I play. Every. Single. Time.

I know Blizz does not dwell in the real player world, so they will believe their own hype over Legion. But they should be sobered by the idea that there is a sizable group of players like myself who are not hyped by it, who are instead grimly resolved to get through it. For a game, that is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

I will spend my weekend playing my hunter, eking out every last ounce of joy I can while it is still fun to play. Soon it will just be a memory.

Blizz, why are you doing this?