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That’s One Way to Kill My Interest

Been playing Legion at a good clip the past couple of days. Relatively speaking, of course.

If there has been one change that could smother my interest in the cradle though, it’s this:

WoW_AHTime

Are you serious?

There are a couple of things going on. The primary one is that, at some point, Blizzard throttled the Auction House (AH) page scanning to ~5 seconds per page. Did they do this specifically for Legion? I don’t know. Is this a permanent change? God, I hope not. Because as the above picture shows, it takes over 3.5 minutes to even to get an opportunity to post some silk using Auctionator (an AH addon, but other are just as affected). This scan occurs every time you post any item, including the same item, if you decided you want to post two stacks of five and five individual silks.

“Too bad for the AH goblin,” right? Well… yeah. And you. There is still serious gold to be made in the AH – the issue is now there will be less competition for the people willing to sit through the delay. Goblins raise everything to “market prices,” but we also undercut each other. If the delay completely kills my motivation to do anything with the AH other than unloading herbs/ore, that is one less person driving down the cost of produced goods. You’ll be back to the days of the 1-2 Glyph barons on your server with a 10,000% profit margin. Because we are no longer competing on price, but on our willingness to Alt-Tab or bot the process.

In the meantime, I have be using as much of the default AH interface as I can. There is still a 5-second delay is switching pages, but at least the first page gives me some sort of baseline for determining the floor of a given good. A lot of my browsing though, is simply no longer possible. Want to look at every BoE epic armor on the AH above ilevel 800 for flipping purposes? Good luck… you might be able to finish the scan before you get logged off for being AFK.

Sometimes you get lucky with the default interface though. Auctionator doesn’t even bother listing Bid Prices, which means you can lose out on some ridiculous nonsense like this:

WoW_AHBid

Oops.

Yes, I won the auction with a bid of 1 silver, 10 copper. I would have been fine with selling it for ~300g, but it turns out the actual going price since my last scan shows 750g.

That’s a win, but I’d pay all of that and more for a return to 1-second page scans.

Dilemmas, Part 2

As mentioned in the last few posts, on top of everything else I have to decide on what class I’m actually going to play. While there is usually some kind of shake-up with expansions, I feel like Legion is fairly unprecedented in its complete overhaul of everything, top to bottom. How does one even decide what class to play anymore?

Just like you might expect, my own method is slow, methodical, over-examination.

I started with my namesake paladin, Azuriel. Clicked some talents, moved some hotbars around, and found myself rather appalled at the ability pruning. Retribution wasn’t especially complicated before, but this feels even more Fischer Price than ever. Two builders, one spender, one debuff to combo with spender, and… one cooldown? Looking at the other melee specs, it seems many were hacked to the roots as well, but at least they typically have self-buffs or DoTs or something. I was no fan of Inquisition, sure, but damn. At least give us Hammer of Wrath back.

Shadow priest was interesting. At first, I was not especially interested in the build-and-burn rotation, especially given how weak Mind Flay feels as a filler. The residual haste buff after popping Insanity feels cool, but again, that mostly feels like it’s used on faster Mind Flay ticks. Once I started fighting the invasion mobs though, things started falling into place more – can’t really use Shadow Word: Death on training dummies. Plus, strategically using Dispersion to prolong Voidform and thus get more stacks/wait for other cooldowns is an interesting twist.

I then tried all three flavors of warlock. I honestly have no idea what Blizzard is thinking with Affliction. This might be another training dummy situation, but only passively getting Soul Shards and needing to wait to toss an Unstable Affliction just feels bad. Plus, what the hell is up with that Artifact? Two of Affliction’s “elite” powers trigger on death… which is fantastic for raid bosses, I imagine. Conversely, Demonology felt butter-smooth. Granted, it feels weird when basically half of your casts only serve to buff your demons, but everything about all the buttons feel really satisfying. I only played Destruction for a moment, but was not especially impressed.

Next was the druid. I’m thinking that a druid character is probably the best to use one of my two level 90/100 boosts on, should I decide to create a character on another server, primarily out of practicality concerns, e.g. cover all the class role bases. Feral seems as goofy as ever with the complexity. Balance though… wow. I skipped the entire Sun/Moon pendulum game design period, so I was a little intimidated going in. The current system though, wasn’t bad; I could get used to that.

Death Knights were high on my list of possible new mains, but now I’m not sure. Unholy is supposedly one of the strongest specs at the moment, but I did not like it much at all as I played through the invasions. Part of that might have been the whole melee deal, considering how many times I died to random cleave damage. Turning Scourge Strike into a ranged attack helped somewhat, but I still don’t quite like the Festering Wound mechanic in general. Perhaps it’s not much different than combo points or Holy Power in the abstract. I did not give Frost a chance, so I might end liking that instead.

I played my rogue for about a minute. In that time period, I was very impressed with Outlaw, less so with Assassination. I have no real idea what to make of Subtlety. I plan on coming back to this class to investigate further.

Enhancement shaman was probably the most pleasant surprise of my entire time trying out classes. I enjoyed it before when leveling a few expansions ago, minus the need to drop Flametongue/etc totems all over the place. Now? It looks – and more crucially, sounds – badass. All the buttons feel substantial to press, and the cadence just flows. Definitely will be giving this one a closer look as well. I didn’t end up trying Elemental simply because I did not have a weapon to use it with.

Mage was hit or miss. Arcane was meh. Technically a lot of specs have a conserve/burn phase built into their rotation, but it just feels bad when you hit 4 Arcane stacks without proccing Arcane Missiles. Fire, though, is a different story. I know that Hot Streak has been a thing for a while now, but there is something deeply satisfying about Fire Blast being off the GCD and castable while casting other things. Perhaps it’s because it harkens to Frost’s good ole Shatter combo. Incidentally, I did not get a chance to try out Frost.

And that wrapped up my testing for the past few days. I have a level 80 hunter, 96 warrior, and 21 monk, but declined to even get them to the training dummies. I might try the hunter later on, although I’m not usually a fan of them outside of BGs. The monk and warrior might not get a second look though, given how flooded the market is for melee this expansion. Again, I doubt I end up going raiding in any real capacity for Legion, but I would hate to change my mind later and be rebuffed.

Dilemmas, Part 1

Time will tell whether or not that one remaining New Years prediction will come true, but…

WoW_Reactivate

…yeah.

What pushed me over the edge were all the reports about the Legion pre-expansion event XP. I haven’t actually experienced a good expansion event since the lead up to Wrath, so it’s actually surprising that Blizzard hasn’t tried the ole “easy XP” route before. Then again, perhaps they really needed the scaling level tech in place before they were able to. Regardless, since I only ever got one character up to 100 in Warlords, this provided a nice opportunity to boost some of the alts.

Then came the dilemmas.

My primary dilemma is this: I’m still stuck on the low-pop wasteland of Auchindoun-US. The one remaining friend I have who has been playing WoW all this time has server hopped a few times until landing on Sargeras-US in a Mythic-level raiding guild. So… what do I do?

  • A) Choose a new main, pay $25 blood price to transfer, use level 90 & 100 boosts for alts.
  • B) Choose new main, but use level 90 & 100 boosts to create one and an alt.
  • C) Do nothing.

A) is annoying and I don’t want to do it; $25 is absurd, and has always been absurd. Of course, I have 335k gold locked on Auchindoun, so I’d have to start from scratch otherwise. Or take up my friend’s offer of some seed money on Sargeras – he apparently accumulated 1.7 million gold via Garrison farming over the course of the expansion. While I am relatively confident in my ability to pay him back via AH shenanigans, I disliking owing people anything.

B) makes for an interesting situation. Getting an instant 90 and then farming Invasions will quickly get me fully geared and ready for Legion, probably with time to spare to level professions. Or create a level 58 Death Knight, and get that guy boosted via Invasions. The instant 90 will also unlock the ability to get a Demon Hunter, which of course starts at level 98. So between the level boosts and Invasions, it’s entirely possible to get four new max-level characters on an entirely different server with minimum fuss. Minus the gold situation.

C) is actually what I am leaning towards at the moment. Cross-realm tech means I can technically group/dungeon/raid with my friend no matter what server we are on. Mythic raiding is still disabled from what I recall, but the chances I buckle down for the hardcore raiding I swore off of three expansions ago are between zero and Nope. Of course, this means I can’t be in their guild, meaning I miss the chatter and social aspects that (usually) make MMOs worth playing in the first place.

The one wrinkle that bears examining is that Sargareas-US is one of the largest servers in WoW, and it is PvP too. Auchindoun is also PvP, but even with cross-realm activated, the place is generally sparse. In both a A) and B) scenario, I would likely have to contend with queue times near launch and potential ganking 24/7. Something I am not exactly looking forward to.

Hmm. I shall have to ponder some more.

Expensive August

Things are shaping up to be an expensive August, games-wise.

Tomorrow August 12th we have No Man’s Sky releasing. I won’t be there on Day 1 for multiple reasons, the primary of which this is one of those games I need to see other people play first. The premise? Super cool. But what about the gameplay itself? I am not especially an Explorer type, so if the moment-to-moment fun isn’t there, I’m going to be disappointed. Or not, having not actually purchased the game yet.

August 23rd is the surprise (to me) release of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Kinda snuck up on me there. As I mentioned last year, this one is a Day 1 purchase, Day 1 Embargo tags be damned. At the time of this writing, DLGamer is offering a preorder for $42, which approaches the point at which it almost doesn’t matter that it’s a preorder. I’m expecting Human Revolution 2.0 and anything more than that will be gravy.

Finally, August 30th is Legion, of course. As I have mentioned in the past, I am buying Legion at some point. Whether that point was going to be halfway through the expansion for half price as I did with Warlords of Draenor, or earlier, I had not decided. Note the past tense there. I have been very impressed with the Audio Dramas (or specifically the transcripts), the Harbinger series, the Illidan thing, and so on. While I understand that those things often bear no resemblance to in-game experiences, it is enough to get me excited just the same. This is the first time since Wrath, really, that I feel like there is a narrative worth exploring here.

Okay, so maybe there are only three games in August I’m looking at. Still, it has been months since I’ve felt the need to buy something Day 1, and now there are three options coming out.

Class Fantasy

Now that my move has more or less been completed, my attention has shifted to Legion.

…sorta.

Remember when Ghostcrawler mentioned that Blizzard didn’t like to change things too much between expansions since change can be overwhelming? I laughed then. I’m not laughing now. Seriously, I actually played in the current expansion (about a year ago), and my eyes glaze over just at the thought of looking at Wowhead again.

Some of that will likely go away if I just, you know, jump back into WoW. But I don’t enjoy blind jumps. I need to have some kind of idea first. I enjoy research. Legion research though? Jesus. It’s not even as though you can ignore the Artifact stuff either, as that will be mission-critical in a few months.

After spending considerable time looking over things, the classes and specs that piqued my interest the most were Rogue, Death Knight, and… basically that’s it. Maybe Enhancement Shaman and Affliction Warlock also. My namesake Paladin? Not so much.

I do know that Blizzard spent a lot of time focusing on the “fantasy” of the various specs, and it shows in the talent choices and such. For example, I do get the impression that Destruction Warlocks are all about chaos, fire, and… ripping holes in dimensions. Okay, that one might be a bit weak, but still a massive improvement over the prior fantasy of “Fire Mage.” Shadow Priests seem pretty cool with the Cthulhu business. Rogues have more flavor than which DPS cooldown you want to use now. I especially like how Assassination is poisons and bleeds whereas Sublety is more mystical shadow damage-esque.

Indeed, the flavor thing is really bringing me down when I think about my former main, which spent most of her time as Retribution. What’s the fantasy of Retribution? There isn’t much, you know, retribution going on. Eye for an Eye is neat, I guess. And, whatever, there’s Retribution, but you know what I mean.

You can’t even really say “holy damage” because Exorcism is gone, along with Hammer of Wrath, and basically Execution Sentence (now a talent) and Consecration (mutually exclusive). I thought it was bad last year, but now it’s even worse; I expected nothing, and was still disappointed. The spec seems entirely reliant on Ashbringer for its whole fantasy.

For as flavorful as paladins can be conceptually, the amount of squandered possibility is sad.

Home is Where My PC Is

And that’s moving today. Around three miles away, but still.

It’s a relatively inconvenient time though, with all the discounts and pre-expansion patches and such.

I was very, very tempted to pop the first of my nine WoW Tokens (purchased over a year ago) on Monday to ensure I wasn’t holding onto goods that would be deprecated. Then I thought through it rationally. “Okay… so I’d be spending a Token worth X amount to save… what? More than X amount?” A year of “lost” Garrison revenue has led me to believe price inflation would have rendered me non-competitive anyway, assuming I even had the time to spend dicking around the AH at the moment. Which I don’t.

Still, I will be in Legion. I haven’t decided if it will be right at the start, or later on like with Draenor.

Meanwhile, the Guild Wars 2 expansion is currently selling for $25 for another week or so. Although my attempts to get back into GW2 earlier this year didn’t go particularly well, I feel that part of that was due to the lack of buy-in. Not necessarily in forcing the feeling of investment per se, but knowing that next to none of the content I had access to would be new. Want to try the Revenant? Nope. See new zone? Denied. Living Story? Sorry, that’ll be a few thousand gems.

On the other hand, half off something I don’t ultimately end up using is 100% wasted. So we’ll see.

The last deal I wanted to mention was that current Humble Bundle in which they are selling Battleborn for basically $15. That’s gotta sting, yeah? From $60 to $15 in 2.5 months. I was tempted to pick it up… for Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel, not for Battleborn. On the other hand, I’ve mainlined Borderlands 2 to the degree that I’m not even sure I want to play that type of game anymore.

Hmm. Perhaps this move hasn’t impacted my purchasing decisions as much as I thought it has.

Legion PvP Equality

[Blaugust Day 19]

Remember all those PvP questions we had last time? Well, Blizzard answered most of them:

  • There won’t be gear with Resilience, PvP Power, dual item levels, or gear specifically made for PvP.
  • When you enter a battleground or arena, the game will set your stats from your spec, not your gear. This means all of your stats will come from a template specific to your spec. If one spec isn’t doing well in PvP, their spec’s template can be tuned individually.
  • Trinkets, set bonuses, and enchants will not be active in PvP.
  • The CC break trinket has become very important in PvP, so adding it as a PvP talent will offset the loss of active trinkets. There will be some other options in that row that might be useful, such as reducing CC times by 20%.

This is an incredibly bold move, even if other games have done it before. I mean, we have had PvP gear purchasable with currency since at least Season 2 in TBC, more than half of the game’s entire lifespan. I am not super convinced that the PvP “progression” system of unlocking talents will actually motivate people to queue on the same scale as normal PvP gear (especially in Arena), but I applaud the gumption just the same.

Plus, just imagine how many less botters there will be. Some might stick around simply because someone else will pay real dollars to skip “grinding” talents too, but the time difference is likely to be staggeringly less.

That said, Blizzard decided to continue answering questions and thereby ruin everything they just built up:

  • The team hasn’t decided exactly what they are going to do with the Human racial. They could leave it alone and offer a different talent in that row to Humans. The racial plus the new options could be too good.

At this point, I am convinced that Blizzard is tip-toeing around the Human racial issue simply because they see how many race change sales it generated and they’re afraid of poking the bear. The fact that the Human racial is the only one we’re having this discussion about should be somewhat of an indication for how stupidly powerful it is, and thus should be changed. You have already disabled trinkets generally (!), just disable racials; these half-measures are only going to make Humans even more dominate.

  • As you get better gear, your stats are increased a smaller amount. For example, every 5 item levels may give you a 1% stat increase. This way gear still will increase your power, but it won’t give you a huge advantage.
  • There are plans for players to be able to get great gear from PvP, but it may not be as easy as it is today. It may be easier for high rated players to get better gear than more casual players.
  • You won’t have to raid to get the best gear for PvP.

/sigh

Why? Why? No, really, Blizzard why? Of what possible value do the designers see in completely removing PvP gear from the equation, going so far as to disable trinkets and enchants and set bonuses… but then keeping this token level of item scaling? You already have “templates” to make gear irrelevant, just use those. In the land of equal stats, the +1%er is king. Unless you are handing out raid-level gear to PvPers, it will be considered “raid or die” to all players who are remotely competitive. And I don’t see how giving PvE raid-level gear to those to score high in Arena is going to be particularly palatable in the other direction.

Do you know what happens when you try and split a baby? A bloody mess, that’s what.

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.