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.