WoW Factor: The view from outside the Legion alpha test

    
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Would you like to see something unsettling?

I’ve been paying rapt attention to the ongoing-though-paused World of Warcraft Legion alpha tests  because said tests are looking good. That’s a positive. Whilst the actual decisions being made about testing and the state of the live game don’t earn a lot of praise from me, what we’ve seen of the expansion that Legion is becoming makes me feel very positive. There’s only a thin slice available, but it’s enough to make things interesting.

Let’s talk about that today, starting with the obvious bit of the Artifact weapons.

I refuse to talk too much about Demon Hunters until I'm not just looking at them through the glass.While there are several artifacts that still don’t make a tremendous amount of sense (Restoration and Enhancement Shaman weapons spring to mind, for example), looking past the lore and to the weapons proper reveal a set of abilities that manage to accomplish several really nifty goals. For one thing, the artifact traits and the relics equipped therein manage to feel like weapons in all of the most positive ways; the fact that most grant a bonus to one talent or another evokes some of the cool and unique procs of older weapons while also being distinct.

Beyond even that, the actual abilities contained therein are generally nifty. Obviously, not everything is finished on that front, but stuff like the Retribution Artifact line just sounds cool, with blades of light besieging your enemies. I’m also fond of some of the odd abilities, like the Fury Warrior ability that causes Bloodthirst to heal for more when your health is lower. It’s a clever bit of balance, improving your ability to keep yourself going when things are getting rough anyhow.

The one major problem that I see is that there are clearly going to be some tough choices along the leveling path, which is doubtlessly by design but might lead to people feeling like they want trait A but have to pick trait B to get access to coveted DPS spots. Then again, when has that not been the case in this game?

Gaining a picture of the actual specs is a bit more difficult, not because they’re massively more complex but because we only have one spec available per class and no specs available for Shaman. There’s datamining, again, but even that provides snippets that may be altered rather than the full picture.

At a glance, though, this really is a fundamental rewrite of many if not all specs — not just in the sense of talents, although that is definitely part of it, but also in the sense that the classes now work differently than before. Gone, it seems, are days of reliable self-healing by many hybrid classes; the DPS specs are more DPS-focused than ever. That’s a bit of a blow for specs that have traditionally been able to keep themselves going quite reliably, like Retribution and Enhancement; time will tell how much of that is carrying through.

Much is forgiven when I look at the talent trees, though. I like these. I’m sure that theorycrafting will produce which talents have the edge, and there are some places that already seem pretty heavily weighted in one direction or another. And I find I still don’t care all that much, because the stuff that’s there is cool. Some bits are shared, but so many pieces are unique to a given spec, and several of the shared bits wind up still generating unique feels.

Druids can really bleed lines between specs with their affinities, although I wonder how useful the various affinities will be in the long run; I have a sneaking suspicion, for example, that Restoration Affinity will just be too good for most endgame Guardian and Balance Druids. But they’re still a neat idea, and as I’ve mentioned before I like that Druids do get to take back some of that jack-of-all-trades flavor that’s been left aside for a long while.

Lol, elf.

I like that the talents often seem to suggest a potential playstyle and how they may work together without drifting explicitly into sub-spec territory a la Gladiator Stance/Lone Wolf from the current expansion. Moreover, several of the talents are set up in the sense that you can very much focus heavily on one aspect of your spec or you can take a general sampling without one talent locking you in to future choices. Aspect of the Beast and Animal Instincts, for example, both emphasize the role of the pet with the Survival Hunter, but you don’t need to take one if you take the other. You can take both if you want a bigger pet focus; you can also take just one or neither if you want to downplay your pet.

So all of the abilities look good, or at least not bad enough to trigger my rant gene. But when it comes to actual play, I have to rely on secondhand information. And that secondhand information is… encouraging.

For example, one thing that I’ve heard on multiple occasions is that the new dungeons feel good to run, which is something that makes me happy. Final Fantasy XIV has been banking heavily on those small-group dungeons for a while now, reasoning correctly that part of the fun of the game is being able to just pop in, run through a dungeon in 30-ish minutes, and then move on if you’d rather do other things for the night. Unfortunately, WoW‘s dungeons have erred a bit on the side of tedium for a while and haven’t offered solid rewards. The idea that the dungeons are back to being just plain fun to pick up and play is encouraging.

Similarly encouraging is the fact that even with the world scaling, the game doesn’t have the Final Fantasy VIII/Oblivion problem, where you actively want to avoid leveling because that makes the game less fun. Players are reporting that leveling up still feels like a level boost, but your enemies just don’t feel like they’re getting steamrolled. It’s an odd approach compared to the more common level-locking found in games like the aforementioned Final Fantasy XIV or Guild Wars 2, but perhaps there are technical reasons preventing that.

Whatever the case, what I’m seeing and hearing is encouraging. It doesn’t ameliorate the fact that this expansion is coming far too slowly without nearly enough news, but it does seem to indicate that it will at least be pretty grand when we actually get to play it.

As always, feedback may be left down below or sent to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time around, let’s talk a bit more about class fantasies, why they haven’t even been well-defined for most classes, and why they kind of need to be for the future health of the game.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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Sorenthaz
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Sorenthaz

ManastuUtakata Karl_Hungus Sorenthaz Eliot_Lefebvre Omedon And there goes any shred of humor in this comment chain.

vicariousfan
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vicariousfan

Nyres Blizz has always been like that.  The most succesful MMO is also the cheapest when it comes to making new assets. 

The same zombies you fight at level1 are the same you will fight at level 100. 

Hell if they wern’t so cheap we wouldn’t have an entire year of 0 content patches in between expansions.

vicariousfan
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vicariousfan

Bluetouchpaper there is a HUGE difference between gear progression PVE and PVP.

In PVE it makes sense its a way to extend  the content. If all end game PVE was just skill based raids, everyone would beat it in a matter of a few weeks.

Add in gear and now you have to slowly get gear to beat it.

In PVP however its completely counter intuitive. 

We are going to reward you for beating your fellow players by giving you gear that will make you stronger, harder to kill and allow you to roll your fellow players even more eaisly….

How does that make sense?

Isn’t PVP supposed to be about skill?  

You can still reward the player with gear, just make it cosmetic gear is all.

Omedon
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Omedon

Chewytowel Omedon I do not entirely disagree with you on this front.  As someone who ran  NWN RP servers for years, the later years of which were WoW’s first,  I remember the moment when I looked at my little world and said “I have no right asking for people to play here when WoW is a thing now,” and so we shut down.  It was no longer “effortconomical” to keep running that world, with all the trials and tribulations involved, when someone had created such a massive platform that ran itself where we could focus on our characters.  Should someone ever advance the tech where we as users can compete with the AAA giants, I’d love to see a new novelty arise where we make intimate communities again that don’t feel like jokes next to the AAA options.

But, as the makers of Shards Online said in their initial pitch: No AAA company would do that.  
Or will they?  Who knows.  Gaming hyperconnectivity may not be novel any more, but everything comes back into style eventually, and all it takes is one.  All it takes is one AAA company to find a way to profitably harness player creativity again in a way that feels current and competitive.  Sadly, it’s an uphill battle because said lack of novelty has created a salty environment where people aren’t awed into respectfulness as they once might have been.  Private servers, player admins, banhammers and passwords and closed communities can be the answer there.

All it takes is one…

Chewytowel
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Chewytowel

Omedon Chewytowel Yes, I am aware I am outnumbered and that this market has become over saturated.  However, I am of the mindset that in the end of the day when all the gold diggers leave the MMO equals WoW type profit potential mindset, and realize it was a fluke, things will change.  Developers will once again move back to niche based MMO gaming that targets people who like a particular type of game.  

In the end of the day I feel that the MMO is a closed system that sets the mood for the players.  If it can set the right mood for the right kind of players then it will once again be exciting to slay dragons, meet new people, and learn how to play a game with depth.

Omedon
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Omedon

Chewytowel Omedon For the record, I have a strict policy against telling someone “you’re so bad,” I do also, however, have a strict policy to spend my precious gaming time efficiently, and reserve the right to quietly leave any random group that is not time efficient.

Once upon a time, when MMOs and hyperconnectivity were novel (“oooh those are other peeeeople! Neeato!) much of what you say would resonate with me.  But they’re not any more.  The MMO market is saturated, and if WoW doesn’t give me an idiot proofed experience, there are games that will.  Lots of them.  Because it’s not a noteworthy skill or accomplishment to kill internet dragons anymore, because there are too many places to go get that thrill now, so there’ s no point telling the time-efficiency-minded “you gotta WORK for it,” because that sounds silly in this saturated market.  And they know this.  
It can still be fun, engaging and entertaining to share these experiences with friends, but I don’t see them leaning hard ever again into erecting false barriers of “skill” that can easily be seen as arbitrary and asking for a give-a-dman investment that I, personally, refuse to pay.  Good enough is good enough, and should always be good enough unless you are deliberately seeking out “challenge,” which these games also facilitate, off the main thoroughfare of the game, of course, in my not even remotely humble opinion.

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion.  I will vote with my wallet and my time, as should we all.  I’m just pretty confident that I’m on the winning side in this context.

Chewytowel
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Chewytowel

Eliot_Lefebvre Chewytowel Sometimes I hate communicating on the internet.  It is sometimes so hard to see intent without body language, the sound of someone’s voice, or other queue’s to tell you what a person is thinking.  Even sarcasm can be so easily misunderstood depending on the mood of the person reading.  :)

Chewytowel
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Chewytowel

Omedon Chewytowel I believe that attitude to idiot proof something to make it more convenient for players like yourself is a bad thing.  Perhaps people like yourself are highly educated, very intelligent, and I’ll even go as far as to say arrogant as well.  But let me ask you this, did you get to where you are by being hand-held?  Did people come up to you in your life and give you all the answers to your problems, or did you have to learn what you needed and take the time to work for it?

I am of the mind that working for it is a better alternative, while also learning.  Perhaps that is a painful experience for some people to be a part of who have all the right answers.  Too often I see these snarky attitudes in mmo’s which are meant to bring people together to fend off difficult or challenging types of content.  These people seem to feel inconvenienced by other peoples poor performance in certain areas of a game.  Not only that but they even feel offended or act insulted as if they are there to waste their time with their incompetence.  I find that behavior a bit obnoxious.

To me the MMORPG is about learning, building a character, and the game not being idiot proofed so it can draw in bigger numbers to help up the quarterly numbers and appease shareholders.  Idiot proofing to me has ruined a game that used to have a lot of things to learn and do even if they were all trivial.  I believe WoW or at least game’s like WoW would do well to build depth and choice into their games because learning and overcoming challenges is exciting.  Leveling alone used to feel like an accomplishment after spending days learning how to play a class.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

Karl_Hungus ManastuUtakata Sorenthaz Eliot_Lefebvre Omedon 
…I think you have to worry about Social Justice Shades casting over you lot. Kinda like holy water to vampires I gather. Or reason to Republicans.

Karl_Hungus
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Karl_Hungus

Sorenthaz Karl_Hungus ManastuUtakata Eliot_Lefebvre Omedon