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WoW Aside

Blizzard was running a free weekend of WoW just a few days ago. This was basically me:

I still have the Curse Client – or the Twitch client now, but Amazon owns it? – so I was able to get all my addons updated and the screen to basically look the same as it did the last time I logged in. Which might have been 400+ days ago?

Blizzard has made a big deal about some of the artifact appearances going away permanently with the next expansion’s pre-patch, which itself is going Live within a few weeks. I looked through them, and pretty much the only ones I would conceivably care about were the Feral and Guardian druid ones. My average ilevel was 840 when I left, and 910 is basically the floor for attempts. Some guides have mentioned that you can reach that ilevel with about a week of dailies and such.

No thanks.

Cosmetic rewards in gaming is in a weird place for me. As rewards for completing content, I feel like it’s a good choice over straight (gear) power. As a means of funding games (e.g. cash shop), it is probably the least offensive, provided they do not come in loot boxes. But eventually… does it not just end for other people? Like, you enjoy the way your character looks and that’s that?

I spent years and years trying to get the Raven mount out of a TBC heroic, and I eventually did. And now I’m done with land mounts – any other mounts I ride are due to utility (flying, water-walking, etc). It doesn’t matter what other mounts Blizzard releases, and so mount-chasing just ceased to be compelling for me anymore. Same with transmog, really. Once you get a good set going, whatever else gets released would need to be way better than my current one in order to move the needle. You can only wear one costume/ride one mount at a time, so why both acquiring multiple ones?

Thus, with Mage Tower unlocks not being a good use of my time, I’m left with… well, too many things, actually. There’s two full raids worth of bosses to tour with LFR, plus an entire demon planet to quest through, and a half-dozen Allied races to unlock, oh and flying is a thing now which requires a whole bunch of assorted tasks and reputation grinds and, and, and etc.

Yeah, that’s gonna be a no for me dawg. I’m out.

Well, out is probably optimistic. I never uninstalled WoW in my life, and I am sorta interested in the train wreck of an expansion (lore-wise) that Battle for Azeroth is shaping up to be. There is just too much shit I have to shift through and prioritize and decide on at the moment. When a new expansion is released, things are much easier. Go quest, gain levels, unlock abilities, repeat until level cap. Once you hit said cap, things go sideways in terms of shit to do. Each patch adds more and more and the only way to keep your head above water is to have been treading this whole time. Makes it a bit tough to come back after an extended break.

I dunno. This may come as somewhat of a shock, but I sometimes overthink things. But I figure if I’m going to need to dedicate some time to (re-)learning some things, I should probably take that time to learn something new, e.g. playing something else.

WoW will still be there later, as always. Waiting.

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Legion Praise

As Shintar pointed out in the comments last time around, almost all of my coverage of Legion thus far has been either AH or complaint-related. And that’s fair – it has. I suppose we all just sort of take it for granted that WoW’s general gameplay is genre-defining and spectacular in most every way. Indeed, that engaging gameplay is precisely why we complain: if only X or Y could be fixed, we’d feel better about getting lost in the oblivion of killing mobs for hours.

Well, for this post, I won’t take it for granted. Legion is vastly improved in almost every way.

For one thing, all mobs everywhere are multi-tap capable. You know, that thing that Guild Wars 2 (and presumably others) have been doing for 4+ years already? Between the multi-tap mobs and the multi-tap resources nodes, the very fabric of open-world social dynamics has changed in Legion. Members of my own faction are no longer competition. Demon Hunter zipping around and collecting all the quest mobs in the area? Cool, let me just toss a Sunfire into that pack and get credit and looting rights to everything.

Granted, I might be more miffed if I were a spec without easy AoE.

There have been a lot of concern over the Great Ability Prune this expansion, but I have largely enjoyed having action bars back. More conditional and/or specialized buttons raises the skill cap, sure. At the same time, what is actually important is the feeling one gets pressing what buttons one has. If you only enjoy pressing 1-2 buttons of your 12 button rotation, what good is that?

In this regard, Legion is a massive, massive leap forward in most of the specs I have played. I smile every time I cast Full Moon on the Balance druid. Grappling Hook on the Outlaw rogue is fucking magical. You never quite realize how beaten down you have gotten over the years in regards to terrain until you gain the freedom to actually “teleport” up a hill you would otherwise have to traverse around. And speaking of Outlook rogues, Pistol Shot as an ability just feels so good. The sound, the action, the proc, the utility of having a ranged, technically spammable attack is perfect.

I have not spent much, non-Invasion time with the other alts, for reasons I kinda already got into with my complaint posts. What I will say though, is that the simple existence of class-specific content is an extremely good motivating factor in getting said classes leveled up and/or at least played some to see it. I didn’t like Unholy DK gameplay during Invasions, for example, but when I heard that the Lich King is involved in the artifact quests? Sign me up. It might only be an hour or two of specific content (and some locations are shared), but it is more than has existed for quite some time.

Leveling zones have been spectacular this expansion as well. It normally goes without saying, but I really do appreciate how much care Blizzard takes in not being as predictable in the art design department. Remember Wrath of the Lich King and the Northrend continent? Everyone expected every zone to just be all snow and zombies all the time. And while there was a lot of snow and zombies, you also had Grizzly Hills and Sholazar Basin and so on. In a similar vein, there is kind of a expectation in Legion for… well, Legion everywhere. Demons and green fire and Chronicles of Riddick-esque architecture. Not so much, actually. I started out leveling in Highmountain, and things have pretty much been up (har har) from there.

While I have not hit level cap just quite yet, I have high praise for the scaling leveling tech. There is more content than necessary for reaching 110 – which is good – but would typically present an issue within the zones themselves once you outlevel them. “Do I see the conclusion of this quest chain now, or come back later when it’s trivial?” I remember that being a major issue in Wrath in Grizzly Hills, as that was a zone I wanted to spend more time in, but outpaced the content available. Between the scaling mobs and scaling rewards, this is not an issue anymore.

I will admit though that there feels like a bit of a loss in the tangible feeling of level progression department, insofar as mobs are almost always the same level of difficulty. Sometimes it feels liberating coming back to older zones and having the run of the place, you know?

Quest-wise… this is WoW. People often complain about having to kill 10 whatevers in MMO quests, but that’s kind of why we’re playing a game with 10 million hostile whatevers, right? Besides, those sort of quests are filler and/or padding for the actual story/plot quests, which have been fantastically meaty from a lore standpoint. So much so, in fact, that I suspect the quest writers have been reading a bit too much Game of Thrones. Gods, demigods, Aspects… no one is safe. I legitimately wonder what Blizzard is going to follow this expansion up with – the old (figurative and literal) pantheon seems to have swept away, so they’re either wrapping things up or making room for new guys.

In any case, there it is. Legion is a lot of fun. I have complaints for days and days about all manners of things, but it comes from a place of frustration with wasted potential. That AH business, for example, would easily keep me entertained for 3 months if they fixed the throttling.

Alas, it is what it is. Which is 90% good, even if the 10% gets all the attention.

Artifact Concerns

As the release of Legion inches closer, my implicit worries have begun to mount.

Technically, the concerns I have currently are the same ones I brought up a year ago. Namely: artifacts and alts. Having one weapon that you channel all of your power into is conceptually neat. But WoW has long ceased to be about one character and spec; the structure of the game since around Wrath has seemed to hinge on the assumption of alts, or at least dual specs. Just think about all the Account-Bound items and other technology changes that have occurred in the past five years.

So how is Legion going to interact with everyone’s alts?

Based on the Wowhead research I have been doing… it’s hit or miss. My first concern was being stuck with a single Artifact for a single spec out of the gate. What if I’m a healer and want to level as DPS? You are indeed stuck with a single Artifact until level 102, at which point you can unlock the others. However, you are not stuck stuck – there is a sort of gear workaround for alt specs:

What if I chose the wrong Artifact Weapon, vendored my old weapons and want to level in a different spec before level 102?

Your class Order Hall Quartermaster sells item level 740 weapons/off-hands/shields for 100g each. These can serve as replacements if you need them before you unlock all of your class Artifact Weapons at level 102.

So technically you should be able to have a backup set of gear to use if you want to tank/heal/DPS with an off-spec. Obviously it won’t be as ideal as with your Artifact, but it’s something.

Okay… what about gaining Artifact Power (AP)? During questing, dungeons, etc, you end up receiving consumable items that fill an AP meter for your currently equipped Artifact when used. So, it seems like you should be able to quest as DPS and funnel all of these consumables into your healing Artifact later on. That’s pretty good. Indeed, later on you unlock the Artifact Knowledge ability that will increase the AP gained from future consumables. I thought it was a nice touch that these gains aren’t retroactive to your currently obtained consumables, so there is no reason to hoard them for later.

But then we get into the sort of nitty gritty details of World of Altcraft. The amount of AP that you need to get from level 13 to level 14 is more than the total amount you need from 1-13. This makes a nice, conceptual breakpoint at which you can decide whether to hedge your bets or double-down on one spec or not.

That said, there are two problems with this.

First, you don’t always have any control over your circumstances in the game. Your guild might need a healer now, after you have already hit AP14, setting you a painful distance behind in your ability to fulfill the need. Second, there are numerous specs who can actually unlock their 2nd Elite Traits as soon as AP16. Now, “as soon as AP16” really means 33,450 total AP gained, more than 2.5 times as much as was needed to hit even AP14, but still. I haven’t seen all the math amongst all the specs in this regard, but I don’t believe it to be a trivial increase.

Finally, and most critically: what happens when Blizzard nerfs a spec?

If you were an Assassination rogue and got hit by the nerf-bat, it was always technically possible to switch to Subtlety rogue and keep going. Maybe your Best-in-Slot items change based on whether Mastery or Haste is king. But now? At AP18, you are two times further away from even AP16 farmed from scratch. Unless the Artifacts are front-loaded as all hell, you are basically staring down an entirely new endgame, minus all the easy AP gained via leveling. I suppose Artifact Knowledge is supposed to bridge the gap there, but I’m not entirely convinced Blizzard won’t be requiring us to grind dailies for, erm, days or weeks.

[Fake Edit]: A new interview just came out addressing this:

Artifact Weapons
The team will avoid nerfing a spec from being a little too good to the worst so that you don’t feel that all of your Artifact progression was a waste

Time will tell regarding on the Blizzard dev’s team ability to actually do this.

[/Fake Edit]

And don’t get me started on, you know, an actual alternate character. Artifact Knowledge is not Account-Wide, which means you are back to grinding from zero on every other character on your account.

For someone planning on coming back for Legion, I’m a little nonplussed as to what I’m actually going to do. My namesake paladin is right out – Retribution is garbage again from everything I have heard, and I have no interest in Protection tanking. So… what? I haven’t experienced the post-7.0 classes, and now must make a decision on a new main (probably on a new server at that) with a new main spec that I have to invest in at the expense of every other possible alternative.

Analysis Paralysis is a real thing, which often leads to doing nothing at all. Which is still an option.

Legion Thoughts, follow-up

[Blaugust Day 8]

As pointed out by MaximGtB in the comments yesterday, there is a follow-up interview from Blizzard that answers some more questions, including the weapon one:

  • You obtain your Artifact early on in the Legion experience. This is the weapon you will use throughout the expansion. You will not get weapon drops in Legion. Something that wasn’t mentioned during the reveal is that each Artifact has a number of Relic slots, which will determine its raw item stats (DPS, ilvl, etc.) and modifiers to the traits you’ve chosen, so the Artifact’s stats will still improve as you defeat bosses.

This almost raises more questions than answers, honestly. Will these relics be like class armor tokens, e.g. a raid boss dropping the equivalent of a +Spirit relic that the healers roll on? Will the loot system be further taken over by Personal Loot instead?

Of course, there is also an elephant in the room: what about alts? Hell, what about off-specs?

If the Artifact system is the heart of the next expansion – and there is every reason to believe that it is intended to be – shit starts getting a bit ridiculous. If you are a DPS and a tank, are you going to be walking around with two Artifacts? Clearly yes, right? It wouldn’t make much sense for the Artifacts to share progression, so… do you need to split your Artifact Power? Relics? If we get Artifact Power from questing, does that mean someone can get screwed by funneling the Power into the spec they don’t end up being by the end of the level cap? What about healers who level as DPS?

I’m actually starting to wonder if the Artifacts won’t as big a deal as I’m thinking they’re supposed to be. By which I mean, the whole Artifact progression system is standing in for the leveling bonuses we got from hitting even-numbered levels in Warlords. Considering that classes are being redesigned again (melee hunters!), I’m not sure we would even notice the ability shuffle on top of the goodies the Artifact provides.

Anyway, while they’re mucking around with abilities, here’s to hoping that Ion and crew finally realize that making rotations boring on purpose is a really dumb idea.

Legion Thoughts

[Blaugust Day 7]

And the award for easiest Blaugust prompt goes to… WoW’s next expansion, Legion.

Rather than talk about the entire expansion concept as a whole, I wanted to talk about two things that, admittedly, we don’t have enough information about to make informed opinions on.

The first is Artifacts:

Well played, Blizzard.

Unintentional spoiler about Magni, Blizzard?

There are a whole lot of incidental questions regarding the introduction of Artifacts. Like… 36 of them, really? Also, does this not strongly imply that there is a rather sweeping, Game of Thrones-esque purge of all these weapons’ prior owners? I’m almost imagining a reverse Warlords scenario in which all the story heroes land on the beach, a portal opens up, and the hand of Sargeras comes flying out and grabs them all. Certainly there’s no other explanation possible for why every level 100 paladin will be running around the Ashbringer out of the gate.

This brings me to my primary concern: will there be other weapons this expansion? I can see Blizzard simply not releasing any weapons, as why would you ever not use your spec Artifact? Even if the event that leads us to looting Ashbringer from Tirion’s cold, dead hands renders the weapon “drained of power” or whatever, it’s hard to imagine it feeling good to carry an Artifact around in your back pocket while you equip the first green drop from the second Felboar you kill.

Plus, it makes no sense to introduce a pseudo talent tree in a weapon you won’t be using 24/7:

Path of Titans 2.0

Path of Titans 2.0

So here’s my wild speculation: you’ll be using your Artifact all the time, and Artifact Power is the new Valor points. There is a chance that perhaps we’ll be able to disenchant gear into Artifact Power, thus preserving normal gear progression, but I find it difficult to believe that such a system won’t be gamed hardcore. Having raid bosses drop epic weapons whose sole purpose is to be turned into Artifact points sounds really dumb.

Which, of course, means there’s a 50/50 chance that actually happens.

My second concern is the new direction they are taking WoW PvP. Because unless I’m mistaken, it sounds like they’re removing PvP gear entirely.

You can watch the section yourself starting at 3:52:14 in the Youtube video.

We really want to dial back the effect that gear has. […] It’s just not that fun to have players running around with that huge level of power disparity. So we felt like we needed a new system that addresses that, so that while gear plays a role, it plays almost no role in terms of how powerful you are. […] Essentially what [Honor v3] is, is a PvP talent system.

That sort of quote, along with the description of how Honor v2 was basically a currency-based system “that introduced PvP gear,” leads me to believe that we may see PvP gear just go away. Which… is not the worst scenario ever. I’m not sure how popular Guild Wars 2 BGs are, but they feature vendors that hand out unlimited amounts of free PvP gear to level the playing field. The whole Prestige system also sounds fine, but I don’t know how motivating it will be in practice.

The core gameplay loop in WoW is gear progression. That’s basically it. Even if you “don’t care” about gear, the only reason people grind through raids more than once or twice total is precisely because there is a reason to, e.g. to get better equipped to make the next raid less difficult. PvP is absolutely no fun when you’re sitting in starter gear with 1/3rd less HP than the guy about to ruin your day, yes. It is also absolutely true that the participation pittance you receive after being facerolled in a BG makes said BG worth getting facerolled in. Maybe there are people out there sitting on the Honor cap and raring to go into another Isle of Conquest loss. For me personally though, the moment I reach that gear plateau is the same moment I find more constructive uses of my gaming time.

It’s possible that there will still be PvP gear to be earned despite the direction things are leaning. I’m not entirely sure how that would work if Honor is no longer a currency, but the alternative is Blizzard pushing PvP players back into “raid or die” scenarios. What else would PvPers wear? Or maybe Blizzard would go full GW2 and have vendors standing around. No matter the outcome, it is quite the sea change in Legion.

By the way, this PvP slide raised my eyebrow:

Every Race for Themselves.

Every Race for Themselves.

For those that may not know immediately, Gladiator’s Medallion is the namesake trinket, i.e. what you press to get out of stuns, etc. So unless the description of the baseline PvP talent is something incredibly clunky like “your trinket’s cooldown is reduced by 30 seconds” or something, I must assume that everyone is getting a PvP trinket baseline. In which case, we’re either going to see the Human racial be completely redesigned again, or… maybe we’ll see the end of racials in PvP altogether. Hell, in the latter scenario, Humans could keep their trinket racial since the PvP talents are only activated in BGs and Arena.

Undoubtedly we’ll be getting more information soon.