Reckless Iteration

I was reading the 6.2 PTR patch notes for WoW the other day, and I was thinking to myself “hey, these are really good changes.” Like, really good. But after thinking about them for a little bit, I realized that they were so good because the mechanics they were changing were so bad. Like, really bad. Here are two of the items I’m talking about:

  • Players can no longer queue for Ashran while in a raid and are now automatically placed into a raid after entering.
  • Crafting the new upgrade items requires Felblight, a new reagent that can be obtained from Fishing, Herbalism, Mining, or Skinning in Tanaan Jungle.

I zoned into Ashran one day last week, and the experience was almost awful enough for me to stop playing altogether. Honestly, Ashran is just another failed iteration in pseudo-world PvP in a long list of them, but somehow the Blizzard devs made it worse.

Look at that first patch note. What happens right now when you zone into Ashran is: nothing. You grab some of the quests and then you storm out. But because you aren’t in a raid with everyone else, that means you get no buffs, no shared kill credit, no passive gains at all. While the LFG function can be used to find groups within Ashran, the only ones available when I zoned in were either farming specific races (for achievements, etc), or had some gear requirement, or were full. Which is fine on its own, go form your specialized groups, but we’ve had auto-raids for Wintergrasp and Tol Barad and it boggles my mind that this is just now being implemented.

On the other hand, I am not entirely sure how much this would actually help entice me back to Ashran. The “combat” is a one frame-per-second shitshow of lag and AoE spam where everyone charges up the middle lane. I guess there are events off the main lane sometimes? All I know is that if you aren’t a ranged class or a DK with Deathgrip, you are a waste of space and will die instantly the moment more than one person can tab-target you out of the crowd. Retribution paladin? GTFO. Compare that to Wintergrasp or Tol Barad, where even the worst-geared, worst-class player could make a difference in the battle’s outcome.

The second patch item listed above is what really drove things home though. For those that might not know, the hitherto endgame upgrade material was Savage Blood. For the crafted items in Warlords, there are four levels of upgrades, which can bring a level 91 2H Axe from already-beyond-heroic-dungeons power to current-raid power. The only realistic way to get Savage Blood? A level 3 Barn in your Garrison. It didn’t really matter what your professions were or where you farmed or anything at all to do with anything: you needed a Barn.

Which is precisely why the change highlights the absurdity of the current system. Blizzard all but killed every gathering profession this entire expansion. Every character has access to a Mine and Herb garden no matter what their professions were, and generally these resources were enough to fuel your required daily cooldowns. Which were largely the only reason you actually needed things like ore and such, since every profession was gated behind daily cooldown items. If I were to be optimal about things, I would have dropped at least one profession from every Warlords-level toon and made them Enchanters, strictly to sell their daily material (one of the few non-BoP versions).

Iteration is one of the cornerstones of game design, I know. But I can’t help but feel like Blizzard sometimes gets away with outrageous bullshit that would bankrupt any other MMO. Completely removing profession bonuses, followed up by rendering most professions functionally useless, on top of limiting how many pieces of crafted gear can be equipped? Then, a year later, saying “lol jk, I hope you didn’t drop Mining/Herbalism on every toon”? Just imagine something like that happening in Guild Wars 2 or WildStar or whatever.

I’m glad they are fixing terrible, broken game design. But who approved this shit in the first place? You already knew what worked three expansions ago!

Having read all these changes in the pipeline, I’m in a weird place now. Not just with the above, but there are also notes in there about how the mat cost of the crafted gear is being lowered, and the mat generation being increased. I have a bunch of alts that would be more than happy getting ilevel 640 gear the moment they ding 91. So… what? Do I go ahead and craft these items for them with the mats I have now, or wait until 6.2? Obviously if I’m going to keep playing WoW between now and then, it makes sense to craft them. On the other hand, I don’t have to keep playing. It’s not like I don’t got other shit to do. I feel like I’m in that Enthusiasm Tax trap of being better off if I enjoyed playing a game less.

Then again, that’s pretty much always been the case with WoW. And yet, here we are. Again.

How the fuck do they do it?

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Posted on May 4, 2015, in WoW and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Cause they provide a polished, multi facet experience which is hard to find elsewhere. It’s a buffet of shallow activities with broken mechanics, but you only notice the broken parts when you look deep enough. Perception mind you.

    Most don’t, and are happy with the $ per month. It takes a rather massive push from the base for a mea culpa. That D3 is such a different game today than launch shows that it’s possible. Just remote.

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    • I’m starting to wonder if the answer is even simpler than that: I’m able to ignore the insane bits because I know the game will still be around in a few years. For example, I spent a few hours researching how long it would take my Tailor alt to get Exalted with August Celestials to get the bag pattern. And even when I realized how much of a commitment it would take, I still started doing so. Why? Why is that reasonable but the first thing I dismissed out of hand in GW2 oh-so-many-moons-ago was the Legendary weapons?

      Well… WoW is still around and still relevant. No slight against GW2, but there’s something about playing WoW for 5 years straight that kind of makes you sure that hard work (minus gear progression) today would still be useful tomorrow. Even when that isn’t entirely true.

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      • Yeah, the time already invested and the social roots certainly make the prospect of moving to another game unlikely.

        Which is ironic in a way. I built a monk in MoP from scratch, and after ~2weeks he was higher level than all other characters with better gear and skills. Since each expansion essentially wipes the slate of previous content…why start over? Which I guess is the basis of your rant :)

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  2. They might have made Ashran that way to promote the new group finder. The idea was that people would zone in and then use it to look for a group, promoting socialization and community and all that crap people claim to love. Of course it didn’t quite work out that way, and now they have to revert. I’d speculate that’s because roughly 75% of MMO players actually don’t care at all about community.

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    • There’s caring about community… and then there’s caring about community at 10pm on a Wednesday when you just want to kill some dudes in a videogame. I think that’s the trap that many MMO devs fall into, even when everyone has all the evidence they will ever need that that’s the case.

      The truly baffling thing is that it isn’t like an auto-raid feature wouldn’t also encourage grouping with friends. Just because everyone is getting passive HKs doesn’t mean that groups of 5/10/whatever can’t go off and start farming NPCs or whatever. It’s just a pointless restriction.

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  3. I think you’re overstating the difficulty of obtaining Savage Blood. You can also trade 50 Primal Spirits for one, and purchase them off the AH for about 300g per Savage Blood.

    Both those methods are pretty reasonable.

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    • 4500g or 750 Primal Spirits for one part of one item upgrade is reasonable? Maybe. I also seem to recall there’s a method to trade herbs/ore for Primal Spirits, so there’s a roundabout Shuffle for Savage Blood as well. Savage Blood wasn’t always 300g apiece though; it was double or more not three months ago.

      The point is that Blizzard more or less killed gathering professions this expansion and now pulled a massive 180 making them all but required. Why was the Barn the main source of Savage Bloods? As a crafter, I wasn’t very happy about Mists’ Spirit of Harmony either, but we get such huge gyrations from expansion to expansion that no other game really gets away with.

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      • Yes, it’s reasonable considering this is raid-level gear. Before this, it was next to impossible to craft raid-level gear or such gear was soulbound. BoE raid-level gear is always going to be super-expensive. I don’t see anything unusual in that.

        I do agree with you on the Mine and Herb farm. However, those also serve a purpose of allowing one to level up mining/herbalism fairly easily. I boosted a Warrior to 90, and the Mine is pretty much the only way her mining skill can increase in a reasonably quick fashion. (And even then, it’s not that quick.)

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  4. After the recent changes, I thought Ashran was broken too. And the forums seemed to agree with me – 90% of the posts (my wag) were complaints about ‘no more conquest off the main boss’ and ‘getting farmed by the opposite faction’. I spent several hours in amazement reading through all the complaint posts – they echoed my new experience.

    I noticed, though, that a few posts – a few out of hundreds – said that this had actually made things better – and suggested using groupfinder to go in.

    What a difference. Using groupfinder, you still have to wait for a queue to pop, but once in, you go around doing the events (and sometimes the boss) with a competent group. I usually see half a dozen groups, several of which are mostly but not totally full. Most of the time, I get a prompt invite. Ashran through group finder: you get a lot more conquest that way – and depending on how competitive that server is – you may get lucky and actually experience “world pvp” at the events.

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  5. I agree w/ Asmiroth re: the sustainability of WoW. At this point it’s sort of “too big to fail” in a way. Barring some significant changes it has enough to appeal to a large variety of people and keeps them stuck with social glue.

    Ashran is a tough one because it’s one of those things designed to appease a lot of people that ends up pleasing none of them. It failed to deliver the long-term old-school Alterac Valley feel. It failed to deliver a “world PvP” zone. So now they’re sort of stuck pushing it towards the old Wintergrasp design.

    Partly I think because the aims of people asking for world PvP, the aims of battleground PvPers, and the aims of PvEers are somewhat opposed. They can’t really go the EVE route and stick the important resources in PvP areas of they’ll lose swarms of PvE only players. On the other hand the world-PvPers can’t really find anyone to PvP against. So Blizz ends up stuck.

    Also I am one of those that dropped a gathering prof due to the general uselessness of them during WoD and frankly I am kind of annoyed that they decided to suddenly make them relevant again not all that long after my second crafting prof has reached 700. This is the kind of change I personally would have preferred come at an Expansion, not a patch. I mean I’ll live with it and probably re-level a gathering prof (or stick with Fishing) but it still leaves me feeling sour.

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