Crazy versus cute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Blizzland, no good fun thing goes unfixed.

Life’s little surprises

I’ve been reading some of the recent indignant forum outcries over Legion changes and Blizz legal actions, and though I should no longer be surprised at anything I see on the internet, in fact I am.

Side note: I have decided to no longer capitalize “internet”, a practice I always considered strange anyway. But hey, if the Associated Press can announce they will no longer capitalize it, who am I to buck the trend? Now of course I have to convince my spell checker to stop auto-correcting it.

Item: Blizz finally decided to take action against Nostalrius, a rogue Vanilla WoW server operating in France, that claimed it operated in a non-profit mode for the benefit of players unable to accept the game in any form but the one they discovered years ago and cannot bear to move past.

The indignant howls from this perfectly legal action were many and anguished.

Why was I surprised? Well, I guess it is because I usually (wrongly) assume that most adults or near-adults actually understand that there are frequently consequences to their actions, and that they accept such consequences when they engage in risky behavior. That supposedly responsible adults are outraged over actions they should have anticipated from the beginning — and, frankly, were inevitable — is both puzzling and depressing.

I have no dog in this fight. If people want to get together and stick it to the establishment, go for it, power to the people and all that. But the thing is, one of the attributes of “the establishment” is that it has tremendous resources, including not only whole battalions of lawyers but also the legal backing of constituted governments in the form of contract law, intellectual property rights, and the like. If you fight them, you will almost certainly lose. No shame in fighting, no shame in losing, it is just a fact of the way the world works. And who knows, maybe if there are enough of these fights, the establishment — in this case Blizzard — might see an opportunity for profit and decide to sanction (for a fee) some of these small boutique throwback WoW servers. But no one should count on it.

So, for all those who sympathize with the Nostalrius troglodytes, you go! But for crying out loud, quit howling like 4-year-olds about “No FAIRRRRRRRR!” Grow up, accept this tactical defeat, realize you are in it for the long haul, plan your next actions, and move on.

Yeah, I am surprised that people were outraged over this.

Item: Someone recently posted a video showing *gasp* a mission table in a class hall in Legion alpha. The forum denizens went berserk over this, expressing pain and outrage that Blizz would dare to insult them by retaining this apparently highly offensive symbol of the hated WoD garrisons, and by the way, who knew there would be garrison-type missions in Legion??

I was surprised over the outpouring of ire over this, because Blizz has never made any secret of the fact that they intend to carry forward into Legion many of the aspects of WoD garrisons — as a quest hub, as a place to send followers on missions, as a home base, etc. Yes, there will be changes from garrisons, and now they will be termed “class halls” filled with all the people you usually like to avoid in the game, but still they will retain many of the same features as garrisons.

We have known this since the first Legion announcements months and months ago. People may agree or disagree with the design decision to use this vehicle, but no one should be surprised about it. And certainly it is dumbfounding that the thing that caused such a tantrum is a small piece of art left over from WoD. I could understand electronic rage over the whole idea of class halls as new and improved garrisons, over the idea that missions may be more mandatory than voluntary, over any number of class hall features, but a table?? That’s what’s unacceptable?

Yeah, I am surprised that so many people have been oblivious to the worst changes in Legion, but a video of a table makes them suddenly be “… shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” (In the famous words of Captain Renault in Casa Blanca.)

Item: Blizz just announced that Challenge dungeons in Legion will morph into several levels of Mythic, with ever-more-quirky boss quirks the higher you go. If you are interested, here is a summary of the change. I am not interested, I never did challenge mode in WoD, have zero intention of doing the new version in Legion. I get far too many timed challenges in real life in the form of impossible deadlines, thank you very much, to consider a timed dungeon run “fun”. Even though I have no interest in challenge mode, I was surprised to read about what seems to be a huge change to the WoD activity in Legion.

Why was I surprised? Well, because I did not think there was a significant demand to make this activity harder, even more unattainable by casual (that is to say “the majority of”) players.

Of course, if I think about it for even a few seconds, I realize that it was inevitable. What better vehicle for one-on-one esport competitions? With mythic raids becoming  more and more difficult for even professional guilds to field teams for, a series of mythic instances is a great gap-filler. Not to mention a mythic raid can take hours even if it is on farm, but each mythic instance is about 45 minutes in length, the perfect time frame for an hour of viewing, once commercials and celebrity interviews are thrown in.

Yeah, I was surprised — though I should not have been — that Blizz continues to develop this game for the elite pros, not for the masses of its casual players. (And before I get deluged with hate mail, if you are someone who loves challenge mode dungeons and can’t wait to try the new multi-level mythics, good on ya, you go. But know that you are definitely in the top 5% or even less of players, you are most definitely not part of the majority.) I was also surprised — again, I should not have been — that Blizz would feel the need to “improve” something that I thought was working very well as it was. But of course, that is standard procedure for them, take something that is finally working smoothly and “fix” it so that  it once again works badly if at all. (Thinking class reworks here.)

But while I was being surprised over this development, I did have a chance to look at the “affixes” Blizz has come up with so far. “Affix” is the term they use for “progressively annoying and ridiculous boss quirks” in these new challenge dungeons. You can read what they are in the link I gave above, but I think it would be fun to come up with some of our own. Here are my ideas so far:

Proposed additional affixes for the new Mythic mode dungeons in Legion:

Teenage — The boss suddenly disappears into his room and refuses to come out unless you promise to pay for a Spring Break trip. And not make fun of the gigantic zit on his forehead.

Political — The boss refuses to shut up, nattering on incessantly about how he will “Make WoW great again”, promising to build a wall to keep casuals out of the instance, whining about how the system is stacked against him, and announcing the size of his various “appendages”. (Hint: they are all “YUGE”.)

Robo-call — The boss repeatedly breaks in on your team’s voice chat app, each time starting off with the phrase “Hello, Seniors! If your medical costs are too high, you need to know about …..” The team lead can cut off the message before it finishes, but it will always break in again, at ever-increasing fast intervals.

Infomercial — Before you can begin combat, you must listen to the boss extolling the virtues of This Miraculous New Mop, the ShamWoW! (Lots of cheap jokes there, but I won’t go there, you can fill them in yourselves.) Once you start combat, you get approximately 3 1/2 minutes before you have to listen to the infomercial again, but hey if you order now we will double your order, just pay separate shipping and handling!

Annoying Neighbor — Just when you are settling in to a nice organized fight, everything going smoothly, the boss decides to do maintenance on his Harley, subjecting you to a high-decibel, continuous roar drowning out not only your ability to coordinate your team but also any semblance of sanity you had left.

Yes, life is full of surprises, not the least of which are surprises about being surprised.

Shipyard — epic fail

http://www.julienberthier.org/Love-love.html

Courtesy Julien Berthier

Now that we are into the fifth week of 6.2, I feel I can state categorically that I am an epic fail at shipyards. Of course, I would be happy to blame it all on Blizz — and in a minute I will point out their culpability in the matter because that is what I do — but honestly most of the problem is me.

Let’s start with the main factor:  I hate the entire idea of shipyards and naval missions. I find them tedious, annoying, and a burdensome expansion of the whole concept of follower missions. Thus, from the get-go I am handicapped, because you seldom excel at activities you hate.

I was never a big fan of garrison follower missions. I did them, mainly for the gear rewards especially on alts (and of course Blizz could never let us have an actual benefit like that, so they no longer reward alt gear until your alt gets to where it no longer needs it) but I always thought they were a tawdry attempt by Blizz to distract us from the fact that WoD had so little content. However, at least they were pretty mindless — get some followers, gear them up to max, install Master Plan, and thereafter dispense with the day’s missions in a few simple clicks.

See, follower missions really were that elusive thing Blizz disingenuously claims other activities are: optional. If I was not happy doing them, it was no big deal, I could stop and the real only cost to me would be some gold and gear. If I wanted to keep doing them, at least they were simple and quick. My choice.

But in typical Blizz overreaction, they took a nice optional activity, removed all the convenience and fun from it, added frustrating levels of meaningless complexity, and made it mandatory if you were working towards the legendary ring.

So I started my shipyard already hating it and begrudging every minute I had to spend on it.

Now add in the complexity. Every ship has to be specially configured for every mission, or they will fail. So spend several minutes figuring out what equipment each ship must have to reliably succeed at the intended mission, run down to the equipment seller, turn over an unreasonable amount of garrison resources to buy the equipment, then run back to the mission table, install the equipment, and launch the mission. Do that for several missions.

And by the way, you can — and frequently do — fail on any mission with less than 100% success prediction. I have failed on missions listed at 95%, 98%, and 99%, as well as on many missions over 50%.

As an added incentive to take risks, mission failure can mean loss of that ship you spent days upgrading to where it could actually be outfitted with the equipment it needs to succeed. Wow, who wouldn’t think that was fun?

Oh, and did I mention that the missions can take over a day to complete? So you frequently get to wait 18 hours or so to receive news of your failure.

Not to mention it is not just a matter of buying the equipment. Oh no no no no no. You have to go grub for it in T2, either spending days or weeks earning rep to buy it from a faction vendor, or hope the RNG gods smile on you and it drops from a mob.

So let’s see, where does that leave me so far?

  • An optional activity I found unenjoyable before 6.2 is now mandatory.
  • All reasonable rewards have been removed from it.
  • It is sluggish and complex to do.
  • To have any chance of success you must grind various activities for weeks. Unless you are lucky, which of course does not pertain to me.
  • Failure is compounded, since loss of a ship with two equipment slots usually means it will be replaced by a ship with zero or one slots, making success more elusive, resulting in more failure.
  • All this to complete the requirements for a legendary ring with limited use.

Nice.

Now to add insult to injury, here is the kicker: to get to a level 3 shipyard, you must complete 25 missions of a very particular kind. Not just 25 missions, 25 reward missions. You must have the level 3 shipyard to have any chance of completing the mission sequence to fulfill the ring requirement. How many of these reward missions are presented each day? Well, that depends. See, even if there are, say, 5 such missions available, RNG keeps popping up “blockades” you must launch a mission to clear before you can get to the reward missions. Blockade missions for me have never been “green” or 100%, so I do the best I can with them and hope they succeed so I can have a chance at a reward mission which also can fail. Often I lose ships on blockade missions, meaning I have to rebuild ships which are inevitably green with no equipment slots, meaning I have less chance to break the blockades, etc. Even if my blockade mission succeeds, I can only get maybe one reward mission (which may or may not be successful) in before the blockade pops up again.

WHO THE HELL THINKS THIS IS FUN???? Only people deep into schadenfreude think this is fun. Only Blizz’s Screw With the Players Department could have come up with this.

I have tried several approaches to shipyard missions and ship building. I have tried the “just keep building them and sending them out no matter what the odds” approach. All this did was waste my oil and garrison resources, with very little advancement. I have tried the “get epics and only send them on 100% missions” approach. All this did was bring my progress to a halt, because there are never any 100% reward missions for me. I tried abandoning missions for several days to grub for equipment blueprints in T2, with zero results if it required a loot drop. Nothing works for me.

I am still 8 missions from my level 3 shipyard. At my current rate, that means I might possibly get the level 3 in about two weeks. Not even close on the legendary mission line. Epic fail. Both me and Blizz.

 

 

 

Hope springs eternal

Just when I was about to despair that WoW would ever emerge from the sucking morass that is Warlords of Draenor, along comes a Mamytwink interview with Lead Designer Cory Stockton (Mumper) that restored a bit of my optimism for the game. I was tipped off to this very recent interview by The Godmother over at alt:ernative chat, so thanks for that. Watching the interview is in my opinion a good use of 30 minutes. (The interview is conducted in English. There is also a transcript of it on the Mamytwink web page, but it is in French, sadly not the French dialect I learned, known as “High School French”.)

I watched the interview but unfortunately did not take notes. (I am slipping, I know.) But I was struck by a couple of things:

Overall tone. First, the interviewers seemed to really cut to the chase with their questions. They were not in Mumper’s face, but they also did not let him off the hook. They asked pretty much the same questions I would ask if I were given such an opportunity. Second, Mumper actually answered every question, and the only subject he waffled on was details on post-Draenor expansions.

Hellfire Citadel. This is in fact the last raid tier for the expansion. I don’t think that is news to most of us, but Mumper did confirm it.

Patch schedule. Although he did not come right out and say it, Mumper strongly indicated that 6.2 is the last major patch in this expansion. About the only situation that would lead to another patch is if there is an unforeseen delay in the next expansion.

Flying. I found his comments about flying to be both reassuring and at the same time disheartening. He confirmed that the huge outpouring of player response to Watcher’s “No flying, no more” announcement was in fact the reason they decided to reinstate it. So it was reassuring to know that even Blizz cannot ignore such a response. But he went on to say that the eventual compromise — the Pathfinder achievement — was good because it allows players to fly, but only after they have experienced the game “in the way intended.” He hinted that this is a good model going forward.

When you combine this statement with the idea that we are now in the last patch of this expansion, it seems clear that Blizz intends to never again let us fly in current content. No more Mists model of flying once you have leveled. No more quests designed for flight. By making us wait until well into the last patch of an expansion, we can now look forward each expansion to months of long annoying trips to a quest location, to getting dismounted by every little pissant of a wild weed we come across, to the scream-level frustration of “fun” jumping puzzles, to more commercial flying via scenic routes, to seeing everything in a zone except us able to fly freely, to once again guiding our big ole fatass flying mounts along the ground. Then, at the very end of an expansion, after jumping through lots of hoops, we will be “granted” the “privilege” of flying.

Garrisons. Mumper said they had learned some lessons about garrisons, and that many of the subsequent hotfixes had addressed most of these. (This was not encouraging to my mind, since none of the hotfixes did anything to alleviate what I believe to be the fundamental problems with them, but never mind.) He did say that Blizz is aware that the current mission lengths for shipyard missions are too long, especially given what seems like poor rewards in return, and that the mission lengths will very soon be shortened, possibly in a hotfix. (I would have preferred better rewards instead of shorter missions, but that’s just me.)

Mythic instances. He admitted that they tend to be tuned for well-geared mains but give rewards more suitable for alts. He said that soon they will give gear that can have up to two war forged upgrades, so hopefully that will encourage people to take their mains into them.

“Shards”. I don’t pretend to understand the technical explanation for these — I think it involves dynamic mega-servers — but basically shards is what provides the mini-phasing we are experiencing in Tanaan. This is what causes you to go galloping over to that rare someone just called out, only to find nothing there, because you have to be in the caller’s group in order to see it. Shards is what has twice caused me to die a horrible death as soon as I leave a group doing a world boss or grinding rep, because as soon as I leave the group I am once again in my own phase, where no one has yet killed all those mobs I find myself standing in the middle of.

Anyway, Mumper talked about some glitches with shards and how they are planning to fix them. No great revelations, I just found it interesting to listen to the way the technical problems manifest themselves.

Overall impression. In spite of some of the bad news I described above, I found the interview to be positive. For one thing, it gives me hope that the end is soon to be in sight for WoD, and the sooner I can get this expansion in the rear view mirror, the better. For another, this interview shows a continuing Blizz trend of trying to communicate better and more often with the player base. Mumper gave thoughtful, well-reasoned answers to all the questions, and even if I don’t agree with some of the Blizz logic, it is refreshing to be treated like an educated, thinking adult rather than like a truculent toddler.

6.2 — Scattered thoughts

How did your first day go with 6.2? I can best sum mine up with a hearty “meh…” Some things were fun, some were almost unbelievably frustrating, but one thing I know for sure is that this patch will get very old very fast.

So far I have only taken my two hunters there, so the grinding was as easy as it will get. Neither is fantastically geared, but they are not bad either at 684 and 673. Killing mobs and soloing rares and elites was not a problem.

On my main, I managed to hit Friendly with the three new factions, so that gave me some hope that the rep grind will be bearable, if slightly boring. I can imagine that some people will have their Pathfinder achievement within a few days, which will increase the pressure on Blizz to get 6.2.x out quickly for flying. However, since Blizz publicly estimated that achieving the rep part would take approximately three weeks for most players, I do not expect 6.2.x for at least three weeks, more likely a month at the earliest. Prepare your forum comments now….

As I muddled about in T2 yesterday, I was struck by the differences between it and Timeless Isle. I admit that TI got to be boring after a bit, but I think already that T2 does not compare favorably with it. For example, it is touted as a gear catch-up mechanism for alts, but the Baleful gear is all BoP. On TI, the gear was BoA, which meant that you could take your main there, pick up some pieces for your alts and get them quickly to the point where they could fend for themselves on the island, questing and treasure hunting and whatnot. That is not the case with T2, and honestly I think bringing my healer and my poor squishy mage there will largely be an exercise in frustration.

Speaking of which, and only slightly off topic, Blizz needs to start thinking harder about how their game design adversely affects healers. (And probably tanks, too, although I can’t speak firsthand about that.) There is just no way, for example, that a healer without a damage off spec (a real one, not like a shadow priest) can successfully deal with T2 rares or even the elites you need to kill boatloads of for the Saberon rep. Blizz has designed their game such that healers have no choice but to group up for a big majority of the game’s activities. Others may not even be attainable — how does a healer do Brawlers Guild? Even leveling a healer seems to have gotten harder with WoD. My healer is a mistweaver, so I have a fairly robust damage ability, but I definitely noticed that leveling her to 100 seemed much more difficult, relatively, than leveling to 90.

Anyway, back to my impressions from yesterday. I knocked out the quest line for JC pretty quickly, it is trivial. And since I begrudgingly and sullenly had gotten to the required Brawlers Guild rank of 6 a couple of nights ago (I still think this is a ridiculous requirement), I was able to get the mastery gem module. However, the whole JC mechanism in 6.2 puzzles me. Basically, unlike every other patch in WoW and unlike every other profession, now JC’s don’t actually LEARN the new gem recipes. They get access to a gem cutter robot in the northern part of T2, and they can find/buy/loot modules (from rep, running Mythic Skyreach, etc.) that teach the robot how to cut the secondary stat gems. Thus, to craft a gem, the JC has to assemble the mats and then travel to the robot and have the gem cut. There is apparently a small chance that the JC can learn a recipe each time the robot cuts a gem for them, but the bottom line is that JCs have a completely different crafting mechanism now than all other professions.

I don’t understand this, but my tinfoil hat is channeling a theory to me. Back before WoD, when Blizz was hyping it, one of the devs — I don’t remember which one and now I can’t find the citation — made an interesting statement about JCs. There had been a player question about the lack of gem slots in the new gear, and the dev explained that it fit in with the desire to allow players to immediately equip and use loot drops, but he added a slightly snarky comment along the lines of honestly he could not feel too bad that JCs would no longer be able to “print gold.” Which was surprising to me, because back then the gem market was much like the glyph market — you really had to work at it to make any reasonable gold by making large quantities of pretty much every gem type and spend a huge amount of time on the AH adjusting quantities and prices every few hours. But the dev comment indicates there is at least one person at Blizz who wants to make it difficult for JCs to craft their gems, and I think the 6.2 gem dance is the result.

Let’s see, what else? It seemed to me that the T2 art and graphics overall are kind of dark, gloomy, and depressing. Again, it compares unfavorably to TI. I have explained before that I am not a fan of the dark and spooky game genre, I like bright engaging artwork and graphics. For me, it makes a big difference in how ready I am to quest in a given area. If it is dark and murky, I will stay away from it if I possibly can.

Shipyards? I got mine up and running on my hunters. I know Blizz has said they will be less onerous to manage than the follower missions. But my initial thought was that now I have even more to do in every garrison when I log in. As I don’t have an herbalist in T2 yet, I will still have to tend to my herb gardens. Mining nodes in T2 seems much less productive for the actual ore than does the garrison mine, so I will need to keep that up at least on a couple of alts in order to maintain my flow of mats. Same with crafting cooldowns. So I actually see my garrison drudgery increasing as a result of adding shipyards. And BTW Blizz, what the hell were you thinking with the whole requirement to run down to the shipyard? Have any of you actually done this 30 or 40 times? In case you haven’t, let me tell you now that it stinks.

Felblight? Not sure I even want to go there. I had what may be world record bad luck with it yesterday. I tried skinning for it, mining ore nodes for it, fishing for it, and killing mobs and rares for it. After two hours of killing elites, and after getting 196 ore, 43 fish, and 96 skins, I finally got my first Felblight. All told, I spent probably 10 hours in T2 yesterday, and I ended up with a grand total of 3 Felblight. This was scream-level frustrating for me, even more so since it seemed like the stuff was falling out of the sky for everyone else. If my bad luck continues, I will be forced to buy the stuff, but my server still has it pretty high, around 1000 gold each. It is annoying that I have easily a couple of thousand profession mats on all my professions, but they are completely useless without the Felblight.

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, I have nattered on too long, time to wrap this up. In summary:

  1. T2 will wear pretty thin pretty fast, I think.
  2. Gaining rep might go faster than Blizz predicted, so they better get the flying mods completed quick.
  3. Baleful gear needs to be BoA, on the model of the Timesless Isle gear.
  4. Blizz needs to start paying more attention to the leveling and world activity experience for healers and tanks.
  5. Jewelcrafting sucks even more than it did before this patch.
  6. T2 needs to be less depressing in its graphics.
  7. Shipyards only add to the garrison workload.
  8. Running between garrison and shipyard is stupid and annoying.
  9. Drop rate algorithm for Felblight needs to change — seriously, make it a hard one in ten drop, not this ridiculous 10% “average” drop rate.

 

I guess it’s time (sigh)

Most of the signs point to release of Patch 6.2 fairly soon. My guess is within the next month, but of course I could be wildly wrong. Parts of the patch are being downloaded now, Dev-Watercooler just posted quite a lot of info (none of it very detailed though) about changes to loot, traditional patch harbingers such as Watcher and Bashiok have emerged from their dens to hype it up, etc.

So I suppose it is time to prep for the patch, although honestly I just can’t get too excited about it. In fact, it feels like I’ve been on a long forced march and just had a quick breather, but now it’s time to stand up, shoulder my pack, sling arms, and slog on.  There are a few things I am looking forward to in 6.2, but mostly I am dreading another long garrison/mission/follower setup and starting the gear treadmill again.

I am not sure how to prep, anyway. Last night I knocked down my two barns in my hunters’ garrisons and put up trading posts in their place. My thought was that I have all the Savage Bloods I could ever need, and with a new garrison building spree coming, some extra garrison resources couldn’t hurt.

A couple of weeks ago, for the alts that had their followers at max gear, I replaced my Dwarven bunkers with other buildings — a stable for one of my gatherers, and a mage tower for another alt just because I had not done one of those yet. As 6.2 draws nearer, I’ll put the bunkers back up so as to get the weekly new loot seal thingie. (The mage tower has some nice features to it, but they are not enough to make me want one permanently, certainly not on my main.)

I have no idea if it will be useful or not, but I have also done all I could do to build up a stock of profession cooldowns, so that I have well over a thousand for each profession. I figure if nothing else I can craft worthless items from them and DE them.

I have two tailors at level 100, and I am considering switching one of them to herbalist in order to gather herbs in 6.2. My only other herbalist is my poor neglected druid, who is sitting in a bare bones garrison at level 91. The only reason I am hesitating to switch the tailor is that she knows some legacy patterns that my other tailor doesn’t. Still, I’ll probably end up switching her.

The last thing I have done, begrudgingly, is to switch both my hunters to beast mastery as their primary spec. So one of them now has marksman as an off spec and my main is stubbornly hanging on to survival as a secondary. It will come back, dammit, it WILL. But the indications are that Blizz, having completely broken SV once again, is digging in its heels and refusing to do any more class changes that it considers “major.”

I am furious about this. SV had really just clawed its way back to being a viable spec. No one — except of course the eternal PvP whiners — could call the spec OP. But Blizz, in what seems like someone’s personal vendetta against SV hunters, could not leave well enough alone. They swooped in, made inexplicable changes to SV to such a degree that it is practically unplayable, then dusted off their hands, said “Our work here is done,” and then haughtily decreed that they would be doing no more “class balancing.” Having first wildly unbalanced hunters, of course.

Seriously, what is it about SV hunters that Blizz hates? They made the spec unplayable at the start of WoD, too. Is it like a patch and expansion ritual or something? “OK, here are the project assignments for the next patch. We start work on it next week, but everyone be sure to attend tomorrow’s ceremony to sacrifice the hunter class to appease the gaming gods.”

I am looking forward to resuming raiding. My guild has been on extended break for about three weeks now, but I am very hopeful we will start up again after 6.2 goes live. The recently-announced changes to loot distribution sound good to me. We usually run on personal loot to eliminate chance of drama, so the change to make the number of loot drops on personal match the number on group loot is probably positive. Of course, gone will be the lucky times when almost everyone gets loot, but so in theory will be gone the times when no one gets any. I also applaud the move to progressive loot, so that by the time you get to the final boss you have a chance of getting actual usable gear.

I am not so sure about the announced changes to secondary stats on loot — not sure I understand them. What it sounds like to me is that there will be a much greater chance of receiving useless “upgrades” because the secondary stats will vary much more widely than currently. Here’s the quote, maybe you can make more sense of it than I can:

To help bolster that sense of excitement, we’ve decided to shake things up when it comes to how secondary stats appear on Raid loot in this patch. Inside Hellfire Citadel, you’ll see a wider range of high and low secondary stat values on items than you have in a long time. Alongside some tuning adjustments that should ensure your attuned stats are the right choice, this change should also make it easier for you to identify which items are good for you in a more interesting way than just “equip the highest Item Level.” Our goal is to help make Hellfire Citadel Raid items more distinct and meaningful to you, and we hope you’ll let us know how things feel once you start collecting your new gear.

I don’t know about you, but I get very nervous every time Blizz tells me they are going to “shake things up.” Makes me want to run through the streets shouting “Here it comes!! Run! Save yourselves!!” Cynically, my thought is now that mastery will be “the” stat for a couple of hunter specs, mastery will almost never be on any gear I win.

Anyway, I guess I am going to get ready for 6.2. I just wish I could do it with less foreboding.

Time for Plan B?

Last week I was having a girls’ night out with some of my admittedly “fringe-y” artsy fartsy friends, and someone brought up the subject of Plan B spouses. The theory being put forth was that most people in any sort of committed relationship have a secret “Plan B” significant other picked out in case anything god forbid should happen to Mr/Ms “Plan A”. Usually the Plan B person is just someone you know — probably casually — and likely doesn’t even have an inkling of their status in your life contingency plans. None of us admitted to having a Plan B but went on to say if we did have one, it would be So-and-So, and everyone laughed and pretended to be shocked, and then we ordered another round of drinks and went on to more serious subjects like Girlfriend you have GOT to tell me how much you paid for those shoes!

But over the weekend I started to think maybe it is time to start looking for a Plan B MMO game.

Everything I see coming from Blizzard these days seems to fit in with the idea that WoW is drawing down, kind of like how you stop stocking the fridge and vacuuming when you know you are going to be moving out soon. Every public statement from Blizz reinforces that idea to me. For an example, take a look at the recent VentureBeat/GamesBeat interview of Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas. He didn’t say anything really outrageous, and clearly the interviewer was tossing him softball questions, but the whole tone of his comments seemed kind of like he was just going through the motions, mindlessly mouthing Blizz party lines. I get that this is his job, but honestly I would have liked to hear a tiny bit of excitement about the game, some sign that even if WoD has disappointed some players there are really great things coming in the next year. Some indication that Watcher himself is still passionate about the game. And no, the mandatory hype of Patch 6.2 does not count.

When asked how Blizz views the recent rise and fall of subscribers, Watcher gave a fairly amusing answer. He said that the bump in subs at the launch of WoD “affirmed that we had picked the right idea and the right setting for an expansion and managed to deliver on an experience that really got a lot of people excited about the game.” But then he went on to gloss over the Q1 loss of 3 million subs, saying “It’s not about chasing numbers …” Later on he attributes the drop to “… things are just cyclical.”

Note that he did not attribute the bump to being “cyclical.” No, a 3 million bump was affirmation of Blizz’s design, but an almost immediate 3 million drop really didn’t signify anything. Mmmmmhmm.

About the only other thing that really struck me about the interview, other than the lack of passion about the game, was Watcher’s almost surreal view of WoD’s problems. The only thing he talked about when asked if there were anything disappointing about WoD was the irrelevance of 5-player dungeons after one or two times through. While true, it showed me that he was either unaware of or chose to ignore the causative issues, such as the domino effect of the removal of valor.

When asked about player complaints about time spent on garrisons, Watcher shooed away any such thought. He explained that many people loved just logging in quickly to send some followers on missions, then logging off, that this was time they would not otherwise have spent logged in.

Has he actually played this game lately, or is he just getting Happy Valley fluff briefings from sycophantic interns? Has he ever actually gone through 4 or 5 alts a night each with a level 3 garrison?

He also made a very telling comment that players “… aren’t necessarily viewing World of Warcraft as a year-round lifestyle.” Standing alone, the statement is pretty ho-hum, but viewed in context of Activision Blizzard’s stated goal of pursuing games that attract year-round participation, Watcher’s comment becomes almost sinister for the future of WoW. Corporate wants year-round games, and the very structure of WoW is cyclical. Something will give here.

Over the weekend I started for the first time to notice how my server has taken on a sort of ghost town atmosphere. I seldom find very many BoE epics in the auction house when I am browsing for gear bargains for alts. This tells me that fewer and fewer people are doing raids of any kind, LFR or other. I left my social guild mainly because we no longer had any active players and could not fill a raid team, but even my raiding guild has gone on hiatus because there are just not enough active and geared players available on raid nights. Even Watcher admitted that many raiding guilds are cutting back, especially in light of the high bar to Mythic. (Then he went on to explain it was basically too much effort to make Mythic more group-size friendly. So even though this design is adversely impacting high-end raiders — the one group Blizz seems to still care about — they will not be doing anything to fix it.)

Thus, I am starting to think about my Plan B. I’ve never wanted to play any other game than WoW, I am not what anyone would call a gamer. I don’t like the first person shooter genre, been to a few Call of Duty-type LAN parties with coworkers and tried to like that style, but just can’t. They just seem too grim and gritty to be fun. Before I started WoW, I tried Second Life but was bored silly almost immediately, never saw the point of the thing, plus the virtual landscape was a tad too virtual for my taste.

What appealed to me about WoW is that it is realistic enough to engage me, but not so realistic that it seems close to real life. From the start, I loved the graphics, and they have gotten better with each expansion. They hit the sweet spot for me, not too cartoonish, not too real. Same with the character depictions.

I haven’t found anything else yet that fills this bill for me. For awhile I thought Wildstar would be it, but I just could not get interested in it, even though I did spend a couple of months trying. For one thing, it was a tad too cartoonish. I probably could have gotten past that, but I also could not get interested in the story line. I am not a big lore-head in WoW, but at least until WoD I thought the story line was rich and full and engaging. Then of course the other thing with Wildstar was that it is PC-only, meaning I had to do some machinations to make it work on my Mac. (Don’t hate.)

So Wildstar is not my Plan B. I don’t really have a good Plan B at the moment, but I have started to look. I don’t think the demise of WoW is imminent, I think it is at the beginning of what will be a slow decline. (It occurs to me that for some number of years there has been speculation about what would ultimately claim the title of WoW-killer, wouldn’t it be ironic if it turned out to be Blizz?)

But it never hurts to have a backup. Any of you have a good Plan B to recommend?