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Legion’d

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The Invasion event is almost over, and I’m glad for it.

Not to say that it wasn’t fun and productive, in a limited way, but it wasn’t three weeks worth of fun and productive in a limited way.

Sure, I only have all six pieces of warforged gear on one toon, but all of my 100s have at least four.  More than that is just a grind.

Invasion Gear Ain’t All That

If you get all of your invasion gear up to iLevel 710, you’re on par with some of the less well-developed WoD raiders, but I have to ask how long it’ll be good for. Traditionally, my epics are chucked just as fast as I can find superior questing greens when the expansion starts.

Broken Isles Event was Cheap

I won’t spoil the “surprise” but …

I don’t mean in the form of no expenses spared.  I instead mean, Blizz generated some tension between Horde and Alliance in a cheesy way. Instead of laying down a solid story that explains to you why you should be pissed (Alliance) or feeling REAL misunderstood (Horde), they chose to hide bits of the story behind the Iron Curtain, as it were.  And the joke of it all is that all you have to do is go up to YouTube to see the other side of the scenario, and that tension is instantly negated.  Hordesplainers be like “well actually” and this time it’s actually a valid defense.

Had the story been more expertly laid out, I would have given this event full marks. Having said that, it was still pretty damned good.

Getting Tired of Jaina’s Shit

In fact, the whole “Kirin Tor Takes Dalaran on a Field Trip” series of events is pretty thinly plotted, but the bitterest pill of all to swallow is how they have reduced Jaina to a whiney little jerk that spends a lot of time doing the Kylo Ren Stomp all over the place. So much so that I think most people were glad when she /ragequit the Kirin Tor – and not just on the Horde side.

Let’s go for extra points and point out how sleazily that Khadgar basically manspreaded right into her old spot in the council. I gotta say, people upset that Khadgar has basically preempted Jaina’s rightful place as the Mage of Mages in the past two or three expansions MIGHT be onto something.  And as a guy that named his cat after her, I’d like to see better.

I hope they redeem the character with some solid storytelling in this expansion, but I’m worried we’ll get the ragey version of “*sniffle* just proud of my king …”  (gag). I’d love to say that I know Blizz can do better … but I can’t.  The major character arcs seem to be in the hands of someone that really can’t tell a story that well (cough cough Metzen). They need to hand that over to Kozak.

Invasions were good for one thing, anyway

Getting out there and learning your new rotations is a good thing. For those of us not raiding, the only way to really test your mettle was against the major demons in at the Throne of Kil’jaden.

The invasions provided new and useful targets. They also taught me that melee in that sort of environment is no fun.  Let’s just say I’m glad for the opportunity to learn defensive cooldowns on an Unholy DK, but I would have preferred not to.

You’re gonna say “But Grimm, the Invasion Event was also good for leveling toons!”  Gonna say it again: I’m not getting why you’d bother playing a toon you don’t want to level in the first place. Let’s agree that that argument will never, ever carry water with me.

But this is from a guy that hasn’t used either of his boosts yet. So whatever.

Speaking of Raiding

Our GM has been getting more active in game and has actually canvassed us to see if we’d be interested in raiding this expansion.  Might have to bring Jasra for this, as we look to be replete with DPS, but that’s fine, I like to be useful.

I’m also seeing some old friends I thought I’d never be playing with again, and that makes me very excite.

I don’t know if we will actually get there, but I think we’ll at least be able to cobble together some consistent 5-mans. Jas made an attempt at that last night and brought the house down with her screwed up keybinds.  So we’re working on that. Smile

Cautiously Optimistic

At the start of WoD, everyone was like OMG Cutscenes and proclaiming the storytelling to be the star of the expansion.  At the end of this content drought called 6.2, nobody’s wondering where the five million people went to – the answer is: away. They got bored and let down by the rest of the expansion not living up to the start of the expansion – or its price.

So, while I am hearing good things about the expansion so far, I’m also mindful that Blizz has a lot to make up for once again. Maybe they’ll deliver on the promise of a more content-ful expansion with a lot more to look forward to. You have to play to find out.

Tomorrow in the US, they roll out the demons in force. As always, I’m here first to have fun. Here’s hoping the rollout goes smoothly and it lives up to the hype.

I’ll see you on the Isles, fellow WoWheads.

Everything Old is New Again

Though I am loathe to link them, wowdb has a pretty decent Artifact Calculator up. This is our first glimpse at the progression of our new main weapons in Legion, as well as some spells and abilities associated with specific specs.

Without chewing too long on any particular weapon, I do notice one big thing, which is this.

Old-school WoW players that enjoyed the pre-Cata talent trees (such as, me!) will probably like the look and feel of this new feature.

To wit:

If you go over there and click around a little bit, you’ll see what I mean. All talents Artifact traits are constructed in a very familiar way: start out here, which enables you go go here or here, possibly after you select this many of this talent artifact trait. They usually (as far as I can tell) offer two specific paths to follow, so you can emphasize in what area you like, or homogenize as pleases you.

Let’s look at the Frost Mage artifact, Ebonchill, as an example. You’ll see that two fairly distinct paths are offered – one heavier on defensive, one heavier on offensive, with some common traits and crossover paths between them. This is a very familiar mechanism to us old-schoolers.

And I kinda like it.

Given, these are all very early beta / late alpha stuff, i.e. datamined stuff and some speculation, which the underwriters of WoWDB excel at (the speculation that is). So take with a grain of salt. But the overarching way that the Artifact traits will be implemented and/or controlled.

It implies that there are realistic choices to be made, and that those choices will be dictated by your toon’s chosen lifestyle. For example, I can see a Questing toon go for the higher defensive path and later emphasizing offensive / DPS. \

I’m also assuming that there will be a respec / reset feature at some point available.

What’s interesting is that we’re losing a lot of “choices” in our glyphs – Major glyphs are going away, for example – while gaining many choices here.  It’s apparent to me that character modification is moving into an area that is more blatantly relevant to the player, without providing the endless mini-game that was the WotLK talent trees.

I personally liked that mini-game, in that it gave me a lot of flexibility. But Blizz’s contention was that for most specs, there was one, and only one, true build for maximum raiding performance, so they normalized those non-choices out and left behind only “real” choices in the three-lane talent … trees we have today.  Mind  you, I’m not sure I agree with the terminology they use, as I continue to see cookie-cutter specs take over raiding and PvP as applies to the user, with the only real “choices” being between talents that nobody cares about anyway.

Normalizing to irrelevancy is not, IMO, a good thing, which is why I’m both excited to see the new Artifact designs, and apprehensive about the ultimate outcome.

It will be interesting to see where this is going, but for the time being it looks like it will take a predictable path, different from Vanilla in only the form which it takes. By the first week of beta, there will be just a few optimized configurations that render the maximum effect for each spec.

One last thing.

Datamining has revealed a Fishing Pole Artifact. Ain’t that a hoot.

 

Legionary Priests

jasra-port-2.jpg

Blizzard released a preview of what Priests will look like on 2015-11-09, which you can find here.

Some Background

Jasra, my Priest, is not my main main, but has been my raiding main from time to time. Originally rolled as a Disco priest back when smiting and whacking things with a mace while keeping the shield up was the way to level. When dual spec came up, I embraced Shadow as the second spec.  I’ve had a hard time reconciling the Disco healy spec with the Shadowy DPS spec from a bad RP point of view, but recently I’ve started to warm up to the concept. The Insanity aspect of Shadow merges well with the Pain-oriented motif of Discipline when I look to Morticia Addams for inspiration. It’s working marvelously in my head if not elsewhere.

At any rate, my main gig with Jas has been the healy (and later healy-smitey) aspect of Disco, though I haven’t healed in anger for two expansions now. Even as DPS, Jas rarely gets called into action, though she has seen a little more action in that respect than as a healer.

An Overview

So, looking at the general concepts for the three specs — and good news, everyone, there are still three specs!, we get this.

  • Holy is the spec you think of when you think Healer. There is no hybridization here at all. Holy priests come to the party to heal, and you better be ready to be healed.
  • Discipline – Or, Disco, as we often call it. This is another healing spec, but one that addresses the task in an odd way. For example, it has a damage component that, while you damage your enemies, also heals your friends. In addition, there are things like damage mitigation and ways to help your party endure its trials without necessarily providing succor. While the article linked above does not specifically call out Pain Suppression, it’s pretty much part and parcel to the entire Disco idiom.
  • Shadow – A DPS spec that has strong links to The Void and the Old Gods, balance on the knife’s edge of insanity at all times, with greater insanity giving greater ability.

While the concept of “hybrid” healing is so four expansions ago, Disco kind of falls into that slot.

Disco the Hybrid

A long time ago, we had the concept of the Holy Hybrid, a kind of healing spec with damage components, as played by Holy priests.  Disco priests actually didn’t have a seat at that table even though today they kinda “own” the whole concept of damage-linked healing.

Which is to say, we have elements of both Holy and Shadow in our rotation now, in some cases the abilities are even named the same (looking at you, Shadow Mend).

My biggest objections at this point are twofold.

  • Smite-healing never seemed to have much of a natural flow, yet this new spec refresh really seems to be revisiting the Cata mode of healing that so many of us hated. I have to say it: there are those that like to heal, and those that like to DPS, but there are few that like to do both at the same time, or do one to do the other. I won’t say it isn’t going to work until I see it, but it really feels like it’s as charming as a road accident and twice as ugly.
  • What the HELL? Why is Prayer of Mending a Holy only spell now?  Is it just me, or is Disco kinda synonymous with the Healy Frisby?

Shadow the Dual Spec

We knew that the motif of Shadow was going to be insanity, which I dig. And most of the way through reading about Shadow, I was pretty happy. And then we got to this.

Reaching maximum Insanity will transform Shadowform into Voidform, giving the Shadow Priest access to stronger Void magic […]

[…]

When you reach 100 Insanity, you enter Voidform, transforming your Mind spells into Void spells, and increasing your Shadow damage by 30%.

[…]

Voidform causes your Insanity to constantly drain, faster and faster, until completely drained, and Voidform ends

Seen enough?

Looking this over, I was reminded very strongly that someone at Blizz stated that they wanted very much for Shadow to no longer appear as a poor cousin to Afflocks. And then they turned right around and turned Shadow into a poor cousin to Demonology Warlocks. I mean, the different forms is there (Voidform versus Demonform). The different abilities for each form is there (Mind Flay vs Void Flay, etc).

This, in my opinion, is not a great idea. In an era where they are trying to simplify things a bit, to reduce the button bloat, this is an extraordinarily bad idea. I mean, I’ve been campaigning vigorously for Demon Warlock to get rid of those alternate abilities completely, so in what universe am I going to be cool with doing the same thing to Shadow priests?

(Spoiler alert: NONE).

If asked, I would suggest that instead of adding new alternate abilities, they simply empower the base abilities during maximum insanity. And call it something other than Voidform. Call it, I dunno … “Maximum fun”.

Howls of Despair

While I am 80% happy with Shadow and 60% happy with Disco, there is a huge contingent of unhappy Shadow priests out there, and that’s surprising to me since until these changes were related, I didn’t know there were a lot of dedicated Shadow priests out there. But they’re out there, and they’re pissed. I’ve seen two or three of them announce that they’ll be using their boost to roll a fresh new Afflock and abandon their Shadow priests altogether.

A new look

The last change that surprised me wasn’t mentioned in that article, but instead at the panel that discussed the Artifact weapons. Turns out, Shadow priests will no longer be using a staff. Instead, they’ll be using a dagger (and offhand, presumably) as their main stat stick.

And of course, this is the weekend that Terestrian’s Stranglestaff dropped for Jas in Kara, completing her Insanity/Old God themed transmog.  The irony is inches thick and made of marzipan, it appears.

Legionary

logo Welp, Gamescon is a week gone and we have the name and quite a few details about the next expansion of WoW. Missing the most vital answer, of course – when’s it releasing? – but I sure didn’t expect to hear that quite yet.

The Legion

A lot of people are unhappy with the subject of this expansion, and I suppose they have some cause.  But from a lore perspective, the Legion IS IT.  I mean, that’s our Big Bad. Sargeras may be the final boss, but his army is The Burning Legion.  This entire franchise has been about The Burning Legion.  Even Wrath (The Lich King was a construct of The Legion).  Even Cataclysm (Deathwing was created as a byproduct of the Legion’s first invasion). The only part of this franchise that was not about The Legion was the parts about the Old Gods and Pandaria, and I’m not entirely sure we can’t pin at least a couple of those on Demons in some way.

Point being, the Legion is a loose end that hasn’t been tied off yet, and we’ll need to tie it off or we’ll keep coming back to it. Just like people are complaining about. Though in this case, we never finished it.

The (Iron) Horde

Part of the original storyline was how the Horde got sent our way thanks to the demonic influences of Mannaroth, who we’ve now seen killed three times canonically (and many more times on WoWLogs.com and their ilk). Warlords was a revisit of that, and, when it comes down to it, appeared more of a conspicuously gratuitous effort to placate the metalheads in the artists shop than a real story.  It had no place in he canon, and introduced more questions than it answered.  Legion, at least, connects that crazy train and the jumble of moments that pass for canon before and during Warlords. How we get to the third Legion invasion is now revealed.

Learning to Stop Worrying and Loving the Plot

(or at least put up with it, because ye cats, these guys are pretty ham-fisted and, as my company commander used to say, as obvious as a five-dollar hooker.)

Okay, so from within the framework of the appropriateness of the setting, how it connects with the past, how it connects with the present (we’re told that this is ‘present day’ Azeroth), harmony with the lore (Pandas didn’t), and so forth; I’m personally pretty good with this theme.

(By the way, I have one prediction, and it isn’t about this expansion: when, inevitably, we revisit the Scourge, I suspect that those complaining about retreaded content will be extremely welcoming to the concept. See if they don’t.)

Class Changes

It’s obvious from early information that Blizz is looking to shake up the classes to a great extent. The most amazing news so far is the change to the Hunter class.  We’re headed for:

  • Beast Mastery – Ranged DPS with pet (Artifact = Gun)
  • Marksman – Ranged DPS without pet (Artifact = Bow)
  • Survival – Melee DPS with Pet (Artifact = Spear)

Did you catch that?  This is exciting! BM is basically becoming the One True Hunter Class by virtue of serving the original concept, but I have to say that Marks without a Pet is basically the fulfillment of many a Forum Poster wet dream.  And the return of the Melee Hunter is unexpected.  Unbelievably, I have been granted a win in the ultimate discussion of the destiny of the Hunter class, and I am for once not appalled at my victory. This is amazing!

Aside from the Demon Hunter specs (Two specs only! Wuuuuut?!), we’ve heard precious little about other class changes. Well, we’ve heard that they plan to make Warlock’s Demonology spec more Demoney and less Metaphorphos-ey. If it follows the same pattern as the Hunter class, I approve.  Well, actually, anything that diminishes the role of Meta is good in my book.

I’m not sure what I mean by that, but I promise to take full credit for whatever it ends up being. Unless it sucks. In which case, Ghostcrawler did it.  Ooo look, is that a baby wolf!?  /scurry

Artifacts

The other really big thing, for many, was the announcement that there will be no weapon drops in this expansion. Instead, each spec picks up a unique artifact weapon that they continuously upgrade during the expansion. For hunters it’s bow for MM, Gun for BM, and Spear for SV (which was our first clue about the melee spec).  I am constantly amused at my joke predictions for character weaponry in comparison. What I said in jest, is almost exactly what they’re doing for real.

There are many unanswered questions about this, most pointedly, what happens when switching specs? And where do current Survival Hunters get starter weapons to bridge the gap? This is gonna make the gear grind kinda weird.

Professions

They have said diddly about professions, but we can infer a few things from peripheral facts.

First peripheral fact: well, rumor, really. Word is that the professions team has swole hugely, with one source claiming more than 2x increase in seats. This implies that there are major changes inbound, but we’re not yet informed what they are.

Second peripheral fact: the Garrison concept is not coming forward with LegionPraise Mammon for that! I cannot go into how many ways that Garrisons failed us without violating some secret blogger’s creed restricting article size to one gigabyte per page, so I’ll just say it’s a pretty sad story and leave it at that. Most people I know will be happy to see it go.

But there’s a problem with that for professions, since professions got tied to garrisons so tightly. All professions are going to have to progress without Garrisons to support them. Some, such as the lumberyard, are probably not going to make it into Legion at all.  Well, at least, I hope not.

Ultimately we’re either headed back to pre-Warlord crafting (hardly something we need a huge Professions team for) or something new is coming down the pike.  Honestly, as far as professions go, going back to the Vanilla / BC style of crafting is just fine with me.

The only thing I will say that I like in WoD’s crafting is how crafted armor / weapons fit in.  You can basically meet or exceed the quality level of normal Hellfire Citadel with crafted items. This is, as far as I can remember, something we haven’t seen since Vanilla, and maybe not even then. Sure, Heroic and Mythic raiders  will get better stuff, and I’m extremely good with that. They’ve earned it.  But the fact that you can make crafted gear that is actually relevant is pretty unusual, and I’m hoping we keep that in some way in Legion.

Final peripheral fact: PvP is being totally revamped, which will shake up the talent trees for everyone, and this will likely revamp the spec tiers completely, as well as glyphing. As a result, expect to see Inscription getting a lot of changes, at the very least, to support these changes.

By the way … a week after Gamescon, and glyphs are flying off the shelf. The inscription market is extremly brisk at the moment.  The prices ain’t tremendous, but quantity is making up for it. Illume is burning through mats like there’s no tomorrow. 10,000 a day is the norm. Tell me the game is dying. Please. I need a laugh now that Jon Stewart is gone.

larry no

WoW 7 Reveal LEAKED. You won’t believe what they have planned!

Our Leper Gnome spymaster at Blizzard has plumbed the depths of the Blizzard Corporate SharePoint server and mined data relevant to our interests. Now, I admit that Dave Kosak’s not super-high up on the corporate ladder, but his account was easiest to breach (Really, Fargo – “flintlockeRulz0rz?” Lame password, dude, guessed it on my third try.) and was stuffed to the gills with intelligence, or what passes for intelligence in Fargo’s neck of the woods.

Presented without further comment: the new expansion.

carnak the magnificentDungeons

  • Pretty much everyone agrees that Blackrock Depths was the most awesome dungeon EVER. We agree! Starting in this expansion, EVERY dungeon is BRD!  Even the old expansions! The way it works is this: any time you enter a dungeon, you’ll be ported to BRD. Cool, eh?

Raids

  • Pretty much everyone agrees that Karazhan was the most awesome raid EVAR. We concur! Starting in this expansion, almost EVERY raid is Karazhan!  Even the old expansions – except Draenor, in which the raids are all Karazhan with more spikes!
  • New endgame raid. This raid will consist of five wings. The first four rings are Blackrock Depths. The final ring, with the new endgame boss, will be Karazhan.
  • New end boss: Khadgar! Everybody agrees, Khadgar is unusually spry and has been acting very unusual for a twenty-year-old man trapped in an old man’s body. Clearly, he’s up to no good!
  • Raid difficulties were getting out of hand, so we’ve simplified the whole thing. Raids are now available in two flavors: L33t (40-man, Heroic difficulty) and N00bsauce (10-man, LFR-difficulty).  All Noobsauce instances will have zero boss mechanics – every fight is Patchwerk!  We also put a healing dummy in each room for the healers to keep alive, so they don’t feel left out.

Game Features

  • Dance Studio has been implemented for battle pets.
  • The game will feature a Glitch / Techo soundtrack produced by Daft Punk.
  • A new continent has been discovered south of the equator. Oddly, it is the same size as all the northern continents combined. Nobody can explain why nobody noticed it before, but mist is suspected as somehow being largely responsible.
  • New race: Mega Orc: Large Orcs. With Spikes REALLY large Orcs. REALLY large spikes.
  • New race: Murloc! You’ve been secretly wanting to play these for the last 10 years. Live the dream!

Factions

Alliance

  • Varian Wrynn has been elected Warchief of the Horde by a huge margin.
  • Anduin Wrynn has been coronated King of Stormwind and appointed head of the Alliance.
  • However, he does not get leadership of the Alliance by default.  Moira Thaurissan attempts a coup! When the coup fails, she falls back to Shadowforge City.
  • The expansion will open with a pre-launch event as Moira attempts her coup and falls back to Shadowforge, and the players must enter Blackrock Depths to bring her to justice!
  • Malfurion falls asleep. Nobody knows where. This will form the basis of a dungeon based on the Emerald Dream. The event will take place in Blackrock Depths.
  • Velen isn’t dead. He’s just really tired after defeating the Balrog. He’s hanging out at the Grim Guzzler in Shadowforge City.
  • Jaina dumps Kalecgos and moves in with Yrel in a cozy apartment in Dalaran, where they open a private investigation service. It’s awesome.
  • Fargo Flintlocke has been elected by unanimous consent as King of Ironforge, for some reason (note: this was in the margins of the documents we found, and we’re not entirely sure it’s canonical.)

Horde

  • Orgrimmar has been equipped with more spikes.
  • The Forsaken have relocated to Northrend.

 Other

  • DHETA has set up an outpost and offer a bounty for dwarf ears and beards.
  • The Tauren have formed a new faction with the Worgen and Pandaren, because they can’t stand any of you.

Player Classes

  • New player class: Melee Hunter. Two specs – Healy and Hurty. Healy can tame exotic pets, such as Spirit Beasts.
  • Level Cap has been raised to 120. Normally it would be 110, but we’re going to pre-nerf the leveling experience so we don’t forget to later. Therefore, we’re giving you 20 levels to enjoy the leveling grind.
  • The Talent “Tree” has been further simplified. We’ve found that three choices are too confusing to many players (not looking at you, Fire Mages. Totally not looking at you.). So we’ve reduced each tier down to two choices and named them more descriptively. For example, the Warrior tier 3 talent choices are now “More hurty” and “More angry”.
    • The exception is Druid, which has gone from four specs to five. See below.
  • Weapon mechanics will be revamped and simplified. Examples: Defendo warrior carries Sword and Board. Hurty Priest carries Club. Healy Priest carries Staff. Warlock carries Staff. Hunter carries Boomstick. Monk carries Cudgel.
  • New Druid form: Furby. Like owlbeast, but more fun with children.

Professions

  • All crafting mats have been super-simplified. There is now only one kind of mat for each profession. For example, instead of 130 different herb types, now all herb nodes in all worlds past, present, and future, will yield one kind of thing – “Flower”. Same for mining – “Metal”, leatherworking – “Leather”, tailoring – “Cloth”, and enchanting – “Magic shit.”
  • Jewelcrafting has been deprecated and will be deleted in the next expansion after this.
  • All crafting professions are merged into one. To make items, you have to use bits of the various kinds of items you can gather. For example, a robe might be consisted of “Flower” and “Cloth”. Likewise, shoes would require “Leather” and “Metal”
  • All gathering professions have collapsed into one – “Gatherer.”
  • Cooking has been removed. Roving taco trucks have everything you need.
  • Fishing is now a gathering profession for Archaeology.

History

guldan A lot has been made of the similarities between the current Alt!Draenor versus the previous Main!Draenor, i.e. that the course of events that took place in Main!Draenor is manifesting in Alt!Draenor now.  The general tongue-clucking conclusion has been that “you just can’t change history, even in an alternate timeline.”

That is, in a word or two, total felgercarb.

legion invasion Difference 1: The invasion didn’t happen.  You can say what you want about similarities between the two timelines in terms of the Orcs drinking the Blood of Mannoroth, but the fact remains that the invasion failed miserably

And don’t give me the weak tea reasoning of “Hey, there’s still a chance they might reopen the Portal and pour through!”  Two issues with that:

  1. There is no chance they can reopen the portal as designed since its main power source is at large and in charge and, given his general craven attributes, unlikely to lay it all out for the Team again.
  2. Pouring through requires something to pour. In case you missed it, we’ve decimated the Iron Horde.  The only way that any pouring will take place will be a massive retcon of the most recent two patches’ data.

lich king Difference 2: There is no newly minted Lich King.

Now … I will grant that the ultimate disposition of [REDACTED] is up in the air after what Archimonde did to him. And I’m pretty sure that the core Metal Head Blizzard Design Bureau has a massive hard-on at the mere thought of reimplementing the Lich King. But at the current point, there is no prospect for a new Lich King on Azeroth nor is there even a likely prospect.

I will speculate, though, that the two things that give the Metal Head Wannabee Squad the most massive thrills of all are The Lich King and The Burning Legion.  The plight of [REDACTED] and the questionable status of Khadgar points primarily at the latter, but I’ll concede that the former is still the most likely candidate for the next expansion’s theme. 

A reborn, refactored Lich King getting loose on main!Azeroth would play merry hob with things, give the Blizzard Metal Fanboy Squad something to stroke off to, and revisit the one expansion that most people like the most.  And it’d give them an excuse / opportunity to revamp Northrend if they felt so inclined, though I’d prefer to see at least a HINT of originality (not holding my breath).

It is important to remember, though that the Orcs were not the endpoint of the Invasion. They were merely the opening act.

The Triumphant Return

drama horn

After the worlds-shattering drama following their announcement that flying would not be happening in Draenor at all, Blizzard has changed their minds and decided it bring it back, but only if you really want it.

At the heart of the initial plan to restrict flight in Draenor (even after players reach level 100) lies the design goal of providing the best moment-to-moment gameplay possible in the outdoor world. From navigating the lava flows of the Molten Front in Patch 4.2, to breaching the Thunder King’s stronghold in Patch 5.2, to reaching the heights of the Ordon Sanctuary on Timeless Isle in Patch 5.4, to uncovering secrets deep within Gorgrond’s jungles on Draenor, World of Warcraft is full of memorable moments that are only possible when players explore the world by ground. And as we’ve continued to develop content over the years, we’ve focused more and more on providing players with these kinds of experiences.

There will be chores to do; exploring, collecting, rep grinding, and so forth. It’s a little reminiscent of the attunements we had in BC, to be honest, and I like that. I’m not one for collecting piles of non combat pets I’ll never look at or mounts I’ll never or rarely use at all. I’m not as much an achievement monkey as some.  Give me a grind that will get me something tangible, however, then you’ve got my attention.

Naturally, no matter how you slice this, there will be mighty drama around this announcement as there was around the last. Where before it was all “Blizzard doesn’t care about what the players want raaaaeeeege”, now instead it’s “Blizzard gives in to every little whine raeeeeege!”  Blizzard can’t win with this bunch, and personally I think they should just do what they think best and shut down the forums, but that’s me. 

I’m still not missing flight in Draenor. But to some, the mere inconvenience is an insurmountable obstacle to inner peace, or something like that. This is not to say, I won’t use it if it’s there.  As I’ve said before, I won’t put myself at a disadvantage on mere principle.

The haters will always be around because they need an avenue to vent their frustrations in life in, and a bunch of nerds writing software is just the perfect target.  Well, people at Blizz get paid to read their drek, but I don’t. 

So flush twice, it’s a long way to MMO-C.

The Sound of Silence

A certain gaming website recently ran an article in which it noted that a LOT of people were piling on the pro-flight side of the scale with regard to The Great Grounding. Notable here was a complete absence if the pro-grounding camp.  Why? 

Well, the obvious and probably intended conclusion you could draw was that there weren’t any.

But given that I know for a fact that that’s not true, I’m entertaining another theory.

See, people that are basically okay with the status quo rarely speak up. Why would they? Everything’s fine! What is there to blog about? 

I am thoroughly content with the pace of content patches.

Or

I can’t find the words to express how perfect I find Garrisons as they are.

Nobody blogs how they think that the weather is perfect, or their soup was just the right temperature last night. Contentment isn’t interesting.

Bloggers, if we wish to aggrandize ourselves a little bit, are basically story-tellers.  And one of the core features of a story is conflict. Nobody wants to read how Frodo got to Mordor without incident, or how Harry caught Voldemort flat-footed before he had any real power, or how Kirk raised shields when the Reliant failed to respond to hails and Khan got clapped into irons right off the bat.  Nobody gives two shits about a story with no tension in it.

So my theory is – and I hasten to point out, it’s a theory – is that people that are okay with this aren’t really moved to express that they are, and thus it’s kind of hard to count them. 

But I suspect the number of people that this describes is somewhere north of where you think it is.

The Flip Side

One of my first major flying mounts - the green protodrak. GRIND, BABY, GRIND!Having rankled for more than a few people, I’m sure, my thoughts on flying in WoW remain unchanged, but I want to give the flip side of the argument some air, because it is very valid.

My friend Zel brings up the way this impacts herb farming, as an example. I do hasten to point out that herb farming isn’t the lucrative endeavor it once was.  Making flasks for resale is just silly given current prices (I expect to see them go below 10g before too long); farming for glyphs doesn’t outweigh the convenience of buying herbs off the AH – the herb prices just don’t impact your profit margin that much. And selling herbs outright doesn’t (as implied) really bring a lot of cash to the table – hardly worth trolling SMV for choice cuts.

There’s this thing that you’re either for or against flying, by the way.  I think the angst and anger between the two sides at this moment is greater than that between Alliance and Horde. And that’s pretty silly, considering that one can be on both sides of this.

I have my own problems with flight-less WoW, and most of them resolve down to inconvenience and annoyance.

It is very inconvenient and annoying to, for example, try to get to some of the more obscure corners of Draenor right now. Why? Because you have to navigate these huge mountains and ravines just to go from A to B, much less the obscure Point Z. And the maps are not very helpful in this regard. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a set of convoluted zones as I have in Draenor. It’s a perfect storm of angsty goodness that makes even me want to rezz up the old roflcopter and fly on over there.

The thing is, I find that as I give myself time to develop tactics to deal with little annoyances like this, the less annoying they become. And that’s part of the problem, here. People have not developed these strategies internally because they either feel they haven’t needed to (i.e. “flight is coming”) or shouldn’t have to (“fuck Blizzard”).

But it also comes back to the problematic skills that the terrain designers have. Instead of a stick – “no flying, you’re not paying attention to our bootiful landscapes” – how about a carrot – make the ground route a nice place to be, something enjoyable and maybe somewhere south of 50% annoying.

So while I completely get and embrace the no flight evermore approach – for limited reasons – I also get very much why this is frustrating and, believe it, I am feeling those same frustrations.

Let’s just say that if it weren’t for WoWHead, I’d’ve given up and moved on to another game by now. And that’s a very strong indication that you have issues with your terrain design. It should be possible to sort most of this out with in game resources.  I agree that parts of the map should be reserved for those that have a lot of Dora in their veins – those that enjoy the exploration part of the game – but nothing important should be as hard to get to as the Time-lost Glade, not when it’s a key part of a major component of the endgame gearing circle-jerk.

So, pro-flight people, don’t for a second think I don’t empathize and agree, but also don’t think for a moment that I think it’s worth pitching a fit over. It is what it is. The minute that becomes too annoying to pay 22000 gold for, I’m back to playing marathon sessions of Sins of a Solar Empire or Civ 5, like I was before WoW even came out.

Bottom line here is that, regardless of which way this goes, Blizz done messed up and removing Flight is their version of mayonnaise, which cooks use to cover their mistakes.  All the anger, all the ragequitting, all the angst belongs squarely on the shoulders of senior game management, and nowhere else.

Sadly, I doubt they’ll ever understand that.  They will say the words, but they will never, truly, own their mistakes.

And that’s the greatest disappointment.

Wrong

This interview with Watcher has set the WoW social universe on its ear.

The first big bombshell is his statement that Flight will not only not be back in 6.2, but may quite possibly not reappear in-game ever again, going forward.

I am mixed on this.  I’m pretty much in favor of this because of the way that flight disrupts the quest design mechanics, but I want to state for the record that if Blizz had designed the quests with flight in mind in the first place, this wouldn’t be a problem. 

Let’s  consider the example that Watcher gave: without flight, you have to “fight  your way to the NPC you’re rescuing” to complete the quest, but with flight you can “just fly over there, land on the hut he’s in, and you’re done.”  And: agreed, that’s a lousy thing.

But why aren’t there flying Mobs around the hut?  This is a design failure in the quest, not a problem with flight per se. But, since Blizzard is apparently incapable of grasping that simple concept and fixing the problem, the simpler solution is just to ground everyone.

The quest designers done screwed up, so everyone has to get out of the pool.

And now, a moment of gloating.

Watcher confirms that 6.2 is not the final patch for this expansion.  There have been a number of intensely strident people swarzing up and down that this was the final content patch for Warlords, despite the fact that they had not a single fact to support this.  I have set aside a vat to collect their delicious tears, and have set aside an area for them to furiously backpedal without endangering innocent lives.  Because, sure as Moira’s got an agenda, these people will be claiming they said no such thing as soon as they can, as often as is legal in their home state and/or country, and and as loudly as local noise ordinances allow.

Let’s say this all together once again: MMO-Champion is not the gold standard of Blizzard predictions. They got it right exactly ONCE (Cata), and ever since then, Blizz has alternatively bought their silence with access bribes, or fed them misinformation.  Reddit isn’t a lot better, but at least there you don’t have a central point of failure like you do with MMO-C.

Honestly, the louder and more strident they are, the less likely they are to be right.

I myself haven’t made much in the way of predictions in this regard other than to express extreme doubts that 6.2 was the final patch.  For a number of reasons.

  • Two patches is atypical for Blizzard’s history.  Three to four is the general rule of thumb.
  • The story that I’ve been able to discern so far doesn’t really seem to be end-gamish.
  • e.g. I strongly suspect there’s a real WTF moment in our future, either at the end of 6.2 or in a future patch.
  • I don’t see the ultimate end-of-expansion time-waster-zone that we’ve seen in every expansion including BC (e.g. Money Island / Tournament / Firelands / Timeless Isle). Until they roll out that zone – which, you realize, will be yet another new and innovative way to while a way the post-expansion blues! – we’re not looking at the final patch.

As I have proven to myself a number of times, predictions are a tricky thing.  Smart people will couch these guesses as guesses and not FACT (actual quote).  There’s nothing wrong with speculation as long as it’s presented as such. But stating categorically with great authority on these topics is just silly.

Unfortunately, these people won’t learn, probably. They’ll just get shriller, louder, and more frantically self-defensive as this unwinds.  I’m not sure what the point of all this is – some weird form of territorial marking or something – but it’s lead to some serious paring of my social media feeds, let me tell you.

But I’m more interested in where this is going, lore-wise.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Grommash / Guldan story resolves this patch, or if it gets marched out to the next one.  I personally don’t think one zone and one raid is enough to include that and Archimonde, too. I’m interested to see what they do with that, too, and whether we get to see Kil’jaeden as well.  And will this all end in tears as Draenor Renewed gets blown up again?

All I know is that we are free of the tyranny of prophecy once again.

No fate but what we make for ourselves.