A Short, Cherry-Picked Recap Of the March 21st Live Q&A

Today, Ion and Lore had another of their Q&A sessions!

My optimism was that it would kick off the patch 8.2 PTR and have a content drop near the end, but alas, hope is too much for the current state of things.

Having said that, there was a decent amount of discussion about the philosophy of things, which I do think is worth diving into and important to break down and look at the way Blizzard does, to aid in communicating the things we like or dislike. So let’s dive in!

The Dev Team Doesn’t Use MAUs To Determine What They Develop

To be honest, I don’t 100% buy this. I think the development team, left to their own devices, would not use them, but I know that the team exists in a business ecosystem where someone with influence is looking at them and trying to push the game in a direction that improves that metric.

They indicated that they use metrics like how often and long you log in and what activities you do as the chief guideposts for if a design is hitting the mark. Absent any tangible discussion of how they see BfA performing along these metrics (and conveniently ignoring that the MAU metric does somewhat encapsulate at least two of these components!) it was an answer that felt hollow, and I almost wish they hadn’t touched it at all.

Caverns of Time Portal Is Returning and Will Go To The Central Cavern!

Nothing more to say here than the following: thank god, and also, as I predicted, player feedback shaped this call but they didn’t ask for any until it was too late, so now they removed the portal only to put it back. Why would you do that to yourselves? If you had confidence in this change, why on earth did you not present the finished portal room earlier in 8.1.5 PTR and say, “yep, that’s the final state, tell us what you think?” Because it looks to me like how I deal with delivering bad news – you wait until the last possible minute and then pull a “hey, by the way…”. As someone who has taken people out on a date to tell them I didn’t want to date anymore, it’s a terrible strategy and you should never do it. Now I’m mad about portals and my own socially awkward past, grrr

More Bad Luck Protection (With No Details)

The theme of RNG in loot continues to be the most alive dead-horse ever, as Blizzard continues to question why we beat the poor thing while we all can easily see it is not yet down for the count (that analogy sucked but I’m sticking with it!). The news was that they are working on some form of new bad luck protection (with no details as to what manner it will work or on what types of activity) and reiterated the Mythic Plus cache bad luck protection that aims to keep you from swimming in bracers.

Again, I hate having to keep on this topic, but dammit Blizzard, the problem isn’t that I’m not getting loot or that I’m getting the same loot – the problem is that the system is entirely murky and clouded, and I have no real ways in which to influence it short of “play more with seals.” Honestly, if the answer is that, then I am almost at the point where I would rather just not have seals either – if I can’t reliably get loot, I’d almost rather the Vanilla model, where the answer is “better luck next week!” because at least then I have some answer as to how to handle the situation. The sad thing is that I like loot being more available – the current model of the game has a lot to like on that front, but it also frustratingly removes so many ways for you to push to your BiS in favor of random gameplay loops. Fight the boss, maybe it drops! If not, seal the boss! No luck? Well, you can try the boss again with another seal! No luck, well, maybe next week you can get 1-3 chances at the loot again. I’d rather a one and done approach, although admittedly, that is how I play now, so I might be biased to my own preference. Maybe we can get a way to just dump our seals on a boss? I’d love to have the warglaive from Heroic BoD, but it doesn’t seem to be happening on my terms.

Gear Resets are Frequent and Maybe Problematic, But They Want Progression Between Tiers

The question of seasons came up, and that is one that I think is interesting. The idea of seasons from Legion was that catch-up mechanics exist on a per-patch basis rather than an end-of-expansion smorgasbord of upgrades. Like the answer, I am conflicted – seasons are nice for mains, because it does make that first week really worthwhile to log in for, so you can work towards all of the upgrades and everything carries additional value, but at the same time, on an alt, it feels like a waste. My druid hit 120 the last week of Season 1, and rather than gear up like crazy, I just stopped playing until Season 2 opened. The irony is that under the old catch-up model, I would have probably kept going right after hitting 120, and then would have gotten even more gear the next week. Of course, while I like that switching raid mains is now a lot easier (mainly for my fellow raiders, since I tend to lock-in), it also feels like an MAU tactic (players logging in for catchup at each patch, staying a bit longer in the process). I’m not going to outright say that it is – because it is hard to say for sure, but it definitely feels like a possible angle.

Allied Races – Maybe, In the Future, But Not Today

No allied race announcements. Nothing new to say or show there. They’ll announce in the future in similar ways to past announcements – Blizzcons, patch news, etc. I’ll give them this one, as a patch PTR is likely looming over us soonish, but those of you hoping for a chance to roll more alts – disappointment abounds. They took a suggestion that you should be able to repeat the Allied Race quests on alts, which would be kind of cool!

Gearing – PvP vs PvE and Primary vs. Secondary Stats

Two continued issues for many players depending on how they interface with the game, with two short answers. The first question – is PvP gear intended to remain at parity with PvE (yes, short of some specific rewards). Second, what are they doing to ensure primary stats remain important and weighted better than secondaries? Answer: they’ve made some changes and the hope is to keep that as largely the case, but some specs are still outliers and they know that. There was a comparison of math about amount of each stat that frankly didn’t really clarify much for me, so I’ll mention that it happened but I’m not sure it is really worth recapping.

Transmog – New Limits

You’ll be able to hide chest armor as a transmog choice soon. That’s pretty cool. It calls out for tattoos specifically, which basically means it is made for me and the other Illidari.

Level Squish – Sounds a Lot More Likely!

One of the things that stood out sharply to me was the idea of leveling being rewarding again. The point was made that current leveling kind of sucks and feels bad because there are large gaps between unlocking new abilities or other gameplay alterations. The words “level squish” hit my ears like a sharp whistle, and if I had to gamble today, I’d be willing to bet that 9.0 sees us go from 120 to 60. It would be fucking weird, and maybe not ideal, but at the same time, if you look at the cadence of unlocked abilities, talents, and the like, it would look so much better to be more densely packed. You wouldn’t even need to add anything – just take the current options and reallocate them into the new curve and I think you’d be way better off.

But the chief takeaway I got was that a level squish is almost certainly coming, as they have mentioned it aloud two or three times now, which is something similar to what they did with item squish prior to the first one. They are preparing us for that future state.

Gold – Not Much To Say

A question came up about gold and the state of the WoW economy, which has been, well, something of a shitshow for a while due to deflationary measures taken in the wake of the WoD and Legion mission tables. I feel like their answer grazed upon a greater truth – the idea that only certain professions can really make a good deal of cash, as they named flasks and potions, and not much else. Enchants are kind of still viable, but the reduced slots are less appealing and require less frequent enchanting, not to mention that gear is also being scrapped as well as DE’d, changing the supply of enchanting mats and arguably devaluing gathering to a similar extent to what was seen in WoD with the garrison resources for mining and herbalism. I really want to see them seriously tackle the game economy in the immediate future, because while I understand the need to deflate some of the gold earned in the booms of WoD and Legion, let’s be real – the economy is fucked right now.

Melee – Raid Fights are Fine

I don’t have a lot of short form thoughts on this, but the idea that there is a good balance of fights that are ranged and melee favorable is laughable. Some raids do better at this than others, but the design of WoW nearly always pushes melee to have to do more downtime to manage mechanics, which is not cool.

Two Sides to a Tale Is Not The Start Of A Trend

If you worried the dual-war campaign achievement meant a future where you’d have to consistently play both factions, fear not – the intention is that the dual story is largely a BfA function and won’t be pushed going forward.

That covers the big items, with some fluff questions about Classic and a few about communities that don’t really ask or reveal much being the remainder.

All in all, I like that they are trying to talk, and I get that this is a good thing, but at the same time, it felt sort of aimless – not much new content to talk about, not a lot of questions that really got deep into things, and no previews or sneak peeks of new content to come means that overall, it feels like a sort of lacking attempt at engagement. Having said that, I also find the answers to a few questions fascinating – the lack of detail on the gold question, the quick response to portal backlash with the CoT portal (which could have been fixed in the Public TEST Realm!), and the philosophical points on gearing.

I’d like to say I came away feeling like the team understands the frustration some of us have with the expansion, but in the end, my worry is now mostly that they don’t get it. The callout of player agency in gearing was specifically setup for them to hit a home run about how they can increase direct player accountability for gearing, and they instead bunted and talked about bad luck protection and the myriad ways in which the game shrouds loot in an obscuring veil that prevents me from doing anything meaningful to influence my gear short of “play more.”

I suppose the real problem is that Blizzard’s default preference is to just stay the course until 9.0, but that sucks, frankly.

I want to want to play this game more, and I want to feel like I’m getting more value than “raids only, two nights a week” for my $15 a month. But I’m not, and it looks like it’ll be another year before that is the case.

9 thoughts on “A Short, Cherry-Picked Recap Of the March 21st Live Q&A

  1. Thank you for the recap. Them touching upon the whole metric speculation part really stood out to me. I just want to be naive and hope for the best.

    I just, I’m suprised. That this is how I feel. I read through older blog posts of mine and I can hardly recognize myself.

    A part of me wonders. The new systems, the new weekly things to do, the rotation of time walk, the Pvp weekly, the pet weekly, and so on. Is it possible that the average -play three hours a day – player is overwhelmed, and it’s all spread too thin?

    I mean, I have an hour a day in the evening before bed, and I was ok with that in Legion, for some reason.

    But in this expansion I feel so often, oh I was suppose to do this and that weekly, oh well…

    I think it’s a balance to have enough repetitive content to please all player segments, but surely there must be some kind of phsycology behind this, that will reveal that this is not a good approach to design a game by? It can be too much?

    And the “have to log in during specific hours to do Incursion” etc too.

    Am I making sense? Language barrier makes this hard!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can definitely see a lot of what you’ve said in my own gameplay – I purposefully have had to say that I will not do everything I can (or should, as a raider) to play the game, and that I am perfectly content to play only that content which whets my appetite for the game.

      And in truth, I am behind. Even our lower-end raiders have 2-3 Heart of Azeroth levels on me. I’ve gone from highest geared in the raid to tied for lowest, because I’ve given up the chance at item level 400 loot from the Darkshore warfront.

      I like some of these systems is the sad thing, but I definitely feel the same way about the pile on – there is so much to do, that can be done, that often, it just removes my desire to do any of it. I’ve accepted that until 8.2 at least, I’m likely only raiding, and I’m perfectly okay with that – but I wish I could put my finger on precisely why I don’t like what is presented to me. I don’t want to just complain – so instead, I write here and often try to push on the things that bother me and offer up for discussion the things I see.

      I do think they want players to feel like there is more than just the content to log in for – extra rewards, special event weeks, etc – but something about the design just lacks the impact it had in Legion, even though I feel like it is largely the same. The bigger worry I have is that they’re likely to continue down this path, for better or worse, for the rest of the 8.x patches. Blizzard almost never gives up on designs mid-expansion, so even if they see the writing on the wall, my fear is that they are going to push ahead until 9.0 when we’ll start getting blog posts and Q&As where they’ll finally say out loud, “yeah, we know you didn’t like this in BfA, so we fixed it.”

      Because they’ve nearly never admitted the problems in real time – they’ll paper over them and say they’re working on them, and then the second a new expansion is on the horizon, they can admit they made a mistake.

      I think the thing they lose in all of this focus on weekly events, hourly Incursions, Warfront rotations, and Island rotations, is this – the content itself doesn’t feel as fun to me as the stuff they’ve put out before. I like the idea of rewarding players, but I feel like I used to really want to log in to just play – even if I got no loot and no rewards other than greys and gold, I was happy to just play, and BfA just isn’t delivering that to me.

      I wish I fully knew why – I want to be able to just say that the GCD changes and slowdowns in combat made me feel less interested in the gameplay, but I like playing vengeance DH still – it’s fun and fast, so I can’t yet fully say with any certainty that I know why I’m not really thrilled with it – I just know that right now, I play FFXIV most nights and then I get my two raid nights and almost immediately log out and go play FFXIV some more. I like both games, and I’ve played WoW for 14 years now, so I know I’ll be more engaged at some points than others, but it’s kind of a disappointment and I’m not even sure I can fully blame Blizzard for it – maybe I’ve just played too long?

      The Q&A’s almost don’t help because they’re often used to justify things I don’t like. In deciding that they don’t want to go as fast as Legion, it feels like the bad parts of patches are dragging in comparison and that isn’t a great feeling!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m afraid you are right too. I worry the nut is a tough one to crack, for us and Blizzard too. I get the, let’s make lots of stuff for the players to do, but maybe there is a thing like too much, to unfocused. That calendar is filling up with so much. It’s one of the reasons Classic appeals to me. The days of logging in and just staying in one area, using your hearth stone. Count the number of portals taken on a daily basis now. But I know that some of it is naturally happening because the game has grown. Which it should.

    Oh right, I didn’t even think about the necklace. I guess, as you, I have just stopped wanting to keep up, wanting to do what is presented.

    I do wonder though, there are players having a good time, still! But many of them appear to belong to the player segment that have almost unlimited hours to play. Just an observation.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. My thoughts:

    MAU: Certainly they track playing time in this or that way, it’s a MMO ffs. The goal is to keep players logging in.

    Caverns of Time: I’m still a devil’s advocate, and I like the idea of NOT being pushed into the overdue content. Please note: they finally set the portal into the major Caverns room! Begone the tunnel flights.

    More Bad Luck Protection: either we embrace a token system, or we go for drops. There’s nothing in the middle. Tokens are cool (Halls of Valor raid), it gives a sense of progression. But drops give you this joy of… well, drop. I can’t tell for sure – maybe a combination of two would be nice? I’d vote for a transmog set to be token-based, and gear/mounts/pets to be drops.

    Allied Races: I’d vouch 100% for vulpera/mechagnome duo coming next as a doppelganger for gnomes and goblins. Vulpera are ready, but they cannot introduce them solo: we’d probably want reputation with mechagnomes first.

    Transmog: so we will have an option of capes, helms, chests, belts removed – and shoes through Griftah’s shoes model if we want. I hope they will at least leave us pants for decency sakes 🙂

    Level Squish: yes, please. Something must be done with leveling. The content is a monster that will soon bury itself under its own mass. Personally I’d like an option to skip 10-20 levels on alts under condition of loremaster/explorer achievements (maybe also all dungeons and raids?). So, if your main has seen all the stories, including dungeon and raid ones, an alt may head on to the current expansion leveling.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the comment! On the bad luck protection, I totally agree – they’re trying too hard to have drops with these extra things tacked on. I liked the older systems of ideal gear drops and certain slots like weapons being in the raids, with currency items available outside that you could work towards through raiding and other means of play. I feel like the current game is getting closer to going back to that model, but it wants to tie everything to its own currency – doubloons for islands, 7th Legion/Honorbound marks for incursions, Titan Residuum for Azerite gear, and so there are too many different reward systems in play, even if they do answer slightly different player desires.

      I wasn’t even expecting the chest armor option, so I can say today I’m fairly confident pants transmog isn’t going to offer a hide option, but you never know!

      Agree on the level squish too – I think all of the things they try to use to attract new players ignore a fundamental problem with any MMO as long-lived as WoW – there is too much stuff to do and the path to 120 feels very daunting if you’re new. It still takes me a few weeks to level even an Allied race that starts at 20! Squishing down to half would, I think, offer some benefit to gameplay and in addition to just removing the barrier of having so much leveling to do visually, it could also really help ability acquisition and gameplay pacing. Agree on the skip concept too – if I want a boost, they can sell me a boost, but maybe the alternative isn’t to level through a zone the 13th time (and I can’t imagine how you must feel with your stable of alts!).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fun article, thank you.
    One topic that was strange (and kind of murky) was on communities and how the launcher and the game works or not. I’d really like it if they’d improve the guild experience; anything please, even a variation on have group/will travel.
    Did you find it surprising how Lore and Ion said that so much of their work was based on feedback? I don’t get that feeling at all and I’d sure like to know the main avenue for feedback and, Elune have mercy, I hope that it is not twitter but it might be!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The community thing is interesting – while I think learning the idea of community from Classic development is an interesting takeaway, their solution in the current game is a framework that sits atop Battle.net, fully removed from the game outside of the option for a window interface inside the game. I’d love to see them focus more on restoring community to the game, but the solution has to be gameplay-based and I’m not sure they’re to that point yet (I don’t fully know how to solve it without making dungeons, raids, and other gameplay more painful to get into like the good ole’ days either, so hey).

      The feedback thing is…curious. I have no doubt they get legitimate feedback that reinforces the current state of the game, but I think the portal issue proves that they tend to only really gather feedback when they’ve asked for it, and they tend to stall on doing it until it is too late to revert a change so they have to implement later when it blows up in their face. It’s pretty clear that the design direction of a lot of the game is already complete and so they could be asking for feedback immediately upon pushing something to PTR – dedicated forum threads of “Portal Room feedback” “WoD Timewalking feedback” etc, and try to really push players to provide single-topic, focused posts that they are reading and responding to.

      The forums get info dumps a lot during PTR where someone who dug into the content drops a lot of thoughts at once and I highly doubt that the community team, especially at current staffing, is reading these thoroughly and compiling feedback for the devs.

      I don’t think they’re truly engaging all that much on Twitter anymore – any post from the official game accounts tends to get dunked on pretty ruthlessly, so I think they’ve kind of retreated from feedback gathering there – at least I would hope so.

      Liked by 2 people

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