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Author: Sar

Why Expac 6 can’t, won’t and shouldn’t wait…

OK, so a bit of tinfoil hat theory time, what with the new expansion due to be announced in (checks watch….) just under 8 hours time.

I posted this on Twitter this morning:

image

Now to me, that makes perfect sense. It’s how I believe Activision(?) are pumping out Call of Duty titles each and every year, and each game gets a full 2 years of development, which seems to be the minimum standard nowadays.

It would definitely explain how and why Warlords has been so unrelentingly shit, because essentially it was not actively being worked on 100% during its release cycle, other than the art team and raid team, both of whom did sterling work in Warlords, particularly the Art team. I’ve said all expansion that the art team have been carrying this expansion virtually on their own backs, and if it weren’t for their efforts, this expansion probably would have completely killed the game.

In fact it very nearly has done, what with subs figures presently sitting at 5.6m players, including the token subs. And don’t forget, we started WoD with nearly double that figure, at 10 million players. So a total drop of 4.4m players in 8 months.

Can you imagine how bad the figures would be if token numbers weren’t included?

In addition, how else, other than lack of active development would ANYONE explain “patch” 6.1?

This new expansion pack I feel is either make or break time for World of Warcraft. Either it’ll reinvigorate the game and alongside the movie regenerate the subs base similarly to how WoD did initially and brought 3m players back (still skeptical about that claim tbh), or we’re looking at one of the game’s final releases.

Obviously the game can’t sustain another 4.4m subs loss over the next 8 months, which is why I think we are going to see this new expansion very soon, a lot sooner than most are betting.

Beta within a month, pre-patch in 4 months, release in 5? Xmas launch at the latest?

If they’ve split the Dev team as I  mentioned on Twitter, it’s conceivable it’s nearly ready to go right now for beta and get it out and released before Blizzcon even.

The only problem is an early release possibly cutting T18 and HFC pretty short, the opposite problem that Siege suffered from at the end of MoP.

But after the unmitigated disaster that WoD, by any reasonable standard, has been, would anyone really care? After all, the race for Mythic world 1st is over, and that’s all anyone cares about.

AMIRITE GAIS?

Who knows, but I do know this:

This new expansion needs to be out soon and it needs to be fucking amazing if the game is to survive even another year.

Windows 10 gave me ideas…

Ok, so having had Windows 10 installed over the past 24 hours, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with it. Even though it’s sometimes buggy and the Start Menu had managed to crash on me completely yesterday necessitating a fix (see my twitter feed), it’s a really lovely OS.

The mix of the Start menus from Win 7 & 8.1 is something I’m really digging, and the aesthetic is really very lovely to look at. In fact it reminds me a hell of a lot of the Gnome interface in Linux, which I also love.

So with that inspiration in mind, I decided to tart up the front end of the website a bit. This is the default WP theme from 2014, albeit with a fair bit of customisation on top. Still want to sort out a proper background image, but I’ll sort that out later today.

Quite pleased with how it turned out all in all, and at least it looks different now from the Thunder website 😀

The Switching of a main…

So I’ve switched mains.

Yep, for 6½ years man and boy I was a paladin tank. And I loved it.

I loved the sense of responsibility. The control I had over the flow of the fight. The make or break mechanics that meant a good tank could shine, whilst a bad tank would do nothing but wipe raids and frustrate. That sense of fostering a partnership with your co-tanks, especially those you raided alongside week after week.

However over those 6½ years I’d got to see everything that Blizzard had in their bag of tricks when it came to keeping tanks busy:

Picking up random add spawns
Switch on x stacks of y tank debuff
Boss positioning and facing
Active mitigation usage
Taunt trading with your co-tank
Self recovery from big hits (at its prime in Siege, and I LOVED it)

And so on, and so forth.

After nearly 7 years every fight now seems to meld into a pick ‘n mix of the above, and very rarely are there anything new in terms of mechanics for tanks to deal with. In short, if you can deal with everything on the above list, you’re golden.

Even at the hardest difficulties, tanking had become so second nature to me on my pally, that nothing was a challenge. Hell, the highlight of my tanking days was still back in Siege, which I still consider to be the pinnacle of the tanking experience for Prot Paladins. My one over-riding memory of tanking will still be progression on Heroic Galakras, and seeing our entire raid dead with 7-8% health left on the boss, and me soloing it for our first kill. Good times.

Warlords however reduced our ability to look after ourselves. Eternal Flame’s potency was reduced immensely from a large dump heal plus big phat meaty ticks of a HoT, to a mediocre dump heal, with a risibly piddling HoT component. This gutted our ability to pull off stunts like my HC Galakras shenanigans. No more being the hero, back to being a meat shield.

In Highmaul and BRF I was starting to feel the weight of the changes in WoD. Blizzard had taken from me what was previously the best our class and spec had ever been, back to what it was in Cataclysm and before. Nothing but a meat shield reliant on healers for even a modicum of survival. Sure, Protadins still have their bubbles and Oh Shit! button (Lay on Hands), but the former is being slowly eroded by more boss mechanics that just breeze straight on through immunities like they weren’t there. At least we still had LoH…

So coming into Highmaul things were looking less fun. Especially because for the first couple of months of raiding, Blizzard seemed hell bent on taking haste gameplay away from prot paladins. So we went from having a fairly fast paced playstyle back to playing with much longer GCDs, and the whole gameplay experience felt a LOT slower.

Hard to believe how much of a difference that little ½ a second will make…

So in Highmaul things were a lot less fun than in Siege, and I was feeling the fun draining out of my raiding with each night that passed. By the time we got to heroic BRF I was positively dreading raid nights. I used to sigh with relief when we didn’t have a raid on, on any given night.

Nothing to do with my raid side, they, at the time, were great, yet fracturing (more on that in a bit), but even with the return of haste as our attunement stat, there was never enough of it on gear to return us back to the days when the gameplay was faster and more fluid. It still felt really staid and unadventurous.

Add this to the fact that every fight was feeling like a remix of another fight from another tier, and well, you can see where this is going.

It was around this time I was made sole GM. Our previous council (Thunder ran with a 3-5 person Council, making the decisions on how the guild was run) was largely ineffectual, with most of the previous council AFK for months at a time, or doing next to nothing worthy of the position, and potential replacements were thin on the ground.

Then in February we went through a guild split. Relationships were damaged, friends lost, some were later regained, but the damage had been done. Our heroic BRF progression took a full 2 month hit, and we stalled out until April. During that time we slowly rebuilt the raid side that was left, although at times it looked dark, and as though we would have to give up raiding as a guild for at least Tier 17, or worse the remainder of the expansion.

I even left the guild at the time, just to get away from all the drama, because the pressure from the split, and being sole GM was taking its toll on me and I started having panic attacks as a result.

After a week away and many pleas from those left in the guild I rejoined, and due to the fine and sterling work done by our recruitment officers and our new Council we began recruiting the seeds of the side we have today.

We’re as strong a side now, stronger perhaps, than we were before the guild split and things were and very much are looking up.

However Prot Pally tanking was still not doing it for me any more.

I love my hunter. She’s been the character I’ve got to max level after my pally for the past 2 expansions. I love the pets, the collection aspect. I love the specs (BM in particular, and MM is definitely growing on me) and the fact that there’s an active and supportive Hunter community out there, something Prot Paladins sorely lack.

I switched in my head about 3 months ago, but it practically took a new raid tier to make the transition official, as I kept getting dragged back to tanking most nights, despite the fact we had 4 or 5 active tanks on the roster.

So I was never able to even start building the fluency, the class muscle memory that only comes from concentration on a specific class. This is the reason everything was so easy for me on the pally.

So with the release of 6.2 and Hellfire Citadel, I’ve been able to make that change 100%, and I am now, for the remainder of WoD at the very least, a hunter.

Now I have the opportunity to begin schooling myself fully and at least try to acquire some semblance of class memory. The learning of all the little things like knowing my cast times innately. Unconsciously knowing my focus levels without constant referral to my focus bar. Knowing and getting used to my various cooldowns, and learning when best to use them to the raid’s benefit.

The most fun and satisfying part is actually having a performance metric that I can visibly measure and push myself to improve on night after night, week after week, over the remaining months of Warlords.

Warlords itself has demonstrably been the worst expansion overall, and I don’t think anyone outside of a hipster minority disputes that.

It hasn’t been fun, so fun has to be wrung from it wherever possible, and lest I quit the game altogether (I would honestly miss the guild too much), this is how I wring it out 😉

Twitter Game Giveaways: Full Details & Restrictions #sarsfreegamegifts

Ok, so I’ve got quite a stash of games to give away that I’ve already purchased on Steam, and have got duplicates of in Bundles, or as mystery gifts from the likes of @Bundlestars.

So what I’ll do is give away 1 game/addon every Saturday, starting on 11th July. Giveaways will be at whatever time on a Saturday I get all the entries collated and pick an entrant at random.

How to go about entering?

Follow me on Twitter, and retweet the giveaway tweet you’ll see each Saturday after the previous week’s winner has been announced.

 

Each giveaway will be open therefore for a full week before a winner is chosen. This giveaway streak will last for about 3-4 months or so before I run out of spare keys to give to people, and will take place at random thereafter as I get stuff that I can’t use personally.

Also, fair warning: Some of these keys may not be transferable, and alas I don’t know which ones or if any at all will fall into this category until I give them away. So apologies if any of you get a key that is unredeemable. You’re getting a chance to get free stuff, no complainers!

What am I giving away?

Some weeks it’ll be full retail games, other weeks it’ll be addons for games (not the actual games themselves). Note that nearly all these full retail games (if not all) are Steam based, so you’ll need a Steam account to redeem these if you’re lucky enough to win. And for some of them I may contact you for your steam username if you’re chosen, as they’re steam gifts which are tradeable between friends.

Some examples of stuff to give away (not in the giveaway order, that will be random):

  1. Wildstar – full retail edition. Gets you grandfathered in for when it goes F2P in the autumn!
  2. Cities: Skylines – full retail edition.
  3. King’s Bounty: Crossworlds – full retail edition
  4. Gunpoint – full retail edition
  5. Bioshock 1 – full retail edition
  6. Bioshock 2 – full retail edition
  7. Steamworld Dig – full retail edition
  8. Darkness 2 – full retail edition
  9. Murdered: Soul Suspect – full retail edition
  10. Company of Heroes – full retail edition
  11. Cities in Motion 2 – full retail edition
  12. Spec Ops: The Line – full retail edition
  13. Half Life 2 – full retail edition
  14. Half Life 2: Episode 2 – full retail edition
  15. Uplink – full retail edition
  16. Frozen Synapse Prime – full retail edition
  17. Magicka Wizard Wars Exclusive Staff and Blade: Addon for Magicka Wizard Wars
  18. PAYDAY 2 Electarodent and Titan Masks: Payday 2 DLCs

Other stuff will be added to the pile as and when I get them and can’t use em!

Again, some of these may be unredeemable, and apologies ahead of time if they aren’t. I’m subject to the whims of Humble Bundle & other bundle companies rules on giving away of keys for games I already own.

Good luck to all entrants over the coming months, and look out for the first giveaway tweet this Saturday for Cities: Skylines!

 

An issued challenge, certain to be failed.

A challenge.

To those who were against flight’s return.

To those who took great joy in the thousands of posts and tweets of those expressing their dismay at flight’s removal.

To those who cried “fucking whiners” repeatedly in response to the above.

To those who rolled their eyes when people un-subbed from the game because it was such a “minor thing”.

To those who kept telling us that flight wasn’t necessary and that there were plenty of flight points and mage tower locations to get around Draenor “just fine” with.

To those amongst you who were more than happy to see a fundamentally fun part of the game ripped from people that it mattered to greatly, because it didn’t matter to you.

To those who were gloating over the past 2½ weeks because other people’s sadness fuels your happiness.

 

I give you this challenge:

Hold to your principles.

Play the game YOUR way, not the way anyone else wants you to play it.

Don’t go through all the hoops required for flight.

Don’t enable flying for all your characters.

Don’t go back on your convictions that ground based game-play is the best way to play World of Warcraft.

Don’t betray your principles.

Prove that travel in Draenor is fine without flight, and that flight points and mage tower locations are “just fine”.

Prove that flight is “only a minor thing” and not worth all that work to go through to get it.

I dare you.

I’ll be watching your meta-achievements on the armory, don’t you worry.

 

I’m willing to bet that not a single solitary one of you killjoys will stick to your guns.

I bet not a single one of you will hold to your convictions, and that your “convictions” and your “principles” will turn out to be nothing more than the trolling words of some very sad individuals.

 

Go on then.

PROVE ME WRONG.

Why is Flying like a Start Menu?

So, this thing happened last night…

[blizzardquote author=”Ion Hazzikostas” link=”http://blue.mmo-champion.com/topic/376418-dev-watercooler-flying-in-draenor/” source=”http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/blog/19800551/dev-watercooler-flying-in-draenor-10-06-2015″]

Dev Watercooler – Flying in Draenor

We appreciate the spirited discussion on the topic of flying. The subject has brought out passionate viewpoints and sparked insightful conversations on our official forums and blogs, on community sites, and in chat channels. Your feedback has been a valuable part of the ongoing conversations within Blizzard as well, and today, we’d like to share some updated plans for how we’ll handle flight going forward.

The Thrill of Discovery

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.

However, while we firmly believe that keeping your feet on the ground is a key part of discovery in WoW, we also recognize that breaking free from those restrictions can be fun and rewarding as well, especially for those who’ve already fully experienced the game’s world content. With that in mind, we’re planning some changes in the near future that will allow players to enjoy their hard-earned flying mounts in Draenor—in a way that doesn’t compromise the excitement of ground-based exploration.

Mastering the Outdoor World

In an upcoming Public Test Realm build, we will be introducing a new meta-achievement called Draenor Pathfinder. You’ll earn this achievement in Patch 6.2 by mastering the outdoor environment of Draenor—exploring Draenor’s zones, collecting 100 treasures in Draenor, completing the Draenor Loremaster and Securing Draenor achievements, and raising the three new Tanaan Jungle reputations to Revered. Initially, this achievement will award a rylak mount: the Soaring Skyterror, one of the native beasts that roam Draenor’s skies. Players will remain ground-bound on Draenor until a small follow-up patch (6.2.x), when all players who have earned Draenor Pathfinder on at least one character will unlock the ability to fly in Draenor on all their level 90+ characters.

We believe this strikes the right balance between ensuring ground-based content lives up to its full potential, while providing players who’ve already fully experienced Draenor’s outdoor world extra freedom to “break the rules.” This also provides a general blueprint going forward for content to come. Players will explore new and undiscovered lands from the ground, and then once they’ve fully mastered those environments—a notion that continues to evolve with each new expansion—they can take to the skies and experience the world from a new vantage point.

Thank you for your heartfelt feedback. We’ll see you in (and soon, above) Tanaan Jungle.[/blizzardquote]

 

So, that’s a win then?

Ok, there’s a bit of work to do before getting it, and it won’t be coming straight away in 6.2, but it’s coming. Finally.

The pre-req’s are mostly able to be fulfilled right now, bar the Tanaan rep grinds. And there’s a free rylak mount for completing the 6.1 parts (although the mount won’t come along until 6.2), PLUS it will very sensibly unlock flying in Draenor for all your level 90+ characters once completed on one character.

To say I’m happy about this right now is an understatement. I honestly expected Blizzard to dig their heels in over this issue, and this is a decent compromise.

One of the reps is a grindfest, but at least it only needs done once. And this is now the model Blizz expects to use going forwards.

Let’s just hope that going forwards doesn’t mean flying won’t be enabled until the last major patch of each expansion and then have to grind out additional newly inserted reps, otherwise that’s going to mean flight only in the last few months of each expansion pack, which would be a bit disingenuous, but we’ll see.

So will this change my plans to quit raiding in WoW, play Wildstar and possibly FFXIV?

Put it this way, I bought the Heavensward expansion the day before yesterday, and I don’t intend to waste my money 🙂

And I’ve also got a Wildstar sub paid for quite a while into the future, and the game is still enormous fun. Unfortunately with a recent assignment for my degree due in I’ve not had much time to play, but that should hopefully change soon 🙂

My WoW sub is still, for the moment, cancelled and has 3-4 months left on it at the moment. Once patch 6.2.x hits we’ll see about re-subbing, or using WoW tokens.

Plus there’s still the very sticky issue surrounding ilevels being unfair towards certain specs & classes in HFC that’s still not resolved.

 

And as for the title question?

Well sometimes big companies get so drunk off of their own success that they get to thinking that they can predict and then in turn dictate what way their customers should use their products in fundamental ways.

Big mistake.

But at least sometimes, just sometimes, these big companies have the sobriety borne of customer fury to see when they’re wrong, and make a compromise between their vision and what their customers actually want in terms of usability.

Result?

I can’t wait for Windows 10! 🙂

Content vs Consumption: The lie behind the spin.

Why Blizzard are REALLY cutting flight

Click it to get the original size graphic!

Update: Forgot to include the Pandaren starter zone, so that takes Mists up to 11 zones!

The Infographic says it all. I may have to take another run at those Wrath figures, because they do seem a tad high, despite the fact the Wrath zones had tonnes of quests, and there were all the dungeon and raid quests (RIP) and all the Argent tournament related quests.

The resulting figures do state pretty clearly that so far in WoD we’re still sitting at about 66% of the content of the previously most sparse expansion, ironically Burning Crusade.

Despite the fact that SoO was a thing for 14 months, because we were repeatedly told that WoD was taking so long because they were getting their new super-sized WoW team up to speed.

This was a group of employees resourced from the corpse of Titan, and figures ranged from 150-200% of the size of the team that produced Mists etc.

The other thing that’s very clear is that Cataclysm was one hell of a job content wise. Over 3 times the content of WoD, 2-3 months faster, with 50-66% of the staff.

Can we re-hire those guys again?

And I didn’t even mention that flight being removed is pretty likely being done because it means they can stretch out less content even further as players travel slower without flight, especially when they’re inconvenienced by packs of mobs or terrain funneled detours, travelling at 160-200% speed as opposed to 400-430% speed with flight.

DAMN.

Anyhow, feel free to share and retweet the resulting tweet from this post!

🙂

 

Update: Audrena pointed out the 6.0 stealth nerfs to overall mounted speed:

Forgot to mention that above, so thanks Audrena! 🙂

Mythic Difficulty: Mythic failure?

So, looking at the stats released by MMO Champion it looks like Mythic Raiding has been an abject failure in terms of participation numbers.

A few days ago I guesstimated that Mythic was catering to between 2 to 5% of the player base.

Looks like that estimation was absolutely right on the nose.

At best, in BRF, 5.15% of players have killed a Mythic boss. That was Beastlord. Oregorger and Gruul, the 2nd & 3rd most popular encounters in terms of kills were at 4.6% and less than 4% at 3.99% respectively.

Halfway through Mythic, only 3.27% of players are getting kills (Flamebender).

Beastlord: 5.15%

Oregorger: 4.6%

Gruul: 3.99%

Hans/Franz: 3.47%

Flamebender: 3.27%

Kromog: 2.48%

Thogar: 1.95%

Maidens: 1.23%

Blast Furnace: 0.8%

Blackhand: 0.4%

Would you consider Mythic a success when the latter half of the hardest content is being seen by less than 2.5% of the player base?

LFR and overall figures however are also down from participation numbers in SoO,  but the decline is particularly egregious at the higher difficulties.

Why?

Because Blizzard put so much time and effort into Mythic, gambling with player retention by locking out a lot of players from even competing at the highest difficulty level, and these figures back this up.

What it also proves is that LFR players prefer to get proper tier pieces over welfare “LFR tier” sets, where the set bonuses can be counted towards the 2 & 4 piece set bonuses on gear found in normal mode and above.

With something like a 10% drop in participation in LFR, it is still by far the most popular method that players use to see the raid content. The admittedly excellent LFG tool implemented in WoD has been somewhat hamstrung by idiots looking Curve achievements, even after a week of the content being open. Furthermore most of these LFG Nazis are completely under-geared and patently looking a carry to achievements and titles.

But the paucity of player participation in Mythic raiding is the headline news here.

Will Blizz revert to the old SoO model of Flex/Normal/Heroic?

For those remaining in WoW I hope so, I really do.

Deliberately gating the highest difficulty behind body requirements, in an expansion that’s lost more subscribers than any before it in the game’s decade of existence, meaning getting those bodies has been problematic to say the least, has seen Mythic falling somewhat flat on its face.

Outside of a few thousand players, the general population in WoW, including the average raider, doesn’t really give two shits about World Firsts. Certainly the non-WoW larger gaming community gives less than zero fucks about it, and it’s hardly a draw into the game for anyone outside of WoW, except in the minds of those aforementioned several thousand.

 

#NoFlyNoSub #BringBackFlying

The 2 tags that defined my weekend 😛

And Wow. The last few days have been a flurry of activity on the website, all over the no-flying announcement by Watcher.

Not least there was a real spike in site traffic over the weekend and the first half of this week, which saw traffic into the thousands and 160 times the normal daily reader count 🙂

Looking at the traffic referral links, the last blog post about flight has been linked and re-tweeted all over the place, from the official US forums to MMO-Champion, from Twitch TV channels even so far as a knitting website (hello ladies! 😉 ), right through to even being used as a reference in one guy’s sub cancellation request!

The vast majority, and I do mean VAST majority of comments relating to the blog post were in strong agreement, and the feedback I received on it were 98% FOR wanting flight returned.

There were 2 (count em, TWO) negative comments in reply, one calling me a Blizzard fanboi (lol), the other a whiner 🙂

I’ve often found when the majority of ppl disagree with certain people’s world view it’s “a lot of noise by a bunch of whiners”. Oddly though when they agree on something with that same person they suddenly transform into ” the voice of the players”.

/pinchofsalt

Heh.

Anyway, there is a live streamed Q&A with Watcher to be held over a week from now.

June 6th.

Seriously, leaving the community hanging for 2 whole weeks from the no flight announcement to the Q&A reeks of cowardice. Hoping that the furore caused by the interview in Polygon will die down, so they can run through a bunch of softball pre-approved questions where they’ll essentially re-iterate what they’ve already decided.

I doubt that they will either address or acknowledge the massive numbers who I’ve seen unsubbing over the past 6 days, and it’s A LOT. In as many places as I saw the blog post linked I saw the same reaction time and time again.

People were pissed over several things, but stayed subbed on the same assumption that lead them to buy the expansion, that flight would be coming in soon.

However as soon as Watcher dropped the bomb on Friday past, people have been cancelling their accounts left right and center, and posting proof in forums, on Twitter and YouTube. So it’s not just people paying lip service to the idea. They, like me, have actually followed through and really cancelled their subscription.

I totted up after cancelling how much I’d spent with Blizzard over the past 7+ years, and it’s demonstrably over £2000, more than a quarter of which was in the past 15 months alone.

If even committed, big spending players like me are quitting over this, then Blizzard look like they are in fact, whilst not commuting suicide, certainly biting off the hand that literally feeds them.

MMO-C have had a poll running for 6 days about this, and for 6 days, regardless of the number of votes, the percentages have remained the same:

64% want flight.

36% don’t want it.

That’s a pretty risky gamble to take with your livelihood, when you’re pissing off two-thirds of your potential revenue stream.

All for what? Potential production cost savings down the line? At what point would you be saving more in production costs vs the lost revenue from sub losses from those that quit over this?

From a business standpoint it’s daft beyond belief. They have a bigger team now, so surely they should be INCREASING production costs? Especially after WoD has been, and looking at 6.2 will continue to be, the poorest expansion yet.

Not just in content, but in terms of quality, customer satisfaction, fun, and good creative ideas.

I said onTwitter at the weekend that Warlords is so bad, it’s actually improved my estimation of Cataclysm.

IT’S ACTUALLY IMPROVED A 4 YEAR OLD EXPANSION.

Sheesh, that’s taken some doing, but it managed it nonetheless.

Anyway, I’ve put a transcription of the last blog post up as a video, and I’ll be putting another video up tomorrow night, so keep an eye out for that 😉

Removing Flight in WoW: Why it’s suicidal by Blizzard.

So it happened. Blizzard, via Ion Hazzikostas (AKA Watcher) finally admitted that flight won’t be returning.

Not just in WoD, oh no. That would be bad enough. But the big news here, and the one that has the players up in absolutely riotous arms at the moment is: Future expansions will not allow flying either. Ever.

That’s right, no flight ever again in any future WoW expansions.

Wow. Again, not the game, just wow. Again, not in a good way.

Subscriber numbers only really shot off like a rocket in TBC, the expansion where flight was added in, and they’ve lost 3 million+ subscribers in WoD where flight has been removed, which, if you need reminding, is not only the single biggest one quarter decline in the game’s history, but the single biggest decline in the game’s history during an expansion. And we’re only halfway through this one.

Can we spot a trend or causal factor here? Apparently Blizzard can’t, but I’m pretty fucking sure the rest of us can.

Flight for me is imperative in WoW. I’ve struggled in WoD, I really have. Being forcibly grounded in my garrison more or less because flight isn’t permitted has felt like being jailed. It’s been claustrophobic, limiting & smothering. A massive part of the game for me has always been the freedom to explore. That’s what I am, an explorer. I love to see new things, old things from new vantage points, vistas that no-one else has seen before or out of the way locations that few would ever bother to visit. One of the first achievements I rack up in every expansion previous to this has always been the Exploration achievement. I only picked it up a couple of weeks ago, after 7 months in Draenor. That should say everything right there.

The ability to have control over where you go, at the pace you decide, as often as you want, when you want it. The feeling of soaring into the sky and seeing the ground fall away beneath you until everything’s a teeny-tiny dot (or more realistically LoD clipped out). The ability to sit mid-air and relax, just looking out over the terrain, making a decision of what to do next, where to go.

We won’t ever have that again.

Flight vs No Flight

With Flight, there are so many possibilities for things to do when actively out in the world:

Oh, there’s an archaeology node just over there? Ok, let’s go!

Ah, there’s a quest I’ve missed on my way through levelling, I’ll quickly go do that, I’ve got 5 minutes before I have to go make dinner.

I wonder what the view’s like from up there?

I wonder what’s over there?

Ooh, that looks interesting what IS that?

 

Without flight, all of that quickly becomes:

Oh, there’s an archaeology node way over there? Behind that pile of mobs? Pfft, fuck it, I’ll stay in my garrison.

Ah, there’s a quest I’ve missed on my way through levelling. It’ll probably take 20 minutes to finish off by the time I ride over there and fight my way past umpteen mobs. Don’t have time for that, gotta make dinner in 5 minutes. Pfft, fuck it, I’ll stay in my garrison.

I’ll never know what the view’s like from up there. /sad hearth back to garrison.

I really cba to see what’s over there. It’ll just be a pain getting there. /ennui fuelled hearthstone back to garrison.

Ooh, that looks interesting, but it’ll be a massive hassle getting past all that terrain, and I’ll probably have to make a massive detour just to get up that small hill. Pfft, fuck it, I’ll go back to my garrison.

 

Lack of flight kills any trace of interest in me about going out into the world. Can you imagine what a pain in the arse archaeology is in Arrak, a zone so thick with mobs you can barely find a spot to AFK in? Exploring Arrak, Gorgrond, FFR, hell any of the zones, is at best, AT BEST, irritating without flight. At worst? A reason not to. A reason not to engage. A reason not to bother. A reason to just stay in your garrison.

And let’s face it, staying in our garrisons is something a LOT of us have been doing pretty much all expansion. Not out in the world, exploring, engaging, consuming content or playing with others. Nope, it’s been solo-idling in our garrisons, waiting for follower missions to complete so we can click-click-click-done our way through re-sending them out again. Pretty much a Facebook style experience that could very easily be re-created on mobile platforms with very little effort.

Very little effort.

Fitting that, because that’s the amount of effort Blizzard are putting into WoW these days. Since 5.4 in fact. That’s why we don’t have flight. Because no flight means that they can put in less content and have it stretch out longer and further. Because you’re having to fight and get rid of the train of mobs you’ve pulled trying to get to B from A before you can tackle or find your quest objective, which frequently is a single click experience to collect something. Compelling gameplay indeed.

Or worse still once fighting your way through to B, to be told you have to actually go to C via a massive detour and kill X mobs and pick up a pile of “stuff” from them, and then come back to B again via a massive detour before moving onto D, E and back to your garrison for the hand-in…

I’m looking at you Harrison Jones…

All the while having to navigate terrain that’s badly made, meaning the obvious path isn’t actually the path, and frequently you have to make those aforementioned massive detours, again through tonnes of mobs, to actually get to somewhere which was literally yards from your starting position on the map. An exercise in frustration to say the very least.

Realistically Blizzard could have made the levelling experience a bunch of solo-scenarios in areas similar to those ingame atm, and have another solo instance with your garrison in it. For all the over-world travelling that most people do, they’d never notice the difference.

 

Further compound disinterest: Screwing with raid drops

The other slice of absolute genius that Blizzard managed to drop this week (they’re on a roll folks!) was the changes to itemisation coming in Hellfire Citadel, the raid coming in 6.2:

[blizzardquote author=”Some bellend” link=”The blue tracker link” source=”The official post link“]In World of Warcraft Patch 6.2, we’re making some changes to our Raid itemization with the goal of improving the Personal Loot experience, creating more interesting distinctions among items, and providing rewards that more closely reflect the challenge players face to earn them.

[Snipped out the Personal Loot stuff, not relevant]

Secondary Stats
In the early days of World of Warcraft, Raid bosses didn’t have that many items to drop—there were only 150 items in all of Molten Core, and more than half of those were set items. This small amount of total gear in a Raid meant there might only have been one or two items per slot in an entire tier that were appropriate for your class—and if you were a Hunter or a Shaman in a place like Molten Core, that meant your only option for a belt in the entire Raid zone was your class set piece. On top of that, if an item wasn’t class restricted, it was shared between many other specializations with wildly different ideas of which stats were good or bad. When very few items were available to fill any given slot, the desire to make sure they were useful for many specs led us to keep from straying too far from a 50/50 split on secondary stats.

As the game has evolved, we’ve increased the number of items that bosses drop per kill, as well as the variety of items they drop. We’ve made secondary stats more competitive with one another, and we’ve reduced the frequency of oddball items that were only useful to a few classes. This made more items useful to more people, but eroded the distinction and sense of identity that items held in the past. Too rare became the situation where you knew for sure that this drop was your awesome piece of equipment, and that feeling of finding a truly special item came less often than we would have liked.

To help bolster that sense of excitement, we’ve decided to shake things up when it comes to how secondary stats appear on Raid loot in this patch. Inside Hellfire Citadel, you’ll see a wider range of high and low secondary stat values on items than you have in a long time. Alongside some tuning adjustments that should ensure your attuned stats are the right choice, this change should also make it easier for you to identify which items are good for you in a more interesting way than just “equip the highest Item Level.” Our goal is to help make Hellfire Citadel Raid items more distinct and meaningful to you, and we hope you’ll let us know how things feel once you start collecting your new gear.

Item Level Ramp
As this expansion has progressed, it’s become increasingly apparent that there is a mismatch between challenge and reward for guilds that delve deep into large Raid zones. When the Item Level for rewards across a given difficulty of a zone is flat, a caster staff from Heroic Imperator Mar’gok is largely equal in power to one from Heroic Tectus, despite Mar’gok being the far more challenging boss. We often see and hear about guilds killing a late-zone boss like Blast Furnace for the first time, only to disenchant most of the drops because everyone already has loot from earlier bosses in those slots. On top of that, many guilds move on to higher difficulties before they fully complete a difficulty, because Heroic Darmac loot is stronger than Normal Blackhand loot—and you can get it for much less effort.

To address this, we are structuring Hellfire Citadel so that the Item Level of the loot awarded by bosses increases as players proceed deeper into the zone, culminating in Archimonde—providing both the ultimate challenge and the ultimate reward.

We’re doing this for a few reasons. First, it feels good to get higher-level items as you progress through a zone. One of the more prominent pieces of feedback we got about Blackrock Foundry was that it felt unrewarding for challenging bosses like Iron Maidens to drop loot that was just as good as—or possibly worse than—Gruul’s.

This also breaks up where your best items are in a good way. The power of the items that you can get in a particular slot will differ based on how far through the zone you are. The best boots for you will likely be different if you are on Normal Gorefiend than they would be if you’re on Heroic Mannoroth, which would be different than if you’re on Mythic Iron Reaver, and so on.

We can’t overstate how much we appreciate your feedback on topics like this, especially when you’ve taken the time to join us on the Patch 6.2 PTR and experienced the changes for yourself. As always, everyone’s encouraged to join us and other testers in the PTR Discussion forums as we prepare to unleash Hellfire.[/blizzardquote]

So, let’s TL:DR that pile shall we?

First off, and most importantly, Weapons, trinkets and tier pieces will all be differing item levels. Now, if that was the same for each player that might be fine, but oh no, it’s sure as shit not the same for each player. Fuck no.

Players that use 2H Swords or Int Staves will be able to get the max iLevel weapons (705 for normal, 720 for heroic and 735 for Mythic), whilst.. well, here’s the breakdown:

1H Strength Sword: 695 + 700
2H Strength Sword: 690 + 705
Wands: 695 only
Agi Dagger: 690 + 700
Int Staff: 695 + 700 + 705
Agi Staff: 695 Only

So whilst Int Staff & 2H sword users get a nice 705 weapon from normal mode Archie, Agi staff users (Monks & Druids) get shafted (get it? Shafted, with a staff? Pfft, fuck it, I’ll go back to my garrison) and casters that prefer a Wand get “rewarded” with a lowly 695 weapon for their equal efforts. A full 10 item levels lower.

Add into that, various players’ trinkets will also follow the same mixed iLevel ethos where one player’s BiS trinket is 705, whilst the player next to him, her BiS trinket is perhaps 690, 15 iLevels lower.

And furthermore, secondary stats being skewed one way or the other will add further complication into the gearing equation, in an expansion where Blizzard were supposedly simplifying gearing.

Suddenly we’ll be going from
“It’s a higher iLevel, but it has slightly less of my preferred secondary (attunement) stat, but the increase in iLevel will compensate for that” to:
“It’s a higher iLevel but it has way less of my attunement stat, will the increase in iLevel compensate for that?”

It’ll get to the point where we’ll need to sim shit out just to figure out if something’s actually an upgrade, given how instrumental our secondary stats have become now.

GG Blizz, you did a really great job at simplifying that gearing issue. Bring back reforging ffs.

In fact bring out a store mount, that flies, with a reforging vendor on the side, and allow ONLY that mount to fly in current content going forwards.

Ker-fucking-ching.

 

So with all that said, Blizzard have in all honesty killed off my interest in playing the game past Warlords.

Reliability and fairness in raid drops is something that SHOULD be sacrosanct, set in stone, that one guy’s gear will be the same in iLevel as the next. That they’ll both have a fair shake of the stick when it comes to drops and that you’ll never feel jipped or robbed of equality when it comes to the main reason, if we’re completely honest, that a lot of raiders play the game for: Gear. Lewtz. Purplez. Epixx. Take that equality and fairness away from players and they will not be happy, and I don’t think a lot of the community has caught onto this atm, as I think a lot of them are assuming that there are drops for everyone at each differing item level.

There isn’t.

And add in the lack of flight in future expansions, robbing players of control of their agency over their own travel, their ability to take on whatever the hell they feel like taking on at any particular moment, given their own personal schedules and availability. We shouldn’t have to plan out 30+ mins just to tackle 4/5 quests in a quest chain (looking at you again here Jonesy).

With the player base ageing alongside the game, players have less and less time to devote to the game in a single stretch. The obvious exception to this is raiding, where we can set aside a defined portion of our time to devote to this structured group activity. Sometimes for some of us, getting that time every week is a negotiation process, because we have wives, husbands, children, jobs, other interests all tugging at our available time meaning that we just want to dip into WoW and get something done in the 10/20/30 minutes we have free before the spouse gets home, the dinner needs made, you need to get the kids ready for bed or before you have to go to work.

 

The Devs are losing the will and/or the plot

Putting less and less content into the game? SoO lasted a full 14 months before WoD launched, and that one-shot per character content is stale as hell 8 months and a laughable 6.1 patch later.

Stretching the meagre content that is there tissue thin by giving us irritating busy work with random mobs between objectives?

Raising not only subscription prices, but expansion pack prices too? For what? Less content?

Putting real money Store Mounts in the Blizzard shop that we will never be able to use to their full potential in any and all future content? (Full disclosure: I bought the Mystic Runesaber last week before all the above shit came out)

Selling gear for real money (Apexis 675 gear is being sold for gold in 6.2, and buying WoW Tokens gets you that gold, so…)

Communicating less and less with the community. The developers have en masse abandoned the forums & twitter, funnelling all their official communications through their @Warcraftdevs twitter account, or through non-wow specific 3rd party website interviews. See how Watcher info-dumped bad news regarding no more flight on a Friday afternoon before a long bank holiday weekend on a 3rd party website completely unrelated to World of Warcraft, rather than on a Monday morning on the official website?

Listening to the community less and less. A community that is desperately trying to make you see sense about the inane decisions that you seem to keep stumbling into time and time again this expansion?

Listening to the vocal minority far too much. Mythic raiding only caters to about 2-5% of the player base as a whole. It makes the rest of us feel 2nd class. And only a very small minority have supported the no more flight stance on forums and on twitter. Yet these are the people that the devs are listening to far too much. Not the overwhelming majority that are in outrage over Watcher’s revelation yesterday. TOO MUCH ECHO-CHAMBER EFFECT.

 

It’s just really compounded failure upon failure, with lack of foresight and stubborn-headedness.

I have 4 months left to run on my current 6 months sub, and 10 times more than I need to fill out the rest of Warlords with WoW Tokens. After that? I think I’m done.

Unless Blizzard do a 180 on this decision, and let’s face it, that’s not something they’re strangers to, breaking promises they made before people handed over their money just to relent on those promises once they had the punter’s cash safely tucked away.

“We won’t have flight at the start, but we’ll likely re-introduce it pretty soon after launch”

/grabcash

Ker-ching!

“We won’t be re-introducing flight in future content ever again”

 

It all points to a company that doesn’t care. That doesn’t care about subs numbers, or the future of the game. It’s like WoW has become this huge burden to them, a chore to maintain, an obstruction to their future endeavours, something they feel obliged to do whilst working on other stuff they really want to do. Like Hearthstone, HotS, the Warcraft movie, Overwatch etc.

It’s a real shame, because it used to be the greatest MMO in existence, one that we thought would run for another 10 years or more. But it seems once they got over that particular anniversary, any and all enthusiasm for carrying on suddenly evaporated.

It’s the keystone for the rest of the Blizzard gaming universe for me, the one I mainly play whilst playing Blizzards other games on the periphery, such as D3, HS, SC2 etc Without that, I’ll likely not bother with those in future either. Hell my Steam back catalogue is probably ready to file for divorce right about now and file for maintenance money.

Perhaps they should just give us Sargeras in the next expansion and finally call it a day and shutter further development (no, they haven’t already done that, as much as it may seem so), before the remainder of the player-base does that for them.

 

And if you’ve read this entire thing, massive well done, because this is probably the biggest blog post I’ve ever done here, at just over 3,200 words. /salute