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Got Ghostcrawler on Speed-dial

Right after yesterday’s complaints, the following notes go up:

  • Experience needed to increase from level 85 to level 90 has been reduced by 33%.
  • Reduced the number of Lesser Charms of Good Fortune needed for the Mogu Runes of Fate weekly quest to 50, down from 90.
  • Players no longer need to have defeated Grand Empress Shek’zeer to enter the Terrace of Endless Spring in Normal difficulty.
  • Shado-Pan and The August Celestials daily quests no longer have a faction prerequisite to be Revered with the Golden Lotus.

Technically, the last one has been in there a while, if you haven’t noticed before.

Anyway, nice try, Ghostcrawler, but it’s too little, too late for me. Maybe when the next expansion is 50% off, I’ll dip my toe in again like I did this last time. Then again, maybe not.

Outmaneuvered

The one two bright spots I have encountered thus far post-Patch, is the reputation gain from the first heroic dungeon/Scenario of the day. The interface changes which governs this is pretty slick and straightforward. After finishing a Klaxxi work order on the farm, I took my warrior through a quick Scenario, which resulted in decent Shado-Pan rep (due to Commendations) and an actual 463 blue from the bag at the end. From there, I chanced a heroic dungeon as DPS and was pleasantly surprised at a 11 minute queue. Best of all, considering I was already well into Honored with Shado-Pan from leveling with their Commendation, it appears likely that I will hit Revered over the next few weeks without doing a single Golden Lotus daily (as it should be).

The other bright spot was also Reputation oriented, and it has since rocketed up to be one of my favorite parts of the expansion: the Zandalari Warscouts. If you have not been following along, there are now new rare spawns across Pandaria that have a 100% chance to drop Bind-on-Account +1000 reputation tokens for various factions, and sometimes loot bags. I am not talking about the 5-man, 21 million HP rares, but rather the easily soloable 7 million HP ones; they do usually spawn in similar areas. I spent the better part of 2 hours off and on flying around, and ended up with tokens for August Celestials, Golden Lotus, and Shado-Pan x4. The spawn timers for the Warscouts is probably less than an hour.

And this also happened:

I got ganked by Horded before I could kill the 2nd one.

I got ganked by Horded before I could kill the 2nd one.

Remember my quaint hope of getting to Revered in a few weeks? Ain’t nobody got time for that:

42/3000 Neutral with Golden Lotus. Screw those guys.

82/3000 Neutral with Golden Lotus. Screw those guys.

The new daily island on the other hand… good lord.

I wonder if the Blizzard devs truly understand how outdated, archaic, and downright stupid their questing design philosophy looks in a post-Guild Wars 2 world. While running around on the new island, I encountered a group of five Alliance players also doing the daily quests. While all of us were able to get credit for killing certain mobs, the other 95% of the time I did nothing but stare slack-jawed while they tapped and cleared out the rest of the mobs in the area, while occasionally ninja-ing the vases (or whatever) we needed to break for another quest. Had there been 1-2 Alliance, I could have manually invited them to a party so we could actually share in the completion of objectives. Since they were already in a 5-person group however, they became nothing more than annoying obstacles in my way.

Do you remember the response one of the blues gave to the question of why you can’t complete quests as part of a raid group? “Because then the correct way to level would be to join the rolling STV (etc) raid.” Oh, yes, of course! That makes perfect sense. We cannot possibly allow organized grouping in an MMO, lest the player come to the mistaken conclusion that players of their own faction are a welcome sight, there to enrich their lives and make it more social and enjoyable. Heavens no! All other players are competition for limited resources, and two is a crowd already! Can you imagine the anarchy that would reign if each individual player did not kill their full allotment of 13 gnolls? Five people sharing the credit is bad enough!

What a joke.

I can understand that ArenaNet outmaneuvered Blizzard so resoundingly on this issue – seriously, folks, I don’t even play GW2 anymore but you can’t go back to tapped mobs afterwards – and it takes time for an oil barge as large as WoW to turn around. Hell, sometimes the blues indicate they don’t even know how some shit even works, like the original programmers died or translated the vanilla code from alien hieroglyphics or something.

I will even grant that the GW2 system could not simply be implemented wholesale, provided the Blizzard programmers were up to the task in the first place. A lot of the underlying systems would need to be changed, and not even ArenaNet thought a lot of it through. In WoW, for example, even though a 5-person group gets credit for shared kills, only one person ever gets loot, be it round-robin or rolls. The big issue in GW2 is that one mob can drop 5+ pieces of gear (one for each player that damages it), which rapidly inflates the volume of items floating around. By the time I stopped playing, the GW2 marketplace was identical to the Diablo 3 AH disaster wherein both crafting and mob drops were pointless due to the vendor+1c priced goods flooding the market. Then again, it would be much less of an issue for WoW considering 99.99% of all mob drops are useless vendor trash, up to and occasionally including the epics (beyond ilevel cheesing).

To be perfectly honest, I do not know if I ever want to go back to the Thunder Isle. The Isle of Quel’Danas and Tol Barad were fine for what they were, but they were also products of their time. This mob-dense, poorly-routed, arbitrarily designed, anti-social hellhole is two years two late. I had time to ponder all these things as I blithely soloed a 7.8 million HP rare elite on the ilevel 455 warrior (Second Wind is overpowered), watching one, two, three Alliance players go skipping by in pursuit of solitude. After picking up my loot, I sought to join them… only to have the bitter irony collapse in upon itself from the sheer weight of poor design.

Also! Who was the fucking genius who decided to implement crafted PvP gear for a new season, only to hide it behind once-a-day random research, the plate gear of which cannot even start being learned until Stage 3 of the island? Who is the crafted gear designed for? The new PvP players starting three months from now? You can purchase 470 ilevel gear for Honor right now! In every possible scenario you are better off getting farmed to hell and back in random BGs than A) waiting for the myriad of crafters to auction their individual pieces at 1000% profit margins, or B) unlocking the recipes yourself. You are going to replace this crafted gear with Honor pieces anyway, so… what the actual fuck?

Christ on a cracker, I feel like I’m watching a version of the Washington DC bullshit playing out between Blizzard devs and common goddamn sense.

5.2: From Most Alt-Unfriendly to Best Alt Expansion Ever?

Patch 5.2 should be out today. It is always a bit overwhelming looking at the huge, collated MMO-Champion post, but one thing should not be missed: 5.2 changes Mists from the most alt-unfriendly expansion ever to perhaps the friendliest one yet. Here are some of the changes I had been keeping an eye on:

New ways of gaining Reputation

Daily quests are fine the first time around, but grinding them multiple times is simply cruel. Commendations came out in 5.1, but you still had to do the dailies, albeit half as many. Now, as long as you fully unlock the Farm, you can do two work orders a day for 400 reputation apiece. Additionally, the first heroic dungeon and first Scenario of the day gives you 750 and 325 rep respectively. On top of that, the 5-person rare spawns on the new island have a chance of dropping BoA tokens that can be consumed for 1000 reputation with a particular faction. I am unsure if the 1-2 man rare spawns drop smaller versions of the same token.

While it may be still worth doing the actual dailies to compliment the bonus reputation, the point is we now have a choice again.

Accelerated Catch-Up Gear Acquisition

I am not sure what the official percent increase is, but the drop rate for the 5.0 LFR bosses and Elder Charm rolls will be greatly increased. The prices of Valor items from the vendors have been decreased by 50% and 25% for the 5.0 and 5.1 items, respectively. Season 12 PvP gear is now on the Honor vendor, as usual, but now you can buy the ilevel 476 weapons for Honor. Additionally, the new Conquest weapons will not have a rating requirement. Blacksmiths can make BoE versions of the Burning Crusade Blacksmith weapons, at either 463 blues or 476 epics.

Tangentially, if you have a tanking spec, you might actually be able to farm more Honor by running heroic dungeons than doing random BGs. One of the changes in 5.2 is that you get 100 Justice Points for each heroic boss kill. That means for every 8 bosses you kill, you can turn in 750 of the 800 otherwise useless Justice Points into 500 Honor (or 375 JP –> 250 HP). Even if there is a more efficient way of farming Honor – and assuming you’re not killing more than 4 bosses every 30 minutes – the fact remains that you can gain that Honor while also gaining +725 reputation of your choice plus Valor points.

This is actually starting to feel a lot like Wrath again, when I would tank the daily heroic on 3-4 toons a day.

___________

On a complete different note, I spent nearly four hours yesterday attempting to get the last 24 Motes of Harmony necessary for my Scribe to craft one of the 476 BoA staves. The idea was to craft one of the staves, mail it to my main to upgrade twice, and then bank it for one of my other alts before the upgrade vendor is removed with the patch. I had (obviously) waffled quite a bit over whether this was worth my time, and just decided this weekend that it was. Unfortunately, between all the time spent leveling this weekend (my DK Scribe was level 85) and the mad dash last night, I damn near came away snuffing the small flame of my interest in WoW entirely out.

I ended up with 3.4 Spirits of Harmony, a gain of 8 Motes across levels 87-88.5. For a minute there, I honestly considering spending 4000 Honor at the vendor to get 10 Motes (400 H for a Mote is goddamn robbery), but I was hating life pretty hard at the end and I would still be short a few besides. I washed the taste out of my mouth with a little PlanetSide 2, but I am definitely not going to be doing something as crazy again. Those days are long over for me.

Unabated

My WoW playing continues unabated.

I have reached Exalted with Anglers and Klaxxi most recently, and the Tillers/Cloud Serpent weeks ago. I am a step away from Honored with Shado-pan, and stopped at Revered with Shieldwall and Golden Lotus (may whomever is responsible for Golden Lotus dailies burn forever). Since I am neutral with the August Celestials and they have nothing of interest for my paladin, I have not bothered doing any quests for them.

Of my 10 alts, the highest remains stagnant at level 88; dailies and/or LFR consumes all of the WoW time I permit among my other diversions. With me hitting so many reputation milestones though, this may change.

My (high) opinion of LFR has not changed, although I did have a few bad experiences. During the first fight of Vault of Mysteries, we had a AFK warlock leecher, who stood by the stairs during the encounter. While it was annoying knowing that he/she could possibly get rewarded for doing so, the greater issue was how the encounter was reset TWICE when he was targeted by one of the bosses’ abilities. The reason why it took two resets to kick the warlock was because it was not immediately obvious why the encounter reset.

The luck I experienced with my first run of LFR has not held up to repetition. Two weeks ago I received nothing, maybe 1-2 of those coins, and this past week I received naught but a tier helm. I will agree that the “failbags” do indeed start to feel worse than not winning rolls under the traditional model… although that is more a psychological artifact than reason to go back. I think it is easier to believe you pessimistically expect nothing to drop, when you are not immediately reminded that you had a discreet chance via the roll. The difference between Blackjack and slot machines goes much further than the mere odds.

For the second week in a row, I have also cleared out Black Temple solo. I am not entirely certain that every class can do it, but my Retribution paladin with 474 ilevel does not have much trouble with a full clear in 50 minutes. The 2nd phase of Reliquary of Souls is the only time things get truly dicey – Council also requires frequent Word of Glories while kiting – but beyond that it is fairly easy at this level and gear. I got the T6 pants and shoulders on my first run, and picked up some other Transmog-worthy pieces along the way.

Unfortunately, both the T6 chest and Bulwark drop off Illidan and he has yet to drop anything useful for the 3rd week running; clearing the place is easy, but 50 minutes is still 50 minutes. I could probably “cut my losses” and spend a ridiculous amount of honor for the Season 3 off-color chest (seriously, 1000 honor vs 175 honor for the S4 chest), as I grow increasingly weary about the odds that one of the legendary blades will drop. In many ways, getting one of those on the paladin, an item I could not even equip let alone Transmog (…yet), would almost be worse than never getting anything from Illidan.

Gaming psychology. Such a twisted thing.

LFR is a Better LFD

A few days after my friend ran me through some of the MoP heroics, he asked what I thought about them. To be honest, I did not think about them much at all. They are much easier than Cataclysm heroics, of course, which should be a reason to like them as much as I did the Wrath heroics; I am solidly in the “random pug content should be easy” category. At the same time… something felt off about them. It was not until I queued for LFR that I realized what it was.

LFR is everything that LFD strives to be. It is the final evolution of the LFD process, if you will.

Like many people, I was annoyed to find out that Blizzard backslid on reputation gains with MoP, removing the two-expansion precedent of running heroics with tabards. On one level, their argument makes sense: daily quest hubs are one guaranteed way to get people back out into the world. And while Blizzard has a long way to go with their stubborn “strangers are competition” design – Guild Wars 2 fixed it so thoroughly that anything less feels archaic – the daily quests became a quasi-guild event for my group for at least two weeks.

But there is a longer con going on here, and Blizzard is being a bit more clever than I thought. Put simply: Blizzard is intentionally marginalizing heroic dungeon content. The decreased difficulty is irrelevant compared to the fact that there isn’t really ever a reason to run heroics anymore. When tabards gave reputation, you always had a reason to run X number of dungeons far beyond the possibility of upgrades. When (BoP) Chaos Orbs only dropped from bosses, crafters had a reason to run dungeons. When Valor was only easily capped from heroics, you had a reason to run them every day (or at least 7x/week). None of those things are true or relevant anymore.

Raid Finder as a solution to the endgame problem is goddamn genius. The biggest problem with the raid scene in WoW was with how low participation has been; no matter how awesome raids like Ulduar are, it gets hard to justify the expense when less than 25% of your players see the first boss. Solution: LFR. No matter how much they bribe tanks to queue for heroics, I do not think I have seen a DPS queue less than 40 minutes long. Solution: LFR. Seriously, I had an 8 minute DPS queue for LFR the other day to possibly get gear 20 ilevels higher than heroics. Random jerks that you can’t kick harshing your vibes in heroics? Solution: LFR. People Need-whoring your drops? Solution: LFR. If there was ever a clearer indication that LFR is in and LFD is out, it would be how LFR has the new looting system and LFD is stuck with “mage won the healer trinket.” Once they start letting you win off-spec gear in LFR, there won’t be a reason to do anything else.

Oh, and how many new 5-mans are coming out in 5.2? Exactly.

So if you are wondering what I think about the Raid Finder system, I think it is fantastic. LFR is not perfect by any means, but it is probably the biggest improvement in WoW’s endgame structure since LFD. It provides practice for the “real” raids; it provides complexity in a somewhat more forgiving environment; it provides something more substantial than endless heroic runs; there are/will be enough of them to take up a good chunk of your playtime if you wish it; better loot with less grinding; and, finally, LFR offers an elegant solution to DPS over-representation.

I sometimes question the decisions they make over in Blizzard HQ, but whoever designed the integration of LFR into the game proper deserves a raise.

Looking Towards the 5.2 Changes

There are a lot of changes coming in 5.2. Here are the ones I’m keeping an eye on:

Reputation

  • “Work orders will pour into the farm from factions across Pandaria, and completing a work order will earn a reputation boost with the issuing faction.”
  • “You can now earn bonus reputation for your first dungeon and scenario of the day. You can select which reputation you choose to champion by selecting it from the reputation panel on the character screen.”

The above two items have mentally freed me from the self-imposed shackles of dailies, for the time being. Up to this point, my time in WoW has been 100% consumed by dailies – Golden Lotus, Cloud Serpent, Tillers, Anglers, Klaxxi, Shieldwall. Even the days when I ignored Golden Lotus (no real rewards for them or any linked reps for Alch/JC), I still found 2-3 hour play sessions evaporate with nothing accomplished other than rep bar movement. I was back on the Golden Lotus horse due to the lure of the Commendation (I’d love for my tailor alt to get the 28-slot bag eventually), but the day I read these patch notes is the day I stopped feeling like it was required every single day.

There is not any indication to how much reputation is earned with either method, but assuming it is larger than 500, I feel comfortable in focusing more on alts than hitting reputation milestones on the main.

Valor/Justice

  • Heroic Pandaria dungeons now award 100 Justice Points per boss.
  • Scenarios now award 50 Justice Points, up from 25.
  • The cost of Valor Point gear introduced in patch 5.0 has been reduced by 50%.
  • The cost of Valor Point gear introduced in patch 5.1 has been reduced by 25%.
  • The ethereals that offered to upgrade items using Valor or Justice Points have departed Azeroth for the moment.

The big question mark here is whether the current Valor items will still cost Valor in 5.2. It seems a pretty straight-forward answer at first – “Yes, of course” – but look at the implication here. If you have 1200 VP heading into 5.2, chances are that that 1200 VP turns into 1200 JP and then… what? You buy upgraded heirlooms? It is great that Blizzard is actually putting in sources of Justice for people that want heirlooms, but what else are JP good for? I don’t think I have ever seen a patch transition in which the current currency is downgraded but then you need to re-grind the new currency to buy shit you had access to the day before.

On the other hand, one of my guildies was skeptical that Blizzard would reduce reputation gear costs by 50% plus add in the 100 JP/boss gain plus make rep gear purchasable with Justice. And how many new Valor pieces are going to be introduced anyway?

Hopefully there will be some clarification on this issue before the patch.

PvP

  • Conquest gear no longer has rating requirements.
  • Highest tier PvP items are unlocked after 27,000 CP are earned in a season.
  • Weapons that require the 27k CP unlock have said requirement removed inbetween seasons (i.e. in 5.3).
  • Honor weapons are back.
  • Your CP cap for the week is increased by 1,000 for each week you haven’t been hitting the cap.
  • The losers in an Rated BG gain Conquest based on score; close games can award up to 200 CP.

It is difficult to even imagine a coherent complaint about this fairly radical paradigm shift. Blizzard locking weapons behind rating walls was a mistake when they first made it in Season 3, and it has been a mistake every season since. The straw that finally broke my four-year subscription back was when my warlock alt maxed out on non-rating Arena gear; I was permanently “done” with that character’s progression, unless I bribed someone to boost me past the glass ceiling. While I would not look forward to 15+ weeks of Conquest caps from BGs and 2v2 anymore, at least there is no longer a brick wall at the end.

Overall, pretty exciting changes. I’m not following the new raid information particularly closely, because A) there doesn’t seem to be much news out there, and B) it is kind of a moot point for me outside of LFR. And speaking of LFR, I finished all of the available ones; impressions will have to wait for another post.