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How Not to Return

Coming back to a game can be incredibly daunting. Coming back after it has gone through several updates can be more concerning still.

Then there’s No Man’s Sky.

NMS_Restart

I didn’t want to play that character anymore anyway.

The No Man’s Sky meta-narrative is inspiring in its own way. In the beginning, the game was hyped beyond belief (and reality), the designers actively lied about features, and it was the go-to example of a failed game. Over the years though, the same designers have… stuck to it. Update after update has improved the gameplay experience, and now it is very close to completely resembling the product that was promised in the first place. While some may decry giving the company any praise for fixing what ought not have been broken in the first place, their dedication towards making things right is completely unexpected in the current gaming environment.

The problem is that so much has changed between the various patches that my 50+ hour character may as well have been erased.

The main culprit appears to have been NMS’s “Next” patch. There was a major overhaul in the crafting system, or upgrade system, or both, or something. Basically, all of my upgrades and enhancements were turned into “Obsolete Technology” that I had to scrap for upgrade currency. Which would have been slightly okay on its own, but now I have no idea how anything works anymore. Which resources are important have changed, all of the planets in the galaxy have changed, and my previously-existing base appears to be lost entirely/”archived” somewhere. While there have been a few prompts to check the Codex here and there, otherwise there is nothing resembling a tutorial on solving the “Dude, Where’s My Base” situation.

Slightly perturbed, I decided to spend my limited free-time patching up Fallout 76 instead. There have been several feature patches there too, resolving some long-term Quality of Life issues and introducing some new quest content as well. Everything was looking good… until I realized I could not aim-down-sights anymore. Right-click and nothing happened. With a melee weapon equipped my right-click would Block attacks like normal, but no scopes apparently.

Kind of a bummer when you are a Rifle build.

Near as I can tell, this problem might be related to mods. Deleting the mod file and removing the Custom.ini did not fix anything, nor did reboots or verifying file integrity. So, I’m typing this up while waiting for another 55 GB install to complete. [Edit: this didn’t fix the issue either]

Both experiences are giving me time (literally) to reflect on the situation though. Blizzard spends an inordinate amount of time trying to make the transition from lapsed to paying subscriber as easy as possible, to the extent of not changing systems that desperately need fixing. It’s hard to see value in that approach when you are actively playing the game, as all that occurs is basically stagnation for the sake of people who aren’t even customers. But if I weren’t so starved for survival-esque experiences, my first five minutes back into No Man’s Sky would have ended with an uninstall.

I’m not even sure there’s a middle path anymore. Games require you to learn their arbitrary, sometimes non-intuitive systems in order to succeed. It is hard enough trying to remember which buttons do what after a year or two, and then you add the possibility of previously accumulated experience no longer being useful (or actively bad)? You might be worse off than a brand new player at that point. In fact, I am worse off, because my patience for relearning tasks is immensely low – if I am to spend time learning something, it may as well be a new thing.

Patch Purgatory

There is a special sort of exquisite suffering involved in waiting for game patches. Like, there is an acknowledgement from the game makers that a problem exists, and they even have a date listed for when the problem will be fixed. That’s good! Fantastic, even. But it’s going to be next week. And seven days is so long from now, but it’s also entirely reasonable to have patches scheduled for certain days, and last week was Thanksgiving… so, yeah. Purgatory, basically.

Over on the Fallout 76 subreddit, Bethesda has laid out a general cadence for upcoming patches:

December 4, 2018 – Next week’s update will bring an increase to the Stash limit, as well as a variety of performance and stability improvements, balance changes, and multiple bug fixes to the game. We’ll have full patch notes available later this week ahead of Tuesday’s update. […]

December 11, 2018 – The next update after December 4 is currently planned for the following week. Like previous patches, it will include a variety of bug fixes, but we’re also planning to bring some more notable changes and features to the game. You can catch a preview of these improvements below, and a full list of changes will be included in the December 11 patch notes.

The post itself has actual details, but the big ones to me are the Stash limit increases and better boss loot on the 4th, and Push-to-Talk, (limited) Respec, and CAMP improvements on the 11th.

There are also a variety of possible bug fixes and balance changes that could materially improve my enjoyment of the game. Melee right now is incredibly OP, for example. I’m running a Rifle/Sniper build myself, and the fact that there are no rifle weight-reducing Perk cards (Gatling guns can be reduced to 2 lbs but a machine gun always weighs 20+ lbs) and apparently Legendary Hunting Rifles don’t exist in the game is a big bummer. Adding in a Perk card might be out of scope of a “bug fix,” but if they made getting the Lever-Action Rifle schematics easier to acquire, I would suddenly be back in business – I’m still using a level 25 one with no mods at level 50, because it’s still awesome despite the reloading glitch.

In the meantime though, it’s tough. I’m always dancing around the 400 lb Stash limit each time I log into the game. For the longest time, having too much Steel was a common event, but the moment you essentially delete 1000 pieces, you suddenly need that amount for something else, such as crafting bullets. There are vendors out in the world, but most are on a shared Cap limit, such that you can only vendor X amount of things each day.

The ideal solution to all of this is to simply not play the game until the patch hits. Which is perfectly acceptable as a solution… provided you aren’t actually that invested in the game in the first place. If you are though, god help you.

Fallout 76 is a Survival Game

Seeing as I’m a cynical bastard most of the time, it’s fascinating experiencing the frothing internet rage from the other side of the glass for once. “Don’t buy Fallout 76!” “This game feels like an alpha!” “The micro-transactions are ridiculous!” “It’s a glitchy, buggy mess!” Cool story, bros. Imma be over here being totally absorbed in my hunt for Aluminum and Adhesives for 5-6 hours a day.

Hey, I’ve been there IRL.

I mean, is this what it feels like to really enjoy something and then encounter someone who doesn’t, for reasons that seem so disconnected from your personal experience so as to seem divorced from reality? Politics is one thing, but somehow this seems even more extreme.

Let me break it down for you: Fallout 76 is a Survival game. I do not just mean Fallout 76 has hunger and thirst meters, I mean the games you must compare it to are other Survival games. Games like:

  • ARK
  • The Forest
  • Metal Gear Survive
  • RUST
  • State of Decay (1 and 2)
  • Subnautica
  • The Long Dark
  • 7 Days to Die
  • Conan: Exiles
  • No Man’s Sky

Fallout 76 does indeed come up short against some of those. Subnautica is much prettier, for instance. You can’t dig into bedrock and build your own personal bunker like in 7 Days to Die. But the complaints about lack of story, or the emptiness of the world, etc, suddenly become quite silly when you start asking where the NPCs are in, say, ARK. Fallout 76 is better than State of Decay in every category (story, gameplay, basebuilding, etc). Conan: Exiles lets you have slave NPCs at your base, but they aren’t materially different than some turrets most of the time.

Granted, some of these are $30 games and not $60, but still.

Totally stealing this player’s base design.

If you want to be mad at Bethesda for not making Fallout 5 happen in 2018, then… okay. I don’t think that was ever in the cards even if Fallout 76 didn’t exist, but maybe. It’s like being mad at Blizzard for the Mobile Diablo fiasco – that was a mismanagement of expectations, and likely had zero impact on the work of Diablo 4, which is inevitably coming.

Having said that, I begrudge no one for waiting 6+ months for the (ahem) fallout to settle before taking a second look. Fallout 76 is absolutely a game that will be in better shape a few patches from now. Stash size will be bigger, bugs/crashes will be reduced, some of the quests will actually be completable, there might be more of an endgame, Workshops might be worth something, and so on. No Man’s Sky was a huge letdown on release, but look at it now, within the context of survival games. If I still had space on my SSD, I might have booted NMS up again with this latest patch.

If I were not spending every waking moment playing and enjoying (!!!) Fallout 76, that is.

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.

More BlizzCon Impressions

I neither went nor watched the BlizzCon festivities, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express read MMO-Champ. So here are all the tidbits from the coverage that I was interested in:

Patch 7.1.5 is coming

The first thing that I found amusing about the Patch 7.1.5 news is that it was described as a “small” patch. If you want to see a small patch, check out 6.1, eh?

In any case, the Panderia Time-Walking dungeons might be good for some people, but the bigger news is that the Brawler’s Guild is returning. I kinda missed the feature entirely when it was released, and only recently got interested after they took it back away. It’s goofy side content from what I understand, but hey, I have two quests for it already, so let’s bring it back.

The other intriguing change in 7.1.5 is that Artifact Knowledge will be “purchasable” at least up to level 10, if not higher. This is huge news for alts, whom have otherwise been hosed this entire expansion. Time will tell what form this “purchase” takes – Order Resources, Blood of Sargeras, gold? – but whatever it is should be relatively easy to overcome with a main running WQs.

Finally, Blizzard mentioned that 7.1.5 will be going on the PTR immediately after BlizzCon, then Live soon after. How soon is Soon(tm)? I want to say “not soon enough,” but honestly Nighthold is not even active yet, and that’s in the current patch. Will all these changes be rolling out before LFR even gets the last Nighthold boss unlocked? It certainly sounds that way. Which is kinda weird.

Patch 7.2 is coming

Biggest news is, of course, that Flying is getting unlocked in 7.2. I have already jumped through the Legion Pathfinder, Part 1 hoops, so I should be in good shape for whatever nonsense is required in Part 2. Word from Blizzard is that it won’t require any group content, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still be tedious.

The Tomb of Sargeras raid will open up, with Kil’Jaeden being the confirmed last boss. Which is interesting for all sorts of reasons, which I will touch on later.

What is definitely interesting to me is the introduction of “PvP Brawls.” The concept was first introduced in Hearthstone and then Overwatch later, and now we see it migrating to WoW. In short, Blizzard is finally letting its hair down and introducing more free-form experiments in game modes. 15×15 Arenas? Tarren Mill vs Southshore? Bring them on.

This is a fairly big deal because it allows Blizzard to essentially playtest these game concepts without their typical perfectionist straight-jacket. Things not work out? Oh well, it’ll rotated out next week. Blizzard has used this test bed to good effect in Hearthstone, as it resulted in Discover – by far the best card effect introduced since the game’s release. Perhaps we’ll eventually see that Arathi Basin bridge deathmatch mode that we have all wanted for years.

Patch 7.2.5 is coming

We haven’t heard much about 7.2.5 other than it will exist. Which is nice to know. Especially since it appears that we have another bombshell waiting in the wings:

Patch 7.3 is coming?

MMO-Champion just sort of teased the news, but Legion will legitimately have a patch 7.3 and we will legitimately be heading to Argus, according to a Polygon interview with Ion Hazzikostas. And then he had this to say:

“It felt like the right time,” Hazzikostas said. “I don’t know if Argus would hold up as an expansion in and of itself. We could make up a whole lot of ecologies and things there, but at the end of the day, it would feel like a very one-note, alien expansion.”

Instead, he explained, the developer decided to make Argus the climax to the current expansion. Players will head to the demon world to try to push back this massive force once and for all. He compared it to the ending of one of his favorite games of all time.

“It’s kind of like the end of Mass Effect 2,” said Hazzikostas. “We’ve been fighting on our end. Now we’re going on our suicide mission, because this is the only way to save ourselves.”

That… is pretty fucking cool. I haven’t been this excited about the WoW plot since Wrath.

For those that might not be up on the lore, Argus is the original homeworld of the Draenei, and the Velen, Kil’Jaeden, and Archimonde triad. It is, in fact, considered the “beating heart” of the Burning Legion and its de facto capital. Going there is Big News, and has been speculated for a while to be the location of WoW’s “final” expansion, insofar as it is the most likely place one would encounter Sargeras himself.

The interesting thing is the fact that we are facing Kil’Jaeden in the Tomb of Sargeras in patch 7.2. Argus is supposed to be ruled by Kil’Jaeden personally, which leads to two interesting scenarios. First, perhaps we are invading Argus specifically because it temporarily loses its leader in the 7.2. raid. No sense attacking Kil’Jaeden at the seat of his power, right?

But there is another possibility. Remember how demons, elementals, etc, don’t actually die unless they are killed in the plane they are from? What if part of the reason we head to Argus is to kill Kil’Jaeden again, this time permanently?

Technically, I think Archimonde was sent back to the Twisting Nether after Mount Hyjal, and the jury might still be out regarding what happened to him at the end of Draenor (was he in the Twisting Nether during the final phase?). But still, I find it odd that we’re heading to Argus after Kil’Jaedon’s (presumed) defeat in the Tomb if we aren’t finishing the job. There aren’t any Old Gods on Argus and I find it unlikely that we’ll be facing Sargeras himself – at most, I expect us to sacrifice all our artifacts to keep Sargeras from showing up. So… if not Kil’Jaedon/Archimonde, and not Sargeras, who are we fighting? A bunch of no-name demons?

I was skeptical along with the rest of the universe when it came to Blizzard promising that Legion would actually get supported content through the entire life of the expansion. And honestly, it still might be the case that there is a long content drought after 7.3 and before the next expansion. But, I gotta give credit where it is due: Blizzard is busting some ass. The bar is embarrassingly low for a billion dollar franchise, granted.

But I could get used to this. And certainly am, four WoW Tokens later.

No Better Time to Buy

If you happen to be in the Hearthstone beta, there is perhaps no better time to purchase packs for real money than right now. See, Blizzard changed the following cards in their most recent patch:

  • Unleash the Hounds
  • Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Blood Imp
  • Defender of Argus
  • Pyroblast
  • Dark Iron Dwarf
  • Abusive Sergeant
  • Warsong Commander
  • Charge
  • Novice Engineer

While most of the changes were nerfs (aside from Unleash the Hounds), the salient point is that Blizzard compensates those who might have spent Dust crafting these cards by making the disenchant Dust amount the same as the crafting cost. In other words, I could craft Sylvanas for 1600 Dust and disenchant her for 1600 Dust instead of the normal 400 Dust.

“Whatever,” right? Wrong.

What is not immediately obvious is that you have the ability to craft Golden versions of every card in the game, which are the digital equivalent of foil cards in paper CCGs. These Golden version of cards typically cost four times as much Dust to craft than normal. Do you know what this means?

Dust. Dust everywhere.

Dust. Dust everywhere.

As far as I know, every person who signed up for the Hearthstone beta has gotten a key by this point, so technically anyone who cares about this game has the opportunity right now to take advantage of this scenario. Those two cards above gave me 1200 Dust by themselves, which is 400 Dust away from any Legendary I care to craft. I went ahead and disenchanted both my Pyroblasts as well for 400 Dust apiece, as I never really felt inclined to use them all that much in the first place. Given how this “bonus” Dust window only stays open for about two weeks total, you might want to make your decision sooner rather than later.

This scenario was about the only thing that would have gotten me to pay real money for Hearthstone. And I did. As I have mentioned previously, my prior lack of interest in paying is not an indication of some deficiency in the game, but rather the strength of being able to play for free with few impediments… provided Hearthstone isn’t your sole source of entertainment. If you’re capable of only playing once every 2-3 days to knock out dailies and then go into the Arenas, you can do quite well for yourself over time. But if you want to dip a toe into Constructed, you’ll do much better with the various Legendaries.

Just be warned that sometimes bullshit like this happens when opening packs:

Really, Bliz? Really?

Really, Bliz? Really?

PlanetSide 2 – 12 Months Later

The “OMFG” patch (seriously… Operation: Make Faster Game) was released for PlanetSide 2 last week, and in the interests of giving the F2P game I have sunk $100+ into one final chance at redemption, I decided to give it a go. My initial re-impressions were… lackluster.

Glad this bug hasn't been fixed in 6 months.

Glad this bug hasn’t been fixed in 6 months.

While I have not bothered to post my opinions here, I did not have a particularly charitable view of this design pivot. Basically, the dev team stopped all development other than that which increased frame rates. Whether or not it was necessary (it arguably is), the game mechanically needed the biweekly updates I raved about 6 months ago to maintain any interest from me. I can sympathize with someone who wants to play and cannot due to not having a high-end system. However, as someone who was already playing and stopped because, in part, hitting Instant Action loads me into a drop-pod and rockets me into a base that has seen any action since Higby’s mom left last night is incredibly frustrating. Not that it helps much when some action is found when the opposition evaporates like so much morning dew and the devs seriously expect you to babysit an empty base for 6+ minutes.

Way back when this Ps2 adventure began, I compared it favorably to Battlefield 2 & 3. “It plays just like them except you can get a vehicle anytime you want, and look at all those Galaxies flying by!” Now? I’m longingly gazing at the $48 Battlefield 4 deals I passed up because I would like to be able to actually shoot people in the face when I boot up a FPS. Whatever appeal six minutes of standing around once had is gone; what good is an expansive, open-world battlefield filled with ghosts and dust?

Give me more of this.

Give me more of this.

Last night as I scanned Indar looking for the hexes with the magical “Enemies: 48+” tag, I realized that all I was really doing was queuing for FPS server. I care nothing for the resources, the bases, or any of the other metagame nonsense. And in that context, the only real benefit of Ps2 is the ability to pull the equivalent of a fighter jet or tank when you want one. The costs though… the costs are steep. Not just in terms of the F2P payslope, but also in the drudgery of finding people to shoot.

So… good job, SOE. I’m not quite sure whether my (very slight) increase in frames is due to the two months of optimization, or simply because so many people left due to two months of no content updates that there is less character models to render.

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.

Inches

I first heard about Blizzard’s decision to not release any new 5-man dungeons this expansion from The Grumpy Elf, and confirmed from this post on MMO-Champion. The interview itself is written in Foreigner, so I will just have to take the translation at face value.

On many levels, Blizzard’s decision makes sense. The revamped ZA and ZG heroics in Cataclysm were (true to title) a disaster, reducing entire tiers of content down to all trolls, all the time. New 5-mans were handled a bit better back in Wrath when integrated into the normal rotation, but even then you could experience wild swings in difficulty depending on whether you got Gundrak or Halls of Reflection (shudder).

Had Blizzard released new 5-mans in Mists, it could have shaken out in only two ways. One: the dungeon(s) still dropped 463 gear, at which point it would be largely irrelevant to everyone. Or, two: it released 476 or higher gear, and now nobody wants to run the obsoleted dungeons again (assuming they wanted to in the first place). And besides, in a world with LFR, there is little reason to double-down on raid catch-up mechanisms, right?

On the other hand… does this not strike anyone as profoundly lazy?

Let it sink in. There will be no new dungeons in 5.3, nor 5.4, nor a potential 5.5. There will be hundreds more garbage daily quests in which the writers don’t even bother papering over the naked time-sinking, of course. Will anyone still be doing Shieldwall dailies in 5.3? Or even in this patch, for that matter? Is all that “content” being obsoleted worse than a 5-man? There are a lot of in-game cinematics and lore going on in Krasarang Wilds, after all. It strikes me as odd that your dailies change from patch to patch, but the daily dungeons never will.

Then, I start thinking about the existence of 5-man dungeons to begin with. Why have them at all? Scenarios offer 50 Valor now (compared to 80 from LFG). And, most importantly, offer DPS players an instant queue. If LFR has replaced heroic dungeons as a raid catch-up mechanism, have Scenarios not usurped dungeons by the same token? The only thing holding Scenarios back is the asinine reward mechanism in the form of a random-stat blue item from the box (when it isn’t empty). Seriously, I got a 2H agility axe yesterday. Neither druids nor monks can use axes, so it amounts to wand with strength on it.

Maybe they're bringing back 2H Enhance Shaman?

Maybe they’re bringing back 2H Enhance Shaman?

Simply migrate all heroic dungeon gear to the random Scenario box, bump the Valor a bit, and now you never have to fashion another 5-man again.

Indeed, from the same interview I referenced before, this paraphrasing emerged:

More scenarios are coming in future patches. We may see very challenging three player scenarios with pretty good rewards.

Speaking of Strength wands, my thoughts then drifted to tank gear. Why should it exist? Blizzard came oh so very close to obsoleting all tanking gear this expansion, probably by accident. Indeed, up until the 5.2 changes, Dodge and Parry were the two worst stats for a Protection paladin. The two worst! For a tank! Since it seems “active mitigation” is here to stay, why not simply go all the way? Critical Strike rating is the only thing that marks something as being “for DPS only,” and it is a simple enough thing to add a passive to tanks where critical hits procs a Dodge buff or something. While there might be an increased competition for gear between tanks and DPS… oh wait, individual loot. Problem solved. And if necessary, Blizzard could keep the gem/enchanting situation the same, so that a tank in full DPS gear could gem for Stamina or whatever to differentiate himself/herself.

I am not trying to craft a reductio ad absurdum here. I am just asking what the actual point of 5-man content is supposed to be under this new “build some once and done” paradigm. Are they necessary for anything anymore? “Practice for raiding?” I don’t know if anyone would agree that they have such an effect, if they ever did. Group content is handled by Scenarios or daily island hellholes stuffed with overlapping elite mobs. Dungeons are almost quaint these days, vestigial relics propped up only by their rewards. If Scenarios offed 80 Valor, would anyone run dungeons? What if the box at the end dropped spec-appropriate gear from the dungeons?

This is how close we are: mere inches. The slightest of nudges, and we could be upon unknown soil. And, perhaps, not even notice a difference.

Keeping Valor

In perhaps one of the more refreshing moments of sanity in quite some time, Blizzard recently announced that Valor points would not be reset in 5.2. The prior plan was best described as a triple-gate clusterfuck:

  • Current players got VP downgraded to JP, which buys heirlooms and little else.
  • Players below the ilevel 480 cutoff for the 5.2 LFR would essentially have to either re-grind more Valor to purchase (discounted) rep gear, provided they had the rep, or replace 100% of their items with 483 gear from the last two LFRs.
  • New/Returning players would continue needing to grind reputation to grind VP to get gear to enter LFR to get gear that let’s them grind 5.2 LFR bosses to unlock more VP gear locked behind more rep. (Yo dawg, I heard you like grinds, so…)

The level of nonsense was incredible. Downgrading only ever makes sense when the items are downgraded (to JP) too, lest your purchasing power actually be destroyed.

The new rubric makes much better sense. Those 3000 banked VP mean nothing when you can’t purchase 5.2 VP gear without killing raid bosses anyway – a gate mechanism already exists, so double/triple gating is unnecessary.

As always though, having a new patch within sight does engender a bit of progression fatalism. I abandoned all pretense of shooting for the weekly VP cap for several weeks now. Because… why would I? While it is silly to take that argument all the way – “why gear at all when gear resets every expansion” – it simply makes economic sense to me to wait out the 5.1 clock. Instead of 2-3 items after weeks of work, I can get 2-3 items after weeks of non-work.

In the meantime, a more pressing issue presents itself: the race against the upgrade vendor disappearance. Not an upgrading of standard gear, of course, but an upgrading of the Bind of Account staves that my level 85 Scribe can craft… if not for the 5+ Spirits of Harmony required. Of the once-a-day Scrolls of Wisdom, I have 45. Which… is a little disturbing to think about, actually.