So many questions, so little time

Looking back over my education, I think the single most important skill I learned was to ask questions. The Jesuits who schooled me were big believers in the Socratic Method, so we were not only encouraged but required to ask questions as part of every learning process. Sure, fractions and Shakespeare and the date of the Magna Carta and the underpinnings of an agrarian economy are all good to know. But when it comes right down to it, asking the right questions at the right time of the right people has saved my bacon in life more times than I can count.

So today I have been thinking about Patch 8.x. Yes, I know we are not even a year into Legion, and the hints from Blizz are that we have a lot of time left to experience it (my bet at the start was that we are looking at Legion being with us for very close to 3 years). Still, I feel like speculating a bit, in the form of a series of questions.

Location.

  • Is the 7.3 excursion to Argus a prelude to the next expansion, or is it just that — a one-off adventure?
  • Will we ever see the other side of Azeroth? Is there an other side?
  • What if any lessons did Blizz learn about time-travel worlds like Draenor and underwater zones like Vashj’ir? This is less a question than it is a hope — I hope they learned both these ideas were big mistakes.
  • Will Blizz expand its recent trend of making classic parts of Azeroth relevant to current game play? 

Stats.

  • What will be the nature of the next stat squish? I think a dev mentioned that much of the code has been rewritten to accommodate very large numbers now, it still is cumbersome for humans to speak of character health in the millions and boss health in the billions, for example. What about ilevel? Very soon even in Legion we will break break into 4-digit ilevels. Will secondary stats and damage/healing numbers be squished in 8.x?
  • Will stats be simplified in the next expansion? What is the official Blizz view of the complexity of stats in Legion? Do they understand the frustration of players when a higher level piece of gear is not an upgrade? Are they happy with the proliferation of web sites and apps designed to do the intricate math necessary to determine a piece of gear’s worth to a player? 

Quest hubs and population centers.

  • Will we see new faction capitals? Blizz seems — both in WoD and Legion — to have concluded that faction capital cities are too resource-intensive to justify them. If Sanctuary Cities are the norm for the foreseeable future, will we see more of them in Horde areas, with Horde racial architecture?
  • What has Blizz learned about the garrison concept? It was innovative but not well liked in WoD, and it was extended — as Class Halls — in Legion. Is this idea now a core game mechanic going forward? Will we see the concept applied as guild halls in 8.x?  More wishful thinking on that last one, I am afraid.
  • Why is Blizz so dead set against player housing? This is really more of a pet peeve question and not so much of an insightful one about the next expansion. Certainly the technology is there — that was proven with garrisons, and with Sunsong Ranch before that. And there is player demand for it, though I am not sure how much. Yet Blizz steadfastly refuses to do it, citing from time to time the “war footing” nature of the game as being antithetical to cozy homesteading. My own opinion, completely biased, is that there is a culture at Blizz that insists WoW is a “hardcore” game, and to give players housing is just too girly and frilly for them to contemplate. They put it in the same category as playing house or cutting out paper dolls, and that would destroy the manly studly war aspect of the game. (Yeah, yeah, let the hate mail begin. But deep down you know I am right.)

Class development.

  • Will there be another major rewrite of classes in 8.x?
  • What is Blizz’s long range vision of class roles and balance? Are they on a path to achieve this, or do they have none and merely make change for change’s sake each expansion?
  • And the big question: Can Blizz stop screwing with hunters for at least one expansion? (Sarcasm flag.)
  • Will we see the pendulum swing once again towards class-provide raid buffs?

Gear.

  • Is the concept of artifact gear a one-and-out for Legion, as Blizz has claimed? 
  • Are there any big contemplated gear changes in 8.x, for example cutting the number of gear slots, maybe by eliminating necks and rings?
  • Will we see some sort of non-RNG mechanism for getting gear in 8.x?
  • After the debacle of legendaries in Legion, what is the future of legendaries going forward? Will we return to a single long-questline legendary, or have we crossed a line and henceforward they will fall like candy?

Miscellaneous.

  • Is Blizz happy with the complexity level of the game now? If not, in which direction do they think it should go?
  • Are there in-game advertisements in the works? Tie-ins with other Activision franchises, such as the King line of games?
  • What is the future for professions? Will we see them get less relevant and more complex, or will we see some semblance of a return to their classic role? Will Blizz move towards a Final Fantasy approach? Are they indeed an integral part of the game’s economy, or would it be possible to eliminate them altogether?
  • Will alt play remain viable in 8.x? It is narrowly so in Legion, but Blizz’s clear preference is for players to have very limited number of alts.
  • Are there significant quality of life improvements in store for 8.x? Off hand, I can think of a few: account-wide banking, better group finder interface, unlimited quest log, *coughplayerhousingcough*, removal of that ridiculous talent-changing tome requirement, improving exit process from caves once a quest is completed, increasing the number of stable slots for hunter pets, adding mythic dungeons to the auto-group finder, probably lots more.
  • Will Blizz help to make the role of guilds more robust? Like alt play, the trend since mid-Mists has been to make guilds less and less relevant, with the removal of most guild perks and advantages to guild membership.
  • With the apparent advent of interplanetary travel, will we eventually see honest-to-goodness actual working space ship “mounts”? Will space actually be a working environment — like an underwater area only without water — or just more of an abstract concept?
  • What will be the eternal-grind mechanism of 8.x? Because we know there will be one, just a matter of how Blizz repackages AP (like they repackaged garrisons into class halls).

And last but certainly not least:

Will we get a concept of the next expansion at Blizzcon this year?

What questions do you have?

A place for us

A couple of disconnected blogs I recently read got me to thinking about the human need to feel at home, an innate need identified and studied by psychologists, behaviorists, architects, interior designers, novelists, retailers — the list goes on and on. Think back to your Psych 101 class and you will recall this need is so basic it was identified by Maslow in his Hierarchy. (I suppose there are psychologists who take issue with Maslow’s work, but it always made sense to me. If you were not paying attention in Psych 101, you can get the gist of his theory in this totally unofficial Wikipedia article.)

The first blog I read that started me on this chain of thought was Matthew Rossi’s regular Blizzard Watch Q&A from yesterday. One of the questions was from someone complaining that the Blizz crossover promotion between Heroes of the Storm and WoW was ruining HotS for him, because there were all these scrubs jumping in and being stupid about how they played.

I have never played HotS, never intend to play it, and getting some big old ugly chunk of 1’s and 0’s to ride in WoW does not make me want to try playing it. But I can sympathize with the questioner. Remember back in Mists when everyone had to win some number of PvP battlegrounds as part of the quest line for the legendary cloak? (Now that’s when legendaries meant something! And you kids get off my grass!) Anyway, I always thought this was a terrible idea — the regular PvPers hated amateurs coming in and ignorantly screwing up established tactics, and the non-PvPers resented having to be there doing something they had no interest in learning or ever doing again.

Here was a prime example of Blizz deliberately messing with the basic human need to feel at home. The regular PvPers felt their space had been invaded by ignorant and clueless strangers — like when your in-laws suddenly show up at your door — and the non-PvPers were thrust into a situation where they did not know the rules of behavior or the terrain or how to interact with others. Neither group felt at home. It was a guaranteed lose-lose situation.

Now, I suppose Blizz did it because having a robust PvP play option attracts more people to the game, and maybe they were losing these kinds of players so they thought if more people tried PvP they would actually like it, thereby increasing this aspect of the game. I have no idea how it turned out, probably some players did in fact decide PvP was kind of fun. No matter. The point I am trying to make here is almost everyone involved in this activity at the time disliked it. Why did they dislike it? Because suddenly a part of the comfortable little niche they had made for themselves in the game was gone.

I would argue that much of the angst we players express with Blizz is due to the sudden removal of some aspect of the game we have come to feel at home with, in the Maslow sense. This is deeper than just stodgy old players uncomfortable with change, this is akin to having your home destroyed by a tornado. More than once.

Each of us defines the central aspect of WoW differently, or to put it another way, we each establish for ourselves what we believe to be our “home core” in the game. We may not even know that we do this, and we might be hard put to describe what that core is, but it is there for all of us. When that core is shaken or demolished, especially if it seems to happen frequently, then we start hollering. This I think is why the hunter changes of the last two expansions have seemed so heinous to me — prior to WoD, I doubt if I would have defined being a hunter as the home core of my game, but when Blizz began to demolish first the SV spec and later the entire hunter experience, suddenly I realized the very foundation of my game enjoyment had been removed. I was left to find another home core or rebuild on the old one. For humans, both these situations are difficult, just ask Maslow.

Which brings me to the other blog that got me thinking along these lines — a piece by Bhagpuss over at Inventory Full on player housing and the dilemma MMOs face on the subject. The quick summary is that there likely is a Goldilocks solution as to whether or not to have player housing and if so how much or little it should affect the game, but that this solution is difficult for most game makers to arrive at. In fact, recent history for MMOs shows that few companies have succeeded.

As some of you may know, I favor the idea of player housing. I really liked my little Sunsong Ranch home. In fact I still go back there every couple of weeks, just as a place to log off from, with a cozy bed and a bubbling pot of stew on the stove. It gives me a peaceful feeling of being at home, of taking off my boots and warming my tired feet by the stove, anticipating supper and reflecting on the day’s adventures.

If we had had just a few opportunities to customize that space — beyond becoming bff’s with whoever that was that decorated it for us — Sunsong Ranch would have been close to perfect as player housing in my opinion. It was completely optional, it did not in any way affect your game play beyond the initial zone quest sets, and it was instanced so that it was really just your own.But Blizz took this notion of an instanced individual space and made it into a monster in WoD in the form of garrisons, and into an annoyance in Legion in the form of class halls.

Anyway, my point is not to rehash all the problems with garrisons or class halls. (However, for crying out loud, can we get a lousy place to sit and maybe be able to buy a beer in the hunter hall??) My point is that some players — maybe even a lot of players, who knows  — really enjoy having a small space of their own, a place they can call home, even in a computer game. And Blizz has demonstrated they have the technology. The garrison technology was great — an individual instance that you could invite groups to, a few chances to do limited customization — it was just the typical Blizz overreaction that made it bad by requiring every player to have one and to develop it and make it the central jumping off point for an entire expansion, and by offering amenities like a bank and an auction house and portals so that you never had to leave it.

Maybe if Blizz gave us some decent optional and limited player housing — a place of our own — we would not be so quick to yell at them when they make huge changes to our class play style or professions or gear. No matter what they did , we could still come home at the end of a long day questing or raiding, kick off our muddy boots and put our feet up by a nice fire, and feel at home.

Maybe Blizz should dig out their old Psych 101 textbook. It might make them realize that always screwing with core player engagements like class and spec identity is more disruptive than it is helpful, and that maybe if they were to let us have a tiny space of our own in the game we might be happier. Just a thought.

Hither and thither

I feel kind of untethered when I log on to WoW these days. It’s both a good and a bad feeling. Good, because I have the freedom to do whatever I feel like doing on any character. Bad, because in the back of my brain there is this gnawing worry that I should be doing something organized and constructive in preparation for Legion, even though I know it is still months away. I suppose the feeling is just the price I pay for being a compulsive planner.

Completely off topic, but I love archaic English terms like hither and thither. They are a reminder of a time when the language was  quite prescriptive. Hither and thither were the motion equivalents of here and there. “Here I stand,” but “Come hither.” Or, “We wandered hither and thither, no destination in mind.”

Don’t get me wrong,  I love that English today is so malleable, I love the rapidity with which linguistic constructs appear and disappear. But archaic English gives us an intriguing look into the things our ancestors thought important enough to be linguistically precise about. Similarly, the things modern English is precise about today certainly reflect what is important in modern life.

There must somewhere be a PhD dissertation on this subject, I am going to look it up.

(If you have not guessed, this post will be pretty disjointed. I will wander hither and thither, stopping briefly here and there.)

I’ve become more appreciative of my garrison lately. I have remedied Blizz’s poor housing plan by commandeering the gardener’s cottage. I just wish I could put up a sign to that effect, it might keep the riffraff out. Still, it is a cozy place to retire for the night. Also, it is close to the fishing pond and a great view of the ocean. Consequently, I am doing a bit more fishing on all my alts, either as a way to pass the time while waiting for a queue to pop, or just as a relaxing activity while I listen to music.

I keep thinking soon I will not have a nice tidy place to call my own, that I will be expected to bunk with a bunch of smelly hunters or depressingly dark warlocks with their yammering minions. I know we will keep our garrisons, I just hope Blizz lets us also keep our garrison hearthstone so that we can easily get there. I will be annoyed if instead of the hearthstone they replace it with something like a portal in a capitol city.

(I would make yet another plea here for true player housing, but I think it is a lost cause.)

One of the things I just noticed as I was going about some basic garrison chores is the actual contents of the garrison resources pile. When you empty it, you get a quick glimpse of the inside of the bottom box, and it is — a box of rocks. Two, to be exact, two big old building stones. Which makes me wonder — what is  being built these days? Certainly nothing in my garrison. I am beginning to suspect one or more of my employees is dealing garrison rocks on the black market. Note to self: look into this.

I’ve been spending some time with my lock and my druid lately. I am to the point where I can bring my lock to our weekly alt runs, and I think I will start doing so. My main has nothing more to gain from normal HFC, and we always have a ton of hunters anyway.

I decided to pursue the ring on my druid, so I am just at the first abrogator stone (125) collection stage. Which means running the tier 1 raid — tedious. Though I am still a novice at resto druid healing, I find I enjoy it. There are so many instant heals that it almost feels like the hunter of healers because of the mobility. I finally overcame my phobia about 5-man healing on it and easily healed all the dungeons you have to run in the initial stages of the ring quests.

From what I read of balance druids in Legion, I think that also may be a viable spec. It seems clunky to me in WoD, but it is the spec I use for Tanaan dailies — would be good if resto had more than 2 offensive spells. Still, I am enjoying the class.

In terms of gold, I am frantically trying to make hay while the sun shines, to use one of my gramma’s favorite expressions. I think as soon as we get the Legion pre-event, the gold will stop flowing from our garrisons. Also, at that point very few will be interested in buying WoD mats, gizmos, or crafted gear. So I am dumping everything I can now, including whatever I can make with the hundreds of cd mats I have for every profession. I have outfitted a few guildie alts with crafted pieces, donated some still-useful stuff to the guild bank, am selling what I can on the AH or DE-ing it to sell the mats, and vendoring everything else. The gold crash is coming, and I don’t want to be caught with an inventory I can no longer move for more than a few coppers.

I still have to figure out the best disposition of the 200+ pieces of BoA Baleful gear in my banker’s bank. Suggestions are welcome.

Well, I warned you this would be kind of disjointed. It’s my birthday, and I am taking the rest of the day off. I think I saw the spousal unit sneaking a brightly wrapped box into the house, of a size to perfectly accommodate a cool electronic gadget. My inner child is hopping up and down with anticipation! (Watch it turn out to be a handheld mixer or knife sharpener, I will kill him.)

Sunsong swan song

“You can’t go home again,” so said Thomas Wolfe. Last week I decided to test that philosophy by returning to Sunsong Ranch on each of my characters. The experience has made for kind of an interesting study in economics as well as in psychology (mine — ymmv).

It was my new rogue that gave me the idea. I boosted him once I got to level 60, so I have been going back and doing some of the 60-100 level pieces he missed out on. Just the fun or required ones, not all of them. And one of the ones I consider fun is the whole Tillers/Sunsong Ranch series. I have done it now on 9 characters (only part way done on the rogue), and I never tire of it. Which is strange, because I am not usually one who likes — or even tolerates — repeating content. But something about the whole Tillers and farm saga fascinates me. I even actually enjoy spending hours searching for those little dirt mounds to find gifts for the eternally needy Tiller clan. I love it when I finally become Best Friends with Tina, and my barn of a ranch house becomes a cozy retreat. I like working through the quests to where I actually own it and can set my hearthstone to it. (Although that huge book lying open on the floor does offend my sense of tidiness, I keep wanting to pick it up and put it on a shelf.) I am delighted when I get my own mailbox, and my orange tree, chickens, dog, cat, everything.

Anyway, as I was working my way through the series on my rogue, I decided to have each of my characters go back, dust off the agricultural equipment, get rid of the crops that had been rotting in the fields for lo these many months, and make the place a working farm again. I had no idea what I might plant, or if I would be able to do anything but vendor the stuff once harvested, but still I thought I would give it a try.

It has been fun, in a nostalgic sort of way. Some things, like Golden Lotus and Motes/Spirits of Harmony,  do still actually sell on my server’s auction house. Not for great sums, but for a few gold. I am amazed people still buy them, but they do.

I couldn’t help but compare my feelings upon returning to Sunsong to my feelings for my garrison. Strangely, and in spite of the fact that I have spent much, much more time working my garrison than I ever did working Sunsong, I find I have zero emotional ties to the garrison. But as soon as I went back to Sunsong, saw all my animals happily doing their thing in the farm yard, and saw that cozy bed and bubbling pot in the house, I actually felt like I had come home after a long trip. Nothing before or since Sunsong has given me that feeling in the game. And I know with absolute certainty that I will not get that feeling from Legion’s Class Halls.

Why is it that Blizz stubbornly refuses to give us player housing? Sunsong demonstrated that they have the technical wherewithal to do it, garrisons demonstrated that they can make individual instances at least somewhat player-customizable. Surely the devs cannot be such soulless automatons that they do not feel the universal pull all humans have for a place of their own? As complex as they made garrisons, why did they not give us a small place inside them to call home? Everybody but the commander has their own place in the garrison, from the troops’ barracks to the gardener’s cottage, for crying out loud! And in Legion, they expect us to live with a bunch of smelly hunters or holier-than-thou priests or keep-your-hand-on-your-wallet rogues?? It’s not the same.

I am poking fun, but truly it is a serious question that I would love to have answered. What is the real reason Blizz digs in their heels and refuses to give us player housing? I want the actual reason, not some horse hockey about “We are at war, and no one gets to enjoy the comforts of home while it is so.” Does Blizz feel like adding player housing takes away from the hard-gamer illusion they have of the game? (Because, if so, then those ridiculous foofoo pet battles should never have been introduced. Real gamers don’t raise fighting poodles.) Is there some insurmountable technical problem with player housing? If so, I would like to hear it, and maybe in that case the Blizz devs could go take a training session from someone like the Wildstar devs who have figured it out.

After all Blizz has put me through with the disaster that was WoD, after they successfully and completely destroyed the one class I loved to play, after they managed to make raiding largely inaccessible to a large group of casual players, after they forced thousands of us to grovel and beg for weeks to reinstitute flying, they owe me!

I want player housing, dammit! I want to be able to go home at the end of the night. I want to have a place that I don’t share with every nutcase trade chat denizen on the server. Virtual or real, people yearn for their own private space. Why can’t you understand that, Blizz? More to the point, why can’t you do it?

See, I think Thomas Wolfe was wrong. I think you can go home again. But you have to have a home to go to. Sunsong taught me that.

 

 

 

It’s the little things

Yesterday and over the weekend I played WoW quite a bit (spousal unit is out of town). And my conclusion: it’s still a fascinating, fun game. Who knew? More importantly, why did I enjoy it so much the last couple of days, when for almost the past year it has seemed like an August slog through a mosquito-infested Louisiana swamp? I’ve thought about this quite a lot, and I think I’ve come up with some reasons.

First, through a bit of phenomenonal — for me — luck, I finished my legendary ring on my mistweaver. Last Tuesday I needed 9 more tomes, and wonder of wonders I got them in just 10 bosses. This in itself was pretty impressive, since I had been averaging about a 50% drop rate for the first 24. So I was really happy when I finished that part of the final stretch. But I was nowhere near finishing the shipyard portion of it. I was not close to the level 3 shipyard, and I was a couple of weeks out from getting the necessary Tanaan rep to circumvent the need for a carrier by substituting Unsinkable gear. Which meant that as soon as the final Master and Commander quest popped, I would be stuck, no chance of successfully completing it. Which in turn meant a long slow grind to get to where I could actually complete it.

Well, long story short, the final quest popped, the best I could manage was a predicted success of 81%, and I just said what the heck and went with it, no unsinkable, no carrier, just damn the torpedoes full speed ahead.

It worked. For once the RNG gods smiled on me, and I got the quest item. Finished up the other minutiae for the ring and did my happy panda dance.

I was absurdly happy about this. Not because of the ring — as I have said before its design makes it not worth putting any effort into getting it. I was happy because for once in this game, after almost a year of really really bad luck, I finally got a break. I was not broken, demoralized, and mentally exhausted by the time I finally reached a goal. I was actually energized to spend more time playing, because it was suddenly fun again.

This is the thing Blizz completely fails to understand about the wholesale crap shoot approach they have implemented for nearly every aspect of the game: repeated failure in reaching a goal, whether that is gear or something else, does not make people keep coming back. It grinds them down, they almost dread playing because they feel like they are doomed to endless disappointment. No one likes all their game outcomes to be solely at the mercy of chance. People like it when their actions have a direct result on the outcome of an endeavor. They do not like it when they feel like no matter what they do, they have no control over a result. Winning is more fun than losing, and there needs to be a safety net that prevents continuous losing due solely to bad luck. 

The second thing that contributed to my fun was the new garrison holiday decorations. Players have been asking Blizz for years for a space of their own that they can personalize. Lots of us hoped that garrisons would be that space, but we were sadly disappointed, and Blizz’s attempts at personalization have been downright dismal. Those stupid monument pedestals for weird achievements? Please. Jukeboxes? Spend hours — on every alt — chasing down multiple tracks of elevator music and hoping again for random drops, nope, not  my idea of personalization and definitely not my idea of a fun way to play. Get a random drop of an archaeology trophy to place in a specified spot in a cold, bare, ugly room you never use? Still nope.

But something about the decorations I liked. For one thing, they are easy to get — a few minutes even on my squishiest alt gave me the necessary coin to get them. (This is the next best thing to making them account wide.) For another, they really do perk up the place. Even though I know that tens of thousands of garrisons on every server look the same, still for some reason I feel like I have done something to make my garrison my own. If there were more decorations I could get by doing dailies, I would be out chasing them. It is something I enjoy working for, it gives me the illusion that I am personalizing my own space.

Again, this is something Blizz completely refuses to understand. People like having some place to call their own, to make cozy and personal in whatever way that speaks to them. Yes, I am talking about player housing. But we are not even close. And Legion will take us even further away — I guarantee you I will not be interested in fixing up a class hall. Sadly, the closest we have come to player housing was probably the little house on Sunsong Ranch. 

But I suppose player housing has nothing to do with raiding and eSports and megabucks, so in Blizz’s mind screw it. God forbid it might “cost a raid tier”. (Still, and this is meant for you, Michael Morhaime, I bet it would increase the active play time for many…. Just sayin’, you know, in case you are interested in some bonuses come quarterly report time….)

So I had fun the last couple of days, and the reasons were small and unrelated to Blizz’s notion of a proper end game. It boils down to a sense of player control, not in the big things but in a few small things. The modern world is so vast and complex that many people feel they have little control, and they find their comfort in the small things they know they can influence — dinner, a garden or potted plant, posters or paint on the walls of a room, tattoos, purple hair, whatever. And this game — founded on the idea of social interaction and meant to offer a respite from all that we cannot control in the real world — needs to offer small and meaningful controls, safe havens, to all its players.

I had fun this weekend, and I think I know why. Too bad Blizz neither understands nor cares about those reasons.

Closet cleaning time

It’s reset day and extended maintenance to boot, so seems like a good time once again to clean out my drafts folder — ideas for posts that never really went anywhere but seemed too prom using to throw out.

WoW World Records. I always thought it would be kind of fun to have an online WoW-flavored version of the Guinness Book of World Records. It would not involve anything that Blizz already tracks, like number of honorable kills, or achievements, or number of fish caught, etc. Instead, it would be about stupid things, like Most Characters Crammed Into the Stormwind Dwarven District Fountain, Longest Fall From Which a Hunter Disengaged, Largest Gathering of [name some mount] in Azeroth, Largest Gathering of Characters above level 90 With “crappy” in Their Name, and so forth.

Ideally, this would be sanctioned by Blizz, but that would require resources they certainly are not willing to spare. So it might be possible for an outside group to take on the admin of the project — set up the website, be the clearing house for what kinds of records would be published, certify results, etc.

Player housing. What exactly is so technically difficult about player housing that Blizz refuses to implement it? It has been a popular request for some years now. Other online games do it. Blizz’s experience with garrisons certainly was proof of concept — a separate personal instance for each player. So why do they refuse to do it? Why instead do they give us group housing in the form of Class Halls — where was the player demand for this? They owe us an explanation as to why they are digging in their heels on player housing. (I personally suspect some exec at Blizz — possibly the same one who threw a tantrum over “immersion” — thinks it is “unacceptable” play and so we will never have it.) Come on, Blizz, for once just tell us the real reason.

Gear catch-up mechanism in WoD is an epic fail. I am not sure what was wrong with the gear catch-up process on Timeless Isle that caused Blizz to change it to the dreadful and frustrating baleful/apexis system. Another example of Blizz disastrously fixing something that was not broken, something players liked, something that was fun and useful, something that actually worked as intended. Why is all baleful gear not BoA, as the Timeless gear was? Why is it so damn random on secondary stats?

If the Blizz reasoning is that making it BoA means people will not take their alts out into the world, this is stupid. If I thought my main could get gear for all my alts, I would spend hours grinding in T2. What does Blizz care whether my hours spent logged in are on my main or an alt — it all counts as active player time. And here’s a news flash — making the only BoA gear available through those annoying naval missions does not encourage me to use the shipyard.

And the randomness of the gear is something I have complained about for awhile. I am not going to spend 20k apexis crystals upgrading a piece of suboptimal gear. I am going to wait until I get the best “flavor” for my spec. But that could be a long wait. Let’s say I need a shoulder piece, and let’s say the drop rate of baleful gear in T2 is 20% (I think it is closer to 10% but what the heck). There are 12 possible gear slots and 15 possible stat combinations for each. That means my chances of getting the shoulder piece I need from a mob drop, and that I am willing to upgrade, are 1/5 x 1/12 x 1/15, or one in 900. That is at best. If the drop rate is 10%, the odds go up to one in 1800.

I might be willing to upgrade suboptimal pieces of Baleful gear if the cost were lower, say 5k apexis crystals. Then as I got better pieces it would be easy to upgrade those also. But at 20k all I am going to do is bank or vendor my suboptimal pieces and wait for that .05% – .1% lottery to hit. Consequently, I will not actually gear up my alts this way. Epic fail, Blizz.

Demon Hunter in Legion. I will almost certainly roll one of these and level it up, because I always like to try out new classes. But I would be much more excited about it if Blizz had shown some actual imagination in developing them. At the very least, they could have made a third, ranged, spec for them. To limit them to melee and tank seems just kind of creatively bankrupt on Blizz’s part. Most likely outcome for me is that I will roll one, level it, then ignore it for months until I eventually delete it. Like I did with my DK.

On the plus side, though, maybe with everyone rolling a DH, we will get more tanks willing to tank LFRs. Of course they will likely be crappy tanks, but at least there will be a lot of them.

Stormwind Park. It’s been years since Deathwing came through in his Really Bad Mood and destroyed it. Fix it, already!  Where are our city taxes going, anyhow? Personally think there should be an investigation of this, Varian Wrynn could be skimming the public funds.

What happened to the weather and other nice touches? A couple of days ago I jumped on the boat from Stormwind to Northrend, and thought I would roam around to pass the time on the trip. I am pretty sure in the past I could go below decks on this boat, and also buy some largely useless stuff from on board vendors. I guess I must not remember correctly, because if I ever could do such things, I can’t any more. Nope, that boat is basically a Potemkin ship, no way to go below deck, no vendors, just a flat 2-dimensional skiff.

And, now that I think of it, I rarely — maybe even never — see weather in Draenor. No rainstorms, no snow falling, no dust devils kicking up, no dynamic thunderclouds rolling in. Nothing. I loved the weather in Valley of the Four Winds in Mists, the way the clouds scudded across the sky, bringing sudden darkness and downpours, then the way the whole area brightened up when it was over. I thought that was a classy touch. Sadly, there is almost nothing I consider classy in Draenor.

Where would you live?

Since I try to think about this failed expansion as little as possible, I find myself more and more thinking about what I would like to see in the next one. Lately I have been thinking about player housing. It is in the top 5 things I would like to see in Patch 7.0. (The full list is something I am saving for another post.)

When I say player housing, I am talking about something in between — but better than — Sunsong Ranch and a Base of Military Operations. I am of the opinion that our current garrisons are Blizz’s response to previous requests for player housing. In typical Blizz fashion, they completely misunderstood what we were asking for. The Good Idea Fairy went berserk with the fairy dust at the dev meetings, and we ended up with such an over-the-top answer to player housing that they completely lost sight of, well, actual housing. I am not sure why the desire for a home to call one’s own is such a complicated thing for Blizz to understand. It is a basic thing nearly everyone wants IRL, and it is a thing that other games have figured out.

Anyway, here are some of my random ideas for player housing in the next expansion.

First, you would be allowed to pick any zone you want for your house. Want to go back to your humble beginnings and have a house in Elwynn Forest or Teldrassil or Dun Morogh or Azuremyst Isle? Go for it. Want to be a beach comber and have a shack on the beautiful endless beachfront in Krasarang Wilds? All yours. Are you a dark perverted person who shies away from sunshine and loves the shadows? Duskwood may be for you. City dweller? How about a nice place in Stormwind? You get the idea.

Second, you could pick the racial style for your house. After all, the idea is to feel at home, and nothing says at home more than a welcoming architecture. Along with the racial style, you could pick from a set list of color schemes, which would include several treatments of things like roof style, window and door casements, mailbox, front and back porches, etc. There would be enough possible combinations that your house would almost never look just like everyone else’s.

Third, you could decorate the inside of your house, which would by the way have something like 2-3 rooms, maybe an entryway, a bedroom, and a great room. You could collect and hang/display things like paintings and trophies. You could upgrade your furniture, maybe by recruiting an interior decorator follower, or maybe some of the professions could craft household items for sale in the AH. It would be possible to have a theme for your house interior, something like “Early fish camp” or “Pink foo-foo” or “Baroque bomb” or “Party central”.

Fourth, you would have a yard that you could configure. If your house was in a city, it would be a small yard, but if it was in the country somewhere it might be a bigger yard. Basically, the size would depend on the zone you picked. You would have options kind of like the current garrison building areas as to what you wanted to put in your yard. Maybe a garden would be one — flower or vegetable or meditation. A patio complete with seating and grill might be another. Or a pool area. Or maybe just plush grass, possibly with a pink flamingo option, would be another. There would be minor toy-like perks to each area, for example if you had a grill area you could actually click the grill and get some food, or click a side table and get some wine or beer, and your guests could do this also.

Fifth, you could invite others to your home, up to a large raid size (40). This would work basically like the current garrison invites work. But the purpose of the invites would be purely social, just to hang out or see others’ houses, or chat.

Sixth, your home would not be a base of operations, it would not be a quest hub. It would be a purely fun, resting, cosmetic place. As such, it would have a portal to wherever the current quest hub was, along with a separate home hearthstone like our garrisons have. If the hearthstone had a cooldown, there would also be some sort of “phone home” portal back to it in the quest hub. And you could get rested status from it, just like inns or garrisons.

Seventh, you would have the option to move. It would not be convenient or cheap, but if you decided you hated Stormwind and wanted to build a little place in the windswept sands of Uldum, you could do so, but it would cost you gold, and you could only take some of your personal things with you. You would mostly be starting over again with a new place.

I’m sure there are other things that would be great to have in player housing, but these are the ones that seem important to me off the top of my head.

Come on, Blizz, it’s time for real player housing.