I neither went nor watched the BlizzCon festivities, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express read MMO-Champ. So here are all the tidbits from the coverage that I was interested in:
Patch 7.1.5 is coming
The first thing that I found amusing about the Patch 7.1.5 news is that it was described as a “small” patch. If you want to see a small patch, check out 6.1, eh?
In any case, the Panderia Time-Walking dungeons might be good for some people, but the bigger news is that the Brawler’s Guild is returning. I kinda missed the feature entirely when it was released, and only recently got interested after they took it back away. It’s goofy side content from what I understand, but hey, I have two quests for it already, so let’s bring it back.
The other intriguing change in 7.1.5 is that Artifact Knowledge will be “purchasable” at least up to level 10, if not higher. This is huge news for alts, whom have otherwise been hosed this entire expansion. Time will tell what form this “purchase” takes – Order Resources, Blood of Sargeras, gold? – but whatever it is should be relatively easy to overcome with a main running WQs.
Finally, Blizzard mentioned that 7.1.5 will be going on the PTR immediately after BlizzCon, then Live soon after. How soon is Soon(tm)? I want to say “not soon enough,” but honestly Nighthold is not even active yet, and that’s in the current patch. Will all these changes be rolling out before LFR even gets the last Nighthold boss unlocked? It certainly sounds that way. Which is kinda weird.
Patch 7.2 is coming
Biggest news is, of course, that Flying is getting unlocked in 7.2. I have already jumped through the Legion Pathfinder, Part 1 hoops, so I should be in good shape for whatever nonsense is required in Part 2. Word from Blizzard is that it won’t require any group content, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still be tedious.
The Tomb of Sargeras raid will open up, with Kil’Jaeden being the confirmed last boss. Which is interesting for all sorts of reasons, which I will touch on later.
What is definitely interesting to me is the introduction of “PvP Brawls.” The concept was first introduced in Hearthstone and then Overwatch later, and now we see it migrating to WoW. In short, Blizzard is finally letting its hair down and introducing more free-form experiments in game modes. 15×15 Arenas? Tarren Mill vs Southshore? Bring them on.
This is a fairly big deal because it allows Blizzard to essentially playtest these game concepts without their typical perfectionist straight-jacket. Things not work out? Oh well, it’ll rotated out next week. Blizzard has used this test bed to good effect in Hearthstone, as it resulted in Discover – by far the best card effect introduced since the game’s release. Perhaps we’ll eventually see that Arathi Basin bridge deathmatch mode that we have all wanted for years.
Patch 7.2.5 is coming
We haven’t heard much about 7.2.5 other than it will exist. Which is nice to know. Especially since it appears that we have another bombshell waiting in the wings:
Patch 7.3 is coming?
MMO-Champion just sort of teased the news, but Legion will legitimately have a patch 7.3 and we will legitimately be heading to Argus, according to a Polygon interview with Ion Hazzikostas. And then he had this to say:
“It felt like the right time,” Hazzikostas said. “I don’t know if Argus would hold up as an expansion in and of itself. We could make up a whole lot of ecologies and things there, but at the end of the day, it would feel like a very one-note, alien expansion.”
Instead, he explained, the developer decided to make Argus the climax to the current expansion. Players will head to the demon world to try to push back this massive force once and for all. He compared it to the ending of one of his favorite games of all time.
“It’s kind of like the end of Mass Effect 2,” said Hazzikostas. “We’ve been fighting on our end. Now we’re going on our suicide mission, because this is the only way to save ourselves.”
That… is pretty fucking cool. I haven’t been this excited about the WoW plot since Wrath.
For those that might not be up on the lore, Argus is the original homeworld of the Draenei, and the Velen, Kil’Jaeden, and Archimonde triad. It is, in fact, considered the “beating heart” of the Burning Legion and its de facto capital. Going there is Big News, and has been speculated for a while to be the location of WoW’s “final” expansion, insofar as it is the most likely place one would encounter Sargeras himself.
The interesting thing is the fact that we are facing Kil’Jaeden in the Tomb of Sargeras in patch 7.2. Argus is supposed to be ruled by Kil’Jaeden personally, which leads to two interesting scenarios. First, perhaps we are invading Argus specifically because it temporarily loses its leader in the 7.2. raid. No sense attacking Kil’Jaeden at the seat of his power, right?
But there is another possibility. Remember how demons, elementals, etc, don’t actually die unless they are killed in the plane they are from? What if part of the reason we head to Argus is to kill Kil’Jaeden again, this time permanently?
Technically, I think Archimonde was sent back to the Twisting Nether after Mount Hyjal, and the jury might still be out regarding what happened to him at the end of Draenor (was he in the Twisting Nether during the final phase?). But still, I find it odd that we’re heading to Argus after Kil’Jaedon’s (presumed) defeat in the Tomb if we aren’t finishing the job. There aren’t any Old Gods on Argus and I find it unlikely that we’ll be facing Sargeras himself – at most, I expect us to sacrifice all our artifacts to keep Sargeras from showing up. So… if not Kil’Jaedon/Archimonde, and not Sargeras, who are we fighting? A bunch of no-name demons?
I was skeptical along with the rest of the universe when it came to Blizzard promising that Legion would actually get supported content through the entire life of the expansion. And honestly, it still might be the case that there is a long content drought after 7.3 and before the next expansion. But, I gotta give credit where it is due: Blizzard is busting some ass. The bar is embarrassingly low for a billion dollar franchise, granted.
But I could get used to this. And certainly am, four WoW Tokens later.
Let me just lay it on you:
- They’re looking into making the WoW Token be able to be used for other services as well like Character Transfer, Faction Change, or Battle.net Balance. (source)
You can watch the specific part on Youtube, but the bottom line is that this is coming in the “very near future,” there won’t be different Tokens, e.g. the ones you currently have will work, and this entire thing was what they had planned from the start but wanted to start slow to make sure the system worked.
This news is both incredibly good and probably bad for me. Good because I have a lot of toons trapped on Auchindoun. Bad because I don’t know when this system will be implemented. But because it is, that means I shall leave them trapped until it is implemented. Definitely don’t want to be a chump spending $25 two weeks before I could buy a dozen moves with in-game currency.
More BlizzCon impressions to follow.
Last Thursday, I sat down and decided to run some World Quests. And I got these:
Those are ten epics, with ilevels at or above 840, along with three relics.
That ilevel is above what you can get in LFR, and at least matches what you would get from Mythic dungeons. While more organized content like raids and Mythic+ still beat these pieces – including offering more exciting options, like trinkets – I did have a WQ epic proc all the way up to 880, which is just shy of Legendary status.
Remember when people complained about the ability of noobs to queue LFD and eventually get tier set pieces after dozens of runs? Pepperidge Farm remembers It feels almost quaint. While you can’t exactly pick specific pieces of gear off a vendor, all of these were 100% guaranteed drops from quests, some of which took less than 5 minutes to complete. No dungeons required.
Don’t get me wrong, the WQ system is exactly what is necessary to get me to continue playing WoW at the level of commitment I am willing to put forward. But it is starting to dawn on me that this is the most loot-laden expansion yet. I feel that even Warlords of Draenor pales in comparison to this.
This AH tip is from two expansions ago, but perhaps you also completely forgot it was a thing.
Do you know how in 7.1 there is a Blood of Sargeras trader? Well, there was one in Pandaria too. They are located in the Vale strongholds for your faction, out on the terrace. And, as it turns out, their exchange rates are very good:
Yes, a single Spirit of Harmony trades for 20 Ghost Iron Ore. Which are currently selling for 38g apiece on Auchindoun-US.
So, basically, if Spirit of Harmony are going for anything less than 760g each, then…
Now, what I will suggest is that you look at your own AH and not go too crazy with this sort of thing. Remember my Titansteel tip from Friday? I’ve sold two pieces, but the others have not yet sold. It’s entirely possible that they never sell at any price. Indeed, pretty much the sole purpose of any of these mats are to craft and sell mounts that have been out for 2+ expansions.
That said, I absolutely bought out all of the Spirits of Harmony below 250g and converted them to Trillium and White/Black Trillium Ore to post in the AH. Depending on sales, I might just toss in some Ghost Iron Ore as well. The profit margins are low considering that Starlight Rose is still ~75g a node, but I hate actively farming herbs and this breaks up the monotony.
Among the many mechanics Blizzard introduced to eliminate alts from WoW – after four expansions of encouraging them – one has been particularly annoying to me: locking Profession progress behind a lot of nonsense dungeon quests and random drops.
Don’t get me wrong, Blizzard has locked shit behind Exalted reputations and such before. But, Alchemy this expansion, for example, is a complete shit-show in terms of needing to run dungeons, and then proc Rank 2/3 potions/flasks by grinding through hundreds of still-pricey herbs. The other professions are a bit better, but barely. Gone are the days when you could port your alts to the latest capital city and basically start printing money.
For the most part, I have resigned myself to not have Profession alts. And things were fine. Well, at least until I checked the AH back on Auchindoun and seen the dollar signs. Or gold signs, whatever.
As I noted before, I had been more or less in the Sky Golem material business for the last month or two. Log on the alt, compare the price relationship between Ghost Iron Ore/Bars and Trillium and Living Steel and Spirits of Harmony, perform a bit of Alchemy, and then log off. Since that market tightened up, I happened to look at what else I could be using my Transmute cooldown for. That is when I remember Titansteel still being a thing.
Prices on things looked like this:
- Saronite Ore = 14g
- Saronite Bar = 34g
- Titanium Bar = 296g
- Eternal Fire/Shadow/Earth = 140g/37g/34g
- Titansteel = 3899g
What do you see when you look at that? Do you see… pleasure? Satisfaction? I do.
I bought a stack of 200 Saronite Ore, mailed it to my Miner alt to be smelted into bars, then mailed back to my Alchemy bank alt. From there, I Transmuted 8 Saronite Bars into a Titanium Bar, snagging +5 extra bars from Transmute procs. I technically already had plenty of Eternals from forever ago, but let’s just assume I bought some at market prices. I then mailed those mats back to the Miner alt to smelt into Titansteel before returning them to the bank alt for sale.
At the end of things, I spent ~3855g for five Titansteel, or roughly 771g apiece. If everything sells at current market prices, that’s 15,640g profit. If those don’t sell, I could always try my hand on selling the Mekgineer’s Chopper.
In any case, having those alts allowed me to bake in profits at every stage of the process, while also increasing the health of the Auchindoun AH by converting unused resources into useful, needed ones. It doesn’t get any more brilliant or Invisible Hand-y than that, folks.
And then we got Legion. GG, Blizzard, GG.
In-between my many WoW sessions, I have been working on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The short version is that it is pretty much Human Revolution with new plot and Augments; if you enjoyed the first game, then you will enjoy this one as well.
But one of the things I have noticed over the course of 30 hours is that… well, it’s easy.
I am playing on the highest difficulty – Give Me Deus Ex – and just breezing my way through, even without Augments. Indeed, I spent half the game with 11+ Augment Points banked just waiting for a situation in which I needed to spontaneously develop wall-punching or remote hacking skills. However, this may be more a systemic issue with stealth games generally.
When we talk about stealth games, what we’re really talking about is extremely simplified, often binary, gameplay. If you are outside the cone of an enemy’s vision, you are hidden. The alarm is either raised or it is not. The enemy is fully active or they are incapacitated. This binary nature even extends to after the enemy is alerted, as almost every stealth game features the conceit that guards eventually completely forget that they watched their compatriots die, and go about their usual patrols.
This is not a criticism of stealth gameplay, per se. There is a good reason why “more realistic” behavior is not often implemented: it is less fun. Ever play a stealth game where the enemies patrolled randomly? It’s an exercise in frustration. Without a pattern to recognize and exploit, incapacitating/avoiding guards either requires RNG (which doesn’t feel good) or just attacking them straight out. And if the guards never reset after the alarm is raised, why wouldn’t the average player not simply reload their last save?
So if you are going to have “stealth mechanics” in your game, you have to make some concessions. This means it is incredibly difficult to introduce varying levels of difficulty with stealth mechanics without running afoul of annoying gameplay.
Still, I do have some suggestions. These mostly pertain to Mankind Divided – and especially at the higher difficulties – but I feel like they can be applied more generally as well.
1) Incapacitated Guards wake up.
Some stealth games have this already, but its lack seems especially egregious in Mankind Divided since you are in the same city for most of the game. Basically, once you knock out the guards, they are unconscious permanently. Since you already get more XP for using nonlethal methods, there really is no reason to not knock them out rather than use lethal methods. Yes, unconscious guards can be awoken if discovered by other guards. But considering how easily guards can be taken out – and no one cares about patrols reporting in – this is an irrelevant concern.
So… have the guards wake up, randomly. Not immediately, mind you, just over a period of a few minutes or so. This will still give you enough time to stroll through the area, but maybe not enough for a thorough searching of every file cabinet. If you want safety in your looting, you will need to kill the guards instead.
2) Nonlethal takedowns are more difficult.
In the last two Deus Ex games, you get the option of lethal and nonlethal takedowns any time you are within melee distance. In truth, there is just one rational option: nonlethal. Not only do you get more XP with nonlethal, but the actual nonlethal action is quiet, whereas the lethal one makes a lot of noise. Considering you can just shoot sleeping guards in the face with a silenced pistol afterwards, there is zero reason to go lethal initially.
How about we just reverse that? Lethal takedowns are quiet, but nonlethal makes some noise as the target struggles. This can extend to tranquilizer dart weapons as well, considering nobody really seems to care about a huge syringe poking out of their leg, even after it was fired out of a sniper rifle 50 yards away. Let them make some noise for the few seconds of consciousness they have remaining. Or, alternatively, make the tranquilizer take a random amount of time to fully go into affect, so that it’s possible they fall unconscious after walking to a less discreet location.
Because, honestly, the situation with the Tranq rifle in Mankind Divided is just silly broken. Headshots will instantly knock out guards, and body shots take a few seconds more. But, really? The delay is actually a boon. I can tag three guards in a row, all in the leg, and by the time the first dude hits the floor, the others start passing out before they have a chance to raise an alarm. That shit would be impossible with a regular sniper rifle, even a silenced one. Speaking of which…
3) Silencers not being silent.
This is one of those universal videogame/movie sacred cows, but silencers on guns don’t actually make them silent. As it turns out, propelling lead out the end of a metal tube by way of igniting gunpowder is still kinda loud. So let’s have those guns still be loud with silencers attached. This will shorten effective engagement range for stealth runs, thereby increasing the chance that a guard could discover you, e.g. making the gameplay a bit more difficult.
4) Guards check in with each other.
There is a level in Mankind Divided that sees you skulking about a research facility with a PA system. While I was taking out guards left and right, I got a little nervous by what I heard. “West wing reporting all clear.” “Brzezinski, please report to docking bay 12.” Did I already take out Brzezinski? Would he be missed?
Then I remembered I was playing a standard stealth game, and none of that stuff matters.
To an extent, having guards checking in (or being sought by other guards) is one of those realistic features that end up making the gameplay feel worse. After all, if you are going to be so actively punished for taking guards out, you may as well remove the ability to take guards out at all. But what if the mechanics were more nuanced than that? What if you could get some kind of guard manifest that lists which ones need to check in, or figure out when they already checked in such that you are free to take them out afterwards? What if their absence is noted and guards are sent to investigate, but they eventually disperse if they don’t find any foul play?
Basically, instead of having each guard be a puzzle individually, perhaps force the player to consider a more holistic approach to rendering a base unconscious.
5) Blood stains.
Just so it doesn’t seem like all these changes make nonlethal useless compared to lethal methods of infiltration, let’s have guards react to blood stains. And, you know, have blood stains result from wetwork, assuming specific methods are not employed. Moving bodies might still be useful, especially for distraction purposes, but it shouldn’t be a Get Out of Jail Free card either.
I will be honest with you here: I’m not even sure any of the above will result in a better gameplay experience. All I do know is that my current experience with stealth games (and Deus Ex in particular) has made all of them not only play the same, but play easily. If I choose the highest difficulty in a stealth game, that difficulty has to be a function of changing stealth mechanics and not just making it easier for me to die once a firefight starts. Because a firefight will never start when I’ve knocked out every guard everywhere with impunity.
A few people have asked me about my WoW endgame experiences, and as I recently turned in my 3rd WoW token, I should probably talk about it some more.
In short: it’s almost as good as Wrath.
Going forward, I think it’s going to be incredibly difficult to not have World Quests (WQs) and scaling mobs in future expansions. This is the “final form” of casual themepark gameplay IMO. Is it functionally different from traditional daily quests? Not really. Does it feel better than daily quests in every possible way? Absolutely.
Blizzard has tried to spice daily quests up before, and largely failed. Remember the Firelands dailies back in Cataclysm? Those had rotating/random dailies and somehow felt worse than what came before. In Legion though, it feels more… organic. I don’t even necessarily think it’s something special about the dailies, per se, but rather due to the fact that these “dailies” aren’t in the same location and not with the same mobs every time. Scaling tech allows Blizzard to utilize the entire continent, and they do. While you do end up seeing the same WQs pretty often, you never really know exactly where you will be flying that evening until you open the map.
Also, big props to Blizzard for having rotating WQs throughout the day. In other words, you don’t have a single list of 25 random WQs and that’s it until 3 AM. Some last a few days, some last a few hours. This not only satisfies the “optimization” need in me – only doing the most efficient ones – but also the individuals who might be bored and looking for things to do all day. There will almost always be a WQ for you providing some kind of reward.
The one problem with WQs might be that it can become a victim of its own success. For example, my druid is pretty much in full 850 gear, having stepped foot in heroic dungeons maybe four times (none of which resulted in upgrades). At this point, the only WQs I do are the ones to give Warden and Nightfallen reputation, as nothing else results in better gear. I mean, there is a chance a gear piece rolls Titanforged, but that’s a stretch. Mythic dungeons? No thanks. Maybe for the quests, but I’m not particularly interested in Mythic+ dungeon runs on timers.
This means, two months in, I am close to being done with all world/quest content in Legion. Indeed, I am in spitting distance of the Pathfinder Achievement, which is my current goal – just need about 2000 Wardens and 7000 Nightfallen rep before getting it. Luckily, 7.1 is coming out next week, but unless there are a bunch new WQs and/or increased ilevel rewards, I will be passing. Then it is PvP or alts until next year.
Speaking of alts, I finally have a level 3 Shipyard on my namesake paladin, and am just waiting for the BoA ring mission to proc. Considering that I have 20+ maxed out Garrison soldiers and have yet to have seen a single Elixir of the Rapid Mind mission, I am beginning to question whether these things are even still in the game.
I actually switched to Protection for the Tanaan dailies (for Oil), and it feels better than Ret, but the paladin is pretty much a pass for me again this expansion. I tried out the Frost DK and got to chill with the Lich King, but that is going to be another pass. Basically, I wasn’t too impressed with the DK’s self-healing capabilities. Yeah, I’m sure Blood can be immortal just like most questing tanks this expansion, but even getting to level 102 is a chore. My Outlaw rogue is in a similar position, insofar as it just doesn’t feel as fun to kill shit with. Assassination seems pretty powerful these days, so I’ll likely try switching specs if I can make it to 102.
Beyond that, I actually have a Demon Hunter and playing it… is interesting. Double jumping and gliding is pretty much the main draw, as the rotation is meh. Coming from all these other classes, having one spammable attack and one resource dump is pretty basic. There are cooldowns, don’t get me wrong, but the fundamentals don’t really change. Well, unless you take the current Momentum build, where you are forced to zip around the boss/mobs every 4 seconds like some ADHD 7-year old playing soccer for the first time. I can’t imagine how annoying that might be on raid bosses.
As I wrap up Legion Pathfinder, I’ll be spending some more time on the alts, to determine which (if any) might eventually be transferring to my new “main” server. I’m still kinda holding out until some kind of 50% off Services sale or until I quit WoW in disgust again, but maybe there will be a simpler realization that I don’t actually like playing any of these alts anymore.
I bought the Sky Golem I was talking about a few weeks ago, but my background plan hadn’t changed, e.g. creating my own. And yesterday, I finished:
The current prices on Auch are in the 130k gold range, which would mean a significant recoupment on my original outlay of 85k.
There are, of course, some sunk costs in terms of materials: 300 bars of Ghost Iron on top of whatever 30 Living Steel cost to produce. However, 100% of my Living Steel came from shuffling Ghost Iron ore/bars by transmuting them into Trillium, then Trillium into Living Steel. Well, Trillium and a surprising secondary path: the no-cooldown Trillium + Spirit of Harmony transmute.
Throughout this side endeavor, I had been trying to liquidate some of my last-expansion mats and failing to do so. “This AH is dead.” Well… maybe not as much. After crafting and listing the Sky Golem, I threw the leftover Trillium I had for something like 550g a bar. The next day, I learned that they all sold. Huh. I checked the AH and now Trillium is sitting at 750g apiece. Someone is either trying to reset the market, or there is a spike in demand. Either way, it’s time for me to get in on this.
I check Ghost Iron Ore and note there are like 800+ on the AH for 15g apiece. That means 400 bars is 30g, or Trillium bars costing 300g apiece (not counting the extra Transmute Mastery procs). Even if they sell at 550g instead of the reset price, I’m in good shape.
So, I bought all the cheap ore. And then let out a heavy sigh on my smelter alt:
After that completed, I checked the AH for Spirit of Harmony, in the off-chance I could profit off Living Steel. Incidentally, there were only four Living Steel on the AH, so I bought them all out and doubled the prices. Then I blankly stared at the screen for a moment:
For those of you who might not know, you can combine 10 Motes of Harmony into one Spirit of Harmony. And based on the number of people selling Motes, it seems many have forgot about this:
Like… I almost feel bad for that top seller. Did he or she not read the tooltip on the item before listing? I mean, okay, I’ll buy your 52g Spirits of Harmony, three of which take the place of three bars of Trillium in the Living Steel transmute.
Now, I fully recognize that not everything is going to sell here. It’s even possible nothing sells – I did pretty much dump 40 bars of Trillium on the AH. That said… this has been the most excited I have been about WoW in quite some time. Which isn’t to say that I have grown bored with the endgame just yet, but the machinations around trying to “optimize” the AH is a entirely novel experience to everything else. And I like it.
Since I am quickly approaching the end of all story content on the druid, I had a notion to try leveling some of my other characters. Specifically, one of the dozen or so I have been playing for the past 6+ years on Auchindoun-US. After about two hours, I have come to one, sobering conclusion: Auchindoun may as well be a graveyard for all my original characters.
You see, I didn’t quite realize how well I had it on Sargeras-US, Alliance-side. As far as I know, it is the most lopsided Alliance-favored PvP server in WoW. I just sort of took it for granted that I was only ever ganked twice (both times at the end of far-flung Flight Paths), and that there were always a dozen or so Alliance members attacking a WQ mob at any given moment. Even if there were rogues skulking about, I quest in Bear form, so… good luck, buddy.
Back on Auchindoun, the situation is much more grim. According to this site, it’s 77.2% Horde.
Sargeras is… oh, 92.9% Alliance. Wow. Goddamn.
Anyway, the bottom line is that the very minute that my level 99 rogue step foot in Azsuna the other day, I was one-shot by a hunter, presumably out of principle. What followed after was a harrowing two hours of questing, where I was constantly stealthing after every mob kill, and had to be ready to Cloak of Shadows/Vanish the moment anyone else showed up.
Worse was the simple fact that even if the Horde were content to leave me alone, I could never actually contribute meaningfully to any kills. The vast majority of every class and spec cleaves by default, which means I either spam Pistol Shot from 20 yards out or simply die to collateral damage.
All of this nonsense and anxiety was occurring on my rogue. I can’t even begin to imagine how many combined hours of time spent in spirit form I’d need for my mage or warlock. And, remember, Blizzard severely nerfed the experience one gets from dungeon queuing, because of course they did. What are my options? Battlegrounds? $25 server transfers? Straight-up rerolling? Even if I did manage to get to 110 in spite of everything… hey, I’m still fucked with WQs and world bosses.
“PvP on a PvP server,” amirite? Well… technically, yes.
But for one thing, Auchindoun wasn’t this imbalanced faction-wise for the first six years I called it home. It was a barren wasteland, for sure, but the current situation is inarguably worse for me. Indeed, had the server been this way all along – filled to the brim with hostile Horde – I would never had gotten as far as I did on it. This is all entirely Blizzard’s arbitrary doing, without ever offering an escape mechanism from a server that has declined in playability to effectively zero.
The feeling I had at the end of the night was the same I experienced in Wrath, when my account was hacked. These characters are effectively gone. RIP in pieces.