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Category: News

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

Warlords has lost 3m subs in 3 months… WoW

Wow.

Not the game, just pure unadulterated astonishment. Wow.

3 Million subscribers in 3 months since the last subs call. Thats….amazing, and not in a good way. If you want the full details straight from the horse’s mouth, you can get the press release here (pdf), (update: with the more easily digestible slideshow info here).

For the rest of you, the figures quoted at Warlords’ launch (and the latest subs call) was “over” 10 million subscribers (if you remember as I do, they did say over 10 million), and the figures just released this evening confirm that the game now has 7.1 million active subscribers. And yes, players in the East (IE China/Korea etc) get the blame for the majority of the losses. Again. If that was actually always the case when they stated it then surely the East must be into negative subscriber numbers by now?

Anyhoo, sad as it is, I’m never big enough to resist saying I told you so, but…. yeah.

In a few months we are likely to be below 6 million subs again. People are leaving/quitting/stopping playing in droves at the moment, and as mentioned earlier, guilds are collapsing as a result and the game feels barren of content and players. Blizzard’s lack of commentary on this is also telling, because you know when they’re not talking about something that’s of concern to a lot of the players still left, then that’s concerning.

I know I said in a few months (from then) we’d be below 6 million, and if we continue losing 1 million subscribers a month, because that’s the leaving rate at the moment, by the time 6.2 crawls its way out of Blizzards festering underbelly, then that’s exactly the situation we will be finding ourselves in.

On the bright side…

WoW Tokens may help to shore up the exodus, hence their speedy introduction, but their introduction won’t have had the slightest bit of impact on these figures, as they were introduced after the end of March 2015 when these figures are including up to.

Speaking of WoW Tokens, they’ve been a handy introduction, both for sellers and buyers. I’ve bought 4 from Blizzard and made 170k gold selling them so far. I’ve got the spare cash atm so why the hell not. I’ve been able to buy myself some fun stuff, like an Ethereal Soul Trader, which I’ve wanted for ages, along with some mounts and other pets, mainly from TCG origins.

But gold making in general has been pretty easy this expansion, which has been fun. Making over 2000 gold per day on 2 characters just from garrison follower missions means it’s just flowing in, and getting to the point where it’s starting to become meaningless. No, I’m nowhere near the gold cap atm (I have about 350k atm, and had about 400k this morning before buying the above mentioned pets & mount), but I imagine that players with a server full of 100’s with level 3 garrisons and full suites of Treasure Hunters are just…

So will 6.2 be enough to shore up the game in the longer term?

Well it’s definitely starting to look as though it’s going to be the final patch of the expansion. With the legendary ring quest chain reaching its conclusion, and Archimonde appearing as the final Hellfire Citadel boss, all the signs are certainly pointing that way.

If 6.2 comes out in June, as it must if we’re still to have a subscriber base left, then that gives us a potential for an Xmas expansion launch of whatever comes next, announced of course some time before at the next Blizzcon.

Put your money on it Scrooge McDuck.

Let’s just hope the next expansion follows the Star Trek film production philosophy, as WoW expansion packs have done thus far, alternating between good and bad since Wrath.

Wrath: Good

Cata: Bad

Mists: Great

WoD: God awful

Next? Fucking amazing? Please Blizz?

Anyway, that’s the current state of the game, and I don’t think anyone that’s been playing in WoD has been greatly shocked by the announcement today. Nope, not at all.

(Update: Edited the article slightly, as I had the quarter in mind when writing this, and of course it launched 6 months ago)

(Update 2: @matthewwrossi was wrong on twitter, I was right, the last subs call stated that WoW had retained the 10 million subs, 3m of which it lost since)

On the hunt…

So, given that WoD is universally agreed as being dull as all hell, I’ve taken to getting my hunter geared for raiding purposes.

This is usually something I don’t do until towards the end of an expansion, until no more gear is on the horizon for my pally and no more content is coming down the pipeline. However the ball aching lack of anything meaningful to do ATM means I need to keep myself busy lest I just quit completely.

So LFR got its first complete run through from me at the weekend, and I managed to get the hunter up 13 ilevels from 635 to 648, and likely over 650 before the reset once I get the 2nd stage of the legendary ring quest done.

Which is likely to be as far as I get with her on it, because there is absolutely no fucking way on earth I am going through this bloody rune phase again on another char.

An abysmal quest chain and grind all round, at least the welfare legendary in Mists had an interesting story and protagonist to go with it. This time?

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwn.

Criminal waste of Tony Amendola as Gandalf Medivh Khadgar, and just a really grindy grind for such a meagre reward at the end of it all – a ring with an on use effect that can be trolled so fucking hard by strangers in LFRs/LFDs. Because for some unfathomable stupid ass reason, Blizzard are seeing fit to not only give the final legendary ring an on use effect, but one that is shared by everyone in your role in the raid.

So all the dps will be at the mercy of trolls for their +25% damage buff going off at the right time, ditto healers and tanks.

And the tank one is just badly thought out in practice. Its a shared damage reduction and heal based off of the amount mitigated. But only one tank is usually actively tanking the boss at any one time in a standard boss encounter, so therefore the shared buff is wasted for the off tank.

/facedesk

Seriously. I don’t know what the hell is going on with Blizzard’s wow team these days, but heads really should roll once WoD is done and dusted after 6.2, because at this point Cataclysm has lost its crown as king of the shit expansions.

And I’m getting tired of hearing myself berate the poorness of this expansion. I really am.

At least Beast Mastery is viable again.

Sigh

Pillars of Eternally writing Sheet Music

I’m really enjoying Pillars of Eternity so far. The storyline appears very interesting, pretty Planescape-ish in tone, and the classes seem good and varied.

As per the video, the class I chose for my first game was a female Moon Godlike Priest, and whilst she’s not a straight up healer archetype, she can throw out the occasional heal here and there, as well as dish out the damage 

The game by all accounts racks up at about 40+ hours of gameplay, so a real epic along the lines of the Baldur’s Gate series, which should keep me occupied for a good while


I’m going to try and tie down a specific day of the week for new videos, be they WoW-related, gameplay of other games or whatever, but I want to try and get regular content up on YouTube. First up though I want to try and get a new intro together.

Believe it or not this involves the use of sheet music and me writing the music for the intro!

This also involves me re-learning musical notation (I used to play multiple instruments as a child/teenager) and composing 8 bars of music.

All this just for the 6 seconds of an intro length. Yeah, I might be a little bit nuts, but #YOLO! *cough*

Warlords: Where did it all go wrong?

It all looked so good, so full of promise, wonder and nostalgia. However, Warlords has sadly proven the old Heraclitus quote that you can “never step into the same river twice“.


The Big Whimper of a L-L-L-L-Launch

The expansion started off with a whimper. Servers didn’t work properly for days, rubber banding and being booted from instance servers (including trying to enter or exit your garrison meaning you were effectively stuck), and abilities taking 30 seconds or more to actually go off were commonplace occurrences for the majority of players. Blizzard’s explanation for this was the mass return of players swelling the subs numbers from 6 million to 10 million.

What I find fairly suspicious is that ALL of these extra returning subscribers just so happened to ALL return on exactly the same night?

Not even partially gradually, either before or after launch?

Anyway, it took around 4 days for the majority of problems to at least subside, still longer to be rectified, and although some lingered for weeks after, players were actually able to start the levelling process from 90 to 100. After 14 months of Siege of Orgrimmar players were ravenous for new content. Like the walkers in Walking Dead we were hungry as hell for something new, anything fresh, juicy new content. And we revelled in it.

For about 3 weeks.

The experience of levelling that first time in Warlords was admittedly the best levelling experience the game has ever offered. It appeared varied, dynamic and full of surprises. However with each alt levelled through the same content, the same zones, the more the curtain was pulled back on what was actually there and after the initial couple of runs through the content we started to see exactly what Blizzard had done.

If you’ve ever played Guild Wars 2, and I have a small amount after buying the game recently, then you’ll see exactly what Blizzard tried to do. They’ve essentially tried to mash the Guild Wars 2 levelling structure into and over the top of the already existing WoW levelling methodology. With “events” where you wander into an area and fill up a progress bar by performing different activities (usually either collection of items or killing of mobs), these then give a healthy chunk of XP & gold, but are not repeatable. Once an event is done it’s done.

You will also come across items in the world which contain pieces of gear (think of the Treasures littered about Pandaria, same thing), which give XP upon discovery as well as the piece of gear. However most of this gear is by and largely useless. Either because it’s too low level to be of any real use, or because it’s not even usable by your class.

Garrison outposts in each zone initially give the levelling experience the appearance of being more repeatable, as each outpost is vaunted to give different quests and storyline through the zone. However in practice I haven’t found this to be the case. You’ll do the first handful of quests to establish the outpost, which are the same regardless because you’ve not made your choice yet, and even after you have chosen, the quests handed out don’t really rely on your specific choice. You do get a small perk dependant on the choice you’ve made, such as a Frostwolf mount you can mount up on while moving and collect items & kill mobs whilst mounted (Nagrand/Horde), but that’s about as good as it gets. Plus the perk is limited to the zone it’s based in. So no riding that frostwolf mount in Frostfire Ridge!


Life At 100

Life at 100 in Warlords is exceedingly dull. In fact I’d go so far to say that life at max level is the worst experience I’ve been through in WoW in the 6-7 years I’ve been playing it now. Outside of raids (more on those later) day to day life on Draenor is bland. And it’s bland for quite a few reasons.

First up, there’s really no reason to login every day. With Blizzard doing their usual knee-jerk to the community’s reaction to their stupidity regarding dailies at the start of Mists (too much all at once leading to burn out), and going a full 180 down the route of minimal to zero dailies for the most part, it means there’s no reason to login. Certainly the scrapping of Valour and Justice points was a big factor in this. An extra handful of Garrison resources for running your daily dungeon is not what most would consider ample reward. Especially after you’ve already maxed out all your Garrison building plots to level 3 and potentially have a small mountain of Garrison resources building up or even possibly maxed out.

Apexis Crystals were also implemented poorly. The gear that they can be used to purchase and upgrade was quickly out-levelled. They require a ridiculous amount of AC’s, and much like crafted gear, by the time you got the resources to buy pieces, you were already likely to have gotten equivalent gear elsewhere, especially if you’re a raider. The other major problem with the Apexis gear was the itemisation on the pieces. It was horrifically bad, terribly so. In fact the only use I have for AC’s at the moment is getting another bonus roll token.

Garrisons themselves started off as great fun, establishing them, upgrading and then further upgrading of plots and buildings as the weeks went by. However as buildings began to get maxed out, and the amount of work they required dwindled, they eventually became largely unused. Certainly my profession specific buildings have gone largely unused (Jewelcrafting & Enchanting huts), bar the daily gold quest from my JC hut and the ability to xmog enchants via the Enchanter’s hut. The reason that they’ve not seen much use is strongly linked to another reason why Warlords has suffered.

Professions in Warlords underwent huge changes in terms of their appeal and viability to players. Most people picked a specific profession for several reasons in previous expansions:

  • Combat/Profession perks (higher stat jewels for Jewelcrafters, fur lining for Leather-workers, extra sockets for Blacksmiths etc).
  • Potential to craft goods and items for sale on the Auction House.
  • Thematic reasons.
  • Ability to craft items for guildies using freely available/purchasable materials.

However Blizzard decided to make several changes to most professions that killed them for a lot of players:

Combat/Profession perks were removed. This left most professions without any sort of flavour, making them feel bland, flat, non-engaging and uninteresting.

Production of Crafted items (gear/weapons) was rooted in mats that could only be generated at a limited rate, and to compound matters even further, these generated materials were BoP, meaning that you were severely limited by your own production of these mats to be able to craft the initial gear. Beyond that, if you wanted to upgrade them, each stage of crafted gear required its own specific item to bump up its item level, which again demanded ridiculous amounts of these same BoP mats. Much like the Apexis gear from earlier, by the time you had enough resources to actually get or even upgrade these pieces, you were likely to have picked up something else either equivalent or better from LFR at the very least. Too little, too late, even more so now for alts where LFR BRF gear is iLevel 655.

The above meant that your first pieces of crafted gear were likely to go on the AH, in order to try and make SOME gold from your effort. But that only lasted a few weeks before prices plummeted and never recovered.

Reforging’s removal was also a huge mistake, leaving many players with deliberately badly itemised gear. Lack of decently itemised gear led to characters with a lot of secondaries all around the same level of bland equivalence and as a result nothing really felt special to get. You couldn’t chase down a specific stat, or customise for it, so you had to take what you were given, which was bland and poorly itemised pieces, especially in Highmaul.

The changes round raiding this expansion haven’t worked out in its favour IMO. Yes the race to World First (won by Method fairly quickly) was interesting as usual, but didn’t for me settle any lingering questions from the 10 vs 25 days. Difficulty in general saw a bump upwards, and the gearing levels throughout tier 17 have meant that you need to be virtually fully geared at one level before attempting the next.

Plus that and the staggering of instances, especially considering the recent iLevel bump for BRF gear, has meant that the initial raid instance, Highmaul, is all but obsolete already. Blackrock Foundry LFR gives gear equivalent in item level to, and far better itemised than normal mode Highmaul. Normal mode BRF gives gear now equal to Heroic Highmaul. So beyond literally 1 or maybe 2 pieces, Highmaul is now for all intents old content that is less likely to be run by anyone outside of gearing alts.

Making BRF virtually its own tier, separate and distinct from Highmaul was a dumb move frankly, and means players have to gear up through 2 distinct raids in order to get ready for 6.2.

The changes to Mythic being 20 man only as well has only benefited a small handful of guilds, those chasing World Firsts. There’s not even any server first raid achievements now, having been excised in Warlords.


Flying Walking Onwards

This whole no flying thing has been dragging on for far too long – players are getting pissed off and bored manually traversing the same terrain on foot over and over again. Numerous flight-points haven’t helped. All they’ve accomplished is to remove player agency and reduce the desire for exploration. It’s all well and good designing content to be consumed on foot, but what’s the continued reason when that content is past its expiration date? Stubbornness?

We all know that flying won’t and was never going to be introduced until Tanaan Jungle becomes active in 6.2. Otherwise you’d be able to fly over a completely unfinished area of the map, but if Blizzard would just admit that it would go a long way towards soothing player’s ire over the issue. But they don’t, they just continue putting out blasé posts stating it’s how they intended the content to be consumed. Puhlease.

Gold inflation has been a big feature of this expansion as well. Gold incomes have rocketed, even for those players like myself who don’t go anywhere near the AH. A half decently geared character can go in and run through the 25 man heroic Cataclysm raids, and each boss will drop 125g as well as 4/5 pieces of gear. In total, for about 8+ bosses you’re seeing incomes of about 2k per run per character. Clearing all 3 tiers in Cataclysm at that rate would net you about 8k or thereabouts per character per reset. Garrison missions as well are capable of generating decent amounts of gold per character per day. I rocketed from 80k to 200k over the first couple of months of the expansion doing nothing really special, and not really going out of my way to earn that gold. It did enable me to put the maximum gold amount on my druid before I server/faction transferred her, still leaving my main with a pretty healthy bank balance.

But all this gold will have repercussions further on down the line, especially in later expansion packs. I imagine that the Cata bosses will receive gold nerfs akin to those of earlier bosses pretty soon, and other gold making opportunities will be pruned back, lest inflation get out of hand. But perhaps this is all in preparation for the WoW Gametime tokens they’ll be introducing in 6.1.2. You can purchase these things for real cash money, then punt them on the AH for an arbitrary amount of gold. My estimate will be about 25k gold, especially after prices settle following the initial splurge. You can of course then buy them ingame for gold, use them and it’ll add 30 days to your current subscription. So WoW will effectively be free to play for those players making enough bank to cover the cost of these tokens per month!

Another big reason why people are so bored and feckless at the moment is the lack of structure in content outside of raids. Again this harkens back to the lack of dailies, but the fact is that once you’ve hit max level, there’s very little reason, achievement points aside, to go back and pick up the treasures you missed whilst levelling. The content that it took them so extraordinarily long to work on (hello 14 months of SoO!) seemed to be mainly consumed within the first few weeks of levelling & limited exploring. And that’s the problem with one-shot content that can’t be repeated per character. Once it’s consumed/done then it’s gone forever, only to ever be seen again on an alt. All that work they put in for a one time deal per character. Shockingly short-sighted on Blizzard’s part, because surely they should’ve known that once that content was gobbled up, especially considering how ravenous players were for it after 14 months of a content diet, players would have ripped through it at high speed. And they did, leaving very little left to be going on with.

The big problem here of course was WoW trying to be something it’s not. Guild Wars 2. WoW has its strengths, GW2 has its strengths, but they’re not the same thing.

Another big issue with the expansion is the feeling of emptiness the world displays as a whole. With people playing hermit in their garrisons 80% of the time, especially given that they’ll likely have consumed the majority of the one-shot content aimed at them, the world feels devoid of life, of players. Looking at my guild roster, at least 60-80% of those online are idling in their garrisons. Blizzard would’ve been far better off making a centralised, neutral hub, same as TBC & Wrath, to foster a sense of the world being alive with players in it. Instead, nearly everyone is stuck inside a private instanced mini-zone with no chance of running across other players.

This of course has been yet another cause of people feeling bored with WoD, because it feels empty, there’s no content left to consume and it all feels very meh. People then log in less as a result, and those that do stay inside their garrison the majority of the time!

Because of this, guilds are collapsing left and right. Recruitment threads and adverts are at an all time high, even on the mega-populated servers like my Druid currently sits on. It has a population double that of the joint population of the three connected servers my pally sits on. That includes Horde & Alliance! But still adverts for desperate guilds aching to recruit extra bodies are prevalent. Twitter and the forums are full of people showing their boredom and ennui with the expansion, and numbers seem to be anecdotally dropping through the floor.


What did Warlords actually do right?

For all that, the expansion has got a few things right, and it’s not all been bad news. For a start, the major thing for a LOT of players that Warlords got completely spot on were the new player models. 6.1 finally rounded out the intended suite of newly updated models, and each race, including the Blood Elves, now look really really nice. I was really worried that my Belf’s new face would look silly or too twee, but they absolutely nailed it on release. Similarly with all the other races, they’ve all seen massive improvements, particularly the vanilla races on the alliance side, such as human males and female dwarves. The improvements seen by both (and others) have seen race changes ahoy for a lot of players!

Secondly, the Heirloom tab has been a joy. For someone semi-restarting on a new server, creating alts and being able to instantly fit them out with a full suite of heirlooms without having to mail items back and forth like crazy has been an absolute god-send. It’s brilliant just being able to click a UI element and have the heirloom item just drop into your bags, and means you don’t have to pre-plan a character, and collect heirlooms from multiple different character banks & bags, you can just create and get on with levelling! The other big thing of course around this that they’ve got absolutely nailed was the Chauffeured Chopper for level 1’s. A rewards for collecting 35 heirloom pieces, it’s the same speed as basic ground mounts, and whether this does away with the need for purchasing the first level of mount riding I’m not sure, but even if not, it’s not as if it was a huge cost anyway. But it just makes levelling a lowbie so much quicker and fun now. No more hoofing it by foot at 60% speed 😀

The Selfie Camera, whilst not my particular cup of tea (same as IRL), seems to be mega popular. I’m not a big fan of ego-centric media (erm, let’s ignore the fact I said that on a blog eh?) like selfies, but players absolutely love this addition to the game. Especially if my Twitter feed is anything to go by. That said, it’ll probably remain popular for a while though before the novelty wears off.

Another massive boon in this expansion has been the switching of primary stats on most gear. Whilst this hasn’t benefited me in any way, as both my paladin and hunter still use the same primary stats regardless of the spec they’re currently running (Prot/Ret & BM/Surv), it has made it possible to recover acres of bag space.

Speaking of which, the final thing they got right was the way that the default, addon-free bags are handled in the UI. Being able to specify what a specific bag should be used for was a big step up. Still somewhat short of what add-ons can offer, but a big step in the right direction.


How can the situation be turned around?

So with such a long list of complaints and things that are killing interest in the game right now, how can Blizzard go about fixing the situation?

First up and foremost, get player flight in ASAP. Make it easier and more convenient for players to get to the content that’s still there, give players their agency back and give them control back.

Bring back VP & JP and improve the itemisation and iLevel of gear purchased by it. VP/JP gave players a reason to run 5 man content, weeks and even months after outgearing it. 5 mans were a quick and easy way at max level when fully raid geared to get these points, and it made gearing alts a lot quicker as you were likely to end up with a pretty decently geared group that had no interest in the gear. Queue times have shot right up again in this expansion, and this is the primary reason why. Trying to bribe players with “rewards” that are meaningless and un-needed means that players don’t run this content after out-gearing it, at all. I certainly haven’t stepped foot inside a 5 man dungeon since hitting 630, and I’m 676 right now, so it’s been a right while.

Make professions interesting again & bring back combat perks/profession bonuses. Bring them back up to the level of utility that they’ve experienced in previous years, because right now it feels completely pointless having any profession beyond being able to quickly knock yourself something up. Many players used their professions to play the AH and make some decent gold, but that’s all but been destroyed at the moment.

Bring back socket bonuses and gem slot colours. This was a big one. yes, having only prismatic/neutral sockets means you can gem whatever you want, but it takes a lot of strategy out of the game when it comes to player customisation. Ditto…

Bring back reforging! Without hit & expertise reforging can serve its original purpose which was to improve player customisation options. Secondary stats at the moment, particularly versatility & multistrike, are bland. They don’t really feel actively engaging and it’s hard to feel the difference any of them make. Especially tertiary stats like Leech & Avoidance. Getting these doesn’t feel special, it doesn’t make a piece more worthwhile taking over a better itemised piece, so it’s therefore pointless.

As mentioned earlier, gold inflow will need nerfed to maintain stable server economies especially after Warlords. Unless Blizzard have got to the point in the game’s lifecycle where they don’t actively care about player gold levels, in which case either watch out for absolutely massive gold sinks (potentially more mounts and of course the WoW GameTime token), or none at all. Erm, dur?

Make garrison buildings give meaningful perma-buffs whilst they’re active. This would make having a particular building actually worthwhile. Perhaps bring back profession/combat perks by having certain buildings at level 3, rather than having the profession itself maxed?


What’s likely to happen?

In a few months we are likely to be below 6 million subs again. People are leaving/quitting/stopping playing in droves at the moment, and as mentioned earlier, guilds are collapsing as a result and the game feels barren of content and players. Blizzard’s lack of commentary on this is also telling, because you know when they’re not talking about something that’s of concern to a lot of the players still left, then that’s concerning.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: By the time 6.2 launches it’ll be nearly 2 full years (Sep 2013 with SoO, through WoD launch through to 6.2) with only a single launch of fresh content with Warlord’s release. Content that was largely one-shot stuff consumed in pretty short order, lacking in any real longer-term repeatable content worthwhile doing.

6.1 is utterly lacklustre and in no way suffices in terms of content. Yes it brought the heirloom tab, the alt-bike and new Belf Models, but that’s not “content” per se. Just “stuff”.


In Conclusion

There are a lot of things wrong with the game right now, meaning life in WoW is not as good as it was say a year ago. Even during the long Siege of Orgrimmar period, I was never once as bored with the game as I am right now. Quite frankly if I didn’t have guild obligations I would probably stop playing for a while altogether and get caught up properly on my frankly massive back-catalogue on Steam. Certainly I intend to make more videos around other games over the coming months, not solely WoW videos, as frankly at the moment there is next to nothing to actually talk about in the current game. Progress in BRF continues, but aside from that there’s actually very little encouraging me to log in right now.

Blizzard needs to fix the game, and they need to pull the finger out about doing it. However given how fast they’ve been at producing content these past 2 years, I seriously doubt that that’s on the cards any time soon…

Drama-llama-ding-dong

thunderSo the past 3 weeks has been pretty bloody stressful, with guild drama upon guild drama meaning I quit Thunder.

The 2 weekends before last (one of which was even after I’d quit) were very difficult, and saw us bleed members for a short while.

A lot of drama caused by someone (an officer no less) who liked to bully and manipulate guild members but took offence at being punished for doing so!

On his way out he tried (and failed) to smear the remaining officer structure and sow mistrust in those left, in order to try and destroy the guild. So he was removed, but not before causing a huge amount of drama and taking a lot of his clique with him. But the whole drama also sadly caused some long term members of the guild to leave for other pastures as well. I’m still hopeful we can get some of these members to reconsider and return soon.

After I quit I received a tonne of forum PM’s, whispers, emails, Facebook messages & posts etc all asking me to reconsider my stepping away from the guild. Given how much the people still left there showed how much they care, I decided that I would come back. However this time things will be different.

For a start, we’ve re-instated the Guild Council, of which I am now a part. We have 5 people now back in charge of the guild, rather than it all resting on one person’s shoulders. Being sole GM of a guild like Thunder was too much stress, and it burnt out the 2 people to hold the role, so the council structure works best for us. We’ll be running with a smaller officer core as well, covering those roles not already covered by members of the GC. Our raid leaders, previously officers, will no longer be part of the officer structure, as skills required for one job (RL) didn’t necessarily automatically mean that the person was going to be a good officer. It worked for a while, but then people started thinking that they were untouchable and could treat others however they liked, no matter how badly.

So asses were handed, doors were shown, and we lost a fair few bodies.

However, Thunder survives. It has done for 9 years and will continue to do so. We resume raiding this week now that the dust has settled and we can begin again, as we do with every guild split that we’ve undergone during those 9 years. I’ve been in Thunder now for 6 of those 9 years, and I’ve been through this same situation about 7 or 8 times now, and each time we carry on, resolute. The same can’t be said of the majority of guilds birthed from Thunder, and no doubt, somewhere down the line, we’ll get some of those that left looking to come back. In fact we’ve already had a few return already

The people who stayed (and there are still plenty) are the core of what I consider makes Thunder the great guild it’s always been: Mature, relaxed, fun to be around, and not prone to drama!

So that’s why I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks. Dealing with drama llamas and the shit that they attempted to fling.

And in order to help me deal with the stress, I’ve moved my druid to Alliance on a PvP server, and joined a small guild there with some Thunder guildies and some new people. It’s a nice change, and the server seems pretty cool as well, fairly mature and not full of kids spewing bile like quite a lot of other PvP servers whose populations I’ve had dealings with. I’ll probably move my Alliance Hunter over there as well. Not that there’s a lot of world PvP happens (which is good for me, being the PvE Care Bear that I am), because the server population is split something ridiculously skewed like 1,000:1!

So I expect I’ll be splitting my time between Horde & Alliance now, especially more so as I level my druid (and probably the hunter too) up to 100 and begin gearing. Not that I’ll be raiding there, but it always helps when soloing old content and making gold

 

Anyhoo, drama over, stress relieved and time to return to the regularly scheduled programming!

6.1: Nearly 2 years with 1 content patch?

So 6.1 launches today if you’re in the US and tomorrow in the EU, and it’s bringing a few changes worthy of note.

Glyphs

First up, one of our previous mainstay glyphs, Glyph of the Alabaster Shield, which had been previously nerfed by 70%, has now been nerfed 100%, as in it’s gone! Blizzard have removed it completely from the game, mainly for the purposes of choice. When something becomes mandatory across all fights, Blizzard tend to dislike it and either nerf it, or, as the case is here, remove it completely.

The other glyph change is Glyph of Harsh Words is now no longer usable by Prot. This means no more trading up pure survivability for DPS.

Seals

Seal of Truth? Gone! Prot no longer has any access to use SoT in 6.1. Similar to the situation with Alabaster Shield, first it got nerfed, and now it’s been removed completely for us. Ret still have access to it, so it’s still in the game, but it’s specifically not accessible for Prot now.

Talents

As a result of the SoT removal, Empowered Seals is obviously impacted with only 2 seals to twist now. On top of that simplification, the remaining 2 seal buffs have, well, been buffed. Judging using Seal of Insight has seen an increase from regenerating 1% of your max health every 2 seconds for 20 seconds (0.5% per second) to 2% every 3 seconds for 21 seconds (0.66% per second).

Well woop. Colour me excited.

A little more exciting is the buff from Seal of Righteousness: The haste buff it provides has been boosted from +15% haste for 20 seconds to +20% haste for 20 seconds.

With the removal of SoT we no longer get the attack power buff at all.

Models

Of course the other big news with 6.1 (for me and most Horde Paladins) is the new Belf models get released as well. Now, I’m pretty happy overall with the update, as the female Belf models look great. And the males look great now as well, although most of the males suffer inexplicably from duck face.

However, the face I used on most of my Female Belfs (#3 fact fans) has been replaced by some horrific smiling face that resembles my old character’s face in no way whatsoever.

So it’s either pick a new face (bleurgh) or go male Belf, which is a possibility, at least for a while. I don’t really like playing Taurens, as they’re too big and slow and clunky for me :/

Misc

The only other changes in this patch are minor things: Heirloom tab and Twitter integration.

The Heirloom tab is handy, as it will clean up bags a bit further still, and make them truly account wide, but it does mean having to re-enchant each new copy you make.

The twitter integration? On a par with the Selfie camera they’re introducing with a new garrison mission.

Aaaaaand, that’s it really.

6.1, AKA the I’m on a diet patch: Guaranteed 95% content free.

That means, remarkably we’ve had 1 (count em – the expac launch itself) content patch since September 2013.

Let me repeat that:

ONE CONTENT PATCH BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 2013 AND JULY 2015: NEARLY 2 FULL YEARS!

 

Reasoning: 6.2 is likely another 5 months away, so that means, unbelievably, that we will have gone nearly 2 years (22 months) with 1 patch that actually carried content: from just after the release of Siege of Orgrimmar through the launch of Warlords itself right up to 6.2 in July-ish.

That’s…..not good enough. In fact it’s downright awful.

Blizzard really seem to have gotten into this groove of producing one great expansion followed up by a terrible one. And right now, at this very moment, Cataclysm has a very strong contender for worst expansion pack ever. Especially if 6.2’s raid instance is the final tier of the expansion, then that would cement it.

Will the community abide such a horrific content drought? Especially after so many left during Siege, only to come back hopeful that WoD would re-invigorate the game?

I guess we’ll find out…

Yes I did, and I’m not proud…

Yes. Yes I did. And I feel dirty. I’m not proud.

I couldn’t help myself, but it’s just too good.

 

I went back to WordPress 

b2Evo was fine, and was working OK, but the one thing I really value after setting up the writing environment for any site I create is a valid one: Aesthetics.

The theme options for b2Evo were, as mentioned previously, mediocre at best. The best theme I could find (Pyrmont), still looked like a 5 year old WordPress theme. Which wasn’t too bad, as the rest of them all look like 10 year old WordPress themes!

So, I’ve taken extra precautions to try and strengthen and protect the installation, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this time, the Bot Nets will leave me alone 

As a CMS, b2 was also severely lacking in plugins and security measures, but this is largely because it lacks one thing WordPress has in abundance: Community. If you ran into a problem with it, you were pretty much on your own to try and tackle it. Which is unfortunate, because it could be a great alternative to WP, but it really needs a lot of investment and ideas being put into action by the Devs, and to put itself out to a bigger community. As it stands however, from reading the forums on their official website and their continually out of date manuals, it seems to be stagnating with only intermittent developer interaction and involvement.

So, I drink, alas, from the poisoned chalice once again.