Are target dummies obsolete?

I had a very laid-back weekend, game-wise. Friday night I ran our alt raid with my resto druid and managed to not embarrass myself too badly. I took Saturday off and did actual real world social things. Sunday I devoted a lot of hours to grinding away at leveling my void elf mage (still only level 68, it is a LOOONNNGGG grind). I also managed to squeeze in a half hour or so on my main, whaling away at target dummies.

The last activity got me to thinking — with all the gear and talent complexities of Legion, and the inevitable proliferation of computerized simulations, do most players still even use target dummies? Anecdotally, I have noticed that there are almost never any other players using them when I am, and I remember when it was almost always pretty crowded, before Legion. I suppose for one thing we now have them in more places than we used to. We are not stuck with going to a capital city if we want to use them, we have our garrisons and class halls. (Although I am continually annoyed that there are none in Dalaran. If we are on such an emergency war footing for Legion, and if Dalaran is the center of the resistance, you would think there would be accommodations for troop training. Sheesh.)

When I first started using target dummies (early Wrath, I think), I would usually go to Ironforge, plunk myself in front of one, and blaze away at it. I don’t think I even knew exactly what I was trying to measure or test. Eventually I got a damage meter addon, and then I used it to have a damage number I could tout in whispered exchanges with someone looking to fill a raid.

Sometime along about the middle of Wrath, an excellent raider took pity on me and showed me how to get a whole lot more out of target dummies. Standing in one spot was useful for a couple things, he told me, but just because the target dummy was stationary did not mean I had to be. So I learned to strafe and jump disengage and move while using them, I switched targets, I called my pet off and sicc’ed him back on, I simulated stuns on myself, I would pick some hapless player next to me and aim a mid-fight Misdirection at him (it didn’t do anything, of course, but it was good practice for me). I varied my regular rotation with some of the then-abundant utility shots and even traps we hunters had, sometimes vaguely simulating a particular boss fight where I knew, for example, that a tranq shot was needed for an add or that I needed to keep my healer protected by traps.

I even spent hours perfecting the hunter turn-around jump shot, where you run away from the target, then rapidly turn around to face it again, simultaneously executing a disengage and a concussive shot and then face away from the target before hitting the ground to keep running. I am woefully out of practice on it now, but I was damn good at it for a while, thanks to hours with the target dummies. (The ones in Ironforge were never any good for this, I had to use the ones in Stormwind. Later, in Mists, the ones in the Shrine were ideal, as you had that entire long and broad front platform to use. Even now, neither the garrison nor the hunter class hall begin to approach the Shrine in terms of running space.)

I thought it was a terrific quality of life move when in WoD Blizz gave us healing and tank versions of target dummies. There are still some problems with them, of course. It would be nice, for example, if you could create a group with the friendly dummies you need to heal. Also, there are times when the game doesn’t really consider you to be in combat when you are engaged with target dummies, along with times when you can’t easily get out of combat with them. I have not often used the tanking target dummy, so I can’t speak to how well it allows tanks to practice.

I always had high hopes for proving grounds to be the equivalent of target dummies on steroids. Sadly, they did not really work out that way. The mini-scenario structure of them limits you in terms of working on a specific thing, and you are stuck with the scenario playing itself out, even if, for example, you are just working on openers. Where Blizz went wrong with proving grounds, I think, is that they made them into achievement-based competitions rather than leave them as a vehicle for simple practice.

My ideal of proving grounds would be that they would be more player-configurable. For example, you could select from a list of different types of fights — trash, Patchwerk boss, boss with adds, boss with movement, etc. Kind of like the various sim scenarios you can pick. Also, I think it would be useful if players could bring in other players to the proving grounds. So for example if two tanks need to practice something, they could both go in. Or if someone was having a problem with damage numbers, that person could go in with a mentor and practice better techniques while getting immediate feedback and advice.

We basically have three different levels of practice activities in WoW now — target dummies, proving grounds, and LFR. (Maybe four if you count battlegrounds.) Each of them has their own pluses and minuses. I don’t mean to denigrate LFR — I actually think the latest tiers have restored a little more of the challenge to it. But I often use it just for practice on alts, rather than for gear or other reasons. This is especially true of my healer alts where, for example, people stubbornly standing in fire are a pretty good simulation of a heal-heavy boss fight. If I know I will be a designated tank healer in an alt raid (not often with my resto druid, but still…), I may step into LFR and take it on myself to heal the tanks, watching closely to see where the big damage points are.

But back to target dummies. I still use them quite a bit, even on my main hunter. I use them to practice new rotations (for example if I switch from a BM zoo build to a dire frenzy build, or if I equip a legendary or trinket that changes my rotation), or to field-test a couple of competing simulation results. I also use them to test out addons from time to time, especially new Weakauras I want to use. Sometimes I just need to retrain muscle memory I have gotten lax on.

What about you, do you still use target dummies? Do you want to see Blizz improve them, or should they be just a holdover from earlier days of the game?

Class halls – why?

Stopping in to my class hall on my main over the weekend, I realized that I rarely send followers on missions any more. Why? Mainly because the majority of rewards seem worthless to me. Just not worth the effort or the class hall resources — even though I am approaching 50k of those.

I still usually do the AP missions, but only if I can configure a team that will net me at least 75% bonus chance, because the bonus token is the one I want, not the paltry 30-40k main reward. Approaching 3 million AP cost per trait increase, it just doesn’t seem cost effective to take hours or days to gather 30,000 AP.

Once in a while, out of boredom, I will do the gold reward missions, but again only if I can get a very high percentage bonus chance, because although the 1500 gold bonus is decent, the baseline 400-700 gold is frankly not worth the effort these days. Too many other ways to earn gold in a lot less time. Heck, I can earn close to 400 gold just vendoring gray items and green gear from a bunch of daily world quests.

Dungeon and raid “special” missions? I have never gotten anything worth while from the chests awarded for completion. All these missions do, at least in my opinion, is clutter up my quest log. (And as a side note, Blizz, when are we going to get a larger quest log?)

Follower gear and tokens? Please. Some of them are of value early in the follower process, I grant you, but they are merely vendor trash once you have leveled your followers. I keep a few items in my bank just to outfit a team now and then for AP bonus missions, but otherwise — pfffft.

As a consequence of crappy rewards, my followers tend to sit around a lot. Except for Addie Fizzlebog. We go everywhere together, and though my hunter does not really need a bodyguard, I have managed to equip her with gear that nets me 150 garrison resources every time I complete a world quest. (In theory I should be able to get 200, but that other 100-resource token has been elusive for me.) 150 does not sound like a lot, but it seems to really add up — remember I am close to 50k resources and I do not usually do a ton of WQs every day. I should have enough to easily do the two new class hall improvement stages in 7.2. (Though why I want to do them may be another question, see below.)

(I will admit, though, sometimes I feel like smacking her if I have to hear her squeak one more time “I’m a real hunter now!”)

The fact that follower missions rapidly become fairly useless is to me emblematic of the whole concept of class/order halls in Legion. I just don’t see the point. Blizz seems to have gone out of their way to make sure we don’t spend a lot of time in them — no mailboxes, nothing that makes them places you want to hang out in, not even any particularly useful gear.

Recently there has been a spate of blue posts defending the class hall gear you can buy, but I think I have to side with the player complaints on this. It is true, I think, for most players, that by the time they have the level and rep and achievements necessary to buy a particular piece of gear, chances are excellent that they do not need it except possibly for transmog. I think the first piece I could buy on my hunter was useful, but after that not so much.

Arguably, some classes spend more time just getting to their class hall than they do actually transacting business there. Which brings up another point — what was cute and intriguing in terms of getting to a particular class hall in the beginning becomes tedious and annoying very quickly. This was brought home to me over the weekend when I spent some time leveling my rogue. I don’t really care that the rogue class hall is in the Dal sewers, but the whole requirement to run through Dal, into the shop, lay down your coin, have the secret door open, run down stairs and take a left, run down more stairs and take another left, then run through the sewer and across the bridge, then open another secret door — all just to get to your class hall — is, to put it mildly, FREAKING STUPID AND ANNOYING. I know some devs at Blizz think it is clever and fun, but honestly they must never have done it more than once or twice, because — no, just no.

Hey Blizz, how about doing something really nice for quality of life in Patch 7.2, and give everyone a class hall hearth like we had for garrisons, or if you don’t want to call it a hearth, call it an “instant portal” like a couple of classes have?

Class halls do have target dummies, but that brings up another ridiculous head-scratcher — why are there none in Dal? We are told the city is in hiding from the Legion, it will serve as the launch pad for the final assault, and it must be defended at all costs, yet there is no way for its defenders to train?  Honestly, between this and the ridiculous engineer-only auction house, Dal pretty much stinks as a hub city. I say let the Legion have it.

I am sticking by my theory that the only reason we have class halls in Legion is that Blizz originally planned to keep the WoD garrison idea for at least one more expansion, and it was too late to undo that plan by the time they figured out garrisons had a lot of unintended — and bad — consequences for game play, not to mention a lot of players voiced loud complaints over the whole idea. By the time it was clear that WoD’s garrisons had flopped,  Legion was already sketched out in some detail, and there was no good way to remove them with out trashing much of the rest of Legion’s design. So Blizz made a few passes at removing some of the things they perceived to be problems with them, and thus we got these relatively worthless class halls.

Blizz, for the love of all you hold holy, unless you intend to give us guild halls or player housing, please ditch the whole idea of garrisons or anything remotely similar in the next expansion. Though it might have looked good on paper, it turned out badly — cut your losses and move on. It is a complication that adds nothing to the game. And who knows, without it we might get another raid tier! 😉