Blood(s), sweat and tears

Today’s rant — yes, I regret to say that’s what it is — is about the most pernicious thing Blizz did to players in Legion: Blood of Sargeras. It is the mat that is the alt-killer and the profession-killer. It is, in fact, designed both to hold players back and to dictate which professions they must choose. It is possibly the most player-unfriendly mechanic ever devised by Blizz, far worse even than the hated Spirit of Harmony in Mists of Pandaria.

Let us review the “features” of Blood of Sargeras:

  • It is soulbound, Bind on Pickup.
  • You cannot collect it until you reach level 110.
  • It was designed to favor gathering professions, some way more than others.
  • You cannot even get it from gathering professions until you reach proficiency level 2 in them, and reaching this level is entirely RNG-dependent.
  • It is a required mat for many upper level crafted items as well as for the application of obliterum to raise the item level of crafted gear.
  • It is awarded, sporadically, in tiny puny numbers, from some world quests and loot chests.

The bottom line here is, any player wishing to craft items (gems, for example) for sale or even for donating to guildies, must have a significant stash of Bloods. Any character such as an alt using crafted gear as a way to gear up must have a freaking enormous stash of Bloods.

Yesterday I did a little experiment on two of my alts. One is a miner/JC and the other is an enchanter/engineer. Both are level 110 and both have the required proficiencies. In theory, according to the supercilious let-them-eat-cake Game Director and crafting devs, both mining and enchanting should yield Bloods.

Uh-huh. I spent 4 hours running mining routes on my miner, ending up with about 2-3 full stacks each of felslate and leystone ore. And four Bloods of Sargeras. Four. That’s right, about one per hour of nonstop mining. On my enchanter, I spent a similar amount of time running world quests for items to DE, and I also spent a tiny bit of time on my main crafting 30 items to send to my enchanter for DE. In all, I probably DE’ed something close to 60 items, for which I received a grand total of two Bloods.

I have no idea what the official Blood drop rate is for the various gathering professions and for DE, but my anecdotal evidence is that it seems all to be pretty much equal for all of them. Wowhead, which basically aggregates anecdotal drop rates for items and is thus not especially scientific, puts all the gathering professions (except fishing, which is abominable at like 0.2 percent) at single-digit Blood drop rates, generally between 2 and 7 percent. So on average, in theory, you should expect one Blood every 20 gathered items. My experience has been closer to 1 every 50, or 2 percent drop rate. But here’s the thing — my skinner can gather a buttload more leather in 10 minutes than my miner or herbalist can gather their items in hours. And my poor enchanter is even worse off.

Now let’s put this into perspective. If I wish to outfit one of these alts with semi-decent gear, the only real way to do it short of turning them into a main and running actual mythic dungeons and normal or higher raids, is to get them crafted armor and use obliterum to upgrade it to ilevel 900. Let’s say, just as a wild assumption, that in fact the alt has been amazingly lucky and gotten two legendaries and maybe a couple of 895-900 level titanforged pieces of loot from an emissary or world quest. That still leaves something like 6-8 pieces of crafted gear to upgrade. Let’s go the low end and say 6, and let’s say I have a main or other alts that could actually craft the gear and send it to them.

Upgrading 6 pieces of crafted gear requires 60 obliterum and 120 Bloods of Sargeras. My rich banker could theoretically buy the obliterum on the auction house, at a staggering cost of between 150,00-200,000 gold, given the current going rate on my server. But with the cost of gear nowadays, that is a real bargain for 6 pieces of gear.

Except an alt who actually needs crafted gear almost never has any possibility of accumulating 120 Bloods in anything resembling reasonable time. It would take months. On an alt that may be played a few hours a week, because hey it is an alt. By the time you spend enough time on an alt to accumulate 120 Bloods, you don’t need the crafted gear any more.

This angers me, mainly because Blizz played coyly cute with the whole crafted gear thing back when they announced Legion. They deliberately misled us by touting the fact that, unlike in WoD, in Legion we would be able to equip as many crafted armor items as we wished. Sorry, Blizz, this was a deliberate lie of omission, and it stinks.

And honestly, it would not be such a big thing to gear up an alt if Blizz had not designed Legion to ensure that gear is everything. You simply cannot play an alt to anything even close to its class potential unless it has high level gear.

Well, you may say, didn’t Blizz make Blood of Sargeras a vendor item in 7.2? Yeah, pretty much in the same way they bragged about equipping crafted gear. That is, they made the exchange rate between garrison resources and Bloods so high that by the time an alt can accumulate the needed number of resources, once again, they will be at the point where they probably do not need crafted gear any more. At 1000 resources per Blood (although you have to buy them 5 at a time), it takes 120,000 garrison resources on an alt to get enough Bloods to upgrade 6 pieces of gear. Not an insurmountable number, but also not something you can even approach for months on an alt.

And it is possible to transfer garrison resources from a main to an alt. But the cost, in my opinion, is prohibitive, in that it ends up being an 80% “tax” on Blood of Sargeras.  That is, you can use Bloods to buy garrison resources to send to an alt, who can in turn use the resources to buy Blood of Sargeras. But for example it would cost your main 100 Bloods to buy enough resources to enable your alt to buy 20 Bloods.

There are also little gizmos in the game that increase a character’s ability to gather Bloods. By far the easiest to get is the shoulder enchant from Wardens that once in a while will grant you 1-5 Bloods just from looting a mob. When I say once in a while, my experience has been that you might get this bundle once every 50-75 mobs. Of course, there are a couple of catches to getting this shoulder enchant. One is that you must be exalted with Wardens to be allowed to purchase it. The other is that the enchant may only be applied to soulbound shoulder gear. Which of course means your alt must be exalted with Wardens in order to get the enchant, you cannot buy the enchant on a main and apply it to shoulders before sending them to the alt. And Wardens rep may only be obtained through world quests or the odd champion mission, it’s not like you can start building rep with them while you are leveling like you can with other faction rep.

So here we are again — Legion has been designed to require players to spend vastly more time at the game than they have spent regularly over past years. It has been designed to be an endless grind for ever-moving goals. Most people complain mainly about AP in this role, but I submit that Blood of Sargeras is even worse. It is the primary mechanism for discouraging alt play and profession play. It is the mechanism Blizz used just prior to Legion to force people to drop dual crafting professions, because suddenly someone thought that should no longer be allowed. It is a deliberate move to force players into Ion Hazzikostas’s prescribed play style, which is that no one should be allowed to “dabble” in alts or professions, that everyone should have one crafting and one gathering profession, that only characters played in exactly the same way as a main should be allowed. He cannot (yet) stop players from creating alts just for fun, but he sure as hell can keep us from actually having fun with them unless they are played with the same intensity and play style as a main. And of course with the prescribed profession mix.

After all, Blizz cannot just permit people to have play style choices, for crying out loud. It offends the Game Director.

It’s past time to release the choke hold on Blood of Sargeras, to permit alt gear catchup, and to make this mat — at a minimum — Bind on Account. 

Leftovers and ruminations

Today’s post is really just a few unconnected thoughts that have been dancing around in the back of my brain for a bit. Sorry, but every once in a while I have to run the mental Roomba just to tidy things up for later…

Q&A session. Today there will be another in the more-or-less regular series of “Dev Talks”, this one being Ion Hazzikostas answering player questions about Patch 7.1. I am not expecting much info, to be honest, more of an infomercial about Karazhan, so I doubt if I will take the time to watch it live. I’ll catch it later this evening when I don’t have much else to do.

I am still glad that Blizz is continuing these pseudo-Q&A sessions, even if they seem to have devolved into a series of softball questions hand-picked for their toadiness. Don’t get me wrong, I do not approve of in-your-face, impolite, selfish, whiny type questions, but there are some very valid and tough conversations to be had between players and devs, and these sessions scrupulously avoid them, it seems.

Two subjects we will not hear about in today’s session (and I will happily eat my words if I am wrong):

  • Timetable for flying in Legion. (I have long predicted it would not happen before the second major patch, and honestly I think now it might not happen until whatever is the last patch of the expansion.) If the subject is even mentioned, expect some kind of saccharine cutesy evasive answer from Hazzikostas.
  • Any mention of the hunter class other than maybe a passing reference as part of a 7.1 attempt to do “minor balancing” of classes as a whole. Blizz seems hung up on the numbers game and refuses to address the wholesale selling out of the entire hunter class play style, along with completely ignoring even their own “fantasy” descriptions.

Game management changes. Today it was announced that Tom Chilton will be moving on, and Ion Hazzikostas will be moving up to take Chilton’s position as Game Director. Chilton will remain with Blizzard but be working on “another project” — unspecified. Stay tuned.

I have no idea what if any effect this management change will have on the game. I am guessing — but it is only a guess — that we will see more and more “prescribed” and “approved” play styles. Hazzikostas, at least as gleaned from his public statements, is a big fan of dictating what is and is not fun in the game. He has said he does not believe that earning gear is fun for anyone, but rolling the dice for it is great entertainment. So I expect to see — if it is even possible — even greater reliance on RNG for more aspects of the game.

Hazzikostas has also told us repeatedly that there is a certain style of alt play that is approved — only for the purpose of emulating your main but with a different class —  and indeed we have seen Legion implement mechanics that actually preclude any but the approved alt play style.

Last, let us not forget that it was likely Hazzikostas who pushed through the disastrous no-fly policy in WoD, the one who stressed to us how “immersive” it was to be road-bound. Expect longer and longer times between flying capability in Legion and subsequent expansions, with, I think, the goal of eliminating the capability altogether. (But of course we will still be able to hand over cash to the Blizz store for cool flying mounts that can easily waddle along the roads!)

My one optimistic hope with this change in management is that Blizz finds someone to fill Hazzikostas’s position who is serious about communicating with the player base, someone unafraid of getting in there and having even the difficult conversations, someone who will institute a professional system of customer communication instead of the “read the forums if you have nothing better to do” approach they currently seem to have.

I finally hit 110 with my druid. Last night I finally dinged 110 with my balance druid, who is also an herbalist/alchemist. Obviously the reason I have been pushing to level this alt first is so as to eventually stop spending upwards of 20k gold a week just to buy flasks and pots for raiding. Of course, I am still not there, as there is a ridiculously long and complex route to even being able to make the flasks I need, much less get to a profession level where there is a chance of getting a few procs. I expect that by the end of next week I should be able to do at least the basic stuff.

I still think the Legion character leveling process is well designed. It moves along fairly quickly and you can vary the experience for each character by varying the zone rotation you choose. But I do find it onerous to be forced to go through the artifact and class hall quest lines just to be able to function in the expansion. Not to mention the requirement to chase artifact power. There really needs to be an alternative to using an artifact weapon for a character you have no intention of raiding with. Of course, this cannot happen, because Blizz now requires you to run instances up through Mythic on every character you wish to use for professions.

Sorry, but alt development and professions in my opinion are still a huge Legion failing.

Escape versus complexity. This is entirely personal, but I find myself in the position of disliking Legion’s political complexity with the whole Nightfallen thing. Alternative Chat has a piece today discussing how refreshing it is to explore these issues in Suramar, and I suppose it is fun for many to sift through these nuanced layers. I am much more simplistic in my game needs. I look to games as pure escapism, as a sort of bubble gum for the mind where things are clearly Good versus Evil and oh by the way Good always wins in the end.

So I hate Suramar, I do the World Quests and achievement quest lines there, but I am most decidedly not drawn to political complexity in a game. Unfortunately, I get far too much of that in real life these days, especially now that the USA is embarrassing itself on the international stage with its soap opera Presidential election. As I said, I like my games to provide escape, not a microcosm of real life. Maybe in a year Suramar will seem fun to me, but just not now.

I’m out for the weekend, and it is looking to be a glorious one in Virginia, with perfect fall weather. I think we can assume there will be grilling on the deck, some bike rides and leaf peeping, and drinking a couple beers in my future. You enjoy your weekend, too.

What was that about a free lunch?

First, an admin note: Thanks to all my patient readers for hanging in there while I was gone — strep throat took a nasty complication turn and resulted in a short hospital stay, but I am fine now and as soon as I get off the happy drugs I will be back to my normal crabby self. (Or maybe, judging by the tone of this post, I already am.)

While I had all that down time, I decided to make use of the new Amazon Prime feature that gives you — as advertised — a ton of free books and magazines that you can download to your Kindle or via an app to pretty much any mobile device. The service has been widely touted as a nifty perk for Amazon Prime members. And it is. There is a wide variety of reads available, and they are not all crappy things you wouldn’t pay for anyway if you had to, there is a lot of good stuff in there.

But here’s the thing: It’s a giant advertising gimmick. The magazines, for example, include some great ones, but nothing guarantees that they will be available in the Prime free service more than a month or so. Clearly the intent is to “hook” you on a couple, then hit you up with a subscription fee. Same with the books. I read a fair amount of science fiction, and the books available in that genre seem to include a lot of “Book 1 in the 5-book series”, with — of course — the remaining parts of the series not free. Same with popular authors — you get one free, but the rest of the author’s books will cost you.

Now, there is nothing illegal or even underhanded about this, but there is also absolutely nothing altruistic about it. Yes, the items are technically free (if you don’t take into account your Amazon Prime membership fee), but the purpose of offering them is mainly to sell you more stuff, and that is decidedly not how Amazon is marketing the service. In fact, they don’t even mention it in the promotional pieces. And honestly, when you realize the real purpose of it, no matter how jaded you are, you feel kind of duped.

I know you are saying, “Okay, Fi, all well and good, but what the heck does this have to do with WoW?” Well, just that Blizzard has a habit of pulling the same thing on its players. And it seems that the practice is increasing in frequency in Legion.

As advertised: No more limitations on how many specs you can play within your class!
Reality: You must have a separate artifact weapon for each spec, and the commitment required to develop each one is onerous and tedious.

As advertised: No more limitations on how many pieces of crafted gear you can equip!
Reality: The gear, even if upgraded to the max, is at the same or lower level than what you can get far more easily though other means in the game. Also, you can only sell the lowest level gear on the auction house because it must be soulbound for you to upgrade it. Not to mention upgrading it is extremely labor- and time-intensive, to the point that if your character can do so, it almost certainly no longer needs the gear.

As advertised: No more long drawn-out slogs to get legendary gear!
Reality:  Another Blizz opportunity to use the lazy solution of RNG for gear. (And not for nothin’, but it certainly seems strange to me that every member of the Mythic World First contenders — all of them, not just the winners — had a piece of legendary gear. And not the crappy pieces, either. Really?????? Not a single one of those players had the same sort of bad luck many of the Great Unwashed do? Nope, nothing suspicious about that…..🙄)

As advertised: Fun professions! Many ways to level them!
Reality: The “many ways to level them” is actually “You must participate in every activity in the game — often at a high skill level — to level them.”

And what does Blizz get out of these little advertising deceptions? What are they really selling? Monthly Active User (MAU) time, the standard of success by which ActiBlizz now measures every game in their stable. Every one of these so-called Legion “perks” — and more that I did not list — are designed to get players to spend more time in the game than in any previous expansion. Blizz dresses it up as “content” and as “play style choice”, but it is really designed to pad the numbers for Blizz execs. The more people stay active in the game, the better the chances that they will pay to watch esports activities, buy store gear and services (especially the game token in Legion), buy actual and e-tickets to Blizzcon, etc.

As with the Amazon Prime “free reading” promotion, there is nothing inherently bad about this. We are, after all, voluntary customers for this game. The company exists to make a profit, the bigger the better. And the carefully lawyer-parsed words designed to draw us in are not technically false.

But I still feel kind of duped.

Legion professions — sometimes it really is about the destination

Background (you can skip this part and still get the gist of the post):

For many years — probably most of my life now that I think about it — I have subscribed to the philosophy of “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” (For reference, I think this is a variation of the original Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”) I have previously described in this blog a personal tendency to make lists, create spreadsheets, and set goals for myself, and you may think that is at odds with the philosophy, but actually it is not. What I love is the process of planning and organizing, followed by flawless execution of the plan. Achieving the goal is rewarding, but it pales in comparison to the thrill of the process of getting there.

As an aside, you might think from this that I chase WoW achievements, but honestly they hold little interest for me, nor do things like mount or pet collections. These are prescribed goals in the game, and a big part of the fun I get is coming up with my own personal goals and carrying them out. I dislike being told what my goals should be.

Anyway, back to developing my point — and hang in there with me, because I promise you I do have one. Not to go all pop-psychology, but I think the thing that fascinates me about the process I described is that it gives me a feeling of control. For a variety of  reasons not worth going into here, I had a topsy-turvy childhood, trundled from one relative to another, from one school to another, sometimes 2-3 times a year. Control was not in my vocabulary, so when at the age of about 16 I realized I could actually be in charge of my own destiny, it was an epiphany.

It was the real start of my goal-setting, list-making, planning and organizing life style. Several years ago when I found a leisure time activity in the form of a computer game that let me indulge in doing this, it was a match made in heaven.

Blizz took what were broken professions in WoD and completely destroyed them in Legion. Stomped on them, ground them into dust, made a mockery of them.

Professions are now all journey with destinations so distant as to be virtually unreachable save for one or two per account. And there is only a single directed path one can follow, though that path is not specified but only discovered by stumbling about.

This is a part of the game many of us used to consider a nice side diversion that could provide some gear and gold along with being a pleasant distraction and a reason to spend some time on alts. But Legion has turned it into a confusing, protracted, RNG-dependent activity that is almost unattainable for any character other than a main. They have done this in the name of “content” as well as in the name of “play style choice”, but in fact it achieves neither of those stated objectives.

In fact, I would argue that Blizz was completely — and possibly purposely —  disingenuous when they tried to feed us those reasons, and that their true goals were to increase the metric of “Monthly Active Users” and to put an end to any sort of casual alt play style. MAU is the current standard of success for Activision Blizzard games (and presumably one of the metrics for calculating executive bonuses). It is a function of the number of hours played per month by users who actually log in, so it dovetails nicely with the “content” fantasy, especially the lazy content approach of artificially increasing the time sink requirement for heretofore auxiliary activities.

As to the concept of alt play, Ion Hazzikostas has several times stated his opinion that the only acceptable reason to roll an alt is to play it in the same way one plays a main, that to have an alt solely for the purpose of professions to supply a main is wrong and should not be permitted. And lo and behold, Legion professions now require a character to not only be at max level, but to be geared and proficient enough to participate in World Quests, instances up through Mythic level, raids, and in some cases high level PvP content. It is the ultimate insult for Blizz to cloak professions now as expanding options for players, while at the same time cramming this linear play style down our throats.

I had a short conversation last night with one of my guildies, and he went on a mini-rant — justified in my opinion — about how Legion more than any other WoW expansion is hostile to casual players. One of the points he brought up was the sheer amount of time necessary just to do normal activities — gear up, level a profession, gather mats, maintain progress in an artifact weapon, pursue the ever-elusive and possibly ghostly path to eventual flying, etc.

Blizz has said that Legion would give players many ways to achieve end game goals, but in fact what they have given us is an expansion that requires every activity be engaged in just to get to one goal. Those are not at all equivalent concepts. For true casual players — those who play 20 hours or less a week by my own personal definition — the time sink required just to get to end game is vastly higher than it has been for previous expansions. (I define “end game” as being geared about as high as you are going to be for the expansion, have your professions completed and well developed, routinely engaging in group activities you like such as raiding or rated battlegrounds, etc.) Some call this content, some call it MAU expansion.

Beyond these top-level deficiencies in Legion professions, there are other ridiculous and obvious shortfalls. For example, the tendency to include significant amounts of a wide variety of expensive mats from other professions to craft items. For example, to cook food, one does not just need fish, meat, and vendored sundries — the kind of mats you can get through diligent secondary profession gathering. Oh no, they require things like gem chips (mining and prospecting) and herbs (herbalism). And since the game is no longer conducive to getting these items from a lowly geared alt, either you were lucky enough to have years ago selected the lottery-winning professions on your main, or you can spend literally tens of thousands of gold buying these mats in the AH or in trade.

With the barriers to developing your own extended alt professions, I do not expect the prices of these items to come down very soon in the game. This, too, is a way to discourage play for casuals or for new players, because if you did not amass a fortune from the WoD gold giveaway, you simply cannot afford to buy these items. Even belonging to a guild is not much help, because most guilds cannot afford to buy them for their members, and anyone in the guild who can gather or make the items can make so much gold by selling them that there is no incentive to donate them to the guild bank or to another guildie, or even to sell at bargain prices to a guildie. Tin-foil hat theory would be that here is a golden opportunity for Blizz to sell a buttload of game tokens to those who need gold, but I won’t go there….

As I have said before, I do not object to having to do a bit of work to max professions out — I leveled my JC, my LW, and my Engineer when it was quite costly and difficult to do so. But I do object to a system that is not clearly laid out (even the third party sites are still murky about profession progression paths), that requires main-level game play and time commitment to achieve, and that so distinctly rewards the lucky and punishes the unlucky — part of the RNG run amuck trend.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any simple solutions to the mess Blizz has made of professions in Legion. I just know they have totally destroyed them, so there are no easy tweaks that will help. The only thing I can think of at this point would be to allow any character to have as many professions as they want. That way, since professions now require main-type play commitments, you could just spend the time on your main and get every profession of importance to you. I sincerely doubt that Blizz will do this, but still I feel like they should consider it, or at the very least start giving us what they promised: multiple ways to develop professions, instead of requiring participation in everything to develop professions. (Yeah, I get that Ion Hazzikostas doesn’t want us to use alts for professions, but somehow I feel that he could get over the trauma of it if he really tried, maybe buy himself some consolation gifts with all that MAU bonus money he will get.)

So, yeah, it is about the journey and not the destination, but the journey to professions is too effing long, too effing dark, and too effing linear.

Emerald Nightmare part two

Last night my guild finished up the last three bosses in Emerald Nightmare (Normal). This week was basically a warmup for progression, which we will start next week with Heroic. I can’t claim great expertise with EN yet, but I do have some general observations to add to my earlier comments.

Fight length. The one overwhelming impression I had after finishing up last night is that most of these fights are very, very, very long. I think this is true for nearly all the EN bosses, but especially so for the last three. The fights just seemed to go on for-freaking-ever, reminding me a bit of how I usually felt in the Immerseus fight back in Siege of Orgrimmar.

This is almost certainly due to a combination of it being early in the expansion — thus most players are not at the peak of their damage powers — and the fact that these bosses have hundreds of millions (in some cases over a billion) health. I have to wonder if Blizz merely substituted the add-crazy approach of WoD with a length-crazy approach for Legion. After a certain amount of time, very long fights get challenging just because eventually people get bored or fatigued enough to start to make mistakes, so the challenge really is not the fight itself but rather one of maintaining focus. And, of course, longer fights are usually a bigger challenge to healers not only because of mana issues, but also because of the fatigue tendency for other players to stand in more bad stuff the longer the fight goes on.

Tuning. I have seen some of the usual forum-dweller complaints about EN being “a joke” or “too easy”, and some data mining indicates Blizz may be considering a combo of “class tuning adjustments” along with significantly buffing many dungeon and raid bosses in 7.1. Thus, I take this opportunity to reiterate my opinion that normal mode raids should not be weeks-long slogs for non-progression casual raid teams. Blizz itself has told us repeatedly that normal mode is supposed to be the “friends and family” mode. This does not mean it should be a stroll in the park, but it also should not take a casual team weeks of progression-type raiding to finish, and it should be tolerant of a true flex setup, rotating people in and out as their schedules permit.

When Blizz set up flex mode in 5.4 (I think that is about when they did it), it was designed to be a difficulty level between LFR and what was then Normal mode. When they made the flex concept permanent, they announced that their intent was for Normal to be the same as the new “flex” mode, and for Heroic to be the same difficulty as the old Normal mode. Thus, Normal would be the “friends and family” level, and Heroic would be the level for progression teams. In WoD, this was absolutely not the case — Normal mode required a progression setup and schedule for most casual teams, and even for many semi-casual teams. This in my opinion is one reason why many teams disintegrated about the time that Black Rock Foundry came out — they simply were not the kinds of guilds that could field solid progression teams.

Thus, it seems to me that any cries of “too easy” for EN are unfounded. We are simply seeing what I hope is a return to the original intent of Normal mode raid tiers. I really hope Blizz does not cave in to either the devs or the forum denizens who believe that raids at any level are strictly for hardcore 40-hour+ a week players.

Cost of raiding. Simply put, this is astronomical. Basic flasks, enchants, gems, talent switching tomes, and food on my server — and I suspect on many servers — are going for well upwards of a thousand gold each, with enchants and gems easily fetching 20k+ each. Even the mats go for huge sums. These numbers will come down a bit as the expansion wears on, but for now they are effectively a bar to raiding for many players, as most raid teams expect a certain amount of preparedness from each of their members. Players who went through the gold giveaway of WoD may have enough to get through at least a couple of months of this high cost, but new players really don’t have a chance.

Also, I do not expect the costs to go down significantly for many months, due to Blizz’s treatment of professions in Legion. It is a prohibitive time and skill sink for most people to learn — much less produce — the major products of their professions unless the character is a main. The mechanics of profession progression in Legion require main-level commitment to leveling and to doing dungeons (Mythic as well as Heroic) and world quests. What this means is that far fewer players than in the past will be able to produce their own raid supplies, resulting in these items remaining very high cost. Basically, if you were not lucky enough to have selected the “right” mix of professions for your main, you are going to be spending a LOT of gold just to be able to effectively raid every week, for many months to come.

The whole subject of professions in Legion is certainly a topic for an entire post (or series of posts), but I think as Legion wears on we will find that Blizz may have finally broken the profession system in WoW. It is one thing to have to work a bit to max out a profession, it is quite another to structure the process such that only a character with main-level proficiency and time commitment can achieve a max profession.

BM hunters seem to stink. I grant you that my experience raiding thus far in Legion is extremely limited, but from my worm’s-eye view it may soon be almost irresponsible to try and raid with any hunter spec except MM. This week our 28-30 member raid team ran with four hunters: one MM and three BM. Of this group, the MM hunter and one BM hunter are highly skilled raiders as well as being players that routinely squeeze every bit of damage they can from their spec. (And nope, I am not that BM hunter.) On every boss and in every trash fight, the MM hunter out-damaged the BM hunter by usually several thousand points both in DPS and in total damage, and often the difference was in excess of 10k-20k. Additionally, the MM hunter was frequently at the top of our damage charts overall.

Checking the initial raid charts from some of the third party log sites, I see that there are a few MM hunters at the top, but there are zero BM hunters. (Also zero SV hunters, but honestly I don’t consider that spec to be a true hunter.) Yes, the self-fulfilling prophecy effect enters in here — the top players perceive that MM is the best, thus none of them raid with BM, thus the top ranks only show MM, thus it becomes the defacto “raiding spec” — but I think we are seeing an imbalance similar to what we saw with SV hunters at the start of WoD. The difference is enough that selecting any hunter spec other than MM seems to deny your team a significant amount of damage power. (And no, good solid raid teams worth their salt will not kick someone just because of their spec, but there comes a point at which a conscientious player feels like they are not pulling their weight.)

This is troublesome, because Blizz has several times stated that they feel class balance is critical in Legion, mainly because of the huge investment in artifact power and progress. I think we are perilously close to the point where serious hunters who chose BM as their Legion spec will feel compelled to switch specs just to remain competitive.   This is exactly the situation Blizz said they are going to great lengths to avoid. This is a balance issue that must be addressed very soon, and yet every indication we have had from Blizz is that they have already abandoned the hunter class for the remainder of this expansion. None of the class balancing changes announced thus far for 7.1 even begin to address some of the fundamental problems with BM hunters — or any hunter spec for that matter.

I end this post with what has become a plaintive and lonely cry in the wilderness: Blizz, for crying out loud, do something to acknowledge the concerns of Legion hunters. At least give us a sign that you know we are unhappy, even if that sign is just a big Blizz middle finger and an announcement that yes, you intend to destroy the hunter class, BWAAAAAHAHA! Why do you pay attention to every other class and continue to ignore hunters? 

With that, I am off to start my weekend. You enjoy yours.

Profession changes and cataclysmic changes

This will be a very strange post, I am afraid. On the one hand, I feel more or less bound to comment on yesterday’s dev interview on professions in Legion. But on the other hand, I feel like yesterday’s world-altering changes in Britain simply cannot be ignored. Major changes, whether in a computer game or in the existing world order, are always unsettling, and honestly it is impossible to foresee final outcomes from any of them while they are in progress. It is that uncertainty, I think, that makes such changes so difficult for most of us — nations as well as individuals, games as well as real world.

Let me deal first — and briefly — with the dev interview. As with the first one last week, I found the format to be very good, and I thought the overall tone of the answers Paul Kubit gave was quite positive as well as informative. I do think that the Legion profession changes are generally favorable, and that Blizz is making a good faith effort to reverse the profession slide we saw in WoD.

This does not mean I agree with all the changes. I think Kubit did some very fancy dancing on the whole Blood of Sargeras subject. He first went to some pains to explain that no, of course Blizz does not want to dictate that players “should” have one gathering and one crafting profession on each character. No, no, no. Then he went on to say but of course you should suffer some slight disadvantage if you do not. He outlined several changes being made to make the BoP situation with BoS somewhat more equitable, and in the end it will probably work out. That is a positive thing, because it shows Blizz is listening to the very real concerns of players in this matter, and that continues a trend we have seen pretty much throughout the recent Legion development — a welcome turnaround from WoD.

Still, in the end he did not really have a good answer for why BoA is not an option for Blood of Sargeras. I am willing at this point to just accept that this mechanic will be a continuing pain throughout Legion, and to prepare to deal with it.

A couple of other comments that I noted:

  • It looks like we will not get much of a break from the huge annoyance of RNG-dictated secondary stats. As in WoD, there will be no real way to ensure you get the secondary stats you need on your crafted gear. In fact, the reroll mechanic is going away, and instead you will just have to craft piece after piece until you get your optimal stats. I hated that part of WoD, and I hate that it will continue in Legion. The only possible bright side, if there is one, is that Multistrike is also going away, so I suppose we can hope that there will be fewer possible stat combos to roll the dice on.
  • Mass resurrection is going away. I did not know this. It more or less completes the rollback of guild perks and thus helps to drive another nail in the coffin of robust guilds. About the only thing left is the mail perk, we will see how long that lasts. The engineer-crafted Failure Detection Pylon is the presumed replacement, and while it has a couple of cute features, I think it will turn out to be a poor substitute. For one thing, it will only rez players within 5 yards of it. Kubit opined that the way to use it would be for the raid leader to call for everyone to head to the pylon if it looked like the raid was going to wipe. That was just a stupid comment, in my opinion. Typically, raids wipe incrementally, with players dying off one or two at a time in different places throughout the boss space, so by the time it becomes apparent that a wipe is in the works, it is too late for most of the raid to gather in a small space to die.
  • Kubit was a bit overly coy about the fishing artifact, if indeed there is one. He hinted that Blizz has deliberately put out some misinformation about this — for example, you will not need to complete the coin-fishing achievement in Dalaran as part of the quest line (if there is one, haha). Okay. Very clever, Blizz.

I have to be honest. My heart is not in this today. Changes to a side game within a computer game are less than insignificant in the face of the geopolitical earthquake we have just undergone, and in the face of what will surely be a long period of aftershocks, many of which may be as significant as this first quake.

This blog is a gaming blog. I do not use it as a political platform, nor do I intend to start now. I am not going to venture an opinion on the rightness or wrongness of the Brit vote, it was what it was. But I know for a fact that we are in the midst of a cataclysmic change in the world order, and whether Brexit is the cause of it or just a symptom of a change that has been in the works for some time, remains to be seen. It will be up to future history books to trace the seeds of this change’s actual beginnings and to describe how it finally unfolds.

If you are not someone who usually pays much attention to current events, think about starting to now. It will be important, I think, for you to be able to tell your children and grandchildren what it was like to live through this geopolitical shift, because there will be the big picture but there will also be the small picture that affects you and me and everyone living in the world. Let us hope that the stories you will tell will be about the bad old days, not about a time of relative peace that is unimaginable in the chaotic world of your grandchildren.

Let us hope that this cataclysm is not the worst expansion ever in the real world.

Leveling strategies for Legion?

The past couple of days I’ve been thinking about how best to go about spending my time for the first couple of months in Legion. Clearly, there is no “one size fits all”, but I think I’ve isolated a few factors to consider.

Gear level at the start of the expansion. My first premade character in the beta was a template hunter, which started out with 680 gear. It felt very underpowered and indeed died several times during the quest line to get the baseline artifact weapon. After the artifact it felt a tad more sturdy, but with combined gear level still hovering around 690, attracting more than 2 mobs at once can get dicey.

Once I was able to do a character copy from live, I tried an ilvl 720 hunter, and there was vast difference for the better. So I think I am going to try for a minimum of ilvl 700 for all my alts before bringing them into Broken Isles. That is really not difficult to do — 695 Baleful gear along with some crafted pieces at 715, maybe a Conquest ring or shoulders, and some valor upgrades should easily do it. In fact, spending the time to get the valor upgrades may be superfluous.

Profession leveling. Right now my sense is that it will be just as easy to level professions at the same time as I do each character. It might ever so slightly delay reaching 110, but I do not think it will be enough to notice. With zone scaling, there is really no advantage to waiting until level 110 to go back and pick up profession quests — mobs do not die more quickly, and we still will not have flying so getting around will take the same amount of time. And I think the sooner I can level my critical professions the more it will help in gearing up my characters.

Artifact weapons. Right now I am thinking that I will initially pursue only one artifact weapon per character, which implies I will pick one spec and stick to it for a few months. This is chancy, of course, because Blizz really cannot be trusted to not “balance” your spec into oblivion at the drop of a hat. I have two hunters that I usually level first in any expansion, so if one is BM and the other is MM, that gives me a little insurance. Not much, but a little. And having only one artifact weapon eliminates the problem of dividing your accumulated Artifact Power, of having to decide whether to have two mediocre artifact weapons or one high powered one.

Leveling order for alts. This one is tricky, but I think, once I have picked a main, then the order for alt leveling will depend on their professions. Whichever ones seem to be most valuable for my main will be the ones to get leveled first. My main hunter has LW/skinning and my alt hunter has JC/mining, so those seem to be no-brainers. After that, I’ll just have to see. It may turn out that just getting alts past the baseline artifact weapon quest will be sufficient to get them to useful production for professions with a few quest lines.

Zone plan. Here is where zone scaling is really nice. I get bored rather easily with grinding through the same series of quests more than once or twice, so my plan for zones in which to level is that I don’t have a plan. For some, I will do one or two levels in a zone then move on, for others I may try to exhaust quest lines in a single zone before moving on. Part of the quest line for eventual flying in Legion involves what boils down to completing a large portion of the quests in every zone anyway, so at least one character — probably my main — will start working on that as soon as possible.

Class hall stuff. Yeah, in spite of what Blizz says, these are basically watered down garrisons, with all the annoyances but fewer of the perks. The fact that they are the main quest hub, yet Dalaran is the place where you have to be for things like bank, profession quests, etc., is just bothersome. And not for nothin’, but I absolutely do not feel like I am the Big Dog Main Hero Hunter in the hall, when there are a dozen other hunters running around with the same artifact weapon and the same Hati. The fantasy fails spectacularly for class halls, in my opinion. For that reason, I am not going to spend a lot of time developing class hall quest lines for my alts until relatively deep into the expansion.

LB-Too many Hatis

We are all special…

 

Things to save for later. Eventually I will go back and do some of the things I intend to skip during the first few months. I will probably do an off spec and accompanying artifact weapon on at least my main and a couple of alts. I will max out every profession. I will probably get at least one of my healers raid-ready. I will explore the areas I initially skip. I will tame a few Broken Isles beasts for my BM hunter and maybe my MM as well. At some point I will roll a Demon Hunter just because.

Honestly, if Blizz sticks to their new schedule of an expansion every two years, I suspect there will not be enough time to do all things I want to do in Legion, so as usual I will not be bored or complaining about lack of content.

(And now I realize I may have just talked myself into pre-ordering Legion.)

What about you — any special plans for the first few weeks of Legion?