Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Legion Post-Mortem (Part Three)

Today I'm continuing my post-mortem on World of Warcraft: Legion. Previous post is here

There is one glaring issue that arose with this expansion, and it was entirely preventable because it's a repeat of the same big mistake of Wrath of the Lich King: centering the PCs on Dalaran.

We told them at the time that this was a bad idea. We know that they know that this was a bad idea, because they said in public that they acknowledge the former mistake was just that. Cramming every last player through one activity hub, where players will be coming and going at all hours, is hell on PCs. They tried to handle this with the best sharding techniques, but it still wasn't enough; load times in Dalaran--even for beast machines--were worse than anywhere else and only got worst with every patch.

For folks on potatoes, avoiding Dalaran as much as possible meant a literal change in behavior to deal with the matter- just like in Lich King. The most common is to not use your Dalaran Hearthstone, but instead to go one flight point away and taxi into the city if you can; the hassle is far lesser that way. (This also means that you avoid classes who are unduly dependent upon routing through Dalaran to access that class's Order Hall: Priest, Paladin, Shaman, Warlock, Rogue, Demon Hunter.)

The reason this is such an issue is because Legion featured a way to boost crafted gear (The Obliterum Forge), which required going to Dalaran to use. You had to go there for Profession quests and other related progression. You had to go there to get your weekly boss loot reroll tokens, to access one dungeon (Violet Hold, also recycled from Lich King), and to use the transit hub installed in place of the original fountain in the middle (Hall of the Guardian, with portals to several key locations).

The result? Lots of people having to work around preventable problems, primarily by purchasing and installing Solid State Drives and then moving their game install to that SSD, because the devs decided to double-down on a known fuckup instead of maintaining the dual basecamp approach. While that may have gone contrary to the theme of Legion, it is in accord with the espoused ethic of "Gameplay > Lore", and would not have been that hard to make work. (First and foremost, by having faction-specific phases of Dalaran in different locations; put one faction's clone where it is now, and the other where Acherus is parked in the live game- and move Acherus between the two. This assumes that you still couldn't have both phases overlap in the same virtual space without the same issues.)

And that's just the most complex clusterfuck.

Here's some other major clusterfucks that ruined the good stuff for a lot of players:

  • Artifacts

    No, not that we got tied to one weapon per Specialization. That turned out okay, and a revision is going to be used in Battle For Azeroth. It's the two parts that made it a grind that made them a clusterfuck: Artifact Knowledge and Artifact Power. The latter is a revisiting of the old-school Talent trees, allowing you to spec out a weapon until you had the means to take all of the Traits. The former is a multiplier of gathered power, which you need to counter the ridiculous price inflation of buying Traits. The result is that you had to commit to a single specialization on a single character if you wanted to remain a viable player in the endgame, in a game where having a stable of alts is necessary for various reasons.

    This got really bad for Mythic raiders. They had to stay at the top to maintain their spot, leading to stupid levels of poopsock behavior, which only got worse when combined with the Legendary system.

  • Legendaries

    Several classes had to have specific ones to be viable in the endgame. Which ones changed with various patches, as the devs nerfed and buffed in their Sisyphean quest for game balance. Some entire specializations got screwed and did not recover (Outlaw Rogue, Retribution Paladin) as noted in their participation rates in top-end content; their rates are going up now as the lull that comes with the end means that content is becoming trivial and carrying dead weight is now possible- but still frowned upon. The aforementioned Mythic raiders rolled multiples of the same class, and the one that got the right Legendaries became the main character; the rest, more often than not, got deleted. That's degenerate behavior born of bad design, and should be shot down hereafter if proposed.

  • Making WOW Into Diablo

    I mentioned this previously, but the point here is that the RNG system that allowed gear drops to upgrade all the way up to the current cap meant that running dungeons and raids that you did not need for the improbable chance of a drop that would be Best In Slot (and therefore optimal to performance) is truly a clusterfuck that lead to massive player burnout all across the life of Legion. It contributed to the alt-unfriendly nature of the expansion, and that made things Not Fun for a lot of players.

Now that we have a new expansion in open testing, we'll see if the devs actually learn their lessons this time. Next post.

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