Breaking news: Cobra Shot to wiggle more

It’s no secret that I am beyond disgusted with the way Blizz has treated hunters ever since they trashed and then abandoned SV hunters in WoD. After promising to make SV better in “the next expansion”, they proceeded to complete their destruction of it by making it a melee spec in Legion, and a pretty puny one at that. Then they moved on to MM, basically turning it into a turret style damage dealer, removing two of the signature features of hunters — mobility and pets — in one fell swoop. Last, after Ion Hazzikostas told us how BM hunters were “in a pretty good place” just prior to Legion, Blizz went on to ransack that spec, too, removing nearly all possibility of skill play in favor of a couple of cooldowns the player had almost zero control over except to mash the button as soon as they were up.

When the Legion Alpha test went live, skilled and well-respected hunters diligently measured, analyzed, and described to Blizz the many ways the hunter class came up short. Their focus was on play style, not on numbers, and they tried every way possible to make Blizz understand that the very soul of hunters had been ripped away.

Blizz ignored them.

Then when the beta test finally went live, a lot more hunters voiced their anguish to Blizz, again not so much about numbers, but about the fact that the class they had played and loved for years had been stripped of every trace of what made the class unique. Again, these players wrote thousands of pages of feedback in the approved forums, detailing all the factors that contributed to what they perceived was the death of the class.

Blizz ignored them.

By this point, sadly, the leading community hunters had pretty much given up, bruised and battered after months of talking to a brick wall. But then the PTR went live, and hunters who had not previously tried the Legion hunter class expressed their keen sense of loss and anger, again writing reams of comments about the mechanics that made them feel they were no longer true hunters.

Blizz ignored them.

And when I say “Blizz ignored them”, I mean not just that no changes were made or design explanations given, but that Blizz met the entire hunter outcry with a steadfast, impenetrable wall of silence. There were no blue posts that even deigned to acknowledge there might be some problems with the Legion hunter class implementation, no hunter class adjustments as builds were put out (even though there were tons for other classes), no dev mention of the problem, no recognition whatsoever of the near-universal condemnation of the changes they had made to the hunter class. Not even so such as a “F**k you, hunters, we like things the way they are.”

Then, one week before Legion went live, a CM had the chutzpah to make a blue post asking for hunter input on Legion problems. As if the thousands upon thousands of previous posts did not even exist. As if, one week before launch, it would make a difference. He even called the thread “Let’s Talk”, implying that at long last, this late in the cycle, Blizz’s wall of silence would finally be broken. Like Charlie Brown rushing to kick that football he just knew Lucy would hold still for him this time, hunters once again posted thousands of thoughtful, detailed, specific comments about every aspect of the class they felt had been ripped from them.

Blizz ignored them.

In the first Q&A after Legion launch, a few warlock trolls and scumbags bullied their way into it, spamming the pre-event thread and using flame and shame tactics to downvote every question not submitted by a warlock, and then further spamming the live event feed with spittle-flecked tantrums. After very slightly scolding them for their tactics and telling them such actions would not be successful, Ion Hazzikostas proceeded to explain how Blizz was going to fix perceived warlock class problems. Long blue posts were written on the subject, and immediate changes were made in hotfixes, along with a detailed plan for long term fixes.

Meanwhile, hunters, who had played by Blizz’s rules for feedback, who had not thrown public tantrums, continued to be ignored. Then, finally, months after the “Let’s Talk” thread appeared, weeks after the warlock meltdown, there was one relatively short blue post in the hunter forum promising significant changes to the hunter class, but hunters had to be patient, wait for 7.1 and 7.2 because of course these things take time.

Hunters waited. In 7.1, a few paltry changes appeared, nothing of course for BM, but a nerf for MM (as if that were all that was wrong with MM mechanics!), and some stiff for SV presumably to try make it at least semi-viable as a spec.

Hunters continued to wait. In 7.1.5, all hunters had traps restored, and a very slight adjustment was made to correct the awful Aspect of the Cheetah, but it cost a talent to do so. There were multiple other changes, but of note every change to BM dealt with numbers designed to buff the spec’s damage. Nothing Blizz did even began to address the fundamental problems with the spec. Pet pathing — other than slightly speeding up Hati’s slow amble to a target — remained horrible. BM hunters still had no surge ability beyond the worthless Stampede talent. Pet control remained problematic, hit-and-miss in terms of setting your pet on passive for example and having confidence it would remain so. BM hunters themselves had almost zero damage ability without a pet, effectively making them a melee damage dealer who operated out of melee range. The play style — unless you had “the” appropriate legendaries and a 4-pic tier set — remained clunky and slow, with no player control over focus generation, no skill abilities beyond mashing a cooldown button or key as soon as it became available.

Similarly, most of MM changes were to adjust numbers, little was done to address the turret play style, and nothing was done to address the underlying fact that all MM damage was RNG-dependent at its origin.

In short, in spite of months of hunter comments that the class problems were about play style, not about numbers, most of Blizz’s fixes have been to tweak numbers.

Now we are into the 7.2 PTR, and there seems to be no plan to make any further changes to hunters. Except one — shown here.

Yes, at long last, hallelujah! Hunters are finally getting the spell animation changes NO ONE has asked for! And what changes they are! Brace yourself now — Arcane Shot  will soon cause much bigger weapon kick and be more purple! Barrage will have more muzzle flash! Bestial Wrath will cause that symbol to only appear over the hunter’s head, no longer the pet’s!! (Of course, there is no change to that pleasant “I am having a really hard poop” sound that accompanies it…)  A few other similarly HUGE and MOMENTOUS changes, such as Black Arrow will have a bigger bullet!!  (I guess it is a bullet, the demo showed a hunter with a gun…) But the big one, and the one I know all BM hunters have been waiting for: Cobra Shot will wiggle more!!! OMG, I have to sit down, this is too much.

Really, Blizz? Really? Everything that is wrong with hunters, and this is what you decide has priority?

Words fail me at this point.

In the cold light of day

Yesterday I published a short announcement about the fact that WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas, after months and months of silence, finally addressed — in very generic terms — the widespread unhappiness hunters have about our class in Legion. I described it as a positive sign. I still think it is a positive sign, but there are some significant events that must happen for me to keep that opinion.

First, the positive aspects of the announcement:

  • It was a substantive communication, one that outlined a plan — sketchy, but a plan nevertheless — for making the hunter class whole again. The base plan is: low hanging fruit (numbers/spec balancing) first, then talent trees, and finally spec identity and play style issues.
  • It was an actual communication, a huge change from the months-long silent treatment we had been subjected to.
  • He admitted that hunters underwent some of the most drastic class changes in Legion, that the devs had not followed up on the complex cascade of changes such a rewrite requires, and he said that they fully intend to address this shortfall in this expansion.
  • He acknowledged that the source of most angst among hunters is not damage numbers, but overall class feel.
  • He dropped a big hint that MM/BM might get traps back at some point.
  • He sort of weasel-worded an apology for his reference to Deterrence in Friday’s Q&A.

So there was a lot in the post that gives cause for optimism. But there are also some gigantic unanswered questions.

  • What took you so long to even acknowledge our concerns? Would it have killed you to stick in a few Blue posts that at least gave the illusion that you are working on the problems? Is your time so constrained that you could not have even used the word “hunters” in all your discussions of class concerns in the Q&A sessions you have had? Out of curiosity, what was the tipping point that made you finally address us this time?

Side comment: I am beginning to discern a pattern with Blizz here. They seem only to address major player concerns in response to quantity and emotional outpouring, not quality, of comments. Think back to the Big Huge Gigantic Flap over flying in WoD — absent a player tantrum, flying in the game would be but a distant memory. Think about the recent warlock bullying and spamming and holding-their-breath-until-they-turned-blue methods that did indeed get Blizz’s attention for their class. The hunter community — while declining to engage in warlock tactics — has refused to go quietly and meekly, has continued to express their anger about their treatment in Legion, piling up forum posts and tweets every day.

  • Why did you ignore everything hunters told you about before Legion went live? Our concerns have not changed since then, the same things we gave you for feedback in Alpha, Beta, and the PTR are what we are still pointing out. Hazzikostas said that it is complicated to make substantive class changes in a live expansion, and I get that, but this is a problem of Blizz’s own making. They had the opportunity to do it long before Legion went live, and they chose to do nothing. To say now that they have not figured out how to fix the class problems — as if they are just hearing about them for the first time — rings pretty damn hollow.
  • Realistically, what is the time frame for your third phase of class changes? 7.2? 7.3? Pre-patch for the next expansion? Come to think of it, when can we expect to see the second phase (talent tree) changes?
  • Will you now continue the dialogue with hunters, or was that Blue post intended merely to shut us up for a while? “Dialogue” can take several forms, including follow-through actions as well as additional feedback in forums and on social media.  I want to believe people when they make commitments, but the sad fact is that I — and many other players — still have a lot of trust issues with Blizz. They have yet to dig themselves out of the hole they dug for themselves in WoD. Hazzikostas himself has admitted that actions speak louder than words. OK, we just had the words, now let us see some action.

Honestly, here is what I expect to see unfold with hunters going forward:

  • Minor nerfs to BM and MM in the immediate future — we have already seen some of these — in the name of overall “spec balancing”.
  • Talent tree changes that will not buff the bad talent choices in certain lines, but rather nerf the currently very powerful (“only choice”) ones. Talent tree changes may also include a few new items designed to fill in some play style holes, as it seems unlikely that Blizz will actually give us anything back without also taking something away.
  • Some time in 7.2, traps in some form will be restored to all hunter specs, and possibly some additional mobility will be given to MM hunters. Unfortunately, I do not expect to see the baseline problems addressed. There are just too many and they are too fundamental.
    • For example, I do not expect to see a rewrite of MM play style that actually reflects the “class fantasy” of a real marksman instead of the current “spray everything in sight” approach.
    • I do not expect to see any help for the fact that MM is completely RNG-based.
    • I do not expect to see a skill-based focus generator for BM, nor do I expect any significant improvement in the whole beast control mess, or any fixes to the now-puny surge capability, or any move towards skill-controlled dps enhancements in the artifact tree.
  • Possibly, by the end of the expansion, hunters will be in a somewhat better position than we are now, but watch for Blizz to not learn any lessons and totally destroy the class again in 8.0.

So, yes, I am glad that the Game Director has seen fit to address the hunter community, but I am still angry that it took so long, and I will wait to see some follow-through before I let myself get too excited about it.

Help build a hunter community response

Late edit: The first hunter forum thread hit max less than 24 hours after it appeared, so the current active thread is here. Also be aware there appears to be a posting bug that results in your first attempt at a reply just sending it into the ether, although a second attempt will succeed. I recommend you copy your entire forum reply before trying to post it, so if it disappears you can just paste and try again.

A couple of days ago I published a piece about Blizzard’s months-long practice of completely ignoring valid hunter concerns about class changes in Legion. Lo and behold, last night Ornyx, a Blizzard Community Manager, started a thread asking for input on hunter concerns. (No, I am sure my post had nothing to do with it, but if it did I solemnly vow to use this power only for good …. 😉)

First things first. Any of you who play a hunter, whether main or alt, please take a moment and go to the new thread and make your feelings known, in a calm and professional tone. (Emotion about the subject is fine, spittle-flecked invective and hateful language is not.) If you do not have the time to post, at least peruse some of the comments and give some feedback in the form of a Like or even a Dislike. It seems that sudden and massive response is the best way to get Blizz’s attention these days.

I have to admit, I was excited by the fact that there was finally a Blue post acknowledging the existence of hunters, and even soliciting feedback on the massive changes to the class. This of course is a sad commentary, because there have been literally thousands of pleas over the last 8-9 months begging Blizz to respond to serious and legitimate concerns about the current state of the hunter class, all stubbornly ignored. So it feels a little bit shameful that when we finally get one small acknowledgement that there might be some problems, my response is to wiggle like a happy puppy.

I commend Ornyx for starting the forum thread — nothing bad on him over this — but we simply cannot ignore the big turd in the punch bowl here:

Why now? And why a brand new thread, when there is a massive amount of forum input from hunter class forums as well as from Legion test forums?

With 5 days to go until Legion launch, the timing certainly seems strange. I have more questions than answers at this point.

  • Is Ornyx’s thread something he is doing on his own initiative, or is it part of a larger Blizz plan to lay the foundation for significant class changes in 7.1?
  • Why is it necessary to restate points already stated multiple times in other forums — in fact, in the very forums Blizz told us to provide feedback in? Do they not read those forums? Are they trying to see if hunters still really really feel the same way?
  • What is the point of this exercise? Are there actual plans to address the deep flaws in every hunter spec, or is this just a mechanism to allow hunters to release a little steam? Worse, is the move designed to give false hope, just to shut hunters up for a while? (The disconnected office thermostat ploy.)
  • Will we ever get the results of Ornyx’s initiative — that is, will we get an official response to the concerns, beyond “We hear you and we are thinking about it. There, there.” He stated in his original post that he intends to take the compiled responses “to the devs”, but what that means is a little unclear.
  • If in fact the initiative is the basis for 7.1 changes, is there any hope that they will be anything but superficial? The small responses to date indicate Blizz fails to understand — or is unwilling to deal with — fundamental flaws in spec design.
  • Slightly off topic, but not really: Ornyx admitted he does not play a hunter, which makes me wonder if any of the devs making drastic changes play a hunter seriously, beyond as a fun leveling and soloing alt (which btw is not really so fun any more). No one who has played a hunter for a long time, who has loved the hunter class, could possibly have made the class-altering changes we have seen. Come on, Blizz, come clean — Do any of you actually main a hunter?

Short post today, but I wanted to get this out there to help build the response. I choose to take Ornyx’s initiative as a positive sign of Blizz’s commitment to not abandon the hunter class. I hope I am not proven wrong.