Some thoughts on recent events

It’s difficult commenting on bombshell announcements like the recent 4.3 changes because everybody’s doing it and it’s difficult not to be lost in a maelstrom of opinion. Never let it be said that I had sense enough to let that stop me.

The most contentious of them by far is the change to Threat.  What surprises me the most out of all of this is exactly how near-term most of the commentary has been. People seem to be stopping short at the change to Threat itself in this current patch, without reading further what Ghostcrawler had to say. From what I gather, this is just the first step in eliminating Threat as a game mechanic, and that there is more to come. I’m no tank, and there are no experienced ones at Casa de Grimmtooth, but I think that would be far more interesting to ponder.

Without a doubt, though, a lot of tanks seem to be feeling that the role is being dumbed down.  Here, pull up a chair at the dumbed-down table, then. Plenty of room. Obviously, I do understand the feeling. So many things in this game have been dumbed down or simplified that they seem to be from a different game than we first bought. 

A lot of this has to do with the age and growth model of WoW. A lot of stuff has grown organically over time, and instead of trying to untangle the knots of cruft that have accumulated, the more efficient path often apepars to be to nuke it from orbit and replace it with something new. As an example, look at how the professions are implemented one expansion to the next. Idioms grow, flourish, and fall apart. Eventually there will have to be changes there, too.

Class mechanics have similar problems, and this is how they deal with them.  Instead of having a different idiom of threat generation at every tier across, what, four classes, they’re ripping the entire thing out and replacing it with something more interesting.  What, exactly, is not clear, yet, but if I were a tank and still interested in being one, I’d be more interested in what’s coming than in what’s done.

The idea that we’ll be dumping our threat meters amuses me.  I rarely need one. Whether it’s because I have been blessed with excellent tanks in both my guilds, or because I’m not that great at DPS, is anyone’s guess.

Transmorgrification has been heating up the tubes, though, and some of the reactions are, quite frankly, disappointing. It’s like we’ve been given free cake, and then complained bitterly that we’d have much rather had butter frosting and had it yesterday instead.  I think Jack Nicholson said it best in A Few Good Men. "I’d just as soon you said ‘thank you’ and be on your way."

Others are, instead, quite excited to learn more about, and plan for, this new feature. I have to say, I’m more in line with that crowd, because by the Light, Blizzard can’t seem to make Hunter gear that doesn’t look like a cross between a demon and a steampunk robot. Okay, the shoulder pieces with the eyeballs were a nice touch, but for the most part it’s been barely tolerable. Let us not talk about helms – one look at last tier’s Murloc o’ Death headpiece should convince anyone.

I appreciate the work, but only in the sense that I am aware that somebody actually did get paid for that.

It all went wrong when they allowed us to wear mail, I suspect.

At any rate, I don’t have any plans outside of (hopefully) my trusty fishing hat, but I know Jas, Flora, and Illume already have gear sets they use in town when they don’t want to look like every other clothie in Stormwind, and who can blame them?

Blizz has stated that they don’t want to take away from the work of the artists, and I agree. Point being, there is plenty of absolutely amazing gear out there that does pay tribute to the craft of the artists.  Take the Robe of Power, as an example. Striking and yet you hardly see it out there because most people outstrip it before they can afford it, thanks to the crazy leveling rates in the game now.  Jasra does wear it in town, though, because it deserves to be seen.  And now it can be.

Respect the artists work? Hells yeah, as Flora would say. And also, keep them on their toes.  You want your stuff seen, artists? Then you need to surpass yourself every expansion, just like the players have to.

There have been those that say that this is a sign of desperation on Blizzards’ part, that losing three percent of the player base has made them go crazy. It’s like pulling a rope and hearing the bats squeak in the belfry. It’s predictable. I know, had to go there, and yet I’ve produced as much evidence as they for my case.

Truly, those numbers don’t lie. They didn’t last time, either, or the time before that. This is a predictable cycle, right on cue. And while, someday, the numbers will keep going down, we’re not down to making candles out of soap shavings quite yet. When they start merging servers, we’ve got something significant.

If you look at the changes that have taken place in the game’s underpinnings, you can almost see where they started planning the feature in the bits and pieces of new and abandoned API calls on the development sites. Data structures have been modularized and cleaned up over time – exactly what they said they wanted to do in Cata, mind you – and apparently they are either at the point or near the point where all that work pays off.

Point being, this isn’t some off-the-cuff freakout move. It’s been in the works for a while.

Speaking of which. I’m still waiting on the dance studio. /hmph.

The least discussed new feature for 4.3 is the end boss.  Deathwing is on the menu, which has a number of implications, and opens the door to conjecture.  For example, is DW the actual end of the expansion, or do we get an Old God to snack on in a follow-up content patch? Is it just me or did this expansion just kinda fly by to be this close to the Big Bad?

I also wonder: what’s the Deathwing raid going to look like? I’ve heard something about the final boss fight, something about "raiding on his back", which sounds like a giant, disagreeable gimmick, but I’ll give it a look before outright hating. What about leading up to him? How big will the raid instance be? Will it be gated ala ICC? ((I’m guessing not, since the haters were so loud last time.)) 

Three five-mans … what are we looking at in this case? In 3.3 we had three ICC-based instances. Where is Deathwing hanging out, and what might these look like as a result?

LFR likewise has tongues wagging, both the people happy to see it and the people that, naturally, have a jaded hipsterish take on it. Along with this we found that cross-realm LFD was going live and (for now) no extra fee, giving hope that LFR will be implemented in a similar fashion.

First of all, LFR and LFD have different things going on that are a big deal from a development standpoint. For example, you only have one size of dungeon party – five.  For raids, you can have ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, and forty.  You pretty much have to know where you’re going before you can start pulling people in.

Secondly, there’s the matter of lockouts and raid IDs. They have to figure out how to deal with that and streamline it so that (a) it doesn’t confound people and (b) can’t be exploited.

Once all these things are settled, I wonder how this may reflect on guilds.  If you can raid with people of your faction on any server all a sudden, how will you feel about your current guild?  I personally left the only guild I’ve been a member of in order to join one on another server for raiding purposes, and that was not an easy thing to do. With the ability to raid with EtI from other servers, would I have felt otherwise? Likely so.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people decide that it’s no worth putting up with a guild at all if they can raid with people they like cross-realm. Might this patch be hard on guilds?

And with that lovely thought, I bid you a pleasant weekend. My your drops be epic.

Posted on August 19, 2011, in Patches. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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