Exploration and Magic

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Last night was one of those nights where I was driven by a purpose…  one that was over relatively quickly.  For the last month in Elder Scrolls Online there has been a Summerset expansion themed event where they have been challenging users to go out and get the Summerset Pathfinder achievement.  For doing this the community could earn rewards…  first a pet, then a mount and finally a nonsense house.  It was the nonsense house that really drew me out of the woodwork and while I feel bad that I did not participate until we had hit 100%…  I still wanted to get on and do the thing before the event expired which is I believe at some point today.  I have no clue when I will actually get my baubles but regardless I did the thing and saw the really pretty land mass known as Summerset in the process.

Now I am going to go back to not questing there until I managed to make it there organically.  I am really stubbon and weird about wanting to do content in the correct order… and even in systems that claim not to have a correct order…  I try and determine the optimal order.  For example in World of Warcraft Legion… the correct starting zone was Azsuna because that was the zone that had the first tier of profession quests (minus mining which was weirdly in Highmountain).  So I always started characters there in order to get them access to tradeskills as quickly as possible.  Similarly I could play the Star Wars the Old Republic content in any order I choose… yet I did the leg work to research the order in which it was released and have played through it in that fashion.  This is effectively what I am doing in Elder Scrolls Online as well… because I am odd.

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The other thing that I played a significant amount of last night was Magic Arena which as of yesterday went into Open Beta.  Now several of us have been playing the Alpha and Closed Beta for awhile now, and are sorta sad to see our stockpile of cards go away.  They did a big wipe of everything between the Alpha/Closed Beta phases and in theory will not do another wipe period (unless there is some catastrophic issue that comes up between now and release).  I had enough gems that I managed to purchase my way back into my favorite deck so far… which is Mono Black Creature Burn.  This is by no means my creation, but I do plan on spending some time tweaking it eventually, and maybe even trying to build in for paper magic as well.  It only has a value of about $15 in physical cards so it is a pretty great entry level option that can be pretty brutal.  I’ve never run up against anyone playing something similar, and I think the way it works catches a lot of players off guard because it does a lot of things that deal damage to the player but mean me in the process…  allowing me to break out a Chainer’s Torment pretty early for a massive creature in the process at a stage of the game that they can’t really handle a 12/12.

That said it is completely weak to any sort of creature removal and you can chump block it for days…  but the deck also has a bunch of flyers to get in and plink away at anyone with an army of ground creatures.  If you end up with a board stall…  there are cards like Fell Specter, Vampire Neonate and Vampire Sovereign that can hit the opponent directly without actually attacking.  It has a good deal of hard creature removal, so you can sort of selectively remove their big bruiser.  It doesn’t have any ramp to speak of with a bunch of one drops that deal significant damage quickly like Viscious Conquistador...  that deals a point of damage to the opponent just by tapping them regardless of how combat resolves…  it can add up fast.  However in the above game the opponent lost because they got mana screwed… not because of some skill I had.

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If you have ever played Magic the Gathering in the past, I highly suggest you check out Arena.  Hearthstone is cool…  but it isn’t Magic.  This is finally Magic the Gathering for the Hearthstone world and does an amazing job of delivering fast and fun gameplay.  You start off with a selection of Mono Color themed decks, and then each day there are quests allowing you to earn additional multi color decks… like today I picked up Chaos and Mayhem which is a themed Black/Red deck from the looks of it revolving around Rekindling Phoenix.  I am hoping this means I will also get back my beloved Explore matters deck… either that or I will get the tokens needed to build it.  One of the key differences between Magic Arena and Hearthstone is you get tokens that are good for one card of a specific rarity, instead of having a crafting system.  In some ways this is awesome, because you can swap a mythic placeholder for any mythic of your choice…  but there is no way to break down the cards you have no interest in to fuel the ones you do.  Basically it is a trade off but the placeholder tokens seem to still be pretty prevalent.  This makes getting a Mythic Placeholder feel awesome, because you know you can trade it for the card you actually wanted to pull from that pack.

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Lastly it was requested that I get pictures of outdoor cat…  this is from this morning when I went out to feed and he was so much more interested in nomming the food than getting his picture taken.

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This is from awhile back when you can actually see a little bit of face to go with the gratuitous munching.  It is a sweet baby, but unfortunately we are full up on cats… and another family has pseudo claimed him as theirs.  If they do not however let him come inside as it starts to get colder we may have to change that stance and at a bare minimum let him become garage cat…  since our girls likely would not take kindly to his presence.

Outdoor Cat

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This morning there is not going to be much of a blog post because reasons.  I am just flat out struggling today to get my act together enough to string coherent words today.  Additionally my middle cat has made it her job this morning to try and walk across my keyboard as many times as humanly possible this morning.  Additionally I spent some time playing with the outdoor cat.  We don’t know the cats name, but it is a super sweet bobtail tabby that started following my wife while walking…  and to keep him from getting super lost she started feeding him as a distraction.  This turned into a morning ritual where he shows up at the door looking for food…  and since he is super sweet and friendly we feed him.  Still a little skittish, but from what we have found out.. he technically belongs at a house about five doors down…  who also regularly feeds him.

Regardless …  adorable cat…  wanted food this morning so I stopped what I was doing and obliged and then proceeded to get headbutted periodically while the vigorous “monching” proceeded.  I mean it is a pretty great start to the day and I am pretty sure the rest of the day will be downhill from here.

As far as gaming goes I attempted to run Looking For Raid last night… and wound up bailing on the last boss of the new wing that opened up.  There is some heinous trash before hand and a combination of the tanks and dps kept trying to pull all of it at the same time summarily wiping us.  I suffered through three of these wipes before I finally said screw it and bailed.  Maybe by the weekend people will have sorted out not to do that…  or it will get hotfixed to remove some of the trash.  Regardless I got a nice trinket…  which is when the begging began.  Shortly after it dropped I started getting random tells from people wanting to get it from me.  I had already equipped because I liked it better than one of my trinkets.  However one person went so far as to berrade me for equipping it since I already had a 350 in that slot, and that I should be sharing.

This is the point at which I blocked the person and moved on with my life, but this sort of behavior has seemingly become more rampant.  Any time I decide to pug something I’ve seen a significant uptick in loot beggers and it is just annoying.  I really wish there was a flag to keep your loot from showing up publicly, and thereby masking you from any of those addons that try and determine if the person who got the loot deserved it.  The truth is I don’t really want to be in a LFR in the first place…  it makes it worse that I now have to deal with a line of randos vying for the single item that I managed to get during the week from ANY content so far.  I think this feels worse right now than it did in other expansions because the loot feels super scarce and unsatisfying.  As a result when someone begs for an item my guttural knee jerk reaction is “fuck you, get your own damned loot”, which again… is not a healthy stance to take towards a video game.

Essentially as I talked about last night, there is a certain set of circumstances that have created this environment that just feels bad.  No one factor is the cause, but instead in some sort of a SimCity-esc RCI meter…  all of the settings have been tweaked to awful at the same time and it is making the entire experience feel suddenly worse than it ever did.  That is not to say that there are also not an awful lot of things going right.  I have legitimately enjoyed the storyline quite a bit, but the story…  is a limited quantity that is over quickly and instead what remains is all of the repeatable content loops that now feel sort like an off balance washing machine careening towards eventually spilling its load.  The artwork as well is completely on point.  The alliance side areas for example are some of the best looking I have seen in any expansion.  I feel bad about complaining all of the time, but ultimately that is the experience I am feeling so as such I share it with you my readers.

Badluck Coins and Locks

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This is going to be one of those mornings where I may or may not actually ever get around to a point.  I am feeling extremely blah about writing a post because quite frankly it feels like I don’t have an awful lot that is positive to talk about.  Right now I am in this World of Warcraft cycle, but I am not exactly feeling like I should be.  There are just a lot of aspects of Battle for Azeroth that feel bad and I am not entirely certain why.  Some of it might be of my own making, and other aspects might be that I have simply moved past this game and am unwilling to admit it.  The whole maining Horde thing has been a challenge on a whole lot of fronts, not the least of which has been that the vast majority of my contacts are still on the Alliance side.  Similarly I feel like I am starting from scratch, with a handful of characters instead of one of every class leveled to at least 100, so it feels extremely awkward.

The other challenge is I am just not a great fit for the raiding options that I have available to me.  Sunday night is a bad time for me to set aside four hours worth of time to be dedicated to raiding.  I mean I knew that going into this expansion but I thought maybe I could make it work, when really the one raid I attended felt awful from a time management standpoint.  Sunday night is the night we do all of the things that we forgot to do over the weekend, and I am simply not adult enough to make sure I have everything done that needed to be done.  Similarly my wife is in a mad scramble to print things and plan lessons and such… and if there is even the slightest technical problem my entire night is shot trying to troubleshoot why the fuck every machine but hers will print to the printer.  I fucking hate printers…  they are the worst thing ever created.  I’ve seriously done some voodoo shit when it comes to trying to make her devices recognize the printer…  things I am not proud of.  I contemplated sacrificing a chicken once…  and we don’t even have one.

The other problem I am struggling with in WoW is that so many things just feel awful.  Like for example…  I was slightly looking forward to my Mythic+ chest…  and that excitement died 5 minutes after logging in when I saw that I got a cloak significantly lower than the one I am currently wearing.  Similarly I zoomed over for a shot at loot from the Weekly World Boss…  and got a pittance of gold for my troubles.  We are in the wrong phase of the Warfront cycle so we don’t have access to push a button and get instant loot…  and I’ve already killed the Warfront Boss so that is done for the time being as well.  There is a weekly quest to grind timewalking dungeons… or a supposed box of Uldir loot…  but I am sure it will be one of the slots I already have 370 gear in and feel completely useless.

The thing is I don’t mind RNG…  because in the past I have ground my face off pushing myself to run things over and over until the item I wanted dropped.  That is a perfectly reasonable cycle that I am willing to do.  However when I am given a single chance each week at getting something interesting…  and those options wind up with an insignificant amount of gold or artifact power it feels horrible.  Sure I can buy two expensive as fuck second chance tokens that are also not guaranteed, that end up making you feel like a complete fool when that 5000 gold you just spent ended up giving you 200 artifact power.  The fact that I am not actively raiding…  leaves me in this sort of unmoored state where I have no viable means of making the number go up…  which is the point where I start to check out.

It is moments like this that I marvel at just how well the systems in Final Fantasy XIV work…  and why I cannot figure out why that game just doesn’t grab me anymore.  Were the weekly boss a Final Fantasy encounter…  you would be able to run it as many times as you liked, but only receive one piece of loot for the week.  I loved the whole concept of being locked from receiving further loot from an instance once you received a piece of gear, because it allowed you to choose when to spend your lockout.  You could run one of the 25 player semi-raid instances over and over until you got that chest piece that you really desperately needed.  It gave you some measure of control over how you geared and with what items… instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

Similarly Final Fantasy XIV also has a second chance currency that you accumulate over time by doing stuff, that allows you to buy the items you are needing as well.  Gold and Artifact Power feel horrible reward wise… and there is nothing they can ever do to really fix that.  However if you downed a boss that say rewarded 10 badluck coins normally…  but if you failed to get a drop you were instead given a little gold and maybe 20 badluck coins as a consolation prize for spending your lockout…  that would feel decent.  I would know in the back of my head that maybe I lost the roll today, but in a few weeks time I will be able to save up all of those badluck coins to purchase something equivalent to the items I wanted before anyways.

Ultimately this also feeds into another discussion point from last night on the AggroChat show slack…  gear feels largely unexciting as well.  There used to be items that were worth grinding for that felt interesting and unique.  For example… I ate, breathed and slept Mechanar in Burning Crusade when I found out there was a weapon as cool as The Sun Eater in that dungeon.  With a single shot at it per day… I forced group after group to follow me in  there for yet another shot at it and it took what felt like months for it to actually drop.  When I got it… it was an amazing feeling because I could finally wield this amazing weapon that I had been fighting so hard to get.  It looked glorious but also felt like it was really viable and quite honestly held me until I got a drop from Serpentshrine Caverns some 15+ months after the release of Burning Crusade.

Now when we get gear we are getting Raid Axe #3 colored Blue, or Raid Sword #1 colored Red…  the gear lacks any sense of originality and is largely just an accumulation of stats that either are or are not whatever the hell your class optimally wants.  It feels like a handful of numbers that you punch into a calculation and not a physical tangible item that you seek after.  There are very few instances where you want an item… because it looks amazing…  because it is only place where that sort of item drops…  and because it is the going to hold you for awhile when you ultimately get it.  Now every piece of gear feels completely disposable and unworthy of the effort that it requires to get it.

Basically I am just in this cycle where a whole bunch of things that never bothered me… are now bothering me.  I want to finish the Alliance storyline on the Paladin so I have at least seen that.  However if I am not attached to a raid group in a tanking role by the time I finish that process… I am likely done with Battle for Azeroth for the time being.  It is unhealthy to get angry at a video game, and even though mine isn’t so much anger…  but more disappointment…  that also isn’t exactly healthy either.

Yoinking Yang

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It is always staggering how much difference a few pieces of gear make in Diablo 3.  I went from being unable to really function… to being able to push Torment X without much issue.  I could potentially go higher but I have not really pushed myself.  As of this morning I did a solo 40 just to verify that I was wrecking things as fast as I thought I was…  and of course upgrade that blood shard capacity.  Last night after a mythic+ in World of Warcraft I dropped back over into Diablo 3 and with a whole lot of Grace’s help started running content to attempt to get drops.  Over the course of numerous rifts and greater rifts I managed to start piecing together the set that I should be using to make the Unhallowed Essence build work.

This is where I am at as of this morning, with everything acquired minus Wraps of Clarity and the Focus ring.  From there I need one of those doodads that adds a slot to a weapon…  and to reroll a bunch of my gear for more optimal stats.  Then of course there is the game of trying to swap out your normal items with better ancient versions.  Regardless however I am functioning so much better than I was and can finally stand on my own two feet again.  I was in this awkward spot for too long where I could survive the higher torments…  but just couldn’t kill anything fast enough.  That all changed once I got a handful of items and started finally being able to keep up with Grace and her Necro pushing machine.  The funny thing is… she STILL doesn’t have the ring she needs to make her set completely work… and I have somehow managed to get almost nothing but ring drops myself.

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Another thing of note that I thought I would talk about this morning is my plans for Fallout 76.  My good friend Shiana pinged me last night about what I was planning for Fallout and also for Anthem.  He knows me too well, in that he didn’t phrase the question as to IF I was playing…  just where I was playing.  As it stands right now I plan on doing both on the PC since that is the more comfortable platform for me personally.  As far as Fallout 76, when they announced that you could run a private server…  I set my mind on trying to acquire one of these.  My hope is that TypeFrag will offer one since I like their group funding model that allows people to chip in if they so choose to the server rental fees.  We use that for the Teamspeak server that we use for recording AggroChat, and it is nice mostly because it means I am not footing the entire bill on my own.

Regardless of who is paying I plan on having a server with as close to a PVE ruleset as the game allows me.  It will be a nice chill carebear haven with as many of the toxic influences filtered out as possible.  Basically I think this game is going to be amazingly fun pending you can gather up the right mindset of players that are willing to work together and build interesting communities.  The nukes will of course exist, but the hope is that we nuke areas of high mob population and not players… and sorta treat it like a raid zone since it will cause interesting stuff to spawn in from what I have read.  If you want a chill place to play Fallout 76 and are cool with a no PVP ruleset, then this oasis may be the place for you.

Tam Stole My Luck

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This weekend was the beginning of the 15th season in Diablo 3 and like usual Grace and myself decided to do the thing that we do roughly every three months…  and start new seasonal characters.  I went with the Demon Hunter because the Unhallowed Essence set is in theory one of the really fun ones…  pending I can actually assemble all of the parts of it.  Grace went with the Necro because I believe this time is Rathma’s which is another pretty fun set…  pending you assemble all of the pieces of it.  For most of the season she was way stronger than I was as we ran through the content, but there will be a point where that balance starts to shift the other way.  The problem is I have not hit it yet and am struggling a bit with pushing content.  I found getting the Greater Rift 20, the last thing I needed for my cosmetic items and last of the Haedrig’s Gift items…  but be extremely painful.

This season I seem to have had really bad luck, essentially having NONE of the items I need for my build apart from the Hellfire Amulet.  Legendaries seem to be extremely stingy this time around, and often times as I am leveling I start getting some of the drops needed to toss into the cube.  That didn’t happen.  In theory I am going to start grinding some T1 rifts to try and assemble the rest of the set.  I am convinced that Tam stole my luck, because I didn’t even get a single item of my class set to upgrade to Ancient.  At a bare minimum however I now have my pet and portrait frame and anything after this is gravy.

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In World of Warcraft I mostly spent time this weekend over on the Alliance side leveling my Paladin.  Paladins right now seem just as overpowered as Demon Hunters and I have been breezing through content pulling tons of things in a path of destruction…  and in truth consecration ends up pulling way more than I had intended most of the time.  Originally when I took a stab at playing the Death Knight I had started Stormsong Valley and could not be bothered with that storyline of missing ships.  This time around I decided to start Drustvar and its awesome cultist nonsense… and so far I have been enjoying the storytelling way more than a tale of political intrigue.  I like big bombastic storylines, like the whole fighting old gods with ghost dinosaurs thing that is going on over on the Horde Side, so Drustvar seems more of that fit.

The only negative is it means at some point I will have to return to the more subtle political intrigue storyline and hopefully I am invested enough in my character at that point to carry me on.  I figured the Paladin gave me a lot of options for running stuff… but the truth is I will probably just tank or dps… and it is highly unlikely that I ever heal.  While I technically got the healing Artifact weapon, I am not sure if I ever had it equipped.  All in all though…  just not loving the Alliance content anywhere near as much as I did the Horde.  However I will say so far… the War Campaign stuff seems cooler on the Alliance side…  even though it feels weird to be retracing steps I know as horde quests.  I did not realize that I would be effectively sharing the same space…  like Anyport for example in my world is very much a Horde town…  but it is seemingly also open to Alliance?  Also finding it weird that I am seeing way more Orange names while I am leveling than Blue ones.  Maybe there was an initial push of alliance players…  or maybe the AIE presence on our shared shard greatly pushes the balance to Horde.

Lastly we recorded another podcast this weekend as is the usual, and this time around we talked a lot about the Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest franchise…  and the fact that I think of it as Warrior is telling to the last time I actually played one.  We also had this unintended deep dive into Hollow Knight after some conversation about Hyperlight Drifter sort of jarred it loose.  We are trying really hard to bring the shows in around an hour in length and as such they sort of feel better than they used to.  We are trying to limit the number of topics… which has this side effect of causing topics to roll forward to other weeks.  The Dragon Quest topic for example had rolled twice before we finally talked about it.  I am thinking the Trello system that we are using for show notes seems to work pretty well, as we can drop things into the queue throughout the week easily.  Regardless… if you tried listening to us when we often times recorded two to three hour long shows….  you might give it a shot again.

Distraction

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Yesterdays post was super negative, and I apologize for being down a bit.  I am dealing with some mental stuff and fighting through it, but it has colored my world view decidedly darker for the moment.  Yesterday over on Mastodon, someone commented that it sounded like I simply wasn’t having fun anymore.  To some extend I have been having less fun, but I feel like MMOs in general require a lot of grind to get to the fun parts.  Right or wrong that is just sort of the nature of the beast and something I accept as part of the package deal.  My hope is always that the moment to moment gameplay is enjoyable, but even when it isn’t the hope is that there is a lot of enjoyment beyond the grind.

It was around this time that I came up with a reasonable analogy to explain MMOs.  Say you are a person that is really into knocking down dominoes and watching them fall into intricate patterns.  In that hobby it would often time take days to painstakingly set up the tiny little slabs, and then eventually when you are finished you get to start the chain reaction causing them to do all sorts of awesome things…  for a few minutes.  Hours upon hours worth of work…  for a very short payoff.  This is what playing an MMO feels like most of the time… a lot of painstaking work managing factions and consumables and all of the assorted trappings that come with doing endgame stuff…  all to have a few minutes of joy every week.

All of the faction work leads to something…  but that something is often times short and sweet and leaves you wanting more of that awesome endorphin hit that it gave you.   However for the moment I am distracted by the fact that Brewfest is happening and with it comes the Coren Direbrew event.  Sadly the trinkets that are provided this year are only 335, when I was hoping they would be something more sustainable like 340-345.  Regardless it is a thing that gives a much needed slot and my hope is to farm up a set on the Warrior and maybe get the Warlock leveled enough to get some as well.  Additionally there is a pet that I have never picked up before that I hope to get the tokens for.

After that will be the Halloween event, and another grind to chase…  since I have never managed to get the mount to drop and am only slightly bitter about it.  The positive is that it seems like all levels can participate in the Coren Direbrew event, so my hope is that similarly all levels can participate in the Halloween one as well.  That means if I so choose to do this nonsense… I could run around thirty characters through the event every day…  with thirty shots at the mount each day.  On the Brewfest side I have the Kodo and Ram and am not sure if other mounts drop but I think I am in good territory.  Whatever the case this adds up to a large package of distraction that may or may not keep me entertained until the 8.1 patch releases and we can see if anything feels better in the world.

 

The Grind Feels Bad

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Over the last few days I have trying to sort out something about Battle for Azeroth, namely why World Quests feel so generally awful in this expansion.  What I have come up with is a few points, but they all largely center around it being a system that was developed for a different expansion cycle and then not retooled enough to make it function in the same role in this expansion.  For starters World Quests are generally an excellent source of gearing, and in this first days after dinging 120 it very much played that role, giving me access to better and better items until eventually hitting the world quest soft cap of around 330…  with dungeon quests being able to drop up to 340.  The highest actual quest drop I have seen for a green is 273, so that gives you 57 levels worth of gear before the system ultimately peters out.  Honestly that seems like a reasonable gap in itemization, and I augmented it with the occasional heroic or mythic drop to speed my process up.

I think the crux of the issue with World Quests is we are no longer chasing anything that actually matters.  In Legion we were chasing a slew of Legendary items that could drop from literally anything, and I have seen them drop from random boss based World Quests.  So for me at least it felt like every single World Quest that I completed was one additional chance that I had to get the chase items of the expansion…  a Legendary item.  Additionally Emissary quests rewarded a chest upon turn in, that often times had a piece of gear that was very useful in that gearing phase…  but most of my alts got their very first Legendary this way as well.  So again doing the Emissary each day was some thing I looked forward to, because it gave me rep, some sort of a reward, a chest that contained gear… and once again the ever important seemingly elevated chance at seeing orange text scroll across my screen.

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The other thing that is missing is a grind that feels like it matters.  Artifact Power good or bad felt important for a very long time…  even towards the very end as we were unlocking those traits that just sorta made everything get better…  the effect was noticeable.  I felt like I was tangibly better after spending that point…  but also the acquisition of artifact power felt more even handed.  As it stands right now… I can clear both Zandalar and Kul’Tiras of every single available quest during an evening and I won’t have made a single dent in the amount of Artifact Power required to get one more item on the MacGuffin necklace that they gave me that I am supposed to care about.  The ramshackle manner in which we are given traits that are to be unlocked by necklace level… makes the entire system something very hard to deeply care about.  I got an item… the item is higher level…  I guess I will use it in spite of not being able to unlock any of the traits because they are arbitrarily placed through some progression system that I think at one point was supposed to be important but just now seems like numbers pulled out of the ether to keep us grinding.

Basically put… all of this feels deeply unsatisfying and makes me start questioning what exactly the point of us logging in every night to do emissary quests actually is?  The answer to that is…  faction.  Faction is the fire in which we burn.  At least in my case the faction I care the most about right now is the Honorbound because it gates my progress towards unlocking the Mag’har.  Similarly I am certain that faction will also be the thing that gates our access to the Zandalari and Kul’Tirans respectively.  In both cases if I could give Blizzard a sum of money to pay for my time spent… and either instantly gain the faction needed or just simply pay to unlock the race… I would happily do so because the grind that ultimately bars content is completely joyless.  In Legion we gained faction as a side effect of the chase for bigger and better things.  The Artifact weapons felt like a fitting reward for gaining Artifact Power…  and the Emissary chests gave us a shot at getting the real power items of the expansion the Legendaries.  It was a chase I was capable of doing and ignoring the fact that I am every so slightly moving the bar up.

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Effectively in order for a grind to feel good… you have to have enough things distracting you from the fact that you are grinding.  Every 10 to 20 minutes there needs to be enough of an endorphin hit to make you feel like you just accomplished something, and Battle for Azeroth seems to lack this when it comes to what I would refer to as the maintenance grind.  Sure Warfronts were fun because they gave me a shiny purple item every 15 to 20 minutes…  but World Questing, the thing that should be there as a daily pursuit is just a bunch of stuff that I will throw into the grinder or an insignificant amount of gold or artifact power to make up for my time spent.  115 gold for example… the highest paying World Quest that I have available to me on the above map is a completely meaningless and insignificant sum of money.  In order for gold to be a reward from doing a world quest I feel like it at bare minimum needs to be a range that goes from roughly 500 to 2500.  Similarly Artifact power at this point already requires 2500 or more in a single hit to make the bar noticeably move.

Ultimately what happened last night is I logged in… did my Emissary quest…  felt horrible about the rewards…  then logged over to the other faction in an attempt to play an Alliance character.  Which again I bounced out of pretty early on because in the back of my head was a little voice asking me… do I really want to do this grind all over again on another character on another faction?  The grind is just not fun, and I hope they do something to make it feel better in the next patch.  In the meantime I logged over to Destiny 2 which has its own grind problems and found myself having a good deal more fun because…  once again every 10-20 minutes I got the little hit of endorphin from something interesting dropping on the ground.

Warning Signs

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Last night was the first night since the launch of Battle for Azeroth where I didn’t feel like I had a purpose in playing.  What I mean by that in large part is there was nothing readily achievable that I could be doing that would further the state of my gear.  This is a thing I go through with MMORPGs is that so long as I am making the numbers go higher I feel happy and filled with purpose, but once that elevator reaches the top floor I start flailing listlessly.  Having gone through this so many times in the past, this is the beginning warning sign of me starting the check out process.  Effectively at this point I need to find something to anchor me to the game and rapidly or I will drift away into the ether with the first shiny bauble that crosses my path.

Last week I was anchored with a constant feeling that I needed to be getting Mythics done so I could chase a fabled piece of 370 gear.  Before that on an almost daily basis I was swapping things out for items of better quality, which felt interesting and exciting.  As it stands now I have a few options each week to help me move that needle forward… and it feels horrible when they reward gold or artifact power instead of a piece of loot.  I’ve not done LFR for the week but thanks to Warfronts and the cavalcade of guaranteed loot every twenty minutes…  they have no shine this expansion because I have already upgraded every slot above the bare minimum level that drops there.

I got double artifact power off of the Warfronts world boss in Arathi basin, and gold off the World boss that opened up with the reset yesterday.  I am basically left with two options… find a time when I can raid, or dig in harder with alts.  We are trying to make Wednesday nights at 7 pm CST until 10-11 CST work but we are probably still short a handful of people in necessary roles.  Ashgar my traditional co-tank is still very much in the leveling process because his attention is split between lots of different games right now.  We could do higher and higher mythics to try and get gear but pulling those together has been a challenge.  I should have spent my time last night running Mythics to help gear up Morgull, but instead I sorta did a lot of nothing.

As far as alting goes….  I really want to unlock the Mag’har because I want to start a red shaman.  The only problem there is the faction grind feels horrible…  with no real way of making daily progress other than doing literally every single quest available on Kul’Tiras.  I did that last night, and was bored out of my mind the entire time because at this point…  I have done this several times without it feeling like I am making forward momentum at all.  The grind doesn’t feel good this expansion, and quite honestly….  the only time faction grinding DID feel good was during the era of faction based tabards that you could wear and gain faction for doing other activities.  At a minimum I could equip a tabard and queue for heroic after heroic giving me a constant drip of faction and a bunch of loot to show for it.

Ultimately I think I will pour more of my attention into the Warlock and see if I can stave off the desire to bounce until we can manage to pull together a raid group.

Borrowing Systems

Destiny_20161212222128

Destiny_20161212222128

This mornings post is going to be a little weird.  Just getting that out up front.  Yesterday I spent some time thinking about the Azerite Item system and how lousy it generally feels, but there was something about it that seemed extremely familiar and it took me some time to place my finger on it.  Finally it dawned on me…  the system was in effect the same idea as the whole weapon trait system in Destiny/Destiny 2.  An item drops with a seemingly random set of traits (less random in Destiny 2) and you wind up having to evaluate whether or not the item is of sufficient light level, but also if the traits on it are worth keeping.

azeriteitemsystem

This lead to a lot of generally lousy feeling situations where an item drops of high light level…  but has a crappy set of traits meaning that you won’t actually use the item.  This is what is also happening with the Azerite trait system, because not all of these traits are created equal and some are very much superior depending on your need.  For example when I was working on trying to tank as a warrior, there were three traits that were leaps and bounds better than anything else I could get on an item…  and they so greatly effected my survival that I found myself passing on upgrades that didn’t have them just so I could maintain the same build out.  Now I am not saying that the World of Warcraft devs borrowed this system from Destiny, because I have no way of knowing that.  However there are a bunch of other systems that I would love them to borrow from different games…  and now we get into the weird part of this mornings post as I talk about some of them.

Item Infusion

The problem I mentioned before with Destiny… specifically year one… was the passing on items that had higher ratings because they lacked reasonable item talents.  In Year two they put in a system to largely fix this, and it continues to be viable in Destiny 2 as well.  That system is item infusion which effectively takes the item you like and raises it to the level of the higher level item that you didn’t like…  by destroying it and consuming some crafting resources.  Now this system went through a bunch of iterations but the one that makes the most sense for World of Warcraft is the like items infusion construct, of if you want to raise the item level of a Chestpiece for example…  you need another donor Chestpiece to consume and raise the level of the first one.  The reason why I think this would work…  is because of the way that gear scales now.

Effectively you can get the same item at level 200 as you can at level 273 based on the order in which you do the zone content in Battle for Azeroth.  This tells me that these items are not hand crafted but instead made up of a mathematical formula based on the item level of a given item.  You can see this with World Quest gear where the same item scales from 285 to 340 depending on how progressed you are through your own gearing process.  Effectively that Item Level and the stats associated with it can fluctuate and the item still remains functional, which tells me that they could implement an infusion system without somehow functionally breaking the game.

What this would mean is… you could find a chest piece that you really liked the specific trait package of…  consume another chest piece that has a higher item level…  maybe throw in some materials like ore for a metal plate and even a little expulsom since that is accessible to anyone via the scrapping machine.  There would probably also bit a minor gold charge for using what I am assuming is either an NPC or a Machine to do the item level swap for you… but the end result is the item you like using at a new higher item level.  In the Reddit Q&A Ion mentioned that he wants players to use the item with the higher level …  but they will never reach a point of equity with these talents.  There will always be a better option for specific specs, and as a result a system like Item Infusion might be able to fill that much needed gap.

Bookrocks / Bad Luck Tokens

Another system that I would love World of Warcraft to steal is one that ultimately was borrowed from them in the first place.  In Final Fantasy XIV they have this concept of Tomestones or as we tend to refer to them as “Bookrocks”.  These are effectively a “Bad Luck Token” system that allows players to slowly and methodically work towards a goal regardless of how good of luck they happen to have in dungeons.  They work more or less like the Justice and Valor system used to, but in truth just simply works better.  As you do content you get bookrocks of different types depending on the tier of content that you are doing.  The number that drops also depends on the difficulty of content within that tier… so raid content drops a lot of them… and dungeon content drops significantly fewer.  There are various “roulettes” or random dungeon finder systems that reward bonus bookrocks each day and keep players constantly queueing for the content that you need them to queue for.

At any given time there are generally two types of book rocks available…  the bulk currency for items that are now super cheap and easy to pick up giving players a hand up in catching back up content wise.  Then there is the rare currency that has a weekly acquisition cap on it and often times requires multiple weeks worth of saving to add up to a new piece of gear.  When a new tier of content is released… they add a new rare bookrock and the previous rare offering becomes uncapped and takes the place of the previous bulk.  There is a system to cash in older bookrocks to turn them into whatever the new bulk is.  This allows someone to come back from a long absence and through running current content catch up rather quickly… or at least reach a level where they are viable for modern content.

One of the major problems with Battle for Azeroth is there just is no point to run most of the content.  Islands reward you a currency that only matters if you want to do more islands.  Normal dungeons and Heroic dungeons stop mattering the moment you figure out you can survive Mythic…  which takes much needed Tanks and Healers from the dungeon finder queue making it all the harder for the dps you are leveling or maybe a few months behind the curve to catch up and actually become viable.  Final Fantasy XIV is designed in a way so that it bribes players to do the right thing for the community…  which is to queue for content and do so often.  Since content now all scales…  I would set things up in a very specific way to mimic the sort of systems that Final Fantasy XIV has… and associate daily bonus “bad luck tokens” to them.  Here are some examples:

  • Leveling Content – a queue that includes all of the normal dungeons from Ragefire through Legion
  • BFA Normal – a queue that is all of the normal story dungeons from Battle for Azeroth
  • BFA Heroic – a queue that is any of the heroic dungeons from Battle for Azeroth
  • Islands Normal – a queue that is the normal islands to help folks who can’t yet do heroic.
  • Islands Heroic – a queue that is for the heroic islands
  • Warfronts – if your faction currently holds the Warfront… then a daily queue for that too

Effectively there should be two full sets of gear available to help fix the gaps players have in their itemization.  In the currently system I would say the bulk gear option should be in the neighborhood of 340 and they could borrow the way the catch up mechanics have worked in other expansion of having a vendor that sells you an item that turns into a piece of gear for your spec.  The rare currency would probably be something in the neighborhood of 360 to give you something aspirational for most players to work towards but also not being the best item you could possibly get in that slot.  As new content is released, the base level of these items trickles up each time to match what the new normal is, so as the soft cap for World Quest rewards increases so does this.  Combine this system with Infusion above and it allows you to keep the item that works for your spec but keep pushing its item level up to match the level of content you want to be doing.

Borrowing is Good

So often I feel like Blizzard wants to make the “Warcraft” answer to systems and often times creates purposefully inferior implementations.  Transmog for example is arguably worse than every single game that has a more detailed Wardrobe system.  However we deal with it because we were happy to get ANYTHING…  even though it is needlessly limiting.  Void Storage…  was a horrible system…  but at the time we were happy to get it because we desperately needed bank space.  It feels like each time a new system is implemented… they make it awesome… and then purposefully give it some negative impact.  So you can have unlimited pie…  but that pie is always going to be your least favorite… mincemeat.  A lot of the problems that Battle for Azeroth has…  have already been solved by other games.  I would love to see them start trying to apply those solutions to already solved problems to World of Warcraft, and give the players are more rich and usable experience as a result.

 

Progression Soft Cap

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wowscrnshot_091618_115615

I’ve reached the point in World of Warcraft where my progression options on the Demon Hunter are greatly limited.  At this point I am 349 item level and unfortunately there really aren’t that many reliable ways to bump that number up.  When Warfronts opened I was able to get a single 370 level item for completing that quest.  Similarly a lot of our weekend revolved around trying to complete the “do 4 mythics” quest because timing is a pain in the ass…  which also rewarded a 370 item.  Lastly there was the opportunity to get a 370 item from the Arathi Basis “fake pvp” boss encounter…  but instead I got double artifact power.  I cannot believe that I am even suggesting this…  but World of Warcraft needs something like the Powerful Engram system to give you weekly opportunities to see some forward movement if they want players to stay interested in the content without resorting to alting.

I am not actively raiding right now and that would probably help this feeling of bumping up against a cap.  Similarly if we could do Mythic +10 we probably wouldn’t be having this issue either.  But effectively myself, Grace and Tam have reached a soft cap that we cannot push past without raiding.  In Destiny 2 there were a handful of events that could be completed each week that gave the player “powerful rewards” which effectively meant an item that was guaranteed to be greater than their effective item level.  This meant that even though I had checked out of Destiny 2 effectively… I was still coming back each week to burn through these three or four systems to get something that felt like progression.  World of Warcraft is largely a “raid or die” system at this point with so much gated behind raiding that there isn’t much of an opportunity for forward momentum.  This however is always the problem…  because they effectively only have the one progression path instead of having multiple paths that all arise at the same goal of a geared player able to do lots of different activities.

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All of that said I am still loving Mythics when we can manage to get five players together at the same time, and I am loving the fact that it does not matter at all what item level the player is when we grab them and drag them into the content.  We grabbed Morgrull last night who was a fairly freshly dinged 120 and got him at least one piece of gear from Freehold.  It also feels good that we are slowly building out this team of players that are capable of doing stuff, giving us a lot more options for the future.  Last night I did not raid with Facepull because Sunday is still a bad day for me to do anything super serious on.  It is very hard for me to commit to being at the keyboard from 6:30pm to 10pm my time with a handful of 5 minute breaks.  Last night I was swapping laundry and alt tabbing back and forth between working on some stuff for today.  I got up and walked away from the screen at several points during the night, and raiding would have procluded that.

As such my hope is that our little gathering of cross server nonsense can eventually turn into a fledgling ten player raid group, that we can get something going on a night that isn’t personally horrible for me.  Something like Wednesday nights would be excellent, and it is making me wish that WoW raiding were 8 player based and not 10 player based because we probably could muster that size of group already.  However we keep adding new players into our gravity well and eventually that will be enough to make something like that happen.  I miss the era of non-guild based raiding and I sorta want to make it viable again.  Sure the whole not being able to trade items across servers is a giant pain in the ass…  but it should still be doable and would allow us to pull in a far greater array of people once we got something rolling.  Not all of my friends live on the same server and transfers are cost prohibitive when you are like me and have an army of alts…  so I want to figure out a way to make this work cross server.

Lastly I thought I would link the podcast from this weekend because it is relevant.  We talk about the life cycle of an MMO and what games do well and do horribly.  We talk about the onboarding of new players, and the revitalization of returning players…  and how many games don’t take them into account at all.  We also talk at length about the end game power creep and how awkward it feels to see item levels matter so freaking much.  The episode has nothing to do with Gorb other than the fact that we didn’t record the 15 minutes of us trying to explain what Gorb was before starting the show.  Gorb is that raisins and peanuts mixture…  no Gorb was a movie with Robin Williams from the 80s…  etc etc.  This is one of those shows that sort of happened accidentally…  since it was a combination of topics that had rolled over from other weeks.  However they aligned themselves with a certain synergy that made for an interesting discussion from a bunch of long time MMO burnouts.

Lastly as you can tell from the first photo I have begun working on my third character…  this time I decided to level my Warlock.  This is one of those marriage of convenience sort of things because sure I enjoy Warlocking…  but mostly this is my tailor/enchanter and I desperately need enchants because they are prodigiously expensive this expansion.  As such I am power leveling the character by crafting a lot of mail pieces and grinding them down for dust.  However I have reached that point where I can technically make weapon enchants…  but I don’t have access to the purple materials yet.  So time to buckle down and grind grind grind to 120 and start gearing her.  I wonder if I can name my void walker Gorb.