Company and Misery (and also Fun!)

I’ve been playing WildStar and WoW mostly solo the past few weeks, and have recently resolved to at least make an effort to be more social again. So when I saw my buddy Lonomonkey (sorry for revealing your WoW shame, friend!) had logged into WoW for the first time in a year or so I grabbed him for some legacy raid silliness. Not only was I being social for a change, but it also kept both of us from just sitting around in our garrisons being bored and boring. I had been meaning to try soloing Elegon for the fancy celestial cloud serpent mount, so I dragged him along to pandaland to try it together. There were a few missteps due to him being out of practice and me playing a mage I hadn’t taken out of the garrison in a few months but we eventually killed Elegon and unsurprisingly there was no mount.

This is the moment where the afternoon started going off the rails. We decided to keep going to kill the last boss because neither of us was sure we had ever finished the place outside of LFR. Unfortunately between our lack of gear and our rustiness with our characters we just couldn’t get it down. Having resolved to be more social, I decided to reach out to Belghast to see if he could come help finish this fight with us. The three of us were more than a match for it, and killed it easily on the first try. Delirious from our victory, we decided to move on to Dragon Soul, which Lono had never completed on any difficulty. Since that raid was 2 expansions ago you’d think it would be a piece of cake, and it was…except for Spine of Deathwing. That fight has way too many needlessly fiddly moving parts, and is one of those sad circumstances where soloing it is easier than doing it with a couple friends because of the way the mechanics work. We died an awful lot, and there were a few way too close attempts where the last person standing got rolled off before they could finish the encounter. At this point I’m regretting my social attempts because after this everyone is about to murder each other. We did eventually win, no thanks to my squishy mage who ended up dying almost every attempt. Killing the final boss in that place always feels so anticlimactic after the stress of Spine.

Now in a flash of utter stupidity I decided that the best thing to follow that up with is a quick jaunt to ICC to get my blood infusion, a part of the legendary quest line from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion that my paladin has been sitting stuck on for forever. It required a lot of silly antics with mechanics again, and poor Lono had to keep dying multiple times each attempt on his warlock. It took fewer attempts than Spine of Deathwing, but felt even worse since this time my friends were dying for a silly quest for me. I’m so grateful that they both stuck around until we succeeded. After we won everyone seemed to disappear very quickly, I think we were all really eager for a break after so much frustration.

I still think that my social attempt was a success though. It is funny how even doing something kinda awful with friends was more fun than soloing dailies in WildStar or rotating through a dozen garrisons all day in WoW. I certainly wouldn’t want to make a habit of this exact choice of activities or we all might not remain friends for very long I think.

P.S. Speaking of social, don’t forget that the Diablo 3 season 6 is about to start this Friday evening! Leveling is way faster and more fun with friends, and I’ll be rolling around in a ball of murder with various folks all night until I get to 70. Are you excited about Season 6 too?

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Chipping a tiny hole in the faction wall

The first dev connect for WildStar has ended and the results are in. Here’s what Pappy has to say about the changes coming for factions in WildStar:

  1. We will be dropping the Content Finder faction barrier.
  2. We will be allowing players of both factions to communicate openly with each other. There will no longer be a faction filter in chat.
  3. The faction barrier for open world grouping, housing, social systems, and guilds (which includes Arena teams and Warparties) will stay in place for now.

Well that’s very disappointing. Depending on where you sit on the faction issue, you can find reason for complaint here, or reason for hope. My opinion is that I would have liked to see the faction wall go completely out the window. I want to be able to play with my friends on either faction without having to reroll a new character, and I want to be able to inhabit social spaces with them without restrictions. Unfortunately these changes do none of that. Let’s see what we are getting out of this.

1: Dropping the content finder faction barrier. I understand this choice. Queues can be long, and this will help shorten them. I do think it will feel incredibly weird to be randomly dropped into a group with the other faction but know that there’s no way to reconnect socially with those folks once the run is over (see point #3 below). It may feel a bit jarring to end up in a mixed group if you are a strong advocate of the faction wall, and it is almost made worse by the fact that there’s no lore or social context at all for this. Basically the only place in the game where mixed groups can happen is in a random group setting.

2: Removal of faction filter from chat. This is such a non-issue for me I don’t even know what to say about it. There’s been chat mods and even workarounds in the built-in systems that have allowed cross faction chat since launch. The people who really wanted this already have it, and the people really don’t want it are going to be annoyed at having it forced on them when they’ve chosen to avoid it up to now. It should make coordinating world boss groups easier at least since everyone will be able to understand each other.

3: No changes to open world grouping and social systems. Well shit. This is what I really was hoping for, and now it feels like xmas is canceled. I wanted changes that would let me play with my friends no matter what faction. I was hoping to be able to check out the other faction’s housing, or to convince my dommie friends to join my awesome guild. The housing thing especially frustrates me since it seems like it would be straightforward to add an “Exiles only” toggle to the housing settings to appease folks who don’t want dommies stepping on their lawns or in their private RP areas. Housing is such a bastion of community and creativity which absolutely does not follow strict faction, lore, or even genre restrictions, so it makes me sad to see it stay closed off.

I have spoken with some faction purist folks who are upset about these changes because they wanted the walls to stay in place as-is. I almost feel like this result is bad for both of us. For them, they can be randomly placed into groups with the opposite faction with no context and no way to avoid it. For me, the only faction crossover is happening in a place that I don’t spend any time, since I usually run group content with friends not random pugs. I really think opening up the social systems would have been much more preferable. Those who want to play with their friends or meet new ones while questing or grouping in the world could do so, while the faction purists could choose to keep their guilds and personal social spaces to one faction only. There would be no forced grouping with the other faction. I believe enough in the lore team of WildStar to give us interesting reasons why this could work, and I believe enough in the player base that they could continue to create social spaces and events that make them happy.

I hope that this is not the final word on this issue. These dev connects are an interesting way to gather feedback, but I hope there continues to be a dialog even after the decisions are made. One of WildStar’s greatest strengths is the way the devs interact with the players, long may this continue.

P.S. Don’t forget to check in on the new dev connect, they’re asking for feedback on race/class combos!

Past and Future of World of Warcraft

There’s been a bit of fuss recently with the closure of a “vanilla” WoW server, and it has me thinking about the pull between nostalgia and progress. Now, for the record, I believe that Blizzard is 100% within their rights to force the closure of any 3rd party WoW server of any flavor. It is their IP, it is their game, they’re right to protect it. However, I’m also in the camp that would absolutely love to see them launch a legacy server or three. Full disclosure: I’ve played briefly on a vanilla server a few years back, during WoW’s Cataclysm expansion. I had never even played WoW during vanilla, I didn’t get sucked in until the first expansion, The Burning Crusade. The vanilla server still called to me because I wanted to see for myself what things were like back then, and because it conveniently erased all of the changes that were making me outright hate the game in its current state. It was a very different game at a very different pace, and I could have happily kept playing it indefinitely if the nagging understanding that I was walking in a moral gray area at best hadn’t driven me back to the straight and narrow. The fact that my chosen vanilla server has long since been closed down tells me I did the right thing by stopping.

I hold out hope that Blizzard might one day launch legacy servers the same way I still hold out hope that they’ll institute an invisible mode for battle.net. They obviously think both those things are not in their best interests or they’d have implemented them by now, but a girl can dream. Ironically, I think that having legacy servers might actually let people enjoy the current offerings more. There have been almost too many quality of life changes to the game to count, and running around questing on foot until level 40 with no heirlooms or dungeon finder might put some things in perspective. I also think that during the flatly awful lulls in content it would be nice to be able to travel back to a simpler time and be a tourist still in WoW, still giving Blizzard money but experiencing something a little different for a few months instead of quitting the game completely.

Looking forward towards Legion I don’t see a lot to excite me, and I do see a few things that turn me off. I feel like I am drifting farther away from WoW’s target demographic, and maybe that’s ok but it still makes me feel a little sad. I also look at the game itself and it is showing its age more and more. The older zones look pretty awful and that’s fine on a nostalgia server but a harder sell for an actively updating game. Each expansion works a little magic and brings a partial facelift but even the newest zones don’t hold a candle to the graphics of more modern MMOs in my opinion. After all this contemplation I find myself strangely yearning for the change that relegates all of WoW to “legacy” status, a fresh clean 2.0 with modern sensibilities and graphics. Maybe if that happens Blizz will finally open a vanilla WoW server.