The Waning Days of Dragonflight

Back in December I made a post debating about whether I would unsubscribe or not – What’s your Game? – and ultimately I think I was unsubbed for all of a couple of weeks. The sub ended December 28th and the blizz announced the Seeds of Renewal patch (with Reclaiming Gilneas) and I just couldn’t resist. The Gilneas starting zone is one of my favourites. Back in Cata days half my alts were worgen.

Anyway, I was still on a raid break. I sat Season 3/Amirdrassil out. I put in that blog post that I was trying to play more casually and remember why I loved the game. That I had got hooked achievement hunting/collecting mounts, pets etc. and to go back to that. This ‘attempting to play casually’ is something I have kept doing in the last few months.

Before I continue one last note about another blog post, the one I did on the Waning days of Shadowlands. In that I talked about some of my issues with the Shadowlands expansion and a bit about the upcoming Dragonflight – what I liked the sound of, what I was hesitant about, and what I wished was coming but wasn’t. I think I noted in that blog post that I had done a similar post pre-Shadowlands (it’s becoming tradition it seemed) and that it was interesting how much I still agreed with my past self – how much had actually come true. That is very much what has happened this time.

My big concern with Dragonflight before it launched was the profession rework – what do I hate the most now? Ah yes, the profession rework. The whole quality star system should go die in fire. I haven’t succeeded in levelling any profession bar fishing and skinning I think? And it pisses me off having to buy enchants from the AH (they are expensive).

But before I get too much into that how am I feeling about the game these days? I said above I had considered taking a break, and was trying to remember why I liked playing. Six months later – have I remembered?

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What’s your game?

I’ve never been as good at blogging here as I hoped. In the beginning this was my Warcraft blog, and then I expanded it to Swtor and Marvel Heroes (and not bothered changing the header since). I now ramble about all kinds of things. I mean let’s not pretend otherwise, these are rambles. I pretend like there’s a difference as I separate out my copied over tumblr rambles from the ‘real’ blog posts, but really they are much the same stylistically. In the beginning I think I tried to make them more legit – just as I tried to keep a blog theme – but this is what it’s become. As this is basically my private ramble spot, as I don’t think anyone reads these even if they are technically publicly accessible, I guess it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, I’m not too sure why that was on my mind as an intro but it feels related somewhat because this is a blog post about Warcraft, and about approach I guess.

I have made a number of posts about Warcraft over the years. If you track back through them you’ll see I change my opinions about some things. I’ve been playing this game on/off for a long time (since January 2010) and as I have changed, the game has changed. There have been times I’ve felt the game has become incompatible with me, and that was the case recently.

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It’s that time again

I think I use that blog title a lot. I am sure I have used it for NaNo in the past but really it works for anything with a countdown to a ‘launch’ date.

Dragonflight. In less than two weeks we’ll be levelling to 70 (again) and I am actually quite pumped. This is typical of me pre-expansion launch. I make all kinds of plans about how it “will be different this time” in terms of getting stuff done like levelling professions, gearing alts etc. and then it never turns out like that. I haven’t been able to do anything but run my main since Mists. I eventually did level the Shadowlands professions but not really in time to do any good with them. The Legion and BfA ones are still a mess…

Anyway! Reality will bite soon enough and I wanted to do a post talking about the classes and the various specs. I’ve been playing this game over a decade now. New classes have been added, and new specs; specs have been reworked, and some things have stayed the same or have they? If it’s been a long time unless I try it then how do I truly know? I guess I don’t and I can’t even say it’s unlikely to have changed in a significant way as – rogues. I loved the aesthetic of that class but until they had a big rework in Legion? I couldn’t kill anything before I died and it was just zero fun.

So let’s talk classes!

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I got into Beta!

The last beta I was in was Mists of Pandaria. I believe from looking back at the blog posts for that time that was because of the ‘annual pass’ blizz were running. I think they did some kind of ‘get a beta key’ incentive. Honestly it was so long ago I don’t remember. Anyway this time I just won the luck of the draw. The moment beta is announced I always check that I am opted-in but expansions have come and gone and no invite has come my way. I totally wasn’t expecting one and then Friday, Spetember 30th – boom! What an email to wake up to! I’ve been drafting this blog post ever since. I intended to do my blogging about it but time has just flown and now it’s looking like pre-patch might drop next week. The expansion is releasing end of next month and with the number of bugs…

Anyway! How has beta gone?

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Musings on Warcraft in the Waning Days of Shadowlands

It’s probably a bit premature to call them “waning days” as there’s probably best part of a year (minimum) left in the expansion. However, we’re into the last patch and I have some swirling incoherent thoughts, that I’m going to try and make sense of and write down.

There have been eight Warcraft expansions thus far. I start off with this fact because I don’t feel like I can really evaluate Shadowlands without also referencing what came before it. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the very real impact outside factors have. I first started playing Warcraft at the end of January 2010 – over 12 years later I’m still here, but I’m 12 years older and a lot has happened in those intervening years. There is always the question when the ‘rosy-tinted glasses of nostalgia’ come out, as to whether the game was better back in the day, or whether it was the place I was in my life that influenced how I viewed it.

So what did I think of Shadowlands then?
I phrase it as ‘what I thought’ because this is a highly personal evaluation. It’s not what was objectively good or bad – it’s how I felt about it. I said to someone yesterday that what I thought sucked, might have been what someone else thought was the best part – and this is probably why blizz struggles so much. They literally can’t please everyone. Quite often I feel that then leaves them pleasing nobody, as they try to find the middle-ground, but I digress.

It is absolutely no secret (except to this blog because I haven’t done a post about Warcraft since 2019 apparently) that I haven’t vibed with Shadowlands. But why is that? Let’s take points one by one.

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Warcraft Woes

None of this is serious I’m just venting.

1) I’m raiding on an alt because I’m playing on a different server. I haven’t had the time, nor the inclination, to do stuff twice so that alt hasn’t done the war campaign, or Nazjatar, doesn’t have reputations or good essences, the heart of Azeroth is still low etc. AND it’s a Demon Hunter which I love (great class!) but compared to the other tank classes for raids it sucks. I feel so damn squishy because I don’t have the Demon Spikes uptime and I feel like I’m missing a cooldown.

2) So obvious answer is to level a better class (paladin perhaps?) and then swap as there’s probably 9 months or so left of BfA including a whole raid tier BUT with the levelling revamp in Shadowlands I don’t want to level anything now. It’s going to be so much faster (apparently/hopefully) and so I’m thoroughly demotivated on that which is annoying me because I want to get set up on this other server. I figured I’d read the beta reports, find out what tank class is doing the best (out of paladin/demon hunter/monk/druid, or I guess death knight but I don’t like that one so much), and then level that one from 9.0 onwards. I’ll probably (definitely) still level Tai first and complete everything but with the New Player+ they talked about in Shadowlands, hopefully whatever main alt I pick I’ll be able to maintain better than I have with all the damn prerequisites in BfA.

3) Warcraft costs money and I’m about to be very poor. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to afford the subscription once it runs out in January, let alone buy Shadowlands right now. So all of the above could be utterly irrelevant. At least I’ll still have Swtor that I can play and my Steam games.

New Class: Mercenary

I said I was disappointed that there was no new class announced for Shadowlands, that made me think what could they have added?

There are 12 classes. So looking at them (or how I see them anyway):

  • warriors are basic fighters, the footmen (plate) (tank, melee)
  • paladins are warriors + have the devotion to the holy light. The healing spec makes sense to me because in a battle, standing still (easy target) should be armoured up (plate) (tank, melee, heals)
  • death knights are warriors but they draw from death with the runic system etc. (Plate) (tank, melee)
  • shaman draw on the elements, have totems (mail) (melee, range, heals)
  • Hunter has a melee spec now I think? (Which is weird), marksman (all the shooting) and beast mastery (animal friend) so a lot more diverse. They have generally been marketed as being a nature type hunter, roaming the wilds (mail) (melee, range)
  • Demon hunters were elf warriors I guess originally and then studied the legion and got their powers from the fel (leather) (tank, melee)
  • Druids are literally shapeshifters getting their power from nature (leather) (tank, melee, range and heals)
  • Monks are martial artists with a love of beer (leather) (tank, melee, heals)
  • Rogues are the sneaky, backstabbing type wielding daggers and stealthing around picking locks (leather) (melee)
  • Priests have the devotion to the holy light but they also have the void in the shadow spec (cloth) (ranged, heals)
  • Mages throw magic around (cloth) (ranged)
  • Warlocks are like mages but they went to the dark side and have demons (cloth) (ranged)

So what are we missing? Well that depends on what angle we’re approaching the problem. Armor types split 3/2/4/3 with mail being the one trailing the pack. There are 6 tank options, 5 heals, 9 melee and 6 range. More important than the details there is the big question – what are we aesthetically missing? Continue reading

Not good company to be in

I’ve been dwelling on the Shadowlands announcement trying to work out what was bothering me about it.

Is is the lack of clarity regarding levelling and the future of the game? Because as I said in my previous post if it’s Classic-BfA choose your poison, then Shadowlands, that’s cool with Shadowlands being the new thing BUT what about when the ninth expansion comes? Will it be Classic-BfA choice, then Shadowlands, then new thing? Isn’t that just restarting the cycle? Also people will be sick of Shadowlands and the levelling curve will be weird.

Is it the lack of clarity regarding levels and what they will do to the ability to solo old content and also what about flying? Because yes they have confirmed we should still be able to do everything we can currently re: farming old raids etc. BUT how exactly will that work? Also I currently can fly everywhere. So if I want to quest in Kul Tiras/Zandalar and level an alt flying around then I can. In Shadowlands when the BfA level range becomes 10-50, what about then? Are they going to take away what I can already do? I see the backlash riots from here.

Is it the lack of concrete information and conflicting statements on levelling? Because I did some quick and dirty math and Ion said that “getting a level every 15 minutes doesn’t feel epic” so I’m assuming they don’t want that BUT they have said levelling will be 60-70% faster and that 10-50 will allow completion of an expansion. The two don’t mesh together very well as using Mists as an example, when that was current it was approx a level per zone, which splitting 40 levels makes for 6.6 levels a zone. It did not take anywhere near 7 hours to do a zone, more like 2-3 which makes for a level every 25 minutes or so? Now I’m not bothered by this I like the whoosh sound, I just want confirmation it will be faster because it takes so long now I’m completely demotivated by it. (also I will not be levelling until Shadowlands).

Or is it simply the feeling of dread about lack of a real key feature?

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Blizzard isn’t taking enough risks

Shadowlands Editoral on BlizzardWatch
My Response:

You hit the nail on the head with exactly what I was thinking watching the panel last night. I hadn’t expected they would take risks so it wasn’t unexpected I was just disappointed anyway. I felt like they’d missed a big opportunity. This is Warcraft’s big year with the 25th and 15th anniversary. When Vanilla launched it kinda set the blueprint a lot of MMO’s have followed since, I mean up until Wrath – the group-finder, it was a big deal and MMO’s don’t launch without one now. I felt like blizz could have been innovative this year.

I also feel like they aren’t thinking about what happens next. I know it’s ridiculous to talk next next expansion when they just announced the next one yesterday but seriously what happens post-Shadowlands? Will levelling be 1-50 of pre-Shadowlands content, then 50-60 of Shadowlands and then 60-70 of what comes next? Isn’t that just basically just setting the scene for trouble down the road again? Plus what is the levelling curve going to be like? If 1-50 is the length of a single expansion that is much faster than it is currently. Going forward 1-50 and then 50-60 is going to be feel really unbalanced.

Also I do wonder what will happen with allied race heritage armor which currently requires manual levelling up to 110/120. Plus I know it’s just a number but I have spent a lot of time levelling up characters and to have them all wiped down makes me a little sad. I hope there’s at least feats of strength saying that they were once known as 120/110 etc.

Looking on the Shadowlands website there is a * saying that “you can still crush old bosses for transmong if that’s your thing” which phew relief as for me farming old content is a big part of my playtime BUT how? Is the power jump from 50-60 going to be Legion sized? Ensuring we can wreck everything below us. Isn’t that then a problem come next expansion as Ion already said that “feeling like you are levelling up and getting weaker is bad”? I mean power creep is always an issue hence why we’ve had at least two ilevel squishes but this goes with my previous point. When I login on pre-patch at level 50 will everything crush me? Or will I be able to go and solo Dragon Soul and ICC as normal? Those are the lowest of what I farm, I mean obviously I do run Legion stuff too.

I’m not negative btw I’m thinking. I did like a lot of what was said. I LOVED the talk of 4 narrative arcs as my favourite thing is story. Legion class halls were my fondest dream for Warcraft realised, I’m just sad that was a one-expansion only deal but I digress. The tower thing working for solo people is also great. I’m not knocking the expansion so much as just wondering about the future, and also agreeing that I’m not seeing an expansion defining feature. A new race wouldn’t have done the trick imo as we’ve had so many allied races. I think a new class could have worked but I get the balance headache. Personally I would have thought this would have been prime time to announce player housing. That could have supported professions as well by making unique models for things available to crafters. It would also fit the player agency/customising theme they are going with.

Anyway I’m going to shut up but honestly I have to laugh at myself. For half a second when they started talking about all the hundreds of hours of content in the game I thought they were going to bring to life my second fondest dream – heroic world missions. Alas not to be, I don’t think they will ever leverage the immense wealth of content they have, it’ll always be the new shiny zones and then move on.

Edited to Add:

I forgot a couple of things so I’m just going to bolt them on here.

1) is the announcement that the decision Horde players made to choose Saurfang or Sylvanas no longer matters, not even a little nod. Given the ‘player agency’ theme I find this again another missed opportunity because player agency is choice and having choices be meaningful and just having everything wiped away expansion after expansion sucks a little bit. I get new players shouldn’t have to go through everything and that if some people haven’t made a choice then it gets weird. Still I feel like a $variable with yes/no/didn’t choose to influence a line of dialogue wouldn’t have been tough and would have been an unexpected delight.

2) I didn’t explain what I meant by heroic missions. I meant they have phasing on Darkshore for example with max level world quests. It would have so cool to have a $variable test to see if a person’s account had the achievement for completing a zone and if yes that opens up this max level quest hub which continues that zones story a little bit. Alts could redo the zone to refresh memories or not bother. If there were say a dozen of these spread all across the different continents/expansions, each day 1-2 was available. Now the big thing I would have done was to put a cap on grinding. Having a new emissary everyday and letting it stack to three but no more is a good model imo. So people can do more than one a day/stacked three but they don’t get a chance at gear/combat related progression, they get gold or chance at non-combat stuff – not mandatory in other words.

I’ve always wanted this because it would open up Azeroth more rather than just making everyone congregate in the same new zones. Then the new expansion drops and we abandon those for the new ones – rinse and repeat. It’s a big world, we should get to play in all of it.

ETA 2:

I totally forgot to say and want to put somewhere so I can point later if I’m right…

I think the jailer is either Gorak Tul (Drust guy) or it’s whatever spawned him as the silhouette and the blue eyes is really similar. I know we supposedly killed Gorak Tul in Thros when we rescued Jaina hence why it might be his father type deal. Sylvanas has definitely been powered up to be able to do what she did. I mean wasn’t Waycrest all about Gorak Tul finding a way back to Azeroth? So perhaps he needed Sylvanas to break a hole in the world so he could escape The Maw.

Also calling it now, the new zone we get in 8.2 is going to be Dragon Isle. Oh and don’t think I didn’t notice about the 4 covenants, and there being 4 dragonflights – there’s some kind of echo going on there. I just hope it ties into the actual lore of Azeroth being a corrupted baby titan (do we even know how we heal Azeroth yet? I’m presuming we do) and they made too much of the Void vs Sylvanas and also what happened with Vol’jin not to follow up.

I also hope Talia gets to meet her father, as painful as that will be :/

How would you canonically revamp old world content?

First off I was against removal of the old zones to begin with. I hate removing content and also it made for a wonky levelling timeline. Blizz obviously didn’t care then so I doubt it would be a priority for them now but I wish they would fix it, it bothers me.

So if I was in charge I would probably massively expand scaling and have an opening scenario for every new character (skippable for old hands) which culminated in a tour of the portal room. In this opening scenario I would have the timeline explained, saying that the heroes journey began with the assault on the dark portal and journey to Outland, and then Northrend happened, and then Deathwing wrecked the world and there was chaos over all of Azeroth, then Pandaria, then Draenor, then Broken Isles, then Kul Tiras/Zandalar etc.

Everything below current content would scale because from a story standpoint with the content that’s in the game players should start in Outland. If people want to level from a story standpoint then cool, if they want to hit up their favourite zones also cool, if they want to do it one way with this char, another route with another char etc. also cool.

I think I’m on record as saying I almost wish there wasn’t an expansion with new zones, and instead old dangling story threads (like a lot of Cata zones) got resolved. So I would be really pleased if they added a couple of small new zones for current content but then most of it sent players all over Azeroth. I really love it when they do that, like with the class hall campaigns for instance, as it makes the world feel more alive. They could either phase these updates (or as the number of phased zones is getting to be a lot) they could utilise the caverns of time.

TLDR: I would update old zones by using them for current content and I would take the opportunity to fix the levelling timeline with a scenario/cinematic explaining it. So probably not all zones at once, similar to what they have done with Darkshore etc. I guess in that there are world quests and it’s very much part of the endgame.