Gear and math

It’s been a nice relaxing couple of weeks in my WoW world. In my guild, we all took a break from what was becoming a very dull Nighthold raid circuit, and I seized the opportunity to work on a couple of alts — my balance druid and my destruction warlock. I find I enjoy playing them both, but the lock possibly a tad bit more than the druid. I still find the boomkin tedious for its long casts, but it gets better with better gear stacked for haste.

Both alts are hovering very close to ilvl 900 or a bit under, and the one thing that amazes me is how much better they are simply by virtue of having better gear. Trust me, in the last two weeks I have not suddenly become vastly more proficient on either one, but the difference in damage for both is pretty astounding. The only change has been upgraded gear. In some ways this is fun, because gear is relatively easy to get, even without subjecting yourself to LFR or mythic dungeons. But in other ways is seems kind of cheesy and not quite right. I guess it is an inevitable result of Blizz stepping away from the “bring the player not the class” philosophy — class/spec mechanics and gear seem to count for more and more these days. Nobody likes to blame gear for poor performance (well, okay, maybe some people like to), but that excuse is actually becoming more and more reasonable as Legion goes on.

I was thinking about this as I started last night to prepare my main hunter for resumption of raiding Tuesday when Tomb of Sargeras opens. Patch 7.2.5 brought some changes to BM hunters, and in spite of giving us a baseline 2-charge Dire Beast/Dire Frenzy, it is looking like overall we are in a worse place damage-wise than we were for Nighthold. Seems like Blizz just could not stand to have BM hunters close to the top, had to take away more than they gave. There will still be some class tweaks coming along in hotfixes, but honestly I am not holding my breath that any of them will include buffs for BM hunters.

At least two sites I read regularly have openly stated that MM is clearly — and by quite a ways — top of the hunter heap. From the IcyVeins BM hunter guide:

Now that 7.2.5 has released, we can say with reasonable confidence and assuming no major changes, that Marksmanship will be the optimal raiding spec going into Tomb of Sargeras, mostly due to the potency of its new set bonuses.

Beast Mastery remains a solid choice, though rather than being very competitive and sometimes even better at single-target than Marksmanship in ideal situations, it is now fair to say that its potential output is less than Marksmanship in nearly all situations.

And even the redoubtable Bendak, in his most recent BM post about Patch 7.2.5, is brutally realistic about BM, stating it will likely fall out not only in the middle of the damage pack, but likely in the lower middle at that.

Whatever. I am a hunter in WoW, that is who I am. And since Blizz has seen fit to destroy the essence of my vision of “hunterness” in MM and SV specs, I really have no choice but to continue playing BM. Numbers have never meant that much to me anyway, so what seems to be a sudden plunge from lower-top to lower-middle position is not a calamity. Some class/spec has to be in that position, it is the nature of rankings. Still, I will be interested to see what the actual numbers spread is when the ToS results start to become available. If the spread between top and bottom is large, then Blizz will have once again failed in its never-ending attempt to “balance” the class/spec mess they themselves caused.

My alt gear-centric push over the last couple of weeks also served to reinforce to me the utter insanity of Legion’s gear complexity. On my alts the calculus was relatively easy, since I never intend to actually raid with them: higher ilevel = good, secondary stats pretty much be damned. But when I started to weigh gear and talent combos on my main in preparation for ToS, I found myself once again despairing over the sheer mathematical enormity of the task.

It has gotten so bad that AskMrRobot is now implementing a SETI-like mass computer sharing approach to solving the gear problem for players. Mind you, modern computers already have pretty massive computing power. Certainly enough that even a middle-level server could perform general arithmetical comparisons, even for thousands of users at a time. But Blizz’s insane interdependencies of gear stats, talents, different types of raid bosses, RNG-dependent proc rates, and specialized legendary and set bonuses have gone exponentially past arithmetic calculations. To properly assess the relative value of gear, only massive computer simulations approach accuracy. One or two simulations at a time are handled (though slowly) on a home desktop computer, but if you are trying to do it for large numbers of players, you need vast computational resources, and the cheapest way to get them is to set up a distributed grid of community computers. (I applaud AMR’s ingenuity here, but honestly I would like to see a bit more detail on their app’s security setup before I open my computer to it.)

The point is, you need the power of modern computers to decide if a piece of WoW gear is actually an upgrade for you, or to decide which legendary works best with which set of talents. 

But Reforging was “too much math” for us.


See you after the release of ToS.

Chromie? Really?

Am I the only one who does not get the whole Deaths of Chromie thing? Last night, as I was desperately trying to find something besides the new raid tier to get excited about in 7.2.5, I watched the MMO-C video on the Chromie scenario and read all of their detailed notes.

I still don’t get it. To me, it looks like a whole bunch of annoyance for a less-than-stellar cosmetic fluff reward, a title, and a mount. Maybe I am puzzled because I am not very big into transmogging or mounts, whereas players who really love these aspects of the game will be over the moon at the prospect of spending hours listening to Chromie’s headache-inducing squeak.

If I understand the scenario right, here are its “features”:

  • A series of five quests that bring you into the various sub-scenarios run out of Wyrmrest Temple. The last 2 quests seem to require a significant amount of dedicated play time in one chunk.
  • A garrison class hall set of class hall traits talents you “research” or something over time. (The visual representation of these is the same exact model of the class hall research traits.) Only when you accomplish all of these do you have a chance at completing the final part of the quest line/scenario. I think, by a quick calculation, that earning these talents takes a minimum of 10 days.
  • You must earn rep with Chromie. I am not clear on the reason for this, but it can apparently be done by moving through the various portals and killing mobs.
  • You are auto-bumped to level 112 with gear level 1000. (This should tell you something.)
  • You must clear each portal separately before you may move on to the final scenario. The first time you clear each, you must do a full clear of all trash plus boss(es). Subsequently, you may go directly to the boss in each.
  • The next-to-final quest puts you in a scenario where you must clear all portals in one go.
  • The final quest/scenario requires you to complete all portals in a total of 15 minutes. If not, presumably you must start over.

None of this sounds fun to me, nor do the rewards motivate me to suffer through it. I hate timed events anyway, they are too nerve-wracking for me to enjoy them, certainly I do not see them as part of what is supposed to be a leisure activity. Also, I absolutely do not see how this event relates in any way to the lore story of Legion.

The whole idea strikes me as one of those things an intern came up with and their supervisor said sure go ahead and develop it, just to give them something to do and stay out of everyone’s hair. Either that, or the dev team got marching orders to come up with something — anything — that would continue to boost Blizz’s Monthly Active User stats over the final days of the second quarter earnings period. Whatever, this Chromie thing strikes me as the WoD jukebox and Pepe events of Legion — a total time-filler, designed only to keep some number of players from becoming bored and disgruntled enough to stop playing until the next expansion.

Legion has reached the point where, other than raid tiers, there is little left to keep some players engaged. Hard core types and semi-casuals will do the raid tier, and along the way will do enough Mythic+ dungeons to slightly increase their chance to get the new legendaries. (However, even this activity is nerfed in 7.2.5, since there are no more multiple chests, so the payoff is significantly less in terms of legendary chances.) World Quest AP awards are largely insignificant and probably not worth the time once one has reached the billion+ AP requirement for a Concordance increase. Neither WQs, world bosses, nor BS dailies will give gear awards worth anything to anyone with even 875 or so ilevel. For these players, only the raid tier will yield the gear needed including t20. For non-raiders, Tomb of Sargeras will not be available in LFR until starting June 27, then will release new wings in 2-week intervals over the summer through August 8.

Add to this mixture the fact that it is summer when people typically stop playing computer games in favor of lots of outdoor activities, and I suppose if you are Blizz you are pretty desperate for anything to keep your second quarter metrics from falling off the chart. Clearly, adding in hours of quality time with Chromie indicates desperation.

Look, I know there are a lot of you who will love this little Chromie part of 7.2.5. More power to you, I hope you will have fun with it. But for me, if I ever do it, it will be in the waning days of Legion, when there is absolutely nothing else to occupy my time. Even then, I think farming mats would be more enjoyable for me.

Tomorrow is a 10-hour announced patch day to implement 7.2.5. That strikes me as a very long time. Let’s hope it is overkill on Blizz’s part, not that they are anticipating having a rough patch. See you on the other side.

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.