The real Q&A

Despite my snarkiness in my last post, I thought the Q&A yesterday was relatively informative. There was surprisingly quite a lot of what I think of as “real” information as opposed to the kind of blather that is nothing more than an infomercial. If you have an hour with nothing else to do, check out the video yourself either directly on Twitch or via MMO-C here. With that, let me get started on my observations.

PTR is now live. The first announcement was a bit of great news — the PTR is now live for Patch 8.0. That is, now anyone can go up on the PTR and experience the pre-expansion patch, which as usual will contain everything new in BfA (stat squish, new profession system, War Mode, class changes, pre-expansion event scenario, etc.) except for the new zones and content-specific quests. I did not get a chance to check out the PTR yesterday after the Q&A, so I don’t have any firsthand information on it yet, but if you have specific questions I recommend you step in and give it a spin.

When 8.0 does go live (I am guessing in about a month), there will be a few things that have to be adjustment for you. For example, the tier and legendary bonuses will still work, but not the artifact actives. So if you are, say, a BM hunter, and have gotten used to working Titan’s Thunder into your rotation, that will be gone. Same with all the active artifact spells such as Sheilun’s Gift for mistweaver monks and the totally awesome New Moon for balance druids. (Seriously, what is cooler than dropping a moon on the head of your enemy?) Some of these have gone baseline for a few specs, but generally they are compensated for in other, mostly passive, ways.

Flying in BfA. Look for the BfA Pathfinder requirements to be pretty much the same as they were for Legion. Translation: No chance of getting flying until probably sometime around March 2019 at the earliest. Blizz will again gate the requirements behind faction rep, doing a certain number of world quests, and exploration of every nook and cranny of all the new zones, as well as withhold the final Pathfinder parts until a certain patch (8.2??).

Recall that Blizz started the whole Pathfinder mechanism back in WoD, when they were forced to back off their disastrous announcement that there would henceforward never be flying in any new zones. There was such a backlash over that, that they had to hurriedly come up with some way to put off WoD flying while they scrambled to make the zones flyable. So they invented the Pathfinder quest line, along with gates designed to ensure no one would get the ability before Blizz wanted them to.

I don’t actually mind the Pathfinder questlines, by the way, but my point here is that if you are leveling a new character that is not part of an account where one character has already unlocked flying, you must still do the Pathfinder quests for every zone they exist in. That means, in theory, that 5 years from now you will still have to unlock all the rep, exploration, and so forth in Draenor, in Broken Isles, in Battle for Azeroth, and in all expansions up to whichever one is current if you want to be able to fly in those zones.

Thus, an interesting question in the Q&A was, will Blizz stop requiring Pathfinder for older expansion zones such as WoD? Ion, as is his wont, punted on the answer, giving his usual not-at-this-time-but-maybe-sometime-in-the-future-soon™-we-might-start-to-think-about-it. Just my opinion, but I suspect by the expansion after BfA we will start to see Pathfinder going away in the earlier zones like WoD and Legion.

There was, however, a good bit of dissembling going on with Ion’s answer. He bleated on and on about not wanting to “devalue the effort” of completing Pathfinder in every expansion, and that “Draenor was designed for ground-based leveling so you don;t need flying to level there”. Well, yeah. But come on Ion, why not admit that the real answer is that for some reason you have decided that leveling should take a lot longer than it used to (do I smell MAU metrics here?), and allowing flying in a shorter time would not serve that goal.

Class Balance. Bottom line is, what you see on the PTR is largely what you will get for your class and spec. There are very few large changes planned at this point. Blizz is aware of some problems but will address them either by numbers tweaks between now and August 14 or leave those changes for 8.1.

After listening to Ion on this, I remain concerned that Blizz is rather deliberately making winner and loser classes, especially when it comes to raid and group utility. They keep blathering on about how they want each class to “feel special”, yet only a few classes are “special” enough to always be sought out for groups. That is, only a few classes have truly unique utilities — such as battle rez or innervate — and many other classes either have nothing or some lesser version of the sought-after utilities. When this trend is combined with Ion’s fixation on the idea that some classes should be sought after for certain fights (bring the class not the player), it does not bode well for the also-ran classes. Unfortunately for me, I think hunters are one of those. Ion can say all he wants about fitting your strategy to your team, but the reality is that, once there has been a “school solution” to certain fights, it will be well-nigh impossible for classes who are not part of that solution to find pugs willing to take them.

What this means, I think, is choose your main class and spec with care for BfA. If you love playing a certain one and don’t care that it may not be one of the favored ones, go for it. On the other hand, if high numbers, lively play style, and being able to easily get into groups are important factors for you, then spend some time figuring out which classes/specs will do that for you in BfA — it may not end up being your current main.

On the plus side, I was heartened to hear that Blizz understands they went too far with spec identity in Legion, and they want to return to overall class identity. Whether they will achieve this goal or not remains to be seen.

War mode. This new world PvP system is part of patch 8.0. The basics are that there will be no more PvP or PvE servers, there will only be Normal and RP ones. On all servers, you can toggle PvP mode on while in your faction capital city. When you do so, you will be transferred to a shard where everyone has also toggled PvP mode, thus making your location a PvP sever. The difference between RP and PvE servers is that currently RP servers do not involuntarily transfer players to other shards (except in extreme overload situations), so as to keep group integrity better for RP purposes. In 8.0, if you toggle War Mode on an RP server, you will stay on your own shard from your RP server. If you join a group, the group will join your shard, you will not be involuntarily transferred to a different one.

I was pleased to hear Ion explain a bit more about the perks awarded for doing War Mode in patch 8.0. Basically, players in War Mode will earn slightly more gold from world quests, and if they are leveling they will get fast xp than in PvE mode. Ion commented that the reason for this is that PvP players often get forcibly diverted from questing, and the extra gold and xp is a way to compensate for that. Ion said the team is paying a lot of attention to balancing this — they want to make sure PvP is not unduly punishing players who choose it, while at the same time they absolutely do not want the bonuses to be so lucrative as to make PvE players feel pushed into PvP.

Mythic Raiding. Who cares, really. BfA will implement some world ranking system that should result in cross-realm mythic raiding being unlocked sooner. Whoopee. 🙄

Mythic+ Dungeons. For me, another who-cares item. Players will not be able to switch out gear in BfA M+ dungeons, what they start with is what they will use for each. But the interesting takeaway for me from this whole M+ Q&A discussion is the sheer number of changes and “anti-exploit” measures being put into place in BfA for M+. This only means that these are going to be a major esports venue for WoW as we go forward, since nearly all the changes are targeted towards high-end min-maxxers.

Catch-up AP in BfA. There will be one, just as there was one for AP in Legion. Interestingly, in BfA Blizz is reversing the approach. In Legion, the amount of AP required to buy more artifact upgrades increased exponentially, and the catch-up mechanism was that you could earn geometrically-increasing amounts in order to get that AP. In BfA, you will earn Azerite at a constant rate, but the cost of the gear traits will go down periodically. Both systems work for catch-up, but the BfA method means we will not be faced with ridiculously high numbers for traits (over a trillion AP for some people with high artifact levels.)

Anyway, that was it for the Q&A. (There was some more PvP stuff but I pretty much tuned that out.) I think in general it was a decent hour. One of the most positive big takeaways for me is that I am beginning to believe Blizz is sensitive to the grindiness and tedium many of us disliked in Legion, and they do seem to be taking some steps to make that less of an issue.

And with that long, wordy post, let the weekend begin. See you on the other side.

Argus – second week

I am going to reserve my final opinion on Patch 7.3 and the whole Argus zone until after next week, which will give us nearly all we are going to see with it, but I have to say so far I am pretty underwhelmed. Absent some hugely fun new thing next week, I cannot see myself spending much time there once my main has gotten the rep to be allowed to buy some of the quality of life gizmos which in my opinion we should have had from the start of the patch. I am mainly talking about:

  • Whistle. Blizz, in its most patronizing and stingy fashion, is allowing us to spend 500 gold to “upgrade” our Legion whistle so that it will work on Argus, but only after we have ground out revered with the Argussian Reach. And just to make sure we get a sufficient amount of misery, they have apparently gone to some pains to ensure it will take several weeks to gather that rep.

I am not at all trying to start another huge emotional player fight about flying versus no flying, but here’s the thing: It is hard to not get the impression that Blizz is doing everything they possibly can to stubbornly dig in their heels and force players into slogging about on the ground for as long as they can in as many places they can, through as many obstacles and mobs as they can manage.

It is as if, having let the flying toothpaste out of the tube years ago, they spend every resource possible trying to cram it back in. They clearly hate that players can fly in the game, and since their attempt to remove it from all future expansions died a horrible death back in WoD, they are in sullen teenager mode over it, kicking dirt and muttering and pouting every step of the way.

The fact of the matter is — no matter how Blizz may protest it is not the case — that designing zones for flying takes significantly more resources than designing them for ground travel. The WoW franchise is becoming less and less of a moneymaker for Blizz as well as for the larger corporate structure of Activision-Blizzard, and they are cutting more and more resources from it with every patch and expansion. I would honestly have more respect for them if they would just come out and admit this, rather than patronize us with the whole “immersion” excuse or the “we never have flying on an island” one.

I could possibly buy into the “We never allow flying in a patch zone expansion, look at Timeless Isle for example” argument, but the fact is that ever since Mists, Blizz has made us jump through more and longer hoops to get flying for every expansion. (In Mists, as soon as you hit max level you got flying capability.) Part of that strategy is coming home to roost with them on Argus, since completion of the Legion flying quest line for many players came very close to coinciding with the release of 7.3, giving these players the impression that they just got flying only to have Blizz yank it away from them immediately, and causing them — with some justification — to howl in the forums.

Blizz was not required to implement flying in the game in the first place, but they did so in order to increase their player base and ultimately their bottom line. It was a business decision that they thought was appropriate at the time. Fine. But I recall that some devs, like Greg Street, warned there would be no going back once it was done, and that is absolutely the case. They are stuck with it, try though they might to throw a continuous tantrum over it and push its implementation further and further away with every expansion.

Argus is not Timeless Isle, nor is it Quel’Danas. (And for the record, the late patch zone in WoD, Tanaan, allowed flying, just sayin’.) In my opinion, Blizz should have designed it with some relatively short path to flying, if for no other reason than they were such dicks about the quest line for Legion flying. But they didn’t, and it will not happen now. But for crying out loud, do they have to also be mega-dicks about the lousy whistle?

  • Permanent augment rune. As was done in Tanaan, there is a permanent augment rune available for purchase once you become exalted with Army of the Light. The good news is, it is a lot easier to get rep with this faction than with the Argussian Reach. The bad news is, even after you become exalted, the damned rune costs 45,000 gold.

Yeah, I know there has been huge inflation in the game. (I won’t indelicately point out Blizz caused this themselves when they had to resort to massive gold giveaways in WoD just to bribe people into playing. Okay, I will. Yet another bad decision they cannot now undo and so are making players suffer as a result.)

But 45,000 gold for a rune? The current Defiled Augment Rune goes for about 150 gold on my server, and I suspect as more people shell out for the permanent rune the temp one will take a real nosedive in value. You can buy literally hundreds of temp runes for 45,000 gold. (300 at 150g, 450 at 100g, 900 if it goes down to 50g which is I think likely.) And as far as I know, LFR will keep awarding them, so I do not anticipate a shortage.

I have plenty of gold, but something in me balks at spending 45k for a damn rune that I will use only for raids. It just smacks of price gouging, and I do not like it, nor do I see why Blizz has priced it that way PLUS gated it behind rep. It is a mean-spirited “gotcha” that feels like someone is going “BWAAHAHA! Let’s make the little boogers work their asses off for it! My bonus goes up the higher we can force our MAU!”

Let’s see, what else am I underwhelmed about on Argus so far? Oh yeah, invasions. I honestly do not see myself doing very many of these. So far, the loot has been non-existent for me, and to be honest they are not really that fun. I really enjoyed the ones at the end of WoD, loved flying off to a place in old Azeroth to join in with dozens of other players, liked that even low level alts could do them and get really decent gear, liked that they had a set pattern of beginning, middle and end phases. I think a lot of people really enjoyed them.

So why, given a winning design, did Blizz feel compelled to “improve” on them, pretty much destroying much of the fun in the process?

The Argus invasions feel like just another daily or weekly quest, with worse loot potential. And getting an alt attuned to even get to Argus is no quick or easy thing. I put a new alt into the zone over the weekend — it had already been on Broken Shore, so I was not starting from zero. Even so, it took me well over 2 hours (closer to 3) to jump through all the Argus hoops to get to invasions, not to mention opening up Mac’Aree. And this process, I assume, will get even longer once the Week 3 requirements kick in. With WoD invasions, I could just hop on a (flying!) mount and jump into the fray with an alt. And once in the invasion scenario, I could fly madly from point to point, taking part in areas of the scenario I thought I could be most useful in. It was great fun. Argus is just not.

And I am not even talking about the Greater Invasions. I have done several of the Greater ones, either for myself or to help out guildies, and they are insipid and boring (the Greater invasions, not the guildies…). They have less complex phase structure than the WoD ones, they are not fun to gallivant around in, the bosses are only tedious not interesting, and the loot really stinks. On top of that, you have to participate in smaller ones every week just to be able to do them, and more often than not fight your way through mobs just to get to the portal.

Nope. I’ll do a few initially, I am sure, but there is absolutely nothing in these that makes me want to spend more time on Argus. I thought the demon invasions in Legion were a poor shadow of the fun of the WoD invasions, and I think the Argus ones are even worse.

So I am waiting until the reset Tuesday, hoping there will finally be something that makes Argus a desirable location for me. But I have not seen anything so far, and honestly I am not especially optimistic.

Of classes and sea changes

I have lately been doing some survey reading on principles of MMO game development, and I ran across an item that really struck a chord with me. It was from a blog called Tough Love Critic, in a piece on principles for MMO balance:

Metas get stale, especially if they’re bad metas that take excitement, flexibility, agency, or all of the above from players. But that doesn’t mean that when a meta needs to change the patch notes should rival a doctoral dissertation each and every time.

Huge changes might drastically change the meta, but just as easily it can invalidate a player’s favorite build, expensive gear, or in worse cases their entire class. If the only balance patches that happen change everything, then players dread changes rather than look forward to them.

Steady, consistent changes, tweaking here and there, work much better over time. The meta steadily shifts away from its previous moorings, allowing for a hybrid lake where new builds and old builds vie for dominance.

Caveat: Sometimes large changes are necessary because a lot of other aspects of a game are changing as well, but they should never be a constant.

Now, before I talk a little bit more about this quote, let me point out that in almost anything you read about MMO design, World of Warcraft jumps out as a textbook example for proper application of gaming principles. In fact, in some instances, the principles were actually deduced from analysis of WoW. The game, even today, remains the gold standard for nearly every aspect of MMOs.

But the reason I was so taken with the quote above is that I think this is where Blizz has made a big mistake. Over the past couple of expansions they have been pushing the pendulum of change into ever-widening arcs, particularly in areas most sensitive to players, and they are either unwilling or unable to slow it back to a nice steady tick. Many of the most controversial changes over the two years have in fact been controversial simply because they were so drastic and so sudden, whereas had they been implemented more slowly they would have been more easily accepted.

Sometimes, as in the example of Survival hunters, there has been a series of these sea changes coming one on the heels of the other. At the start of WoD, the spec was terrible, then in patch 6.1 it became pretty much overpowered, then in patch 6.2 it became unplayable, then in patch 7.0.3 it became a completely different spec as melee. That, my friends, is change that is too drastic too often. And indeed the resulting perception for many SV players was exactly as described in the quote.

As a side note, I think Blizz may actually have learned their lesson on drastic change in one area: flying. They saw what happened when they wanted to suddenly remove it from the game for all new areas, so they backed off. Backed off, but I still think that is their end goal. In Legion, it will be delayed for months, almost certainly for a year or more. My bet is that in the next expansion it will be delayed even longer, possibly until the last patch. After that, if there is an “after that”, I think it is a better than even chance that it will be effectively removed from the game for all new areas. Incremental change, not drastic change. It is the frog in the pot of water being gradually brought to a boil.

New expansions and new patches bring changes, that is a given. It is how MMOs evolve and grow. Changes in a game should be fun and exciting and challenging. There are parts of the game where people welcome change, and there are parts of the game where players are much more resistant to change. People enjoy content changes, quality of life changes, environmental/art changes. But people are much more conservative when it comes to areas of the game they have an emotional investment in, for example the essence of their game persona — class and spec.

And this is where I think Blizz has erred. They have insisted on making changes that are not only drastic but continual to classes and specs, to the very core of players’ self-identification. Rather than have a class evolve over the course of a couple of expansions, they have opted to swing them from one extreme to the other. They have failed to realize that these changes really, really matter to players, they are not just another game mechanic. (It makes me wonder if the real reason for such changes is that it helps to flesh out dev resumes — “Conceived of and implemented major changes to three character classes in World of Warcraft, resulting in …. bla bla bla … increased corporate revenue…bla bla bla…certificate of achievement…bla bla bla”)

For all the protestations that the devs are passionate about the game, I see no indication whatsoever that they are passionate about any class or spec. Yes, one dev may appreciate one set of mechanics over another, but do any of them truly love being, say, a hunter or a priest or a warlock? I don’t know, but I do know that if they had the same kind of persona investment in a class/spec that many players have, they would not treat them as they have for last couple of years. They would be more respectful of player-evolved fantasies for their spec and less eager to impose a Blizz-approved fantasy du jour.

The weekend beckons.

It really was about the flying

Now that I have had a week or so with Draenor flying enabled, I have this to say about the experience:

OMG! It is fantastic! I love it!

No one is more surprised about this than I am. Even though I have been one of the vocal proponents of flying, I never really expected it to make such a difference in my game outlook and play experience. Honestly, after all the drama we had to go through to get it reinstated, and after the unexpectedly long wait for it once it was announced, I thought it would be pretty anticlimactic. Boy, was I wrong. I am having a great time.

Contrary to Blizz’s stubborn insistence that staying ground-bound makes players get out and engage with the world more, I find I am now much more energized to go out and do things. Without flying, every activity seemed like work, like drudgery, because first you had to take a commercial flight by circuitous route, then once you landed you had to spend several more minutes finding a non-blocked ground path to your destination, then galloping for what seemed a long time, all the while fighting annoying mobs including those stupid little weeds, and only then could you get on with whatever your original objective had been. And since the activities provided by WoD were pretty boring to begin with, all in all I usually decided it just was not worth the effort.

But now I am out doing things nearly every day on multiple alts. The journeys to my destinations have become fun again. If I am on a gatherer and see something to gather, I just swoop down and get it. I don’t have to make a major effort to structure a tedious and non-productive ground route for mat farming, don’t have to make a mental note to come back to an area I might have glimpsed during a commercial flight, I just dip down and then continue my trip.

If I see something else of interest — a rare, a scenic point, someone who seems to need assistance — I just stop and investigate. It is terrific.

A few nights ago some of our guild decided to group up and do a couple of Timewalking dungeons. As we were all DPS, we had a fair bit of wait time in queue. So we decided to do some rare hunting in Gorgrond. It was fantastic, we had a lot of fun, zipping around the zone trying to keep up with each other, blasting away rares, and playing who’s-got-the-baddest-flying-mount. (Hint: definitely not Yours Truly.) We spent a good 20 minutes at this, then the queue popped and we were into a dungeon. Without flying, we almost certainly would have just killed time individually in garrisons, fishing, whatever, but you can bet we would not have been out running around engaging the world, it would have been too annoying and boring because most of our time would have been spent trying to find each other and our objectives.

Flying has enabled me to bring two more alts to Tanaan, to plan on leveling and bringing my last two, and to run Kazzak on even the squishier ones like my healer and my mage. Before flying, this would probably not have been possible, because I dreaded doing that ridiculous signal setting quest to get the goblin flying transport to The Throne of KJ and I always hate myself if I have to beg for a summons. I know, it’s silly, but truthfully these are the kind of impediments — along with the time factor for travel — that have kept me from getting my alts out more in WoD.

I don’t care that Draenor is small, and honestly I don’t care that flying speed has been throttled back. I don’t notice the difference, the combination of scale plus speed works fine for me. It seems the same experience as flying in contemporary Azeroth.

I am not going to make any sweeping generalizations about the WoW player base, but I will speak for myself. If WoD had implemented flying on the Mists pattern, I would have been much happier with the expansion as a whole. I would have felt like I could escape the cattle chute Blizz was forcing us through and could play the game as I wanted to. Flying would not have covered up all the other major problems with the expansion, but it would certainly have made them more palatable for me.

Blizz’s stated concerns about being able to avoid content or go through it too quickly or miss the holy grail of “immersion” by flying are just wrong for my play style. In fact, flying has the opposite effects for me. The only content I avoid by flying is the annoying content I avoided anyway while on the ground by just not venturing out. Now that I can fly, I spend far more time outside my garrison than I did prior to flying, and I really do feel far more “immersed” than I have felt before in Draenor. Even with all the faults of this expansion, the game has become fun for me again.

Prior to last week if you had asked me to name one thing that might have saved this expansion for me, I would not have even thought to name flying. While I wanted it, I just would not have thought it could make such a huge difference. I considered it more of a nice to have thing. But now that we have it, I can see how powerful a factor it has become for my game enjoyment.

I can only hope that the Legion implementation will be sooner rather than later. However, my fear is that Blizz will set the number of hoops to jump through so high that it is not possible to gain flying before the last patch of the xpac. That is, they will use the WoD flying model rather than the Mists one.

That would be a shame, in my opinion. For me, surprisingly, it really is about flying.

Religion, politics, and flying — 3 discussions to not have


Today we will get flying in Draenor. After almost a year of promises, non-promises, waffling and weasel wording, final decisions, final final decisions, and probably millions of forum and blog column lines on the topic. Today, though, after all that, flying will be reinstated. You would think that pretty much closes the book on The Great Flying Debate.

Hahahahaha! You would be SO wrong.

I am constantly amazed at the human propensity for forcing individual beliefs and life styles on others. Humans simply cannot, for some reason, stand it if others think differently from themselves, or heaven forbid, if the others have the temerity to live their lives according to those “wrong” thoughts.

Interestingly, the less provable a thought is, the more adamant are those who would require everyone to subscribe to that thought. Thus, we have great raging emotional debates and sometimes even shooting wars over religious and political differences of opinion. Yes, humans willingly kill and die to force others to think and act a certain prescribed way. What is wrong with our species?

It should come as no surprise, then, that flying in WoW — a subjective, non-provable concept of “fun” or “enjoyment” — has rabid adherents on both sides. In this case, those who prefer to fly really don’t seem to care if others fly or not, but many of those who do not wish to fly cannot abide the thought that others may now choose to. As with many rabid, spit-flecked, hate-filled discussions of religion and politics, logic does not seem to apply. They degenerate into a matter of “I believe thus and so, and if you do not then you are not only wrong, but evil, and I will do everything I can to force you into my way of thinking.” This is, at its core, an assumption that those who do not think as you do are too stupid to know better, thus it is your sacred duty to save them from themselves. This is arrogance at its height, and as many of you know, it is a trait I consider detestable, particularly when its manifestation in someone else limits my own actions.

So yes, I will be flying in Draenor today and for the rest of the expansion. Some of you may choose not to do so, and I applaud your choice. But personally, I am gratified that now we all have a choice.

I’ll be flying for a lot of reasons, including farming mats and leveling my last couple of alts more efficiently. I may even finish up Archaeology for a couple of alts, now that it will be reasonable to do. But mainly I will be enjoying the swooping, soaring exhilaration of flying for itself. I will be admiring the graphics and art that the devs have spent their time on, but I will be doing so now on a grand scale, not one frustrating unclimbable rock at a time. I actually expect to see WoD in a new — likely better — light, because I will be able to get a more comprehensive view of it. I don’t care if it seems small, I just want to see it spread out below me. I am someone who really only grasps layouts and terrain if I have the big picture first. I am a deductive learner by nature, not an inductive one. So for me, exploring an area rock by rock before I see the entirety of it is very frustrating and usually only results in constant need to consult the map, because I have no fixed picture in my head of the overall layout.

Regrettably, the great flying debate is likely to go on, and I predict there will be yet another screaming match over it in Legion, because I believe Blizz’s plan is to introduce it no sooner in Legion than they have done in WoD. But that’s not now. Now I am going to go log on and fly around Draenor.

Because I can.

What will you be doing for the rest of WoD?

Now that the initial excitement over Legion has worn off and we are in the usual guessing game period, I find myself realizing that we have at least 8-10 or more months left of WoD. That is a long time. I am starting to plan my “holding pattern” activities?

I am usually quite contented to putz about towards the end of an expansion, you will rarely hear me complain about being bored. I like to level quickly, so the end of an expansion is a good time for me to revisit quest lines I previously skipped, maybe do some exploring, catch up on some achieves that look fun. I also really like farming mats one or two nights a week — I crank up my playlists, grab an adult beverage, put my brain into neutral, and run farming routes. If there is an interesting guild conversation going on, so much the better. Yes, I know I am weird, but I find that kind of activity very relaxing. I will either use the mats myself or sell them on the AH. I usually make most of my gold at the end of expansions, when all of the hard chargers have quit out of boredom and so are not out gathering stuff, and when others are leveling professions, gearing alts, etc.

I would be doing that now in WoD, except that I refuse to do it without flying. It is just not the same relaxing experience when you have to meticulously plan your routes, when you frequently gallop down blind alleys on the way to a node, when you have to fight mob after mob just to get to a place where you can peacefully fish. Ground travel just does not lend itself to the hypnotic kind of route loops I like to do. At the end of Cata, I spent a lot of happy hours flying the ore and herb circuits in Uldum, and at the end of Mists I did the same in Valley of the Four Winds.

The other thing I enjoy doing at the end of an expansion is spend some quality time with my alts. During the early part of an xpac, I neglect them horribly, leveling them only as far as necessary to make them productive in supplying gold and crafted gear for my main. But as the xpac wears on, I actually take them out into the world for purposes other than gathering, leveling them to max if I have not already done so, run them through a few heroics or LFRs to get them some gear, do a few fun achieves on them, maybe get them whatever legendary the current xpac has to offer. If I am in a guild that has certain raids on farm, I will lobby to take some alts on a few runs, because that is fun and allows me to see tired old raids in a new light.

But again, I will not do that in WoD until we have flying. I do not find it fun to die to weeds and other easy mobs on my squishy mage or my pacifist healer. I would take a bodyguard with me on those alts, but honestly I think the bodyguards pretty much stink. They are not much more than aggro magnets, especially in areas like the Bonus Apexis areas or the initial T2 quest line. Not only do they get themselves killed immediately, but they get me killed too. Not my idea of a good bodyguard trait, just sayin’.

Additionally, though I would like to spend some time with my alts for the next few months, WoD has made it very difficult to do so in the way I am used to. For one thing, there is the gated content of T2. For another, the legendary final stages are just too annoying for me to stand on anything besides my main — I refuse to go through that horrible shipyard set of hurdles more than once, I don’t care how awesome the final ring is. Which, not for nothin’ but it isn’t anyway.

The WoD raids — LFR aside but even that somewhat lately — seem much harder to me than the Mists raids did. Maybe it is because other factors have made it difficult to get a guild team together, but I don’t see that many guilds completing even Normal content on my server, much less Heroic or have something on farm. We are always struggling to get enough people to raid, or to even generate interest in logging on. So I doubt if I will be able to much raiding on my alts even as WoD runs out of steam.

As soon as we get flying, though (notice a theme here?) I will probably do some of my usual farming activity, and try to gear up some of my favorite alts — my alt hunter, my lock, my Mistweaver. Maybe even my mage, though that is iffy.

Oh, and for anyone who has kept track, I have already lost interest in my Brewmaster monk. See? I told you. I just do not find melee play style to be engaging or fun. Cant even get too interested in tanking, at least so far. I will probably keep him for awhile and see if maybe I can push him a bit higher in hopes of the play getting more intriguing, but I am not especially hopeful.

Anyway, my plan for WoD’s whimpering demise time is to do the same thing I usually do, with a couple of modifications. First, I will wait for flying. (Although if they keep adding more and more things to test in this ever-growing “small follow-up patch” we may not have flying until a week or two before Legion goes live. But I suppose it is good patience practice, since I would bet my banker’s purse that we will not get flying in Legion until a couple of months after the final patch in that expansion, too.)

After flying, I will establish some nice gathering routes and spend some time doing that each week. And I will send my alts out into the world to get them — and me — some combat practice and maybe try out a couple of different specs for them, just to see how I like them.

Finally, I will look up the many achieves I have not got on my main and do some of the more interesting ones.

Best of all, I will take my time doing everything, enjoying having no pressure to level, or gear up, or get through certain gates for a legendary or for flying or whatever.

How about you, have you started planning your WoD exit strategy yet?

“Small follow-up patch”

Okay, I have been patient. But it has been eight weeks since Ion Hazzikostas made his begrudging reversal on flying in Draenor. In a DevWatercooler piece on June 10, he promised flying in “a small follow-up patch (6.2.x)”.

Come on, Blizz, we all get that you did not want to do this, and that you are still having your little scream/cry/throw yourself to the ground and kick your heels and hold your breath until you turn blue tantrum over it, but sheesh. Over 8 weeks to implement a “small” (your word, not mine) patch? Especially when you proclaimed over and over again that Draenor was designed for flight? What did you do, hire one part-time intern to make it happen? If this is your dev pace, then we are probably looking at a new expansion sometime around 2018.

Except it’s not your usual pace if it is something important to the company. I guarantee, if this patch were implementing a new, oh, say, TOKEN, it would have been out so fast it would make everyone’s head spin. But flying? Well, um, you know, complicated computer things and stuff…..

In addition to dragging their heels because they are pouting, I suspect Blizz is also trying its usual thing of cramming everything into something that was supposed to be small and direct-purpose. (Think: garrisons.) So as long as they are doing a “small patch” for flying, why not overload it with everything else every department wants to fix? In fact, just today they announced they are adding the new PvP mercenary mode to the PTR for 6.2.1. Surely that will take more than a week to “test.” And by then they can easily think of something else to add, plus of course another couple of weeks to test whatever the new thing is. And so on.

Again as usual, Blizz “fixed” their huge problem over flying by promising us something just to shut us up. They bought themselves time, and they are going to push that break to the limit. I am certain they believe that the Thursday Gamescon announcement will buy themselves even more time to delay flying. They have such disdain for their customers that they think — sadly with justification — that dangling little play-pretties in front of us will distract us enough that we will stop annoying them.

I will be listening very closely Thursday to see how they parse their words about flying in the new expansion. Because I suspect their intention is to only make it available at the tail end of the expansion, just like this one. Not only does that prolong the period before people unsub, but it saves them a ton of development time, the idea being that they can push the xpac out the door in largely 2-dimensional play format, and work on fleshing out the 3-D aspects over the course of the xpac.

And, as I mentioned a few days ago, we are back to what amounts to no meaningful Blizz communication with the player base. So we have no word on when we might hope to see the “small” but ever-growing patch. Because of course the crack Blizz communications department is hard at work on last-minute tweaks to Michael Morhaime’s rosy comments for later today at the Q2 earnings meeting. Not to mention they are overloaded hyping the hype for Thursday’s announcement. Who could expect them to be bothered with such little niceties as giving their customers an update on a promise made two months ago?

This is a big news week for Blizz. I hope they are making a profit, I want them to stay in business, so I want their earnings report to be good. I also hope the Thursday announcement is over-the-top boffo, I want it to be fun and exciting. But I also want them to stop treating their customers with disdain, to stop taking us for granted.

Blizz, you promised me flying two months ago, dammit! If you are not going to give it to me, the least you can do is give me a decent reason why, beyond “It’s complicated.” And a good faith estimate of when it will be available.