Beta for Azeroth

The expansion honeymoon phase is over for the WoW playerbase, and the rabble is’a rousing. To which I say, “about goddamn time.” The latest fuel on the fire? Ion Hazzikostas himself went into a Reddit AMA and basically said shit is broken on purpose. Which then led to this amusing exchange:

9p3h26ygrcm11In case something happens to the picture, the specific line from Ion was:

We’re crafting systems with an eye towards the grand scheme of the game as it unfolds over the course of many months […]

While it might not have quite the meme potential of EA’s “sense of pride and accomplishment” disaster, it remains one of those insidious bits of accidental truth that rusts out the suspension of disbelief. And lest you extend any sort of doubting benefits to Ion, just read his response to a question about the sad state of Resto Shaman thus far:

We knew Restoration were coming up on the low end in the initial weeks of BfA, and applied some measured buffs to their AoE healing in particular, but we expected the value of their Mastery to rise significantly once higher-end raiding and M+ became more of a competitive focus, and we wanted to make sure not to overbuff them.

In other words, the design team knew that the spec was weak at launch, but felt like gear would fix the problem later, so they decided to do nothing. Did they end up buffing Shaman? Yes… “measurely,” with trepidation. But why wait for a hotfix if you already knew the interim was going to be bad? And more importantly: why make your players wait for the game to fix itself?

Look, I understand the delicate balance the devs are trying to make here. If Blizzard made Resto Shaman competitive in PvE from the beginning, they would have to nerf them in the future to ensure that the Mastery scaling (or whatever) didn’t make them clearly better than any of the other healers. Nerfing always feels bad. But do you know what else feels bad? Being gimped on purpose because there’s some master plan in which you become adequate later.

This perverse philosophy really explains everything that we have been seeing in Battle for Azeroth thus far. The wonky Warfront timing, for example, will “fix itself” later on when there are 3-4 of them running consecutively. Some Professions not having any use for some dungeon/raid crafting materials, is another exa…

This is something we’ve been discussing a bunch. On the one hand, we’d like to add a way to get at least Hydrocores through doing non-Mythic dungeons, so that the professions that DO have a use for them don’t feel like they hit a brick wall in their crafting if they only do matchmade content.

On the other hand, it’s awkward to be swimming in Sanguicells with no use for them as an Alchemist or Enchanter. I don’t have a specific fix to announce right now, but we’re discussing plans to address that problem. (source)

Just kidding, none of the devs put any thought into Professions at all.

Or maybe they did, and they are just waiting to introduce the Expulsom Trader, ala the Blood of Sargeras Trader, into patch 8.1. That would certainly maintain the consistency of “reuse every aspect of the game’s design” method, which more and more seems like it’s done out fear of fucking up the formula than intentional design. But again, why wait? You know the solution, so just do it. Or be bold and make Expulsom/Sanguicell Bound-on-Account.

This entire fiasco reminds me of the advice I gave new bloggers six years ago: don’t “save” your best stuff. In the most charitable, optimistic scenario Blizzard is planning for the final months of the expansion to be fantastic. By then, everyone will have the appropriate Azerite Levels to use the outer rings of any gear drops right away, and there will be hundreds of new Azerite traits, and so on. It even jives with the way Blizzard has handled PvP gear looks for a long time – the first tier looks pretty generic, but by the end you are a proper badass.

The problem is… why should someone play during the broken part? I already used a WoW Token a few days ago, so I feel kinda stuck already, but if I had read this AMA before renewing, then I wouldn’t have. Everything that people praise about the expansion – the music, the questing, the general environment – is still going to be there after 8.1, or six months later, or whenever. I’m not suggesting that you go full Gevlon and essentially wait for the next expansion – which at this point, may end up having the same exact issues again – but waiting for 8.1 or 8.2 seems pretty ideal.

If you ever wondered what the deal was with people complaining about Destiny versus Destiny 2, this was precisely it. Or the Complete Edition of Civilization 5 versus Civilization 6 without expansions. Designers make mistakes, and that is okay. It means they are trying something new. What is not okay are designers who make mistakes, fix those mistakes, and then come out with a new product with the old mistakes baked in so they can sell you the solution all over again.

Posted on September 17, 2018, in Commentary, WoW and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. The shaman thing (and the feral druid thing, for that matter) does look like a debacle. The future OP-ness of their mastery should have been fixed by more subtle means, like, say, messing with their class-specific tier sets. And yes, the handling of professions is ludicrous across the board, not just with regard to the BoP components.

    As a general principle, though… “we’re crafting systems with an eye towards the grand scheme of the game as it unfolds over the course of many months” kind of makes sense to me. Expansions last for two years, and core systems have to endure that long. To get spooked by the rabble in the town square one month in would be a mistake.

    Besides, it’s ever been thus. Many systems at the launch of Wrath (including aspects of the flagship feature, the death knight class) were straight up broken, and the fixer patch 3.0.8 was rightly referred to in the gaming press as an unmitigated disaster. And yet, Wrath went on to become the best-loved expansion. The other well-regarded expansion, MoP, started out strong, but plateaued with months of dailies and Siege of Org. That vaunted $15 only buys so much in the end.


    • I agree that designers planning for the future is something that you would expect them to do.

      However, the implementation of, say, Warfronts is a disaster. It’s a marquee game element, highly hyped by Blizzard, and the devs cannot really articulate what they intended to accomplish with them. Ion just compared them to Timewalking dungeons. What we do know is that the process will be smoother in 6-12 months from now, when the other Warfronts spin up and they are (presumably) running one after the other. Or maybe they won’t, and they’ll just be some goofy-ass throwaway content that lets people get a bunch of AP for turning in Coarse Leather once a month.

      It’s true that there were broken elements in Wrath, an expansion released in 2008. I remember how OP Death Knights were, and how my own Protection paladin was garbage-tier for raiding to the point that I literally couldn’t tank General Vezax (and rerolled a DK that evening). However, I never had a particular sense that Blizzard was “holding back” or otherwise had some grand scheme unfolding over several months. If they did, they certainly hid it better than the clown show unfolding right now under Ion’s lawyer-y watch.


    • “As a general principle, though… “we’re crafting systems with an eye towards the grand scheme of the game as it unfolds over the course of many months” kind of makes sense to me. Expansions last for two years, and core systems have to endure that long.”

      I strongly disagree with this. If the longevity of your 2-year systems depends on the system being shit for the 1st half of its duration, you have failed as a system designer. What you have is a 1-year system that you are trying to stretch over a longer period.


      • “If the longevity of your 2-year systems depends on the system being shit for the 1st half of its duration, you have failed as a system designer.”

        I agree with that. But I’ll happily accept the system underperforming for a single month, and would be willing to acquiesce to something on the order of 20%, or five months out of the twenty-four.


  2. This is why Riot and SC release new champs/cards in an intended stronger form; they know people will need to learn the new content, and it needs to be stronger while they learn. Once that initial learning phase is over (which is hard to define, and certainly won’t fit everyone), they nerf the champ/card. That of course assumes the original tuning was correct. Sometimes the tuning is still too low, or its way too high and needs a nerf much sooner. But at least they both acknowledge the core issue, and have a plan in place. Sounds like Blizzard saw some of these problems, but really didn’t have a plan in place for them. Shocker.


    • Ha, that’s a bit more charitable to Supercell (etc) than I would ever be. Releasing strong cards incentivizes players to pay $$$ to purchase the cards and rock the competition for X amount of time. Classic pump and dump tactics. They’ve gotten better at not doing it every single time, but my eyebrow raises at each new preview.

      Regardless, Blizzard is mistaken if they believe they can rely on players enduring a long period of time over which the “master plan” unfolds and suddenly they are viable. Legion bought them time, but BfA is not nearly as good as to keep people subscribed while shit fixes itself.


      • Honestly I doubt the crowd that spends that amount of money is really doing it for the short-term power vs just the ‘gotta-catch-em-all’ aspect. If the new cards were all UP, I suspect 90% of those who splurge would still do it.

        If you could use a new card right away for $20, maybe that would be more the case of the average players spending for a short-term boost, but at thousands of dollars, I just don’t see it.

        Plus keep in mind, the intent is a slight overpower because people don’t know the card yet. What % of the playerbase is dropping thousands each card, AND has top 1% skill to instantly take advantage of that? Enough to impact the rest of the playerbase? Doubt it.


  3. I wanted to leave a comment purely to congratulate you on the brilliant punniness of your post title, but then I found out it’s actually a hashtag already. :P


    • Yeah, I can’t claim any credit for the title – I saw it on Reddit a few weeks ago, and felt it was catchy as hell. However, I’m still proud of the “rusts out the suspension of disbelief.”


  4. This is why I decided to cancel my sub, see what today’s reveal for this new patch will be like, and decide if I want to come back. This is the first expansion I haven’t played shaman since Cataclysm or something.

    Plus the core systems are a bit stale, with it being very much like Legion, so it feels more like Legion 1.5.


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