So many questions, so little time

Looking back over my education, I think the single most important skill I learned was to ask questions. The Jesuits who schooled me were big believers in the Socratic Method, so we were not only encouraged but required to ask questions as part of every learning process. Sure, fractions and Shakespeare and the date of the Magna Carta and the underpinnings of an agrarian economy are all good to know. But when it comes right down to it, asking the right questions at the right time of the right people has saved my bacon in life more times than I can count.

So today I have been thinking about Patch 8.x. Yes, I know we are not even a year into Legion, and the hints from Blizz are that we have a lot of time left to experience it (my bet at the start was that we are looking at Legion being with us for very close to 3 years). Still, I feel like speculating a bit, in the form of a series of questions.

Location.

  • Is the 7.3 excursion to Argus a prelude to the next expansion, or is it just that — a one-off adventure?
  • Will we ever see the other side of Azeroth? Is there an other side?
  • What if any lessons did Blizz learn about time-travel worlds like Draenor and underwater zones like Vashj’ir? This is less a question than it is a hope — I hope they learned both these ideas were big mistakes.
  • Will Blizz expand its recent trend of making classic parts of Azeroth relevant to current game play? 

Stats.

  • What will be the nature of the next stat squish? I think a dev mentioned that much of the code has been rewritten to accommodate very large numbers now, it still is cumbersome for humans to speak of character health in the millions and boss health in the billions, for example. What about ilevel? Very soon even in Legion we will break break into 4-digit ilevels. Will secondary stats and damage/healing numbers be squished in 8.x?
  • Will stats be simplified in the next expansion? What is the official Blizz view of the complexity of stats in Legion? Do they understand the frustration of players when a higher level piece of gear is not an upgrade? Are they happy with the proliferation of web sites and apps designed to do the intricate math necessary to determine a piece of gear’s worth to a player? 

Quest hubs and population centers.

  • Will we see new faction capitals? Blizz seems — both in WoD and Legion — to have concluded that faction capital cities are too resource-intensive to justify them. If Sanctuary Cities are the norm for the foreseeable future, will we see more of them in Horde areas, with Horde racial architecture?
  • What has Blizz learned about the garrison concept? It was innovative but not well liked in WoD, and it was extended — as Class Halls — in Legion. Is this idea now a core game mechanic going forward? Will we see the concept applied as guild halls in 8.x?  More wishful thinking on that last one, I am afraid.
  • Why is Blizz so dead set against player housing? This is really more of a pet peeve question and not so much of an insightful one about the next expansion. Certainly the technology is there — that was proven with garrisons, and with Sunsong Ranch before that. And there is player demand for it, though I am not sure how much. Yet Blizz steadfastly refuses to do it, citing from time to time the “war footing” nature of the game as being antithetical to cozy homesteading. My own opinion, completely biased, is that there is a culture at Blizz that insists WoW is a “hardcore” game, and to give players housing is just too girly and frilly for them to contemplate. They put it in the same category as playing house or cutting out paper dolls, and that would destroy the manly studly war aspect of the game. (Yeah, yeah, let the hate mail begin. But deep down you know I am right.)

Class development.

  • Will there be another major rewrite of classes in 8.x?
  • What is Blizz’s long range vision of class roles and balance? Are they on a path to achieve this, or do they have none and merely make change for change’s sake each expansion?
  • And the big question: Can Blizz stop screwing with hunters for at least one expansion? (Sarcasm flag.)
  • Will we see the pendulum swing once again towards class-provide raid buffs?

Gear.

  • Is the concept of artifact gear a one-and-out for Legion, as Blizz has claimed? 
  • Are there any big contemplated gear changes in 8.x, for example cutting the number of gear slots, maybe by eliminating necks and rings?
  • Will we see some sort of non-RNG mechanism for getting gear in 8.x?
  • After the debacle of legendaries in Legion, what is the future of legendaries going forward? Will we return to a single long-questline legendary, or have we crossed a line and henceforward they will fall like candy?

Miscellaneous.

  • Is Blizz happy with the complexity level of the game now? If not, in which direction do they think it should go?
  • Are there in-game advertisements in the works? Tie-ins with other Activision franchises, such as the King line of games?
  • What is the future for professions? Will we see them get less relevant and more complex, or will we see some semblance of a return to their classic role? Will Blizz move towards a Final Fantasy approach? Are they indeed an integral part of the game’s economy, or would it be possible to eliminate them altogether?
  • Will alt play remain viable in 8.x? It is narrowly so in Legion, but Blizz’s clear preference is for players to have very limited number of alts.
  • Are there significant quality of life improvements in store for 8.x? Off hand, I can think of a few: account-wide banking, better group finder interface, unlimited quest log, *coughplayerhousingcough*, removal of that ridiculous talent-changing tome requirement, improving exit process from caves once a quest is completed, increasing the number of stable slots for hunter pets, adding mythic dungeons to the auto-group finder, probably lots more.
  • Will Blizz help to make the role of guilds more robust? Like alt play, the trend since mid-Mists has been to make guilds less and less relevant, with the removal of most guild perks and advantages to guild membership.
  • With the apparent advent of interplanetary travel, will we eventually see honest-to-goodness actual working space ship “mounts”? Will space actually be a working environment — like an underwater area only without water — or just more of an abstract concept?
  • What will be the eternal-grind mechanism of 8.x? Because we know there will be one, just a matter of how Blizz repackages AP (like they repackaged garrisons into class halls).

And last but certainly not least:

Will we get a concept of the next expansion at Blizzcon this year?

What questions do you have?

Annoyances — petty and otherwise

You know how when you live with someone for a long time, all those little quirks you once thought were cute end up driving you batshit? That is how I feel about WoW. Overall, I still love the game, divorce is not on the horizon, but many of its little quirks lately just make me want to scream. And drink. Which is why it is a good thing it is the weekend.

Here is my current list:

  • Foofoo pets. Way too many of them have annoying noises or disgusting habits. Looking at you, Perky Pug. The first time I saw it scooting its butt along the ground then smelling it, I laughed. Now it just disgusts me, makes me not even want to eat my raid food. I hate its yappy little bark, the same way I hate that stupid LA-LA-LA daisy song or Li’l XT’s tantrum or any core hound roar. And buying costumes for pets — whether that nasty pug or Pepe — not only do I not do it, but I actively avoid anyone who insists on showing off their outfits.
  • In-your-face toys. I hate all those things people can throw at you and they land in your bag. I never throw them back or do anything with them except throw them out immediately. And while I am at it, what the hell was Blizz thinking when they instituted that stupid group train noise chant? Without a doubt, THE single most annoying “fun” mechanic in the history of the game.
  • In-your-face appearance changes. No, I do not wish to have a pumpkin head. No, I do not wish to have my lovely tall elegant night elf transformed into an ugly squat dwarf. No, I do not wish to look like a bunny. I do not wish to be made tiny or gigantic. Leave me alone, for crying out loud!
  • Birchus. It’s like living in a loft apartment with a Great Dane.
  • NPCs with the attention span of a gnat. I swear, if that stupid dwarf in my bunker says “Nice ta meet ya!” to me one more time….
  • Shipyards. Everything about them is annoying. Everything.
  • Weeds that attack you while you are being blissfully “immersed” riding through an area. Come on, Blizz, admit it, you did this solely to screw with us, right?
  • The bug that takes away your Trap Launcher every time you change a glyph. You cannot imagine how often I have forgotten about this and ignominiously dropped a trap at my own stupid feet when I was supposed to cc something for the raid.
  • Queue popping interrupts your meal. Any number of times I have waited in long LFR queues, then thinking I was getting close, started to eat a 125-stat meal in prep, and the queue pops before I get the buff, wasting a pretty expensive meal.
  • Nat Pagle. If that drunk tells me one more time that he would throw my fish back if it were him …..
  • Elevators. Inevitably they leave some of the raid behind and generally just waste time waiting for them.
  • Long runs back after wipes. There is just no reason for this. One word, Blizz: phased portals. Okay, that is two words, but you get the idea.
  • Uncontrollable bodyguards. These guys are downright dangerous if you are a specially squishy type. They run amuck where there are lots of mobs, aggroing everything in sight, killing themselves and probably you as a result.
  • Not being able to get all three dailies at the same time from that dude inT2. It’s just stupid to have to do one bonus objective by itself, then go all the way back to get the next dailies afterwards. Why not offer all three at once?
  • Tanks who start pull countdowns, then pull before it is finished. This totally messes up people’s cooldown timing and potion usage.
  • Tanks who do pull countdowns then don’t pull when it is finished. Meanwhile, DKs have popped Army, hunters have popped Stampede and Misdirection, etc.
  • People recruiting group players when they are ready to pull in less than a minute. Happens a lot with world bosses.
  • Still getting PvP-flagged for joining a group on a PvP server. I thought Blizz was going to fix this, but it happened to me a few days ago, and the flag stuck with me after I zoned back to my own PvE server.

Short post today, but it is Friday. Everyone have a good weekend.

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.

I vow to use this power only for good

Woah, so yesterday I complained about no 6.2 news from Blizz and a few hours later there it was! Yessss! Blizz is now listening to me personally, doing my bidding, MWAAAHAHA!

Ok, probably not. But you have to admit it was great timing.

By now I suspect most of you have read the initial patch notes on 6.2. Even as we speak, people are data mining like crazy, and we should have much more info in a day or two. So my comments are based on a quick perusal of the notes, and of course as Blizz always points out, everything is subject to change since this is just the PTR.

On the one hand, the scope of the patch seems about right, and certainly has much more substance than the 6.1 jukebox and social media patch. But . . . .

For Pete’s sake, Blizz, have you been off planet on vacation for the past five months??? How is it that somehow in the twilight zone of Blizzland you heard your player base asking for MORE GARRISON CONTENT????

I am at a total loss to explain the new major feature of Patch 6.2, which is that the content (Tanaan) will only be accessible to those who have a level 3 garrison, and then only after expanding your garrison to include a shipyard. And this shipyard will give you the additional bonus of DOING MORE MISSIONS THAT INVOLVE BOATS, because apparently the whole mission and follower mini game doesn’t take up enough of our play time already.

Sorry for the overuse of caps, but there is just so much wrong with this whole concept that I really don’t know where to begin. Of all the in-your-face, screw-the-player-base things Blizz has done, this one takes the cake. It’s as if they decided to just double down on the worst aspects of this entire expansion.

Remember when people expressed concern over the new concept of garrisons? Blizz said tut-tut, don’t you worry your cute little heads over this, if you don’t want to have a garrison you don’t have to, it is optional play. Then they changed that a bit, saying well you have to build a garrison but after that if you don’t want to do anything else with it you won’t have to, it is optional play. Now, with Patch 6.2, Blizz shows us how blatantly they have lied to us all along about garrisons — not only do you have to have them, but they must be the highest level AND you must continue to develop them, or no new content for you!

Any Orwell fans out there, this is serious Animal Farm stuff, where “Two legs bad, four legs good” mysteriously morphs into “Four legs bad, two legs good” when the pigs begin walking on two legs.

And not a single word of explanation from Blizz as to the reasoning behind this. For months their players have been saying that garrisons take up too much of their play time, that they have steered the game towards solitary play and away from the social aspects, that they make alt play immensely more difficult. So what does Blizz do? They make high level garrisons mandatory to continue to play the game.

Seriously, Blizz, I would love to know your logic here.

I’ll discuss other parts of the patch in a later post (inexplicable hunter changes, for example), but honestly everything else pales in the face of this massive demonstration of Blizz’s screw-the-customer attitude.

Maybe the only thing we can do is start a massive customer movement begging for more garrison play, because then Blizz will respond by removing it.

I really have nothing more to say on this, I am still shaking my head over it, trying to wrap my brain around the concept of responding to “We don’t like this” by proceeding to cram it down our throats.

Nat Pagle at last

Over the weekend I finally bit the bullet and did the achievements and quests to add Nat Pagle to my followers. Although I am glad to have him, I was getting slightly annoyed towards the end. You can look up the requirements for him here, but they boil down to:

  • Get your fishing to level 700.
  • Go catch 700 more (ones you caught while leveling don’t count) Enormous fish — basically 100 each of the various species of Draenor fish except the trash fish that you catch everywhere.
  • Build your level 3 Fishing Shack.
  • Do a few more quests directly related to Nat — they are not hard and really don’t take too long.

I started trying to get Nat as a follower a few days after WoD went live. I only got as far as leveling fishing to 700, and that seemed to take forever. As is my habit, I leveled to 700 just a couple days before Blizz nerfed the fishing daily to provide 15 fishing levels instead of the 5 I was getting. I thought maxing fishing would allow me to build my level 3 fishing shack, and I was dismayed (ok, maybe livid is a better term) to learn that, having spent hours and hours leveling fishing, I would now have to go out and catch 700 more Enormous fish all over Draenor.

So I pretty much said screw it, I don’t want that stupid follower anyway. Interestingly, this is what I said about maxing rep with Nat during Mists — there was only one way to get rep with him, and it involved bringing him special fish one or two at a time, for a paltry few rep points, which added up to hundreds and hundreds needed in order to advance rep with him, so I just said screw it, not worth it for no tangible payoff. Silly me.

In typical Blizz gotcha fashion, an extremely minor piece of the game in Mists became a WoD Good Thing To Have Done. (Pet battling is the other one that comes to mind, but that particular rant is for another day.) I mean for crying out loud, I diligently brought food and gifts to every single one of those demanding Tillers, became best friends with all of them, but do they reappear in WoD?? No, of course not. I ran dailies until my keyboard keys wore down, just to get rep with every damn faction in Mists — including the previously unknown Tushui Pandaren which required running Wrath dungeons — but does any of that transfer benefits to WoD (apart from the kite mount)?? Of course not.

But the ONE annoying little twit that I ignored in Mists? Yep, of course, that one guy is the one that shows up in WoD.

So as you might have guessed, I was in a less than positive frame of mind to go after Nat as a follower. Still, it is hard for me to just give up on anything. So last week I decided I would go ahead and finish off the stuff required for him.

As it turned out, it was not that bad. I think Blizz must have drastically increased the drop rate for Enormous fish in 6.1. It really only took me about 4-5 hours to get all 700 of my Enormouses, using my Mastercraft Kalu’ak Fishing Pole, some worm supremes, and appropriate bait.

Side rant: Hunters are at an extreme disadvantage using fishing poles, as we have zero attack abilities except for our pets if we are attacked while the pole is equipped. As we can no longer use melee weapons, we are defenseless. I know this peculiarity is why Blizz originally instituted the idea of not having to equip a pole in order to fish, but many of the various lures will not work on the bogus stick pole.

At any rate, I finished the requirements for my level 3 fishing shack, built it, then went after Nat. As I said, the additional quests are not difficult and took me maybe 45 minutes to complete. Still, I was a tad annoyed, because Blizz always does this — make something very long and tedious to achieve and then after you finally accomplish it add several Columbo-like “just one more thing”s. I don’t mind the initial long and difficult thing, but I think the inevitable addons are just screwing with us.

Still, I now have Nat as a follower. Mind you, I can’t buy anything from him because of the fact that I am still a stranger to him, but I have him as a follower. In theory it will be “easy” to become his best friend now, because I can go catch lunkers and turn them in for coins and rep, but something tells me getting enough lunkers will be easier said than done …..

Check one more to-do off my list.

Draenor agoraphobia

I am noticing a certain pattern of play in Warlords of Draenor, and it is not a good pattern. DISCLAIMER: This is all based on what I see on my server and in my guilds, so I make no claim that it is what is going on throughout the game. But I bet many of you are seeing something similar to this:

1.  Players logging on briefly, cycling through each of their alts, then logging off.

2.  Rarely if ever are there guild chat entries asking for volunteers for garrison invasions.

3.  Tuesdays are busier, with people running their alts through LFR and the weekly world boss, but only if absolutely necessary for gear or the legendary quest line.

4.  On raid nights, people log in just before invite time, run the raid, then log off.

5.  Other than the above, very few logging on just to knock out achieves, or level up a secondary profession, or farm mats, or run old content. In one of my guilds, there are hardly ever more than 2-3 people logged in on non-raid nights. In my other guild there are usually a couple more, but it is a raiding guild and people are still working to make alts raid ready in anticipation of alt runs in a few weeks.

Two things strike me about this. One is that the low level of activity is what we normally see at the end of an expansion, not at the beginning. The other is that garrisons are a huge part of what people are occupying their play time with.

On the first observation, that this is end-of-expansion activity levels, this reflects what I and others have said about WoD from the beginning — there is just not a lot of content to this xpac. Once you have leveled a couple of characters, you have pretty much seen and done all the content there is. Raids are another matter, but even they seem to pale somewhat in comparison to the raids in Mists. And the gearing structure has rendered 5-man heroics basically useless once you complete the legendary quest line part of them. Early in Mists, we frequently ran guild heroics for the gear, for valor/honor points, or for guild gold, but we just don’t run them in WoD, not since the second or third week of the xpac. When Blizz removed valor as a currency, they pretty much removed any reason to run LFR or heroics. In my opinion, it had a huge — possibly unintended — effect on game play.

For all the development time Blizz spent on this expansion, I really expected more. A lot more.

On the second observation, that garrisons are the main part of the game now, their introduction has also had a gigantic impact on game play. The whole garrison evolution is a pretty unbelievable sojourn into the land of misunderstood player requests. Basically, garrisons came about in response to a request from many players for player housing. I don’t know how many players requested this, but it was enough that Blizz deigned to listen and respond. Good for them, really. But then it got weird. I am pretty sure that when players requested housing, they had in mind some cozy little place, maybe a bit like Sunsong Ranch only a tad larger, that they could decorate with some cosmetic items, maybe select from a couple different architectural styles, see their pets and mounts frolicking about, etc. But somewhere along the way Blizz translated this into our current garrisons — huge mini-villages with troops to feed and house and send off on missions, profession huts, individual mining and fishing areas, and NO PLAYER HOUSING.

On top of that, when the people who were not really big on player housing expressed concern that it was being forced on them, Blizz patted us all on our little heads and said there there don’t worry, if you don’t want to have your own garrison you don’t have to, it is just a game option. Slowly this line morphed into, well OK you do have to have the initial garrison but you never have to do anything more with it afterwards if you don’t want to.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Gotcha! Another classic from the creative folks in Blizz’s Screw With the Players Department. We now have these huge time-sucking garrisons that — sorry Blizz — are in fact pretty much required if you do any profession, gather any mats, get mediocre gear for alts, etc.

So not only do the garrisons require a LOT of time to maintain every day, but they have had other consequences for game play. One is professions and mat gathering. There is no need to go outside your garrison to gather raw mats for your professions. In fact, going outside to gather mats is a real pain in the ass — nodes are spread out, and Blizz’s other genius decision to disallow flying means that getting to them requires both time and annoyance because you have to fight your way through mobs to get there. Another consequence is that you can now get a ton of potential transmogs from your Salvage Yard if you have one. For some people, this means you no longer need to venture outside your garrison to solo old raids for transmog gear. It comes to you.

Don’t misunderstand me, I do not hate garrisons, I think they are fairly fun. But their overall effect, especially in light of there being very little outside content, is to keep people from interacting with the outside part of Draenor. Heck, it even keeps people from interacting with the rest of Azeroth — take a look at the deserted streets of any of the major cities if you want proof. It’s probably not correct to call it agoraphobia, in that people are not really afraid to venture out of their garrisons, it’s just that there is really zero reason to, so the net effect is the same.

So here we are at the beginning of a new expansion, one that was at least 18 months in the making, and it is looking very much like the end of an expansion. Garrisons are a game innovation requested by players, which do not answer the original player requests, and their pervasiveness has had some far-reaching and likely unintended consequences for game play. Not sure this is a winning combination.

When do we get the next expansion?

Broken professions and other thoughts

OK, so Thanksgiving break is over, and the some of the shiny newness of Warlords has worn off. Time for me to get back to writing and to think about this expansion now that I have some actual ongoing experience with it. Today’s topic is professions.

They are broken.

I reached this conclusion after weighing a lot of factors, so hang with me as I go through them.

First, you should know that I am not someone who gets my game enjoyment mainly from professions — I am not into gathering and crafting so as to sell things and amass huge amounts of gold. In Mists, I pretty well settled on my approach to professions, which was to have at least one of each maxed out, in order to be self-sufficient in providing my alts and some guildies with any crafted items and mats they might need. If I had time on my hands and could identify a good market for a few items I would sell them, but it was not my main thing. By not spending much in the AH combined with making a small profit now and then, I accumulated a nice cushion of gold in Mists. Not capped by any means, but enough that I felt comfortable going into Warlords. So I do kind of enjoy crafting and gathering, but I am  not exactly a profession-centered player.

So now about WoD professions.

1. Gathering as a profession is dead for anything other than increasing your yield in the garrison mine/herb garden/etc. With no flying, there is no benefit to galloping around a zone, fighting your way through annoying mobs including the hundreds of weed clumps you aggro, to take a couple of hours to gather a stack of 200 ore, when there is very little market for it. Take ore as an example — most players needing it for another profession will get all they need from a level 1 mine on their garrison. even if they do not have mining as a profession. With a level 2 and a follower, they will have enough for their needs plus some to sell. Also, since for example jewelcrafters can no longer prospect ore for gems (more about that later), there is very little call for bulk ore. Since miners can no longer smelt ore — for example to get Truesteel Ingots — they do not need huge stacks either.

2.  Crafting has become insanely complex and obscenely time-consuming. Again I will take the example of jewelcrafting, but the same general comments and timelines apply to any crafted gear, whether from leatherworking, tailoring, or blacksmithing. One top level pendant requires a total of: 450 taladite crystals, 10 true iron ore, 10 blackrock ore, 30 sorcerous earth, 40 sorcerous air, and 30 savage blood. Obtaining those mats requires use of cooldowns over the course of weeks, and buying the savage blood with yet other basic mats (at the rate of 50 primal spirits per 1 savage blood, so 1500 primal spirits). It also requires you to use your other daily cooldown to buy the recipes for the pendant plus two upgrade recipes, for a total of 11 Secrets of Draenor.

On my main, a JC and miner, after playing pretty hard every day for 18 days now, and maxing out my Gem Hut and mine work orders nearly every day, I have: 230 taladite crystals, way more ore than I can use, 21 sorcerous earth, 18 sorcerous air, and 238 primal spirits with which to purchase savage blood. Which means, roughly extrapolating, that it will take me 90days to craft a single piece of gear, the savage blood being the limiting factor. (And yes, I know about the Barn, but there are other buildings of greater value right now and besides you only get savage blood form there at level 3.)

8 different types of mats and 90 days to craft a level 665 piece of gear. One piece. Close to a year to craft 3 pieces. (Well, 9 months, but we won’t go to the obvious joke there.) And after all that, it’s a crap shoot as to what secondary stats you get on it!! If you don’t like the stats you can spend another 10 taladite crystals and ore to re-roll for a different random combo of stats, and hope you get lucky, or keep doing this until you get the combo you need. Blizz, seriously, do you have escaped lunatics doing your profession design?

Now, 665 gear will not be awful for the casual player (I think top level Mythic gear is 685), but let’s face it, it’s not terrific. And getting it requires daily play for 9 months or thereabouts. If you are a casual player, that is likely way more time than you have to spend on a game. You are lucky if you get 3-4 hours a week.

3.  You are limited to equipping a total of 3 pieces of crafted gear. Why??? If you want to jump through all Blizz’s stupid hoops and use your alts to craft yourself a more or less full set of gear, why shouldn’t you be able to do it? If you are someone who hates hates hates pugs of any type and are not in a guild that has any realistic expectation of clearing Heroic raids much less Mythic, why should you be so severely penalized? Why should you be required to pug for a full set of decent gear? I get that it should not be handed to you, but 9 months of daily play to gear up a single alt (using all your professions simultaneously) is not “handing it” to anyone. This limitation is absolutely senseless.

4. Professions have lost many of their best perks. We all know about the loss of combat perks. (Again, why? This decision was just pandering to the less than 1% “elite” raiders who whined that it “required” them to have certain professions in order to have a raid spot. Please.) But other things have also been lost. JCs can no longer prospect ore for gems. Miners can no longer smelt any of the Draenor ore for higher quality mats. Daily cooldowns for the most part no longer yield new patterns or recipes — you are stuck with what you can purchase from your garrison profession hut or from the Ashran vendor. Engineers can no longer open the new lockboxes (haven’t checked to see yet if blacksmiths no longer can make keys for them). I suspect there are other examples, but I have not run into them yet.

5.  Any realistic pursuit of professions in Warlords requires a level 3 garrison for every profession. It also requires a daily logging in on every alt with a profession, in order to do the daily cooldown. In spite of Blizz’s pre-xpac hints that garrisons would require very little time to keep up, since we would have followers doing most of the work the fact is that they REQUIRE A HUGE AMOUNT OF TIME. HUGE. And having to log in each day to do a daily cooldown is just annoying and wrong — there should be no reason you cannot set up a week’s worth of cooldowns on a single day. 7 per week is much more reasonable for real world players than one per day. Come on, Blizz, we are not all 19-year old college kids (and even those of us who are, often have serious time commitments with studies, work, family, etc. that make it very challenging to find time to log in every day on multiple alts just to do a profession cooldown).

These are the reasons I think professions are broke. They offer very little reward any more for all the hassle and time required to tend to them. They have become little more than a mini-game, tied up in the bigger mini-game of garrisons. There may be a very few left that make some sense to have — alchemy and enchanting come to mind, although you no longer really need the profession to get the items from these — but they are no longer fun and they are no longer useful in most instances. You need a freaking spreadsheet just to figure out what you can craft and how long it will take. Blizz could fix professions if they got more reasonable with crafting times and made the mats less complex, allowed more than three crafted items to be equipped, made some of the mats account bound, reinstated things like prospecting and smelting, and went to a 7-per-week cooldown instead of a daily. But I doubt if they will do any of this. Someone in Blizz management decided that professions needed to be squashed, that their features in Mists did not fit in with some very narrow view of “correct” play style, and so we have our current state of affairs.

Everyone get their Excel skills updated. Because nothing says fun like columns and rows!