Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 07, 2015
World of Warcraft Legion

So yesterday Blizzard announced the next World of Warcraft expansion, called Legion. That caused an immediate problem: How do you abbreviate that? After "MoP" and "WoD", are we supposed to call it "L"? Or "Leg"? I guess we'll just stick to the full name and call it Legion.

As predicted, the fake "leak" got lots of details of the new expansion right, just because they were so easy to predict: Level 110, the Burning Isles as new area, a new class (Demon Hunter), more dungeons. But instead of replacing the garrison with a pirate ship, which would have been way cool, Blizzard went for a much weaker "Class Order Halls", with a new and revised follower system and not much more. Curiously, while Horde and Alliance and still supposed to battle each other, at the end of the day the warriors of each side meet in their common Class Order Hall to drink a beer together. And so do the mages, the priests, the hunters, etc. . I wonder if that means that in the Class Order Hall you can actually speak to the players of the other faction having the same class as you do.

Apart from the predictable stuff and the weak new player housing, the announcement also had a few news of genuine improvements: One is the artifact weapons. Basically your weapons stops being an ordinary piece of gear which you constantly replace by something better you looted. Instead you get an artifact weapon at the start, and that weapon has its own experience point system and you will level it up. A second xp system is a brilliant idea: Players insist on fast leveling, so a month after release most players are already at the level cap and then need to wait forever for the next expansion to see the level cap raised again. The artifact weapon xp will certainly be gained at a *much* slower rate, so that by the time you hit level 110 you still have a lot to do before your weapon hits the cap too. That is a great idea which solves the problem that a lot of content becomes completely unrewarding once you hit the level cap in a previous expansion. Different skins for the artifact weapons exist, so that not everybody is running around with the same weapon, and every class and every specialization has its own artifact weapon. (Note that Blizzard can't count: They announced 36 different weapons for the different specializations. But the Demon Hunter apparently only has 2 specializations, so there are only 35.)(Didn't know druid had 4 specs now.)

The other big improvement, although it concerns me a lot less, is the PvP system. After over 10 years Blizzard finally realized that it would be a good idea that if two characters of the same class and level dueled each other, the result should depend on skill and not on who had farmed more gear in raids or in PvP. So the honor system will be completely revamped, you can't buy PvP gear for honor any more. Instead you gain honor levels up to 50 which give much less bonus than gear did. And at 50 you can voluntarily go back down to level 1 and get a prestige point, which shows that you are really badass and have accepted a voluntary reduction of power in exchange for some fluff like a mount or weapon skin.

I didn't get a good feel for the Demon Hunter class yet, which seems to be a weird mix of ranged and melee in cloth armor. It is a hero class that will, like the Death Knight, get its own starting area and higher starting level (presumably be level 100 on leaving the starting area). There might be a severe racial restriction to only elves (night elves for Alliance, blood elves for Horde). This is really something which I will need to try to see whether I like the combat style.

Overall I found the announcement not overly exciting, being pretty much in the range of what could be expected. No word on earlier release, although "beta later this year" makes me think that I was right to say that this won't get released this year any more. I was a bit disappointed by the "yet another demon invasion" theme, instead of a more interesting pirate or other theme. And in spite of an obvious attempt to make "The Burning Crusade II", I stick to my prediction that this expansion will not fundamentally alter the subscription number curve. It is only that the older the game gets, the more ex-WoW players there are, and the bigger the blips get that each expansion causes. So presumably just before release WoW will be under 5 million subscribers, there will be a rise in subscriptions by 4+ million players, followed by "WoW is dying and lost half of its subscribers in 6 month" posts when it fall back to 4 million subscribers half a year after the expansion release. The fact that I can predict subscription numbers half a year after the next expansion releases will prove my point that the content of the expansion doesn't matter for that.

Doesn't the Druid still have 4 specializations? That would make the total 36 with DH's 2.
Tomasz is correct. 36 specializations because Druids have 4. A couple expacs ago they split out Feral into Guardian and Feral because tank+DPS in the same tree was problematic.
There's no abbreviation for classic WoW, people usually call it just "vanilla." I guess something similar is in store for Legion; considering omnipresence of the green fire, we might called it "pistachio." =)
The faction/order class thing has always been awkward and problematic for us druid players. I mean, we all meet and drink together in Moonglade at the end of the day, except that for some weird reason my night elf has never been able to talk with a tauren.....

Lotro implemented a similar levelling up weapon scheme a few years back and I never really liked it. It just became another endless grind. The legendary weapons as they are called have lots of customisations (each of which needs to levelled up). This sounds great in theory but it really just added to the grind. You were never finished because it was always possible to grind more for a slightly different or slightly better weapon. It is a few years since I have played so they may have streamlined the system since but I hope WoW avoids the grind trap.
One of the annoying things is that the devs actually described the alliance and horde as being and I quote "at each others throats". At this open having the alliance and horde be at war with each other is just bad story telling. They don't have to literally be at war to be separate nations/societies.

The expansion as a whole reads as one big whopping glob of fan service. Warlords of draenor was the xpac I played the least beating out cataclysm. I hope Legion will hold my interest because I really do miss WoW.

But I play the game for the world and story as bad as it is some times. And while the leveling in draenor was amazing I had 0 interest in the max level story.

I feel like blizzard cares less about their story then I do though. WoD made it obvious that they had planned for a 2 year cycle and then cut tons of story content to try to shrink that cycle down to 1 year. But at least to me it made this xpac the worse since cataclysm. Major storylines were completely mangled or dropped. The omission of whole zones they were planning to be in it.

WoWs story has never been the best but WoD of draenor was so bad because you could tell it was meant to be more and large chunks just ended up on the cutting room floor.

Anyways I am still holding to my spring 2016 prediction. Holiday 2015 I feel is firmly out the window if the beta doesn't start this month. But say we get an October beta that could lead to a may launch which is reasonable.
That's one of those things where I feel the game doesn't show what the story intends. It's heavily implied that both druids and shaman have basically worked together for years. Of course not all druids or shaman are in the respective groups but enough of them that earthen ring/cenarion circle members consider members of other races as close friends.

That doesn't sound like people "at each others throats" to me.

My headcannon is that druids and shaman do help their respective factions but tend not to fight on the front lines against the other faction unless they have to. They probably are two of the groups advocating for the stupid animosity between horde and alliance to end.
The new expansion should be called "World of Warcraft Legion: Rise of the DPS" because it seems to me, it basically creates a DPS centric single player game that you play in a room that has other people.

The Order Hall. The guy said YOU were in charge of the hall, much like YOU were in charge of the Garrison. YOU were the one that discovered the Artifact at the beginning and YOU command the troops to do the missions. I don't see how that would be helped by having other players in YOUR hall. That would be like having other players in your garrison, all being called "Commander." Perhaps I misunderstood, but I still can't see Alliance and Horde suddenly being able to talk to each other. Or the NPCs in there calling everyone they see "Commander." Or EVERYONE walking around in the Class Hall with an Artifact weapon if you're the only one.

The Artifact weapons. I love this concept, except for one little thing. No one levels their character as a healer (Or a tank, really.) They level as a DPS spec and then put on the healing gear they collected when they start dungeons / raiding. If I have to choose ONE Artifact weapon and level it, which do I choose? Why have 36 different Artifact weapons when one per class with multi-spec capability would be better? Could it be because classes have 2 to 4 specs, but only dual spec as a skill? They said nothing about changing the dual spec skill.

I also got the impression that the quests are going to be class centric. That's great for replay value, change to an alt of a different class, get a whole new game to play in the same world. But what if you want to group with your friends that are different classes? They can't get your quest.

I don't know. I'm dubious as to how well thought out this is. Look at the Demon Hunter description on Blizzard's site:

Type Melee Damage Dealer, Tank
Standard Bars Health, Energy
Available Armor Cloth, Leather
Available Weapons Daggers, Fist Weapons, One-Handed Axes, One-Handed Maces, One-Handed Swords

Isn't the only weapon choice really available the Artifact weapon? Why would you ever use anything else? Do they actually plan to itemize weapon drops all over the Broken Isles for you to get? No one will bitch if they get a weapon that can't possibly replace their current weapon in a dungeon or raid, right?
Don't get overly attached to those artifacts, because they will only last for that expansion. Afterwards you're back to the usual weapons. They said so in an interview over at Icy-Veins.

They are essentially the 'legendaries' of the expansion.
So here's a question: Do you still consider Blizzard to be a good developer?

Because I realized at this announcement that I actually wasn't disappointed. I wasn't surprised that the major features are almost entirely predictable with basically no new concepts. I wasn't surprised that Blizzard seemed to learn almost nothing from their failures with WoD. I fully expect the new artifact weapons to be a disappointment in practice, most likely requiring raiding to reach the highest levels (or at least, for raiding to be so much faster that other methods are unrealistic).

I predicted a huge bump from WoD before knowing anything about that expansion, based only on the lack of competition. And sadly (seeing nothing of significance on the horizon for the rest of this year or 2016) I think I can predict something similar with Legion. But I can't really credit Blizzard for that. I think they are poor developers with polished execution (which isn't that impressive given how much more money they have than everyone else).
Do you still consider Blizzard to be a good developer?

Define "good". I never considered them to be *innovative* developers. But they are extremely good at taken known ideas and polishing them into a very accessible product. In my book that is a form of "good". And frankly I prefer a company like Blizzard producing polished, but not very innovative games to developers like Molyneux, who is producing very innovative games that just don't work or never really get finished.
P.S. I also think that Blizzard is good at diversifying. They made a lot of new games that were very different from WoW and which now earn them more money than WoW does. In comparison the attempts of CCP to diversify all failed more or less.
"Beta later this year" definitely means it won't be released this year. Beta is at minimum 3 months. Spring 2016 is possible, though.

Since there will be no patch 6.3, at minimum we're looking at 9 months of Tanaan jungle. Good thing those apexis dailies are super fun!

The Artifact weapons. I love this concept, except for one little thing. No one levels their character as a healer (Or a tank, really.)

...what? That's not true as all...I have only leveled my DK as a tank (Except at the start given how their talent trees originally were). I have only leveled my warrior as prot. My priest has never gone shadow. What a weird thing to say is universal...
Sine Nomine:

"...what? That's not true as all...I have only leveled my DK as a tank (Except at the start given how their talent trees originally were). I have only leveled my warrior as prot. My priest has never gone shadow. What a weird thing to say is universal..."

Someone always does this. It's like people that don't watch TV. It happens? But it's not the norm. It should have been obvious that I was speaking is statistical terms.

My priest never went shadow until ... I think WoLK. And that's because I multi-boxed it with my Paladin. People that level as healers are the outliers.
And I leveled my Priest way back when as Holy and my current Warrior as Prot. There are many outliers...

I think it will be a solid expansion, most of the stuff I like.

About leveling the artifacts as healer/tank: I'm sure you will only have to level one weapon, it will change stats as the T-sets do now. But I level play my tank chars as tanks anyway. I hope alts get some kind of catchup mechanic or people will burn out leveling 3 artifact weapons from the start on the off chance to change chars mid expansion.

Demon hunter looks great, I love playing melee so it's mobility looks good. But... if he jumps around like this while tanking it will piss off a lot of DPS including me if I have to chase the mobs around to hit them. One more tank class to run 5men with is always a good thing. Gotta start moving my level stop chars to another account to make room for one or two Demon Hunters.

Btw, I don't get that "Legion is just fanservice" argument. People whine all the time how Blizzard doesn't know how to make WoW good again, and now people bitch like "yeah they just create what we love" and say that's bad. What's the deal with that?

Class order halls not being faction restricted is the one thing I don't really like. I don't pvp but still WoW is a game with two distinct factions and if I hang around a Class order hall I don't want to see the other faction. My faction is like 5% of the population so I have to see all these players who I can't communicate with? Just get over it and build The First Great and Bountiful Human and Orcish Empire if you want us to be together.
@Baktru & Sine Nomine

I leveled a Prot Warrior and a Resto Druid myself, and I did it that way for the significantly shorter queue times. Which shows that even though DPS are 3/5 of dungeon groups, they are still significantly over-represented in the Dungeon Finder. On top of that, virtually everyone who levels through questing is doing so in a DPS spec (possibly a few tank specs, but certainly not a healing spec).

Saying "no one" might be going too far, but the general point is there. A lot of players who heal or tank in end-game dungeons and raids will want to level as a DPS spec.
Gotta say, I'm pretty disappointed by the lack of customizable pirate ship.
A pirate ship is pretty much the only thing that could lure me back now. Legion was so "meh" I wasn't even able to muster up the energy to think about plowing through WoD. I suspect this will be an expansion that keeps the core but doesn't grow the base, or bring back people the game has was just so....bleh. I'll hold out for a WoW 2.
Even back in vanilla WoW, I leveled a prot warrior with my brother who leveled a holy priest. I have always leveled a tank (feral druid or tanking DK) in each expansion and expect I always will. I like doing the dungeons (whether it was walking to them with friends or queueing in the dungeon finder).

And even when questing, I don't care if it's a little slower, I like the mechanics behind tanking and I level that way.
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