If you’ve missed discussion of it elsewhere (including on this here site, even), World of Warcraft is rolling out a new system for item upgrades in Legion. Item drops from any given source can “explode” upwards, so rather than having a flat chance for a set upgrade, such as a 10% shot at a 5-level upgrade, any item can just keep getting upgrades until it hits the item level ceiling for a given content tier. That level 800 drop can get an upgrade to 805, then 810, and so on – it’s possible for you to be in content that drops level 850 gear and get a level 895 item out of it.
This is, honestly, pretty great.
There’s a lot of stuff to unpack about the whole idea of titanforged items, what they mean for the game, and how they’re at once a really good idea and a solution to a problem that was already solved back in the day. So let’s start walking through the items, complaints, and what the system could do in the future to make content and play more rewarding on down the line.
Every week, in Final Fantasy XI, the three main player nations are competing in a form of passive PvP known as conquest. The nation with the most influence in a given region (achieved primarily by killing stuff within that region) gains control of it; the nation with influence in the largest number of regions gets the first-place slot in the weekly conquest tally. Guards will have different lines to you depending on the nation’s standing, and if your nation is third, before you head out to make with the killing, the guard will tell you, “We’re hoping you can help us out of this hole we’ve dug ourselves into.”
Why am I bringing this up? Because that’s how I feel when I look at Legion at this point. World of Warcraft has dug itself into a hole, and at the end of the day that hole isn’t just about inexcusable content gaps or lore mangling or whatever. Those are symptoms of a larger problem, and I get the sense that Legion is trying to address that, even if it’s doing so in a roundabout way. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to work, but it does mean that at least there’s the glimmer of comprehension in place just the same.
As of the time that I’m writing this, we don’t know when the Legion pre-patch will hit World of Warcraft. I had to double-check that; these days, I’m never sure any longer. You would think that wasn’t information that could somehow slip through my notice, but with the release schedule and announcements around this expansion, it could theoretically happen. You could almost believe that it would be sandwiched in there without fanfare.
But even if we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, we have some idea. So now it’s time to start getting ready for the pre-path, getting all of our characters primed and ready for when the patch actually hits World of Warcraft. There might not be much new content with that pre-patch, but boy will there ever be a plethora of stuff to deal with just the same. So whenever it hits, let’s get ourselves all ready to go, and we’ll start with… shopping.
It has been noted in the past that I am a big fan of having big, show-stopping expansions released for games. I will not deny it; I don’t want to deny it. I like a good meaty expansion. But lately, World of Warcraft‘s expansions have stopped feeling… well… expansive. They’ve somehow become narrower, completely lopping off all of the game-that-was in favor of a new world entirely. One of the reasons I’m hopeful about Legion in the long run is that there are already signs of things taking place in the game world aside from just the new expansion areas, remembering that we already have three different worlds and four separate continents available on Azeroth.
Combine all of that with the fact that these expansions just keep coming out more and more slowly, and one starts to wonder what WoW would look like if this weren’t the case. What sort of content models would work for the game? What sort of new deployments could we see? Is there a better option out there for Blizzard’s big game aside from the content droughts and big expansions?
The past few weeks have been pretty well packed, both in a personal and in a professional sense, so it’s easy to sort of overlook the fact that Legion finally has an official launch date. Which also means that we’re looking at around a 14-month content gap for World of Warcraft this time around, and a content gap which is going to continue for at least the next few months. So much for faster releases, then, although we’ve all more or less burned that bridge of our expectations, I imagine.
I’ve been doing my best to stay relatively pure during the lengthy test cycle; I’ve been playing enough to get a sense of the game, but I don’t like playing until my eyes bleed on a beta when I’m going to need to do the whole thing over again when the expansion actually launches. So let’s take a look at the state of the beta, the launch date, and what we can expect for the game as we move forward from here.
If you haven’t been following the latest Legion testing – which, at the end of the day, is just a series of iterative updates to the experience that we’ve been dealing with all along – then the big news this week in the World of Warcraft community was the shutdown of the Nostalrius server. Yes, it was another vanilla-only private server, yes, it was player-supported, and yes, it got shut down before it ever went to court. And thus we’re knee-deep in another back-and-forth argument about whether or not people want official vanilla servers.
If I have the air of someone who is a wee bit tired of this particular discussion, that’s because I am. It’s something that has been debated on and off for a long while, ironically dating back to just after The Burning Crusade released, and it’s always taken the form of “these illegal servers are popular, so make one legal!” But there’s no real way to ignore it, and it deserves a bit of discussion here.
Editor’s note: We’re sorry to report that Eliot appears to have fallen through some sort of wormhole when this column was due. Maybe a portal; it’s hard to be sure. We would go look for him, but he’s a big guy and can probably take care of himself. Heck, he’s probably back already as if nothing ever happened by the time you’re reading this, and even if he’s not, we’re pretty sure it’s fine.
His unexpected portal trip did leave us without a column today, but fortunately, due to convoluted events that don’t make a whole lot of sense, we were able to use the same portal-thingy to steal an alternate Eliot’s column about the history of World of Warcraft that is probably very similar to our own history. Or not. The point is that it’s legible and we’ve got something to read. Have fun!
When World of Warcraft rolls away from the inexplicable inclusion of alternate Draenor for good, it will also mean bidding farewell to the elements of Draenor, and I imagine most everyone will respond to that with several rounds of cheering. I don’t blame anyone for it, either. One of the loudest cheers will be reserved for Garrisons, one of the least-liked features of the expansion, and frequently pointed to as one of the signs that the expansion wasn’t very well-handled. And it’s pretty understandable there, too… but I don’t think that Garrisons are inherently awful despite that.
This is not to say that there aren’t several structural problems that came up with Garrisons more or less as soon as they were baked into the leveling process in Warlords of Draenor, so I’ll be as happy to be rid of them as anyone else. But I think the majority of the problems that people have with Garrisons (and always have) say less about Garrisons themselves as a concept and even most of their execution. It’s more about the state of the game itself.
The alpha testing for World of Warcraft‘s next expansion rolls on, with the vague hope that we might actually have a beta tag by the end of March. I mean, we almost have all of the specs in the testing now, and so all that remains is for the follower system that isn’t like Garrisons all over again we swear to actually be implemented before we have a test that is functionally feature-mostly-complete. That would theoretically mean beta, although we haven’t been given any actual roadmap beyond “by September.”
Scheduling and relevant terminology discussion notwithstanding, there’s more stuff to talk about with the alpha, and in a way having an extra couple of weeks provides more interesting information to chew on. As the live game sits in the midst of yet another content lull, let’s examine the testing, the philosophies that we know to be in place, and what all of this means for the longer-term health and design of the game.
Well, folks, I promised you that this week I would talk about my further impressions playing through the Legion alpha. But then I spied a rather fascinating post about the state of the game and the changes being wrought upon World of Warcraft (with thanks to fellow writer Justin and his excellent blog roundup), and it wound up more or less writing a column for me in simultaneous response, agreement, dissension, and clarification. Which is, to be fair, all stuff that comes into play with the Legion alpha, so it’s sort of similar.
If you’re not buying that, don’t worry; we’ll have nothing but the alpha to talk about for a long while. I’ll revisit the topic.
It’s not exactly controversial to say that WoW has changed a lot over the years of its existence, seeing as that’s a statement of fact rather than opinion. I’ve watched one of my favorite specs go from punchline to raid support to heavy DPS to PvP powerhouse to mediocre DPS, and each time it has gotten just a little bit weirder. So why do things need to change so much? Is it helpful to the game? Do we really have any promise that this is the time everything stays the same?
Today’s column is about the time I tackled my father and stormed out of the house. It is also about World of Warcraft. It covers a lot of ground, that’s my point.
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve had loads of positive things to say about World of Warcraft over the past year or so that I’ve been writing this column. I’ve had some pretty negative things to say for a variety of reasons. And I’ve been asked, on occasion, why in the world I’m writing about a game that I “hate.”
Of course, the problem with that question is that it presupposes that I hate the game, that the only possible reason I could have for saying negative things about World of Warcraft is if I just straight-up hate the title and everything it stands for. And that segues nicely into a wider discussion that applies to WoW as well as discussing things in general. Into an examination of what it means to care about something. And yes, it segues into tackling my father.
Tuesday brought along a big surprise for me in the form of access to the Legion alpha test. I had pretty much resigned myself to living off of datamined information, so you can imagine that this came as something of a shock. Since then, I’ve spent as much time as possible (which is probably less than you think) working my way through the alpha, killing various enemies, playing with artifact weapons, and loving the heck out of Demon Hunter.
Spoiler warning: I like Demon Hunters. Who’d have guessed? Not me, that’s for sure.
I have not, unfortunately, had time to do a deep dive into everything available in the current test build. I’ll be doing my best to do exactly that over the days, weeks, and months to come, so look forward to that, but I don’t have it all ready to go right this moment. That having been said, and considering that this is the big thing to talk about for World of Warcraft fans at the moment… what’s it like?
The Legion alpha is back, and it is still an alpha. And I want to to stress, not for the first time, that I am not applying that label to it. I am not declaring that it is an alpha unilaterally or discussing ambiguous terminology. The test is being called an alpha by Blizzard, has been repeatedly referred to as an alpha, and in every way, shape, and form has been flagged as an alpha. Whether or not it should be labeled as an alpha isn’t the point.
Meanwhile, last year’s promises were for a beta by the end of the year.
Long-time readers know that I’m not really a fan of splitting hairs for no reason; if I’m going to plant a flag on a series of statements, I want it to be for a good reason. And there’s something to the fact that World of Warcraft players have gone from getting a beta by the end of the year to the current state of alpha with no indications of when the testing is supposed to shift into beta territory. That prompts some conclusions, and none of them is positive.