Thursday, July 28, 2016

WoW Weekly: Dormant

WoW Weekly is a biweekly-ish, self-absorbed look into the things I've been doing inside the game and out. From mount farming and raiding, to music, movies, books and other games.

Ch-ch-changes.

That's what we all saw last Tuesday with the arrival of the Legion pre-patch. How's it been going for you? I had a pretty busy week leading up to the guild's Thursday raid night, so I wasn't able to put in a great deal of time into learning my enhancement shaman's new rotation. Bosses fell in record time, but things still felt a bit off. While the enhancement rotation looks different on the surface---no more totems, no more Maelstrom x 5 Lightning Bolts, no more shocks---the spells we see now have parallels in the old rotation. 

Instead of Unleash Elements, I've talented into Frostbrand with the aim to keep the buff up 100% of the time. Instead of keeping Flameshock active, we now maintain the Flametongue buff. The main difference between the old and the new is the concept of "building and spending" abilities. We definitely have a lot more control over Maelstrom accrual, though right now the rate of acquisition seems a bit slow. Currently, I'm noticing a bit more down time in combat compared to the old rotation. I've been told the artifact weapon come Legion will smooth some of this out. 

After spending some time with target dummies, setting up some WeakAuras, and killing a half-dozen raid bosses, the rotation is beginning to feel natural. Phew. For a while I felt like I might have to bid farewell to my main since the Burning Crusade. 

Thanks for All The Resources
Now that the lucrativeness of the garrison is all but gone, the call to log in on a daily basis to gather gold has gone quiet. There's still quite a bit I could finish up in Legion, like collecting missing toys, pets, and mounts, but I generally leave a chunk of content unfinished for the inevitable down time that will happen in the new expansion. For example, once the guild had Heroic Archimonde on farm status, I started going after old-world mounts as well as achievements on the Timeless Isle. 

Falling to My Death, Over and Over Again
This makes no sense, I thought to myself, as I plummeted from the skies over Orgrimmar towards the ground where certain death awaited. I repeated this several dozen times in order to satisfy the requirements for the Feat of Strength It All Makes Sense Now over the course of my lunch hour earlier this week. Can't say it was fun, but it's done. 


Climbing the Mount(ain) Runs
After landing two mounts I'd been after for some time, as mentioned in my last post, I set my sights on Alysrazor in the Firelands. However, the prospect of setting up six more characters under the new changes feels too daunting at the moment, and for now, I've ceased mount runs until I can get a better handle on my enhancement shaman.

Making Grandpa Proud

This will probably get the Gaming Affairs treatment at some point, because I've sunk a lot of time into Stardew Valley over the past month and a half. I was turned on to the title by my step-brother, and at first glance it looked pretty dumb. Never played Harvest Moon or Farmville but that's what Stardew looked like to me. Essentially, you inherit a farm in disrepair from your grandfather, and it's up to you to rejuvenate it. 

While it's very similar to those other games in many aspects from what I'm told, I've had a good time in-game. There's a lot of character depth that took me by surprise, and at times the game highlights some quite serious and deep problems, like corporate business running mom & pop shops out of town, townsfolk struggling with depression and self-image, and soldiers returning from war with PTSD. Admittedly, it's beginning to feel stale, especially as I edge closer to "beating" the game (I'd liken this to earning all of WoW's achievements, but on a much smaller scale). That said, the staleness only began to creep in after I logged more than 70 hours. Normally $15, I nabbed it for a discount during the Steam Summer Sale. It's been a while since I put that much time into WoW over a two-month period, so I'd call it money well-spent.

Check out the title for yourself on Steam.

Watching Winona Freak Out
Netflix Originals, man. They've got a good thing going. I've plowed through Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Ranch, and Bloodline. With Vikings, Game of Thrones, and the Walking Dead on hiatus I started looking for something new. Which is when I found Stranger Things. It's set in the early 80s in what could be almost any small, rural town in America. I won't spoil anything, but the basic premise is that a boy goes missing, a strange girl with powers shows up and the people involved try to make sense of it all. It has a strikingly nostalgic feel and reminded me of some classics: E.T., Goonies, Stand By Me, and so on. Winona Ryder plays the missing boy's mother, and offers an authentic performance that involves a lot of screaming and yelling. 

I binged that in about a week, so I'm back in the running for a new show. Heard quite a bit about some of the other Originals I haven't touched yet (OITNB, House of Cards, etc.)...any thoughts? 

Getting the Band Back Together
The group I've been playing with since 2007ish has started to book shows again. We had a couple-year hiatus due to marriages and babies and those sorts of things. Now that things have settled down, families have gotten comfortable with their new routines (/target Child, /cast Silence), we're looking to write, record, and play a show from time to time.  




Thursday, June 16, 2016

WoW Weekly: Farewell to Ulduar

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.

It happened the day after my birthday; granted, the fact the Warcraft movie released on my birthday was quite the present, but I was happy to accept Mimiron's Head as a belated gift from the World of Warcraft. The second of six characters scheduled for the week saw it drop. Altogether, I killed Yogg Saron 249 times before the mount drop, with kill number 250 being the lucky one. However, I'm told that isn't so lucky.

With the robot head added to the collection, I have all of the rare pre-Cataclysm mounts. After a couple of years of farming Ulduar, it was time to bid farewell and set my sights on a new goal. Ideally, it'd be something pre-MoP so that my stable of characters could attempt the run each week instead of just my strongest character. Instead, I figured I'd head back to Pandaria on my main character to see what sorts of trouble the world bosses and those found on the Isle of Thunder would pose. Besides, I'm still after one of the mounts dropped by the Zandalari Warbringers.

Galleon and Nalak fell with ease, but I could not dispatch the Sha of Anger quickly enough, meaning when the mind control portion of the fight came, the fight would reset itself. I know it's possible to solo the Sha of Anger, but it may still require a certain class to do so. I made a mental note to revisit the Sha once I've leveled a bit in Legion.

While heading to Nalak, I recalled the two mounts that drop in the Throne of Thunder, one from Horridon and one from Ji'kun. I was pretty confident I could at least make it through Horridon with my main character (around 730 ilvl) on 10-player mode. And I was right. But there was a rather astonishing aspect to the feat: Horridon dropped the mount!

Now on a high from seeing a super rare and then a rare mount drop within an hour's time, I decided to get the hell out of the Throne of Thunder for the time being, vowing to return once I had a stable of characters to run through each week. I'm hoping the lockout-sharing trick continues to work in Legion. I opened up my collections pane and navigated to the mounts tab; filtered for "not collected" and "drops". And I saw a mount I swear I'd acquired years ago: Flametalon of Alysrazor. Hrmph.

So I'll set the hearthstones of seven characters to Aviana's Shrine and return each week until Alysrazor coughs up the mount. Other updates include:

Swimming in it: Account-wide gold count has eclipsed 1.3 million. The economy for crafted armor/weapons continues to slide. The gem market ebbs and flows, but is on a downward trend. Potion and flasks seem to be selling rather quickly, but for a fraction of the price they sold at months ago. Now that we know the lucrative nature of garrisons will be removed in the Legion pre-patch, which folks are speculating to arrive mid-July, I'm planning to squeeze every last coin from my garrisons while still possible.

Guild Raids: Refusing to die under the weight of this crippling content lull, the guild continues to raid on Thursday evenings. I'd taken a couple of months off in the early spring, but they forged ahead. When I left, we had two bosses down in Mythic. By the time I returned, they were working on their 5th kill. Sadly, interest began to drop at this point and we regularly find ourselves unable to field a viable group to continue progress. Regardless, we've kept the raid alive by revisiting previous tier Mythics, running guild achievements, and helping friends get their moose mounts.

Guild Meetup: I'm stoked to attend the 2nd Annual Sapere Aude Guild Meetup next weekend. Some of you may remember we held our first meetup last year in upstate New York, and it was a blast. This year, we're moving across the country to Colorado in order to make it easier on some of our west coast folks.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Feckless Leader's Warcraft Movie Review

imgs: Legendary
Note: this review contains some plot [SPOILERS]. If you would like to avoid any mention until you see the film yourself, how about this older piece I wrote about how World of Warcraft could abandon the subscription model. Also, I've never reviewed a movie before, for fun or otherwise.

Prior to the two showings I went to on Friday, one in 3D and one in standard, I spent an indecent amount of time panning a wide range of critical opinions and held those criticisms fresh in my mind during both viewings. I'll even say I went into the theater a bit nervous at the first viewing, having great hope the movie wouldn't be a disappointment or worse: an embarrassment as a fan of the universe it was based on.

While definitely not a perfect film, I can state with full confidence that this movie is not this generation's Battlefield Earth, nor will it turn out to be the blockbuster flop of the summer. What plagues this film the most is the fact director Duncan Jones' original cut was shortened by 40 minutes for theatrical release. Perhaps lesser of a plague is that this movie is based on a video game, an inescapable fact that had many of my friends saying the previews "looked cool" while wondering if it was a movie made for them or just fans of the games. This is a movie that players of the game(s) should absolutely love, and also provides a enjoyable experience for folks looking for a fresh, action-packed and visually stunning fantasy film.

Setting/Cinematography

This is an absolutely gorgeous movie. If you dug the flick but have not seen it in 3D, go do it! Unless 3D makes you queasy, then don't. For me, it is hands down the best use of 3D I have seen. Most of the time those movies aim to do something gimmicky like stick a plant frond or a lightsaber in your face, but not with Warcraft. Jones' use of the tech seems to focus on adding more depth to each scene. While some of the action suffers from the standard 3D blur effect, the vast majority of the time I'd forgotten I had the glasses on.

Orc rendering is a thing of beauty, with more attention given to the named orcs in the movie. Even though the CGI orcs who make up the horde are reportedly varied in their makeup and assembly, they still feel like the Uruk-hai from Tolkien's universe, if less mindless. And I'd argue this isn't a bad thing: with a main character sheet so large, introducing more key players like Killogg Deadeye and Grom Hellscream would further muddy the waters (though if you're watching closely both have cameos).

The various settings throughout Azeroth are keenly representative of their in-game counterparts, from the exterior of Dalaran and the library of Karazhan, to the interior of Stormwind's throne room. While World of Warcraft's art style tends to be over the top and boxy, the architecture fit well within this world and didn't distract from the movie.

The movie features a healthy dose of magic, which for the most part is rendered believably. There are a couple of shots featuring Khadgar and Medivh that remind me of bad television CGI. A bit cringe-worthy, but I didn't think the largely-CGI film would make it all the way through unblemished.

Characters

The movie opens with a scene that features a short skirmish between a man and a green-skinned orc, though the shot ends before we can see the aftermath (we're led to assume the man has been smashed into paste). We then cut to Durotan, orc Warchief of the Frostwolf Clan, and his wife Draka in their tent. I thought the juxtaposition between the fearsome orc in the previous scene and the humanity we're shown in Durotan and Draka served well to illustrate to the audience that this was not going to be the average good guys vs. bad guys movie (if it hadn't already been apparent through the trailers).

Throughout the next quarter of the film as the plot develops, we're introduced to the rest of the movie's major players, a fairly large ensemble: Orgrim Doomhammer, Blackhand, King Llane, Lady Taria, Gul'dan, Garona, Anduin Lothar, Callan Lothar, Khadgar and Medivh, as well as a few ancillary characters who have relatively small yet recurring presences throughout the movie. While this a fraction of the number of characters Lord of the Rings wanted audiences to care about, those movies had the luxury of longer runtimes with the story unfolding over three installments, something the source material for Warcraft could have supported. Character development is a bit hampered due to the constraining length of the film, and as a result there could have been more depth across the board, even if there were no major disappointments.

Based on trailer footage, I went in skeptical of Dominic Cooper's King Llane and Paula Patton's Garona. I thought the former would be a bad casting choice, and the latter wouldn't provide a convincing performance. I was wrong on both counts. Cooper fits well as the benevolent and wise king of the Alliance, and Patton portrays Garona as a hardened outcast loved by neither the orcs or the humans. There is a particular scene where a dejected Garona asks Durotan if the Frostwolf Clan will accept her among their ranks, and Durotan replies that she is safer with the humans. Even though the movie could have explored its characters further to foster greater audience investment, this was a poignant moment where I really felt for Garona and her status as an outsider to both worlds.

Durotan, brought to life by Toby Kebbel, gives one of the movie's best performances. To me that feels like saying Andy Serkis' Gollum gave a better performance than Elijah Wood in Lord of the Rings, but it's true in this case. The level of detail Duncan Jones and ILM were able to capture and portray on-screen is absolutely stunning. While there were a few CGI elements that jolted me out of the film, orc rendering was not one of them. In fact, the orcs translate so well that they at times come across as more realistic than the humans. It feels like Jones placed extra emphasis on making the orcs relatable, which is shown particularly in the interactions between Durotan, Draka and Orgrim. As a consequence sometimes their human counterparts come across a bit flat.

Daniel Wu's Gul'dan serves as a twisted and believable villain, but unlike Rob Kazinsky's Orgrim Doomhammer and Kebbel's Durotan, I cannot find the actor beneath the CGI. Still, Wu provides a solid performance, and fans of the game may be surprised by the scene where Gul'dan engages in some good ol' hand-to-hand combat. I'd always thought he was a decrepit and diseased old orc who could stand only with the aid of a staff. Still, the scene worked.

Rounding out the human performances were Ben Foster's Medivh and Ben Shnetzer's Khadgar. Foster's approach to Medivh has you wondering (by design) just what the frick he's really up to the whole time (until, of course, you find out exactly what's been going on). Schnetzer brings an earnest portrayal of the bumbling young mage Khadgar, and in one scene provides the most over-the-top and comical game reference for fans familiar with the Warcraft universe.

The one character portrayal that didn't resonate with me was Clancy Brown's Blackhand. Though it was neat to see how he gets his "black hand" this time around, he feels rather like the hollow, standard lieutenant villain seen in Hollywood movies: a brute, unthinking enforcer blindly following the orders of his deranged boss. I can understand, based on the original lore, why they chose to feature Blackhand instead of someone like Deadeye or Hellscream, but to the casual viewer his inclusion may not seem to serve many purposes other than to have another recognizable evil face on screen. Out of all the named orcs, his CGI rendering was the poorest, which is too bad since just by looking at Brown's looming presence as an actor one might think he'd make a great orc.

Plot

Things develop quickly and there aren't many lulls between action scenes. Dialogue tends to be short and to the point, and often serves to move the plot forward at the expense of greater character development. Again, that's part of the consequence of having to shear the movie down to approximately 120 minutes, but also because the source material is so dense and full of nuance.

Since Jones' approach to the movie sees the conflict through the lens of both the orcs and the humans, there is little time for wasted exposition. Stakes need to be heightened for all characters on both sides of the war in time for the climactic battle. Normally a director would have a good 90 minutes to do this, but with two sides to the conflict this is halved for each, and we're sometimes shown rather hastily what a certain character has to lose in the stakes game. Anduin Lothar's non-game-lore son Callan's presence is an example of this and tells the audience that Lothar has more to lose than a mere battle. It feels simultaneously forced, but necessary: we know our humans fight for Azeroth's salvation, but it can be difficult at times to understand why.

With the orcs, we're explicitly told that their home world is dying, but aren't shown too much. As a fan of the game, I know exactly what this means and what it looks like, but I can see how a casual viewer might have a hard time conceptualizing how bad things were in order for the orc clans to look for an escape---an escape that involved invading and enslaving a new world. And it isn't until the orcs have arrived on Azeroth that Durotan's Frostwolves begin to realize that wherever Gul'dan's magic goes, death follows. Perhaps this is why the orcs, specifically the Frostwolves, felt like richer characters, since their obstacles for survival became two-fold in that moment: overcome/cooperate with the human resistance and escape the enslavement of Gul'dan's fel magic.

Fans of the game universe know the essentials of this story, but the lore has been tailored for blockbuster digestion. As I mentioned above, the film features new characters in Callan Lothar and Ladia Taria, the wife to King Llane whose existence we knew of but nothing else. There are also some character deaths that play out quite differently from how they happen in the game lore. The changes do add a greater immediate impact in the film and the fates of several characters are resolved to satisfying ends, even if they differ from the original tale.

The movie's final few minutes are hopeful in that they hint that this is just the beginning (in fact, the movie is officially titled Warcraft: The Beginning in international markets). This is a bold move. In a greater context where Warcraft: The Middle and Warcraft: The End are sure things, it makes perfect sense. But knowing the fate of those two films rests solely on the success of this one makes the scenes just a tad bittersweet. For a non-seasoned viewer, it isn't the Frodo-tries-to-run-off-without-Sam ending we got with Fellowship of the Rings, but I can imagine it leaves them feeling like a lot is unresolved.

I attended with two friends whose only connection to the Warcraft universe was that they have friends who are connected. They didn't express any issue with plot discernment or clarity, and rather enjoyed the visual spectacle. However, they'd be hard-pressed to name every character by their head shot. So while the story is fast-paced, the environment rich, and the characters varied and numerous, the characters themselves may not have been provided enough screen time to fully resonate with a general audience.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, I feel that anyone with a deep love of the Warcraft universe will enjoy this film despite its narrative swiftness and adjustments to lore. It is a visual victory that faithfully brings the world of Azeroth to life, complete with unobtrusive nods to those who've played the game. For general fans of the fantasy genre, it should be an enjoyable ride, deserving a spot on the shelf next to other solid fantasy movies; not just the shelf for movies based on video games. It's good enough to warrant a sequel (or more). Still, I cannot help but think about what might have been, since when it's all over, the movie is constrained by its own run time: 120 minutes is simply not large enough a canvas for this moment in Warcraft history, and as a result fails to captivate on a grander scale.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Cheating in Overwatch Gets You Noverwatch

Your throat tightens. You can feel the blood rushing up your neck and into your face. The heat coming off your cheeks makes your eyeballs sting. If anyone could see you they'd be able to tell something is amiss. Your shoulders slump and you sink a little bit in your desk chair, pondering the actions that led to this. You cheated in Overwatch, and have been banned for life.
For real?

Not quite, but pretty damn close. Generally when an account is permanently banned or closed due to whatever reason, all the player has to do is start a new one. In games like Heroes of the Storm or World of Warcraft, this means you'll lose all progress on the banned account, and in Warcraft's case will have to purchase a new game license, but at least you can still play.

Blizzard's approach to cheating in Overwatch seems a bit more strict, ensuring it's absolutely not worth a player's time, energy, or money to even attempt it. I'm not going to get into the ways one can cheat, as it's all over the web and pretty standard FPS fare. But as far as the bans go, Blizzard appears to be tying them to Hardware ID (HWID), which can have a much greater impact than simply closing the account. Similar to an IP ban where the player's IP address is essentially blacklisted from accessing the servers, the HWID ban sees Blizzard taking a "snapshot" of your computer's configuration and hardware (in addition to other things), then using that information to "re-ban" you if they find you've started a new account. The method they use to accomplish this is something well within their rights, as we agree to it when we accept the Battle.net Terms of Use.

The reason I think we're seeing HWID bans this time around is because of a few stories I've read like this.

As you can see, this person purchased the game four different times (*cough* retail value of $240). They began cheating in beta (emphasized because I lol'd) and got their first license banned the day after the game's official release. The second license was also banned, though the OP claims they weren't cheating any longer. Then, the third license was banned even after a clean install of Battle.net and Overwatch, once again without cheating. After messing with some technical hardware crap that's way beyond me (aside from using an IP masker) to try to fool what they suspected was an HWID ban, the fourth license was yet again banned. I will concede this individual should be given an A for effort.

Blizzard does not want cheating in Overwatch, period. Granted, there will always be ways to get around these things with enough know-how, but Blizzard seems to be making sure it'll be difficult and perhaps even costly for offending players---costly enough that it isn't worth trying. Due to the seemingly more stringent approach, which I heartily applaud, I can't help but wonder when we'll start to see this action by Blizzard in response to cheating in their other titles.

It's disappointing Blizzard has to threaten and carry out such a strong punishment to deter players from cheating. They've got a game with a well-defined set of rules that are meant to effectively provide an equal opportunity for success to all players, yet we have pathetic individuals who need to god-mode themselves in order to feel competitive. They're probably the same kid who had to rock the SuperSoaker in the neighborhood water-pistol fights in order to feel good. It's sad they never grew out of that mentality.

Answer me this, cheaters: when you've equipped a set of I.W.I.N. elements which leads you to, well, winning, do you then gloat over the losing team, too? Does your victory gained through unfair means really contribute to a feeling of superiority and self-worth? Or is the satisfaction found in the fact that you can actually mod the game and get away with it?

Perhaps the cheaters out there can petition Blizzard to create an unregulated server where players who want to hack the shit out of the experience can do so. I hear that's been a thing lately. But I suppose that would take the fun out of having an advantage over your opponents. Of course, you can always go with the simpler, safer option.

Hint: it's the one that requires actual skill and doesn't involve cheating. 




Monday, May 23, 2016

Thoughts on Talent-Swap Restrictions

Legion beta enhancement shaman talents. 
If you haven't already digested the info Watcher shared the other day, you can read his two posts here and here, though I'll be quoting the meatiest of sections below. I also highly recommend posts by Sunnier and Alternative Chat for further reading and perspectives. For those who may not be familiar, in Legion players will only be able switch their character's talents if they are in a designated rest area or by using a new scribe-crafted item, Wartome of the Sharpened Mind---a departure from the ability switch talents whenever out of combat with the use of a low-cost reagent sold by a vendor.

I'm not angry. I'm not quitting the game, and won't be signing any petitions aimed at changing the developers' minds. I'm fully capable of adapting to change without having to like it. My feathers are ruffled, that's all. And I'll try to explain why, from my perspective as an "Ahead of the Curve" raider.

Let's begin with a look at some of Watcher's words:

Especially with no reagent cost at all now, it can be all too easy to activate AoE talents before larger packs of enemies in a dungeon, and then switch back to single-target talents before a lieutenant or a boss. Or someone might switch to a passive movement-speed talent when traversing an area, and then back to something functional before entering combat. At that point, we're often hardly talking about a meaningful choice at all, but rather a nuisance of extra button-presses or UI navigation before you can use your desired talents.

Prior to this change, talent-swapping on the Legion Beta costed absolutely nothing. Talent-swapping on live throughout the last several years costed next to nothing, whether it was dust, powder, or tomes. Buy a stack of 200 and forget about them until you ran out. I will admit that just because it costed nothing, or next to nothing before doesn't mean it should remain that way forever. That's kind of what change or evolution of the game is all about. 

But I found Watcher's example above odd: people switching out talents between trash packs in dungeons? To gain 10-20% movement speed just to cross an area? The thought never occurred to me. I checked in with one of my friends in Beta and he confirmed that indeed, he had witnessed players swapping talents between trash packs in a dungeon. But that made me wonder, was the lack of a 50 silver cost to switch enough to entice players to switch talents at every chance they could? 

The idea of choosing to play that way really didn't resonate with me at first; I view it as one way to approach the game, but far from mandatory. Then I saw a mirror of it in my own play: if I'm out in the world and I have to travel more than 20 or so yards, I will hop on my flying mount 100% of the time before moving. Basically, if it takes any less time to summon a mount and fly to a location than it would if I simply ran, I'm mounting up. It's not a total parallel as likely the mount button has been hot-keyed and on your bars for some time, but it does demonstrate one way a player can choose to play the game to their style. This mount example, for me, is more about maximizing my active time more than anything. And of course Blizzard has never thought about putting restrictions on flying mount use.

I'd argue that the ability to swap talents outside of combat whenever a players feel like doing so only becomes a nuisance if players feel like it was required in order to play the game. Personally, I'd be more annoyed by the player in my dungeon who's late to each pull because they're changing talents every chance they can. It boggles my mind to think that the devs saw enough of this happening in Alpha/Beta that they've moved to curtail the practice. 
We currently plan to give Scribes a recipe to craft a consumable Tome that can be dropped in order to allow all nearby players to retalent freely for a time - particularly useful for group play...But, in terms of the materials required, we're thinking of something that's more aimed at groups, and probably not the sort of thing an individual is likely to carry a stack of and use freely.
The Wartome of the Sharpened Mind, which I linked earlier, looks to be the item Watcher referenced here. It functions similarly to the flask cauldrons from yesteryear: they'll benefit the entire group, but at a significantly higher material cost. What Watcher's really saying in the paragraph above: level your scribe.

While it might not be likely that the average player carries around a stack of these to use freely, the "not-so-average" player still makes up for a good chunk of the overall game population from a numbers standpoint. Perhaps by Blizzard metrics the average player likely won't see Heroic Archimonde die in current content, but you can still bet on seeing thousands and thousands of moose mounts out there.

I will be one of those not-so-average players who, along with a good number of my raiding guildmates, will be making millionaires out of Azeroth's scribes, ensuring that we have enough Wartomes to cover the week's raid and then some. So to me, it feels like we're simply trading one reagent for another, albeit Legion's version will be much more costly.

Granted, this may also spur a guild-wide material acquisition spree, which is all right by me.
Ultimately, for a choice to be meaningful there has to be some associated cost or trade-off in the process. Do you want to eat your cake, or do you want to save it for another time? If you could do both, that wouldn't be much of a choice. 
I just don't like this line of reasoning here, looking through my raiding lens. It doesn't really resonate with how I approach talent-swapping on live. I'm probably just getting hung up on the cake. But at the same time I think the notion that in order for a choice to have meaning there must be an associated cost is something we accept blindly, and I don't think it is something that's 100% applicable. Granted, psychologists and designers will likely take me to school on this one, but hear me out. 

As a raider, above all I want my guild to be successful in its endeavors. Aside from working to understand my rotations, stat priorities, and boss mechanics, I also look to my talent toolkit as it pertains to each fight in order to identify if certain talents will be more beneficial to the encounter, then adjust accordingly. My motivation is personal. It's not to be the best, or top the charts, but to approach each boss as if it is a puzzle and to use the abilities at my character's disposal to counter the boss as best as I can. 

Of course under the changes in Legion, I can and will continue to do this, just at a higher cost. And with the change to talent swaps, Inscription should be highly profitable (for the better part of the expansion, at least) and players will likely be discouraged to swap talents as often as in between every trash pack.
Raiding for us, on the other hand, won't look too different other than we'll be dropping a Wartome with the Feast before a boss pull. And of course, if for some uncanny reason the raid is Wartomeless, players can always hearth home for the talent-swap. However, we likely won't allow that in raids, as it's really not the best use our limited time together.
First, what if you could switch talents freely, at any time, including while in combat? Second, what if you could literally never switch talents, short of making a brand new character?
The former question is something that I haven't heard many people asking for and something they are undoubtedly not considering given the ability pruning we had last time around; the latter is close to what it looked like in the early days of the game, since respec costs were so high and gold reserves for most players quite low back then. While the talent trees we currently have may not be super exciting to everyone, they do at least offer some situational variance that allows players to respond to some combat environments more effectively. Things may be changing towards utility in Legion on the talent end of things, which is why it makes more sense to me to maintain the sense of freedom we have in talent-swapping currently, and look to other ways to fix the perceived problems with too-frequent swapping or Inscription having not much to offer. 

I'm not sure making it more difficult to change talents all of a sudden adds more meaning to the choice itself; previously, it was meaningful to me because I understood which aspects of my kit worked better and when, the result being the personal satisfaction of playing my character to its full potential. I'm not going to think about making that choice in Legion any more or less than I have up to date. It's still going to be made; I'll just scoff a bit until I get used to the imposed cost.
But most other content, whether it's a single quest boss out in the world, or a dungeon that breaks down to a series of sub-1-minute combats, don't offer nearly that much variety. And so you take the AoE talent for the AoE pack, and the single-target talent for the lone boss, to the point that you might as well just have both of them all the time, which might be powerful, but wouldn't be a choice.
I really don't think it's as simple of process as Watcher is implying here. Let's imagine: first trash pack in the dungeon gets dies, you go out of combat. The group is already moving towards the next pack and you want to swap some talents. Open up the talents pane; navigate to the talent(s) you want. Select new talents. Click "Learn." Swap/add any abilities to your action bar (if applicable). Rebuff (if applicable). Catch up to your group who is almost done with the pack you've just swapped for.

To me, it seems the pace of play in a dungeon naturally discourages this practice. I suspect there are probably scripts or macros out there that can make swapping nearly effortless, but it still hearkens back to my admission that I simply don't subscribe to that approach to the game, and if someone else does, so what? Where I stand, changing talents around that frequently for sub-1-minute combats is cumbersome and a waste of time. That's where the cost-benefit sits in my mind. Simply worth it in certain scenarios---like for raid bosses---not so much in others. But how worth is defined is the tricky part, since it varies on an individual level.

To strip everything away, it seems that Blizzard's ultimate goal was to discourage players from rapid-fire talent swaps. I'll admit, the Wartome and its assumed cost accomplishes this. But on a general level it doesn't make the choice to swap feel more meaningful if it's something that a player is going to do regardless. There's simply a greater, but nowhere near prohibitive extra cost. 

Personally, I would've rather seen them impose a cooldown of some sorts, like a simple 5-minute debuff that prevented talent swaps (reset upon death of course). Perhaps talent-switching could be treated sort of like trinkets: when you change to a new talent, the talent itself will incur a 1-minute cooldown before it can be activated/triggered/beneficial. Or hell, remove the restriction altogether when in a raid group, where talent-swapping will arguably be used with the most frequency.  

Oh well. Part of my annoyance with this change might be a simple shortcoming on my part: failure to grasp, accept, or understand Watcher's reasoning, or it could be something more serious like rose-colored blinders. I'll forge on a head in Legion regardless, though I wouldn't be sad to see this change reverted. That would enable me to continue approaching each boss encounter like a puzzle unimpeded, without having to be reminded how changing my character's talents is supposed to feel more meaningful now that Blizzard has assigned to it a cost they're comfortable with.