Settling into a pattern, and Blizz is still alt-hostile

A month short of a year into Legion, and I realized over the weekend that I have finally settled into a weekly routine in the game.

Tuesday (reset day): Collect weekly things on my main — seals, Mythic+ chest, weekly bonus quest. I don’t run every weekly on my main — usually only the timewalkers and the mythics, the rest I either have no interest in (PvP and pets) or the reward is not worth the time. The rest of Tuesday is spent on raid 7-11 PM server time.

Wednesday: World quests and Broken Shore quests on main, decide which alts will receive emphasis for the week and run LFR, profession, or quests on it. Check the alts’ gear and decide how best to upgrade it for the week. I usually pick 2 alts to concentrate on — I find it is not feasible to work on more than that in a week, there is just not time.

Thursday: Replenish main’s potions/flasks/food, then raid 7-11 server time.

Friday: Run one Mythic +15 for the week on main with the incredibly generous guild group that tries to ensure every raider gets at least one in for the weekly chest. Run emissaries and BS quests on main and on one or both chosen alts. If I am doing it, run the weekly on main.

Saturday: Usually a day off, no game time.

Sunday: Pretty much alt day. Do class hall maintenance activities on maxed alts, also emissaries and BS quests on selected alts. If time, work on order hall or profession quest lines on an alt. If even more time, work on leveling a non-maxed alt.

Monday: Finish up odds and ends on main. Spend a couple of hours running sims on main for next week’s gear/talent best build. Study fine points of the coming week’s progression bosses.

I am at a point on my main where the only reason I run emissary quests and BS dailies is for the reward chests. Nothing given as individual loot for the quests is worth anything to my main — the gear is way too low, the gold amounts are paltry, and the AP is so low compared to what I need for an extra concordance point as to be downright insulting. Certainly not worth even the few minutes needed to do the AP quest.

The emissary and BS chests, it turns out, are the new gear currency. That is, there is apparently a magic secret number of them you have to open before you get a legendary. The difference between this system and previous currency systems is that we used to know how many seals/coins/etc we had to collect to get a desired piece of gear, plus we could actually choose the piece we wanted. But now only Blizz knows the number, and they not us get to choose which piece we get. But it is still a currency system, make no mistake.

So I still run these daily activities on my main. Luckily, it doesn’t take long, what with flying and also having pretty decent gear. Once in a while, if I need leather, I will spend extra time in one of the quest areas where skinnable critters are being killed.

On relatively new alts, the world quests are still useful in and of themselves. The gear can be an upgrade, and my new alts almost always are in desperate need of Blood of Sargeras in order to upgrade the crafted items I usually outfit them with, so they run the ones giving that as a reward whether or not they are part of an emissary chain. I also make sure my active alts run the world bosses each week.

I still believe making BoS soulbound is one of the worst ideas Blizz had in Legion. Of course, they stick with it because it forces more game play and thus increases bonuses for their executives, but it is an enormously frustrating mechanic. The effect of it is that by the time you have an alt able to gather BoS in reasonable quantities, they usually do not need it any more, unless they have a profession that goes through a lot of it. This is yet another instance of Blizz deliberately misleading us — “In Legion you can equip any number of crafted items, no more 3-piece limit!” Sure you can — except of course the crafted gear will be too low level to do you any good. At 20 BoS per crafted gear max upgrade, this can easily cost up to 200 or more BoS to fully outfit an alt.

In a grand gesture of generosity, Blizz recently allowed us to use order resources to buy BoS, at the rate of 1000 OR for 1 BoS, except you have to buy them in batches of 5. Generally, in keeping with the Blizz philosophy of being hostile to alt development, at the time when an alt most needs BoS they do not have 20,000 extra order resources available to upgrade one piece of crafted gear.

Not to worry, Blizz went overboard in their generosity here, allowing a shuffle mechanism to transfer BoS from one character to another within an account. You can buy order resources with BoS, transfer them to an alt, then have the alt use the extra order resources to buy the BoS they need. Sounds great, eh? Just one small thing: the exchange rates are exorbitant. You lose 80% of your BoS in the process. For example, it costs you 100 BoS to buy the order resources that would allow an alt to buy 20 BoS.

In everything, from profession quest lines to order hall chains to artifact progression to the nutty legendary system to crafted gear, Blizz remains extremely alt-hostile. Yes, they will claim they have gone to great lengths to permit alt catch-up, and there are some decent mechanisms. But in general Legion is still the most alt-unfriendly expansion ever.

Still, even given the hoops to jump through for alts, I have managed to get myself into a nice comfortable routine in Legion. Some people might think of this as a bad thing, but honestly I kind of look forward to getting to this point in an expansion. There is a lot to be said for the mental ease of familiarity.

Tidying up

I’ll be taking a 4-day weekend starting tomorrow, for the U.S. 4th of July celebration. Normally, if we go away for a holiday, I like to tidy up my house so that we return to a neat, welcoming home and not a trashy depressing one. As we are not going away this weekend, I will take the opportunity to tidy up my blog, and dispose of a few scattered topics that have been cluttering up my drafts folder this week.

First, a revisit of Tuesday’s subject on Blizz’s announcement of the way gear will be awarded in terms of upgrades in Legion. Looking back on it, I feel like there were a couple of points I should have made but did not.

One is that I am still in favor of the change, but in analyzing it, I just do not think it is the radical departure I first thought it was. We do not know — nor will we — what the actual probability numbers are for upgrades to be awarded. But my bet is they will not be any higher than the WoD ones. We do not know what those are, either, but we can get a feel for them by the frequency with which we see Warforged items drop now in WoD. Warforged items in Legion are gone, by Watcher’s description, and they will instead just be a +5 or +10 upgrade, which in the new system means that a game-controlled upgrade roll will have succeeded once or twice for the dropped gear. I have no numbers to back this up, but my subjective impression in WoD is that I personally see a Warforged item maybe once in 15-20 items overall. This is not bad, I am not complaining about it, but it tends to back up my assertion Tuesday that the chance of getting any kind of gear upgrade beyond this in Legion is going to be very, very close to zero.

In short, it will almost never be a real upgrade factor for low level activities such as dungeons, once you have geared yourself up. For nearly everyone, upgrades greater than 10-15 gear levels will just not happen. Thus, if you are the kind of person who actually expects to win the lottery when you play, you will be optimistic about this change. If you are the kind of person who understands statistics, you will be pretty much unfazed by the change.

The second thing I wanted to add is that I think the change is a very poor substitute for a currency-type system. (WARNING: Gear rant follows)  Blizz seems hell-bent on not allowing us to feel we can earn some gear by dint of hard work and persistence. They do not want us to feel we have some control over our gear awards, they do not want us to feel any sense of progressing towards a goal. Watcher continues to school us in the correct way to have fun™, insisting we are just dense if we do not realize how exciting it is to have RNG award gear. He, of course, neglects to note how unfun™ it is to repeatedly do the same activity for possibly endless failure. (But I am assuming that never happens on the special dev servers he plays on.)

In this, Blizz seems completely cowed by the elite players who whine that if there is a currency system such as valor, they “have to” grind for it. Boo hoo. This is total bunk, as illogical as the claim that if some people can fly then everyone must. I am not talking about getting top-level gear with currency, I am talking about an alternate way to get the gear that might enable me to get top-level gear. Why not have both upgrade systems, an RNG-based one as well as a currency one? That way, if you have a run of bad luck for a few weeks or months, at least you can feel there is some reward for continuing to do the activity. But on the other hand you might get lucky and get a couple of quick upgrades randomly. No harm, no foul.

The interesting thing is, Blizz actually does understand the attraction of progressing towards a gear goal, they just refuse to admit it. One reason I think this, is that they nearly always couch their probabilities in terms of time spent pursuing a random award. If there is a 1 in 8 chance of getting it, for example, Blizz frequently expresses this in terms of, if you run X dungeon 8 times, on average the outcome is expected to be blah blah blah. This is one way probabilities can be expressed, true, but it is misleading because it is almost always not the case for limited rolls of the dice. And by limited, I mean the time available to players. Yes, possibly if you average out all dungeon runs by all WoW players, you get the expected 1 in 8 result, but that means absolutely nothing to the individual player, unless that player is running said dungeon hundreds or thousands of times.

But Blizz subtly leads players to believe that they can more or less, sort of, possibly, maybe, expect that if they persist in running that dungeon 8 times, they should get upgraded gear. This panders to players who may not have much interest in probability math but who like to think they are making progress towards gear. They are not. If you have a 1 in a zillion chance the first time you run it, you still have a 1 in a zillion chance the zillionth time you run it.

So yeah, Blizz understands the player desire to feel progress, they just refuse to overtly indulge it. Because some elite raiders might feel required to — pardon my language here — grind a bit. Can’t have that.

OK, end of gear rant.

Second, there is a post in one of the Legion forums that claims one of the Leatherworking levels is gated behind winning a rated BG. I have not seen this for myself, but as there has been no disclaimer from a blue on it, I am assuming it is indeed the case. If so, and if it makes it into live, this is nothing short of stupid stupid stupid. It seems Blizz learned nothing from the horrible experience in Mists of requiring non-PvP players to win a number of (non-rated) battlegrounds for the legendary cape. PvE players hated it because many of them just hated PvP. PvP players hated it because they had masses of incompetent, uninterested, non-geared PvE players cluttering up their BGs.

It was a disaster. So think how much more of a disaster it will be if there is a requirement for a profession to win a rated BG. I am not a PvP-er, but as far as I know rated BGs are like the top of the heap for PvP. It would be like gating some PvP rank behind successful completion of PvE Mythic raid. It makes zero sense.

Sometimes I really think they have lost their marbles at Blizz. Or possibly the famous Blizz Screw With the Players Department just want to get their licks in before the summer vacation season kicks in.

Last, on a woo-hoo level positive note, Tuesday night I got my Archie moose. It was not something I even had as a game goal, but I have to admit it was a fun achievement.  To be clear, I don’t condemn the people who are offering carries for the moose mount, nor those who get carried, whether or not there is a great deal of gold changing hands. It is just different paths to game goals. But it seemed wrong for me, something I was not willing to do given the game boundaries I set myself, so I had pretty much accepted that I was not going to get it in this expansion.

Some of you may remember that in January of this year, and after a 9-month hiatus from organized raiding, I joined a new guild. They had just begun to do weekly HFC(N) fun runs for alts after their raid team had completed 13/13H. I have participated every week with my main. It has been terrific fun, and once in a while we have successfully ventured into lower level heroic. This week, though, the guild organized a Heroic Archie run, and since both my gear level and my proficiency had significantly improved over the months, I was invited along. The GM put together an impressive pug fill, gave perfect guidance and reminders throughout the fight, and we downed him on like the third try.

I suppose, since I had never run the boss on heroic, that in a way I was being carried. A couple of the regular raid team switched to their mains instead of the alts they have been running most of the year, so they were certainly doing this for charity. Still, I think I did a decent job with the mechanics and had quite respectable DPS, so I do feel I contributed. And here’s the thing — with this experience, now I feel like I can help carry other guildies if we do another of these runs. For me, this was the best way to get this achievement, and it really makes me want to give back to the guild that gave me and a couple of others this opportunity.

With that, I begin my weekend. Back Tuesday.