Blizzcon Postmortem

Well Blizzcon this year was definitely a thing. I’m going to ignore all the pieces that seem perfectly cool but aren’t for me, like Overwatch and HotS, and focus on the big things that I feel strongly about. And boy do I feel strongly. It’s a testament to Blizzard that even after all the time and frustration with some of their franchises, I still care enough about them to wish they were better.

I’ll start with Warcraft. There were three prongs for this franchise, two of which are banking solidly on nostalgia. The Warcraft 3 remaster seems pretty cool. I never actually played any of the Warcraft games before WoW, so I could see myself trying this out just to see some of those pivotal lore moments. It’s not anything I was hoping for, but I might still buy it out of curiosity.

The second piece of Warcraft news wasn’t very new but still makes me happy. WoW Classic development is moving along, by all accounts the demo was as painful and wonderful as I had hoped it would be. The timeline for release seems reasonable, and I’m sure will be perfectly calculated to keep people subscribed to WoW during a content lull in the modern game. Most importantly, it will be on that same subscription. Your $15 a month will buy access to both versions. This is a pleasant surprise. For me I think Classic might become my primary MMO for a while, but it will be nice to be able to duck into BfA also if the mood strikes me. On the flip side, I appreciate that this arrangement will let people dabble in Classic if they start getting bored of modern WoW. It will keep the overall subscription numbers up, and will keep the Classic servers more populated that they would be if they required an additional fee.

I’m more and more excited about WoW Classic all the time because I’m realizing that the current incarnation of WoW is just not for me at all. Nothing about the announcements for the new content in the works for BfA was that appealing. I still haven’t seen the full Uldir raid, so it is hard to get excited about a new one. I dislike the faction conflict and the set-up for Sylvanas’ eventual downfall, so the cinematic just made me sad. BfA is a game for an audience that doesn’t include me. I think the existence of WoW Classic is the key that keeps me from being unreasonably sad or angry about that fact.

Speaking of unreasonable anger, it’s time to talk about Diablo. Diablo fans have been running on the fumes of hope for years now. This year the franchise seemed to be getting a place of honor at Blizzcon, instead of being relegated to the kiddie table or ignored completely. You can understand that we were pretty excited. Obviously there was going to be some kind of big announcement. Unfortunately, we did not get any of the things we were expecting.

Diablo Immortal is a game I want to play. It looks fun, and it fills in a gap in Diablo lore. Cool! It is also deeply disappointing as a major Diablo announcement out of Blizzcon. Why? Because it is a mobile game. By definition it will be less complex, less hardcore than a pc or console offering. Because it looks backwards into Diablo’s history instead of forward with new story. And because it came without the merest sliver of a hint of motion on the core game, the thing the fans have been invested in for years even in the face of Blizzard’s occasional neglect.

I completely understand the anger and frustration of the assholes who stood up during Q&As and were inexcusably rude to the devs. I’m unhappy with this situation too. But lashing out is not useful to anybody. I’m a weird Diablo fan, because I want more of the full deep experience on the PC, but I am also super excited to try a more casual mobile offering. I would have been legitimately hyped about Diablo Immortal if it had also come with a promise of more “traditional” Diablo. Instead, this announcement seemed to say “you get Diablo Immortal instead of more actual Diablo”, and that felt terrible. I get that they aren’t far enough along with anything to say much, but a simple “we’re working on this” would have gone a long way. As things stand I am 100% sure I will at least check out this new mobile offering, but I’m desperately hoping for some pc Diablo news sooner than later. At least I still have the Torchlight MMO to look forward to.

So that was my Blizzcon. It was filled with lots of things that aren’t for me, and the realization that even the franchises I love from Blizz seem determined to move away from me too.

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Gracie update

I’ll be writing my monthly gaming goals post in a day or so, but I wanted to give a more general update since it has been a bit since my last post. Real life has been interfering with my gaming time quite a bit for the past few weeks. On top of that, my interest in games has dropped sharply, other than for mobile games. The combination means I don’t have a ton to talk about here.

I wish I could pin down why WoW went south so fast for me this expansion. I was skeptical going into BfA because I didn’t love the core theme, but the Horde-side leveling content really won me over. I had a blast through leveling, and was having fun doing dungeons with friends. I’m not sure what killed the fun fastest – the stress of healing M+, the boring re-hash of world quests, or the failure of islands and warfronts to remotely live up to the hype we were sold. I still have a week or two left on my subscription but nothing is motivating me to even log in. The most WoW I’ve played in weeks was to finally run Dragon Soul for the last time on my rogue to get her legendary daggers. Yes, old content from Cata is more appealing that the current expansion endgame right now.

Coupled with the disappointment of WoW is the wet blanket that Blizz has thrown over my hype for the Diablo franchise. With the coveted post-opening-ceremonies timeslot at Blizzcon, lots of people were hopeful for a Diablo 4 announcement this year. Sadly Blizz has already warned us to tone done our expectations. I’m still hopeful that we’re getting some kind of new content for Diablo, even if it is just another character pack for D3 like the necromancer. I’m perfectly happy to keep throwing money at the game to keep development chugging forward if they at least keep giving me something new to be interested in once in a while.

Meanwhile I’ve been mostly poking at Dragalia Lost, which I can do while chilling out on the sofa and watching TV. It’s a nice change from being isolated up in my office all the time. I’ve also been reading for fun instead of chewing through my reading challenge list. I re-read all of the October Daye books by Seanan McGuire to prepare for book 12’s release (spoiler: I liked it). Now I’m re-reading The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson since the sequel to that comes out today. The Traitor Baru Cormorant was the only book I’ve read in the last 10 years or so that I was so engrossed by that I immediately started re-reading it the minute I finished it for the first time. I’m hoping the sequel lives up to it.

Friends and ponies

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What do you do when a dear friend has an extremely bad day? You help chase their troubles away with nostalgia. We went to ICC for fashion and fun, but lo and behold this beauty dropped. I’ve run ICC so many times I was starting to believe Invincible didn’t really exist, but there it was. Personal loot actually awarded it to me, and on any other day I would have squealed loudly and kept it without question. But since I was only there in the first place because of my buddy, I opted to roll for it. He won fair and square, and I handed it over gladly. It was such a ridiculously lucky find and I hope it really helped him feel better. I don’t get to keep those particular pixels, but I do get to keep the awesome memory of hanging out, having fun, and laughing about this stroke of luck.

BfA One Month In

Battle for Azeroth has been out for almost a month now, so it seems like a good time to check in and see how things are going. I’ve been quite happy that I’ve had so many friends around this expansion. There was a surge like this at the start of Legion too, but it seemed smaller and shorter-lived. With the Robosquid Armada community we are slowly building a team to do M+ and maybe some raiding.

Aspirations of raiding aside, how does the game feel on a day-to-day basis? For me, the answer is a bit mixed. While I had mostly praise for the start of Legion, BfA seems to have some higher highs and lower lows. It got off to a rocky start before it even launched because from the moment it was announced I really didn’t like the premise of faction conflict that has been at the heart of all the marketing and build-up for this expansion. The War of the Thorns was great for getting some solid gear to start the expansion with. Unfortunately the story itself was equal parts infuriating and depressing. When BfA actually launched it was a bit of a shock that, at least on the Horde side, we almost instantly ditched all concern of Red vs. Blue and dove right into the cool troll stories of Zandalar.

After playing through every single quest I could find in all three zones, I have trouble deciding which was my favorite. Unlike Legion, there’s no place that feels bad or boring to quest through. I like them all. Zuldazar is enormous, richly packed full of the main storyline and tons of flavorful side quests. I love the jungle setting, and all the dinosaurs everywhere. My biggest complaint about the zone is at some point it starts to feel like it will never end. It’s not that I was bored with the story there, I was just eager to see the other zones too and it started to feel like I would never be able to leave! Vol’dun is a desert zone, which I usually don’t care for. This one, however, had lots of charm. There were times when I completely lost the thread of the main story, but I didn’t care because I was too busy hanging out with various undead and spirit trolls to worry about it. Plus this zone brought us the alpaca song, one of the high points of my leveling experience. Finally, there’s Nazmir. It has a pretty grim story, almost shockingly so in some spots. It also has a creepy swamp atmosphere which isn’t as fun as the jungles of Zuldazar. It’s the characters in Nazmir that make it really fun. Bwonsamdi and Talanji are the big ones, but the bit players are often really great too. I especially enjoyed the band of undead dealing with the snake incursion near the border of Vol’dun.

So overall the leveling experience was pretty great. I was blown away with the storytelling and leveling in Legion, and BfA is at least as good, if not better. Now the real question is: What is there to do at the level cap, and is it fun? Lots of things are fairly unchanged from Legion, like world quests and M+. World quests are much better than the old system of daily quests, but especially at the start of an expansion it can be easy to overdo it and burn out. I’ve been relieved that there’s not much my main needs from them anymore, so I can focus on just the emissary quest and maybe some pet battles instead of trying to do every single thing that offers gear.

The mythic+ system hasn’t really changed and I still have the same feelings about it. I don’t love the timer. It’s stressful and I would prefer a difficulty that ramps up without the artificial stress of having to beat the clock. At least you still get loot and an item in your weekly chest for finishing, even if you don’t make it in time. M+ also suffers from forced manual grouping. It’s fine for now when I have friends around, but in another month or two if people wander away I’ll probably just have to stop running them completely. Suffering through trying to join or organize a pug is not worth it.

There’s new things to do at the level cap too. Islands got boring for me after the very first time. There’s some mounts and pets in there so I’m sure I’ll keep doing them for a bit, but it is not an enjoyable experience. The random, 3-person group, combined with the race against the clock/ the alliance team also causes problems. Unlike in the old Pandaria scenarios, where you could always muddle through and take your time no matter what your comp was, getting an island group with 3 healing priests is pretty much a guaranteed failure. And yes, this actually happened to me. Not fun.

On the flip side, the warfront is actually fairly fun. I was skeptical because I don’t really care that much for RTS games or PvP, which are the major design inspirations for warfronts. But the gameplay is smooth and the rewards are pretty great. I’m concerned that they will feel stale in the long run, because the core loop is going to be exactly the same every time. Hopefully the fact that we alternate between taking the zone, having the zone, and building up the war effort will help keep it fresh for longer.

One last concern for me is professions. I know I’ve already complained about them a bit before, but now that I have been working on them even more I keep finding issues. For example, the raid crafting mats do drop in LFR, which is great! Except that if you are a LFR-only player you might still never be able to make the crafted raid gear. That’s because you can’t actually discover the recipes until you craft the mythic dungeon gear first. No mythics, no hydrocores, no chance at learning all your recipes. The other crafting annoyance is expulsom. Lots of things are very expensive this expansion, and scrapping unwanted gear for a chance at expulsom takes away one steady stream of vendor gold we’ve had forever. I feel an extra layer of pity for people who have the old popular combo of enchanting + tailoring, since they have to decide which they need more, enchanting mats or expulsom.

One last note to end on something positive. BfA is surprisingly kind to alts. After how horrible alting felt in Legion, it feels much better now. World quests are a speedy way to gear. LFR only requires a 320 item level. And the warfront is a fantastic fountain of loot without having to drag alts into mythics. Other than crafting feeling terrible, I have really enjoyed leveling and playing alts in BfA. My druid hit 120 over the weekend, and I can already do pretty much anything I want to do on her. The leveling story doesn’t feel stale yet, and I’m already excited to start leveling my next alt.

Overall I’d give the state of WoW right now a B+ grade. Some things are just not working well for me or are not very fun, but in general I’m enjoying myself and heavily invested.

Forget your fears

Over the last few days I’ve been basking in the joy of having a group of friends all actively playing WoW together. I started this expansion somewhat resigned to the idea that I’d be pugging if I was running group content at all. Now, I’m almost daring to hope to be able to put together a small casual raid group. It’s so exciting!

Part of what makes me so happy about this is that it lets me do some extra dumb things that simply would not fly in a pug. For example, the other night I ran my first mythic. Now, I’ve had a reasonable ilvl for a bit so I could have been pugging these, but I chose not to. For whatever reason, the random groupfinder is fine, but my brain gets extra stressed out by having to apply to groups in the LFG tool. Instead, I grabbed a group of friends and coerced them into running a mythic. I had to coerce, because two of them were not even geared enough to randomly queue for heroics yet. I figured we might get a boss down and then give up and swap to heroic. What actually happened is we used CC and careful pulls and finished the mythic, while only wiping a couple times. It reinforced my negative opinions about people requiring 340 ilvl to run a mythic-0, and also reinforced my love for my silly friends.

This ridiculous process was the most fun I’ve had in WoW in a very long time. What I really want to do is translate this into raiding too. We might not get a full clear anytime soon but we can use every trick we have to get as far as we can, and laugh a lot doing it. The communities feature lets us scrape together our friends from every server, so that’s what we’re going to do. Check out Bel’s post if you are on a NA server, Horde side, and want to get in on this stupid fun.

FROGS!

WoWScrnShot_081918_205932Shoutout to my friend Mor, who suggested the topic of today’s post. FROGS!

Frogs are some of my favorite creatures. I’m not really sure why I like them so much. Maybe it is their cute little froggy faces, or their weird amphibian life cycle, or all the crazy colors they can be. All I know is I love frogs! That’s why I’m so happy that there are new froggy friends to enjoy in BfA.

I’ve already talked a bit about my love of Krag’wa, the enormous frog Loa in Nazmir. Krag’wa’s burrow is surrounded by naga and blood trolls, but he’s knows he can take them. He is worried about his children though. I’m not sure if they are literal or metaphorical children, but either way the the naga are stealing frogs and doing mean things to them. I happily murdered a bunch of naga to save the adorable froggies. Interestingly, there seems to be a connection between the crawgs and Krag’wa. Are crawgs what happens to Krag’wa’s spawn when they get corrupted? Or does Krag’wa just watch over all the weird swamp creatures? When you rescue a tiny crawg during a quest, Krag’wa tells you he can’t help it, and asks you to watch over it.

There are “spawn of Krag’wa” all around Nazmir. There’s even an achievement for finding all of them and sending them back home to the burrow. Although little compared to Krag’wa, these babies are the size of a large dog. I would love to have one as a pet, but I wonder what they would eat? Something that big would have to eat birds instead of bugs!

WoWScrnShot_083018_215331If you really can’t get enough of the Krag’wa-model frogs, there’s good news. For only 75 polished pet charms you can get Tragg the Curious to come and join you on your adventures! This was one of the first pets I bought this expansion. Speaking of battle pets, there are even more frog pets to collect. There’s both wild and vendor pets with a new model that looks like a poison dart frog. They are extra cute, and they can have some pretty useful moves for pet battles too!

Lastly there’s the amazing frog mount. It has been datamined, but there seems to be no way to get it in-game at the moment. I really hope that they make it available soon. I need to be able to hop around the swamps of Nazmir and strike fear into the hearts of my enemies from atop my very own riding frog!

That’s enough of my love of frogs for a bit! Do you love frogs too? Or is there another new model in the game that you’ve fallen in love with?

Best Loa

My post yesterday was a bit of a downer so I wanted to balance it out with something fun. I was having a discussion with friends about all the Loa we see in the Zandalari zones. There are a lot of new ones, and some of them are really great. I decided I would give you my top 5 Loa list. Spoilers for the horde story ahead!

5. Gonk – This large raptor/mini t-rex Loa is very helpful. I chose him over the pterodactyl one because he offers lots of speed boosts around Zuldazar. I love zipping around the city grabbing the Gonk totems!

4. Rezan – The Loa of kings. His appearance in the opening cutscenes (horde-side) was so cool, I may have yelled a little. Sadly his coolness is tempered by the fact that he is now a dungeon boss.

3. Bwonsamdi – The Loa of death. He has a huge personality and an equally huge role in the horde-side story this expansion. I am curious to see what happens with him in the future. Plus, he makes fun of me when I die (and makes me all nostalgic for WildStar!).

2. Krag’wa – The frog Loa. He seems pretty chill but will totally lick his enemies to death when necessary. Hangs out in an awesome pond with lots of frog buddies. I love him. Last night I spent my hard-earned pet charms to get the battle pet that looks like him.

1. Jani – The trash raptor Loa. Jani is the best Loa because it is fun to be a trickster. I really enjoyed seeing random trash piles in all the different zones and knowing that Jani would be waiting for me with maybe some trash prizes or a quest. So far my favorite has been messing with Nesingwary.

I never got that into the troll lore in WoW until this expansion. This time around I have really enjoyed learning more about their cultures and the Loa are a huge part of that.

“Which Loa do you bargain with?”

BfA Crafting Thoughts

I spent way too much time in WoW this weekend, it was great! I have been mostly focused on my disc priest main for the expansion, but I had a little time to branch out into alts and their professions too. As it stands now I have a mini stable of alts in the new content:
Horde:
Disc Priest 120, Tailoring maxed, Alchemy ~100
Feral Druid 113, Herbalism maxed, Enchanting ~70
Frost Mage 111, Mining ~30, Jewelcrafting ~50
Afflic. Warlock 110, Inscription ~110, Alchemy 1
Alliance:
WW Monk 110, Mining ~10, JC 1

I want to talk about professions in BfA, because I’m quite frustrated with them already. First the good, though: most of the quest and dungeon gating that existed in Legion is gone. I could level my tailoring all the way to max without having to jump through any extra hoops. I also really like the way they restructured professions, with each expansion having its own separate leveling range. It makes everything really clear.

Unfortunately that is all the good I really have to say about professions. Now on to the bad. Gathering profs still have quest and dungeon gating. I actually enjoyed the quests and thought it was working really well right up until I hit the one for anchorweed. For the uninitiated, anchorweed is the rare herb necessary for crafting all the flasks in BfA. Rank 1 of anchorweed gathering can be bought as normal from the trainer. Rank 2 is already gated not just by a quest, but by a dungeon quest. Not only that, but the dungeon you have to run is an alliance leveling dungeon, which means there is no way to get past rank 1 as a horde character until you hit 120 and unlock the alliance-side dungeons. I’m not sure if the alliance quest is in the same dungeon, or if theirs is gated in a horde dungeon. I still haven’t hit 120 on my herbalist, so I have no idea what rank 3 of anchorweed requires. I have an unsettling suspicion it is going to send me to a mythic dungeon, let’s hope I’m wrong!

Speaking of mythics, that’s another concern I have about professions. Almost all of the higher level gear and items that can be crafted require hydrocores. The mouseover text says they can be obtained in Zandalar and Kul Tiras dungeons, but that is a lie. They can only be earned through mythics, and they are bind on pickup. That means to craft the fancy epic pants I can make with my tailor, I need to first run mythic dungeons, which drop gear the same level or higher than the item I am trying to craft. Once again this renders crafted items useless for the people who enjoy crafting with alts. We were warned about this but it didn’t sink in until I started actually getting around to crafting in-game, only to be disappointed. While I hope to do a few mythics, maybe, on my main, I absolutely do not ever want to do them on my crafting alts.

This leads into another annoyance with crafting in BfA. Right now, crafting is the only way to get follower equipment for your war campaign followers. I think this is a really cool idea, in theory. My tailor can craft equipment that lets followers bring back extra cloth. Or she could craft it, if she had run mythics to get hydrocores. Yup, almost all follower equipment for this expansion is dependent on crafters running mythics. Until sunday evening I did a scan of the AH a couple times a day, and on my server there were 0 follower items listed. Last night there were 2, if you wanted to spend 900,000 gold. This was a really neat idea that could have given every  profession something relevant to sell, but the implementation feels awful. Sure the prices will come down, but a huge reason I have crafting alts is to make things like this for myself, only I can’t because it requires mythic dungeons. I am going to hope that Blizz eventually adds hydrocores to world quests or missions to help alleviate this issue, but I am not going to hold my breath.

I was really hoping that after the terrible state of professions in Legion that BfA would feel much better. Instead I am going to be mostly ignoring them for yet another expansion.