The emerging Legion big picture

I spent most of my weekend game time not so much playing WoW as reading about it. Specifically, catching up on some of the in-depth blog posts about experiences so far on the limited-invite alpha/beta Legion.

Obviously, it is still very early — I really do believe it will be September 2016 before Legion goes live — but I see what for me are some large-trend, big-picture design consequences that I find disturbing, possibly to the point of destroying the parts of the game I love the most. Let me try to weave the pieces together for you.

Item: Professions. Pherian over at alt:ernative chat is doing a series on her experiences thus far with professions in Legion alpha. I should say, with her experiences thus far with one profession — skinning — since that is the only one currently available. But, as she points out, it is fair to assume that skinning is representative of the whole new Legion profession template.

Taken in onesies or twosies, the new profession approach seems interesting. Leveling is done through a series of quests in the Broken Isles. Although there is no crafting to learn for skinning, Blizz has told us that crafting recipes will be learned through questing also.

While this may be a refreshing approach for your main, my prediction is that it will eventually drive a stake through the heart of alt professions, especially for those of us who have leveled one of every profession in order to be self sufficient. And indeed, Blizz has told us that having alts for that reason is not desired game play, it is frowned upon by Blizz. In fact, Watcher condescendingly instructed us in the correct/approved use of alts in the Patch 6.2 Q&A (quoted here from the MMO-C wrap up):

The team recognizes that many people play multiple characters. They prefer to see alts exist to serve themselves. You should have a healer alt because you want to heal, or another class PvP alt because you want to PvP as that class. The progression for each character should be on that character. Multiple alts shouldn’t exist to serve your main character.

By gating every 7.x profession behind a series of quests that must be carried out in the Broken Isles, Blizz has effectively required every alt to be viable in that environment. If they are not properly equipped, and if you are not proficient at playing them, you will not be able to level their professions.

And “properly equipped” may include having at least the initial artifact to weapon for each alt, which is yet another series of quests to go through. Not to mention any kind of pre-Legion scenario to actually get to the Broken Isles.

The big picture I get from this? Blizz does not want you to be able to level a profession in Legion unless it is on an alt that you have played, equipped,  and intend to continue to play in the “approved” fashion.

Item: Hunters. My opinions on the Legion changes to hunters are pretty well known, and I do not intend to itemize them again in this post. But a few days ago Bendak published his first impressions of Survival hunter, in a Locked and Loaded piece on Blizzard Watch as well as on his own blog. Now, Bendak is what I would call a hunter’s hunter, and generally he is quite positive regarding inevitable hunter changes, he always seems to find the gold nuggets in what most of the rest of us often see as a pile of “fertilizer mats”. But his pieces on SV hunter are the most pessimistic I have seen from him.

To be fair, he points out as I did above, that the current test version of Legion is extremely early in its development, and he notes that some aspects of SV hunter have excellent potential. Still, the one overriding negative factor he cites is that SV hunter is truly an entirely different class.

Those of you who do not play hunters, please think about that for a minute. For example, if you play a warrior — Arms, for example — think about how you would react if Arms were to suddenly become a ranged spec, and instead of a two handed sword, suddenly the only weapon available to you was a bow. On top of that, imagine one of your key raid spells, such as Recklessness, was removed. All of the skills you had learned would become worthless, and you would have to learn an entire set of ranged damage skills. In short, nearly all of the things that caused you to select Arms Warrior in the first place would be gone. All because Blizz had a notion that Warriors had become too “homogeneous”.

Add to all this Blizz’s very dismal history of successfully balancing any class when it undergoes change, the for-no-good reason removal of pets from Marksmanship hunters and of traps from MM and BM hunters, and Blizz’s track record of staying the course with bad ideas no matter how many numbers-heavy reports they get from their beta testers, and this is the big picture I get:

Blizz will destroy the hunter class in Legion. Some players will like the new class, some will not, but make no mistake about it, the hunter class will no longer exist in Legion. 

Last item: Change. Bhagpuss over at Inventory Full has a thoughtful article on change in MMO’s. A couple of comments are worth quoting:

MMORPGs were never meant to be “games”. Not really. They’re pastimes, hobbies, obsessions. They’re places to hide and places to go and places to live. They’re the virtual equivalent of the garden shed, the attic, a quiet night in by the fire. They stand with knitting, whittling, gardening or fishing as things you can do when you don’t have anything you have to do, something you can go on doing for as long as you want to go on doing something.

And,

For those of us who still enjoy our MMOs it’s not boredom we’re feeling; it’s comfort. Coming home from a rough day at work to a familiar MMO is like pulling closed the cabin door against the snow and settling down in front of the fire with a whittling knife and a stout log.

That’s not enough for most gamers. Gamers crave novelty. MMO “players”, by and large, aren’t gamers. If they crave anything it’s stasis. “More of the same” is their battlecry when they take to the forums, something they rarely do because most of them barely know there are forums.

Herein, I think, lies the foundation of my unease with Legion, and my extremely strong reaction to the very significant changes that will be part of it. I am not a gamer, I would never characterize myself as such. But I love WoW. I love it for the reasons Bhagpuss enumerates, and since I find refuge in it as a place of comfortable escape, I am resistant to change, and I am furious when that change is so large as to pretty much destroy my escape sanctuary, as I feel is happening with the destruction of alts and of hunters.

But Blizz is under the impression that most of its players are gamers, that they “crave novelty”. This, I think, is not the case — most of Blizz’s most vocal players may be gamers, but most of its bread-and-butter monthly subscribers are not.

And indeed, Blizz is moving forward with the assumption that it is creating content for gamers, ignoring the almost-certain fact that the majority of whatever player base they have remaining are probably not true gamers.

And this, I think, is the biggest big picture I get of Legion: Blizz is shaping the game in ways that will cater to their ideal image of who their player base should be, not who their player base actually is. 

This cannot end well, at least not for me and those like me.

 

A few thoughts on the movie

Though I have paid little attention to any of the rumors and/or hype that have been going on for years now, it seems that there will in fact be a Warcraft movie hitting the screens next summer. I don’t know if I will rush out to see it or not, honestly. I usually like to wait for the DVD or the pay per view versions to come out. The experience is less grand than it is in the theater, but it is also less annoying without the popcorn munching, tweeting and texting, phones ringing, people talking and putting their smelly feet up on your seat back, etc.

I have never been overly interested in WoW lore, and I don’t know if the movie will therefore turn out to be a big yawner for me, of if it will get me more interested in the lore. Remains to be seen.

I also don’t have a feel for how good the movie will be, on its own. Quite a bit of recent hype hints that it will border on spectacular, but that is hype and who really knows. But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it is a real blockbuster — great CGI, absorbing story line, terrific dialogue, and hunks and hotties galore. What might that mean for the game?

It will almost certainly make a lot of money for Activision Blizzard. And since the money will be made on the back of the WoW franchise, it should mean that the game itself will get some much-needed corporate interest and resources for a newly energized continuation. Should. That doesn’t mean it will. I still think ATVI is in the process of abandoning the WoW model, and there is a good chance that money from a WoW movie will be seen as a windfall for all their new games.

A successful movie will bring in new players to the game, possibly a LOT of new players. If — and only if — Blizz is prepared for this influx, it will be good for the game. By “prepared” I mean quite a few things:

  1. Servers are ready for the new load. You would think this is a no-brainer, but I give you as People’s Exhibits 1 and 2 launch of Mists and launch of WoD. ‘Nuff said.
  2. The game itself is welcoming, fun, and absorbing for new players who have never seen it before. This means it is self-contained, not so confusing that it requires an outside source such as Wowhead to make sense of it. It means the low-level experience is rich and varied enough to permit a wide range of play styles. It means there are mechanics in place to allow new players to easily meet up with and play with friends (for example, the game is more guild-friendly than it is now). It means a non-toxic social environment, where new players are not ridiculed and scorned for asking reasonable questions, where they are not seen as easy prey and entertainment for more experienced players. (And yes, I do think Blizz can help with this, it is not totally dependent  on the player base. There are plenty of actions they can take to greatly discourage toxic behavior.)
  3. Devs are prepared for a more or less continuous stream of small patches, designed to introduce fun tweaks and options rather than tons of new content.
  4. Classes and specs are stabilized and well-balanced (that is, fun to play) at every level, not designed only for end game max gear.
  5. There are rewarding group activities at low levels.

The specter of a looming successful movie is likely to have an effect on the game even before the movie comes out. Take a look at the timeline. Almost the earliest we will get an initial announcement of a new expansion is at Blizzcon. That means that –even being very optimistic — we would not get a beta before early 2016, and a PTR in spring of 2016 at best. Which would put the new expansion launch in synch with the movie premiere. This makes business sense, as it would combine movie revenues with a rash of new players PLUS the rash of returning players and game sales always associated with a new expansion. A banner year for Blizz. (Although I shudder at the almost certain technical chaos it will cause, given their track record.)

What does that mean for the current game? It means we are a year out — in the best case — from a new expansion. Another year of WoD, another year of garrisons and shipyards and apexis crystals and broken professions and horrible class imbalances.

I think it also means — in spite of Blizz’s reluctance to do it — at least one more patch, 6.3, before we get 7.0. In fact, if we are a year out from the xpac, we could conceivably see a 6.4. And, since I do not think we will get another raid tier, indications are that we will be basically in the same situation we were in Mists towards the end. I could be wrong, and I hope I am wrong, but the realities of time are pretty compelling.

Why do you have alts?

My plan today had been to write about the effects T2 is having on alts, but The Grumpy Elf beat me to it, and honestly he did a way better job with it than I would have, so please stop by and read his post. But thinking about alts and the shabby — in my opinion — way they have been treated in WoD got me to thinking about the various reasons people have them, and the various ways they play them.

I will take myself as an example, because I think I have a representative number of alts but I am not what you would call an altoholic. My main is a Worgen hunter, and my alts are:

  • A level 100 Night Elf hunter (who used to be my main but who has fallen behind in WoD, due to not being with a decent raid team for most of the expansion, but who still has most of my account achievements).
  • A level 100 Pandaren monk who is my healer.
  • A level 100 Gnome destro warlock.
  • A level 100 Human arcane mage that I have never learned how to play and that spent over a year being a bank alt.
  • A level 91 Night Elf balance druid. (See mage comments above.)
  • A level 90 Pandaren elemental shaman that is mostly a bank alt but that I had fun playing around with in Mists.
  • A level 18 Human priest that is strictly a bank alt.

Over the years I have created a lot of alts, but I deleted most of them and the ones above are the ones I am left with for now. The first two alts I ever created were my druid and my mage, and my newest alt — created in Mists — is my lock.

The only reason I have ever created alts is to try out play styles on non-hunter classes. You will note that with the exception of my healer all my alts are ranged damage dealers. This is because so far I have not been able to really get into melee style game play. I have tried every melee class but never stuck with them beyond about level 60 or so, I end up getting really bored with them and deleting them. I chalk this up to it being a bad habit of mine, and I still intend to pick a melee class and level it to max, just haven’t picked out the right one for me yet. I have toyed with the idea of making a strong melee off spec for either my druid or my monk, but again I have not devoted much time to that. But it is still an option.

The other thing about my alts is that they are all Alliance. I have tried a couple of Horde side alts, but my imagination is so strong and my game immersion (can’t believe I am actually using that term) is so great that I cannot shake the feeling that I am being a traitor, so I always end up deleting them. Plus, to be honest, I think all the Horde races are disgustingly ugly, and I just can’t enjoy being surrounded by them. (I know, I am shallow!)

Of all my alts, I enjoy playing the healer and the lock the most (not counting my alt hunter, because nothing could be more fun than a hunter). I like the healer because it is so completely different from damage dealing. I find healing stressful while I am anticipating it, challenging while I am doing it, and fulfilling when I am done. If I were not mainly a hunter, I would be a healer.

I like my lock because she has a ton of personality. She is tiny and cute but totally kick-ass. If you met her in a dark alley, you would back away as fast as possible because one look and you would know she is no one to mess with. In Mists, the destro lock play style was great fun, but it has become less so in WoD. I still find it engaging, just a tad slow and tedious to get going in that you have to build up your embers before you can have fun spending them, and you are pretty much dependent on standing still to do well. And locks are fun to level and quest with because like hunters they have their own private tank.

Anyway, this is not about the things I like or don’t like about each of my alts, the point is that I created them in the first place to play them. If/when I create another melee class it will be because I want to explore that play style.

If you believe Ion Hazzikostas, that is the only “approved” reason for creating and having alts. But I have another reason for maintaining my alts (and I suspect many of you do, too). I take care to ensure that between them they have all the relevant professions, so that I can be self-sufficient with crafted gear, enchants, glyphs, gems, mat gathering, etc. Apparently Blizz frowns upon this and is taking steps to make it more difficult. But it remains for me a very strong reason to have them, and I don’t intend to change. (*sticks out tongue at Blizz*)

In addition to exploring different play styles and being self-sufficient, a third reason I have alts is to be a good raid team member. I feel like having a couple of viable alts is the responsible thing to do if you are on a decent raid team. They don’t have to be top performers, just viable in a pinch. This means that you should do your best to have them raid-ready by gearing them as best you can and by maintaining some level of proficiency with them.

The last reason I have for alts is as boredom insurance. As expansions wear on and you have done pretty much all you care to do on your main, you can always turn to either a new or existing alt and experience the expansion in a new way on them. I guarantee you that T2 will be a completely different experience on my mage than it was on my hunters, for example. Same with LFR — it may be the only way I can get close to raiding on my weaker alts, so it will be quite a bit different from my hunter LFR token-hunting reason. As I have mentioned, I was never bored in Mists, even though it went on for a long time, and I attribute most of that to being able to spend quality time with my alts.

So that’s it. I enjoy alts, I have multiple reasons for creating them, and I wish I had more time to play them. I also wish T2 was not such a hostile environment for them. I intend to create more alts, especially as WoD ages. They are a way for me to keep the game fresh, reminding me again of the reasons I started playing in the first place.

What about you? Why do you have alts, or if you don’t have any why don’t you?

Independence Day (?)

The past weekend was a holiday here in the U.S., July 4 being the day we celebrate giving the official finger to King George III by presenting him with an elegantly written document, the tl;dr version of which was we were as mad as hell and we were not going to take it any more. My weekend activities involved a lot of good burgers and good friends, and of course good beer.

Possibly as a result of the latter, I started to think about the importance of independence. Not the big lofty “Independence” of national self-determination, but the personal kind. The kind that means you as an individual are free to make your own decisions, embark on your own course, and either reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of your actions. I realized how important this kind of independence is to me. My perception of it permeates my life, from my choice of a career (I am self-employed), to my choice of spouse (early in our marriage he tried to “forbid” me to do something, then laughed when he saw my look and said, “That’s never going to work, is it?”), to my choice of leisure activities (music, pottery, gardening — things that discourage rules and boundaries and that reward creativity).

I did not play a lot of WoW over the weekend, because of various holiday activities, but also because I find myself in a kind of holding pattern in the game, basically waiting for flying. I spent the first two weeks of T2 grinding rep on my main hunter, and I got my Pathfinder achievement last Thursday night. The process held my interest, but I am not looking forward to repeating it on my other hunter or especially on my squishier alts. I enjoyed the first time because it was something new, but I could not shake the feeling that I was being herded down a cattle chute — there was a defined beginning and a defined end, and there was very little opportunity for straying from the prescribed course.

It all felt too linear. All of WoD has felt too linear for me, I realized, but the confined area of Tanaan just brought it home to me. Having had years of flying in the game, to be suddenly limited to two dimensions has felt stifling.

I don’t deal well with “stifling.” Being bound to two dimensions in the game has made me feel like I am bound to linear thinking in my approach to it. Linear thinking is not creative thinking. And it has made me more sensitive to other Blizz-imposed constraints in the game, such as their insistence that raiding is the end goal for everyone, and their recent trend of binding all other activities to raiding. It’s like when you are squished into a middle seat on an airplane, you suddenly blow all minor encroachments into your remaining personal space way out of proportion.

Independence. Personal freedom. An environment in which to be creative. This is what first fascinated me about WoW, but WoD has been that middle seat in coach, and every time Blizz scoots its elbow further onto my armrest I get angrier and angrier. Reinstatement of flying will be like a move to First Class, and having all the extra space will — I hope — make me less cranky about minor incursions.

So, back to my weekend in WoW. Even though I finished my rep grind for the achievement, I still need to do it on my alt hunter, because she is my jewelcrafter. (In hindsight, I probably should have done the Pathfinder rep grind on her, not my main, but by the time I realized that, I was pretty far along on my main’s rep and opted not to prolong the achievement by switching to my alt.)

As an aside, the whole JC thing in 6.2 is an excellent example of Blizz taking up the whole armrest. I resent having to do very specific parts of the game just to get recipes for gems, when every other profession out there is able to get recipes easily. I resent having to get Brawlers Guild rank 6, complete Mythic Skyreach, achieve a grindy faction rep, kill a world boss, and kill a raid boss, just to get gem recipes THAT DON’T EVEN LET ME CRAFT MY OWN GEMS. An even worse insult is the “chance” you can actually learn the recipes yourself by having the robot craft them. Please. More RNG torture just to be able to craft a few gems. I had the robot craft 4 Immaculate Mastery gems over the weekend. Want to guess how many personal recipes I got? Yes, you guessed it, none.

Anyway, I am waiting for flying before I do much more in T2. I am sick of the stifling boundaries of two-dimensional play. I am sick of the rat maze. I want to soar above it, find where I want to go, then go there directly and structure my own activities for the play time I have. I am hoping tomorrow is the day that will happen.

I am hoping that Tuesday, July 7, is WoW Independence Day.

6.2 — Scattered thoughts

How did your first day go with 6.2? I can best sum mine up with a hearty “meh…” Some things were fun, some were almost unbelievably frustrating, but one thing I know for sure is that this patch will get very old very fast.

So far I have only taken my two hunters there, so the grinding was as easy as it will get. Neither is fantastically geared, but they are not bad either at 684 and 673. Killing mobs and soloing rares and elites was not a problem.

On my main, I managed to hit Friendly with the three new factions, so that gave me some hope that the rep grind will be bearable, if slightly boring. I can imagine that some people will have their Pathfinder achievement within a few days, which will increase the pressure on Blizz to get 6.2.x out quickly for flying. However, since Blizz publicly estimated that achieving the rep part would take approximately three weeks for most players, I do not expect 6.2.x for at least three weeks, more likely a month at the earliest. Prepare your forum comments now….

As I muddled about in T2 yesterday, I was struck by the differences between it and Timeless Isle. I admit that TI got to be boring after a bit, but I think already that T2 does not compare favorably with it. For example, it is touted as a gear catch-up mechanism for alts, but the Baleful gear is all BoP. On TI, the gear was BoA, which meant that you could take your main there, pick up some pieces for your alts and get them quickly to the point where they could fend for themselves on the island, questing and treasure hunting and whatnot. That is not the case with T2, and honestly I think bringing my healer and my poor squishy mage there will largely be an exercise in frustration.

Speaking of which, and only slightly off topic, Blizz needs to start thinking harder about how their game design adversely affects healers. (And probably tanks, too, although I can’t speak firsthand about that.) There is just no way, for example, that a healer without a damage off spec (a real one, not like a shadow priest) can successfully deal with T2 rares or even the elites you need to kill boatloads of for the Saberon rep. Blizz has designed their game such that healers have no choice but to group up for a big majority of the game’s activities. Others may not even be attainable — how does a healer do Brawlers Guild? Even leveling a healer seems to have gotten harder with WoD. My healer is a mistweaver, so I have a fairly robust damage ability, but I definitely noticed that leveling her to 100 seemed much more difficult, relatively, than leveling to 90.

Anyway, back to my impressions from yesterday. I knocked out the quest line for JC pretty quickly, it is trivial. And since I begrudgingly and sullenly had gotten to the required Brawlers Guild rank of 6 a couple of nights ago (I still think this is a ridiculous requirement), I was able to get the mastery gem module. However, the whole JC mechanism in 6.2 puzzles me. Basically, unlike every other patch in WoW and unlike every other profession, now JC’s don’t actually LEARN the new gem recipes. They get access to a gem cutter robot in the northern part of T2, and they can find/buy/loot modules (from rep, running Mythic Skyreach, etc.) that teach the robot how to cut the secondary stat gems. Thus, to craft a gem, the JC has to assemble the mats and then travel to the robot and have the gem cut. There is apparently a small chance that the JC can learn a recipe each time the robot cuts a gem for them, but the bottom line is that JCs have a completely different crafting mechanism now than all other professions.

I don’t understand this, but my tinfoil hat is channeling a theory to me. Back before WoD, when Blizz was hyping it, one of the devs — I don’t remember which one and now I can’t find the citation — made an interesting statement about JCs. There had been a player question about the lack of gem slots in the new gear, and the dev explained that it fit in with the desire to allow players to immediately equip and use loot drops, but he added a slightly snarky comment along the lines of honestly he could not feel too bad that JCs would no longer be able to “print gold.” Which was surprising to me, because back then the gem market was much like the glyph market — you really had to work at it to make any reasonable gold by making large quantities of pretty much every gem type and spend a huge amount of time on the AH adjusting quantities and prices every few hours. But the dev comment indicates there is at least one person at Blizz who wants to make it difficult for JCs to craft their gems, and I think the 6.2 gem dance is the result.

Let’s see, what else? It seemed to me that the T2 art and graphics overall are kind of dark, gloomy, and depressing. Again, it compares unfavorably to TI. I have explained before that I am not a fan of the dark and spooky game genre, I like bright engaging artwork and graphics. For me, it makes a big difference in how ready I am to quest in a given area. If it is dark and murky, I will stay away from it if I possibly can.

Shipyards? I got mine up and running on my hunters. I know Blizz has said they will be less onerous to manage than the follower missions. But my initial thought was that now I have even more to do in every garrison when I log in. As I don’t have an herbalist in T2 yet, I will still have to tend to my herb gardens. Mining nodes in T2 seems much less productive for the actual ore than does the garrison mine, so I will need to keep that up at least on a couple of alts in order to maintain my flow of mats. Same with crafting cooldowns. So I actually see my garrison drudgery increasing as a result of adding shipyards. And BTW Blizz, what the hell were you thinking with the whole requirement to run down to the shipyard? Have any of you actually done this 30 or 40 times? In case you haven’t, let me tell you now that it stinks.

Felblight? Not sure I even want to go there. I had what may be world record bad luck with it yesterday. I tried skinning for it, mining ore nodes for it, fishing for it, and killing mobs and rares for it. After two hours of killing elites, and after getting 196 ore, 43 fish, and 96 skins, I finally got my first Felblight. All told, I spent probably 10 hours in T2 yesterday, and I ended up with a grand total of 3 Felblight. This was scream-level frustrating for me, even more so since it seemed like the stuff was falling out of the sky for everyone else. If my bad luck continues, I will be forced to buy the stuff, but my server still has it pretty high, around 1000 gold each. It is annoying that I have easily a couple of thousand profession mats on all my professions, but they are completely useless without the Felblight.

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, I have nattered on too long, time to wrap this up. In summary:

  1. T2 will wear pretty thin pretty fast, I think.
  2. Gaining rep might go faster than Blizz predicted, so they better get the flying mods completed quick.
  3. Baleful gear needs to be BoA, on the model of the Timesless Isle gear.
  4. Blizz needs to start paying more attention to the leveling and world activity experience for healers and tanks.
  5. Jewelcrafting sucks even more than it did before this patch.
  6. T2 needs to be less depressing in its graphics.
  7. Shipyards only add to the garrison workload.
  8. Running between garrison and shipyard is stupid and annoying.
  9. Drop rate algorithm for Felblight needs to change — seriously, make it a hard one in ten drop, not this ridiculous 10% “average” drop rate.

 

Enough is effing enough!

Okay, Blizz, if I bow down to you and admit you are “BLIZZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL!” and if I stop pulling the curtain back and showing people the mousey little guy behind there, can you please stop forcing me into your “optional” content?

Here is some feedback for you: If I did not like optional content when it was first introduced, I am not going to suddenly love it when I am forced to do it in order to get at the content I actually enjoy.

When I was a child, I tried jello when it was first given to me, and I did not like it. My mother explained to me that it was yummy, that all the other children loved it, and that if I just kept trying it I would see how delicious it was. She forced me to eat jello for years, sometimes sending me to timeout, sometimes withholding privileges unless I ate it. But I never learned to even like it, much less love it. The more she forced it on me, the more stubborn and sullen I got. To this day I cannot stand jello.

Clearly, Blizz is trying to do what my mother could not.

Hang on, let me breathe and explain what I am talking about. I was just checking out Wowhead for some of the profession changes in 6.2, especially the JC changes, and it turns out that in order to get the recipe for the epic mastery gem, you must be level 6 with the Brawlers Guild.

Let me say that again. You must be level 6 with the Brawlers Guild to learn an important gem recipe, possibly the most important gem in the current game for a BM or SV hunter or for a lock or a mage. What possible sense does this make? Does Blizz need to crank up player participation numbers for the Brawlers Guild, so that they can prove there will be support for some new crackpot game they are creating? When Mists first came out, I tried the Brawlers Guild, found that I disliked it, and never went back. After all, as Blizz explained, it was optional game play, something new and fun for those who liked it. Some people liked it, good for them, I didn’t so I opted out of it, no harm no foul.

And now suddenly you have to participate in it just to get a profession recipe? Why? What possible story line connection could there be for this? Seriously, I think the cheese has slipped off Blizz’s cracker, this is nuts.

But it is in line with other lies Blizz keeps telling us about “optional” content. Remember “optional” pet battling? Not so optional if you ever want to complete your garrison, with its non-optional pet menagerie. For that matter, remember all of Blizz’s assurances that garrisons were “optional” play? Uh-huh, optional unless you wanted to see any new content, that is. How about PvP, also “optional” unless you wanted to get the Mists legendary cloak.

As bad as WoD initially was for professions, Patches 6.1 and 6.2 drive them further into the ground. Even the way they are doing new recipes from your garrison vendor is nuts. Why in hell should you have to go through the annoyance of finding the vendor you need, on the random day they are available, possibly in someone else’s garrison? What “vision” of the game is served by that mechanic? It’s not hard, but it is stupid and annoying, and there is no legitimate reason for it. Obviously, another award-winning idea from Blizz’s Screw With the Players Department. And they have really outdone themselves with this Brawlers Guild gem recipe requirement.

Yes, I know it is Monday and I probably am cranky and out of sorts, but give it up Blizz! Enough is effing enough. Go get a damn dictionary and look up the meaning of “optional.” No matter how much you try to force me into it, I do not enjoy PvP, or pet battling, or Brawlers Guild, or Hearthstone (if I wanted to play cards, I would play a real card game, like poker), or waddling my flying mount along on the ground, or spending hours trying to slam a mouse button at just exactly the right millisecond in order to jump up for a treasure, or galloping around for more hours to get a better selection of elevator music. (I am just waiting for the announcement of the next expansion, and the requirement for all the jukebox achievements to be completed before you can ding 101.)

I. Do. Not. Like. Jello.

It’s 95 degrees F here today already, with about 90% humidity, and honestly I feel like I need to go outside and cool off. Brawlers Guild, my ass!

Oh. Have a nice day. (It’s “optional” but not for long.)

Patch 6.1 experien…..zzzzzzzz

Patch 6.1 is close to the most underwhelming patch Blizz has ever issued. It would absolutely win the prize, except that they did add some annoying, customer-hostile features that have generated quite a bit of (negative) feedback. Apparently they have implemented a policy often employed by politicians and movie stars, that any publicity/interest is good, no matter how awful the public response.

I will admit that when I logged on to my main after the patch I had a bit of fun just checking out some of the new stuff.  But, like this entire expansion, it was fun once on one character but after that it is boring at best and teeth-grindingly awful at worst.

So no, I will not be chasing all over Draenor on my alts to get a jukebox that plays the same elevator music I have heard over and over and over again for years in this game. I will be sticking to my iTunes playlists, thank you very much.

And no, I am not interested in publicizing all of my alts to everyone by joining Battle.net so that I can Tweet about how boring the patch is. The Battle.net requirement for using Twitter in game was a nice little last-minute gotcha by Blizz. A blue post yesterday explained that it was the only way they could implement parental controls, which I suppose is a decent reason, but — ummmm — just possibly this could have been explained IN ADVANCE?

Side rant: So, Blizz, it’s nice that you are concerned about all the innocent little children playing this game, really it is. It warms my heart. I mean that. However, I suspect your concern has more to do with possible lawsuits than any real worries about exposing children to the seamier side of social media. I say that because, damn, HAVE YOU LOOKED AT TRADE CHAT LATELY???? If you are suddenly so protective of young players in your game, maybe you could hire a couple of server trade chat bouncers to crack down on the vile, hate-filled, often threatening comments usually expressed in sexually explicit terms, and the filthy language deliberately misspelled so as to circumvent the language filter. Just sayin’. You know, since you’re so worried about protecting the little children and all.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Back to the patch.

I have not yet had the “pleasure” of taking any selfies in-game, because as usual the RNG gods have it in for me and I have not gotten the S.E.L.F.I.E mission on any of my characters. Not that I think this will be fun more than enough times to get the achievement, but — you know– it would be nice to have that opportunity.

Which brings me to my main observation about Patch 6.1. Even though Blizz admits there are problems with RNG (they did implement the bad luck streak fix for bonus rolls) — most especially the frustration players have when they are in a run of bad luck — they insist on making that the deciding feature on more and more aspects of the game. By doing so, they remove more and more control from players. For me, the truly fascinating part of this game was always the thinking part, embarking on Decision Tree X so as to achieve Goal Y. But lately I feel like it just doesn’t matter, since many decisions are no longer mine but instead a roll of the dice.

Everyone (I think) understands that the guts of this game is RNG — chance to land a killing blow, chance to win certain loot, chance that a mob will spawn, etc. But that doesn’t mean everything has to be based on a pseudorandom generator. And until recently there were many game features that were based on player choice. Choose to do dailies or not so as to get currency that resulted in gear. Choose to raid or not to get gear that way. Choose to level up a jewelcrafter so as to make your own gems or sell them for gold. Choose to tweak your gear stats with enchants, gems, or recently by reforging. Choose to have alts or not, along with a reasonable opportunity to actually play them.

Those things are gone, and Blizz keeps narrowing player options. For example, it is beyond stupid in my opinion to have the RNG method of learning new profession recipes for this patch. WoD already pretty much destroyed professions for those of us that enjoyed that aspect of the game, and now it seems like they are just rubbing it in. Why gate the availability of profession recipes FOR ENTIRE REGIONS AT ONCE? Just to stretch out the newness of the patch? News flash, Blizz, the patch stinks, and gating non-content is not going to make it less odoriferous. And why not at least make the profession recipes BoA? As it stands now, if the fur trader shows up in my leatherworker’s garrison, I have to log onto my tailor and beg someone to invite me to their garrison in order to get the tailoring recipes. Another news flash, Blizz, this does not force me to have more social interaction in the game, it only annoys me and forces me to spend valuable game time doing administrivia. I get enough of that in real life, thank you very much.

The only explanation I have for this entire patch is that it was the leftover punch list from the expansion. Blizz dragged their feet so long in getting WoD out, there were certainly a lot of things they knew were broken but hey the villagers were gathering with pitchforks and they had to push out the xpac or have their collective butts chased across the countryside. So they had a “fix later” list. Also, the patch was a great opportunity to give the citizens bread and circuses so as to distract them from the awfulness of the xpac. (“This blows, there’s no content, garrisons take up all my time, OOOHH LOOK, SELFIES!”)

And of course, the ever-vigilant Screw With the Players Department saw opportunities to add in annoying “features” such as RNG-based profession recipes.

All in all, 6.1 is a non-patch. Why bother, Blizz?