7.3 precursors

The final wing of Tomb of Sargeras for LFR opened yesterday. I could not face what I knew was going to be a poop show, so I did not venture in with any of my alts — didn’t even consider doing it on my main — but some of my guildies did, and they came away either laughing themselves silly or dazedly shaking their heads, depending on their personal reactions to LFR in general. The forums, predictably, are full of comments ranging from outrage over how hard it is to outrage over what idiots everyone is except the poster of course who is actually the best player in the history of WoW.

As I said, I have no first hand knowledge of the LFR Kil’jaeden fight, but it sounds about the same as the LFR Archimonde fight in WoD — wildly hard until most of the LFR population gains a group understanding of the mechanics, then somewhat better as crowd proficiency improves. I do know from experience that KJ is very challenging on both normal and heroic, and we all read about the problems Method had on mythic. So we can stipulate that KJ is crazy hard, even on LFR.

Blizz has wobbled around a lot on LFR ever since its inception. Game Director Hazzikostas admitted this in the most recent Q&A, when he stated there was no longer a desire — presumably on Blizz’s part — to make LFR “tourist mode”. You will recall that this had been the original intent of LFR — basically a low-pain way for people who chose not to raid with a regular team to experience some end game content and story lines without committing to the demands of regular raiding. It was in fact designed to be ridiculously easy. Now, it seems, that is no longer desirable.

The other historic thing about LFR is that Blizz at one time indicated it should have all the same mechanics as normal and heroic but way less demanding. That way, if players wanted to preview and/or practice for harder modes they could do so. But of course that was back when Blizz’s philosophy on raid levels was that the mechanics should not change, only the damage levels.

But now apparently “tourist mode” — formerly a good thing — is a bad thing, and changing mechanics — formerly a bad thing — is a good thing.

I don’t run LFR often enough any more to really have an opinion on the constantly changing Blizz design philosophy on it. However, it does strike me that there are limits to how “challenging” you can make a raid composed of 25 strangers, some of whom are conscientious and do their best and some whom simply do not give a shit. Some are pretty proficient at their roles and some have no clue what buttons to press, much less where to stand so as not to die. Some are there for accomplishments and gear and some are there just to screw with everyone else.

The group you get in LFR is the ultimate RNG. (With the added benefit that you can keep rolling a new one simply because people lose patience and drop group, so that you are in effect constantly rerolling the group composition until you finally get a winning combo.) So to be honest I am not sure how useful it is to, for example, keep the dark phase of Kil’jaeden where no one can see anything and you have to run around in pitch darkness trying to find the safe zone — hoping you do not fall off the edge in the process –and then venture out for a few seconds to find and kill adds. Some people in LFR will never be able to do this, just as some people will never soak the meteors, either because they don’t understand the mechanic or because they are ass hats. Time will tell if KJ is overtuned for LFR, but I think I will wait until it’s a bit less chaotic before I venture in.

Blizz has a habit of setting up major parts of the game with a clearly-stated design purpose, only to completely reverse that purpose in short order for no apparent reason other than some dev doesn’t like it. There is something to be said for flexibility and for the willingness to remake the game frequently, but there is also something to be said for keeping implied promises. I really don’t know if I would call the constant swings of LFR breaking a promise, but I wonder exactly who the target player group is for it. I think Blizz wonders, too, and I think every time they rethink the question they change LFR tuning.

There is a sizable group of players for whom LFR is their only participation in raiding. It is their endgame. I have the feeling these players go into it trying to do their best, trying to deal with mechanics, trying to improve their proficiency, in the same way as any other raider. Hazzikostas indicated Blizz is trying to tune LFR for this group of players. I guess we will see if the effort is futile or not, given the large number of morons and jerks who also run only LFR.

Here’s the problem with constant re-evaluation of LFR’s purpose: If people consider it “tourist mode”, then it attracts a large number of players who think it is a big joke, who think nothing of going afk for most of it, who disdain mechanics, who do whatever they can to pull every trash mob, who think it is funny to wipe the raid, who consider it fine to have no idea how to play their class. So when Blizz tries to change the “tourist mode” approach to make it more challenging, the perception of it being a cakewalk persists, thus those same undesirables keep running it. Which of course becomes increasingly frustrating to those who want it to be something more. Maybe over time Blizz can change the popular notion that LFR is a total joke, but it is not going to be an easy transition.

As a related event to opening the final wing of ToS for LFR, the giant imploding planet Argus is now visible in the sky to everyone instead of just to those who have killed KJ on normal or higher. As I have mentioned before, I am not really overjoyed at the prospect of Argus for our 7.3 venue. What I have seen of it, it seems pretty much to be a rehash of the depressing nothingness of Broken Shore. It might turn out to be terrific, but I am not encouraged by the ever-present specter of a planet in its death throes. Just does not seem likely such a planet will yield hours of pleasant exploration and idyllic excursions to scenic overlooks.

And the Doomsayers are back. Whatever the hell those are. I never understood what the point of them was when we saw them at the end of WoD, and I don’t understand them now. I always thought a doomsayer was that one kid in grade school who, when we had to go into the basement because of a tornado warning, would tell us all in somber tones that we were probably going to die. Kind of a less-cute Eeyore. I never thought of it as a professional calling, which is apparently what it is at certain times in WoW. I also don’t get the whole pamphlet thing and why dying repeatedly is desirable, or why there are periodic breathless announcements in trade chat about the location of this or that doomsayer, followed by a player stampede to that location.

In other words, regarding Doomsayers: Huh?

At any rate, opening the final LFR wing in this raid tier, along with other factors like announcing the end of the PvP season, weirdos wandering the streets of Dalaran,  and a big honking fire planet in the sky all point to 7.3 going live sometime around the end of this month. Legion moves on.

Blizzard’s Christmas Tweety Bird

Every year, players trying to get to the Winterveil tree in Ironforge on Christmas must suffer the pointless chaos and annoyance of being hindered and/or blocked from the event by the usual group of big-mounted small-brained jerks who apparently can only have fun in the game by making sure no one else can. As this happens every year, this year Blizz anticipated it and took appropriate steps — putting the NPCs into Khadgar-like no-mount bubbles, spreading the trees out to all the capitol cities, reminding players in advance that hindering game play would not be tolerated, etc.

HAHAHAHA, no just kidding, don’t be silly. Never missing an opportunity to really screw with the players, not only did Blizz fail to anticipate the problem, but when players complained, basically flipped us all the bird in the form of a tweet, saying just suck it up.

And I quote from @BlizzardCS on 25 December.

Mount blocking your path? Zoom into 1st person view to move through them & get your gifts under the tree. CS can’t assist with crowd control

As an added jab, Blizz Customer Disservice systematically locked down the forum threads where players dared to complain. (Apparently it was annoying to have a crowd of people clogging up the forums, which is an entirely more serious annoyance than having a crowd of people clogging up the in-game event area. Also, some of the posters were rude, which cannot be tolerated when directed at Blizz but is encouraged when used as a game play style to prevent players from enjoying the game as intended.)

There’s just so much wrong with this entire scenario, I hardly know where to begin.

First, let’s stipulate that even though this was a major game annoyance, it is of zero consequence in any kind of bigger picture you want to draw. It’s a game, it’s not nuclear nonproliferation talks. It means even less than nothing when viewed in comparison to international economic troubles, Ebola, world poverty, or your grandma’s latest hospitalization. And even within the microcosm of Warcraft, it’s an event of little or no importance — you will not level, or get gear or an achievement as a result, and to be honest the presents were pretty yawn-inspiring anyway. It’s just a cool little fun thing for the players. Kind of brings back, just for a moment, that wide-eyed excitement you had back when Santa Claus still answered your letters.

Next, what is wrong with players who can only enjoy the game by spoiling it for others? I’ll save a more thorough treatment of this question for another post, but this is just baffling behavior to me. I understand the humor in a good prank, but yesterday’s actions by the dim witted jerks blocking access are not even close to the definition of prank. It went on for hours and hours. It was accompanied by boastful gloating in chat about how proud the idiots were of doing this, and Blizz can’t do anything about it, neener neener neener. On my server, one of our more odious trolls kept advertising he would give free tents to anyone wishing to use one to block access (mind you, he was too cowardly to do it himself, he is after all just a chat-lurking troll). I did report him for spamming, as I thought he was advertising the tents a bit too often, thus hindering chat. Won’t have any effect of course but it gave me a brief moment of satisfaction.

And let’s see, “CS can’t assist with crowd control”? Uh huh. So what pray tell is the no-mount zone around Khadgar? What was all that with the login queues for days and days at the start of WoD? What’s with the Ashran queues? What’s the purpose of CRZ?

Come on, how about a tiny bit of honesty? How about coming out and saying the truth, which is “We can’t be bothered to fix this, we really don’t give a crap that you are annoyed about it. We are barely treading water to keep this expansion going.  If we have nothing better to do we might think about some mitigations for next year.” Not “CS can’t assist with crowd control.” Because that is a lie.

I know the zoom-in tricks to nullify the actions by these pitiful bully wannabes, but after getting the presents on my main, I decided all things considered it just was not worth it. And thus they won. They succeeded in ruining for me a part of the game that should have been a fun diversion.

And this is why Blizz should care about what happened. They should care that a small number of idiots ruined an event, intended to be lighthearted and fun, for many, many players. They should care that rude behavior was allowed to run wild to the extent that it prevented normal game enjoyment for others. They should, but they don’t.

And I quote from paragraph 7 (“Code of Conduct”) of the official World of Warcraft Terms of Use:

. . . Blizzard reserves the right to determine which conduct it considers to be outside the spirit of the Game and to take such disciplinary measures as it sees fit up to and including termination and deletion of the Account. Blizzard reserves the right to modify this Code of Conduct at any time.

. . . certain acts go beyond what is “fair” and are considered serious violations of these Terms of Use. Those acts include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

. . . (iii) Anything that Blizzard considers contrary to the “essence” of the Game.

It’s a matter of interpretation, I grant you, as to whether yesterday’s actions were a violation of this Code of Conduct. Blizz chose — apparently — to consider the activity in keeping with the “essence of the Game”and to be fully within the “Spirit of the Game”.

Really? So the whole point of the Winterveil gift day is for jerks to have perverted fun at the expense of the majority of players? Well, thanks Blizz, in that case the event was a roaring success. I was thinking it was yet another misstep by Blizz management, but it turns out it was a true representation of how the game should be played. The fun never stops.