Housecleaning

Lately it has been challenging for me to come up with decent topics to write about in this blog. (Read the one from Wednesday and you will say something like “That’s for sure!”) We are pretty deep into summer game mode, I suppose — Patch 7.2.5 is old news, and 7.3 is months away. People are spending more of their leisure time in pursuits other than WoW, and I suspect a lot of Blizz devs are off on vacation or at least in a vacation mindset. This is a good thing, and I love summer, but it does make it tough to remain creative and thoughtful on a steady basis.

Thus, today I’ll do some housekeeping and clear out a few unrelated — and mostly undeveloped — topics that have been rattling around in my drafts folder.

Group finder for world quests/bosses. This is one of the best quality of life improvements Blizz has made in Legion, in my opinion. Except for the weekly world boss, I don’t often use it on my hunter because I can solo nearly everything, but I use it a lot on my alts, especially my squishier ones. I love that it is so easy, just hit a button on the quest tracker and you are good to go. The groups form quickly, do their thing, then disband immediately. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. The only improvement I might suggest is that there be a clearer labeling of PvP and PvE realms, but that is minor. Good job, Blizz.

Argus innovations. As a disclaimer, I have not yet logged on to the PTR, so honestly I am writing in complete ignorance, but when has that ever stopped me? I am hoping to log on sometime this weekend, but meanwhile, based entirely on 7.3 notes, I have a couple of questions.

  • Does the concept of portals put players into even more restrictive cattle-chute type play? Will it compartmentalize new areas in such a way as to preclude meaningful exploration and — Blizz’s favorite word — “immersion”? Are the Argus portals a precursor to the main mode of transportation in the next expansion?
  • Does the lack of flying on Argus portend anything more sinister for the future of flying, or is Argus just a Timeless Isle kind of zone?
  • Will the requirement to complete quest lines in order to unlock new portalled mini-zones become yet another endless grind, all in the name of “content”? Will those quest lines themselves become as onerous as the profession ones are now, especially for alts?

Will we ever be free of garrisons? In WoD, a significant number of players (at least the active ones) expressed hatred of garrisons, almost from the start. The backlash was strong, yet Blizz responded by doubling down on them as WoD progressed. They repeatedly lied to us about the role of garrisons, at first saying they would be completely optional, then saying everyone had to have one but only the basic level, then requiring an advanced level garrison in order to experience the new Tanaan Jungle content.

And then, given this very strongly expressed player dislike of garrisons, Blizz slightly repackaged them as class halls for Legion — pretty much removing the WoD perks and leaving the crap parts. Each patch has introduced extensions to them, and apparently there will be more such extensions in 7.3.

I would love to see an absolute end to this concept in the next expansion, but I am not hopeful. Someone at Blizz loves them, and I predict they will continue to be crammed down our throats. And, even though they appear to be the perfect technical mechanism for something like player housing or guild halls, Blizz will never bow to these popular requests. We will continue to have the worst of all worlds.

Monetization of WoW PvE. A few days ago Blizz announced a Mythic Dungeon Invitational. This is an open competition for teams to go through a series of gates to be able to compete publicly for prize money by achieving top speeds on a Mythic+ dungeon. Ultimately the winning team will receive $50,000, and other finalists will share lesser amounts of prize money. Oh, and of course the races will be covered on Twitch for esports fans to follow.

We’ve all known this kind of competition was coming, it was only a matter of time before Blizz tried to capitalize on more than the PvP aspects of WoW as a spectator sport. And honestly, the handwriting was on the wall when they introduced the whole Mythic+ idea in Legion.

I am not sure I have any strong feelings one way or another about this. I am not fundamentally opposed to the whole esports phenomenon — it’s not really so different from any other spectator sport when you come down to it. It holds zero interest for me, but I can see where others might enjoy it.

The part that gives me pause is how it might affect the game I love to play. I say this because of a conversation we had last night in raid. Someone picked up a really awesome piece of gear using a bonus roll, but they could not use it. Of course, since it had been a bonus roll, they could not offer it up to the others on the team who could absolutely have used it, and they expressed frustration about this seemingly arbitrary rule. The reason Blizz has given for this rule is that “some” teams might abuse it and require everyone to use up bonus rolls in order to gear up others.

The thing is, the only teams likely to engage in this kind of behavior are elite teams who gear up their rosters through the (somewhat gray area) method of split runs. No normal guild team engages in this kind of activity. So basically Blizz has implemented a rule that prevents abuse by less than 1% of the player base, and the other 99% are disadvantaged because of it.

This is the kind of thing I worry about happening more often as a result of expanding professional competition in the form of the game I play. People competing for real money will inevitably push the envelope as much as possible in that pursuit. Blizz’s response to such pushing has often been to apply a bandaid rule designed to prevent the specific perceived infraction, regardless of the consequences to the vast majority of players who would never even consider such action.

And with that, my drafts folder is clean, and it is time for the weekend to begin. See you on the other side of it.

Oh, and Happy Bastille Day.

 

Summer is nigh

We are in a kind of dry period in WoW news these days. That’s neither good nor bad, it just is. We are still at least a couple of weeks away from 7.2.5, I think, and then a couple more weeks away from the next raid tier. It’s the normal ebb and flow of game development. To be honest, I am just as happy with no New Thing To Discuss — these days the world seems to be spinning so out of control that it is nice to have at least one space where things remain constant and un-newsworthy, at least for a while.

Still, no real news is tough on us bloggers. It means we have to rely on our creative juices to come up with interesting topics instead of taking the lazy way and nattering on about whatever new announcements are topical. Creativity is something that waxes and wanes, I have found, and unfortunately mine now seems on the waning side just when waxing would be helpful.

In addition to being between major patches, we are also on the cusp of the summer season, typically a time in WoW when players have a ton of other relaxation and entertainment options, and activity slows down pretty noticeably. I don’t know if summer will have an effect on 7.2.5 or the new raid, but my hunch is it might make the patch last a bit longer, since quite a few people will just be playing less and thus take longer to get their class mount or complete whatever level of raiding they do (if any).

Interestingly, what I have observed is that while game activity tends to slow down, trade chat ramps up in the summer. I chalk this up to children on summer vacation quickly being in the “I’m BOOOOOOOORED” mode and turning to WoW trade chat as a way to pretend they are sophisticated and worldly, usually by showing off their dirty word vocabulary or exercising their freedom from supervision by being rude to everyone they can. It’s usually the time I just turn the channel off. However, I am not sure that will be necessary this summer — Blizz’s now year-old policy of taking swift incremental action against reported bad behavior seems to have worked miracles, at least on my server. Trade chat has actually become almost civilized again, the trolls have pretty much disappeared, the vile spewing of hatred has abated, and there is even *gasp* quite a lot of actual trade going on. Amazing. This is one of the best quality of life improvements we have had from Blizz.

Most of the people in my guild are using this breather to tidy up loose ends in the game. Our raid team is very slowly working on a few Mythic bosses once a week, people are grinding out their daily AP on their mains then working on one or two of their favorite alts, and there seems time again to spend soloing old dungeons for mounts or profession patterns or transmog sets.

The Mythic+ group is frantically running as many as they can in order to get three chests while that is still an option. I guess anyone who is interested already knows about the changes to M+ loot and keystones in 7.2.5. (If you don’t, Wowhead has a summary here.)

I am not big into running M+ instances. I usually run one or two a week with a guild group, mainly to get the weekly chest on reset day and maybe some extra AP. But I am not really absorbed in them like some people are. So I am pretty neutral on the changes. The one thing I will note is that Blizz seems to be fixing a problem they themselves deliberately set up, and they are fixing it, once again, cheaply and at the expense of players.

The current loot setup for M+ is that if you beat the time by a lot, each player gets to loot 2 or sometimes 3 chests at the end instead of just one. The change will be that no matter how much you beat the timer by, there will be just one chest at the end, and instead of per-person loot chances there will be 2 or 3 pieces of loot to be randomly awarded. It’s a pretty big change, but here’s the real crux of it: people who currently run a lot of 3-chest M+ instances don’t do it for the loot, they do it simply to increase the number of boxes they are opening. The popular belief — borne out by quite a bit of anecdotal reporting — is that there is a significantly higher chance of getting a legendary from a box than there is from, say, a world boss or some other kind of drop. Thus, the more boxes you open the higher your chances of getting a legendary. By restricting all M+ runs to one  box instead of three, Blizz is in effect putting a bandaid fix on a problem they deliberately created by having what is apparently a different legendary RNG for boxes than for other drops.

The other aspect of this is that Blizz is still in cleanup mode from their original terrible Legion legendary design. They continue to apply surface fix after surface fix, yet the whole legendary system is still a mess. The 7.2.5 legendaries that grant a talent will only add to the problem, especially if simultaneously with the introduction of these powerful legendaries Blizz reduces the lottery chances of obtaining them. Stupid. Lazy. I don’t know how else to put it.

So, on a no-news day I have managed close to 1000 words. This ability to fabricate a lot of filler when I have nothing to say may portend a future in politics for me. (No! 😖)  I am so impressed with myself that I am going to start my weekend with a cold beer on the porch on this hot almost-summer day. If you have the weekend off, enjoy.

Mythic thoughts

OK, the thoughts in this post are not actually mythic in scope or depth, rather these are some thoughts about the mythic structure(s) in WoW. (Instances, not raids.) They have been rattling around in my brain for a while now, but began to coalesce only a few days ago when I suddenly acquired five new quests involving completion of five Mythic dungeons. The quests include three Mythics for an artifact appearance unlock (Step 10 of what appears to be an endless chain: Balance of Power), and two to unlock leatherworking craftable legendaries.

To be fair, I really don’t care much about either goal. I think all BM hunter artifact appearances stink, so I transmog my weapon into a cool bow anyway, and Blizz really does nothing to change the appearance of Hati, an integral part of the BM artifact weapon, as they have told us time and again, so really what’s the point. As for the LW legendaries, these are pretty much just stat sticks, and a huge amount of trouble and expense to make for something that will likely be replaced as soon as you get a “real” one anyway. I have seen them go for 300k+ gold on our auction house — it will be interesting to see how many of them actually sell at that price. I can’t fault the sellers for setting such prices, as the items are ridiculously difficult and expensive too make, but I suspect not many people will be willing to buy them at that level.

Anyway, this is not a post about legendaries or artifacts, rather about the Mythic systems in the current game. As I was mournfully reading over my list of 5 Mythic quests, it occurred to me that even getting into Mythic groups was going to be stupidly hard to do. Why? Glad you asked.

For one thing, players cannot get quest items from Mythic+ dungeons, they must be regular Mythics. I understand the reason for this — M+ runs are all about speed, which is why for example no mobs or bosses save the last one drop any loot. You really do not want players slowing down the group by hunting around for loot or quest items. But the thing is, it is nigh onto impossible to find a group running just regular Mythic dungeons.

I am in a great guild, very active, and there are quite a few people who chain run M+ dungeons every week. They even do a few charity runs for those of us who are not real fans of the genre, just so we can get that weekly +10 chest. But even in a guild like mine, very few if any are interested in regular Mythic runs at this point in the expansion. There were quite a few running regulars back when, for example, Balance of Power was a new thing, but now that most people who want it have finished it, procrastinators like me are kind of out of luck.

The only other option for completing these quests is to pug them.

HAHAHAHAHA! Sometimes I really crack myself up.

No, pugging is so painful in the current game that it is almost not an option at all. First, of course, you have to find a group doing a specific regular Mythic instead of asking for keys or doing speed M+ runs. If you are lucky enough to find a regular group for the specific dungeon you need, you must then contend with asshat ilevel requirements or even — ludicrously — AotC (yup, have seen it more than once, though for the life of me I can’t imagine what it has to do with Mythic dungeons). I am at ilevel 904 or thereabouts, and I actually do have AotC, but I am hesitant to apply to such groups because there is a way better than even chance they will be filled with assholes. Still, I do apply to regular groups when I can. This past week, on one night alone, I was refused 11 times even though I met every requirement laid down each time. It was kind of demoralizing. I gave up.

There is also the DPS penalty — if you are DPS you have a much worse time of getting into any group than a healer or tank, and even if you do get in, it takes orders of magnitude longer to do so. This penalty also plays out if you decide to create your own group — it takes a very long time to attract a tank to a group, if you can get one at all that is. Somewhat less time to get a healer, but you still pay the time penalty one way or another if you are DPS. To a lesser extent, this is also the case even if you are trying to get up a guild group — you basically have to beg your guild healers or tanks to join, because most of them are in such demand that they long ago finished up any regular Mythic instance quests, so if they join your group they will be doing so out of charity. In my guild, we actually have several tanks and healers who will do this, but I really dislike asking them because I know it is imposing on their good nature.

If I have a hard time completing these Mythic instance quests — for the reasons I just laid out — how much harder must it be for someone in a small or not very active guild or no guild at all? Or for someone with relatively “low” (870-890) gear level? My bet is, it is an almost insurmountable obstacle.

If Blizz wanted to fix this problem — if indeed in their pristine dev environment they are even aware it is a problem — they easily could. All they would have to do is make the quest item lootable from the final boss in each instance, and then even in M+ runs a player with the quest would get the item when they looted the final chest. There is nothing served, in my opinion, by making players run around and look for a quest item inside an instance. I get it that Blizz loves to require us to play a certain way and run dungeons no matter how we may like to play, but really what difference should it make if we run it and get the item after finishing it, or if we take the extra minute or two to scurry about and find it somewhere inside? We are still running the instance. But by adopting my suggestion, Blizz could expand the options for players wishing to pursue these quest lines.

If they wished to help players even more,

HAHAHAHAHA! There I go again, I gotta stop this.

Still, in a science fiction world where Blizz actually wanted to lessen player frustration, another improvement they could make in the Legion Mythic mechanic would be to add regular Mythic dungeons to the automatic group finder. Let’s face it, inflation has set in, and Mythic dungeons are now the equivalent of heroics in previous expansions. Why not make it easier for players to find groups by adding this level to the auto-queue (and also transporting the group to the instance and back when you drop group)? M+ is really the new Mythic, and you could leave it as it is, an invite-only group that assembles at the instance. But regular Mythics — yeah, Blizz, recognize what they have become, and lump them in with the rest of the instance levels. Set an ilevel requirement, or an achievement requirement, or whatever, to be able to queue for them, but allow the queuing. (And while you are at it, allow players to chain-queue for instances like we can do with LFR — it would go a long way towards lessening the DPS penalty.)

It just seems to me that, in an expansion where Mythic dungeons are required for nearly every end game activity or goal, Blizz should make them more accessible to players. They do not need to make them easier, just easier to access.

My 2 cents.

What Blizz got right in Legion

It is, thank the stars, finally 2017. With the new year, hopefully, comes new wisdom and new insight, understanding that slowly insinuates itself into your brain, and then either rests there comfortably until you need it, or explodes and spreads shrapnel ideas all over your psyche.

I had one such thought grenade a couple of days ago, which I am now going to reveal to you. Brace yourselves.

Ready?

Legion is only four months old.

I know, right? Because it seems to me that this expansion has been around forever. It is as familiar and old-hat to me as WoD was by the end. I have the leveling process down to a system, I have a routine for my main, I have set items I sell to make gold, I know the general profession-leveling path, I am comfortable with the mechanics in dungeons and raids. Even the fact that the content changes regularly seems routine — I just incorporate it into my normal schedule of world quests or whatever. In short, Legion has become the normal game for me.

It is an interesting lesson in perspective. Legion will officially last 18-24 months, and I am betting it could stretch into 30-36 months. Which means that we still have something like over 80% of the expansion to go. (Okay, 78% if you believe it will be an 18-month expansion, but if you do, I have some prime real estate in a Florida swamp to sell you.)

If Legion were a human, it would be a young adult. And that means it will certainly change — possibly mellow — as it ages, but its basic character is pretty well set. With that in mind, my next few posts will examine what I think works in the expansion, what things don’t work in it and likely never will, and the things that might work if Blizz decides they want to put forth the effort to fix them.

Today being close to New Year’s, and therefore an inherently optimistic time, I’ll start with the things I think Blizz got mostly right this time around. There is a lot of good news here, and honestly if I had to give an overall grade to Legion at this point, it would be a solid B. These are just some examples, you may have others.

Zone scaling. This was a brilliant innovation for the game, and I hope Blizz keeps it for future expansions. It gives players a lot of leveling options that help keep boredom at bay. My initial worry about scaling was that it would make all travel at level 110 annoying, because all mobs would be difficult to deal with, but that has not turned out to be the case — increasing gear levels eventually render most world mobs trivial. This is as it should be, I think, and I hope Blizz does not go berserk “fixing” this zone scaling approach. It works, leave it alone.

World quests. I really like these. I like the idea of a whole bunch of daily quests where you can pick what you want to do based on what your needs are. Need rep or want loot chests — do the emissary and/or faction quests. Want Artifact Power or Order Hall Resources — do the WQs that award those. Need some gear or profession mats — yup, there’s a quest for that. And if you need a day off, just blow them off, most of them will still be available the next day. Are there some tweaks that could be applied to WQs? Sure, but in general I consider them a great addition to the game.

DungeonsI have to admit I am not a big fan of Mythic+ dungeons, mainly because I do not like timed competitions. I run them from time to time, but I am not as rabid about them as some of my guildies, and I have not gone beyond a +9. Still, I think they are a positive part of Legion. Along with regular Mythics, they tend to encourage guild activity, which in my mind is always a good thing. I actually like the idea that you have to organize a group to run them, I think it encourages more responsible play than auto-organized group finding. The fact that they give pretty decent gear (if you are lucky) is also a plus.

“Content”. This means different things to different people, but so far I think anyone complaining about its lack in Legion would be hard put to justify their claim. In addition to WQs and dungeons, there are raid tiers and timely mini-tiers, new zone quest lines, order hall quest lines, a solid patch schedule, profession quests, artefact appearance quests, and more. Blizz certainly took to heart the “no content” criticism of WoD, and in what some may say is typical, went overboard in correcting it. Still, whether you like all of the content or not, and even if you feel overwhelmed by it, there is no denying Legion has plenty of it. We got “content” out the wazoo, people.

I am sure there are a lot of different opinions on the raid content so far, but I am relatively happy with it. I think Emerald Nightmare was maybe a tad undertuned, and Trial of Valor a tad overtuned at first, but those are minor points. My guild raid team falls somewhere in between casual and hardcore, maybe more like serious semi-casual. We are not a mythic raid team, but we do like to pound away and finish heroic content as soon as we can — we have had EN(H) on farm for several weeks now — and if we can assemble an appropriate 20-man group we can sometimes down a mythic boss or two. So, from that point of view, Legion raids have been good.

Story lines in each zone. I like most of them, and even the ones I don’t like as much seem well thought out and cohesive. Bear in mind I am not a lore person, so if you are, you may disagree with me on this. But I found the story lines enhanced the leveling process and gave me a sense of zone identity I might not otherwise have had. (The exception for me is Suramar, a story line I find cohesive but abhorrent — more on that in a subsequent post.)

Zone art. In a word, terrific. I still don’t think it is as mind-blowing as Pandaria was for me, but it is definitely a Legion winner. I am not a real fan of pink trees and gloomy gas pools and such, so I prefer the Highmountain and Stormheim areas, but I can’t deny that every zone has been beautifully rendered. And Blizz continues its standard of excellence with their attention to detail. Buildings are stunning for their outer structural features as well as for the items adorning the interiors. Locales include, for example, not just snow but grimy patches of it, not just bugs and critters but ones that move and interact with each other, not just grass or sand but renderings that move with wind and water and show not only your footprints but those of pets and mounts and NPC companions. Did they borrow liberally from previous zones? Sure, but for me it all works seamlessly, making each zone come to life.

Transmog system and other quality of life enhancements. Technically, these are mostly pre-patch stuff, but I think of them as a Legion innovations, and I approve of them. The main one that comes to mind now is the transmog system. It just works, so please, Blizz, don’t try to “fix” it in the next expansion. Same with the Legion practice of selecting one of your own mounts for commercial flights from some areas — it’s cute and fun as is.

That awesome whistle. The Flight Master’s Whistle is, quite possibly, the greatest invention in Wow, ever. It eliminates one of the most annoying aspects of the game, namely completing a quest that you have had to fight your way into, only to have to fight your way out of it again, only this time for zero reward, like having to keep paying on a car you totaled a month ago. The whistle even works underwater! In fact, if they would make it work in caves, it would actually be the most perfect piece of gear ever introduced to the game.

There are some other cool gizmos that really enhance the whole ground-bound travel experience. I have a couple of things that instantly transport me to certain cities/settlements in the Broken Isles. There are all the leyline portals in Suramar, and the comprehensive set of portals in Dalaran. There is the grapple hook, which I find fun and quirky — although I have not been able to use the Suramar grapple points yet. And there is the fact that we get a special Dal hearth, along with our regular hearth that we can set to anywhere, and our garrison hearth. Some classes even have a special instant portal to their order hall.

(On the minus side, the “special” eagle flight system for hunters is mainly just annoying. I can’t count the number of times I have used the whistle, only to be instantly transported to some godforsaken mountain top not near anything, and then forced to use a hearth or a series of grapples or a feather or kite to get anywhere reasonable. About the only time I find it useful is to get near the Dreamgrove for an easy ride to Emerald Nightmare for raids.)

All in all, travel is becoming easier and easier even without flying or without being a mage. Which of course makes me worry. (Remember, I am a school-trained worrier.) I still see Blizz’s ultimate goal for flying to be to eliminate it for all but classic zones. The fact that they retreated in the face of massive blowback when they tried to do this in WoD does not, in my opinion, mean they have given up on the idea. Rather, they have adopted a frog-in-the-pot-of-water approach. They will keep introducing ground travel conveniences while at the same time making flight available later and later in an expansion and requiring more and more onerous achievements to get it. Legion may in fact be the last expansion to permit flying. From that point of view, The Whistle may be an evil, evil contraption!

I am sure I have missed some great features of Legion, but these are the major ones. Next up: My picks for the not-so-great features, the ones I consider big design mistakes.

Patch 7.1?

Late Edit. After I wrote this, the Official 7.1 Patch Notes came out, and contrary to what we were led to believe from the initial patch notes, BM hunters — and to some extent MM as well — were once again pretty much ignored. The Trailblazer talent did appear, but none of the other talent items I listed below. Plus there was a 37.5% nerf to Posthaste, presumably so that Trailblazer would be more attractive as a talent in that line.

Unfortunately, what this means to me is that the real “Phase 2” of Ion Hazzikostas’s Grand Plan for Hunters has not yet been put into effect, and we can look forward to a long, slow process for hunters. If at all. I would have liked to see a short explanation of why the apparently-planned other changes did not occur, but that would imply respect for the hunter class. One hopes the reason is that there are much more sweeping changes in the works and so there was no point in making a couple of small changes now. But of course, one has been sorely disappointed before….

Tomorrow Legion’s Patch 7.1 drops in the U.S., a few hours later in Europe. There are plenty of sites with summaries and data mining guesses, as well as info gleaned from PTR experience, among them Wowhead, IcyVeins, the official Blizz site, the PCGames site, and no doubt tons of others. Check them out if you are the type that likes to do last-minute prep.

One thing that comes through loud and clear with Patch 7.1 is that Blizz is making sure they avoid the variations on “lame” they were accused of (with justification) for the first patch of WoD. No one can say this patch is not chock full of new content, with new world quests, new zone quest lines, a new mini-raid, and of course the much-anticipated Return to Karazhan.

You wanted content, all right, I got your content right here! Now stop whining!

I am not sure how RtK will turn out. I know there a lot of people — possibly many of you even — who look back on the original Karazhan as a highlight of your group play. You remember fondly the various bosses, the trouble you had and overcame as a group in figuring out the admittedly innovative mechanics, took delight in the way the dungeon intertwined with other forms of art and leisure activity.

As a disclaimer, I never ran Karazhan when it was current, I only experienced it as a quick “fun run” when we were all overgeared for it, or when we decided to do a naked run or a protect-the-baby competition or something similar just for fun. On those occasions, honestly, I found the dungeon to be boring and tedious. I did not have any of the “fond memories” others clearly did and still do, to me it was just another place to do some guild night activities in.

So I am not looking forward especially to returning to it. As a game design, I wonder a bit about designing what is basically a 5-man raid, a complex Mythic-only dungeon with 11 known bosses and almost certainly some hidden ones, with extraordinarily complex mechanics, that will take hours to complete. For loot, gear base levels increase with later bosses, starting off at 855 and ending at 875 (with of course the almost-negligible chance of significant random upgrades). So loot is not bad, although I wonder if it will be much of a motivator, since the kind of 5-man group able to complete it will likely have most of their gear already at or beyond the 860 level. (Will there be RtK Mythic+ runs? I already think of places like Arcway and Court of Stars as nightmarish for anything other than a regular Mythic run…)

I find myself wondering who the target player audience is for RtK. It is certainly not the typical guild group looking to knock out a few 5-mans after a raid or on an off night. It seems like it is not a dungeon conducive to pugs, nor to casual guilds with a continually-changing cast of logged in players. It seems to award gear too low to attract more than a once-through for the achievement for hardcore raiding guilds, yet be too challenging for groups that would greatly benefit from the gear. About the only players I see loving this a few diehard “good old days” types who will run it for the perceived nostalgia and who can find 4 other individuals who are either similarly nostalgia-imbued or who could use a couple targeted pieces of gear.

The other thing with RtK is that it will probably exacerbate the already-concerning problem of guild tank and healer burnout we are seeing from trying to get Mythic+ runs for guildies.

Patch 7.1 has a few economic and quality of life changes as well. The Blood of Sargeras vendor will appear in Dalaran, allowing players to buy mats with BoS. For example, you can buy 10 herbs with one blood, and the thing here is that number applies to any herb, even the still-overpriced Starlight Rose. (Late edit: Not so, see the comments below.) As herbs on my server still go for exorbitant prices in the auction house, it should be interesting to see what if any effect this will have on those AH prices.

The big news, and the one touted by Blizz as being a magnanimous concession to alt play, is that unlocking world quests now becomes account wide. It certainly is a step in the right direction, but I would have liked to see some significant profession changes, too. At least something that would alleviate the horribly high gear and skill requirements to run Mythic dungeons just to be able to get profession recipes, and removing the RNG component. (I have already abandoned my attempts to level LW on my main — getting even the vendored pattern upgrades is far too expensive to justify, especially when you realize that crafted gear, even if upgraded to 850, is pretty useless except temporarily for some rarely-played alts.)

There are also quite a number of class changes, mostly in the name of “balance”. The hunter changes seem less numerous than those for other classes, and they seem a mix of nerfs and buffs. Though I will wait to see how they play out, especially for Beast Masters, a couple of them stood out for me. Basically, the hunter changes involve talents, and they seem to be the “phase 2” part of what Ion Hazzikostas was talking about when he outlined upcoming hunter changes. One hopes this is the case, as it might indicate that actual core mechanic changes (the supposed “phase 3”) are in the works for 7.2.

One that got my attention was the removal of Dash from the level 45 talent line and its replacement with something called Trailblazer. Delirium, over at The Thrill of the Wild, had a nice summary of the change a couple of weeks ago:

Aspect of the Cheetah:
The first change is the return of Aspect of the Cheetah, sort of…
Trailblazer: Your movement speed is increased by 25% anytime you have not attacked for 3 seconds.
This talent will replace the currently very underused, if ever used, talent Dash, which adds an additional 3 seconds to the duration of Aspect of the Cheetah. Instead, now, we’ll have a buff that’s similar to the old Aspect of the Cheetah, giving us a run speed buff whenever we’re not in combat.

It’s very hard to imagine taking this over Posthaste, for me, but I’m still excited about this change. For hunters, especially Marks hunters, we have almost no choices in our talents. The disparity between talents is fairly extreme, even in very different situations: high mobility vs low mobility, single target vs multi-target, etc. The only time I change talents at all is if I want a pet tank, which really isn’t often, and is never in group content.

On the minus side, in terms of mobility, however, I see that Disengage is going from a 20-second cooldown to a 30-second one. Note that by increasing the cooldown for DE, there is the additional effect of decreasing hunter mobility from Posthaste. This is pretty significant and also pretty discouraging, because it means that Blizz will be continuing to nerf the “obvious” talent choices they engineered, rather than simply buff the weak ones. I do not know what the cumulative effect of this will be, but common sense says that it will serve to weaken hunter damage a bit. Whether that turns out to be significant or not remains to be seen.

I note that the teacher’s-pet mages, however, still have a 15-second cooldown for Blink… 

A Murder of Crows and Volley are getting some buffs, presumably in an attempt to make Barrage less of a must-choose for level 90 talents. (Recall that Barrage already received its 20% nerf a while back.)

MM hunters are losing their special extra-health version of Exhilaration (they will now get the same 30% health restoration that SV and BM do), and in its place they are getting the option for an additional 20 focus, bringing their focus to 120 (I think).

As I said, I will wait to see how the hunter changes play out after the patch goes live, but I really hope that these are indeed the phase 2 Hazzikostas talked about, and that as soon as we get some word on 7.2, there will be some significant baseline changes to hunter mechanics.

Meanwhile, on to Patch 7.1.

Life’s little surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yo-yo interest and the WoW Central Supply Depot

These days I find myself with what I like to describe as yo-yo interest in WoW. Some weeks I am tight with it, up near the top of the string, and some weeks I am dangling down at the bottom of the string, not really sure if I will make it back up ever again.

For the last few days I have been at the bottom of the string. I played only enough over the weekend to finish off my last two Mythic dungeons for the bonus event, and only on my main. I couldn’t work up enough interest to run them on any other alt, even though my alts are the ones most likely to benefit from Mythic dungeons and from the Heroic BRF reward.

Completely unrelated thought: Have you ever wondered what the organizational part of raids or dungeons looks like if you are on the other side? Is there, for example, a cadre of trash and a warehouse of materials that each boss can reserve in advance from some place like Central Instance Booking and Supply?

“Hello, Artie? Yeah, this is Witherbark over at The Everbloom. How’s it going? Good, glad to hear it. Listen, reason I called is that we’re doing another one of those damn ‘events’ this week, and I’m gonna need enough Dreadpetals for pretty much 24/7 operations. Can you make it happen? Terrific, I can always count on you, thanks.

“And I hate to bring this up, but can you try and get me ones that got something besides pollen in those stupid little heads of theirs? Swear to god, they just never seem to anticipate stuns. And if I had a nickel for every time they look right at a hunter trap then walk through it anyway…

“Well, do the best you can, I appreciate it, and I know there’s a lot of competition for your people. HFC alone monopolizes five trash supply companies full time, don’t get me started on those prima donnas.

“Oh, yeah, one more thing — send over all the Aqueous Globules you can lay your hands on, I’m gonna be going through a ton of those.

“Listen, wife sends her best, and we gotta get together for dinner soon, ok? Thanks again, Artie, I owe ya one.”

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post.

As I was saying, I did not play WoW much this past weekend. I was doing great early last week, all engaged with a couple of alts. But by Friday it was as if a switch had flipped, I was completely uninterested in the game. I logged on long enough to make a few thousand gold and like I said run a couple of Mythic instances, but that was it.

I did have a few things going on IRL, but really no more than usual. I think I am just resigning myself to these hot and cold swings in my interest in the game, at least until Legion.

It would help if there were any decent information coming out of Blizz about Legion, or honestly if a few more of the alpha testers would share their impressions beyond “This number must be a bug,” or “This trinket doesn’t seem to work.” But it looks like neither of those things is going to happen, so we hoi polloi are pretty much stuck.

Out of desperation, I played a bit of Elder Scrolls Online but realized I really do not enjoy it for a long term kind of commitment. I can’t get motivated enough with it to get to the endgame, which might be a bad decision on my part, but there it is.

Having noted that Square Enix claimed to have gotten its coding together enough to finally — after their 2015 debacle — put out a playable Mac version of Final Fantasy 14 Heavensward, I decided to give that one more try. I got a character — an archer, of course — to level 11 in one day. I was not pushing it, did a LOT of getting lost exploring and watching full cutscenes. It seems more engaging than ESO to me, not sure why. Maybe I am just motivated to get to level 50 for the possibility of getting player housing, maybe it is just that it is still new. I paid for the game and did a 30- day sub, so we’ll see. I admit I am intrigued by the idea that one character can eventually play any class, and I am anxious to start in on some professions now that I am beyond level 10. I am already sick of the long drawn out cut scenes and tedious NPC chat, though.

Mostly, I am just marking time until Legion.

Short war story. When I went to Airborne School, we frequently had to wait in line — for training equipment to be available, for chow, for gear issue, etc. One of the instructors’ favorite hobbies was to order us all to double-time in place, so that we could “wait faster.” Ah, yes, the good old days. 😝

So yeah, I am just waiting on Legion. Sometimes I wait slowly as I did this past weekend, and sometimes I wait faster by double-timing on my alts for a bit. But it is all just waiting.

(Yet another disjointed post. This is becoming a habit, I think. Note to self: Get your act together, Girl!)