The sad truth about Warlords

Warlords of Draenor had a rocky launch but part of the reason why it was so bad, was because it was a huge success. Blizz is back over 10 million subscribers according to the press release – that’s huge. It was something people didn’t think would happen.

Now obviously more players, and a huge success seems like a good thing and it is – to a point. You see given the huge success blizz have no reason to change anything. Why would they? They did what they wanted, and they didn’t just get away with it, they just got a great big huge thumbs up. They just got rewarded and so they think they did it right, but I don’t think they did.

Be fair warned this might sound like a rant. It isn’t really, just frustration because as The Grumpy Elf says, if he didn’t care then he wouldn’t complain. I like the game and there’s nothing wrong with wanting it to be better. I know the rider on that is better for whom? As obviously what I like and what others like are different things. For the purposes of this post I’ll just be talking about my perspective. However, I am well aware that it is just my perspective and one that a lot of people won’t share.

The 14 month gap
Obviously the gap wasn’t exactly 14 months as 6 months of a raid patch is about right. However, in Mists there had been content patches in between raid tiers which meant content came even faster than 6 months. Then the last patch didn’t just last the 6 months it was good for, didn’t just last the 8 months that would have been acceptable but lasted 14 months. That’s a full 8 months longer, it overstayed it’s welcome by staying current twice as long as it should have done.

In any game 14 months between content patches is unacceptable. In a subscription game it isn’t just unacceptable, it borders on criminal. Yes I know those are strong words but blizz already charges twice, once for the content by selling the expansion pack, once to access the game. I unsubscribed for the last seven months of the expansion as I wasn’t going to pay them for that.

It doesn’t surprise me that subs got a bump when the new expansion was released. I resubbed myself but that does send out the wrong message. It sends out the message that blizz can screw over the playerbase, by expecting them to pay and pay, they’ll not provide what they should for it, and we just keep crawling back anyway. The problem is once they have you, once you want to play the game then you have no choice but to pay. It’s like a captive audience and a few lost subs from people with principles isn’t going to stop the juggernaut.

They can do what they like and we’ll pay them, as if we don’t pay then we can’t play. They have no incentive to change, no incentive to bring out content faster. Sure they might lose subs for a few months every now and then. However, after the longest gap in Warcraft history they have gained 3 million subs. So what do they care? They have no incentive to bring out content any faster as clearly they don’t have to, it doesn’t affect their bottom line.

The expansion itself
Don’t get me wrong Warlords isn’t a bad expansion. In fact there is a lot I like about it. Garrisons are a ‘love it or hate it’ type deal like marmite and I fall down on the side that likes it. True I wish that they weren’t quite such a gold sink, I’m barely breaking even as it is. However, the missions are kinda addicting, I’m always logging in throughout the day to pick up the followers and send them back out again.

What I really don’t like about Warlords is the pointless change that it brought. It removed a bunch of stats; hit, expertise, dodge, parry are all gone. That’s fine but it brought in a bunch of others; multistrike, versatility, bonus armor etc. and it removed reforging, completely shuffled enchanting and gemming and added a lot of rng to gear. The gear stats aren’t fixed now, they are random. Rewards can be randomly upgraded to higher quality, it’s a lot harder to sift through and find where the good gear is hiding.

Now obviously I’m not raiding this expansion, I don’t actually even feel the itch to raid just yet either. I’ve been taking it easy, as there’s no need to rush and I’ve ignored the fact that I don’t really understand my gear anymore. However, I have confidence issues and while I know I’m a competent tank LFG can be a scary place. In the past I could optimize my gear and the knowledge that I was right, it was like a shield against random players. I don’t have that anymore, I just have what I’ve picked up. I know what stats are good but I’m powerless to max them. There’s no reforging, no gemming, very little enchants and with the changes to professions I don’t have any primary professions maxed yet. Usually I’m up and running and self sufficient by this point, but this time I’m very confused.

I also don’t really feel the power anymore. In Cata I raid healed and tanked dungeons. I always loved tanking but I was a coward, raid tanking seemed like a big deal and I didn’t think I could do it. However, I did get a chance on occasion and then had to watch as pugs came in when I healed. Watching them I had the strangest thought for me, that I could do better. I decided to swap to tanking in Mists and deliberately didn’t get a healing set, so that I would never have to switch. I tanked every raid, cleared Throne and Siege, add a few heroic modes for good measure. I was a good tank and I knew what I could handle. My self healing was good, my cooldowns felt strong, I could feel the difference in the numbers on my rotation. I worked out talents and specific pull patterns that worked best, I could handle it.

Right at the beginning of Mists I felt very weak as a paladin tank for about a week. I hadn’t make the adjustment between being a block tank and active mitigation. I had two friends who had previously been paladin tanks who had switched classes. It made me think for a moment that paladins couldn’t cut it. However, I worked it out and once it clicked I felt like a superhero. In some respects, especially during Throne, pally tanks were overpowered. That felt good even if it was unfair, as who doesn’t like feeling powerful? My co-tank and friend who played a death knight, could more than keep up, in fact they could handle a lot of things better than I could. The warriors I co-tanked with likewise didn’t really have any trouble either. I think for the most part tanks were in a really good spot in Mists.

Then came Warlords and the huge shakeup for everything. The stats were shuffled, the great numbers squish was in, abilities were pruned, vengeance was modified and renamed resolve. It was all so unnecessary. True I guess I don’t miss balancing the stats for the hit/expertise caps but I didn’t have a problem with doing so. I liked the playstyle, I liked how it felt, how fluid and strong it felt. Now? I feel weak. My self healing is like a wet noodle, my cooldowns aren’t worthy of the name, my dps is inconsistent and there’s no feeling in what hits harder in the rotation.

Part of this is probably the beginning of expansion problems. At the end of the expansion, stats were maxed so obviously I felt powerful. However, once things had clicked in Mists and I got the feeling, the stats just helped but it didn’t change anything. Blizz have changed it so tanks aren’t all that anymore. They said that they didn’t want bosses to be able to one hit anything in raids. They made tanks more equal dps wise, I actually levelled in tank spec and didn’t feel like it slowed me down. It feels like the compromise is that tanks took a hit in survivability, there’s no more power “I’m living when I should die” or at least not yet. I’m not sure I can quite forgive blizz for that one.

Expansion content
That was all about stat changes, what about what Warlords offers? Well, it removed valor and justice which I was a huge fan of, it increased rng which I’m not a fan of and LFR is still set to be king of the hill. I’m a huge fan of dungeons but with all the changes to stats and power, my confidence has taken a knock and LFG is a scary concept. I thought I would be running and enjoying dungeons but I’ve barely queued at all as I’m a coward.

It’s hard to judge an expansion just yet as it’s still early days, there is so much I’ve yet to tackle. While that could be a good thing, it doesn’t really speak to the longevity of what it offers. There is so much content that it just done once after all. The lack of valor and justice does concern me, and apexis shards don’t seem like a good replacement. Then there’s the fact that everytime I do look at the dungeon screen there’s a call to arms for tanks, and quite often for healers too. That is great for me as a tank, as everytime I do pluck up the courage to run one I get an extra reward. However, if I want to run dungeons on alts that aren’t tanks then it means I’ll be in for a long queue.

Then there’s levelling alts. 10 levels psychologically seems like quite a lot even though it’s probably the same amount of xp. I guess I’ve only ever gone 5 levels at max level as I started in Wrath, people who began before that would have done 10 levels to cap before. I don’t like levelling in Warcraft, never have and so I just want to get to cap as fast as possible. I suppose levelling is fast enough but it still feels too slow, probably because I don’t want to do it at all. I’d like to just click my fingers and be at level cap on alts, as for them it’s the destination and not the journey. I like to complete everything on my main, alts I just like for whatever they can do.

The lack of flight really annoys me as I admit it I like convenience. If they had never introduced flight into the game then it probably wouldn’t bother me. I don’t notice in Swtor, as it’s not a flight enabled world and so it doesn’t feel like I should be able to fly. I get the feeling that blizz has decided flight is a bad thing, they want us to play a certain way and that’s it. I do hope at least that if they don’t allow flight when Warlords is current, then it will be enabled in 7.0 as it matters. Grumpy says it best, travelling does not equal play, we want to actually play the game, not spend forever just trying to get to where we’re going.

The future
Another thought about this expansion occurred to me when I thought back over the blue post, saying that there would be only two raid tiers. If blizz are smart about content release and time it properly then that would make the next expansion release March 2016, to coincide with the release of the Warcraft movie. It would be a good marketing ploy and everything lines up for that. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if maybe they delayed Warlords release so it would lineup like that. However, the realist in me is fairly sure that they just screwed up.

They haven’t announced the next expansion yet but if it’s going to release March 2016, beta needs to be no later than September. Usually they announce new expansions at blizzcon but there won’t be time to wait till next November, and they like to run the hype train for a while.

I think this is what concerns me the most about the message that Warlords sends. More than the fact that the expansion is probably unfriendly for alts, more than all the stat changes which I hate, more than the lack of flying, it’s that a 14 month gap between content is ok. It’s not ok but blizz has ‘proof’ that it is and therefore that they can wait until next blizzcon to announce, that they can wait two years between expansion releases, that they can charge more for the expansions and deliver less. They have said that there will only be two raid tiers in Warlords but that doesn’t necessarily correspond to an accelerated release schedule. Although an accelerated release schedule would be good for their bottom line, they release expansions more often then they get an infusion of cash more often.

To conclude
I have rambled and ranted a little, it’s just Warlords success has it’s downsides too. While intellectually I knew that they were unlikely to return to the Wrath/Cata model of dungeons and points, I still held out hope and that hope is all but gone. Mists made the change and Warlords success put the boot in.

Warlords success also proved that a 14th month gap between content patches isn’t a problem, something which I have repeatedly said, and probably makes me sound like a broken record, is an extremely bad thing. It’s disgusting really and especially in a subscription game. We’re players who love the game and it’s like we’re cash cows, just worth what we hand over. There’s no respect and that’s just not right.

Anyway, to end on a more positive note. Archmage Khadgar – voiced by Master Bra’tac off Stargate totally made my day. Any reference or association with Stargate is good in my opinion and Tony Amendola hits it out of the park as expected.