What Quests?

I mentioned  that I had a set of goals for my DH, and the most basic of which was to quickly unlock world quests.  To do so, I need friendly with all the factions.

It is extremely surprising how little questing you have to do in order to achieve this.  I’d say even half of the main line in each zone is actually required, with the exception of Nightfallen in Suramar.  My DH is 109 and skipped every quest that wasn’t directly tied to, or offered by, the main line quest giver.  I’m up to Havi in Stormheim now, to finish off the gang.

And this is more of a fault of mine being goal driven than task driven.  I like to achieve things, and will optimize the method to get there.  The task itself provides little meaning, other than a learning experience to avoid it in the future.  Now, had I set myself the goal of learning the lore, I can assure you that doing quests would be one way of getting there.  The faster way would be to bookmark and scour WoWpedia.

Don’t get me wrong, the quests themselves are neat when I did them the first time.  My Monk did nearly all of them, for no real purpose than completion and learning.  I read that book.  My DH doesn’t so much need a reminder than those kobolds don’t like me stealing their candle, certainly not a couple days after my Monk had the same experience.

I think this is why I run multiple alts over a long period of time.  I usually end up with 1 or 2 mains, then I have a stale of alts at all sorts of levels, going through the content at different paces and places.  I might spend a night with a DK in the 80s, or a couple hours with the Warlock in the 50s.  If I’m only there for the alt experience, I won’t bother developing the character past the “get gathering professions” stage, so that I don’t feel too bad when I re-create that character later on.  It’s somewhat enjoyable to come back a few months down the road, and get back into the groove again.

Full Circle

Which brings me back to the start.  The questing experience for my DH isn’t terribly motivating right now, as it’s a means to an end.  That’s not to say that it’s a poor experience, in fact, I would argue it’s a marked improvement over other expansions because it’s optional.  I had more than enough headaches being forced through the zones in WoD or MoP in order to unlock various features.  It’s nice to have choice here.

Once the DH does hit 110, then there’s the entire Suramar line that needs to be done, as well as the Class Hall.  I think both of those lines are really solid and am looking forward to them.

I can say that given my playstyle, I am not for lack of things to do.

Demon Hunter Hunting

I played Warcraft 3, and I played some Burning Crusade.  Demon Hunters are the bad guys, the ones who justify the means to get to the end.  They have a fair bit in common with Death Knights I suppose.  Funny how both “hero” classes are anti-heroes.

My main is a Monk, what with being able to run 3 roles and whatnot.  That makes queues instant.  The Coren Direbrew daily run pops up faster than I can swap to my healing spec.  Given that Legion really likes sending you to dungeons, I wanted an alt to have at least 2 roles, and as in a previous post, I selected a Demon Hunter.  DK is close by, but he’s not yet 100 (96 I think) and my highest level warrior on this server is 6.  They stink.

I have a few goals here.

  • Complete enough of the zone quests to get friendly.  This is usually done by only doing the main line.
  • Harvest every herb and mining node possible, and turn in those quests when my heartstones allow
  • Use only rested experience
  • Avoid dungeons unless it’s gating moving forward (Azsuna does this)
  • Class Hall followers will focus on either moving the class quests forward, or running +character exp missions.

I’ve completed 2 zones and hit 107, all on rested experience.  I’m going clockwise starting at Azsuna this time, saving Stormheim for last.  It really helps that I know what to do in some of the more complex quest lines.  And which bonus objectives are worth it.

To Tank or Not to Tank

I started off with the DPS spec, Havoc.  It’s quick (very quick) and I guess resembles a warrior in many respects.  It has relatively high damage as compared to other classes, but can’t take much damage.  And due to the way Legion works, I’d say half the time I’m stuck in some sort of AE situation.  And any rare boss can take out the DH unless I’m spot on with my cooldowns.

So, swap to Vengeance (tank mode) and give ‘er a go.

First off, tanks are nigh unkillable while leveling.  My DH has pulled 8 to 10 enemies and killed them without dropping below half.  He also takes more time to kill 2 enemies individually than he does groups of 5 or more.  He hits like a wet noodle on bosses but feels like he’s immune to damage while doing so.

I ran Eye of Az as a tank too, which was an instant queue I might add, and things went relatively well.  Rotation is a fair chunk different, and movement more complicated with casters all over the place, but DH can tank with the rest of them.  Serpentrix, the poison spitting snake of nightmares, was rather a cake walk due to the self-healing and ease of movement.

So Far, So Good

The DH class quests are interesting as well, as they tie back to BC in many ways.  There’s one crappy “kill 100 demons” quest, but the remainder have all been quite interesting.  The Akama quest had a neat ending!

As compared to the Monk class quest, it’s an interesting comparison.  MoP as a soft spot for me, so the lore works even though it has next to nothing to do with the actual expansion.  DH lore is certainly tied in better, and the events themselves are more focused.

The hall itself is built in a bugger fashion, mind you.  I like movement on the X/Y axis, horizontal.  The Monk hall has this, and you can mount up to move around.  The portal in is right next to the weapon modifier, and the mission table is a short hop away.  The DH entrance requires movement to the mission table (about the same as the Monk), and the weapon table is 2 floors below.  It has 4 total floors, well 5 if you count the daily boss room, and there’s something useful on each.  Eh.  At least the DH has decent movement tools.

Overall, I’m enjoying the DH more than I thought I would. That’s always a good sign.

When the Shark Got Jumped

I really like Wildstar.  My guides generate consistent page views.  I played a fair chunk of the game but it dropped off my play list just as most games do.  I am not a raider, certainly not one that can raid at the level that Wildstar demands.  I much prefer the casual approach and after a couple months, you’ve just seen and done it all.  I like dungeons too, but the queues, last time I played, were hours long with no goals.

When Wildstar went F2P (a near year later than most people thought it would), it brought in the bane of all games – lockboxes.  I have a general hatred for lockboxes as I do with most gambling.  It preys on the mathematically challenged.  It’s worse when there are lockbox-only items.  Most games start off innocuous enough, with cosmetics in those boxes.  Eventually they creep up to low level gear, or mounts.

Wildstar recently announced that they are going to offer lockboxes for raid content.  I am struggling to think of a western MMO that does this (many eastern ones do).  So while you can’t buy them directly from the store (yet) they will drop from raid instances and be tradeable.  So you’ll be able to get the rewards from a raid without running a raid.

2016-09-22-lockboxes-and-you

And I find that rather sad but perhaps at the same time, to the point.  Why bother with actually playing the game when you can just bypass it all with a couple dollars?  I mean, who wants to actually play the game when you can just bypass all that crud, stand in the middle of the crowd and sit down cause there really isn’t anything left do do anymore.  And then the stop playing, which means more money lost.

And what’s the escalation point after this?  Lockboxes will now contain all the items from the game, regardless of where they come from.  What exactly will people be buying after this?  What could be better?  I don’t see any carrots left.

This brings back to mind the whole Allods fiasco, where the game was great, but with a horrible business model.

I really hoped that Wildstar would be able to find a footing. I still do.  I’m of the unfortunate opinion that they, like the dwarves before them, dug too deep with greed.

Demon Hunter Alt

My monk is over ilvl 330, so Mythic dungeons are what’s left.  I still do dailies when I can, slowly working on the Pathfinder achievement.  I have alt-itis though, and picking #2 is challenging when you have 5 characters waiting at level 100.

The purpose of an alt is to provide a different experience and playstyle.  My monk has done nearly all the quests available, and that experience will be the same next time.  What’s left is the Class Halls and the minute to minute gameplay.  I like dungeons, but the DPS queue is around 40 minutes, so that more or less rules out pure DPS for an alt (Hunter, Rogue are out).  My druid (boosted in WoD) is ok, but always feels like a dumbed down version of a real class – it just doesn’t stick with me.  Plus, there’s only so much bear-butt and cat-butt I can stand.  The Shaman is woefully underpowered as Elemental, but plays great.  That leaves the Demon Hunter.

Considering that this entire expansion is focused around demon hunters, I think the story portion will play somewhat differently.  And the playstyle, while closest to the monk, is certainly different than any other class.  You fly around all over the place, and that free glide ability… that will make my life a whole lot easier.

The class hall itself requires gliding to get to.  The story is interesting enough, and the 2 weapon quests are good.  It feels a bit weird to be playing as the bad guys from BC, but at the same time, the lore behind it all is quite entertaining.  I’m not a fan of the hall layout, but the NPCs within seem more alive than in the other halls (druids excepted).

And I’m alternating between both the tank (vengeance) and DPS (havoc) roles, to see which fits better.  Tank is really hard to kill but doesn’t have the dash skill which makes movement a breeze, and somewhat low damage.  The DPS moves like a kite in the wind, but is made of tissue paper.  More tweaking required…

Flying Can Wait

Last night was the first night of raiding in Legion.  Not only was Blizzard suffering yet another DDOS attack (every other day it seems), but Stormrage decided that it had enough and it went back to the 2 hour queues. After a week of no queues.  Odd.

Old Flying

None of my characters have the ability to fly in Draenor.  I quit long before it was even an option.  There were many a time that I wanted flying to be available, but with 2 heartstones, it wasn’t too bad.  Well… except for Nagrand.  That place can take a hike.

And aside from Cataclysm (hex be that name), no expansion has ever launched with flight available at the start.  Sure, once your first character hit max you could buy it, but it forced you to play the game at least once.  I don’t think I could have done LK or MoP without flying on alts, the mountains and cliffs and just overall poor placement of flight paths made it cumbersome.

New Flying

Draenor gave folks an achievement to acquire in order to fly, and that came with a lot of hoopla.  It wasn’t hard, just time consuming.  By the time it became available, the only big part left was a faction grind.

Legion, we’re not sure yet.  There’s at least 1 achievement that’s required but we can’t complete it yet due to some quests that are not unlocked.  The biggest pain here is time again, faction grinding.  We’re months away, so I’m not too stressed about that fact.  It’ll come naturally I’m sure.

The Ground is Fine

That said, I have no real issues with the current model of movement.  As a Monk, I even get a free teleport to my home base, connected to Dalaran.  The Flight Master’s Whistle is an amazing tool.  I’m just fine using the ground.

And thinking about it, it has more to do with the way the world works in Legion.  World Quests focus you around the map so there aren’t that many “dead spots”.  Enemies scale, so you never really feel like you’re running in empty fields.  The world just feels, I dunno, relevant.

Plus, I’m making a killing off selling herbs.  Near 6k for a 20 stack.  Without even trying, I’ve made 100k in 2 weeks.  Mat prices will drastically drop when flying comes in.  Come to think of it… flying actually helps bots out.  Where a real player would navigate so as to avoid combat, bots just work in straight lines.

All told, I’m not itching for flying now.  It would only provide a marginal benefit (though providing re-useable gliders would be nice) today.  Legion really seems to have taken a smart look at why people fly, and compensated in all sorts of ways.

Raising the Waterline

When RIFT came out, I was one of the first folk to hit max level.  I took a different approach to leveling in that game, with a lot of work being spent in dungeons and rifts, and a rather streamlined approach to zones.  That process led me into a guild (more than one actually) and had me grouping with a bunch of people during the leveling process.  When I hit 50, my friend list was a dozen or so other players at the same level.  For a while, there were only 2-3 healers doing group content, so I ended up chain running dungeons and gearing up even more.  It was really the front end of the bell curve.

bellcurve

I was in the grey zone on the far right.  It took a few more weeks and then the more people started hitting 50, and over time, nearly everyone did, at their own pace.  By the time most people hit 50, I had no more reason to run dungeons (aside from guild runs to help people).

Waterline

In design, a waterline is determined early on in the process, a point where the majority of people need to be in order for a system to work.  In some games, this is the ilvl requirement to start content, others it’s attunement, others it’s reputation… sometimes a combination of them works as well.  The line has to have requirements where most people can meet them, otherwise it’s design for the sake of design.  It’s a specific skill set you want all players to have in order to have a solid shot at completing specific content.

Heroic raids (up until the end of Cata) are a good example of design for the sake of design.  Blizzard put content behind a gate that less than 0.1% of the population ever saw.  Now, 0.1% of 10m players is still a lot of players, but from an economics standpoint, it didn’t make sense.  LFR came about and a total rejigging of raid groups/sizes – most notably the flex system.

Getting There

It’s also understood that the waterline is achieved through investment (or simply time).  Some people will be gung ho and get it done super fast, others take a more leisurely pace to it.  Some will simply give up.

For the first couple weeks of an expansion, top-end content is usually the domain of the dedicated.  People understand the class, the mechanics, read about what’s going on and generally pay attention.  Top performers, or perhaps just people that are more heavily invested.

As time passes, more people pass the line and can do the content.  You find people who are learning a class, or are remembering how to play a class.  Legion requires people to do dungeons while leveling (well… maybe not a hardened requirement but everyone gets a quest to close a chapter), so you’re also getting people who are not accustomed to group settings.

I was in a group yesterday doing the Eye of Azshara and the snake boss took the group to town.  The tank was going straight to the boss without clearing the trash, and the Hunter never swapped targets and used Barrage to pull the zone.  This is to be expected behavior as more people are leveling up, where the general skill level drops as more people pass the waterline.  Thankfully the tank wanted to learn.  The hunter… well, they were playing a hunter.

Tweaking the Line

This is really the challenging part, where picking the waterline where you want the majority of people to be.  Just selecting some arbitrary criteria doesn’t work if it doesn’t match up with the players.  More so if the content past that line has nothing to do with the criteria being measured.

Let’s say that the line opens up content where you need to interrupt spell casts, but the line doesn’t ever challenge you to interrupt anything.  The Secret World addresses this through the boss challenges that unlock top end modes.  You need to know how to heal, DPS and tank to move on, and the skills tested are used moving forward.  FF14 forces you to interrupt and pay attention from the start, slowly adding more complicated elements as you level up.

WoW gives you 4 skill buttons and a lottery wheel to get above a certain number to do top end content. Which is cool if that’s really the intent, and I think in Legion it actually is.  Sure, heroic dungeons are in LFG, but they are marginally more difficult than normal mode.  It’s mythic dungeons that are where the challenge resides, and they are not in LFG.  And I sure do hope that they don’t show up there – at least not without a proving grounds medal for a given role to start.

It’s interesting to see the various design schools at play between the games. As much as I see myself at one end of the spectrum, I can see why people at the other can have fun as well.  And fun is the entire point of it, right?

Alt-Free Lifestyle

It was my youngest’s birthday party this weekend.  I have a serious baking kick and birthdays are a ton of fun to try out new things.  This run was a Minions cake.  It was a 3 layer cake and while it was cooling, the birthday girl decided to munch on it.  So I was missing about ¼ of that cake and had to make due with some quickly made Rice Crispies mix.  I had some pre-made fondant set aside but given the size of the cake, I needed to make more.   And I had a wedding to attend the day before, and we ended up hosting folks afterwards.

cake

That’s a lot of yellow.

Long story short, I had a lot of work to do, barely any time to do it, stayed up til about 1AM Saturday and woke up early Sunday to finish.  Everything turned out great and my daughter was really happy.  And that does make it worthwhile.  Need to catch up on some sleep now.

Alts

My monk is still specced Brewmaster, making nearly every quest fairly straightforward as tanks don’t die.  The exception are the group quests, where I do need a healer.  Given that the majority of those quests have benefits I don’t require, I tend to skip them.  So I really only have 4-5 quests per day to run, enough for the emissary chest and maybe an extra one.  The rest of the time is spent moving forward the Suramar quest line – with an end goal of completing the achievement to eventually unlock flying.

So, that means that I can tinker a bit with alts.  And tinker is all it feels like.

Let’s say that World Quests are the “final” end game for Legion, which I think most can agree with.  To get there, you need level 110, and friendly with all 5 factions, the last of which only unlocks at level 110.  With rested experience and a casual play, you will likely hit 110 after 2 zones.  Still need to do the 2 others though, for the faction.  That’s about 10 hours of play, or so.  Even alts that collect/craft have to put in a fair chunk of time, given that progress with them is quest based and zone locked.

And that doesn’t cover the faction-based dungeon unlocks either.

As it is now, aside from gold, there is nothing Legion-specific that is shared between characters on an account.  That means that the time invested in one character would need to be repeated with every other alt.

Focusing on a single character is a smart move, giving some investment and uniqueness to the game.  I think this is a good approach for multi-role classes (mages, warlocks, hunters, rogues excepted) – specifically around the queue times for pure DPS classes.  As a Monk, I can heal, tank or DPS.  It’s a major, if not massive, shift from Legion’s “park it in the garrison” mentality.  I had 2 alts that barely stepped out and ended up in full epic gear.  Change is hard for some, harder still when the change is so jarring.

Accessibility

Blizz has mentioned that as the game progresses, more alt-friendly options will be made present, through catch-up mechanisms.  Artifact research will be sped up from the current 5 day wait.  I’m sure that there will be reputation commendations coming shortly as well, so that the next run up will be faster.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the unlocks (like dungeons) would eventually be account-wide as well.

The first raid hasn’t even unlocked yet, so a full discussion about alts is somewhat premature.  I guess we’ll see what 7.1 brings to the table in the short future.

In Tanks We Trust

Stomrage had no queues last night at 8pm.  From 3 hours last week and 6000 people, to dink all.  All without a peep from Blizz.  I work in IT and with client relations.  I can honestly say that I’ve never seen this type of behaviour before, at least not at this scale.  Impressive kahunas.

The Maw

There was a +41 relic as a WQ reward, plus I had a couple quests to complete in the Maw of Souls.  The tank was new to the dungeon, the healer was taxed, and one of the DPS (a DH) must’ve had issued because he died a dozen times during the run.  Including 30 seconds into the final boss.

The bosses themselves weren’t too bad, 3 majors, 2 minors.  This one was much more melee friendly than others, though there was certainly a fair chunk of movement for DPS.  Being a WW Monk, and Helga being the last boss, I only ever really saw her belly.  I’m sure that the bellows effect would be hard to detect for some folks, as positioning can be a challenge.

Anyhoot, the tank did a superb job.  There was one really rough pull inside the ship, but we pulled through in style. And I think the root cause/solution is simple enough, interrupts and positioning.

Go to the Place

DH tanks, so far, have been a challenge to play with.  They move a LOT.  My guess is that they’ve mapped their movement buttons into their DPS play and just forgot that it’s a bad way to tank (and not needed).  A boss that spins continually means cleaves for everyone, and melee folk are running everywhere.

A solid tank will put the boss in one place, typically with the tank’s back on a wall.  If they need to move, they do so in small steps.  Enough to avoid whatever spell they need to avoid, but not so much that they cross the entire floor.

Press the Buttons

I am still of the firm belief that Proving Grounds should be mandatory for everyone, if only to show them where, when and how to use an interrupt.  Is the cast time under a second? Don’t bother.  Is it a channeled spell? Whack that crap.

Helga had an AE spit attack that hit random spots on the ground.  She didn’t when I used my interrupt.  Some mobs had an AE fear attack, not when they are sucking floor from a Leg Sweep.  You know how much DPS you lose while being feared?  More than if you miss a GCD, that’s for sure.  More than if you’re dead, too.

WoD Woes

And I think this is just me gripping because of what WoD has left as a legacy.  Heck, what LK started if we’re going to get at it.  AE everything, ignore the mechanics.  Power through everything and close your eyes.  And truly, that works.  Once you’re 3 months in and 100% more powerful than the expected level, that is.

Which makes each new expansion a challenge.  How to make people play smart again, when the last year+, and the solo PvE content for that matter, requires no thought?  All of a sudden you have to pay attention.

Legion sort of addresses that with world scaling.  Even at 110, things hit hard.  An ilvl of 840 (850 is current cap) still wouldn’t mean a cakewalk.  Elite WQ can, and will, kill you.  I like that.  People complain about it (they complain about the sky being blue), but they will learn and it will be a good way forward.  I’m a bit worried about power creep, where when we’re in ilvl 890 we’re right back to WoD, but that’s for another time.