Through the glass darkly

As I have for the past couple of weeks, I spent most of my game time this weekend continuing to chug away at leveling my Void Elf arcane mage. I thought maybe as I got more into the leveling mindset, I might come to appreciate the finer points of Blizz’s throwback leveling mechanics.

Nope. I find it needlessly tedious and stupidly boring. Blizz has changed or varied some of the quest lines, it is true, so those are of very mild interest when I encounter them, but I am finding a lot of quest lines designed to force you to spend inordinate amounts of time simply shuttling back and forth:

  • Get a quest.
  • Go far away and do the quest.
  • Go back to turn it in.
  • Get newly available quest from same quest giver.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.
  • zzzzzzzzzzzz…….. hmmm, what did I do with my toenail clipper?

I would have abandoned this whole project days ago if it were not for the fact I have all the Pathfinder achieves and thus can at least fly rather than gallop about. It seems clear that the “new” leveling protocol is all about stretching out the process as much as possible. Blizz can bray all they want about “restoring the experience”, but trust me, there is nothing interesting about commuting back and forth along the same path multiple times just to turn in and get new quests. (I am actually waiting for the change that will prevent us from skipping cutscenes, it seems almost inevitable it will happen. 🤨) Still, I suppose I am helping to contribute to Ion’s annual bonus by cranking out some MAU numbers for him, so at least that’s something.

Anyway, this post is not a rant about the ridiculous leveling changes (that will come later). It is about looking back and seeing expansions with the benefit of perspective.

I started playing WoW sometime around the very tail end of Burning Crusade. (I think I must have been about level 50 or 60 on my then-main hunter when Wrath of the Lich King went live.) One of the positive things about leveling my Void Elf is that it has given me a kind of retrospective on my history in the game. As I have gone through zones from each expansion, I am reminded of my first time through them years ago, and it is interesting that the things I see about them are not necessarily the things I would come up with if asked to list the highlights (or lowlights) of each expansion.

For example, if asked about Wrath, I think I would have remembered only two things. One, it was where I began my years-long search for Skoll and Arcturis. And two, it was where I finally found a guild I fit with and began regularly running instances and raids. That, and the Amberseed poop quest in Grizzly Hills.

What I would not have remembered, but which came back to me like a load of fresh Amberseed material falling on my head, was how much I detested nearly every quest in Zul’drak. Especially the seemingly-endless quest line where you put on that Ensorceled Choker disguise (you know, the one that keeps falling off exactly when you are surrounded by mobs that will kill a squishy mage in an instant) and run around playing with the Scourge. I hated it the first time I did it, and I hated it this time, too. If I had remembered how awful it was I would not have selected that zone to level in this time, but I only remembered about halfway through. I gritted my teeth and did most of it, but finally abandoned it prior to completion. It was just too long and annoying.

The main things I remember about Cataclysm are the zones — I hated the undersea one and loved Uldum. I spent hours in Uldum every week — even after leveling — gathering herbs and ore, and fishing. It was some of the most laid back, relaxing time I have ever spent in the game. I was having quite a bit of stress in my own life at the time, and putting on some music and flying my gathering routes was exactly what I needed to decompress.

I skipped all of the Cata zones leveling my Void Elf, opting instead for staying in Northrend until level 80, then going directly to Pandaria. I considered moving to Uldum, but I think I was loathe to overwrite what I want to keep as a sort of hazy pleasant memory.

The surprise revelation I got as I was leveling through Pandaria and now Draenor is this: I love the idea of a personal homestead in the game. When I got to Valley of the Four Winds, I couldn’t wait to get my cozy little Sunsong Ranch home. It was stupid, as I did not need to do any of the Tiller stuff for leveling purposes, but it was weirdly important to me to get a little place of my own.

Similarly, when I got to Draenor, I made sure to do the quest line to set up my Level 2 garrison. I did this mainly to be able to get the vendor for the XP potions, but I was astounded at the happiness that ran over me when I first walked into the gates of my Level 2 garrison. Yeah, I complained as bitterly as everyone else during WoD about the garrison burden, and if asked, I would have never listed garrisons as a plus for WoD. But there is no denying how good it felt to see this familiar scene of safety and sanctuary and know it was my own place. If I do anything with my Void Elf once she is leveled to 110, it will probably be to go back to Draenor and build up my garrison.

I am certain I will never have the same “coming home” feeling about class halls once Legion is finally history. I still do not understand why Blizz is so adamant about any form of player housing. They came so close with garrisons, but in typical fashion completely ruined the experience by ramming them down our throats. The unfortunate thing is, they now hold this venture up as an example for why player housing would be a bad thing — “See, we tried a prototype of it in WoD and you all complained bitterly and loudly about it! So no more of that, we promise you!”

Anyway, the best thing so far about leveling my Void Elf is that I am getting a renewed perspective on my history in the game, one that is frequently a surprise to me. Memory is often like looking through the wrong end of very dusty binoculars. We see tiny imperfect images and have a tendency to interpret them imperfectly, too.  And while we can never really go back, sometimes we get a brief chance to turn the binoculars right way round, and we can see the past a bit more clearly, and we can apply a proper perspective.

Non-legendary legendaries

Over the weekend I was reading up a bit on the 7.3.x upcoming changes — I opted not to dabble on the PTR this time — and I came away feeling pretty cranky about the whole legendary mechanic for Legion.

What got me going, of course, is the description we have so far for the one of the new pseudo-legendaries, Aman’Thul’s Vision. (Set aside for the moment that I was predisposed to hate it if because the name contains one of Blizz’s pretentious, senseless, and unfortunately ubiquitous apostrophes.) From what I can glean, it is a legendary trinket that is not really a legendary, in that it does not count as one of your two equipped legendaries. It does, however, count as your one allowed Titan/Pantheon Trinket (more on that below), and so now in addition to figuring out which legendaries to equip, along with which tier pieces and regular trinkets to equip, we will have to also figure out which trinkets are not allowed to play together. More fodder for the super computers.

The trinket itself is a stat stick, increasing all secondary stats to the player — crit, mastery, haste, and versatility. Additionally, it has a chance to proc tertiary stats — yes, I regret to say we have come to this sad situation — so at random intervals the player will get a buttload of speed, avoidance, and leech for 12 seconds. But the real presumed power of the thing is its use in a raid, where, if at least four players have the thing equipped, and if all four happen to randomly have overlapping procs, then an additional wildcard is proc’ed, giving the players a huge primary stat increase for a few seconds.

This is that stupid WoD ring on steroids, but with the added “feature” of it being totally random, no player control needed! This, of course eliminates the LFR problem of “premature use”, when that one inevitable idiot proc’ed the ring on the first round of trash. Now RNG can do that for you!

Who doesn’t love more RNG in the game, huh?

Now, when first I read about this trinket, I was thinking, OK, this is how Blizz gets around the 2-legendary restriction. They have vowed up and down that we will not/not/not be able to equip more than 2 legendaries, because that would be needlessly — something. So of course they cannot now change their minds on this important point. Instead, they craft an item that looks like a legendary, walks like a legendary, and quacks like a legendary, but they tell us it is not a legendary! So now we can equip two legendaries plus a thing that looks exactly like a legendary but trust us it is not one.

Yeah.

As silly as this sounds, it is actually much more complex — and ridiculous — than that. The trinket is part of en entire system of “Argus Pantheon Trinkets”, with a whole set of rules for how/when to equip them, ways to upgrade them, etc. Of course most of them are random drops on Argus, and they appear to have fairly specific circumstantial uses, so here is a whole new reason for players to grind out shit on Argus. (Aman’thul’s Vision, the exception, is a loot drop from the final boss of the new raid tier. Which means this is not for casual players, it is only available to raiders, yet another example of Blizz pandering to the pros.)

And the trinket system? Well, you can check out a pretty detailed description of it here, but I warn you it almost takes a degree in physics or engineering to understand it. Basically, Blizz has overlaid the Legion legendary system onto trinkets.

Think about that for a moment.

Blizz, in the persona of Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas, has several times admitted that they made a mistake with the whole Legion legendary system. They have applied numerous bandages to it to try and fix it — bad luck insurance, increasing the drop rate of the first couple in order to help alts compete, incorporating some of the effects into baseline spec abilities, nerfing the stupidly-OP ones, etc. But the fact remains that Legion legendaries to this day just plain stink as a concept. They strictly limit a player’s options — once you embark for a few months on a certain spec, it becomes very difficult to switch if you do not have the required legendaries for it, and even if you do not want to switch specs (say nothing of class), you are handicapped for some aspects of the game if you have not had the good luck to get the “good” legendaries. Additionally, they make an already-complex gear system vastly more so.

And now Blizz — who have admitted Legion legendaries were not their best idea — have doubled down on the concept by introducing an entire trinket system that is a virtual twin of the legendary system.

What.

The.

Fuck.

Recall that this is exactly what happened with garrisons in WoD. Fairly early in WoD, Blizz admitted that the garrison system had turned out badly, that it had unintended adverse results for the health of the game, that players hated it. So what did they do for 6.2? Yep, they doubled down on it, requiring not only player garrisons but also expanded garrisons with shipyards to even be able to see the new patch content. Garrisons stunk as an idea, so what better course of action than to increase their importance!

I have said it before and now I will say it again, when you are in a hole you cannot get out of, the first rule is to stop digging.

I am sure we will all meekly accept the new Argus legendary trinket system, and we will dutifully chase them for months. Some of us will chase the non-legendary legendary trinket as well, and will grind away trying to get the gizmo to upgrade our other Pantheon trinkets into additional non-legendary legendaries, so that we can have an entire range of encounter-specific gear for almost every possible situation. We will carry around a ton of gear to be able to swap it out even if we never change specs, and we will haunt the web-based banks of computers to calculate the best gear set for every eventuality.

But is this really fun? More to the point, is the overhead becoming so high to get to the fun part that there is a serious cost-benefit deficit? It is a mark of how much I and others love this game that we have stuck with it for so long, even in the face of a relentlessly creeping complexity that is now nearing — or possibly well past — the level of stupidly ridiculous.

And with each new level of complexity the players cede more control, ironically lose more options. We are at the mercy of probability to get legendaries, to get tier gear, to get “good” legendaries and trinkets. And even after we have negotiated the probability minefield to get one of the new trinkets, we will not be able to control when to use it. It’s one thing for this to be the case with minor trinkets, where you might get a small individual boost randomly from equipping them, but it is a whole different thing for this to be how it works for a major buff that can affect the success or failure of an entire raid, after players have ground out what will likely be many final-boss kills just to get the ability. Or more accurately, just to get a lottery ticket.

Do the frogs ever get to the point of “This water is getting too hot, I’m outta here!”?

Clearly, I do not know the answer to that. I am still here, paddling around.

R&R

I don’t know about you, but after two expansions of The Great And Final™ Battle Against <insert name of evilest evil the universe has ever known here>, I need some down time. I want to have an expansion where the worst monsters I have to fight are some local badass tribes, not an entire mighty armada. I am sick of being invaded. I am depressed by the thought of space travel and worlds being torn apart. I am weary of always having to establish hasty and primitive military outposts.

It’s time for some R&R in WoW.

The last time we had any respite was in Mists. The enemies we fought were home-grown: mogu and sha and such, and none of them came from another planet or seemed capable of assembling vast armies. Even Garrosh was just a local boy gone bad. Mists allowed us to take a breather from saving the universe, and I think we need to do so again.

I have no idea what the setting of the next expansion will be, but I really want it to be back on good old Azeroth, with no interplanetary or time-warped excursions. (And, since I am wishing, no underwater zones either, please.) I mean, there is an entire half of the planet we have not even seen — surely there are land masses there we have not yet discovered.

You may have guessed where I am going with this, and of course it is a lost cause, but  my R&R wish for the next expansion comes with the The Great WoW Untouchable Subject: player housing. We have been fighting unbeatable enemies nonstop for two expansions now, and dammit we deserve to come home to a cozy fire, take off our boots and smelly socks, have a beer and some hot stew, and relax a little. Maybe putter in the garden or play with one of our hundreds of pets.

Blizz officially detests this entire idea, though I cannot for the life of me understand why. Every time a dev is asked about it, they do everything but spit to express their disdain. This, in spite of the fact that garrisons gave us proof of concept — separate instances for individuals or invited groups, the ability to have collected pets and mounts wander about, a productive garden and fishing area, even the ability to decorate and select guards. Garrisons were player housing in all but name (and of course they lacked an actual commander’s house).

Where Blizz went wrong with the whole garrison idea was that they — typically — went way overboard with them, requiring them for every player and making them the focal point for the entire expansion. But they could easily use the basic technology in the next expansion for player housing. Here’s how:

  • Make them entirely voluntary. Players wishing to obtain one could either do a quest line for them, or purchase after getting some faction rep, or purchase outright, whatever. Players not wishing to bother with them would not be disadvantaged, in the same way that players currently not opting to do pet battles are not disadvantaged in the game.
  • Severely limit the perks. A good model for this might be Sunsong Ranch, which offered a few gathered items if one “worked” the ranch, a mailbox, and a hearthstone. No profession huts, no auction house, no bank, no quest hub, no garrison-type scenario battles, and definitely no content gating.
  • Make the whole endeavor a kind of mini-game, like pet battles. Encourage special quests to obtain various cosmetic enhancements — interior design, bigger yard, picket fence, barbecue patio, stable for your mounts, permission to allow your pets to wander around and curl up by the fire, etc. Attention Blizz: Just think of the “content” potential, think of all those additional player hours!
  • Adapt the current transmog system to add a sort of transmog ability to the player housing, allowing cosmetic changes to suit the player’s mood. Whatever items you have collected would appear in various housing slots in a collection tab, and you could save entire sets and modify them at will.
  • Include the garrison ability to invite other players to your house, because what good is a house if you can’t throw a party now and then?
  • Allow players to choose from a small range of architectures for the housing — night elf, some kind of horde, worgen, etc. Along with the selected architecture would come appropriate landscaping to match.

Yeah, I know. It will never happen, even though there is exactly zero reason to not do it. Of course it would take dev resources, but honestly even if it cost “a raid tier” I think it would be worth it. Maybe not to the 1% hardcore players, but probably to the other 99%, though of course Blizz is not all that interested in them. Honestly, though, it would be a nice change if Blizz stopped designing for the minority of hard core players and threw a little love towards the great unwashed majority. No, it doesn’t lend itself  directly to esports, but it might keep enough people interested in the game itself to nudge them into esports spectators.

Come on, Blizz, we have all been good soldiers, we have fought every battle you asked us to fight, we have saved Azeroth over and over again, we have spent nights in cold, austere military camps, we have gone everywhere you have ordered us to, hopped from invasion point to invasion point, galloped miles and miles over fel-scarred hellish rockscapes. We have done everything asked of us. Is it too much to ask you for a little R&R in a cozy home of our own? I mean, when it comes down to it, what else are we fighting for?

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.