Q&A – informative for a change

Yesterday I had a lot going on and was not able to watch the Q&A live, so I watched it this morning. I kind of wish I had made some time to watch it yesterday, because for a change there was quite a lot of very good information in it, and if I had had a few more hours to think about it I would probably be able to make some more thoughtful comments about it today. As it is, here are some of my off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts on it. And you can check out both the full video and the text summary courtesy of MMO-C here.

Allied races. There was a lot of discussion about these. To me, it was all of passing interest, but I know there a lot of players for whom this is an extremely exciting part of the game. I think the bottom line here is that Blizz will be introducing lots of new allied races over the course of possibly years. Though Hazzikostas did not admit it, the major reason will be to entice players to level new characters (and thus possibly beef up MAU numbers over an extended period of time).

How best to communicate with Blizz. Basically, don’t whine and don’t try to pass your comments off as representing all players. Meh.

Class balance. I thought this was a decent discussion because it did yield some insight into Blizz’s current guiding principles for class design. Hazzikostas reiterated the idea that the goal is to “make each class unique”. (And by “class” I am pretty sure he meant “spec”.) I do not disagree with the goal, but he failed to address the related designs. For example, it is all well and good to make a class that excels in the ability to DoT targets, but if you design raids and dungeons that only make this a valuable trait for a couple of bosses, then the “unique” aspect of the class is not worth much. Blizz has thus far not shown much success in coordinating raid and dungeon design with class abilities, and every expansion they end up creating winner and loser classes because of this failure. Thus, the idea of “class uniqueness” sounds good, but only if your class is one of Blizz’s design winners.

Similarly, he did not address the idea of “utility” balance — that is, some group utilities are way more valuable and widely useful than others. A combat rez, for example, is probably always useful, whereas something like a hunter Tranq shot is highly specialized. Not all “unique” abilities are created equal, and this again leads to winner and loser classes. Will Blizz realize this and develop a system to minimize it? I doubt it.

Gear. This is where there was some good news, on several fronts. It was apparent that Hazzikostas fully understands the mess Blizz gave us with Legion gear. He said no one should have to sim gear before they can determine if it is an upgrade for them, and he also said they had gone too far with secondary stat importance in Legion. He did not promise that all gear with higher ilevel will be an upgrade every time, but he did say most of the time it will be, and he also said the calculus of determining the worth of gear will be considerably easier. We will see, but to me it sounded positive.

Loot. Somewhat related to gear is the question of loot in group situations. It sounds like the only option in BfA will be personal loot. Some guilds will not like this, but the change has been coming for some time. I know with my own guild, at the start of Legion we tended to prefer a system of Master Looter with rolls, along with a very light determination of who could roll on a piece. Very shortly, however, we saw that Personal Loot dropped significantly more gear (a design by Blizz for Legion), and we switched to that and have not gone back.

Hazzikostas came right out and said the BfA move to all Personal Loot is being made mainly to reign in the top guilds, the ones who routinely game the world-first Mythic competitions by using group loot runs to overgear their main raiders before they even start Mythic runs. This practice has meant Blizz has to compensate for the idea that the professional guilds will be overgeared for Mythic raids at the start, thus they need to make the raid difficulty with that in mind. This has a cascading effect, because it means the raid bosses — particularly the end ones — end up being overtuned for everyone else.

Anyway, it looks like Group Loot will be a thing of the past come BfA. What Hazzikostas did not address, but what I would like to have heard him on, is whether there will be some adjustments to the more annoying parts of Personal Loot. For example, a user-friendly interface for sharing loot. Something like a pop-up loot roll window similar to what we now see in dungeons, except in this case it starts with the person who got the loot selecting if they want to offer it up and checking a simple yes/no. If they do offer it up, then a loot roll window automatically pops up for all players eligible for the loot, maybe a need/greed kind of thing to also allow for people to roll on it for transmog.

Another Personal Loot improvement might be a refinement of what loot is shareable and what is not. There is a lot of loot that may technically be an upgrade for a player but in truth it is useless to them, and currently they cannot offer it up for trade.

Talents. Lots of discussion here, but the one thing that gave me cause for optimism was the statement that the idea of selecting either the AoE or the Single Target talent in a tier just feels bad, and in fact it doesn’t make anyone actually choose, rather it just makes them burn a tome to adjust for each boss fight. Hallelujah.

The other interesting thing about talents in BfA is confirmation that Blizz will use them as a sort of testing ground for baseline abilities. That is, if one talent for a class is always selected by most everyone, then that begins to look like something that should become a baseline ability, and Blizz may change it to that in a patch. We kind of suspected this is what they were doing in the latter parts of Legion, but now we know that is indeed the case.

Mission tables. This was probably the most disingenuous part of the Q&A. Hazzikostas blathered on about how they will not serve as time gates in BfA, that they are more for auxiliary game play, they add a nice dimension to the game, they fit with the BfA story line, blah blah blah. What he did not admit was the obvious — that it is a mini-game within WoW that works well with the mobile app, and if they get rid of it then they might as well trash the app, too. And of course, every time a player logs in on the mobile app it counts towards MAU for the game.

Mythic+. Without saying so outright, it was pretty clear that Blizz sees this part of the game as increasingly important going forward. Hazzikostas was at some pains to explain that raiding is still important, but it was obvious that Blizz is looking to Mythic+ as the main end game group activity at some point. Just my opinion, of course, but I would have liked to hear a more robust defense of raiding and I did not.

Professions. There will be some changes for the better here, I think. The change to having professions grouped into expansion-specific ones is a good move. Also good was the comment that crafted items need to be more relevant throughout an expansion, not just at the beginning. Last, on a less optimistic note, I am not really a fan of the recipe-leveling mechanic introduced in Legion, but it sounded like we are stuck with that for BfA.

Alts. Sounds like what we have now in Legion will be what we have in BfA in terms of alt-friendly or alt-hostile (whichever side you come down on). There will be some concessions to alts in terms of grindiness — like we have now for AP catch-up — but Hazzikostas is digging his heels in on his personal conviction that the only reason to have alts is to play them as you would a mini-main. Playing them to farm items for a main is strictly frowned upon and Blizz is doing everything they can to make that as hard as possible for you.

Guilds. The introduction of “Communities” is interesting to me, and honestly I do not know if it will spell the virtual end of guilds or not. Likely I will be writing a lot more about this as we learn more of the specifics. Of note, Hazzikostas did not indicate there would be any new perks to guild membership, only that guilds would have “all the same things as Communities”, plus a guild bank. This is one that bears watching.

Anyway, those are what I saw as the highlights of the Q&A yesterday. I did think it was one of the more informative ones lately. If you find yourself with some free time it could be worth an hour to watch.

Speaking of free time, it is time to start a weekend. See you on the other side.

Pass the crow, please

Today I am going to eat a little bit of crow. Blizz just announced they are rolling back the new loot rules they implemented a few weeks ago. Recall that, with the new leveling zones and processes introduced in Patch 7.3.5, there was a change that put personal loot automatically into effect for all leveling dungeons. What this meant was that anyone running old dungeons for transmog or mounts or recipes or whatever would only be able to get loot appropriate to their spec, for one player, as if they were running in an actual group.

You can see the problem — and probably many of you experienced it. It effectively drastically curtailed your chances of getting the transmog or legacy items you were looking for, and of course you could no longer run them on, say, your very powerful warlock and hope to get that cool transmog you wanted for your alt paladin. (Not to mention it put an even further dent into the amount of gold you could clear — whether by selling BoE transmoggables in the auction house or even by vendoring everything.)

Predictably, and justifiably in my opinion, there was a huge outcry over this. For years Blizz had allowed — nay, encouraged — players to use their most powerful characters to go back solo into old dungeons and rapidly romp through them for the express purpose of gathering all the mats and loot their bags could hold, and try for elusive mounts or pets. Some players have run the same dungeon for years looking for that one item their heart desires.

For Blizz to suddenly say, “Sorry, changed our minds” about this practice seemed especially capricious. Players vented in the forums, on Twitter, every venue they could think of.

And with today’s Blue post, it appears Blizz listened to these players and took action to remedy the problem.

Yay Blizz.

I have frequently stated in this blog that I believe Blizz has stopped listening to the majority of its player base in favor of catering to the elite. This is where I eat the crow, because this latest move pretty clearly was in response to the 99%, not to the 1%. Fixing the problem they had created, in response to the protests of large numbers of casual and semi-casual players, was a move worthy of the old Blizz. Recognizing the importance of this activity to a large number of non-elite players heartened back to the roots of a game originally designed for millions of ordinary players.

Still, there is a cynical side of me that thinks maybe the Patch 7.3.5 move caused a downward blip in MAU. Almost certainly some players who used to spend hours roflstomping through old instances stopped doing so, because what was the point any more? I don’t know how many players this might have been, but Blizz has shown us that any decrease in the monthly active user metric, in any activity, causes them to take immediate remedial steps. (And yes, they almost certainly track MAU by activity, not just overall.)

But the end result was action taken for ordinary players. So yes, I am eating crow, but just one serving of it, not the whole damn bird. In this instance, Blizz did the right thing, and they did it relatively quickly and completely, without adverse impact to other parts of the game. Good job, Blizz, now maybe you could keep the trend going, think about giving alpha access to BfA to some regular non-special players?

*munch munch* Needs a little salt, don’t you think?

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January closet cleaning

Checking out my drafts folder yesterday, I see it is getting a little cluttered. Time to clear it out. So here are some scattered thoughts I never worked on enough to make an entire post on them.

Mage fear conquered? Regular readers know of my long-standing love-hate relationship with the mage class in WoW. I rolled a mage many years ago, as one of my earliest alts, but I could never get comfortable with the play style. I dutifully leveled her up each expansion, but could never rise above the terribad level of proficiency. Each expansion I tried all three specs, got adequate gear for her, even ventured into an easy raid or instance now and then.

But it just never felt right, so finally towards the end of WoD, after much soul searching, I deleted the poor thing. Within a month, I regretted the decision. So I rolled a new mage and leveled her to 100 before the end of WoD. When Legion came around, I decided the one mage spec I had always like best was fire, so I leveled her to 110 as a fire mage. But this time, for some reason, I am having great fun playing her. The play style, unlike my mental image of mages, is quite mobile (certainly as mobile as, say MM hunter), and every time those Hot Streak procs hit — and they hit quite often — I get a little tickle of fun.

Maybe that is the key: fun. I really feel like Blizz has sucked all the fun out of huntering. Certainly for BM they have turned it into a grim process of mashing buttons when they are off cooldown. The only really fun procs left for BM are the odd trinket or legendary effect. But my little fire mage rewards me every time I play. I love planning my chain of crits to be able to sustain high damage and instant casts, and the visuals — especially when I plan properly — are nothing short of spectacular.

Attention Blizz: Fire mages are an example of a fun play style. BM hunters are not. There is no real fun in merely not missing a Kill Command cooldown. Also the hunter visuals — when they exist, which is not often — stink. If you cannot see the difference, then there is little hope for the hunter class going forward.

Paying for game commentary sites. You may have noticed that I removed Blizzard Watch from my blog roll on this site. The reason is not that I think it is a bad site (I do not). Rather it is because they have recently started what I think of as a sleazy Eyewitless News practice of hyping some posts with salacious headlines, then locking them for anyone who does not pay for the site.

I do subscribe to the site with Patreon, but I was uncomfortable with being complicit in putting the arm on my readers to pay up in order to read a post I linked to. Blizzard Watch, of course, is free to put pressure on anyone they want in order to make some money. (And I suspect it is not like they are raking it in, anyway — more like just keeping the lights on.) But it is not my style, and I really don’t want to be a shill for them.

Begging for gear. As I play my alts more frequently now that Legion is winding down, I am running more LFRs than I used to. I am finding one of the more annoying trends is for people to whisper me every time I get a piece of gear, asking if  I really need it. Usually I ignore them or whisper back a rather stark “yes”. I refrain from saying if I did not need the gear I would tell people to roll for it, though that would be a small lie, since I often do not put things up for roll because it is cumbersome to do so and even more cumbersome to effect the actual trade. There are a couple people in my guild who do not even loot bosses in LFR any more just because they don’t want to be annoyed by these beggars — they get their loot through the mail from the postmaster.

In typical fashion, when Blizz introduced the possibility of rolling for personal loot in a group, they gave exactly zero thought to how that would inevitably play out for The Great Unwashed. Here is the usual scenario:

  • Kill boss.
  • Loot rolls by in raid chat.
  • Tank runs hell bent for leather to engage next trash in combat.
  • People like me don’t even realize what if any loot they got, much less have the time to decide to put it up for roll, type out the link and the announcement, then monitor who wins the roll and try to find them during a rare non-combat interval to open trade.
  • Multiple beggars whispering me does not help the confusion.

This is bad enough in a guild run, where I actually want to help people out with gear, but for the record I refuse to deal with it in LFR. Sorry, LFR-ites, you are not getting any of my loot. It’s nothing personal, just that I can’t be bothered.

If Blizz actually gave a damn — which they clearly do not — they would have created a better user interface for announcing, deciding, and trading gear in group situations. No doubt this is on the table for BfA.

HAHAHAHA, just kidding.

Try not to panic yet. A few days ago we got the first big dump of data on Battle for Azeroth, along with a class balance dev post and the announcements of the alpha test and an imminent Hazzikostas “Q&A”. I took a very cursory look at the hunter changes in this first flood of information and saw what I thought were a lot of MM and SV changes, but almost nothing on BM hunters. A small nugget of worry took root in my brain, but I squished it down as I had not really studied the data and could easily have missed a bunch. (Recall that I am a professional worrier…)

But then yesterday, Bendak in Eyes of the Beast posted his first thoughts on sifting through the data, as it pertains to BM hunters, and it was pretty grim. Responsibly, he reiterated that this is the first set of data, it is extremely early in the process, he has not had a chance to actually play on a test realm yet, and there will be much more to come. But a couple of his remarks really caught my eye.

I was hoping for more from my beloved BM. But I’m willing to accept that BM hasn’t seen as much attention as MM and SV at this point in development. At least I hope that’s the case, or else we’re in trouble.

….

This new version of Survival looks oddly similar to Beast Mastery but with the addition of a bunch of DoTs. Half the abilities and talents can be used from range, and you can even do your main rotation at 40 yards while Aspect of the Eagle is active.

I know they feel like they need to make some big changes to Survival to get people to play it, but I would have rather seen them improve what’s there by pruning the existing rotation, keeping the good parts, removing a bit of the excessive maintenance, and adding some new talents. Now it seems like all they’re doing is adding abilities that would be better served as MM or BM abilities. Is it a melee spec or not? How do they plan on balancing this?

I refuse to panic yet, but I can’t help but hearken back to the early days of Legion testing, when we all thought the same thing about the bad place BM hunters were in and the curious lack of any announced changes. Surely, we thought, it’s just a matter of Blizz not having got around to the major BM changes yet. Nope, indeed what we saw in the earliest data was what we got, and it sucked. Moreover, Blizz steadfastly refused to even discuss the lack of changes, refused to even comment on the very detailed and cogent results posted by some of the best hunters in the game, rudely and disrespectfully ignored every plaintive cry for at least an explanation of the crude play style.

So yeah, it might be too early to panic. But then again, it might not. Is BM hunter destined to become the next “experiment” in Blizz’s never-ending quest to screw with the hunter class?

As much as I have come to enjoy mages, Blizz, why don’t you take a break from hunters and go screw with mages for a change? Or druids? I swear, if you destroy BM like you destroyed SV in WoD, I will haunt you and curse you to the end of my days!

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.

 

Dev interview number 1

Yesterday Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas inaugurated what is promised to be the first of several weekly dev interviews on Legion. While I applaud the concept, I have to wonder:

  • What took them so long? We have just spent a year crawling through a veritable desert, parched for information on Legion, chasing after mirages. A weekly scheduled communication such as this would have made that whole time easier on many of us.
  • How much of what is disclosed in these weekly interviews can we rely on? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Blizz’s history is of telling players whatever is necessary to just shut us up, then feeling completely free to do whatever the hell they want, even if it is exactly opposite of what they said they were going to do. Remember “WoD flying will be in Patch 6.1” and “Garrisons will be completely optional”? As Watcher himself said yesterday, actions speak louder than words, and Blizz’s actions for the past couple of years have not been very reliable.
  • What is the schedule for the rest of the interviews? While we know that next week’s will be on professions, and that there will be one on PvP, it would be nice to have a schedule of what is planned for the next few weeks.
  • How long will they last? Blizz has a history of fits and stops when it comes to regularly scheduled player communication and interaction.

With that, let me just comment on a few parts of the interview that made an impression on me.

First, I liked the format. Not only did Hazzikostas answer actual player questions, but Josh Allen kept it moving so that they covered a lot of ground and answered questions on a wide range of topics. I also like the idea that each week from now on there will be a theme, addressed by devs other than Hazzikostas. Assuming these interviews keep occurring on a regular basis, this is a very positive step by Blizz. I hope they do not stop them just because Legion has launched, because such sessions give players a sense that Blizz is listening to their concerns, even if maybe they might disagree with player sentiment on a particular issue.

Second, I came away with the distinct impression that the next expansion will see even more sweeping changes to classes than we saw for WoD and will see for Legion. I base this on Hazzikostas’s comment that they are looking at the entire combat system, that stat squishes are only a band-aid solution to the system’s problems, and that he thinks there are much better ways to design a combat system. Of course, I have no idea what the specifics of a redesign may entail, but it could be so radical as to include such things as the elimination of secondary stats and maybe even primary stats, introduction of a “one size fits all” power metric that changes dynamically with the needs of each class, or who knows what. One thing is sure, though — any change to the combat system will mean mega-changes to classes. (Hopefully to all classes next time, not just hunters and one or two selected dumpee classes…)

Third, I was ever so slightly encouraged that obtaining and leveling artifact weapons will not be so onerous as to effectively preclude attempting it on alts or for secondary specs. Hazzikostas said that the plan is that the rate at which artifact weapons can be leveled will increase as the expansion goes on. This is so that players coming into the expansion late will not feel it is hopeless to try to catch up, as well as to help people with alts feel like artifact talent trees are worth pursuing. It remains to be seen if the change is noticeable to humans or if it turns out to be merely a numeric change that on paper “proves” the leveling rate is faster.

Fourth, I was gratified to hear him say that Legion will be the most “alt-friendly” expansion in some time. Whether or not I believe him, it was at least good to hear that Blizz understands there is player concern about the viability of the alt play style. As someone who enjoys playing alts, especially towards the end of an expansion, I want to believe him, although the trend over the last couple of expansions has been the opposite. Still, we are at heart creatures of hope and I am at heart extremely gullible…

Fifth, as I have predicted all along (sorry to be an insufferable I-told-you-so), flying will not be achievable until well into the expansion. Hazzikostas said it will be in the “middle” of the expansion, and since they are now aiming for 2-year expansions, that means we will not see it until probably summer of 2017.

As an aside, there is a truly awesome item in the beta — and I hope it makes it to live — that really addresses some of the annoying aspects to being ground-bound. It is the Flight Master’s Whistle, which allows you to summon a sort of taxi from the nearest flight point. It will pick you up anywhere you are in the boonies of Broken Isles and transport you immediately to the nearest FP. It has only a  five-minute cooldown, and it is one of the most fantastic toys I have seen in a while. It is currently a reward for attaining Friendly rep with all 4 Broken Isles factions, but in my opinion, Blizz could get a lot of player goodwill by making it more less of a giveaway, easy for all players to get.

Sixth, personal loot changes will allow trading of personal loot if it is not an upgrade for the player getting it. This is a terrific idea, and in my opinion it should make PL the defacto best choice in most circumstances, if for no other reason than that it pretty much eliminates loot drama.

Seventh, there was a discussion of the reasoning behind making Blood of Sargeras BoP. A couple of comments gave me pause. One was Hazzikostas’s rather bland assertion that essentially having one gathering and one crafting profession is the way you should play, and that gathering has been undervalued. As if it Blizz had nothing to do with making gathering professions irrelevant in WoD, as if it was just misguided player choice that caused people to give them up.  Having encouraged people to abandon gathering professions in WoD, now you are reversing yourselves completely and making them almost compulsory, and on top of that you are tsk-tsking players for not making the “right” choice for professions? Shame. (Insert George Orwell’s Animal Farm reference here: “Two legs good, four legs bad.”)

The other thing that struck me about the BoS BoP subject ion the interview was the comment that having critical mats BoP gives “market power” to the crafter. In my experience, this is just not true, because very shortly into an expansion there are always crafters who consider BoP mats to have no cost, even if accumulating them takes weeks, so they quickly begin selling crafted items at vastly undervalued prices. I do not usually rely on selling crafted items to make gold, so honestly if I can buy something cheaply that it would take me weeks or months to craft, I will do so. But I don’t think the “market power” argument holds much water.

Last, I continue to be thunderstruck at Hazzikostas’s insistence that RNG-awarded gear is more fun than gear you actually work at to get, like valor or rep-related gear. Is it fun to be surprised when you get it? Yes, but listen to me, Ion:

Seeing gear drop to seemingly everyone but you time after time after time is not fun, it is demoralizing. Knowing there is nothing you can do about it besides repeating the demoralizing process for god knows how long is not fun, it is annoyingly Sisyphean. Hearing others complain about how awful it is to keep getting Awesome Boots, when you have been trying for them for months, is not fun, it is enraging.

And, in an exasperating leap of logic, he went on to comment about how RNG loot was bad for PvP players in WoD — the implication being it was good for all other players — because “ratings were so gear-dependent”. Oh, the horror for those poor PvP players, to have to depend on RNG for their gear like the rest of us. Boo. Freaking. Hoo. As if gear dependency didn’t exist for PvE players for activities like getting into raid groups. As if RNG-awarded tier gear wasn’t necessary to properly play some classes and specs.

There were quite a few other subjects discussed, but these were the ones that most made me sit up and take notice. These interviews are a great idea — if not especially original in the world of communications — and I really hope Blizz does not abandon them as they have virtually every other scheduled player interaction in recent years.

I am off to start my weekend. You enjoy yours.

Of loot and Comcast

This will be a fairly short post, due to circumstances beyond my control. For several days now, Comcast has had lots of sporadic internet service problems, to the point where I never know if there will be service or not. Today it has been even worse, so I will try to minimize my annoyance meter by making this post fairly short.

Quick topic for today is that when 6.2 goes live, the great group loot vs personal loot debate should be over for all but the most hardcore raiding guilds. Yes, folks, we have it officially from Blizz:

We don’t usually provide exact drop percentages, and we’re still tweaking the bonus when using Personal Loot in 6.2, but I can say that objectively:

More items will drop on average for a raid using 6.2 Personal Loot than would have dropped using 6.0/6.1 Personal Loot.
More items will drop on average for a raid using 6.2 Personal Loot than would drop for that raid using any form of Group Loot (Master, Need/Greed, etc.).

A few months ago I wrote about group vs personal loot, and my conclusion was that, for what I called “guild pugs”, the best choice for loot was probably personal loot. It offered a lot of advantages, but the chief one was that it eliminated drama.

It looks like in 6.2 that conclusion will hold even more. The announced loot change should make all but top level guilds, who pay attention to even tiny team gearing advantages, move to personal loot as their usual configuration. True, there may be rare times when a run of the mill raid team will set group loot, but as far as I can see most of the time personal loot will offer far more benefits.

It will be interesting to see if groups in Raid Finder change to mostly personal loot in 6.2, or if they remain almost exclusively group loot as they do now.

It will also be interesting to see if the increased drop rates apply to bonus rolls also.

Gone, of course, will be the times when the RNG gods smile upon the team and shower everyone with personal loot, but on the flip side gone also will be the times when no one gets any loot on personal. In spite of the fact that there is still a lot wrong with the entire loot system, I think this announcement is a positive step in the right direction.

Everyone be safe this Memorial Day weekend, and please take some time to remember those who gave everything to guarantee us our peace and freedom.

Raid finder and things I don’t understand

Last night I had some extra time on my hands and realized it has been almost a month since I really played my main hunter. Our raid team is on break until 6.2, and I felt like I might be losing some hunter skills by not raiding. Plus I have had zero luck getting any tier gear beyond two pieces of the crappy LFR version. So I decided to try to get into a Heroic BRF.

What was I THINKING??? /headslap

Before I go into this long sordid tale, I will save you the effort of reading to the end: I never did get to the point of actually killing any bosses or even any trash mobs.

Let me state up front that I detest pugs. While I have done them on occasion, and while I have had a few good experiences with them, the overwhelming majority of them have ranged from “pretty bad” to “guided tour through Hell.”

At any rate, in my state of (hopefully) temporary insanity, I pulled up the Raid Finder, filtered on “BRF”, and commenced to scrolling through. This in itself is a frustrating exercise, for several reasons. First, there is no way to sort the list so that the most recent posts are listed first. In fact, I couldn’t see any pattern to how they are listed. So you may see the first entry was posted 43 minutes ago, then the next one one minute ago, then the next one 12 minutes ago, and so on. Generally if something was posted over 20 minutes ago, it is a safe bet they are no longer looking for anyone, but the RL just didn’t remove the listing. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a raid, you have to scroll all the way through to see what is available, by which time every listing will be outdated.

Second, it is both amusing and frustrating to read through all the conditions RLs feel they must put into their listings. (This also takes up lots more time which makes going through the list even longer.) I found that the longer the list of conditions, the more ridiculous they were.

 Fresh H BRF. Full clear, don’t sign up if you can’t stay for all. Guild alt run. RL is 9/10 M BRF. Need dps. AotC priority. Know fights, don’t suck, under 30k dps=kicked. ML MS>OS, BoE reserved for guild bank. Carrying warrior, all druid gear reserved, [Big Shiny Mage Staff] reserved.

Level required: 680

etcetera

Well, gosh, who wouldn’t jump at a chance like that? Help them carry their alts, get a big ole ration of attitude, and probably get zero gear. Whoopie!

I have never really understood dps numbers. Damage per second is just that — per second. It changes every second. There are a large number of variables involved, not the least of which are type of fight and your role in the fight (special raid tasks almost always lessen your damage). Yes, you can average the numbers over the course of one fight, or one entire raid, but the variables still impact that.

When RLs require a certain dps number, I am never sure what they are asking for. My hunter sometimes has huge dps numbers, for example on AoE fights or when I get very lucky with procs. Sometimes the numbers seem low, for example on onesie-twosie trash mobs that die quickly, or for a boss that has a lot of adds I am required to kill (thus rapidly switching targets, not my best thing), or because I got a sneezing fit in the middle of the fight.

So I find arrogant announcements of dps requirements stupid and off-putting. A good RL knows if you are performing well or if you are performing poorly given all the factors, and some arbitrary dps threshold is usually not the best way to ensure good performance.

I also don’t understand the concept of MS>OS for non-hybrid classes. Especially now that secondary stats play such a pivotal role. Prior to 6.0, for example, a hunter was a hunter, no matter what the spec. If you rolled on a piece of agility mail and got it, that was pretty much your gear drop for the night. You couldn’t roll on a piece for off spec because there was really no such thing as off spec for hunters, rogues, locks, mages, etc.

But I think secondary stats have changed that, or at least they should have changed it. There really is a big difference between mastery and multistrike for a hunter. (Currently — whether that distinction will count as much in 6.2 remains to be seen.) Same is true of other non-hybrid classes. Whether any given RL realizes this us anyone’s guess, though.

Secondary stats might have also changed the concept of “upgrades.” I don’t run with a guild that uses Loot Council, but I wonder if most LCs take secondary stats into consideration when they consider the upgrade factor.

Similarly, with the 3-item restriction on crafted gear, loot that appears to be the same level and have the same stats as a piece of crafted gear could actually be a significant upgrade to a player, since it might allow them to equip a piece of crafted gear in a different slot that would be a big upgrade.

With all the secondary stat and crafted gear and tier piece factors, I really don’t understand hard and fast rules on ilevel any more. For example, if I just equipped my highest level gear on my main hunter, I would have an ilevel approaching 690. But it would be worse gear than the 679 set I am wearing. (Thanks to my inability to get any tier pieces beyond LFR level, and thanks to my bad luck on secondary stats.)

So should I go ahead and try to sign up for raids that require 680 ilevel? I am sure some RLs would consider I was close enough for them to try out anyway, but my experience last night was that I got declined for every raid (maybe 10 or so) that had a 680 requirement, even if I put a short gear explanation in the comments section.

Back to the Raid Finder. One other very frustrating “feature” is that it does not show you the class composition of the raid members. It shows number of tanks/healers/dps, but not classes. Twice last night I got accepted for a raid but once I got in I saw there were way too many hunters to give me any decent chance at tier gear, given the apparently universal preference for group loot. On one team there were already 3 hunters and on the other there were already 4! I didn’t want to be a jerk about leaving these teams once I found out the composition, so I said something like “Looks like you already have plenty of hunters, so I’ll bow out to give them a better chance at gear. Good luck and have fun!” But I shouldn’t have had to do this — the Raid Finder should have shown me this in advance.

I was surprised that Raid Finder is so cumbersome. I have used it in the past to find world boss groups, apexis groups, garrison groups, rep groups, etc., and I was very happy with it. But — due to my hatred of pugs — I had not used it to look for an actual raid group.

So I ended up spending a couple of hours trying to get into a raid and not getting into a single one. I know Blizz loves to hype this as a big feature that has made life easier for players, but I found it to be enormously annoying and time wasting. It is useful for RLs, because there is basically no burden for them to list their raid. And it is useful for one-off groups. But for someone trying to find a raid, it is overwhelmingly bad.