World of Warcraft: Recent Ongoings, This and That

I think I must be feeling another World of Warcraft burn out coming down the pike. Truthfully though, I probably have played the heck out the game in the past few weeks, trying to gear up my toons in preparation for the patch 5.4. However, the activity is just excessively time consuming in trying to accumulate Lesser Charms for the Rerolls, Valor Capping on one toon to start the week, getting into world boss runs that end up failing and the growing queue for LFR. With two more toons left, I felt that I should probably slow down since I’ve hardly received the drops from LFR that I really need and have been dealing with really bad groups on top of the horrible queue times.

One thing that I’ve come to a conclusion on is that Saurfang really is a horrible server when it comes to the Horde player base. I think one of the streamers I follow ended up quitting the top raiding guild Ajantis on the server and transferred his toon to another server because they continued to fail in defeating Lei Shen on Heroic. I believe they got up to 300 wipes, which might seem frustrating to any high end progression guild. But that’s on the high end. Imagine what the lower ends are like!

I pretty much have given up on Oondasta on my server because the Horde group continuously fails to demonstrate that they can defeat it. One night we had competition from the alliance but because of people who refused to fly out, they ended up not only killing Oondasta, but griefing the Horde side at the same time. The Horde side kept saying, “No AoE!” to avoid being flagged for PVP. However, in situations like that, the only real solution is to enter world PVP. Even when we had a full raiding group, we still couldn’t get Oondasta down either from lack of organization or people who could not adapt to simple tactics.

Now, of course, the big question is why I bother staying on my server when this frustration is going on. First, I have 10 90’s and thus do not want to do a mass exodus at this time. While I’ll have a spot in my friend’s guild on his server, the sheer cost for transferring all my toons does not feel worth the effort as of yet.

Second, the economy on my server suits my needs at this time. As someone with 10 90’s, all professions maxed out and possessing all maxed out farms, I have been making tons of gold creating epics and other crafting bits that have served my pocket books well. Doing all my LFRs, dailies, etc. in peace has allowed me to accumulate a fair amount of wealth. But not having to deal with constant gankings has allowed me to probably accomplish a lot more as a solo player.

My theory is to wait at least for the upcoming patch to see how virtual servers affects my realm. If I discover that it’s harder to gather resources as a result of high competition, the inability for my server to continue to down bosses like Oondasta, increased number of rude people in trade chat, etc., then I’ll probably start to look into moving my toons to my friend’s server. At least, his server is horde dominated so the ganking ought to be minimal compared to Ner’zhul. I would prefer joining a PVE server in NA so I can have the best of both worlds, but again I have a feeling that virtual servers might make this whole subject moot.

Patch 5.4 is going to be a make-it-or-break-it patch for me. I’ve seen some aspects in various videos, patch notes and commentaries. However, there’s going to be a lot of game changing elements that go beyond the new (and more than likely last) raid for this expansion. The virtual server element may solve certain issues like small population realms facing difficulty in handling world bosses and economic issues (such as dead Auction Houses or Auction Houses with insanely inflated prices). At the same time, it might introduce a great deal of other issues too like resource depletion, high mob spawn rates and kill stealing. While the technology might be tested on a small sample set of data, Blizzard has yet to see the effect with the real production data (i.e. us!)

Another aspect that I’m looking at closely is the Flex Raiding system. Some people are calling it the LFR killer. Others say that it will introduce its own set of issues in that it will be used for PUGs that end up facing the same ostracizing issues similar to Gear Score and linking achievements. The ultimate question is how doable will this Flex Raiding system be? In order for it to be successful, people have to be presented with the illusion of progress that is semi-challenging yet doable. It cannot be in a state where people are endlessly banging their head against the wall. 2-3 wipes per encounter at most is where the acceptable line is, imo, especially since many groups will end up using it as a gearing mechanism to supplement their normal raids.

As a result, the question becomes whether or not Flex Raiding de-stabilizes the raiding scene any further. Certainly, LFR has disrupted raiding where many guilds ended up focusing on LFR rather than doing normals or heroics. Will Flex Raiding move even more people towards the easier content or will it pave the way so people will want to give normals and harder content a try? That’s the key in all of this. The thing is that people want an overall better experience than what LFR provides, which is partly why Flex Raiding was introduced. LFR only resolved two issues which was time (although this is arguable in a different manner) and “progress” by from a boss perspective and gearing. However, the social experience has been extremely lacking, which is the area that Flex Raiding supposedly targets.

In the end, the thing is that people still will be forced to schedule in time for raiding. Where progression raiding can take weeks, Flex Raiding’s partial success will be a result of the celerity in what people feel is acceptable progression. Because Flex Raiding is presenting a difficulty that is in between LFR and Normal mode raiding, you can assume that Flex Raiding might take longer than a single night for tackling the newest Siege of Ogrimmar (unless they’re over geared). Even if it doesn’t, the time demands will still be higher than what LFR commands. In turn, I have to ask whether or not the slight upgrade in rewards and achievements might be worth the effort for the casual player.

For myself, I’m going to distance myself a bit from Flex Raiding to see how it pans out. I have a feeling that LFR might take a dip initially because people will want to try Flex Raiding and see if the experience exceeds that of LFR. If people end up banging their head against the wall only slightly less than Normal Modes, then people will flock back to LFR and Flex Raiding won’t be the hit that Blizzard might be seeking. Instead, what might happen realistically is that people who are having difficulty with Normal modes will completely move towards Flex Raiding and Normal modes will see a great dip in the short term.

Although my friend says that he’s planning on both at the moment, I probably will stick with LFR and see how that goes. I think that LFR might become a little easier while Flex Raiding will be a mechanic or two harder than LFR in its current incarnation. The idea is that LFR still will be catered to casuals but the increase of ease would ensure that groups can bypass it faster as well as the lowered quality of loot. Also, increasing the ease of LFR will probably encourage people to continue to run it; if situations like Durumu, Lei Shen or Garalon pop up, less people will want to do it anymore and find some other activity. So a balance has to be achieved between LFR, Flex Raiding and Normal modes for these systems to work (personally, I prefer just having a big zerg fest. Much more fun).

The other thing that I’ve looked at is the Timeless Isle. The Timeless Isle looks like something that Blizzard attempted to learn from with regards to the Isle of Thunder. Gone are the vast majority of daily quest and replaced by a single lore question. Instead, people still can earn coins by killing rare mobs. I’m not sure about the details of how this all will work but I’m hoping that the system is similar to the rares from the Isle of Thunder.

The other aspect is the enclosed world boss. I think at this moment, there’s one walled off world boss where only people who have the legendary cape will be able to access it. This was a highly questionable move by Blizzard, once again creating another useless wall. People argue that the fact that not many have completed the quest line the ability to get together groups to handle this boss will probably disallow many from handling it at all. Others argue with the upcoming virtual servers, this point will become moot. Of course, reality only will be demonstrated once the patch goes live. Blizzard did state that they will be making this situation account wide for those who manage to complete the legendary quest and obtain the cloak.

Still, the content walling is another example of what I’m calling the poor will towards the community at large by Blizzard. I figure that Blizzard’s internal thinking occurs in two parts here: 1) rewards those who have managed to complete the quest line, similar to Ra-den on Heroic in Throne of Thunder; 2) encourage more people to continue working on the Legendary quest line in patch 5.4. The problem in this thinking is that content walling along these lines just makes no sense at the end of the day. I argue that the only time things like this matters is for high end progression raiders and those who are interested in achievements and personal progression. The average person simply does not want to deal with the grind involved behind this quest line.

For me, I realize that all your effort will just get dismantled in an upcoming expansion. I mean, I like gearing and all but I want my efforts to mean something for a while. I feel that the gear progression model that Blizzard has is just too antiquated and requires massive updating. It’s fun to see your DPS and stats rise but it’s not fun trying to keep up all the time. Being a tech worker, I already have to deal with all the moving targets. Why deal with this issue in a game?

I guess what I’m hoping for in the next patch is an overall less frustrating experience. Already as I read the patch notes, I’m not happy with a great deal of changes. I’m looking for a “quality of life” type of change in the game. The changes are mostly content related or cosmetic but does not resolve a lot of other overarching issues present in the game and might introduce more problems than they intend to resolve.

What’s funny is that this morning I read a re-tweet by the World of Warcraft group on behalf of Ghostcrawler talking about criticisms and how many developers work on their projects. Honestly, Ghostcrawler can’t win with someone like me. I have very little sympathy for a company and group of developers in this situation. It reminded me of a video from Moldran who talked about trying new games (new for him at least) and how he finally saw the light when it came to the lack of changes for Diablo 3. The problem is not with Diablo 3 itself but with Blizzard/Activision. This is a corporate level problem that requires drastic measures (i.e. head cutting).

If Blizzard has hundreds of developers working on these problems, how is it that they fail to resolve simple issues? Like why is there recurring bugs that get fixed then reintroduced into the game? How come the people at Blizzard call PTR a “privilege” when in fact it’s free QA work for them? Why can’t they fix these problems with their “hundreds” of developers when other, smaller companies can handle the same type of games at scale? Why can’t Blizzard hire more developers and QA people with all the money they’ve banked over the years? Why can’t they outsource QA to these high end progression groups?

The thing is that the excuses are getting sickening. I’m tired of the constant PR spins on a lot of these issues. The fact is that the company has a lot of issues internally. If it didn’t why would Vivideni suddenly split off? Why would the constant drop in numbers NOT be an issue? I mean 12 million to 7.7 million is a HUGE drop when you consider the month to month free money that Blizzard essentially receives. You can’t deny that there’s something internally wrong with the company.

And it’s not just me speculating. I know people over at Blizzard and hear about many of their cultural problems. You don’t have any mobility. People who were there from the start don’t move and so there’s no motivation to improve. You work there for the name recognition. And on top of that they’re very selective about the type of people they hire. Wouldn’t you think that the company should start re-considering about the type of people they are hiring if they aren’t able to solve a lot of legacy issues?

I want to start seeing things in good faith from the company. I hate it when I read threats from a company that has incurred its own share of problems. Like forcing people to be online all the time yet still being unable to cure the botting problem. Or dealing with the inflation of gold in Diablo 3. I feel that the company is in a very sensitive position and needs to really work on transparency and distance themselves from Activision itself. They need to do more to build good will with the gaming community and restore confidence that they can produce high end games with excellent quality. But I don’t know if they’re internally prepared to do the right thing at this point in time.

 

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