Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Don't Be These Players: A Self-Centered Player and an Ineffective Leader

img via Hestiah
Many of us have been That Player at one time or another. From toxic players, oblivious raiders, elitist jerks and beyond, Don't Be That Player is a series that looks at different scenarios we've all encountered, and how they might be approached differently. 

Today's DBTP involves a personal anecdote which will hopefully serve dual purposes: to grant perspective to both guild leadership and players where ideologies will sometimes clash.

Two Players Collide

The guild raid group I ran was working through the final tier of the expansion. On a particular raid night, we found ourselves one player shy of the number we needed to fill a 10-player group. Reluctantly, I turned on Trade Chat and issued our plea. A reply came back from a hunter---we'll call him Ryan. I asked for his ilvl, and it turned out to be quite a bit lower than what we were looking for.

"How am I supposed to hit that ilvl if I can't even get into the raid?" Ryan shot back.

Fair point, I suppose. 

I invited Ryan to the group and the night went well. Soon after, he moved his hunter into the guild. A few weeks later, our off-tank left the raid group due to a scheduling conflict. Ryan immediately mentioned his warrior tank, expressing confidence he could fill the role. But shortly after he assumed the tank role, he violated our guild's code of conduct via some unsavory exchanges he had with other players on the official forums. It's something all players pledge to refrain from when they fill out our application.

OK. First instance, no big deal. All players who apply to the guild must indicate they've read our code of conduct, but mistakes happen. By this time I'd gotten to know Ryan fairly well. We chatted over Bnet on a near-daily basis. But soon after receiving mild admonishment for his forum conduct, his conversational tone shifted and tended to center on his personal dissatisfaction over certain players in our raid. I had the tricky job, as raid leader, to hear out his concerns while reminding him exactly what sort of guild we were. The fact was, things were running smoothly and weren't going to change.

Raid nights went well, and his complaints continued. For months. Too many months.

Then, thoughts he shared with me regarding the raid environment manifested into action. We were approaching the fifth boss in the raid one night just an hour into our three hours of allotted time. Ryan was paired up with a back-up tank, as our other regular tank was absence that night. A DPS in the group accidentally pulled some trash and I got a whisper from Ryan along the lines of, Ok, I'm done with tonight. Replace me. I asked him to confirm that he was leaving a scheduled raid early because he was angry about a mis-pull. He left.

In hindsight, it was at this point where we should've parted ways with Ryan. A truly honest look at our circumstances would've plainly illustrated that our guild wasn't a good fit for him, and he wasn't a good fit for us---even if we was a great player and solid tank.

It was also around this time Ryan began to hint that his presence in our raid was anything but guaranteed. He simply wouldn't show if he didn't feel like it. He threatened to leave altogether. He claimed that if and when he left, other unsatisfied players would leave too. At this point, I didn't care; I was sick of the games.

The last straw came not too long after. The topic of the forum post he authored doesn't matter, though it was sure to be a hot-button issue. Soon enough, responses filtered in and Ryan responded to some of his favorite replies, once again in a disrespectful tone we don't want to see from our members.

After he made a couple of personal attacks towards other players in the thread, another player from our realm posted the following quotation...taken directly from the Member Expectations thread on our guild website:
Public Channels
We can't tell you how to play, but know that you are representing us when you are out and about. We want to be seen as a positive light on this server. The last thing we want to hear from a fellow player is that they were being harassed by a member of our guild, or something similar.
Ryan's response to that player? That he's aware of our rules, but he couldn't give two shits about them. I knew that meant the end for him.

"Grats on that forum post! The GM is removing your toons as I write this," I whispered to him while our GM removed his characters.

"You're joking."

I wasn't.

Two Parties At Fault

There's a lot going on in this one. On the one hand, you have a player who disregards the fact that he's joined up with a guild that has clear expectations and intentions for its members. A player who has his own ideas about how things should look and run and isn't afraid to voice and act on them---sometimes in destructive ways. 

On the other hand, you have me, a raid leader and guild officer who is seemingly lacking a spine when dealing with a player who, although a friend, is clearly not meeting guild expectations, and in some cases seems to be actively working against them while making raid admin life a living hell.

Don't be either of these players. 

The Self-Centered Player

If you're joining up with a guild for any reason, it's up to you to decide if the environment is a good fit. Hopefully you've done a bit of research prior to jumping in. Even then, the player likely won't know whether the guild's a good fit until they join, and only then after spending some time with their fellow players. 

Clearly, Ryan had issues with some of our members, with the way the raid was being run, and with some basic tenets the guild had in place. And I understand the latter, to a degree: we expect a bit more than the norm from our players. We expect that our members treat all players with respect. We strictly prohibit any "-ist" speech. We encourage PvP, but forbid camping (save in certain eye for an eye situations). Essentially, conduct by any member wearing our banner should reflect the guild in a positive light. 

The reality is, these are things our guild clearly outlines during the application process. In fact, that's the point of our application process: that the player gains a clear understanding of what we're all about so they can determine whether or not what we offer is something they'd even want to be a part of. If Ryan was honest with himself, he would have admitted early on that the guild wasn't a good fit for him. But he wanted something from us: a stable raid environment.

If you find yourself in this position as a player, you've got to be honest with yourself and do the mature thing: leave. 

In Ryan's case, when the guild atmosphere and raid environment weren't to his liking, instead of walking away he tried to change things, which caused a lot of headaches for myself and my fellow officers. More headaches than I should have ever allowed. When all was said and done, two raiders---in-game acquaintances he'd introduced to the guild---left after his removal in a move of solidarity.

They rejoined us two weeks later. 

The Ineffective Leader

Then, there's me.

There were probably a half dozen times during Ryan's tenure with the guild where I found myself typing up a post in the officer forums seeped with frustration over his attitude towards the guild, the raid, and what we believed in. It wore on me to the point where one night I found myself drafting a post informing my fellow officers that I'd be stepping down from leading raids.

Thankfully, halfway through that exercise I realized how asinine the prospect was. This was my raid, and a successful one at that. Yet for whatever reason Ryan was able to get under my skin, and made me forget my ultimate obligation as a raid leader: to maintain the strength and health of the team. And how am I supposed to focus on that if I dread each raid night because of what I fear I'll hear from a vocal minority the next morning?

I failed miserably. In the role of raid leader, as in life, you can't please everyone on the team all of the time. However, you can ensure the overall health of your team. And I was allowing Ryan to taint my view of things despite what I knew to be true.

As a raid leader or guild officer, you need to be prepared to make the tough decisions. And in my case, it shouldn't have been difficult: we had written expectations for all of our members, expectations Ryan demonstrated time and time again he cared nothing for. This alone should've made the job of his removal from the guild quite easy.

I didn't give him more chances because he was a tank in our raid---it was because I considered him a friend and allowed him more lenience because of that. You cannot play favorites like I did. The rules the guild has in place must apply to everyone in order for them to have any air of effectiveness. Otherwise, there's no point in having them at all. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WoW Weekly: A Bigg'un

WoW Weekly is a biweekly-ish, self-absorbed look into the things I've been doing -- or not doing -- in the game. From auctioneering and pet battling to mount farming and raiding.

This WoW Weekly thing used to be somewhat of a weekly thing. And there are good reasons for its lapse, as I see. Some of those reasons will be discussed on an upcoming podcast. Said podcast is partially responsible for reigniting the drive to return to blogging here more regularly, but I'm not sure how long it will last. Legion may play into that prospect heavily.

The last WoW Weekly from May of 2015 looked at ways to approach the game outside of current content, since to me that content was lackluster at best. Thankfully, the arrival of Tanaan Jungle with Patch 6.2 was just around the corner. If nothing else, I knew I'd be knocking out the final achievements required for Draenor Pathfinder.

Let's catch up.

In late June, prior to a guild meet-up in New York, we killed Blackhand just in time to earn Ahead of the Curve. Then, the meetup saw roughly a dozen members of Sapere Aude converging on a little resort town in upstate New York to hang for a weekend. Many, many years ago, my personal goal was to join or start a guild that was tight-knit enough to make something like this happen. Achievement earned. We're in the process of planning 2016's meetup as I write this.

By August, my play habits hadn't really changed much; truth is, I still had to force myself to log in and had little desire to do so. So August saw some logging in for garrison chores two or three times per week, killing Yogg-Saron with four characters in search of Mimiron's Head, and raiding on Thursday nights.

En route to Ulduar.

September turned out to be one of the most surreal months I've had in a long, long time. The guild was working on Normal Archimonde, having already pushed halfway through Heroic. That's not why it was weird though. It got weird when the relationship I'd been in for the past six years dissolved. Would have seen it coming were it not for the blinders I'd equipped, and now, what's done is done. Needless to say it had a bit of an effect on my approach to the game. 

October was a month of personal recovery. I had some soul-searching to do and took refuge in music and friends. That, and I had to find a new place to live. For the first time since I'd started raiding during the Wrath of Lich King, I missed more than one scheduled raid in a month's time. I had internet access within a week of moving, but if my desire to play the game was low prior, it became non-existent. 

The succession plan I had in mind for Legion that involved me handing over the raid-leading reins suddenly got moved up. Thankfully, since we have such great people, the guild continued on, the raid still progressed, and I found myself on the receiving end of a plethora of concern and kind words from the friends I'd made in Azeroth. 

The month of November hailed an event that provided some much-needed entertainment: Blizzcon. I welcomed the departure from the Wisconsin climate and the distraction from the familiarity of home. Plus, I got to see and hang out with a bunch of my Blizzard-community friends. Before leaving for Anaheim, I promised the guild I'd be back full-time upon return. I was hoping Blizzcon would reinvigorate my excitement for the game. It did, to an extent, and I've kept my promise to the guild. If there's anything Blizzcon reminds me of, it's the fact that the people I game with are the biggest reason I remain.

December saw the guild defeating Heroic Archimonde a couple of weeks before Christmas, which was our ultimate goal for the expansion. Since our raids later in the month fell on holidays, we took a break until 2016.

And that, for the most part, brings us to the present. My play time has ratcheted up; it's nowhere near the consistent levels it was during Mists of Pandaria, but it's a significant change from the last half of 2015. Here's what I've been up to:

  • Hitting the gold cap (again): I'm making the slow slog without leaving my garrison by at least logging in for garrison chores on a near-daily basis. I've got four characters with max-level garrisons, two with shipyards also at max-level. I've also got a lower level mule collecting garrison resources to spend at the trading post. Between garrison and shipyard missions, items from crates, and crafted armor and weapons for AH sales, I can easily---easily---pay for my monthly subscription while seeing a significant surplus of gold. I anticipate not paying a dime for Warcraft and hitting the cap before Legion's release. 
  • Leveling an alt: With Heroic Archimonde's demise in mid-December, the guild raid was looking at either the prospect of many, many months of Heroic HFC on farm or at switching things up. We've opted for the latter, and are now on a rotating raid schedule that will hop between Heroic farm, Mythic difficulty, and an alt raid night. Hence, I've begun to gear my discipline priest. He's currently around 690 ilvl, but I should have my legendary ring this week unless I'm terribly unlucky with tome drops. 
  • The hunt for Mimiron's Head: I've been killing Yogg four times per week for quite some time now and have not had any luck. I'm about to earn the legendary healing mace on a second character, so there's that, I suppose.
  • Guild Ironman: During the downtime between expansions, the guild is running its version of an Ironman contest. My human monk is currently level 16. We decided to roll on Wyrmrest Accord, and I must say I really like the realm so far. I'll be chronicling that journey in a hopefully regular-ish series of posts.
  • Diablo 3 Season 4: With as much fun as I had leveling a monk in Season 3, I knew I'd return for Season 4. This time around I went with a demon hunter which, at first, I didn't think I was going to enjoy. I generally like melee combat. Still, after getting used to the play style I had no issues quickly leveling to 70 and starting the end-game journey. I really like the armor set dungeons this time around. Adds an interesting aspect to play and makes replaying through on a second character much more attractive to me. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Adventures of...

We're sort of in the downtime between expansions, right? I mean, that's something that's pretty much universally agreed on at this point, yeah? The guild I'm in said buh-bye to Heroic Archimonde before Christmas, which means as a unit, we're reached our ultimate end-goal for the expansion. While we're still continuing our Thursday night runs, and will even push into Mythic here and there, the long stretch with no new content means many of us are looking for different activities to engage in, whether that's leveling alts, knocking out old achievements, or--gulp--playing other games.*

But for the most (fool)hardy amongst the Sapere Aude clan, there is now a guild Ironman challenge. Created in the same vein as the popular Warcraft Ironman challenges, the contest has you leveling up a character without most of the luxuries a player normally enjoys during the process. Our rules are more relaxed than the ones linked above, but it's still a challenging prospect nonetheless. So as not to anger any purists who might stumble across this post, ours is not an official challenge, just our take on it.

I'll be documenting the trials, successes and failures of that process here.

*I love you Warcraft and I would never cheat on you but when I do it's almost always with another Blizzard game. #keepinitreal #allinthefamily

The Adventures of Glasz

I started out with a human rogue. Most of my guildie counterparts had chosen either dwarves or gnomes. I figured since we were going Alliance--ewww--I'd roll as a familiar race. Glasz is a loud, boastful man, one of several heirs to a family fortune with a love for sailing and booze, as he grew up for the most part on ships. He's decided to join up with a band of Adventurers, Ferrum Aude, for reasons that aren't quite clear. Perhaps that will reveal itself as this process plays out.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I'm going to roleplay the shit out of this guy as we go along.

Unsurprisingly, levels 1-10 flew by without a hitch in less than two hours. I did all of the quests leading up to where you are sent to Westfall. At that point I departed to Ironforge for a previously scheduled guild meeting, after which I decided to continue questing from that point. This sent me to Loch Modan.

I started making my way through the map from hub to hub, knocking out quest objectives with ease. My XP bar is turned off, since not dying is the main objective in this whole thing, and I was mildly surprised with how quickly I reached level 15. My next quests sent me to the central part of the zone near the Loch---I think I had to dispatch some murlocs or something. It's always murlocs.

As Glasz cut his way through the area, he heard some distinct arguing coming from near the shoreline. He looked over to see a group of gnolls and murlocs having some sort of meeting together. Confident he could get closer to them without detection, he crept up slowly. He couldn't make out what was being said, but then latched onto a "better" idea. If these two groups were meeting, it must be over something important. Perhaps whatever thing is important is worth something. Perhaps if he dispatches this group, said important thing will fall into his hands. Perhaps someone would then pay for said important thing.

He sized the group up once more. Five in total: three murlocs, two gnolls. Glasz felt five would be testing his fate. Four though? Doable. Before the rest of the group detected his presence, he had the largest murloc knocked unconscious and his knives into the belly of the largest gnoll. Except, the gnoll didn't go down. It was wearing thick armor underneath an outer layer of tattered cloth. Smart. The gnolls came to the meeting prepared for battle. And now there was one.

Glasz noticed the largest murloc he'd knocked out was coming to; he still grappled with the gnoll he'd first attacked, while the other two murlocs and one gnoll closed in on his flanks. Panic set in. He felt a strange warmth running down the left side of his leg. Did I just piss myself? he briefly thought, but when he flashed a look downwards, he saw it: blood. His own.

Glasz feigned backwards, dropped to his knees while sticking his blades into the sand. He flung them upwards wildly, tossing the fine particles into the faces of his attackers. The move bought him a few moments, but the band caught up with him as he hobbled up a dune just a few yards away.

Then, Glasz knew no more.

The Adventures of Glasz Flasz

So, Glasz's death was rather...unexpected. Full disclosure: the guild's Ironman contest doesn't require a clean slate when it comes to death count (though there are specific conditions under which a character can be resurrected), but I play for keeps. I determined before I ventured out that any "setback" like this would be permanent. That all said, I was not prepared for this scenario. My roommate heard me yell Fuck! and looked over but I knew there was no way to explain this to him. Progress was lost, boo-hoo, now what do I do?

That's when I realized Glasz has a younger brother. And perhaps more siblings, depending on how this plays out.

Flasz, like his brother, grew up on the seas and is also part-heir to the family fortune. Originally trained in deception and avoiding detection, Flasz fell in love with Pandaria when a ship he was on docked there briefly after the mists had parted. He remained there to train in the ways of the pandaren monks. After the events of the Siege of Orgrimmar, he chose to remain in Pandaria, where he has lived since.

Flasz is soon to receive an urgent letter from his brother Glasz imploring him to meet in Ironforge. Unfortunately, by the time the letter reaches Flasz, Glasz is already dead---something Flasz has yet to discover.

The Adventures of... will be a semi-regular feature chronicling my character's journey as he levels through the game under Ironman-type conditions while trying to discover the truth of his brother's fate.

Friday, January 15, 2016


What does Legendary mean? Or better yet, what should Legendary mean?

I've chatted with guildies, a few folks over social media, and even lurked on some discussions about what Legendary means in World of Warcraft. While there are surely more than two camps (as I'll hopefully demonstrate by this post's end), there are clearly two large camps: players who feel Legendary items should be more exclusive, obtainable via group effort in raid content outside of LFR, and those who feel the path to Legendary items should be available to all players, regardless of the time or ability they have to engage with the game's content.

A History of Legendaries

Vanilla saw the first Legendary weapons introduced to the game: Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros; Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker; Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian. These weapons could only be obtained by collecting quest items found in high-end raid content, and each was restricted to certain classes. Generally, raiding groups would designate a single player to be the first recipient of the weapon, since the items needed to forge them were extremely difficult to come by. There was almost zero prospect that a non-raiding solo player would obtain these items during their relevancy. 

We saw the addition of two more Legendary weapons in the Burning Crusade: the Warglaives of Azzinoth and Thori'dal, Stars' Fury. While class restrictions remained, the method by which they were obtained signaled a departure from the Vanilla model: these items simply had a small chance to drop off a corresponding end-boss. With this, the prospect for a solo player to obtain either of these items increased slightly. Technically, boss kills and loot tables are for sale, so a player with the right amount of gold in their coffers could potentially see the drop. Quite different from the Vanilla model, which required months of regular raiding to complete. 

Wrath of the Lich King returned to the Vanilla model with two new legendary weapons, Shadowmourne and Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings, the former having a lower-quality epic version that got enhanced throughout a questline. While raid sizes now included both 10- and 25-player versions, progress on the questline was largely restricted to 25-player mode. Since the weapons required numerous items that dropped from raid bosses, they were more difficult for the solo player to earn. Once again, guild raids often prioritized who would earn the weapon first, and funneled all of the requisite items in that direction, as it took several months of regular boss kills---and eventually a full clear---in order to craft a single weapon. 

Cataclysm brought us two new legendary weapons: Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa's Rest and the Fangs of the Father. Earning these weapons was similar to how the weapons were earned in Vanilla and Wrath. During the questline players would earn a lower-quality epic version of the item, and throughout the course of the questline the item would be upgraded until finally reaching its Legendary form. Fangs of the Father is a bit of a curious one, as its use was restricted to a single class: rogues. They were earned partly through raiding the Dragon Soul; however, even though we saw the introduction of LFR with the Dragon Soul raid, the bulk of the quest progress for the pair of daggers required a minimum of Normal difficulty, with a higher amount of quest item drops on 25-player mode. 

With Mists of Pandaria, we saw the largest departure from how Legendary item acquisition worked in the past on several fronts. Firstly, the item we saw wasn't a weapon, but rather a cloak. Secondly, the questline to earn the cloak was available to all players once they reached max level. Like the Cataclysm Legendaries, these items started out as less-powerful epic versions. The departure here is that these items would be upgraded throughout the entire expansion via "Chapters", with the final Legendary version becoming available at the release of the expansion's final patch. Lastly, progress towards the Legendary questline could be completed in the LFR environment. Essentially, this signaled the ability for the Legendary cloak to be earned by any player who desired one. This was also the first time players could not earn the Legendary in stride, i.e. players would complete a Chapter in the chain and have to wait until the next Chapter was released in an upcoming patch. 

Warlords of Draenor brought us a continuation of the MoP model with a strange twist: the Legendary, which this time is a ring, is an on-use item whose use also triggers the proc on the rings other players who shared the same role. The chain was once again spread out over Chapters, and quest progress could once again be completed in LFR, allowing any player who desired a ring to earn one in time. However, as a carrot to encourage organized raiding, upgrading the ring to its full power potential required Archimonde kills on at least Normal difficulty.

Flaws in the Old and the New

Now, ignoring grey areas and middle ground for a moment, we have one group of players who'd like the sort of format seen in Vanilla through Cataclsym where the earning of Legendary items requires some form of organized raiding. I'll call that the Old Model. The other group of players support the the New Model, where every max-level character has the opportunity to earn the Legendary item whether or not they can regularly dedicate time to an organized raid.*

So what are the perceived problems with each model?

As you know, the Old Model requires a player to regularly dedicate a certain amount of time to organized raiding. Not just that, but the Old Model all but required a player to be part of a guild raid group. Even further, if a player was part of a regular raid group, they weren't guaranteed the Legendary, as their class had to be eligible to use the item. Oftentimes, as I mentioned before, the raid would know which player would be receiving the Legendary first.

With the Old Model, the exclusivity of the items themselves could cause problems. There was always the potential for harbored resentment when one player was chosen to receive the legendary ahead of the other eligible players in the group. Even more, we've all likely heard stories of the raider who was given first dibs on the legendary, only to stop raiding/fallout with the guild/quit Warcraft a few weeks after receiving it. That meant several months of a group-wide effort was utterly wasted, something that can have devastating ripple effects throughout the group.

The New Model, on the other hand, serves as a dangling carrot for every player who reaches max-level, an objective that lands smack dab in the middle of everyone's map. As the most powerful item in the game, it becomes difficult to resist the allure of earning it. When Legendaries are open to all players and classes, do they cease to feel Legendary? I think so. Mimiron's Head, for example, would fail to impress if everyone had one.

The New Model, which allows anyone who desires a legendary to earn one, has the potential to weaken the bonds of guilds and organized raid groups in that players no longer need that sort of structure in order to earn a Legendary item. Consequently, organized raiders are expected---often required---to be at the forefront when it comes to Legendary quest progress since it's something that can be achieved on their own time without the assistance of their raid group. This can translate to a considerably larger amount of required playtime outside of their regularly scheduled hours.

The New Model doesn't require the sort of coordination and skill previously required from raiding groups, which isn't by default a bad thing. That said, under the New Model it takes a player much, much longer to earn the Legendary item---bringing it from its initial form to its fully upgraded from---compared to the Old Model. As with MoP, WoD's ring progress will play out throughout the entire expansion's life-cycle.

There is a theme here, I think. The Old Model, simply put, emphasizes exclusivity and requires regular, scheduled dedication to the game. The New Model emphasizes participation and requires a base amount of time independent of schedule. Which one's better or worse is entirely up to the individual. Under the New Model, supporters of the Old Model tend to see the Legendary cloak and ring as anything but; more of a chore they must complete in order to be considered for serious raiding. Supporters of the New Model may see the exclusivity of the Old Model as a penalization of players who don't have enough time to play or are uninterested in organized raiding as rather unfair.

Both are right, depending on how one defines Legendary in this context. What is clear is there is a large portion of players who refuse to accept Blizzard's notion that the New Model features true Legendary items. That shift happened with the introduction of the Mists of Pandaria format. With the same format continued in Warlords of Draenor, a return to the Old Model could be perceived as Blizzard taking away access to something the majority of the playerbase previously had access to. Like they did with flight, and we all saw how well that was received.

Perhaps there's a better solution.

*I realize I'm passing a rather harsh judgement on the difference between LFR and Normal+ raiding, but I also feel it's totally warranted. LFR is not organized raiding.

Marriage of the Old and the New

I really enjoyed the introduction of the Legendary cloak in Mists of Pandaria. I completed the quest chain within a few days of it becoming available with Patch 5.4. It was the first legendary I'd ever possessed while it was still relevant. Hell, it was only the second time anyone in my guild raid group had the legendary in current content, and that included a four-year span of raiding. Yet, when Warlords of Draenor arrived and the Legendary ring was announced, I failed to get excited. I was disappointed to see that it seemed like they were simply rehashing the Mists of Pandaria model, even if it might serve as a decent storytelling mechanism. 

I do feel there should be greater rewards for organized (non-LFR) raiding. At the same time, I don't think players should be prevented from earning Legendary items if they can't join organized raids for whatever reason. What I'd like to see is a little bit of the old, and a little bit of the new.

Legendary Boss Drops in Organized Raids

I'd like to see the Burning Crusade format return where a particular boss has a minuscule chance to drop a Legendary item in non-LFR raids. I'd like to see it as a weapon usable by certain classes, or a series of weapons throughout the expansion's life that will cover all classes. This would provide a greater reward for organized raiding and group play, something I feel is vital to the long-term health of the game.

Tiered Legendary Questline

I think the New Model of earning Legendaries is here to stay, and I'm fine with that. I think a system that separates the power of the Legendary item based on the content the player is engaged in could be valuable. For instance, a player can currently complete the questline through solo play and LFR. That doesn't have to change. Like I said before, the questline can be an excellent storytelling mechanism that no one should have to miss out on.

However, I think if a player is raiding Normal, Heroic, or Mythic difficulty, they should have access to a more powerful Legendary as a testament to their dedication and skill, the same way it currently works with gear item levels: the higher the difficulty, the better the item level. This would allow all players to earn a Legendary item, but would offer an additional reward to players completing content at a higher difficulty level.

The Legion Model

Full disclosure: everything prior to this section was written during the summer of 2015, prior to us having much information about how the artifact system will work. I'd simply forgotten to publish this piece, and only recently stumbled across it. It appears that with Legion, we're seeing yet another iteration on how Blizzard treats Legendary items.

For starters, we'll finally get to see the fabled item class known as artifacts. One of the first things players will do in Legion is earn an artifact weapon specific to their spec. These weapons, no doubt, are among the most legendary of items seen in lore. Just take enhancement's artifact, Doomhammer, as proof. Shoving aside what this might mean for the Doomhammer's former owner, I wonder if the Doomhammer's status gets diminished if every enhancement shaman in your guild wields one from level 100 on? 

It isn't clear to me how this will play out just yet, but the landscape seems ripe to me for artifact weapons of varying power based on the difficulty of the content completed: WoD's legendary chain reward provides players with an ilvl 735 ring; that ring can be further upgraded 3 ilvls at a time with an item obtained from an Archimonde kill on Normal or greater difficulty, up to ilvl 795. I'd like to see this expanded upon further in Legion, with varying rewards based on the difficulty of the mastered content, such as having certain artifact upgrade items drop in Normal, Heroic, or Mythic difficulties exclusively. 

Secondly, it would appeared from datamined info that we'll once again be seeing legendary items as drops. Wowhead's page indicates most will be class-specific world drops, and that makes me wonder about the frequency with which players will actually come across them. Will this approach, similar to the Burning Crusade model mentioned above, re-inject some randomness and exclusivity into the concept of legendary, or will every death knight from here to the Frozen Throne be wearing these by Legion's end? 

Only time will tell. What I'm wondering most is, has the definition of legendary changed over the years, as should it have? Or does the definition simply no longer apply?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Blizzcon 2015 Wrap-Up: A Hearthstone Adventure

img: Blizzard
While I found the opening ceremony preview for the next Hearthstone adventure quite endearing, I hadn't actually planned on sitting down to test it out on the floor. But sometimes, life has other plans for you and you've got to make due with your available options. Basically, my friend and I ditched the Linkin Park concert a bit early (despite the fact to my surprise, they put on a great show) with the intention of playing Overwatch without having to wait in a long line. It worked for us last year...and didn't work for us this year. Clearly the Overwatch hype train is roaring at full-force.

Realizing we didn't want to spend a great deal of time in line just to try something we played the year prior, we strolled over to the Heroes of the Storm demo area. We checked out the new Arena mode earlier in the day and thought about trying to new map this time around, but that would've also involved a 20+ minute wait. Then we realized there wasn't a wait for the new Hearthstone adventure, so we thought, "What the hell!" What follows is an "I played some of the new Hearthstone adventure, what the hell, I'll toss some thoughts out there" write-up. This will be light on details, with more focus on impressions. I figure if you're interested in Hearthstone at all you already know about the new cards, maps, mechanics and the like. If you're interested in a casual player's perspective, read on.

I sat down at the PC and was greeted with a screen that allowed selection of one of two heroes: a rogue or a shaman if my memory serves me. It wasn't immediately clear if this signaled two separate adventures, or if it simply provided two class options for the same adventure. It turned out to be the latter, the adventure being The Temple of Osiris.

I chose the shaman (or whatever class it was) first. Pretty sure it was a shaman. It actually didn't end up mattering which class I picked because very early on in the match I had a card that, when played, replaced the default hero power with a random hero power. I ended up getting the warlock's Life Tap. However, because of the format of the adventure itself, the hero power didn't really factor much in the two matches I played.

The board looked like an underground temple ala Raiders of the Lost Ark. Naturally, I spent a bit of time clicking around the four corners to see how I could interact with the board itself. Nothing too memorable, but thematically appropriate. In this game, I didn't face an enemy hero---I fought against the temple itself. The key was to survive 10 rounds without dying. Doing so meant I'd essentially escaped the temple with my physical and mental facilities in tact.

I was given a pre-built deck in each instance. The temple did possess a zero-mana hero ability that summoned powerful minions to try to prevent me from escaping. But this wasn't the only interesting mechanic; after almost every round, I was given a choice to do something---usually I was shown two cards and had to pick one. One I can clearly recall was a choice between drawing two cards or healing my hero for 10 health. About halfway through the 10 rounds, the temple's ceiling caved in and cleared the entire board of minions---a blessing or a curse depending what I or the temple had placed on the board prior.

img: Blizzard

That all said, I didn't really have a problem countering what the temple threw at me with the cards in my deck. It was a fun experience, but I can't say it was a particularly challenging one---I'd have to assume it would be the same for anyone with basic familiarity with Hearthstone play. The second playthrough with the rogue felt a bit more difficult due to the cards I drew, but I was still able to escape with relative ease. What's more: I had a friend playing next to me who had never played a game of Hearthstone in her life. I looked over and she had 6 health remaining and five more turns to survive. At this point she asked me to assist and I guided her on what to play for the remaining rounds, assuming we were doomed. At least I'd get to see what losing looked like.

To my astonishment, she also escaped the temple with her life. It made me think that perhaps we'll see some balancing tweaks before release, but considering it will go goes live within a week today my guess is that there will be variance in difficulty modes to offer greater challenge to more skilled players. Either way, it's a cool take on the solo adventure, much different from Naxxramas or Blackrock Mountain. Well worth the money or gold, in my opinion.