Argus – second week

I am going to reserve my final opinion on Patch 7.3 and the whole Argus zone until after next week, which will give us nearly all we are going to see with it, but I have to say so far I am pretty underwhelmed. Absent some hugely fun new thing next week, I cannot see myself spending much time there once my main has gotten the rep to be allowed to buy some of the quality of life gizmos which in my opinion we should have had from the start of the patch. I am mainly talking about:

  • Whistle. Blizz, in its most patronizing and stingy fashion, is allowing us to spend 500 gold to “upgrade” our Legion whistle so that it will work on Argus, but only after we have ground out revered with the Argussian Reach. And just to make sure we get a sufficient amount of misery, they have apparently gone to some pains to ensure it will take several weeks to gather that rep.

I am not at all trying to start another huge emotional player fight about flying versus no flying, but here’s the thing: It is hard to not get the impression that Blizz is doing everything they possibly can to stubbornly dig in their heels and force players into slogging about on the ground for as long as they can in as many places they can, through as many obstacles and mobs as they can manage.

It is as if, having let the flying toothpaste out of the tube years ago, they spend every resource possible trying to cram it back in. They clearly hate that players can fly in the game, and since their attempt to remove it from all future expansions died a horrible death back in WoD, they are in sullen teenager mode over it, kicking dirt and muttering and pouting every step of the way.

The fact of the matter is — no matter how Blizz may protest it is not the case — that designing zones for flying takes significantly more resources than designing them for ground travel. The WoW franchise is becoming less and less of a moneymaker for Blizz as well as for the larger corporate structure of Activision-Blizzard, and they are cutting more and more resources from it with every patch and expansion. I would honestly have more respect for them if they would just come out and admit this, rather than patronize us with the whole “immersion” excuse or the “we never have flying on an island” one.

I could possibly buy into the “We never allow flying in a patch zone expansion, look at Timeless Isle for example” argument, but the fact is that ever since Mists, Blizz has made us jump through more and longer hoops to get flying for every expansion. (In Mists, as soon as you hit max level you got flying capability.) Part of that strategy is coming home to roost with them on Argus, since completion of the Legion flying quest line for many players came very close to coinciding with the release of 7.3, giving these players the impression that they just got flying only to have Blizz yank it away from them immediately, and causing them — with some justification — to howl in the forums.

Blizz was not required to implement flying in the game in the first place, but they did so in order to increase their player base and ultimately their bottom line. It was a business decision that they thought was appropriate at the time. Fine. But I recall that some devs, like Greg Street, warned there would be no going back once it was done, and that is absolutely the case. They are stuck with it, try though they might to throw a continuous tantrum over it and push its implementation further and further away with every expansion.

Argus is not Timeless Isle, nor is it Quel’Danas. (And for the record, the late patch zone in WoD, Tanaan, allowed flying, just sayin’.) In my opinion, Blizz should have designed it with some relatively short path to flying, if for no other reason than they were such dicks about the quest line for Legion flying. But they didn’t, and it will not happen now. But for crying out loud, do they have to also be mega-dicks about the lousy whistle?

  • Permanent augment rune. As was done in Tanaan, there is a permanent augment rune available for purchase once you become exalted with Army of the Light. The good news is, it is a lot easier to get rep with this faction than with the Argussian Reach. The bad news is, even after you become exalted, the damned rune costs 45,000 gold.

Yeah, I know there has been huge inflation in the game. (I won’t indelicately point out Blizz caused this themselves when they had to resort to massive gold giveaways in WoD just to bribe people into playing. Okay, I will. Yet another bad decision they cannot now undo and so are making players suffer as a result.)

But 45,000 gold for a rune? The current Defiled Augment Rune goes for about 150 gold on my server, and I suspect as more people shell out for the permanent rune the temp one will take a real nosedive in value. You can buy literally hundreds of temp runes for 45,000 gold. (300 at 150g, 450 at 100g, 900 if it goes down to 50g which is I think likely.) And as far as I know, LFR will keep awarding them, so I do not anticipate a shortage.

I have plenty of gold, but something in me balks at spending 45k for a damn rune that I will use only for raids. It just smacks of price gouging, and I do not like it, nor do I see why Blizz has priced it that way PLUS gated it behind rep. It is a mean-spirited “gotcha” that feels like someone is going “BWAAHAHA! Let’s make the little boogers work their asses off for it! My bonus goes up the higher we can force our MAU!”

Let’s see, what else am I underwhelmed about on Argus so far? Oh yeah, invasions. I honestly do not see myself doing very many of these. So far, the loot has been non-existent for me, and to be honest they are not really that fun. I really enjoyed the ones at the end of WoD, loved flying off to a place in old Azeroth to join in with dozens of other players, liked that even low level alts could do them and get really decent gear, liked that they had a set pattern of beginning, middle and end phases. I think a lot of people really enjoyed them.

So why, given a winning design, did Blizz feel compelled to “improve” on them, pretty much destroying much of the fun in the process?

The Argus invasions feel like just another daily or weekly quest, with worse loot potential. And getting an alt attuned to even get to Argus is no quick or easy thing. I put a new alt into the zone over the weekend — it had already been on Broken Shore, so I was not starting from zero. Even so, it took me well over 2 hours (closer to 3) to jump through all the Argus hoops to get to invasions, not to mention opening up Mac’Aree. And this process, I assume, will get even longer once the Week 3 requirements kick in. With WoD invasions, I could just hop on a (flying!) mount and jump into the fray with an alt. And once in the invasion scenario, I could fly madly from point to point, taking part in areas of the scenario I thought I could be most useful in. It was great fun. Argus is just not.

And I am not even talking about the Greater Invasions. I have done several of the Greater ones, either for myself or to help out guildies, and they are insipid and boring (the Greater invasions, not the guildies…). They have less complex phase structure than the WoD ones, they are not fun to gallivant around in, the bosses are only tedious not interesting, and the loot really stinks. On top of that, you have to participate in smaller ones every week just to be able to do them, and more often than not fight your way through mobs just to get to the portal.

Nope. I’ll do a few initially, I am sure, but there is absolutely nothing in these that makes me want to spend more time on Argus. I thought the demon invasions in Legion were a poor shadow of the fun of the WoD invasions, and I think the Argus ones are even worse.

So I am waiting until the reset Tuesday, hoping there will finally be something that makes Argus a desirable location for me. But I have not seen anything so far, and honestly I am not especially optimistic.

Of gold and the auction house

Blizz recently told us they are going to increase the gold cap in Legion to 9,999,999g, well 10 million almost — up from 1 million (999,999) currently. I suppose it’s a good step, it may be a quality of life improvement for some, but for most people it will go unnoticed. I don’t care much one way or the other, can’t imagine myself bumping up against it any time soon if at all. I admit I am at the current gold cap in my bank alt guild,  so I guess the new cap will allow me to keep more of my gold there rather than scattered around on various alts, but it’s not really a big thing.

The interesting thing to me about this move is that it was pretty much inevitable, given the gold giveaway in WoD and the consequent inflation most servers have experienced. Sudden and significant monetary inflation, even if it is just pretend money, is never a good thing for an economy, virtual or otherwise. Blizz knows this, of course, and frequently tries to keep a lid on it by introducing so-called “gold sinks” to remove some of the gold from the game. Examples are expensive pets or mounts (sometimes crafted but with mats that cost a huge amount from a vendor, like the chopper), or the Black Market Auction House, or more recently the game play token.

All of these inflation fighters work to one degree or another, but over the course of years inflation still happens. WoD was an especially fast track for it because of the relatively vast amounts of gold players could earn for very little time investment. I am not sure why Blizz decided to make this happen, but I suspect it had something to do with a desperate attempt to give players some reason to keep playing an otherwise widely-despised expansion.

This point resonated with me lately as I was trying to gear up my rogue. As I have a fair amount of gold to spend, I thought I might pick up a couple of leather BoE epics for him from the auction house. I wanted to stay with high level ones because for most anything under level 710 I might as well use Baleful gear. So I started looking.

I got an education in economics as well as in lottery-type thinking. On my server, the only BoEs available at  the level I wanted are boots and belts. This is mainly due to Blizz not making much else BoE at that level. Also, there are usually at most 1 or 2 of each available in the AH. This is due probably to a combination of the items being a low drop rate and the fact that fewer and fewer people are doing the raids that drop them. Thus, in terms of supply and demand economics, goods are scarce and there is a small supply.

The absolute lowest price I saw for any item was 50,000 gold, and usually the prices were more in the 80,000 range, with level 725 items always in the 100,000+ range. I was dumbfounded. Of course I can afford to buy these items at these prices, but I absolutely refuse to do so, not because I am stingy (well, I am, but that is not relevant here) but because to me no piece of gear is worth that at this stage in an expansion. Put into other terms, 100,000 gold is over two months of game time in North America. Taking this analogy one step further, that one piece of gear has an equivalent real cost of between $20 (for low end 50k items) and $40+ (at $20 each for game time tokens from the Blizz store).

(Did a late edit on that last bit because my original math was flaky, sorry.)

Just not worth it to me. And I expect many players, even those with a lot of gold, feel the same way. Yet the same sellers keep trying to sell what I presume are the same pieces of gear (no one can be that legitimately lucky with drops to get multiples of these drops, right?) for weeks and weeks. And a look at WoWuction indicates very few of them are in fact selling. So once again in terms of supply and demand economics, demand — while not flat — is falling. This is the education I got in lottery type thinking — people still think they can make their fortune by selling that one piece of gear, oblivious to the changing situation of demand. Now of course only one spendthrift or raid-desperate buyer needs to bite in order for one seller to get lucky, but it is in fact just that — getting lucky. It has nothing to do with sound merchant principles.

Anyhow, I have not bought any gear for my rogue, and I seriously doubt if I will do so. But in looking for it, I realized another interesting phenomenon in the auction house, at least from my experience. As I was looking for gear, I would from time to time stumble on what seemed to be a really good deal on some other item or mat I am always on the lookout for, the kicker being that the good deal was not in the buyout price but in the bid price for the item. So I would put in a bid.

Hahahahahahaha!

Has anyone out there ever actually won an auction house bid? Not talking about “winning a bid” if you do a buyout, but an honest-to-goodness bid on an item? I know I haven’t. I don’t often try this route to buying things — maybe because it never works — but over the years I have made maybe 40-50 item bids. Some of them are minimum bids, some of them just a few silver short of the buyout price, some on rare items, some on items the auction house is slammed with. But I have never won one. Not. One. Single. Time. Ever. I am always outbid, usually within minutes of submitting, even if I keep upping my bid.

A couple of years back I dabbled a bit in the Black Market auction house. At the time, the big seller was that invitation to start Brawler’s Guild, can’t remember its name now. There were always dozens for sale on the BMAH. I actually finally submitted a ticket to Blizz, because strangely every time I put in a bid on one, within minutes “someone” would outbid me, regardless of the time of the day or night, even though there were still dozens of invitations in the BMAH with minimum bids less than the one this “someone” had outbid me on. I found this to be bot logic, not human logic, so I submitted the ticket to Blizz — they seemed to agree with me on my reasoning, but of course I never heard back from them beyond their initial “We are looking into it” response.

I can’t shake the feeling that bots are more or less rampant in the regular auction house, too, and so few people actually use the bid system that Blizz can’t be bothered to track down the botters because no one really notices or cares.

Why do we even still maintain the facade of the auction house as a place to “bid” on things? Why not get rid of that entire mechanic and just list things for sale? Rename it to something like the Azeroth Flea Market. I suppose the answer is that to change it would cost many more resources than it is worth — easier to just let people keep on ignoring the “bid” mechanic.

I have rambled on too long.

Tl;dr — 1.) I am stingy and server inflation brings that out more, and 2.) I am not good at AH transactions.