Category Archives: WoW

Blizzard Still Got It…

…in the movie department. Well, the in-game movie department, amirite?

The above is an “official” compilation of all of the cinematics in Battle for Azeroth proper. Clocking in at nearly 24 minutes, it’s quite a lot. This does not include the three Warbringers shorts (Jaina, Sylvanas, Azshara), or the copious amount of in-game animation. It’s almost enough to compel me back into the fold.

Almost.

Alas, unlike my blogging peers, I have but 1.5 hours a day to play games, and I sure as shit ain’t playing Beta for Azeroth anymore. Maybe it got better since I last played… which was an entire baby ago. Ah well. We’ll see how things go an expansion or two from now.

Roll Them Boulders

My blog roll is filled with WoW Classic posts, and I am loathe to add another one to the pile. But it was interesting to me scrolling through them, as there was a lot of words surrounding the sort of meta experience, but not so much the moment-to-moment or even the “but… why?” piece.

It was not until SynCaine tried to explain the difference between Easy and “easy” that I realized what WoW Classic is all about:

With that said, one major reason why Classic is fun is because it isn’t faceroll easy. Starting right at level 1, you simply can’t run into a group of mobs solo and expect to survive. When you are doing at-level content, you are always at least aware of where mobs are, about what you are pulling, and what keys you are pressing. Now don’t get confused, once you do those things, killing a mob or two is ‘easy’. But that itself is the point; you have put in the work to get a decent pull, so your reward is being able to kill said mob without too much fuss. That ‘simple’ combat is also its own strength; you really don’t want the most basic aspect of your MMO (combat), that you hope people experience for hundreds if not thousands of hours, to be tiring or require near-constant button mashing.

WoW Classic is Something To Do. Which is not to be confused with “something to do.”

Before I get into that though, I just have to laugh. “It only seems easy, because of all the work you have to put in.” Ehh… no. WoW Classic is easy. That rules exist at all does not make it any less easy. Pulling only one or two mobs at a time is the equivalent of Paint By Numbers – the hardest part is not becoming distracted by all the other things you plan on doing later while actually doing the thing you clearly don’t need to pay close attention to do. Notice how nowhere in the description of Classic combat is any hint of “engaging gameplay.” Methodical, sure. Engaging, no.

Sort of like rolling a boulder up a hill.

But that is the thing: it is Something To Do. I miss that. The other day I logged onto Guild Wars 2, walked around a capital city a bit, then logged off. There was nothing compelling to do. My characters are all max level, Ascended gear already farmed, literally nothing else than to grind out Legendaries or achievements or gold to buy Cash Shop clothes.

Meanwhile, gaining a level in Classic is also a chore, but a real one, like washing dishes. It isn’t as though there are more challenges between the start and finish, but more… stuff. Steps. Drag anchors. It takes more generic units of Time. Because of that extra time spent not engaged in anything, the cognitive dissonance is thus stronger and you end up feeling better about your life after completing the task as a defensive mechanism. It becomes Something To Do rather than something you did. More important. Certainly more meaningful than watching an episode of Big Bang Theory or scrolling past page 18 of Reddit.

It seems as though I’m making fun of people having fun in Classic, but I do in fact miss Something To Do. Yesterday I was playing Moonlighter, which is a game where you kill monsters in a dungeon at night and then sell the items during the day, so you can buy better items to do it all over again. Sound familiar? I was racking up some nice coin in the game and then… just stopped. Nobody cares, least of all me. I still had three dungeons to go before the end of the game, but I already saw myself at the end of it, with nothing to show for it but this shoehorned paragraph in a post about a totally different game.

Of course, that’s the other Classic secret sauce right there: timeliness. Leveling in Classic is Something To Do that is also exciting, as though it were a new MMO launch. I have pointed this out before, but Dark Age of Camelot is still a thing you can play in 2019. Same with Ultima Online. My blog roll isn’t filled with posts about those games though, because Classic is fresh and shiny and a game many millions of people have played. Just look at all the MMO posts from people who had otherwise stopped playing MMOs until literally last week. Amazing how that works.

I don’t think many of them will be able to Go Home Again, but if they are as starved as I am for Something To Do, maybe they will set up a tent in the empty lot. At least for a few weeks.

Classic

At one point in time, I might have had an opinion or angle in talking about the pending (re?)release of WoW Classic. Something snarky about how damn near everyone is gravitating towards the classes that were actually functional back in the day – a tacit admission on how broken the design was back then – or general glee at the thought of rose-colored glasses being smashed with the brick of reality.

But you know what? You do you. Go have fun.

I didn’t have any fun three years ago, but I joined the WoW deathmarch in TBC, so maybe things would be different if… nah. What made WoW great for me was the time in which I played. Real life sucked, my IRL friends were scattered the four winds, and this virtual world offered the perfect escape vehicle to a kill an afternoon, a weekend, or entire years. I couldn’t tell you what else I was doing back in 2009, other than apparently uploading Naxx and Ulduar guild kill montages.

If you can log into Classic in 2019 and have the same fun you did more than a decade ago… well, I wish you the best. Much like Blizzard’s decision to actually go through with this release, I imagine that it will eventually be a Win-Win-Win for everyone. Whether it will keep veterans’ attention for years, or lead to nostalgic crashing and burning, or somewhere inbetween, at least the option exists.

That ain’t nothin’.

Moving Targets

Syp has a post up about how Battle for Azeroth really isn’t that bad.

[…] I had left last October after burning out a couple months into the new expansion, feeling both overwhelmed at the grind and underwhelmed by the direction and features. I think I needed that, as I had been playing more or less nonstop for two-and-a-half years before that point.

And with a somewhat negative exit alongside of many others who were very vocal with expressing their displeasure over the expansion, it kind of got cemented into my mind that BFA is terrible. Coming back, I can’t say that’s the case, and while it’s trendy to bash BFA these days, I’m also seeing that it’s not as bad as some of the hysterics have made it out to be. It’s no Cataclysm, and it’s not suffering the content drought of Draenor, that’s for sure.

As I commented over there, I find it kind of glib to suggest that an expansion that has had almost 11 months worth of time to be fixed, including two major content patches, is “not as bad as some of the hysterics have made it out to be.” Indeed, the two initial points Syp brings up – overwhelming grind, underwhelming features – have not, to my knowledge, actually been fixed. We may not still be in the situation of needing to grind out Azerite Power to unlock abilities we already had before upgrading a piece of gear, but the very fact that Ion and the rest of the clownshow at Blizz HQ thought it deserved to make it off the whiteboard is embarrassing. Or how Titanforging makes it so that you are never actually done with gearing, ever, with zero possibility of being “complete” save for the sweet release of death (or subscription lapse). Or how you never gained anything from level from 110 to 120, and only grew weaker against the same mobs you had been fighting all along.

Suppose those things had been fixed though. I stopped playing mid-October of last year, so maybe they even have. Could that mean Beta for Azeroth was actually a good expansion?

The question seems nonsensical. It was clearly a terrible expansion for me and tens of thousands of others. It was a terrible expansion for Syp who identified the precise flaws and quit too. I can understand being able to “come back” and revisit the experience with a fresh pair of eyes and expectations. But is it even the same game? Is Syp playing it in the same way? Can an MMO expansion be “good” if the limited PvE content is fun, but everything else about its design suffocates long-term play?

Less than two months ago, I wrote a post called Bygones in which I talked about how holding game grudges doesn’t always make sense. If someone asks about Diablo 3 these days, bringing up the Real Money Auction House is basically a non sequitur. No Man’s Sky’s original release state might give you some perspective about its developers, but… actually, it wouldn’t, because the current difference is night and day.

Should Beta Battle for Azeroth receive the same courtesy?

Maybe. Perhaps some grudges take deeper root when it feels personal. The last time I played WoW was a whole baby ago, so maybe everything feels improved. Nevermind the fact that it does matter what sort of experience you are looking for in the first place – an endgame being crap shouldn’t concern a tourist just looking for leveling thrills and some plot.

And yet… nah. I won’t begrudge Syp’s fun anymore, but I do take BFA’s design almost personally. I wasn’t a big subscriber to the whole A Team vs B Team thing, but there isn’t a whole lot of explanation as for why BFA released in the state it did on the tail end of Legion, which got so many things right. When you look back, it goes BFA (bad), Legion (good), WoD (terrible), MoP (good), Cata (awful), Wrath (amazing), TBC (eh), vanilla (supposedly good). This probably bodes well for whatever comes after BFA.

Not Hurting Enough

No matter the dire economic news surrounding Activision Blizzard, one thing always keeps me grounded: when there’s a WoW “sale.” Then it’s made clear they aren’t hurting enough.

WoW_Discount

A bargain at 70% of the price, clearly

Stock price of ATVI was $83.19 in September 2018, and it closed $42.92 Monday. That’s damn near half the value in six months.

Now, obviously, cutting prices for (apparently) extremely lucrative services will cut into profits, but it nevertheless boggles my mind that twenty-one dollars ($21) is the sale price of this sort of thing. Or that moving servers – which is a cell on a data table somewhere – costs seventeen fifty ($17.50) on a discount. Especially when you can buy an entirely new copy of same goddamn game for $40. And that comes with all the expansions, 30-days of game time, and a level 110-character boost.

Blizzard has gotten a bit clever over the years though, as it says “new account required.” It used to be that you could buy another box and basically merge them under one account, thus netting you a level 110 boost token for the sale price of a box instead of the $60 or whatever nonsense they sell it for in-game. Maybe it still works that way? Regardless, the process is obfuscated enough to likely dissuade most from realizing it.

As for me, it’s a bit of a moot point. Even if the BfA expansion was any good at all – it isn’t – I have less than zero desire to head back to WoW at the moment. Seeing the naked hubris of “sales” like this though, only reinforces my resolve to stay away from a game in which people are so invested that these prices “make sense.”

Fulfillment vs Excitement

There is an Asmongold video out that has received at least 27 Reddit gold after it was posted:

(All the good stuff is within the first six minutes)

Among the criticisms he makes regarding Battle for Azeroth, one that resonated a bit with me was the distinction between Fulfillment and Excitement. Essentially, Blizzard used to give you a 8% chance to get a specific piece of gear that was your Best-in-Slot piece. It might take a long time to get it, but once you finally got it, it was an event. You were complete. Done.

When Titanforging was introduced though, suddenly BiS gear was rendered largely impossible. You might receive your “BiS” piece, but if it didn’t proc with an extra gem socket and/or numerous bonus stats, it wasn’t actually BiS. Moreover, it was entirely possible that someone just dicking around in Warfronts could luck into a piece of gear that surpassed something that dropped from Mythic Uldir.

Asmongold’s point is that while you can feel excitement over a drop that suddenly Titanforges up to insane levels… that excitement is short lived. It’s the pull of a slot machine. That’s fundamentally different than working towards an end goal, even if said end also requires some RNG along the way.

When Titanforging was first introduced, I was impressed. It seemed like a clever solution to the problem of completing content that was no longer rewarding in any way. I distinctly remember my tanking days back in Wrath, and how I was asked to clear dungeons with guildies despite the fact that I could get nothing from it (once I capped out with Justice Points). With this new wrinkle, there was always a chance I could get an upgrade from any content I completed.

What I did not realize at the time was how destructive that notion really is. You are never “done.” And not just in a “there will always be another content patch with better loot” kind of way, but in a more literal “never experience satisfaction in current content” way.

As Asmongold points out though, Titanforging by itself is not what is killing the BfA experience. Indeed, the concept of Titanforging has been around for several expansions now, and nobody seemed to have been complaining about it until now (or at least to this degree). The real problem is that BfA is so mechanically weak on so many fronts, that the fundamental issue with Titanforging is poisoning the experience more than usual.

I’m sure Blizzard has the stats on the number of people who just stop playing the game after they achieve BiS, and found the numbers problematic. Certainly in my case, once I finally got the two piece of transmog gear I had been farming, I found myself at a loss of what else to do. This could explain why they are trying to get everyone back to collecting a bunch of full suits of extra gear. With the deprecation of the concept of BiS though, I don’t think these extra suits are going to satisfy players for as long as it may have before.

What is the solution? We already had it for years: vendors. Bring back Justice/Valor Points. Everyone rightly complained in Legion about the Legendary system and how RNG could lead you to a situation in which your spec was basically broken the whole expansion… up until they introduced the Legendary vendor in 7.3.5. The initial rollout was still a bit lame RNG until they allowed you to straight-up pick the ones you want, but it was there eventually. Collect “Wakening Essence” from a variety of sources (WQ, missions, ect) at your own pace, and know the end result.

Titanforging is dumb. If it’s some kind of design imperative to have raiders running WQs or dungeons all the time, fine, make it Justice Points. Except this time, put in consumables, gear you can buy for alts, and other nonsense to give everyone potential reasons to collect it all day.

Give us back some goddamn agency for once.

Azerite Armor as Regression

As evidenced by the latest Q&A – and the Reddit response threads – Azerite Armor is still a big issue within the WoW community. I would say “contentious issue,” but I’m pretty sure it’s only Ion and Rohan who like it.

That said, it finally struck me why I hate the system, and why Blizzard doesn’t care: Blizzard is trying to regress gearing back to the TBC days. In a recent LiveStream interview, Ion says:

(paraphrase) If you look at how most items work, if you want to play another spec, you want another item for that slot.

Ion goes on to say that Azerite gear is more flexible than that, in that you can technically respec (for a price!) the traits if you change roles. Which is fine… if not for the fact that Legion just had tier gear that automatically changed to match your spec. And the expansion before that (WoD) introduced dynamic primary stats, such that a Retribution paladin switching to Holy will see most his Strength gear turn into Intelligence. It felt like we were progressing to a point at which we simply had one major set of gear and were done.

I feel like players’ confusion and anger as to this sudden design reversal is justified.

Now, all this is probably a bit unfair to Blizzard. Weapons and trinkets were largely spec-specific even in Legion days, to say nothing about how Legendaries forced you to commit to specs to a ridiculous degree. On top of that, everyone knew that even if primary stats swapped around, different specs valued secondary stats differently, even after the super-specific ones like Dodge (etc) were removed. If you were a paladin tank and switched to Retribution, you knew that your tank gear would deal less DPS than something focused on the stats that Retribution favored (without even getting into Artifact Power differences).

And yet… Azerite still feels bad. Because its a regression back to a time that was inherently more frustrating for people with multiple specs. A split baby option of reforging doesn’t make anything better, nor the opportunity to split another baby by choosing generic Azerite traits (actual suggestion from Ion) rather than spec-specific ones in an effort to save gold. And Blizzard’s big “solution” to fix things in 8.1? They’re adding another ring with only spec-specific traits. Which means the power delta between each piece of Azerite gear is actively getting worse for your other spec(s).

This sort of thing is not an accident. Ion wants the game to return to the point at which players need a full set of different gear for each spec. That used to be okay. Hell, it used to be you needed a PvP set of gear on top of everything else you needed for PvE. But it is a regression from what we had before.

That’s the problem with Azerite.

The concerns people have about not being able to get 370+ Azerite pieces from content? Not actually an issue from the old design rubric – you only had 1-2 shots at a piece of tier gear from a raid boss each week anyway (the glory days of Justice/Valor Point vendors notwithstanding). Traits needing to be simmed, or some being wildly more powerful than others? There were many times in expansions past where two different two-set tier bonuses were better than the four-set tier bonus. Traits being boring? Again, welcome to many tier sets in WoW’s past.

On a final note though, I do believe that Azerite Armor will likely go down as one of the worst experiments in WoW history. Leveraging it as a means to regress gearing philosophy is one thing. But I also blame it for the fact that we got no new skills or abilities or talents to look forward to in this expansion. Why add a new talent row or button to push when you can just slap a random assortment of buffs on a piece of gear that will naturally cycle itself out come next expansion? In a single design, they seemed to have “solved” ability creep, added a substitute to Legendary items, and gave everyone a grind outlet via AP.

All they had to give up was… fun.

Two Days

My WoW subscription expires in two days, and I think I’ll let it.

This isn’t particularly Big News or anything, but experiencing the internal process has been interesting to me. I have been cashing out my gold for the past several weeks, to the point where I keep around 200k liquid gold, one WoW Token in the bags, and applying Blizzard Balance to the rest. Even now I could just right-click the WoW Token and be good for another month.

But what am I even doing?

Well, making gold. I still make Hexweave Bags because they still sell for 1400g despite current-expansion 30-slot bags go for 800g. I still do the MoP farm on one character, because those mats sell daily for around ~1500g. I herb whenever I run around on the Demon Hunter doing dailies (towards unlocking Pathfinder, Part 1), and that pulls in a couple extra grand. All told, I log in every day to the tune of 5k-10k a day. Peanuts to any serious goblin, but since I’m not seriously doing anything, getting paid $30-$45/month to play WoW seems pretty good. Especially when there is a spike in demand when the Warfront Contributions come around.

But… that’s it. There’s a bit more involved than the Garrison days, but I’m essentially logging in to collect my gold, muck around a bit to see if there are new markets to explore, and then logging off. That was good enough to justify things last month. Not so sure it still holds up this month.

Yeah, it’s probably for the best to let things lapse. I’ll check back in patch 8.1. Maybe. Fallout 76 beta should be in the next three weeks, so who knows.

So… Now What?

The problem with goals is that you complete them.

When I originally wrote Monday’s post about farming transmog pieces in WoW, I had not yet acquired the Tunic of Unwavering Devotion. Since I had technically been farming since Legion (via LFR), I was buckling in for the long haul. After a presumed failed run over the weekend, I was going to get back to leveling my Monk character to the cap and then seeing if she can also solo Nighthold.

Alas, like a strange monkey paw curse, I got exactly what I was looking for.

WoWScrnShot_340i

Oh, and have I mentioned that my Demon Hunter is sitting at ilevel 340 now? It took a dozen dungeons to go from 310 to 320, but about three days of casual, mostly solo content to go from 320 to 340. So there really isn’t much of a point in doing much of anything on the Demon Hunter now. I will do the occasional WQ if it offers reputation, but only in the off-chance that I continue playing WoW once flying is (re)(re)(re)released.

Leveling alts to the cap seems like a fine goal on the face of things, but… eh. They will not be used for raiding or dungeon running or farming transmog, so what’s left? PvP? I usually reserve my Warlock for PvP endeavors, but the forums are pretty clear about the apparent sad state of Warlocks this expansion. I could try going the healer route for giggles, as I do have a Priest at 111.

The real problem I have is that I somehow lack the motivation to do much of anything, anywhere. Post-game Depression is a thing I talked about a few years ago, and it may well triggered when I got that last piece of transmog gear. Or maybe WoW has been on its way out with me for several weeks.

I dunno. I have a million other games I could be playing, but no motivation to load any of them. The 7 Days to Die Alpha17 patch keeps getting pushed into Star Citizen territory, and Fallout 76’s beta isn’t until the end of this month. In the meantime, I am just logging into WoW and puttering around on the AH, or closing the client and watching people play Hearthstone on Twitch.

Guess my next goal should be to get more goals.

Transmog Goals

When I came back into WoW during Legion, I had two long-term goals:

  1. Getting (mythic) Living Wood Spaulders
  2. Getting Tunic of Unwavering Devotion, or Skimpy Demonleather Tunic

Having finally gotten both items after some trial and error (and weeks of RNG), here is a mini-guide in case you want to follow in my footsteps:

Living Wood Spaulders

WoWScrnShot_Wings

Are there better shoulders for any other class? Doubtful.

Why: the mythic version of these druid-exclusive shoulders have insect-like wings that are animated. While they will only be visible on Boomkin (with the Astral glyph) or Resto druids, the effect is rather striking.

How: Living Wood Spaulders drop from mythic Operator Thogar in the Blackrock Foundry raid from Warlords of Draenor. You will have the best chance of getting this item if you are at least level 111, as that triggers “Legacy Loot” and you’ll get ~5 pieces instead of just one.

That said, the first step is getting to the raid site. Garrison Hearth and then take a Flight Path to Gorgand. Fly or mount up to the raid entrance, which looks like this:

WoW_Blackrock

Be sure that the raid difficulty is set to Mythic. Once inside, avoid the trash and head to the right.

Before you can access Operator Thogar, you will have to kill Beastlord Darmac. This fight is relatively easy as a level 111 Boomkin, with one enormous caveat: you must avoid Pin Down. Periodically during the fight, there will be a faint horn sound and a small, swirling cloud graphic will appear. Within 2-3 seconds, a spear will hit the ground at that spot and, if hit, will render you unable to move or take action, permanently. If you manage to cast a persistent AoE (e.g. Starfall) right before getting pinned, there’s a small chance the damage will be enough to kill the spear and free you. Otherwise, you will have to wait several minutes while you slowly and helplessly get killed.

The second complicating factor in this fight is when Beastlord Darmac mounts Dreadwing, which is the dragon-looking beast in the back. Dreadwing has the Conflagration ability, which will essentially disorient you for ~10 seconds at a time. You can (and will) get CC’d by this ability and then be unable to move away from the Pin Down ability, which will (eventually) kill you. It’s exactly as frustrating as it sounds. Sometimes you might get lucky and the timing will be off (e.g. the Pin Down happens first), but you cannot rely on that all the time. Thus, I recommend starting the fight with Beastlord Darmac towards the rear of the room, closest to Dreadwing, so that he mounts Dreadwing first, and you won’t waste time beating the other beasts before seeing if you’ll survive the encounter.

Operator Thogar is a relatively more simple encounter at these levels. DoT him up, run out of the flames/electricity, AoE adds, and avoid being hit by the trains. You’ll be able to tell which tracks are safe by watching the train doors at either end of the room. Things were a bit more dicey in Legion, but if you get to level 111 and equip at least the crafted 225 ilevel gear in your slots, you should not have too many problems.

As mentioned, I completed the above as a level 111 Boomkin with ~225 ilevel gear. I recommend picking up Restoration Affinity over the other options, as I found Swiftmend (instant heal on 30-second cooldown) to be extremely useful if I accidentally took a lot of damage, like getting hit by a train. I cannot speak for whether Guardian or Feral would have been easier specs to farm this item.

Tunic of Unwavering Devotion

WoWScrnShot_Devotion

Why: this item is an incredibly risque leather chestpiece. Like, whoa.

How: There are technically three sources for this particular armor model. The first is the Demon Hunter PvP set for Legion. If you have X Marks of Honor, you can buy the entire armor set and be done with it. Note: you will only be able to transmog the set on your Demon Hunter.

The second source is the Legion world boss Ana-Mouz. This boss cannot be solo-farmed by any leather-wearing class that I know of, specifically because she will periodically cast a spell which will Mind-Control you after ~5 seconds. Now that I think about it, you might be able to pull it off if you switch to a healing spec and dispel yourself. Regardless, world bosses are on like a 12-week rotation, so it’s incredibly unreliable to farm her anyway.

The third, confirmed soloable method is killing Trilliax, the 3rd raid boss in Nighthold. My druid is still low-level, so I actually went in as a fresh, level 120 Demon Hunter with an average ilevel of 290. Make sure the raid is set to Normal, and you purchased some of those extra-roll coins!

Where is the entrance to Nighthold? Here are some pictures:

WoWScrnShot_RaidEnter

Go down, then past Meeting Stone, then down some more.

Zone in, clear/avoid trash until you get to the first boss, Skorpyron. This encounter took a while, but was completed with relative ease as DPS Demon Hunter. Make sure to save a few of your AoE spells for when the adds are activated. Also note that there will be a short burst window when the boss takes a lot of extra damage. Save your DPS cooldowns for then.

The second boss is Chronomatic Anomaly. This boss has an instant-kill debuff you would normally have to worry about, but there’s a trick to avoiding it. DPS the boss as normal, avoiding damage as best you can, until the add spawns. Run over and kill the adds, including the smaller ones that appear, but do not click the orb. The boss will essentially channel an AoE with stacking damage until the orb is used, but he otherwise doesn’t stack the debuff. So, basically, kill him during the channel. The level difference will allow you to survive 20+ stacks of the increasing damage, and you should be able to kill him before you’re whittled down. You might able to use the orb to buy yourself some more time, but I didn’t have a problem at ilevel 290.

Finally, there is Trilliax. Change to tank-spec for this fight. Trilliax will cast Arcane Slash periodically, which will give you a stacking debuff to damage taken, and I was not able to kite him long enough for the debuff to fall off. In tank-spec, your only real worry is the Enrage timer. To this end, make sure you maximize DPS as much as you can. For example, I took Abyssal Strike + Flame Crash, which gave me two additional uses of Sigil of Flame. Every DPS gain you can eek out is necessary! There’s nothing more frustrating than dying to Enrage timers when the boss is at 5%.

As mentioned, I completed the above as a new, level 120 Demon Hunter with an average ilevel of 290. I cannot speak to how a Druid, Rogue, or Monk might fair in these same fights.