Sunday, 15 May 2016

Neglected content

It was encouraging to see Blizzard in their Legion Dev Update admitting to their neglect of old world levelling. They have previously brushed off any questions relating to improving it by saying 'we have new stories to tell', focusing on end-game and expansion content. But when what gets delivered there is not up to the standards set in the past, or takes an exorbitant amount of time to deliver, the excuse doesn't hold water and the whole game looks lacklustre.

I haven't had any desire to play vanilla servers, so the whole episode regarding Nostalrius and pristine servers didn't really pique my interest. But it looks like that has helped put the spotlight on what is now a terrible levelling experience, so I'm glad people are fighting for it, and hopefully some good can come from it on the live servers.

Whether you like levelling now or not, it was where so many of us first fell in love with the game. When introducing a new player to the game now, you have to make so many excuses for it, with the promise of it getting better once you reach the current expansion. Blizzard appeared to focus on the boosted experience, but WoD did not deliver enough to justify it. The same player base won't keep playing the game forever, it has to get new blood to persist, and it is hard to see a new generation of players coming through and falling in love with what exists post boost, or the mess that exists before it.

Watcher summed it up well when he said that the pacing is off, that you spend more time running around than anything else. The XP nerfs and bonuses are both a blessing and a curse; if you want to get to end game asap, levelling is an obstacle and the reduced XP makes it quick, but it is also a large part of what makes levelling so bad. Most people that want to level quickly will spam queue dungeons, where (particularly before Cataclysm) they are so easy they can just be rushed through, requiring no coordination or communication - it's just a power grind. If you don't take this path, you'll find a disjointed mess of zones that are outlevelled after a handful of quests, story arcs that never get finished as you are moved on quickly, time travelling back and forth as you traverse expansions, the rewards are mediocre to non-existent, and the whole experience is lonely and unchallenging. On one character I levelled from 85 to 90 in the first half of The Jade Forest, after which I discovered I was still wearing vanilla gear in a number of slots, including white ilvl ~30 boots.

There is so much once-great content in the old world that could continue to be enjoyed by players, with a little love. This extends to old dungeons and raids. I have long held the opinion that allowing old instances to become completely trivial is not a positive thing. I am not flatly against the idea of dungeons and raids becoming soloable, but bosses should not fall over before they can even complete their pull emote. All the effort that went into making a cool boss fight, the mechanics, animations and effects, voice acting, everything goes to waste. You cannot experience them again, just like you cannot experience the levelling zones like you did in the past.  It is no wonder people want vanilla servers.

Timewalking dungeons have provided a glimpse of what could be possible, to experience at least some semblance of the original encounters, and the zone scaling in Legion also shows promise. If these could be expanded game-wide in some fashion, it would go a long way to improving the dormant parts of the game. I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

I personally wonder whether there could be a tradeoff for using XP boosts. For example, heirloom pieces could either have strong stats, OR have XP bonuses. Perhaps if the amount of XP required was returned to old levels, you could make a deal with a goblin to sacrifice all of your non-XP quest rewards for an XP multiplier. Not really a punishment for the first 60-70 levels, but again, rewards could be tweaked. In the days of 10 million gold cap, a handful of silver for low level quest completion could probably be bumped up a bit.

I also think that if you want to power level through dungeons that's fine, dungeons could even have increased XP over questing... if they were challenging. That would go hand in hand with a foundation concept of MMOs, grouping up with others to defeat difficult objectives for better rewards. Perhaps as a start, heirlooms should not scale beyond an instance's base level. For example, if you can queue for RFD at 40, heirlooms should function as if you were level 40 in that instance, regardless of your actual level.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Uphill battle(grounds)

Another three weeks of mostly battlegrounds. A quick update on my status: up to 40+ wins in each of the 5 battlegrounds, with the following win ratio:

Full games Part games Overall
Win 122 8 130
Loss 85 29 114

40% of the way in, and I am losing enthusiasm. I'm still really enjoying doing battlegrounds when queueing with other people, but not so much when solo queueing, so my progress has definitely slowed down. I even did a raid on my alt just to break the monotony. But I am happy with the win/loss ratio even if - as per my last post - it is definitely influenced by winning/losing streak bias.

I'm considering trying enhancement again to see if that reinvigorates the motivation. I calculated that I'd need 10250 conquest to swap my weapons and intellect pieces for agility gear, and I've got just over that much banked. But I'm not confident it will change anything.

As elemental, I constantly need to remind myself that the people I'm beating soundly are most likely ungeared. In many situations, ele can be useful - for example, if you are lucky to get instant empowered earthquakes around large flag fights, they can turn the battle - but geared, skilled players of other classes can make you look silly at current damage levels. I think the most frustrating comparison is lack of escapes, even temporary ones. If you get set upon by a number of people, your defenses are inadequate, compared to the effectiveness of immunities or stealths that other classes can utilise to escape death, receive heals and reset the fight. The primary defensive you have is kiting, which just doesn't work with the abundance of slows, or when trying to defend a flag out in the open.

From what I've read elemental continues to be fragile in Legion, but may get some more damage potential, numbers pass pending. If it is bottom of the heap again, I'd be really disappointed, but would definitely prioritise changing spec over changing class, as I did in WoD.

Between queues I have been camping the Timeless Isle, hoping to collect the remaining pets and finish off the bigger bag achievement. I'm happy to say I've finally got the Gu'chi Swarmling, Ashleaf Spriteling, and Death Adder Hatchling, and I am down to one item left for the achievement: the Rain Stone from Zesqua. Hopefully I will get that very shortly, because I'm tired of camping that too.

With those pet gets, I'm sitting at 676 unique pets, 25th on the server on Warcraft Pets. I still have a few to obtain or level, but even with those I won't be able to get much higher on the ranking without dropping a lot of money, which I am not willing to do, unlike some as Dark Legacy illustrated well this week.