Legion was a Bad Idea

image

Okay, hear me out.

Throughout WoW, there was no big bad badder than the Legion. We were told, this was the ultimate goal.  We were even teased that the war against the Legion would continue into Anduin’s old age.

And then came the Legion expansion, and we chumped Sargeras and, somehow (?) the Legion was rendered moot.

Now, we’re in a strange place where instead of hopping world too world after Dem Legions, we’re fussing around with Fancy Trolls and Thicc Bois and blowing each other up. And something something Teldrassil, and “anticipating” an adventure in the land of the dead.

It’s weird. Pursuit of the Legion had enough built in content to keep this game going for decades, with a wide diversity of possible worlds, multiple opportunities to switch things up, and ample opportunities for engaging new races and characters and maybe even classes.

Compared to this, Shadowlands feels – to me – like flailing about wildly for “what’s next”, a Dr. Strangesque excursion into a place that we didn’t really feel compelled to go in the first place.

I’m not sure who’s idea Legion was at the point that occurred, but I really feel “don’t schedule the endgame until you’re ready for the endgame” seems to be fairly rational advice, and I can’t believe nobody gave this advice to that person.

I’m surely giving Shadowlands a fair shake. But I feel somewhat less than excited to do so. BfA at least stirred my blood with the burning of Teldrassil, but this time I feel like, “can we just close the gateway and leave her in there?”

Hey, there are a few things I am truly looking forward to, starting with (and primarily) the new appearance options we’ll get for our characters. But everything else I’ve seen so far leaves me feeling flat.

I wonder how others are feeling about it.  I imagine the hardcore raiders / pvpers are indifferent, as long as they get new raids and stuff. 

#AuctionGate

1280px-Treasure_Chest_TCG

Yesterday, June 16 2020, Blizzard surreptitiously pushed a change to the Auction House, forcing a “throttle” on auction activities such as posting or cancelling.

This throttle seems to be around a batch size of 30 to 40, and has met with great levels of unhappiness amongst the masses.

A few items of concern:

  • Batch size too small to qualify as “power auctioneers”, the stated target.
    • For example, I average between 50 and 100 auctions per session, which is mostly glyphs
    • You can easily exceed the limit just dumping mats you salvaged while being totally casual
  • No testing on PTR
  • No feedback gathered from testers
  • Pushed to production with no discernable testing

Basically it works out that if you do more than ‘x’1 actions in a minute, all the actions beyond that value in that minute will be throttled. Massively.

This is less of a patch than a hit.

The outcry was immediate and loud.  We had bloggers, streamers, twits, twitchers all calling this out, and who can blame them. I mean, sure, you wanna tackle certain bad actors, then fine. But honest pizznesmens? Optics are bad on this.

The interesting part of this is, while I was writing this, things changed. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare, Blizz backed things off a bit.  I don’t know how far, but I do know that it’s at least as far as sixty actions in a single minute since that’s what I had to test with.

The other guy blinked.

They’re leaving the throttle on cancellations, but I can live with that (even though it really sucks)


1 Where ‘x’ is somewhere between 25 and  40 based on what we’ve heard so far.

Change and Chaos

image

Now hug.

8.3 rolled out this weekend, and we are all having Visions of N’Zoth now, I guess. We have it on good authority that this is the last content patch for BfA, so we’re in for at minimum 9 months of no new content, so stretch it out as much as you can.

Which is less of a problem in light of one change that Blizz pushed out with this update.  TLDR – you might not be getting paid for your auctions.

Background

So Blizz started messing around with this several months ago, trying to  resolve the whole “stack size trolling” issue (yes, it was an issue. No, nobody really cared). Basically, people could “troll” honest crafters like you and me by posting thousands of one-item stacks of commodities, forcing the poor, unsuspecting buyer to wade through page after page of auctions in order to make a hat.

(That is, unless they never heard of an addon called Auctionator, which would automate the purchase of the cheapest xxxx items for you, but I guess nobody asked me).

Anyway, some “Goblin”-friendly individual at Blizz decided that Something Must Be Done so they decided that they would make the cost of commodity items (thing that sell in stacks) have a flat deposit rate, which means that if you pay 20c to sell a stack of cloth, and 20c per item to sell a stack of 200, then that should be quite a punishment for the trolls. Honest dealers would not be penalized, and trolls would.

You’re probably realizing the fact that if you utter the words “new tax” you’re guaranteed to get a dozen live-free-or-die trolls fall out of the trees immediately, and that’s more or less what happened to Blizz. They were completely unable to spin it so that it didn’t sound like they were punishing the wrong people.  So, back to the drawing board.

Which brings us to today

Part of the new stuff in 8.3 was a revamp of the auction house.  As of now, if you post a commodity of some sort, it automatically gets posted as individual items, no matter what.  On the other end, commodity buyers just have to tell the AH how many of an item that they want, and they will automatically get the best deal for that quantity, and the monies thereof will be distributed to the individuals that posted it.  No penalties, no addons required, just commerce, pure and simple.

Except …

Turns out, the selling part is working fine, but the paying part is not – individuals are reporting – and confirming – that items that are actually sold do not return money to the individual that sold it.

Yeah, probably six months of testing and nobody bothered to check if the loop closed out all the way.  As a worker in the credit card payment industry, may I just say that this is pretty familiar. (1)

Now, it may not be the auction house itself, because there was another change made – to the mailbox.  Specifically, they made changes to the way that mailboxes display and refresh their contents.  Where before you could see at most 50 items and it refreshed every 60 seconds, now you can see 100 items and it refreshes every 15 seconds.  Great change, I love it, but Blizz states that they believe that the problem with the missing auction money is related to the mail system, which means probably somewhere in the code changes for this.

For the time being, I’ve elected to sit out.  I emptied the mailbox without thinking too much about it, but now I have no room in my bags for questing, so what’s a fella to do?  Fortunately, Endless Space 2 was on sale this weekend, so I’m getting my periodic dose of 4x until this snafu is corrected.

They say there should be a fix in a few days – which is marvelously vague without being too overly pessimistic.

Follow Blizz on Twitter. Watch WoWHead. Just don’t rely on me for news, I may be heavily in battle with angry aliens.


(1) Cash only, y’all.

Dashing through the ‘forge

image

One new feature of this Winter Veil  is the introduction of Greatfather Winter’s sled.  It has a fixed path through Ironforge, idling just in front of the pile o gifts.  When it’s idling (hovering in place) you can click on the sled to drive it, or one of the reindeer to ride them. In a few moments you’re off on an enchanted ride through Ironforge.

It’s the Eighth Annual Finding Jaina Day

It is the time of year that we celebrate the Finding of the Cat That Lived, Jaina, a mostly Birman but also bits of other cats cat.

Jaina 2011-12-27

For those that missed out on the first seven installments, we found baby Jaina wondering around in the parking lot and scooped her up. Later, when we took her to the vet, we were told she had FIP, which is fatal, and that she had weeks to live.  Well, here we are eight years later, and she’s middle aged without showing any sign of keeling over.   And so today we celebrate her continued life.

Spartacus 2019-12-07

First, a few updates on her fellows. The cat we called “Sparta” last year is in fact male and thus is now called “Spartacus”.  He’s been spending more time inside week to week, so we’re hoping he eventually gets used to the idea of not going out at all. He’s a gentle soul that really belongs inside where he won’t get roughed up. He’s shown up limping – badly – a few times, though so far he’s healed up okay.

Then there’s the next generation – mama managed to get knocked up again and had a litter of five. Same mix as last time – two white ones (like Spartacus), one that looks like daddy, one that is black and white, one that is black and white with a floofy tail.  Whatever genes are being expressed, they’re strong. White cat #1 wandered off early, the rest are sticking around. White cat #2 is almost identical to Spartacus, except he has a pink nose, and Sparty has a dark nose.

Most notable in the bunch is the runt of the litter, a calico kitty with a floofy tail and some face floof as well. She’s just adorable as hell and bold as brass, and has taken to coming inside to hang out and play with the kitty toys. I call her Monster, but she’s really quite sweet. We’ll see if we can domesticate her over this coming year.

Jaina

Our attempt to substitute Jaina’s string with a fresh one has not worked out that well. She knows the difference, and does not treat the new string as an equal. In fact, I haven’t seen her carry it around while singing yet. She’s not fooled by our trickery. But we’ll keep trying.

Jaina’s been developing a game over the past few years that runs something like this: she waits in the hallway for me to notice her, then she lets out a little trill and goes running as hard as she can the opposite way.  When I come to look in on her, she does the same thing.  This repeats over a few cycles until she ends up in the front bathroom’s bathtub.  At that point I really don’t know what the next step in the game is.  I’ve been trying to catch this with the camera but she’s a mite unpredictable so, so far no luck.

Jaina 2018-10-23

The wife and I have swapped sides of the bed again. As expected, Jaina still prefers the corner of the bed closest to the door, though she will sometimes go out of her way to go lay on mommy’s arm and sleep.

Tater 2019-10-12

Jaina continues to hate Morgan (who we’ve just been calling Tater) with the heat of a thousand suns.  It’s almost hilarious to see Jaina go after a cat twice her size and win the day.  Tater is pretty belligerent with people, but she can’t get a handle on Jaina, apparently.

Jaina 2019-09-08

A new part of Jaina’s morning routine has become birb watching. She’ll get on the shelf by the back window and watch the blue jays stealing the outside kittys’ kibble (which makes them into kibble sometimes themselves). She hunkers down and looks like she’s thinking THEY SUSPECT NOTHING as she watches their antics.

It has been another blessed year with our little Bearcat, and I’m looking forward to the next one with her. Here’s to many more.

Jaina 2019-08-03

Be careful what you ask for

image

It has been commented, by myself as well, that it’s not really cool to lock all of the interesting lore moments behind raids.

Not everyone raids, so it is quite often the case that non-raiders find themselves relying on blogs, videos, and other venues to find out what actually happened, to find out what key lore elements happened outside of their view. After a while, upon hearing that there was some awesome stuff going on in there, I’d roll my eyes and comment, bitterly, “welp, there’s more lore we don’t get to see” —  because, you know, our guild could barely raise the headcount for Karazhan, much less a 25-man, at its peak.  And we ain’t at our peak.

Well, it looks like Blizz has been listening, to some extent, because guess what we got in 8.2.5?  Exactly what we were asking for.

Only, I wonder if they took it just a bit too far.

Without giving anything away, there are a number of cutscenes and one cinematic that get played, and in between are a number of fairly inconsequential and completely trivial quests that stitch them all together.  It’s as if they said, “well, we can’t just play a series of cinematics, we best put something in between and call it content.”  You can virtually see the outlet that the phone that they used to phone it in was plugged into.

Maybe I was expecting something more grindy, or at least something we might have to put some effort into.

Lest anyone accuse me of being a sore winner, let me say right now that I am very glad that everyone, no matter how not into it they are, will have the skill level necessary to complete these quests.  So assuming they made it through the various gates along the way, everyone gets to see it.

But maybe, next time, put a little effort in, guys?  It should feel like an achievement! Otherwise, yes, just play the damned video.


So what do I think of the thing? It’s … interesting. It’s setting something up. No telling what. And the Horde is now in a bit of a tizzy … there was nothing in the post-cinematics that really indicates that they have much of a plan going forward.

I’m more concerned for the Night Elves. Tyrande is out there somewhere, Night Warrioring things up, and – without giving too much away – she doesn’t really have much in the way of resolution. OK, I’m actually more concerned about her. How long can she contain that power without going critical? Are we getting another heel turn here? Will she go mad and take out anyone in her way to her objective? Haven’t the Kaldorei suffered enough, Blizz?

The dot-3 release is generally speaking the final time-waster release for most expansions – assuming they get that far. It’ll be interesting to see how they intend to fritter away our time this time around, or maybe they have something new and exciting, such as an additional content patch.   But right now, I’m banking on old tried-and-true.

Looks smaller from above

image

One of the little secrets of Vanilla was that there were three Stormwinds.

There was the Stormwind you saw when you approached from outside.

There was the Stormwind you saw from within the city.

And there was the city you saw when flying by.

One gimmick they could pull off this way was to make Stormwind Keep look ENOURMOUS.  I’m not even sure what that is behind the gate – a hill? But at any rate, the thing fades into the mist from the streets outside the Trade District.  In Retail, it’s a lot less imposing, because in Retail, there’s only one Stormwind.  And that doesn’t allow them to engage in any of those nifty little tricks of perspective.

That’s mah Queen

image

OK, technically she’s not a queen. But as a priestess of the Moon, this is who I follow. And it’s nice to see her back in her traditional garb.

I don’t know about you, but that gaudy crap they stuck her with near the end of Cataclysm was a farce.  Especially those boots, which made her look like she had amazing cankles.

This is much, much better.

What Classic gets right (or very wrong)

image

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been puttering around on my Hunter and Priest (started five levels apart) and really enjoying myself.  It’s painful, inconvenient, slow, grindy, and painful. And yet I have not felt at all unhappy about it.

We’re looking back at a version of WoW that had perfected the Skinner Box model without realizing it, or taking much trouble to hide it.

If you’ve never heard the term, “Skinner Box” is named after a psychologist that theorized a thing called an Operant Conditioning Chamber, which is a fancy way of saying that it trained animals using mostly positive reinforcement.  Push the right button, get a cookie.

In WoW, this is illustrated by the  nearly constant positive reinforcement mechanism that kicks in after level 10. Every time you level up, you get something, often many somethings. You always get a talent point. And sometimes you learn new spells or abilities.  If you’re a Hunter the phenomenon is doubled thanks to your pet.

Contrast this to BfA and Legion, where I believe it’s fair to say that aside from the changes to the core game at the start of the expansion, you gained nothing new.

Hell, the last time I got a new Talent is at level 100 – the end of WoD.

Did leveling up mean anything to you in Legion or BfA?  I mean, did they even lock out zones based on your level? (spoiler alert: they didn’t).

The modern niceties of modern WoW are sometimes a curse in disguise.  A game based on conflict that has basically greased the rails to max level doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Yet here we are.

But … about that Skinner Box thing.

The Skinner Box scenario is generally looked down upon by most “serious” gamers. It’s the perception that, instead of making a good game, the team has created a grindhouse in which you respond like … well, like a rat in a Skinner box.  Green light goes on, you hit the button. A pellet of food comes out. Green light comes on, hit the button again.  Eventually, what you’re conditioned to do is to press the button whenever you see a green light, and expect a pellet of food.

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories about “sick culture” work places. It goes like this.

Imagine a cage. In that cage are five monkeys.  It’s a big cage, don’t worry.

Now, hang a banana in one end of the cage.

Now, whenever a money approaches the banana, ALL the monkeys in that cage get hosed with a firehose.

Eventually, you’ll train them to never approach the banana.

Now, replace one of the monkeys with a new one.

The new monkey will approach the banana.  But instead of hosing the monkeys, you let the trained monkeys do your work: they beat the hell out of the new monkey until he too won’t approach the banana.

Keep doing this until you’ve replaced all the monkeys, then do a complete rotation again.

Now, you have a cage full of monkeys that have never been hosed, but won’t approach that banana.

And if they could talk, and you could ask them why they won’t go near the banana, they’d probably tell you, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done things.”

I wonder if Blizz did us a favor by getting away from the Skinner Box approach?

And then one day … I got in

Kharanos

Behold, traveler: Kharanos!

I wasn’t foolish enough to attempt to log in on Classic on Day 1.  Following days, however, I’ve been checking to see if there was a queue. Today, I got lucky and managed to log in on my bebe Hunter.

Some observations:

  • The starter zone is a good facsimile of the original, but it has been nerfed a little bit.  Back in the day, you couldn’t cut right across the starter zone to deliver that beer, you’d get ambushed! That was the entire challenge of the fedex quests.  The zone changed, but the quests did not.
  • You REALLY miss the mapping enhancements we have now in Live.
  • Bebe hunters can still die.
  • That dead zone can diaf.
  • There are a surprising number of addons that work in Classic.

A note about that.  I’m still salty over that LFG addon – again, not planning on using it, but to see Blizz bend the knee to a bunch of gatekeepers that were howling over functionality that was there in Classic all along is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. That’s right, the difference between now and then is that somebody thought of it this time.

And the number of “not in classic” addons out there that NOBODY is whining about is amazing.  TBag and WeakAuras, for example. WA is a game-changer for me.  How long was it before TBag came along? IceHUD, one of my favorites.  Even TSM is trying to make a showing.

Point being, “the classic experience” isn’t the addons.  It’s being level 5 and barely having a silver to your name.  It’s having to look around for the right kind of mobs to kill. It’s hunting around for those toolboxes without the aid of sparklies. It’s no blue highlights over your minimap telling you where your quest is. It’s reading quest text for clues about where to find that elusive   character.  It’s having to pay for training, and coming up short.

I haven’t even tamed my first pet yet, so I have even more to look forward to, but when I do there will be the need to train the pet, the need to find food it likes, the need to care for it or lose it.

I love that shit.

I’ve always been about little details in my games, and these all share that DNA. Little fiddly bits, like training up your defense and weapon skills. It rewards the detail minded, rather than the grandstanders.

I take the victories I can.

At any rate, I’m here. I won’t be playing this so regularly, at least not until my guildies show up (they’re currently engaged in Dragon*Con activities), but I’m still not sold on the whole “classic experience” other than, well, I still, at this moment, like it better than BfA, for reasons that make no sense.

But I won’t be neglecting my little toons, either.  I love a challenge, and Classic is all that.