Patches 7.1.5 and 7.2

Today’s post may be a bit disjointed, I am still juggling repairs for our flooded basement and hot water heater replacement, but I wanted to jot down a few thoughts about some of the recent changes in the game.

Patch 7.1.5 rolled out Tuesday, and from my point of view it was pretty smooth, with the exception of the patch notes goat rope. The class changes took a little getting used to for some specs, and our Tuesday night raid was kind of off as a result, but there are some nice features in the patch.

I am fine with the BM hunter changes, and the MM hunters in our guild — one of whom admits he is a real dps whore — are good with their changes, also. MM lost a little AoE capability but it seems not too significant. BM got some very decent buffs, making the spec pretty crazy with massive AoE. And traps are back, which is awesome.

I think Blizz made incremental progress in giving a few more actual choices in talent tiers, but there are still too many where there is one clear required talent and/or one clearly useless talent. Barrage, in spite of getting a buff for BM, is still the worst choice by far in that tier, but on the other hand Volley now has some utility in certain situations.

The one change I did notice that makes a noticeable difference, though, is the nerf to the BM legendary belt, Roar of the Seven Lions. In my opinion, the previous stats on it were the one thing that seemed to correct the abysmally slow BM rotation, the saving change that brought back some fun to the spec. Now that the belt’s focus cost reduction has been nerfed by 25%, we are back to a very clunky rotation.

And the BM changes have still done nothing to give the spec any semblance of burst capability, no cooldowns unless you count Stampede which few hunters do since it stinks so bad as a talent. It is frustrating to be at a crucial point in downing a boss, and when the RL says to give it everything you’ve got, all you can do is maybe punch your keyboard harder (at the same slow pace) and set your mouth in a determined manner.

Also, I  can’t really tell any difference in Hati’s relative speed (or lack thereof) in ambling towards a target.

I am not a fan of Brawler’s Guild, but the people in my guild that enjoy it seemed pleased with its return and the new bosses. Me, I had some fun with the new books you can buy and send to your alts that bump up your artifact knowledge to level 20 (if you have completed level 25 on the character you buy it on). It was kind of a kick to use the book, then do a couple of World Quests and advance your artifact traits by 10 or more all at once.

Other than these things, I have not had a lot of time to explore the 7.1.5 changes (spent a lot of time the past couple of days with plumbers and contractors), but it seems to be a decent patch for a “minor” patch. Hopefully maybe next week we can get a look at the Mists timewalking dungeons, and I will have some time to check out a few more of the quality of life improvements in the group finder, and explore the new world quests. I don’t have a leveled engineer or enchanter, so those changes aren’t of much interest to me, and my JC is still stuck in the ridiculous dungeon requirements so probably not too interested in the JC changes.

Our guild has both EN and ToV heroic on farm,  and we have even downed a couple of EN mythic bosses, so the release of Nighthold next week will be fun. When it was first announced, I thought it might be a little soon, but honestly we are pretty bored with the current tier. And it will be nice to complain about not getting tier gear instead of complaining about not getting regular gear 😉

Now people’s attention will turn to Patch 7.2, which we are told will soon be up on the PTR. Of course the main thing I am looking forward to is flying — we will see how many more requirements Blizz piles on before they let us have it.

The other two things we have been promised in 7.2 — from Thursday’s dev Q&A — are more class changes, specifically more hunter changes (unspecified), and some more profession changes. Not to get too deeply into the whole professions thing, but it seems like Blizz kind of knows they screwed them up in Legion, even though in the Q&A Kubit explained to us how much of a success things like obliterum, and quickly obsolete crafted gear, and expensive mats are.

I was kind of amazed that Kubit seemed to think the whole reason mats are more expensive in Legion is because they cannot be farmed in a garrison like they were in WoD. No mention of the great gold giveaway that led to pretty significant inflation for all items.

I was also amused that both he and Lore are under the impression that time required to craft an item (as well as to gather mats) translates to a higher price. My experience has been that long crafting times (such as the ones we had in WoD due to cooldowns) or scattered nodes mean absolutely nothing for prices after about the first month. There are always people willing to sell them for a few gold over mat cost, with no regard for the amount of time invested in crafting the item or gathering the mats. Most people place no value on their time in a computer game, maybe since their purpose usually is to waste time anyway.

7.1.5 seems a relative success, but 7.2 really is the patch I hold out the most hope for.

Sorry for the scattershot approach in this post. Hopefully by Monday I will have my thoughts better organized. Everyone have a great weekend.

Ummmm, patch notes?

Patch 7.1.5, a “semi-major” patch, goes live in a few hours, and rather than looking forward to it, I feel a certain sense of dread. True, in theory BM hunters are getting some buffs, including the return of traps, but still I can’t shake the feeling that this patch will do nothing to fix the chaotic state of Legion classes, just move the annoyances around a little.

I did not play much on the PTR, on purpose. The Legion alpha and beta test cycles completely destroyed any illusions I might have had about conscientious players being able to influence development in any meaningful way. If good hunters and good warlocks, and other top players in their classes could not staunch the class chaos that ended up being Legion, then there is no chance that any PTR comments will have any meaningful effect. The PTR is just like the dummy thermostat in some offices — there to make the employees think they have some control over their environment.

As I write this, at about noon Eastern Time, we still have no official Patch notes. They may be out by the time this is published, but that does not change the troubling nature of what we are seeing. Whatever term Blizz may give the patch, it is in fact a major one. It includes, according to everything I have read, major changes to classes/specs and to the legendaries players have come to rely on to overcome the initial shortcomings of their main characters. It introduces significant new content in the form of the micro-holidays and Pandaria timewalking dungeons. There will be a new season of the Brawler’s Guild.

It is a maxim in many endeavors that “The job’s not over until the paperwork is done.” In any project, failure to allocate time and other resources to final documentation is judged to be just that: failure. It often means that for whatever reason, the project manager was cutting corners, maybe to meet a looming deadline. When corners are cut in documentation, it is always advisable to look for what other corners may have been cut. If there was insufficient time for producing a user manual, for example, maybe there was also insufficient time for thorough testing of the product.

It is maybe a tad early to say, but I get the feeling Blizz has painted themselves into a corner with their Legion promises. Yes, it is good they recognized the major shortfalls of WoD and are trying to make up for them, but I wonder if their commitment actually made it all the way up the management chain so that appropriate additional resources were allocated in order to fulfill those promises. I always felt that Legion release was rushed by some number of weeks — witness the scrambling Blizz has been doing for the last couple of months to fix the legendary and class balance problems. And I feel like 7.1.5 is being similarly rushed — either Blizz recently promised more than they can deliver in the patch, or they are holding themselves hostage to an arbitrary promise of new raid tiers — and thus major patches — every “4 to 5 months” (per Ion Hazzikostas).

Nighthold will be released next week, and that is right on schedule. Good for Blizz. But I have to wonder: Have we moved away from the meme of “that will cost a raid tier” to a new one of “that raid tier will cost your class satisfaction”?

Just a thought. Here’s hoping for a smooth patch day tomorrow. Oh, and Blizz, not trying to be pushy or anything, but

COULD YOU FOR CRYING OUT LOUD GET OFF YOUR DUFFS AND GIVE US SOME PATCH NOTES BEFORE THE PATCH GOES LIVE?

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Maybe Legion really is the expansion we hoped it would be

Blizzcon 2016 is now in the archives, and I am cautiously hopeful that Legion may indeed fulfill its promise as the anti-Draenor. I did not watch any of the panels live, but I did watch them in the videos afterwards, and I was struck by the amount of information we got from Ion Hazzikostas and the devs — concrete plans for Legion as it moves forward as well as Blizzard’s philosophical approaches to this game and its design. There was a lot to digest, but let me address what I thought were a few of the highlights from what I considered to be the major presentation.

But first, a little groveling on my part. I am often very hard on Ion Hazzikostas, but I thought he hit it out of the park with his presentation on “Legion – What’s Next?” I got a sense that he is finally coming into his own, possibly as a result of being promoted to Game Director, that he is at last comfortable with the game’s direction as well as with communicating that direction to the player base. His presentation was smooth, informed, relaxed, and lively. He seemed to finally shed the tendency to lapse into lawyer-speak, and there was absolutely none of the patronizing comments or snarkiness he has been prone to in the past. I would go so far as to say his presentation was the best we have heard from Blizz in many years. He will never, I think, be very good with interactive player communication — he does not strike me as being an extemporaneous type of guy — but if he continues to give us the quality of information we saw over the weekend, that does not matter. He is in a management position where he can “have people for that”.

I am beginning to believe that Blizz is ever so slowly working itself out of the trust deficit they dug for themselves in WoD. Of course, we still must see if they come through on the promise of Legion, but at least so far they have done what they said they are going to do.

So here are a few items I was most interested in from the “What’s Next” panel. (You can watch one of the many videos of it or check out one of the summaries like Wowhead’s.)

  • Major and minor patches. We know these happen, but it was enlightening to have them defined for us. And it was very pleasant to hear that they are being more or less pipelined in the PTR — once one goes live, the next one is queued up and ready to go for testing. Additionally, it was interesting to hear that content patches are not necessarily tied to raid tiers.
  • Micro holidays coming in Patch 7.1.5. While I am not a big fan of the current world holidays, I do think the Azeroth-based micro holidays have the potential to be a lot of fun. (I am imagining things like Leeeroy Jenkins Day, although it was not mentioned as one of the examples.) The fact that there will be no achievements, mounts, etc. for these events is good, I think, because it reinforces the idea that they are just for a bit of fun. I like the idea because it seems like Blizz is returning to one of their strengths — creative whimsy.
  • Class changes. This was probably the most exciting announcement in my opinion. It seems there will be a ton of substantive class changes coming in 7.1.5, but more than the actual changes, it was the way Hazzikostas described them that caught my attention, particularly as they relate to hunters.
    • He addressed the problem of class play style and feel, and he admitted that they had gone a bit too far in creating spec identity, sometimes at the expense of overall class identity. This has been the main concern of nearly every hunter comment since Alpha, and it gives me hope for qualitative improvement to the brain-dead BM rotation.
    • Traps! Yes, he actually said it, all hunters will get traps back in some form. This was part of a broader discussion of utility, and it seems that Blizz will be adding back some of the utility they had cut from certain classes. This is good news for many, but I think it is especially good for hunters, the class that has historically been “the” utility class in the game. I have heard some argue that utility was in fact the major defining feature of hunters, and that the Legion removal of nearly all utility abilities from hunters effectively destroyed the nature of the class. I am not sure I would go that far, but there is a certain amount of merit to the argument. I hope traps are not the only utility being restored to hunters.
  • Class order hall renewed emphasis in 7.2. Basically, there will be an extension to the order hall campaigns, and a renewed commitment to the idea of classes banding together to save Azeroth. I have not been a fan of this whole concept since it was first announced, and honestly I feel like it is an artificial convenience — to cover Blizz’s decision to continue garrisons in Legion — rather than a smoothly-fitting part of the story. Still, if it is a vehicle for providing continuing content, it is hard to argue with it.
  • Flying. Contrary to my predictions (eating a small portion of crow here), it will arrive in Patch 7.2. However, since I had not considered the possibility of a semi-major 7.1.5 patch, I think my initial prediction of 7.3 (third major patch) was not far off. But I am still not convinced that most people will be able to have flying before well into 2017, given both patch scheduling and the rather significant achievement additions to Pathfinder that will be required. Still, I think it is likely to be closer to early summer than my initial prediction of the end of the year. Which brings up ….
  • Class mounts. I am not much of a mount person, tend to look at them as basic transportation, but I have to admit I was pretty excited about the announcement of class mounts as the reward for completing requirements for flying. I am not exactly sure what that half-wolf, half-eagle thing is that hunters will get, but I want it!
  • Artifact weapons. I am already pretty sick of this mechanism and the way it influences nearly every aspect of the game for me, so the announcement that there will be extensions to them in 7.2 in the form of additional traits and a level 4 for existing 3-level traits was not welcome news to me. The only saving grace, in my opinion, was the comment that they would definitely not/not be continued in the next expansion. Thank goodness. Let’s just hope there will not be artifact bloomers or something ….
  • World invasions. These daily events, similar to the ones we had in the pre-patch events in WoD, will be returning in 7.2. I think this is a good move as a way to add content. The invasion scenarios were fast, fun, and they gave decent rewards. Also, I think they were very well received by most players. Good move on Blizz’s part.
  • No mention of Patch 7.3, and maybe extra-planetary travel?? Hazzikostas did not venture much beyond plans for Patch 7.2 — he did not specifically mention patch 7.3. The timeline, though, argues for such a patch.
    • Assuming 7.2 goes live sometime around March or April of 2017 (wild ass guess on my part), that would mean Legion is less than a year old by the time 7.2 goes live.
    • If Blizz’s previous declaration that they were going back to 18-month or 2-year expansions holds, that leaves a lot of time for more major Legion patches. And it seems unlikely, given the bad recent experiences with patches lasting for a year, that we will not have one or more after 7.2. Even if there is a Patch 7.2.5, there will still be a lot of time left in Legion, certainly enough for a Patch 7.3 and 7.3.5 before the next pre-expansion patch.
    • The hint Hazzikostas tantalizingly dropped was that the battle will be taken directly to The Legion’s home planet of Argus. This does not necessarily mean space travel with star ships and all — magic portals seem more likely — but still…. Remember the world invasions we got before Legion as part of the pre-expansion events? Those big things in the sky where there was a swirly spiral certainly looked like they might be space ships, didn’t they?
    • If in fact Argus is the new zone we get in Patch 7.3, it opens up an entirely new planet for future expansions. No more trying to cram new zones into what is becoming a rather crowded Azeroth map. Honestly, it is quite exciting, and it goes a long ways towards laying to rest the perpetual WoW-is-dead theories.

Many people — me included — expected Blizzcon 2016 to be a real yawner, but surprisingly I found it to be one of the more optimistic and exciting ones in recent history. It seems like Blizz has finally turned the corner from the long, dark days of WoD, and I am excited by the notion that Legion may actually be the expansion we all hoped it would be. For the first time in many, many months, I am enthusiastic about the future of the game.