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The WoW 5.4 Roundtable Summary

(Edit: MMO-Champ basically just posted the same goddamn thing. For the record, I wrote the below first, but since I schedule posts to go live at 7am the next day… FML. I want those 28 minutes back.)

So there was a 5.4 Developer Roundtable released on Monday that I am going to sum up for you because, really, nobody should have to sit through those same 28 awkward minutes that I already threw in a hole. I mean, technically, it’s even longer than 28 minutes because I actually paused and rewound the video to take some notes inbetween the cringes. Whenever Ion Hazzikostas talks, I get flashbacks of that one guy in raids – you know the one – where when he speaks, you just want to punch him in the throat and/or yourself in the ears. “Just… fucking say it and stop filling up space with your rhetorical flourishes, Christ!” And he’s a raid leader. Those poor bastards.

Pay it forward, people, pay it forward.

0:00 – 12:25: Time in a hole.

12:26: Lead Encounter designs states that Wrath of the Lich King “arguably” had the best raiding environment at any point in the game. I concur.

15:27: Flex raiding has exceeded Blizzard’s expectations. Out of the Flex raids, over 50% changed in raid size within the duration of the raid itself, e.g. people actually took advantage of the ability to gain/drop people on the fly. More interestingly, the devs stated that in the last week, more people did Flex raiding in NA/EU than did Scenarios. So either Scenarios aren’t as popular as I thought, or Flex raiding is bringing in a lot of new raiding blood.

16:28: “Will there be more zones like the Timeless Isle in the next expansion?” Yes. Timeless Isle will serve as a general template for endgame open-world zones from now on, although there might be a little more structure with goals that evolve over the course of weeks. “We are moving away from the dailies that we done in the past.” Also, more discoverable stuff as people level up.

17:40: “Can we expect any real solutions to (bag/bank) storage problems?” Inventory management is gameplay. But… possibly a toy closet. Also, heirlooms will be like pets/mounts somehow.

19:50: “Do you think you can do better to prevent stacking ranged damage in raiding?” Yes… but not really. The problem is fundamental design: all the fun raid mechanics like movement and target switching are naturally easier done at range. We are looking at ways to make melee more valuable and more fun to play.

21:16: “When will gnomes appear in cinematics?” Funny story: gnomes were not in the original WoW cinematic because they were not even in the game until the cinematic already had a storyboard and was in full production mode. Beyond that, there simply hasn’t been a particularly good time to show them off; all the subsequent cinematics have been to develop bosses of the expansion.

22:20: “5.4.1?” Yes. Major feature of the patch is a rework of the Recruit-A-Friend system. Supposedly more of it will be done in-game instead of game/email/web interface switching. Also, the reward will be a token you can use to choose from a menu of old/brand new mounts/pets.

23:37 – ????: Drink heavily.

Don’t say I never did anything for you.

Comfort & Fashion

There is a saying that goes “Never let comfort interfere with fashion.” Perhaps it’s less of a saying and more an ironic reminder of how absurd human beings can get in the pursuit of arbitrary, ephemeral trends. Why anyone thinks high heels should be a thing, for example, I have no idea. Sure, some jiggly-bits are at a higher incline than normal, but my eyes are always drawn down to the barely-recognizable compressed foot nodules at the end of the legs. Can’t we have the fashion and the comfort? Let’s just make it fashionable to wear comfortable sneakers and call it a day already.

All these thoughts came to mind when I spied the following WoW PTR Patch 5.4 notes:

Warrior

  • Shield Wall no longer requires a shield. If the Warrior does not have a shield equipped, it will show a visual of an equipped shield.
  • Spell Reflection no longer requires a shield. If the Warrior does not have a shield equipped, it will show a visual of an equipped shield.

Way back in November of 2011, I mentioned the ridiculousness that is/was warrior gameplay. Obviously the ridiculousness extended all the way back to Day 1 of WoW’s release, but in 2011 there were a number of changes going on that made it feel like Blizzard was finally turning a corner. Most every warrior ability was tied to a specific Stance up to that point, but suddenly those restrictions were evaporating. “You can cast Spell Reflection in Arms stance!” And we cheered. And then realized you still needed a shield, and we sullenly took one line out of our macros before continuing browsing mice on Amazon with 12+ buttons on the side.

I am 100% convinced that, up to this point, Blizzard has required a shield for Spell Reflection (and Shield Wall for that matter) simply out of “fashion,” e.g. no legitimate gameplay reason. I mean, it’s one thing to include abilities/functionality that requires a high skill cap, or even an honest desire for certain skills to not be usable outside of certain scenarios. It is quite another when there is basically no possible way to utilize a button on your hotbar without having to support it with in-game scripts. No, seriously, just walk yourself through the steps necessary to cast Spell Reflection, and then compare that duration with the typical window in which the ability is useful… while keeping in mind that every PvP warrior is expressly balanced around judicious use of said ability.

I can understand their likely thought process here. “How are you reflecting the spell if not with a shield? And don’t even try to tell me you don’t need a shield for Shield Wall – it’s in the name!” Okay, yeah, it is. But the whole thing is one big, convoluted mess that creates an enormous gulf between even so-so warriors and their macro’d peers. You can make one button that handles the whole gear-swap/ability use process in a way that the default game never could. While “anyone” can copy/paste the macro, at some point you need to ask yourself why its necessary in the first place. Tradition? Fashion? Because it sure as hell isn’t for gameplay reasons.