It’s the Little (Big) Things
The launch of Battle for Azeroth has been remarkably smooth, for the most part.
The state of the WoW Auction House is not included in “the most part.”
I mentioned before that the introduction of War Mode changed the entire trajectory of my WoW history. My patience for dealing with non-consensual PvP had ran out years ago, and a WoW in which alts were actively discouraged is not one I play for very long. By introducing that PvP toggle switch into the game, my alts were suddenly free from the tyranny of corpse camping, and I had a renewed interest in seeing how every class played out.
Well, it’s now going on the third post-launch day in which the AH in WoW is borderline nonfunctional, and my interest in doing anything is about to run out.
There will never be a better time to make gold than right now, at an expansion launch. The gems that give +5% XP were selling for 5000g apiece on Monday, and were selling below vendor price by Wednesday. Seriously, I was buying as many as I could so I could walk 50 feet away and sell them to an Innkeeper. The problem is that the AH is sluggish, unresponsive, and practically crashing in the midst of doing any kind of transaction.
Now, yes, a part of that is surely the fact that there are 27 pages of 1-herb auctions clogging up the tubes. But in the 10 years of my playing WoW, I have never experienced anything this bad in terms of the AH. Those pages of 1-item auctions could have been cleared out by one person with a functioning TSM/Auctionator addon, but either one is struggling to do anything productive. I have resorted to using the default interface, and even that is barely functional.
Up to this point, it really appears that Blizzard doesn’t care. And why would they, right? It’s much more important that there aren’t any bugged quests that will impede progression, or that the dungeons work, or that there aren’t any crazy exploits out there. The AH is probably towards the bottom of their list of concerns.
…which is dumb. The existence of the WoW Token should absolutely make fixing the AH one of their top priorities, considering there is no other reason why people need gold in the first place.
People are resorting to spamming Trade chat with their prices and instructions on how to mail materials via C.O.D. Even worse, the prices people are offering are actually better than the items in the AH currently – someone offering to buy any BfA herb for 65g apiece, when there were a bunch for 50g in the AH – but the AH is so fucked and slow that you’d be faster gathering them in the game world than trying to spin your wheels in the interface.
In any case, the AH being broke is sapping my will to play the expansion. I am interested in the questing experience and how this story will play out in the future, but I have zero particular drive to hit the endgame scene and run a bunch of dungeons. The fact that I am missing out on the most lucrative time in an expansion is acting as a giant wet blanket over my drive to play at all. I had a precious few days to perform AH alchemy before leaving on vacation next week, and I fully expect the irons to have cooled down by the time I get back.
I would guess that I have maybe gained ~100k since BfA came out. Had the AH actually functioned in any particularly good way, that could have been 500k. And that’s a deficit in potential that will mar my playtime forever.
Everything ain’t flowers and sunshine, cupcake.
It is kind of funny how the release of a game nearly two (!) years ago can so profoundly impact your expectations for all future games, even if you no longer play the other one. Specifically, Guild Wars 2 pretty much forever ruined the “traditional” approach to implicitly competitive questing, and it’s hard to tolerate anywhere else now, especially in Wildstar.
As some might point out, you can technically get quest credit for killing mobs in Wildstar as long as you tag it before someone else lands the finishing blow. Not in the WoW tagging sense, but the “just any attack at all” sense. The problem is that there is a profound lack of all the other supporting social mechanisms. Resource nodes are still exclusive. Quest nodes are still exclusive. Challenges train you early on to hate other human beings, even if you could be tagging mobs together; most mobs at these early levels die much too fast for you to tag them anyway, and meanwhile each dead mob is one less chance for you to actually complete the Challenge. To say nothing about melee classes usually not being able to tag in time, or how hard it is to do so as an Esper.
There is also the implicit annoyance/benefit of walking into one of the many quest caves, following in the wake of what must be The Butcher on a rampage. On the one hand, thank you stranger for clearing out all these mobs. On the other hand, err… I kinda wanted to play the game too.
Terrible Chat Interface
“Addons will fix it” is never an excuse for anything, much less something as important as a chat interface. I was singing the praises of the /Advice channel being integrated by default, and that is indeed good. What is not at all good is the fact that there isn’t a way to reply to Whispers without specifying whom. Every. Time. I just wanted to say hello to the guy who, you know, just whispered me. Having to click their name in the rapidly scrolling chat box is awkward as hell.
The workaround right now is simply joining a party with them, as your chat box defaults to your last channel entry. Why Carbine decided to not do the same for Whispers (specifically defaulting to the last person you whispered), I have no idea.
[Fake Edit] After playing around with it some more, another workaround is to use the Circle functionality. Because we should be taking cues from Google+…? I’m joking, the idea of having multiple “Guild-lite” social structures is pretty good; I could conceivably have a Circle with ex-Auch players, another Circle with the bloggers whom sort of directed me to this server in the first place, and still be in a hardcore guild if some aneurism left me a constant craving for pain and drama. In any case, chatting with multiple people via /c1 is just like chatting in a party. It’s just a shame that I cannot add accounts to Circles – what sense does it make to being able to Friend someone’s account, but having to add all their alts to your Circle individually? Just give us the option, Carbine.
Did you know there was a Mentor system in Wildstar? You know, an in-game means to down-level yourself to go play with your friends? Me either. If I had not recalled that bit of trivia from half a year ago, I would not have scoured the web in search of the means to do so.
So, Pro Tip: target a party member and type /Mentor. Alternatively:
As far as I can tell, there is no other in-game explanation for this, for god only knows what reason. It certainly isn’t automatic like in Guild Wars 2, which I suppose can be good for carrying friends through group quests or whatever. I haven’t really been able to ascertain how much XP is penalized (if any) for doing this, but at least there’s a mechanism for making playing with friends less painful.
One of the downsides of playing with friends though is the hard phasing. Right from the start, you are going to have to click Sync Group whenever you join someone’s party just to ensure you are in the same world instance. Which sort of begs the question for why there aren’t just megaservers, but whatever.
From there, we were confused a bit upon reaching Gallows, as I got a notification that the Mentoring would revert due to being “too far away” from my friend. Turned out the NPC town of Gallows was phased, and so he disappears from my world any time he’s within 10 yards of the place. Quests that take you “off world” also basically just teleport your friends away.
It irks me that these ex-WoW devs will have to re-learn the same goddamn lessons their peers ran face-first into years ago. And, hey, if you are going the hard phasing route, couldn’t you have individual resource nodes too? Or at least individual quest nodes.
This next one is an incredibly easy fix, either by Carbine or hopefully an addon later on, but it annoys me that it’s a thing in the first place. Basically, gathering professions require a specific gathering tool to be equipped before you can harvest a given node. I have chosen the equivalent of Mining and Laser-Lumberjacking. But here’s the thing: the game won’t automatically switch between tools. You have to manually click on the appropriate tool to go between mining Iron to cutting down a tree. Err… what?
If the goal is to discourage people from having two gathering professions, well, good job. Otherwise, it’s just goddamn annoying.
One quest of particular note during my brief time with the beta was the one which asked you to Salvage an item. It was noteworthy in its clunkiness. Sadly, not much has changed.
As far as I can tell, the only way to Salvage things is to click on an icon in your inventory, which brings up a Salvage window… that then asks you to cycle through your entire inventory. Wut. Why can’t I, oh I dunno, just right-click to Salvage things? Drag them into box maybe? Make it a toggle like with Disenchanting in WoW?
If the game does have these things, they are doing a terrible job at communicating them.
Public Event Nonsense
Finally, I’m not sure whether I have seen a worse implementation of Public Events in an MMO. I’d call it “half-baked,” but that implies a portion of it has indeed seen the inside of an oven, which does not appear to be the case.
While questing with my friend, the path led us near one of the marked Public Events on the map. “Alright, let’s go see what these are about.” When we arrived, we joined in killing an Elite, which ended up being the capstone to the Event. Nothing dropped, no notification of anything, and the quest markers was pointing to an empty field nearby. “No worries, we probably need to start it correctly.”
After waiting about two minutes, the NPCs respawned and the Event began again. So we collected boxes, dropped some mining bots, killed some mobs, spawned the Elite, and then killed it. Aaaaaaand nothing. Literally nothing dropped at any point. There wasn’t even an indication that the event ended, other than the NPC camp disappearing in a cloud of dust. We eventually figured out to click on the Public Event text in the sidebar, and I was presented with this screen:
I mean, on the one hand, okay. I can understand if their Public Event system is to only award things to people who contribute the most. It’s profoundly anti-social, and even Warhammer gave people in the middle a shot at getting loot, but whatever. What is less excusable is the lack of any indication of anything. And, you know, the fact that I actually did appear to be a top contributor. This is just a newbie zone Public Event, yes, but both my friend and I have come to the conclusion to not waste our time with these things again. One shitty experience with a game mechanic at the very beginning can poison the entire mechanic going forward.
That is about where I’m at with things. I just dinged
12 13 on my Medic yesterday, so I’ll soon see how Adventures, Dungeons, PvP, Housing, and Mounts work out. I have been reading about how group content is leading to rather crazy amounts of Renown gain, which is an alternative currency you can use to purchase things like Mounts and such.
I have to say though, some of these classes are just obscenely underpowered compared to the others. Rather than Mentor my Medic down to level 8, I switched to my level 7 Engineer to play with the aforementioned friends. Jesus Christ, guys, it is so bad. It might not feel that way if that’s all you have known, but I challenge you to roll a Medic or Spellslinger and tell me Engineer belongs in the same game. What’s worse is that at level 8, you’re three levels away from getting anything approaching another DPS ability. You get Shitty Shotgun, Tickle-Me-Elmo Electricity, a reactive Crit attack that can’t really trigger off anything, and two Dumbass Bots that will aggro all the things. If the level 11 ability doesn’t blow my fucking mind, I might be forced to put on the waders and start mucking around the official forums.
Into the Breach
It has technically been four days since I started playing WoW again.
I say “technically” as the first two sessions were 1-2 hours long and essentially involved me downloading and configuring over a dozen addons because Blizzard’s UI options are atrocious. It has been more than a year since I last played, and I understand that a lot of my ire would not exist had I been playing continuously this whole time. But that is exactly my point. To someone just coming back into WoW from a long absence, the returning user experience is pretty bad. Not quite PlanetSide 2 starting experience bad, but close.
My first issue was with the UI scale. When I looked at my old WoW screenshots, it looks like I was running around in 1280×960 resolution, which was fine at the time. Now that I have a 24″ monitor that nags me for being in anything less than 1920×1080, within five minutes I started developing neck pain from having to look to the far corners of the screen to squint at quest text. My initial scan of the options left me with the impression that no scaling UI option existed, so I ended up spending most of Tuesday mucking around with the impenetrable MoveAnything addon and reconfiguring by hand. Eventually, I wised up and Googled my way to the UI Scale slider, but this was way after any rational person would have given up.
After two days of screwing around, I did approximately six of the new Pandaria quests before I simply logged off. Unlike a lot of GW2 ex-pats, the clunkiness I experienced with, say, the combat had nothing to do with standing still and trading blows – it was with much simpler things. For example, I kept trying to press E to interact with NPCs or loot bodies. Nope, I have that key bound to Crusader Strike (or whatever primary attack I have for the class/spec I’m playing) because, you know, solely clicking on shit with the mouse never went out of style. And can a brother move a goddamn window please? Maybe I want my quest text a little more to the center of the screen. You never know how much you can miss simply moving shit around until it’s gone.
There were some things I appreciated though. When it came time to assign talent points, I did not feel the immediate need to look builds up on ElitistJerks. In fact, it was the first time in years where the entire talent selection process felt… pleasant. “Huh. I’ll probably use this one more than that one. Oh, this one looks fun… I’ll take it.” The glyph system felt similarly serine, although that was mainly because there did not appear to be any actual useful glyphs for Retribution.
Which reminds me: designers, stop being idiotic by ignoring opportunity costs. I can understand the rationale of changing the glyph system to be different than simply +5% DPS options; the Enchanting and Gemming system already has you well covered there. But why would you give people 20+ glyphs with upsides balanced with downsides for three limited slots? If you ask me to choose between X and Y, the downside to X is losing the chance to pick Y. If Y is so bad no one would ever choose it, yeah, maybe it looks like X has no downside… but that’s the designer’s fault for screwing up Y. As it stands, my paladin glyph choices were made based on which ones I could take that inconvenienced me the least. If I felt more comfortable having empty glyph slots, I would have left them that way.
Anyway, some other things I appreciated were the “What Has Changed” tab and the rotation guide thing. The spellbook being divided into spec-specific abilities was helpful, even though it baffles me why Retribution is so limited ability-wise. The Dungeon Journal interface is incredibly slick, and this was the first time I ever looked at it, believe it or not.
When one of my (ex-former?) guildmates was showing off some of the new pets though, trying to bring out one of my own felt like opening one of those trick cans that shoot the snake and confetti out. “Oh, right, the Pet Battle thing.” It looked pretty overwhelming, to be honest, but I like the way it was set up graphically (I haven’t actually battled anything yet).
I am going to stick with WoW for now because playing games I don’t immediately like until I do (or until the cognitive dissonance kicks in) is my M.O. around here, but I just want to say: good lord, my first impression was bad. If there was ever a moment that I doubted WoW’s longevity was primarily due to social inertia, it has finally past today. It isn’t about the graphics or combat mechanics being old, it’s about downloading a bunch of 3rd-party tweaks just to make the game somewhat playable¹. Which is completely ridiculous if you think about it. If I were a normal person trying to come back again, I would have uninstalled within the first half hour.
But (un)luckily for you, I’m not, I didn’t, and god have mercy on my
soul free time.
¹ “Playable” being a term relative to the other games one is playing, of course.