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I have unlocked Legion flying.

The process was not nearly as painful as I was anticipating, primarily because the reputation requirement was only Revered, instead of Exalted. Well, that, and the fact that I had already unlocked Pathfinder Part 1 before I stopped playing last time, in addition to doing some of the beginning quests at the Broken Shore. In any case, flying is as majestic and freeing and worthwhile as it has ever been. Although it annoys me greatly that Blizzard will continue dangling it in front of us, that simply confirms the notion that it is a carrot worth pursuing every time.

Unlocking the Alliance Allied Races was a secondary goal that I may well abandon entirely. The requirement is Exalted with two factions introduced in Argus, and completing all the quests sticks you at the beginning of Honored. While the reputation is a bit easier to grind out nowadays – most World Quests give you both factions’ rep, and at 75 a pop – that is still… an inordinate amount of grinding. Blizzard is apparently sticking to their guns in terms of still requiring Exalted into BFA, which is just further mind-boggling, considering you then still have to level up new characters from level 20. I suppose Blizzard considers this a sort of cosmetic Thing To Do, but it’s bizarre to me that they’d go through the trouble of creating entirely new skins and racial abilities and heritage armor, and then leave it in soon-to-be-dead content with an expansion around the corner.

I mean, it’s one thing to leave in the WoD grind to unlock flying, as that just impacts WoD. But imagine if new players had to grind Cataclysm reputation to unlock flying in the vanilla zones. Six expansions from now, there will likely still be Void Elves running around, provided that anyone gets bored enough to spend 6+ weeks grinding rep.

Instead of that, I have been turning my gaze towards some of my alts. As mentioned before, I only have the one max-level character: the druid. For my other alts, I made sure to do the beginning artifact quests, so they are generally level 102. Thus far, I have only touched two since patch 8.0.

The first was the Demon Hunter. I… just don’t know about this class. The whole double-jumping and free-gliding aspect of it make the class extremely fun from a mobility perspective. From a fun perspective though, the button-pushing aspect leaves something to be desired. I guess technically it’s extremely similar to Rogue mechanics – press A to build up resources to press B – but I think the key difference is that all the attacks feels like the same on the Demon Hunter. Stab-Thrust-Spin feels a lot more varied than Spin-Spin-Spin, even if you’re doing comparable damage.

Alternatively, I could just be annoyed how little self-healing Demon Hunters have (at this level?). I was in Stormheim and there was one of those quests where you have to weaken a mob before using an item on them to make them stop fighting. Which is normally fine, whatever. However, the regen mechanic with Demon Hunters is based on the mobs dying and dropping health orbs, which… doesn’t happen when you don’t kill the mobs. Can’t just bandage anymore either, unless you have a Tailor or buy bandages off the AH. And who carries food around these days?

The other class I played for a bit was Rogue, and it’s as fun as it’s ever been. Stealth, blowing mobs up in a few GCDs, re-stealth and go on to the next one. I’ve stuck with Outlaw thus far because I like Grappling Hook and Pistol Shot, but I do miss being able to Shadowstep to the next mob and basically ninja my way around the world.

In the coming days, I want to give the Paladin, Death Knight, and Warlock another go now that War Mode is a thing I can keep turned off. Also, I have never had a Monk past level 20, so that would seem to be a good target for one of my free level 100 boosts. Don’t know what I would use the other one on – perhaps an Allied Race, if I ever unlock one? – but I’m tempted to boost a Horde character either on my current server or another one, just to get access to the Horde storyline.

Provided, of course, that my attention span for WoW holds out.

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WoW Again, Redux, Part 2

Tuesday was pre-expansion patch day in WoW, and it is once again (temporarily) relevant to my interests. I actually resubbed a few days ago, but close enough.

What brought me back? The realization that what I was doing in most of the survival games I played isn’t so different than what I do in MMOs. In Conan: Exiles, for example, I routinely went back to a fast-respawn pirate area so that I could grind XP and potentially enslave new Thralls. When I was wasn’t doing that, I was farming mats for building materials. Longer-term goals included traveling to far away places and repeating that entire process at tier N+1.

If I’m just grinding shit for something to do, why not do so in WoW?

…that’s not actually a good reason for anything. The unspoken assumption in the back of my mind is that WoW is a game that matters, in some ineffable way other games do not. I mean, what other game do you still play 10+ years later? But just because I seem to fall back into the familiar groove of a bad relationship, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be trying something newer, even if I’m going through the same motions.

Trouble is, I’m kinda waiting for Fallout 76 and Battlefield V and the next 7 Days to Die Alpha release. Alas, here we are in the meantime.

My original goal was to unlock Legion flying. I left right before it was fully implemented, but I had unlocked everything in the Part 1 of the achievement. Part 2 was simply… getting Exalted with a new faction. Which will take literal weeks. [Edit: Only takes Revered, apparently. Still, it’ll be days of work.] That in of itself wasn’t the worse thing, but the process essentially being “hope there’s friendly people around to help kill these outdoor bosses” was. And, you know, bored/angry Horde characters wanting to pick fights for no reason. War Mode couldn’t come fast enough.

So, I gave up on unlocking flying for a bit, in the hopes that perhaps Blizzard would make it slightly easier in some future patch. Instead… let’s unlock some of the new races!

…and it requires Exalted rep with the two new factions in zones I had not even entered once. I’m actually a bit miffed, because the two new Horde races require Exalted reputation with factions that have been present in Legion since the beginning. What kind of bullshit is this?

All that aside, it’s kind of funny coming back to the WoW side of things from a combat point of view. Like, I have no concept of what kind of enemy I can safely face-tank, which is pretty much the default playstyle of Boomkins. I kept trying to dodge-roll out of melee range, like in GW2 or Conan. Druids have 37 different kinds of buttons anyway, so I sort of just embraced the 5-10 buttons I could comfortably press and then hoped that Shadowmeld would get me out of any serious binds.

What I have realized though, is that without flying, playing the druid is a real drag. Instant mounting is pretty much the only reason to play a Boomkin over any other ranged caster, and I’m pretty sure I’d have more fun on the rogue than Feral. All my other characters are below level 103 though, and I don’t want to run around in a full-PvP world in which flying exists for everyone other than me.

So, we’ll see.

Airspace

Has there ever been an interesting and/or fun flying mechanic in any game?

I keep asking myself that question, as my eyes glaze over while holding Shift + W in an attempt to get somewhere in Ark on a flying mount. Flying anywhere in Ark is especially egregious, as not only is there no auto-Run/Sprint, letting go of the W key will cause your mount to stop moving altogether. Flying is not particularly engaging in WoW either, but at least you can hit NumLock (or other keybind) and then Alt-Tab for a while.

Which then begs the question of why flying commonly works the way it does at all.

In WoW, it is in perhaps its most banal form: a land mount that moves on a 3rd axis. Up, down, sideways, for infinite periods of time. Back when Flightgate was occurring, I was firmly in Camp Fly, but not because flying itself was particularly fun. Back in Burning Crusade when there were actual concerns – Fel Cannons and flying enemies capable of dismounting you – but those have largely been abandoned in favor of… attunements and grinding. Not a particular improvement.

In Ark, things are a tiny bit different. The biggest difference would be the existence of a Stamina meter, requiring one to eventually land somewhere. This need for landing does slightly alter the gameplay of flying, insofar as you must make decisions to, say, attempt to cross the Swamp at low Stamina or rest up beforehand. Otherwise, flying is largely identical, with no real to worry about running into trees or being attacked by really anything (PvP aside).

Know something that I do find compelling gameplay? Gliding. A lot of people have gone on about GW2’s introduction of gliding in Heart of Thorns and how great it is, but I’ve never experience it there. In WoW though, the Goblin Glider has been my fam for most of Legion. And don’t get me started on how lethargic it feels to play any other class after experiencing the Demon Hunter for 20 minutes. Double-jump plus glide everywhere? Give that dev a raise.

Gliding has a lot going for it, mechanically. There is the gameplay necessary to get to a high enough location to glide in the first place, for example. Once you actually take the leap, your time is limited in a very real, intuitive way. Stamina bars can technically limit flight too, but only abstractly. There is something engaging about the way you might scan the ground ahead, making minor course corrections, seeking to avoid the dangers at the end of your decaying trajectory. Even if you are not actively moving left or right, your mind is still performing the prodigious, subconscious calculus of triangulation every second. Compare that to Shift + W.

The “obvious” solution is to make flying mounts handle more like gliders. But is that really a winning combination? Maybe.

I think the challenge is the threading of the needle between making flying engaging without it being onerous. Having to press Spacebar for each flap of the mount’s wings is probably not the way to go. Being able to dive bomb though? Catching updrafts? Gliding around obstacles? Having to actually pay attention when flying through forests? That is something I can get behind. One of my favorite mounts in Ark is actually the Giant Toad, as its huge jumps are infinitely entertaining in of themselves. Can you imagine a game, MMO or otherwise, that had a flying system fun enough to be its own reward, rather than merely a mechanism to get from A to B?

If it already exists, let me know where.

Cyber Black Fronday

This past Thanksgiving break was actually the busiest I’ve had in years, so I have not had much time for anything other than commutes and carbs.

The Haul

Pretty much the only thing I’ve bought during the various sales was Battlefield 1 for about $30. It was the physical edition, because retailers collude with the game industry to keep digital sales nonexistent, so I won’t actually receive it until sometime this week.

Time will tell whether BF1 will keep my attention for as long as BF2/3/4 did. A lot of people talk about how much better it is when there aren’t 37 people with lock-on rocket launchers running around, but I liked being one of those guys with the niche loadouts to harass the pros who otherwise get 70-1 scores with the goddamn attack helicopters. So we’ll see where I fall in the BF1 department.

Perhaps more than what I bought, it’s interesting as to what I didn’t purchase. For example: Titanfall 2 for $28. One, I thought it a bit silly to buy both Titanfall 2 and BF1 at the same time. Two, I’ve kinda already learned my lesson from last time. It’s not so much the prognostication regarding the PC population as it is concerns about matchmaking in general, the fact that some game modes already struggle to pop, and the wirehead nature of the gameplay. I dunno. Perhaps the bottom line is that my breakpoint on this game is not $28. Maybe $20.

There were some particularly good deals on things like the PS4 (an Uncharted bundle for $212), but I passed for the same reason I always pass on consoles: I don’t end up playing them. I still have a backlog on the PS3, let alone getting a new console. I feel like if I get back into couch gaming, I’ll have to upgrade the TV to make it the same equivalent size to my current monitor, or bust out the projector again, but that’s way too much work. Much easier to do nothing.

WoW Projects

I officially unlocked Draenor flying.

WoW_DraenorFlying.jpg

Whew.

So, what now? Well… I dunno. I have been logging on, doing some of the more lucrative dailies, and most recently running some old raids for transmog gear. I’m pretty sure WoW is going to fall to the wayside once Battlefield 1 arrives, and then we’ll see. I mean, I can’t really level any other characters, and I want to see where this WoW Token Battle.net balance thing goes besides.

Arbitrary Projects

Have you ever just sort of watched yourself play games, Ouija Board-style? That is sort of where I am with WoW at the moment. I log in, and… just see what transpires. I have no express goal anymore, stuck as I am in a holding pattern for either the WoW Token –> Server Transfer change, or some other solo questing content that doesn’t require 80 quest items from heroic dungeons.

The results have been interesting. For example, I am apparently unlocking flying in Draenor.

Believe me, I don’t know either. But it’s a nice, relatively straight-forward project with discrete checkboxes and otherwise tangible progress towards a goal. The Reputation part would technically be the most annoying, but I have been checking the AH periodically for those Medallions of the Legion, and have accumulated quite a few. So, for now, I am focusing on one zone per play session, knocking it out, and then following up with 1-2 of the “Securing Draenor” areas. Depending on my mood and the arc of the stars, this should be completed in around a week or two.

The Draenor flying project occurred after I power-leveled my warlock alt through Draenor proper, and got stuck in the abject hell that is Legion on an imbalanced PvP server. The power-leveling part was actually fun setting up. With a Potion of the Rapid Mind, full heirlooms, Potion of Accelerated Learning, and Darkmoon Faire buff… each Bonus Objective in Gorgrond gave approximately half a level. If you complete them all aside from 1-2 required mobs, then complete all the quests in the area (without turning them in), you can snag the maximum amount of XP possible in Gorgrond within that 15-minute Rapid Mind window, which is basically enough to go from 93-100 in one go.

Provided, of course, you don’t get ganked along the way.

I have been somewhat lucky in the avoiding-the-gank department thus far. Almost all the pointless attempts on my life have been while on my paladin. Just yesterday, I was attacked by a 110 Balance druid in Spires of Arak at a quest hub on my 102 namesake paladin. I bubbled and hit a hearth button… which ended up being the extra hearth you get for having an Inn in Spires, so I was really just teleported 200 yards south. The druid knew this somehow, as it was 30 seconds later when I heard the guards starting to aggro. I tried to log off, but apparently the Inn doesn’t actually count as an Inn, so I had the long, 20-second log-off timer. Not sure what the base looks like from a Horde perspective, but the druid clipped through the wall, trailing 30+ guards, and was trying to take me out with Moonfire spam as my low health warning sirens blaring.

I logged into an alt for a few minutes, then back onto the paladin. I was alive with a 15-second Sunfire DoT still on me. Never have I felt more satisfaction logging into a character.

Well, other than on any of my characters on Sargeras, who have practically zero concern over whether there are Horde in the area.

So yeah, let’s hope that WoW Token thing comes sooner rather than later. Or, you know, perhaps Blizzard could merge more servers together with the focus on actually balancing them instead of letting shit get so lopsided.

Back in Draenor, Apparently

Don’t ask. I don’t know either.

… but apparently I had a wild hair the past day or two to pick up the Bind on Account Rings that you get from doing the Shipyard quests in Warlords. I think the train of thought was that even if I spent money transferring toons off of Auchindoun, a few were at, or even below level 90. Plus, you know, the future, man.

In any case, this triggered a cascade of research and dicking around to the point that my namesake paladin is now scouring Tanaan like it’s June 2015. I even took another look at unlocking Draenor flying, but 1) fuck Blizzard for that entire fiasco, and 2) getting the 20% bonus to reputations (e.g. Trading Post Rank 3) requires Exalted with any Draenor faction… and I’m not even Honored with any of them. I suppose I could just use Medallions of the Legion without the bonus, but I don’t actually think there are enough of them on the no-pop wasteland that is Auch.

In the meantime, I’m just lurking around rare spawn sites for Shipyard equipment and doing my best Jedi Mind Trick on the passing level-capped Horde. I was only “ganked” once, by a Blood Elf hunter that saw my attempts to hearth out as too irresistible to ignore. Too bad I have the auto-bubble talent, which led me to just hearthing again, this time at double speed.

All of this is quite silly, of course. I’m pretty sure whatever time I’m spending on this is more than I’d save with +5% XP gains. At the same time, my druid is basically in passive grinding mode for Legion Pathfinder and this side project gives me something to work towards a bit more actively. I haven’t yet stuck my foot in a BG or LFR or even a Mythic dungeon.

So, I’m doing it wrong, but I’m doing something. And that’s fine for now.