End of the Road for Anthem

I should hope no one is surprised by the announcement. I’ve written a lot on Anthem, and there are few examples of perfect failure.

Anthem is a failure of BioWare management, full stop. The devs built some spectacular systems, and as a proof of concept, Anthem just knocks it out of the park. When taken as a whole, that’s where the game fails, and that is entirely at the feet of the directors. Jason Schreier’s report does a good job of explaining this.

Anthem NEXT had a team of 30 people to incubate a new idea, which wasn’t so much a ray of hope for Anthem specifically, but a way to salvage as much from the game as possible to transplant elsewhere. The prime market window for something like Anthem is in the past. Dozens of companies have tried to enter the team-based shooter realm and have failed. You’re fighting against years of momentum with Destiny and The Division. You need to be practically perfect.

BioWare has never, ever been close to perfect. Go back and play their games to check it out. They are great at capturing the essence of an idea, and have had success in being the only option in their field. We geeks are notoriously forgiving of other geeks attempts, and once BioWare started a more corporate view (e.g. DLC in Mass Effect), our patience waned.

The lack of patience has created a lack of success for BioWare for pretty much the last 10 years. Mass Effect Legendary is out in May, and should be an olive branch to their player base. It’s one of those “don’t F this up” deliverables, as failure here doesn’t bode well for Mass Effect 4 or Dragon Age 4.

That said, I’m glad this is not a jobs cut operation. The people working on Anthem NEXT are going to other projects, which is great. Here’s hoping both of those major projects can apply lessons learned from Anthem (and related, Cyperpunk 2077) so that a quality product is delivered and employees survive the process.

Valheim Bandwagon

I generally avoid EA games. There are very few cases where something of quality comes out of it (Hades, Slay the Spire, Darkest Dungeon are notable). I was aware of this game, and the general hype here was that it was in a better space that some games at release. The blogs I follow all seem to have nothing but good to share on the game, and at $20, it’s less than I’d spend at the pub (if it was open).

First things first, the game is still in EA. While I’ve never had a single crash, or found any bugs (amazing!), it’s rather clear there are some rough systems and placeholders present. There’s a breadth of systems here, no question, but it’s relatively shallow in the current state. You’ll always be knocking down trees, needing ever increasing amounts of wood to get things moving. You’ll always need food, which is always cooked the same way, and provides the same boons. Inventory management is painful. It looks like you’re playing Asheron’s Call, which is a really weird vibe with things sort of ‘blending’ visually. So with these rough edges, what’s getting people to play? A few ideas.

  • The freedom of building in 3D space is a big one. This isn’t Minecraft where you’re in an X/Y/Z block model. Valheim lets you design free-form, which results in some extremely impressive options.
  • There’s zero PvP. Aside from No Man’s Sky, there are few free form options without PvP. I could do without the greifing in ARK/RUST.
  • Repairs are free! This is likely just an EA feature, but wow does it feel great to not have to worry about harvesting back up material to repair something. It’s grind work that defeats the exploration parts of the game.
  • It’s hard. You’re likely to die in the first 5 minutes. And then multiple times as you go forward. You vs. 5 enemies = you’re dead. Bosses are very hard to defeat.
  • Death is an annoyance, not a punishment. Your gear hits the ground and if you get back to your corpse, you get all your stuff back. It’s a corpse run, with all the fun that comes from that.
  • It’s long. You’re not going to beat this game in a sitting. Heck, you’re not likely to see the first boss in a sitting. It feels incremental rather than revolutionary in terms of progress gains.
  • It’s balanced. This is a weird statement for an EA game, as there are clearly some tuning aspects required. What I mean here is that there’s no one single way to fix any given problem, multiple viable paths exist. Is a bronze mace better than a club? yes, but not like 20x better, forcing you get that to move forward.
  • ‘One More Turn’. It is stupid easy to lose track of time here, cause there’s always something else to do. Civ and XCOM spring right to mind on this.

I’ll keep plugging away at it. The Elder is my next target, requiring a boat to reach and a whole pile of bonze to properly gear up. I can easily see myself here for a solid 40-50 hours, which is a great return for $20.

WoW Gold – Milling

Continuing on the previous post about Glyphs still turning in a crazy profit, I wanted to see if there were ways to improve that process. The process I have right now has some simple rules.

  • It has to turn a 500g profit from the crafting cost
  • Crafting cost = market rates of base materials, not the price of herbs

I originally had a simple 30% profit margin, which was really quite decent to get started. But making 30g on a 100g craft… I can loot 1 grey item in SL and get a better return. I decided to boost the base profit margin to something worthwhile, and 95% of everything in that area is a Legion glyph.

If you’re not aware, Legion glyphs have some really weird ink requirements, at least compared to the rest of the others. You don’t actually use inks, just the pigments that come directly from crafting. The ratios are also quite a bit higher – sometimes 50 per craft. It means that each crafted glyph costs about 1k on my server (sometimes a lot more). Anything with a high base costs naturally has less competition.

Now the wrinkles. Milling Legion herbs gives Roseate Pigment and Sallow Pigment, at ratios that differ depending on the herbs. And some herbs give more than these, like Yseralline Seeds (which you can also mill), or pods which contain more pigments and seeds. This adds a level of RNG to milling in Legion that only really normalized at high volumes. So let’s look at the numbers.

The Market

Roseate Pigment goes for 25g and Sallow Pigment goes for 75g on my server. That’s the highest price I will pay to craft a glyph. Anytime I get a lower price, I am saving money and therefore making more. Sometimes there are stupid crazy deals found, like seeing large stacks at silver level values.

The Mill

Mass Milling crushes 20 herbs and gives generally 8.5 Roseate Pigment and 0.85 Sallow Pigment – but not all of them. You can also collect Yseralline Seeds (which mill to Roseate), and either Gem Chips (for cooking, therefore useless) or Nightmare Pods (for more seeds/pigments) when milling Dreamleaf. You get 1 Pod per Mass Mill. Each Pod = 8 Roseate, 1 Sallow, 2 Seeds.

Mass Milling is really fast. Each mill is 2.5s, so that’s 2 minutes for 1000 herbs. Any additional pods is maybe an extra 30seconds.

It then gets into spreadsheet town – pods are not included.

HerbValueRoseate/Mass MillSallow/Mass MillCost/RoseateCost/Sallow
 Yseralline Seed33.970.03152000
 Aethril88.610.8219195
 Dreamleaf811.761.1714137
 Felwort1508.544.535367
 Fjarnskaggl99.030.8220220
 Foxflower78.981.0616132
 Starlight Rose1723.540.7714442

The Math

The ceiling value is 25g/75g, and every mill gives me both pigments, making the math a tad harder to figure out on the outset. Another way to look at the table above is to based it on 1000 milled herbs and potential profit.

HerbCostProfit% Profit
Yseralline Seed3000207569.17%
Aethril8000583872.97%
Dreamleaf800011088138.59%
Felwort1500002750018.33%
Fjarnskaggl9000536359.58%
Foxflower70008200117.14%
Starlight Rose170001531390.07%

While all of them an turn a profit, the ratio of Dreamleaf is the highest and it still doesn’t take into account Pods. Of course, this means nothing if you can’t actually sell. Sallow is only used for Glyph makers, and it’s not like 2000 are sold a day. This is however a great way to save money in crafting, with the inverse of profit relating to savings. I could buy 1000 Dreamleaf for 8k, and it would give me nearly 19,000 worth of material. That’s 11k MORE profit in selling the Glyphs.

The Result

It’s a fun exercise to try and find the easiest way to make some gold. And I do mean easy. If I’m making 11k in profit for 3 minutes of work, that’s a hell of a deal. So right now it’s a daily login, to empty my mailbox, craft any glyph with 500g profit, and milling the Legion pigments to cover the my inventory shortage. That’s maybe 5 minutes total, and I’m getting between 25-30k in the mail per day.

Solid.

BlizzCon and a Pandemic

Like the boogeyman, the pandemic continues to loom over everything. Last year’s con was cancelled and this year’s was quite a bit more subdued. I have to compare to Nintendo Direct, where they are brief and focused on getting as much information out as possible. BlizzCon tried to give that con vibe, but without the people there as a backdrop, it looked more like a weird Twitch stream. Large speeches to empty rooms don’t pack the same punch as a LoreCast or one of any of Warframe’s video updates. So mechanically, this was a weird one.

Also, next to nothing on Kotick’s push for mobile games. Smart, since this is not the right audience for it.

Top it off that these devs are working in a pandemic too, making any progress an achievement in itself. D2 is being remade (we knew this). D4 has a rogue (the game looks more like PoE every time I see it), nothing on Overwatch of note, HotS was absent, Hearthstone appears to be a balance sweep, and WoW, well.

Any X.1 patch will naturally bring about large balance changes, few system changes, and some flavour on content. This is when the product should just work. Of the expected items:

  • Flying: pretty much as expected, within a single zone. Will still need a FP and funnel through Oribo (of which, only 1 per zone actually links).
  • Anima: seems the volume of it is intended. I’m inferring from the ‘there are no plans for extra customization’ that what we had in 9.0 is pretty much all that we’ll ever see in terms of things that cost anima.
  • Covenants: they are merging for a forward base of attack in the Maw. While expected, the timing is much faster. Curious if the covenant restrictions will remain, or a new joint faction will be created.
  • The Maw: Anyone will be able to mount, and there’s a new subzone coming into play. I dislike the Maw in almost every possible way, but am thankful that only 1 character needs to gain rep here to unlock the account-level boosts. Kinda defeats the purpose for Twisting Corridors though.
  • Torghast: new wings… which I’m curious as to what purpose that brings. More floors and anima powers too. The only reason for Torghast today is Soul Ash, which few people actually need now. I didn’t see any news for new pets/cosmetics.
  • New raid: This one is in Torghast, which automatically makes me think about anima / RNG in a raid. Curious.
  • Mega-dungeon: This does sound quite interesting, similar to Return to Kara / Mechagon. Wonder what will be in it to have it compare to the M+ dungeons.
  • Story: Right. Anduin being possessed was expected. The Archon getting stabbed (and surviving) was cathartic. Sylvanas having doubts, not so much. We’re all expecting a redemption arc here, but if there was ever a character in WoW that didn’t deserve one it’s her. We also know there are 4 keys within the 4 leaders to free the Jailer (and it looks like he has 3 now). So I guess this puts a giant target on the Winter Queen.

Of the unexpected/surprises… I think it has more to do with the fact that this seemed like 9.2 content and not 9.1. Means that the fight against the Jailer should be in 9.2, and that there’s a new setup for an even bigger baddie in 9.3? Dunno…

It’s certainly more content than I was expecting given the real world around us. Players will be able to reach Renown 40 on March 5th, and we know there’s a 9.05 coming too. Speculating, 9.1 won’t be around until May.

Artificial Value – Gold Making

Most people are under some sort of weird concept that the price of an item is somehow regulated. In some cases that is true, but in the wide majority the market itself defines the price. The price of a car is determined by the price of other cars. Something is only a deal if you are aware of the true market value.

As a consumer the most powerful weapon you have is knowledge. This is also the inverse for a seller, you want to have more information than your client in order to maximize profit. Now in the real world, few people actually understand this model – we are all consumers. (The stock market as a whole takes advantage of this.)

In online games with auction houses, we can all be sellers and consumers. And information is the true weapon in that battle.

I mentioned in the previous post about a Cloth shuffle. Lightless Silk and Shrouded Cloth are traded on the AH, made into bracers, disenchanted, and the shard/dust is sold again on the AH for a profit. At “standard” market rates, you make ~25g per craft, which is decent.

But what if I don’t want standard rates? I change the market value.

Regular rate for Shrouded Cloth is 1.7g. If I can cut that down to 1g, I make an extra 7g per bracer, or a 33% increase in profit. How? I post a single item at 1g. If it’s a single item, bots won’t pick it up and 95% of player will try to undercut me. If I keep on the AH and simply buy everything that shows up at 1g (keeping my 1 item on sale), I can make a killing. I did this the other day for 5 minutes and picked up 2000 cloth at a much better rate.

Lightless Silk goes for 22g. I can cut that to 15g and turn my bracer profit up to 41g. I could go lower, but I need to stay within the default TSM4 value (25% of market rates). That means a potential floor of 50s for the Cloth 5.5g for the Silk and a per profit take of 66g.

This only allows me to change value down. To change the value as an increase, I need to buyout everything. This is ok in low volume markets, but in the Cloth/Dust market, that means spending 100k+ to create a new value. Instead I simply need to wait until the market corrects itself based on time of day. Late Saturday or early Sunday gets the most bang.

Buy low and sell high…certainly helps when you can decide what is considered low.

WoW Gold Making Update

Still trying to find the right battle plan to make a quick token. The context of Stormrage is that it’s like 95% Alliance and one of the largest servers, so there’s a TON of competition in the market. That means prices are generally lower due to competition, but that there’s more general gold to make through higher volumes.

I’ve got a few methods that are proving effective.

#1 Transmog Flips

I’ve made about 200k since starting in just flipping transmog items. I scan once a week (takes about 5 minutes to complete), load up stock, then have a 24hr auction go up just around prime time. I usually have 30 or so items up at a time. I don’t bother with anything under 1k, or that sells less than 0.03 items per day. Just not worth the hassle.

#2 Glyphs

This one I lost a ton (like 15k) of money on because of the way the crafting was calculated, I then hardcoded it to be 100% based on market value, not milling value. Since then, there are a dozen or so glyphs that sell for 2k each, and I clean house every day. They are almost exclusively Legion glyphs, which are not from a vendor but require either a really long quest chain, faction exchange, or rare drops. This one is borderline more profitable than Transmogs, just takes a lot longer to set up.

A nice side note, I purchased 1000 Sallow Pigment (needed for Legion glyphs) for 1s each. The median price is 60g. Hell of a steal.

#3 Cloth / Shard Shuffling

There’s always a shuffle you just need to find it. In SL, it’s turning cloth into dust/shards. You only need level 50 (do the intro quest) and get like 20 tailoring in SL to get access to the blue bracers. They cost 10 Shrouded Cloth, 2 Lightless Silk, and 3 Penumbra Thread (which has faction discounts, so 7.25g is the cheapest price). They DE into 1.4 Shards, and 1.5 Dust.

At my market rates, it costs about 77g to make and sells for 105g. So let’s say 25g profit per. I can make / DE about 10 in a minute, so 250g per minute profit. Getting a good deal on cloth, or having a spike in value on dust/shards can (and has) doubled that profit margin. That’s the nature of high volume transactions, small changes can have massive repercussions.

#4 Transmog/DE Farming

To get the recipes for the glyphs, I needed to grind quite a bit. The best selling items drop from TBC zones, by and large. I could spend say 30m chain running dungeons and make a decent coin. Anything Legion and below I can chain pull the entire zone, bring to the boss, nuke everything, lag for 10s while I loot, and do it again to clear the dungeon. DE the BoP items, DE the BoE items that won’t sell, mail transmog item to an alt, and sell everything else.

Raids are also good… set it to 25 players and you’re pulling in 4-5k a run easily.

Things that are NOT working

  • Leatherworking transmog is not working, at all. I think I sold 1 piece of Pandaria gear which should turn a decent profit. The costs are minimal thankfully. If stock sold, I’d have close to 100k profit.
  • Alchemy prices are crazy volatile. Herbs go up and down 25% a day with no reason. Pots are all over the map. I could make 100g at 8pm, and lose 15g at 10pm.
  • Enchanting remains stupid. Unless there’s a mystery source for cheap purple shards, there’s nothing on the AH that turns a profit.
  • I have not tried BoE group farming. I prefer to set-it-and-forget-it, and grinding even for 100k/hr is not something I enjoy.

Token Prices

It’s around 120k for a token. Transmog can easily cover that, but the profit/minute is all over the place. The Cloth shuffle, at 250g/minute would mean 8 hours. Glyphs turn about 10k a day for 2 minutes of work, which does turn into a month affair but only 25 minutes of actual effort.

Can anyone turn a profit? Yeah, install TSM4, don’t configure anything, and just fill up the AH with your bags. Optimizing that profit takes more thought process, as would be expected. It’s an interesting mini-game.

FF14 Design Philosphy

Well, some bits into the overall space. WaPo has an interview with Yoshida about FF14 design challenges and it’s quite interesting. It’s hard to articulate the size of FF14, mainly due to the way it reports financials. Over 20m paying users is nothing to sneeze at, but the apples to apples on WoW just really is two bits. One, they are both extremely large and dwarf the 3rd place. Second, FF14 appears to have a growing user base, as compared to WoW’s which is diminishing.

A further interesting point is that the game director has been consistent since the re-launch of FF14. Yoshi-P has lead that ship for 8 years, and nearly every single design decision has been consistent. There is no A team or B team. There are no objectively ‘bad’ expansions.

Why though? Why is the overall quality in FF14 so high? This is one

when planning expansions, about 70 percent of the work is already expected to be done, and the team leaves 30 percent of its energy to devote to different or innovative feature sets.

This is architecture 101, with a solid foundation you can innovate and create some crazy stuff. If the foundation isn’t solid, you have to continually rebuild as you go. It also allows you to plan things more effectively, as it’s known variables, such as

For creating our instance dungeon, we would need our game design to come up with the actual content of the plan and that would probably take about 10 business days, and then we would report that for proper approvals which cost another 30 days, and then we’ll route that to the programmers, which would take them about two weeks to program in the mechanics. It’s very clear as to how much cost and time we’ll take with each component of the package that we have for our planners and the management.

I’m not in the know for Blizz, and I’d have to assume that WoW has this as a principle, if not a goal. It would take some convincing that this is actually applied in any reasonable measure though. And as a person in a position of leadership, when shit goes sideways, it’s my fault because I approved it. And when it does happen, I’m also accountable to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

This post (and SL in general) are making me wonder why I play WoW when in most measures FF14 is a better fit. I think it has more do to do with the second to second experiences being more enjoyable in WoW than FF14. And that WoW is effectively free to play with tons of tokens and over a million gold in the bank. Still, I think FF14 deserves to be re-explored to see where it’s at today, and see if I do want to take a trip on a space whale in a few months.

Not like I don’t have the time to try it out.

WoW Covenant Campaigns

Spoilers, obviously.

I’ve completed the full campaigns for all covenants now, and have some specific and general thoughts on them. At a higher level, these campaigns are a close 2nd to Legion’s class hall storylines. I’m quite hopeful as the expansion continues there’s more to this, and that would give players some reason to bother with increasing renown.

A particular note is that of all the covenants, ONLY Kyrian requires you to do any group content (a normal dungeon run). Every other one can be done solo.

First the mechanics of the campaigns. You need specific renown levels, and the catchup mechanics + Threads of Fate leveling mean you can reach lvl 22 in 2 weeks. Completing all the quests gives you a full set of gear (no jewellery or trinkets) and an LFR weapon. You’ll be tasked with completing a wide range of quests that bring you across the various zones, and give you a concept as to what’s going on in the other covenants. Each individual set of quests is straightforward enough to complete, with the Night Fae going into non-SL zones for some busy work steps.

In terms of ranking of personal enjoyment of the campaings, I would go Necrolord, Venthyr, Night Fae, Bloodsail Buccaneers, Kyrian.

Necrolord

This storyline focuses on the power stolen from the Primus, the dirty deal made with the Jailers and the cleanup of traitors within Maldraxxus. You build power over time, steal a Ziggurat, and then end with a big fight against Kel’thuzad. It does a great job of explaining why the faction exists, the various sub roles, and who’s who in the zoo. It ties in very neatly to the Venthyr campaign at the end, and does a superb job of providing ‘shades of grey’ to Kyrian. Each step builds on ther former and is sufficiently different. By the end you gain a customizable costume for a KoS zone in Maldraxxus, allowing for safe harvesting. It ties in to the WoW storyline all the way back to W3.

The abomination crafting mini-game is really underused and not terribly enjoyable.

Venthyr

This storyline concentrates on building a resistance coalition of the various sub factions to regain control of the zone, through the collection of medallions. You close out with Kael’thas Sunstrider’s redemption arc, which never really comes to closure. It explores the entire zone and the principles behind cool looking vampires. You eventually come to terms that this faction is what everyone assumed Kyrian would be – the ability for evil characters to find redemption by accepting their sins. The final bit goes into Maldraxxus (time-wise same as Necrolord) to battle Kel’thuzad. This storyline only loses points for lack of orginality, as the middle part is just the same thing for 3 sub-factions.

I tried the dinner party mini game once and never went back. It just takes too long to see any progress, feeling more like a dating sim that takes days to see random results.

Night Fae

This is a really weird faction that I simply do not understand. Every other faction the souls land, go through a trial of sorts, and then just exist. Night Fae, you enter as a seed and with Anima are reborn… or not if the Winter Queen deems your energy is best used elsewhere. The Arbiter has nothing on this lady. The story itself is bound to the Drust somehow invading the zone, and Bwonsamdi’s mentor causing havoc. That particular storyline is really confusing and not interesting. The cool bit is the laying of the conditions to cure Tyrande of the Night Warrior status. The final battle clears out all the bad guys and ends on a sort of cliffhanger that to cure Tyrande, the Night Warrior will need to be spread across multiple characters.

The garden tending process is weird and simple. Reminds me more of the garden in MoP I guess.

Kyrian

This faction is convinced that your memories prevent your true self to be good. At nearly every point, you’re fighting against the concept of free will or the fact that you are the sum of your experiences. This is explored through the Mawsworn (Lysonia) trying to break the process of Kyrian, and using Uther as a pawn to accomplish the goals. Uther turns face at the end, for no real good reason that I could figure, and by the end the order of Bastion is restored. At no point do the Kyrian accept that their methods are flawed, and I cannot see any purpose to the Kyrian in the larger scale of the afterlife – aside from guiding the dead to the Arbiter. They are mindless husks, and by the end of the campaign you really are rooting for the Jailer. It has no tie ins to the Night Fae, next to none with Maldraxxus, and only a few bits with the Venthyr.

These guys have the coolest mini-game, which is a sort of Brawler’s guild in itself. The downside here is the tokens required to take part are hard to find, and the anima costs to open all options are insane. It’s the best content that no one is playing.

Overall

In all honesty, the campaigns themselves are really quite good, I’d argue even better than the main questline from 50-60. I may not like Bastion as a faction, but it’s consistent and mostly character driven rather than plot. The storylines in one faction don’t conflict with another, and in the case of the Necrolord/Venthyr, they actually merge for a time. This isn’t Shakespeare. Blizz continues to use the same techniques for creating interesting characters – primarily by putting them through insane trauma. There are other methods to get a monomyth to deliver.

I realize people don’t play online games only for the story, but it’s fair to say that in a themepark MMO, the story is foundational to the larger enjoyment. Given the ‘blank page’ of Shadowlands lore, Blizz has done a really good job here.

BlizzCon Speculation

The interesting bit about conventions is that most of them today have nothing to do with celebrating the culture, and more about pushing stuff into consumers hands. ComicCon is a solid example. There are certainly exceptions, where there’s this weird balance at hand. PAX fits in this weird space between geek culture and corporate involvement. EvE has it’s own convention with next to no corporate, same with Warframe.

BlizzCon was originally launched as a celebration of all things Blizz (90% WoW culture) and over the years has morphed into a sort of hype machine. Still quite focused on the gamers, and at a price point where there’s a large swath of more casual players that won’t bother. The Diablo Immortal announcement was not the first faux pas, but certainly the most notable. Are there mobile gamers out there? For sure! Are they at BlizzCon? Nope. Where the people at BlizzCon expecting some PC Diablo news? Yup. Ensuing “Do you not own phones?” comments came out and the rest is written down.

This year is a weird one. There’s no scarcity to tickets, and the whole thing is being streamed for free. The potential audience is now in the millions. Sure this is a deal for everyone that used to pay, and Blizz is certainly still eating a few dimes to get it through. And yet Kotick ain’t no fool, and he’s never missed an opportunity to make a buck. And he is smelling blood in the water something fierce now.

What impact does that have? It means that the largest driving factor for any game is going to be daily average users (DAU). This will certainly manifest through an any device, any time, any game model where you are incentivized to always be p(l)aying. It means multiple mobile game launches that interact with their PC environments. I am still amazed that we don’t have a WoW Pet Battles mobile app.

And yet, Bobby is Bobby, and he will copy every bad habit out there (hence owning King) to make a buck. These will certainly have the worst aspects of F2P mobile games as an underlying feature – with a solid gameplay on top. They will not be marketed at the existing client base, but at the folks on the edge. The existing clients are ALREADY paying, and the odds of nickel and dimming them are pretty low.

WoW

If I was to look specifically at WoW it seems the larger items on hand would include

  • TBC launch date for Classic. This seems easy, but recall this is when flight was added to the game and the “world building” part really went on a different tangent.
  • Details on patch 9.05 which currently seems like the balance patch launch should have brought had the devs enough time to do their work in the pandemic.
  • An overview of 9.1 in which we see the external factors cause trouble (my money is on Tyrande) and hopefully some Maw tweaks. Maybe solve the whole Primus/Runekeeper dilema.
  • A re-jiggering of Torghast rewards. More floors seem the simple choice, but save points in Twisting Corridors would be nice. From my alt leveling experience recently, there are very few people who bother with this place now.
  • New legendary levels, which would give some purpose to excess Ash. I’d expect the ability to equip a 2nd legendary to come along as well.
  • MASSIVE tweaking of the anima/cosmetic reward structure in each covenant. The 1K weekly anima quest is currently the only reason to even bother with this system.

Tin Foil here for a last bit. Bastion is the weirdest of all covenants, as it essentially memory wipes you to get you down to base. Sylvanas is foundationally a good person, and under insane levels of trauma has reached insane levels of evil. Clearly the devs want her to have a redeeeming arc, and I’m betting dollars to donuts she gets converted through the same mechanics as Bastion to get her back to her original state.

So yeah, mechanics of BlizzCon are about pumping more money out of the consumer’s pocket, and WoW is going to focus on balancing (rather than rebuilding in 8.1).

WandaVision Ep 5

Right, spoilers.

  • Episode 1 had a sort of surreal atmosphere and a 30 second or so part where things were really odd.
  • Episode 2 only slightly expanded on this, with some Twilight Zone type things taking place. Enough to show that there was more behind the curtain.
  • Episode 3 really dug into the concept that this was a simulation of sorts, and the end of it just went off the charts.
  • Episode 4 finally put us on the other side of the curtain, brought back some interesting characters, tied into the larger Marvel universe (at least time-wise), and gave a general frame to the what happened before.

Which brings us to episode 5. Framed as a Full House sitcom, it wastes little time to get into the surreal aspects of Wanda’s powers.

Tangent. In the comics, especially House of M, Wanda goes crazy, says “No More Mutants” and that becomes reality. She’s an Omega-level mutant, meaning one of the most powerful beings in existence. What we’ve seen in the movies so far doesn’t even come close to this – so perhaps this is just the start of that development.

Back on track. The episode introduces multiple important pieces.

  • Wanda is clearly suffering from PTSD, which is impacting her ability to make decisions.
  • Wanda’s power is not to warp perception but to change reality. She is re-writing people.
  • Vision is both dead and alive at the same time.
  • SWORD is really being set up as either incompetent or the bad guy. You’d think that there would be lessons learned here from Civil War.
  • The kids are resistant/immune to Wanda’s powers, and likely more powerful than her.
  • I have no idea of the mechanics behind Pietro/Quicksilver

Referencing Billy and Tommy, in the comics they are but vessels for Pandemonium. Which was a closed storyline, yet the loss of her children triggered a pile of major events. Tinfoil hat here – this is a prelude to Doctor Strange 2 and the Multiverse as it introduces things that have nothing to do with Earth. Also why this is SWORD instead of SHIELD, which in the comics the former deals with space-based issues and this has nothing to do with space so far.

I do want to give credit to the series makers in that the sitcom frame is really working as a great reference point from which the actors can launch. I think we’ve all felt that sitcoms in general were “off” and WandaVision really does a good job of exploring that aspects to great effect. Olsen and Bettany do a bang up job on this (all the more amazing as they have no chemistry), but the stand out here has to be Kathryn Hahn.

If you have Disney+, then you really should be keeping track of this show. If not, then consider waiting until end of season and subbing for a month.