I think, looking back on Legion thus far, one thing stands out like a sore thumb.
I wanted to approach the three things that I think are holding Legion back a little bit with regards to randomness – specifically, Legiondaries, War and Titanforging, and the Netherlight Crucible.
Before we dive in, I want to preface with this – from what I’ve seen, the majority of the complaints we will dive into are those of hardcore, bleeding-edge progression guilds and groups. If you are pushing world-first mythic progression, gladiator level PvP, or peak Mythic Keystone dungeon progression, these things are weighing heavy on that experience. I have noticed a fascinating thing I like to call the “Dean Effect” – named after a former guildmate’s real name. What this is, is the trend I have observed in WoW’s community to echo the sentiments of top-end players without having experienced the full brunt of the effect of it. The three systems I’ll mention, at least two of them are designed to in-fact appeal to a more casual player, and have done so with some cost to the progression players.
The name I have for it? Well, Dean always complained about how “casuals are ruining the game” and complained about Bobby Kotick of Activision personally ruining World of Warcraft, post-Activision acquisition. You’d think such a guy would be a stellar player, complaining about how things are too easy, but then he died to nearly every easily-dodged AoE, did poor DPS, and eventually quit playing.
He’s a perfectly fine person outside of WoW, but inside of it? Not a fan. 🙂
I mention that because of this next point (fun story about silly former guildies aside) – these systems work for a player like myself. I’ve enjoyed these systems as designed at some point during this expansion. I’m not a Mythic raider, and likely never will be, and that colors my perception of these systems. Do I think that people complaining about them are wrong, even if they are just parroting top-end players? No. Quite the opposite actually. I do think these systems need improvement. WoW benefits from having a high-end playerbase that can share their enthusiasm, skill, and passion for the game. Just because I have enjoyed some of these things doesn’t mean I’m right or that everything is fine – as the comments on my piece on Argus and flying show, I enjoy the game in a way that some people might consider strange. Blizzard’s role is to cast the biggest net they can – but even if only 10% of potential players are outside that net, it doesn’t mean it’s not an issue worth chasing after.
For a player doing normal raiding, then progressing to and finishing heroic with just a few weeks left in a raid tier? Most of these systems are probably okay. But there are huge gaps that absolutely need to be addressed!
The first and most easily reviled system of RNG in Legion are the way in which Legendaries are acquired. By making them a random drop, chance to be any one for your current spec, in theory, they up the fun. By making it so a heroic boss, a world quest cache, or an LFR loot pinata can drop a Legendary, and up your power – it’s envisioned that this makes the game more fun, and is a psychology-altering way of acheiving that goal. They also add rotational complexity, ideally – making the top DPS rotation on Icy Veins a little murkier.
In practice? Well, they are a bit fun – when you get the big UI flash and see orange text, it’s a cool moment…that can quickly degrade and become less fun if you got a bad item. While I’d argue most legendaries have cool, fun effects – making them offensive in some cases, and random drop has irritated players. Rightly so, too.
Here’s how it works in a progression guild – you are a mage, let’s say, playing alongside one other mage. The two of you have equal gear, both in stat mix and item level. Then, your other mage gets the best legendary. While the two of you currently play at a similar skill level and do about the same DPS, that mage is now going to pull way ahead because of one lucky drop. You then loot a legendary and get…Prydaz! Now your raid leader has a tough call – they can only bring one mage for this next fight, and they need to maximize raid DPS.
You get booted from the group.
Now, this is something most Mythic players are prepared for. It happens all the time. However, this is something that is completely out of your control. You’ve been doing just as many Mythic Plus runs, as many total dungeons, you’ve been there for every other boss kill and you’re keeping up on your World Quest Emmissary caches. You just drew the short straw, and while both straws are orange, they have a substantially different end result.
Here’s the thing – I like legendaries, I like the concept of having them drop in this way and find the fun of it. However, without a way to chase specific legendaries, not just on a token vendor (one fix added since launch) – you can find yourself out in the cold at the mercy of RNGesus. This is a cruel thing. I’ve hypothesized that a gem-style system with choices could allow these effects to remain in the game without having to remove all offensive procs, but regardless of the solution, I hope Blizzard has something in mind.
War and Titanforging
These, I think, are good systems that do what is intended, and aren’t as detrimental as Legiondaries. However, I think they impact Mythic raiding differently. While not strictly as negative, Titanforging just doesn’t have as much room to expand for Mythic raiders. If you’re in a raid that drops gear already just below the Titanforging cap, then well, no one is going to get that lucky. Even if gear max-Titanforges for a Mythic group, it’s not nearly as cool as when it happens to an LFR player.
The intention behind it is a good one, and it is a good reward – it just, in a weird, roundabout way, doesn’t make Mythic play as rewarding. Even worse, the reward scales to be less exciting the higher difficulty you’re playing. Some people, they’ll get salty and talk about the time an “LFR Hero” got a 930 titanforged chest and how they don’t deserve it. Here’s my thing – I think it’s cool that someone playing LFR can have that degree of luck, and it’s statistically very unlikely. What I don’t like is that one tier up, a Normal player has a higher chance of getting that same piece of gear, but it’s also less exciting, and then at the Heroic raid level, you only have to win 3 titanforged upgrade rolls for a piece to match Mythic, so it happens even more commonly and is, as a result, even less exciting.
I don’t know that I have a good solution to that, either. If you cap all Titanforging at, say, +15 item level, then it’s equally common, and equally less exciting for everyone. If you let Mythic players have the same shot at a +55 roll as an LFR player, well, it’s restoring a degree of excitement for those high-end players, but at what cost to gear inflation and content trivialization? Further, if a Mythic raider can roll, say, a 985 piece inside Tomb of Sargeras, that, in effect, has a similar problem to Legiondaries. Now instead of it being the Legendary causing the benching, it’s that other mage getting a really lucky Titanforge roll.
What a dick that guy is, being all lucky and shit.
This one is hard to predict, as right now, we’re doing content that doesn’t really need these powers and isn’t designed for it. However, here’s the thing – yet again, similar to legendaries this expansion, the Crucible is completely luck, and will impact Mythic raiders just the same as what we discussed with Legendaries, with the added twist of being able to fuck you over TWICE.
The first tier is a freebie, which is nice and welcome. The second tier powers are the first layer at which you can end up wanting to junk a relic, and the third tier more so. If you don’t get ideal light/shadow powers, and a third tier trait that links up to your preferred light/shadow trait for that relic, then it can impact your performance in a noticeable way. In theory, this isn’t that bad, and hey, for about 90-95% of us, it won’t matter that much. You’ll take the traits you’re presented with based on what you enjoy most, and it’ll be fine. You’ll progress, kill bosses, get phat loot, and all will be well.
Again though, for Mythic players, these traits can represent a substantial DPS/healing/survivability boost. Enough so that if you roll non-ideal traits and your other mage friend rolls perfect ones, you could, again, be riding the pine while that bastard takes your loot.
So you’ll notice, as I mentioned up front, that realistically, these things don’t inherently affect a majority of players. Most of us aren’t raiding Mythic in a world-first race. You’re doing so more casually, or doing one of the lower-tier difficulties, where these 3-5% gains often don’t matter. When a raid is flex and there are 28 people online, as long as your group fulfills role requirements, you’re not going to sit while everyone else goes (and if you are sat for just that small difference, that’s a sign of a shitty raid lead, but that’s not really in-scope for this piece). My experience with these has been this – my Demon Hunter has 10 legendaries, across both specs, and every time I get one, I get excited and think about how cool it is, but I’ve only ever equipped about 5 of them. When I get a Titanforged piece, especially on an alt, I have a similar experience – it’s cool, and I enjoy that bit of content I was doing when it dropped a bit more. I haven’t even looked at the Netherlight Crucible in terms of guides or theorycrafting, but so far, on the one relic with a Tier 2 option for me, I picked the one I liked, and I feel a bit more powerful but it doesn’t really matter that much in the scheme of things.
And I enjoy especially being on an alt when these things come into play, like when a relinquished shoulder token on my Monk netted me a 930 bit of armor. Sure, it was some generic world quest piece scaled way up, but hey, I had an unsullied piece on before that, so sure, give me 50 more item levels!
But despite my personal, positive experiences with these systems, I can understand why they are not ideal or even good for high-end hardcore players. Realistically, if you’re Blizzard, you have to look at the loss of multiple top-end guilds this expansion as an impactful loss for two reasons. One, yes, these players themselves are gone or folding into other guilds, making the world-first race a bit less exciting, but also – these players are advocates for the game. They play the game live on streams, on Twitch and YouTube, and create content – videos, blogs, podcasts, etc. They advertise the game for free, showing potential new players and lapsed fans the fun, varied encounters that Blizzard puts together. Without as many of them, there is a trickle-down effect that pushes out lower-tier players and discourages some of those possible new players from signing up.
Now, I know that you don’t want to design a system exclusively for these folks to the detriment of the remaining 90% or so of the playerbase, but at the same time, putting in these systems in a way that can actively hurt this 10% of players has a splash-damage effect on players that listen to their commentary, and can push them out of the game. For what “whales” are in the free-to-play game market, hardcores are that for an MMO. They spend the most money and are influencers.
So for as much as I do actually enjoy the systems I just described, I do think that pulling this RNG out of the game, or at least figuring out ways to make it less punishing is absolutely necessary. It’s probably too late for Legion, save for some 7.3.5 tweaks that could be made to the Netherlight Crucible, but for the future of the game – I’d argue it’s worth a look.