World of Warcraft’s Transmog 2.0 is a great step forward — but it has a ways to go

transmog

It seems as though the World of Warcraft community was far more excited about all of the changes to transmog with the 7.0 update that the class overhauls — and I can understand that. Transmog is one of the few areas in the game where players can exercise any measure of creativity and visual agency. Plus, we just wanted to free up all of that bank space.

I actually did not do a lick of transmogging before this week. I knew that the update was coming, so I was patient and waited for the new system before trying it out. Plus, I figured that hunting down new pieces would give me something to do in August before the expansion (I’m sure I’m not alone in that).

First things first: Transmog 2.0 is well-done in general. It’s certainly nice to be able to save all of your visual options and especially do so across your entire account. I think it was a master-stroke for Blizzard to tell you where you can find each piece in case you want to hunt it down. And the addition of illusions to add more flair to your weapons is a wonderful touch as well. Oh! And saving multiple outfits, great move.

It’s certainly made getting loot more exciting, since now you’ll see notices that such-and-such has been added to your transmog library. Cosmetics are insanely compelling as rewards and I hope that the studio continues to pursue this.

But for those endlessly gushing over how Transmog 2.0 has brought in the Age of Aquarius and such, I have to say that while it’s a great step forward for World of Warcraft, it still is a sub-par cosmetic system compared to the industry standard.

For starters, I cannot believe you have to visit a specific vendor just to work on your outfits. We hated this in WildStar in the beginning and that was quickly changed so that you could do wardrobe stuff anywhere — which is how most MMO systems operate. But in WoW? I have to cram myself into a house with a few hundred other people to try to talk to a specific NPC every.. single… time that I want to work on or change an outfit. That’s just silly, especially now that the collections screen shows you your transmog stuff. Just let us do it wherever, Blizzard, or at the very least let us call up saved outfits so that we can switch between them.

Another quibble I have is with the lack of dyes, although I think this isn’t really a possibility for WoW considering how the armor was designed. Still, it’s a shame, especially when you have to pieces that would go well together if it wasn’t for clashing colors.

Finally, I’m not overly fond of the armor restrictions on transmog. Different MMOs handle this in different ways, but generally I am of the opinion that if you have a wardrobe in a game, you should let your players dress up their characters the way they want. Why not? Why can’t my mail-wearing Shaman put on a cowboy hat? And do not pull out the immersion argument, because this game has ridiculous visuals all over the place.

Hopefully the current system won’t be seen as the end of transmog development, but part of an effort to continually make it better.

World of Warcraft: Classocalypse

character

The more I think about it, the more I think it was probably a wise move to roll out the sweeping class changes for World of Warcraft a good month and a half before the expansion launch. Tuesday was certainly an interesting day for the game, with folks logging in and loudly expressing both joy and despair. Change, even good change, can be stressful and make us grumpy, so best to get that out of the way before the true expansion launches.

So far, I’m of a divided opinion when it comes to all of these class changes. Some of my classes I liked very much as they were, and now I’m forced to adapt to fewer skills and new talent builds. Some are definitely better, and I do think the ability pruning was needed in some spots. A good rotation for me is about 4-5 skills with a handful of extra abilities, which is where most of these have landed.

Here are my thoughts on the “classocalypse” of 7.0’s changes:

Shaman

I’m going to start with the worst, which is for me the Shaman. I’ve loved enhancement as a blend of spell-based melee and pet-lite combat, but with 7.0 Blizzard took away all four of my totem pets (along with, y’know, most of my totems period), nerfed spirit wolves to the ground (shorter duration, no longer heal you), and doubled-down on the whole spell combat rotation. The rotation itself isn’t horrible and there are some nice effects, but it simply isn’t that fun any more for me to play. I miss the pets, badly.

So the shammy is going into mothballs, although I may try out elemental for a few just to see if there’s something redeeming there, especially since it looks like the pets mostly migrated over to that spec.

Warlock

Huh. I know demonology got a total rework and I’m generally in favor of that — especially with more pets and the loss (good riddance) of metamorphisis. But after some play with it, I’m not feeling the rotation at all. I can make it work, sure, but it’s a shade too clunky for me. Also, I truly, deeply miss my Terrorguard. I loved those advanced versions of the pets.

I actually experienced more satisfaction by switching over to affliction. Lots of instant-cast dots, a remodeled mage doggy (at least to me, I haven’t used one of those in forever), and a couple of neat spells. Still, I will probably also table this class for a long while.

Hunter

There’s lots of grousing over beast mastery, and to be fair, lots of these classes won’t feel complete until you get artifact weapons and hit level 110. But BM seems to be on the outs with MM in… except that I am very loyal to beast mastery and don’t mind the changes so much. It’s definitely more cooldown-based, but after experimenting with different talents, I think I found a good assortment that keeps the pressure up.

Death Knight

Definitely the highlight of the patch so far for me is the unholy spec rework. There’s a stronger emphasis on pets (I get to have two out regularly, plus army of the dead, plus an avenging angel) and the melee attacks start spreading diseases quick and often, making fighting packs of mobs a cinch. Oddly enough, one of my favorite abilities is the quick movement spell (void walk?) where you turn transparent and float quickly like a ghost. It feels great to use, every time.

What about you?

If you’re playing, what do you think of your class now? Making any class or spec changes based on 7.0?

Happy World of Warcraft pre-expansion patch day

mining

Got to say, it’s a little sad that the World of Warcraft community is so incredibly starved for new content that a pre-expansion patch is being received with such enthusiasm that you might think it was the day of the actual expansion’s launch.

In any case, count me in with the crowd leaping about in joy for having something — anything — new to do. It’s going to be a little scary to see what happens to my characters, but since they’re all relatively new to me, I’m not going to cry too much to see these changes. My plan with them is to check out one per day for a few days, experiment with their builds and rotations, and solidify my Legion forerunner (right now my DK is in the lead).

Transmog 2.0 should make for a fun for-now activity to tide us over until the expansion events and Legion arrives. I kind of like how they’re rolling all of this out — gives us some time to get used to the class changes before tossing us into the new content.

I’ll be sad to see money from my garrison missions go. I’m wondering if a lesser version of that might be using garrison resources from mission rewards to trade in for sacks of gold at the trader. Every little bit counts, and the price of a WoW token just came down 2,000 on my server.

I’ve been working hard at getting my four characters’ professions set. I made some drastic changes last week, mainly dumping engineering from all but my hunter and replacing that with herbalism. Engineering is fun and all, but I want money more and I don’t want to do it on more than one character.

For my second-tier characters — shaman and warlock — I’ll simply log in every day to keep mining and herbaling in the garrison to gradually raise those up to 700, since I probably won’t be playing them for a while anyway. I spent a couple of nights last week taking my death knight on an herbalism tour of several zones, getting her within striking distance of 700. Should be there by the end of August, at least.

Hope everyone’s having fun with the patch!

Picking a main from my WoW: Legion finalists

dk

I have a terrible, incurable sickness, and its name is “altoholism.” Then again, you knew this already.

When I first came back to World of Warcraft earlier this year, I was devoted to only playing/leveling a single character. Ain’t got time for any more than that, especially if I was to play other MMOs, and focusing on a single character made sense as I was catching up on the past few years of the game’s development.

Fast-forward to July here and altoholism has started to rear its predictably delicious head. What was one character is now five: a hunter, a death knight, a druid, a shaman, and a warlock. All but the druid are level 100 and more or less ready to jump into Legion when the day comes. But the question that’s been vexing me is: which one?

Here’s the thing. I really, truly don’t have the time or even want to be playing more than one character, especially after Legion arrives. Sure, I might get around to the other four in the future, but I think I’d like the experience best if I just focused on a main and didn’t feel like I had to keep splitting my attention. So I’ve been thinking a lot about which character will take that finalist spot, and depending on the day it keeps changing.

This is why I really want the pre-expansion patch to land, just so that I can see the class changes and get a feel for how they’ll play and if any of the ones I currently like will either get a lot better or a lot worse.

Currently, my thoughts on each class’s potential:

  • Druid: My enthusiasm for leveling a pure healing class has started to wane now that I’m the mid-60s. I still have a ways to go to get her to 100 and I don’t know if I’m so invested in her to do that. Lots of nice little things about the class but overall I’m not feeling it.
  • Shaman: Hybrids rule and I love the current version of enhancement. Lots of useful pets, slamming melee, and heals/totems. It’s not at the top of my list right now but I wouldn’t pitch a fit if I was forced to make this my main. I love the look of my Druid in mail and swinging dual axes. Could well be a dark horse entry.
  • Death Knight: Love the class with the pets and diseases, plus her Gnominess makes for a fun visual. Hearing good things about unholy DKs from Legion, and she’s already maxed out mining and engineering, plus she’s up to ilevel 700 gear. Feel like she’d be in a good place. Only dislikes are a lack of strong healing and the melee focus (I might be more of a ranged player at heart).
  • Warlock: Used to main one and I like “Syperstar” so far. Actually really excited to see the new class changes since I am not a fan of metamorphesis. Depends how the whole pet parade turns out. Ranged is a plus, long cast bars are a minus.
  • Hunter: The oldest character I still play and at the top of her class with professions and gear. Have a monkey with a hat. Excited about getting an artifact gun that also comes with a wolf pet, although word is that beast mastery takes a pounding in Legion.

I’ve been rotating through these to help make my decision, but again it’s probably going to come down to the pre-expansion patch to narrow it down to one. If it’s the warlock or shammy, I’m going to need to really focus on professions and perhaps take them through the whole of the Draenor storyline just for a sense of completion.

Anyone else struggling with which character they’re going to start the expansion with? And please sit on me before I make another alt!

A World of Warcraft garrison post-mortem

Right now the World of Warcraft community is getting ready to say goodbye to its garrisons of two-ish years. While they won’t go away when Legion launches, Blizzard won’t be carrying the idea forward and is nerfing aspects of garrisons (particularly gold generation) to make them obsolete. Soon enough, garrisons will be a thing of the past, an interesting idea that didn’t quite pan out the way anyone had hoped — developers or players.

Personally, I think it’s a shame and slightly aggravating that Blizzard spent so much time working on garrisons only to throw its hands up and walk away from them now. Back before Warlords of Draenor launched, I remember asking people what the game would do with these player bases once the next expansion rolled around, because I had a hunch that there really wasn’t the foresight or interest to keep them going past a single x-pack. This isn’t an “I told you so!” so much as an “I was hoping to be pleasantly proven wrong.”

So as we prepare to pack up our mental attachment to garrisons and move on to class order halls and a different continent, I thought it might be worth giving garrisons a brief post-mortem here.

Blizzard has long had a weird hang-up about player housing, even as many, many MMORPGs — including its major contemporaries — added such systems to their games. The reasons the studio historically gave felt flat and lame to players’ ears, and it didn’t take much effort to read between the lines to, “We just don’t wanna, because… reasons.” I suspect that the higher-up decision makers never liked housing and so such a system didn’t have an internal champion, but that’s just speculation on my part.

Then comes Warlords and the announcement that WoW would get player housing after a decade… sort of. In a weird move away from simply copying what was working in other games and improving on it, Blizzard decided that garrisons would be its own weird hybrid beast that would eschew customization for lots of utility and quest integration.

So what worked and what didn’t?

What works with garrisons

I know that there’s a lot of backlash and resentment over garrisons, and I acknowledge that I haven’t been in this expansion long enough to feel some of the fatigue that others have claimed. Still, I can’t bring myself to condemn garrisons wholesale, because there is some good in them (I can feel it).

I really like how the system feeds into some collection aspects of the game, particularly with followers and music. The music scrolls thing in particular is a nice little touch of customization and highlights one of World of Warcraft’s strengths.

The system really was woven well into the expansion, growing as your adventures progressed. There were those giddy moments of seeing new buildings and improvements go up, or waving to the various locals who had migrated to your mini-town.

I didn’t even mind the much-maligned mission system, probably because I like getting stuff and appreciate offline systems in other games like SWTOR and Star Trek Online. Once I finally got the follower mission system churning, I was raking in a nice bit of money every day.

Garrison’s greatest strength, however, was its functionality. This whole place was meant to be used, not just gawked at, and that comes through strong. Players can use it to work on professions, pet battles, money generation, and so on. It took a lot of the headache out of leveling up mining and engineering for my main characters, and even if garrisons become outdated in the future, I can still see them as being useful for up-and-coming toons.

And it is certainly nice to have that extra hearthstone and a place to begin and end each day’s adventures — as housing should be.

What doesn’t work with garrisons

While there are aspects of garrisons I like, it’s very hard to argue that it was a ringing success — particularly even if the studio has lost all confidence in it. I think the biggest misstep here is that Blizzard stubbornly refused to acknowledge that players don’t just want an identical castle to everyone else in the game, but that they craved their own personal space to customize.

There is virtually no room in garrisons to express individual creativity. Sure, you can place buildings slightly different and choose music and I think pick a tapestry here or there, but my garrison is going to look pretty much the same as every other alliance character’s place. If you look at the incredible ways that players have used housing systems in EverQuest 2, RIFT, and WildStar to show off creativity and create social spaces, it’s such a missed opportunity to not have that in World of Warcraft.

Maybe it would’ve been more work? So what! It would have been worth it if the studio had put in the effort. Housing items could have been another carrot to place as quest rewards or in loot tables, and that could have boosted the economy (and even opened the door for a new profession). Look at how rabid players are with transmog — it’s because that’s pretty much the only way that the game allows them to express creativity and visual personality. Proper player housing in WoW could have been that to the nth degree.

Back to garrisons, however. People really did not like feeling pressured to log in every day (sometimes multiple times each day) to deal with the mission system, yet it wasn’t so much of a choice when missing out meant that you’d be losing potential gold. The shipyard was a big bust, practically the same mission system that missed out on the chance to have a ship minigame or allow players to actually sail their own vessels.

Another critique of garrisons is that they allowed the community to get too isolated, which I’m afraid Blizzard is going to use as an eternal example of why it should never try to do housing in the future. And that wouldn’t be fair, because real housing is inviting and social, whereas there’s almost no point to ever visiting someone else’s keep here.

But yes, lots of isolation. You could game entirely within your garrison, doing all of the fiddly bits there and queuing up for raids and dungeons and PvP from inside your walls. It took players out of the cities and common areas too much.

I don’t think that class order halls are going to be a smart counterpoint to the isolation of garrisons, however. I suspect that players, who like to imagine they’re the only/best member of that class and cherish their identity as such, will resent having to rub shoulders with a crowd of ONLY their class on a regular basis. We will see.

Alternatives to abandonment

But instead of abandoning garrisons and kind of pretending they never happened, Blizzard could be using the system as an opportunity to do something interesting and new. Maybe past the Warlords of Draenor experience and the garrison integration, these spaces could open up for more true housing touches. Maybe we could buy and actually decorate the main halls to our liking, even as the functionality of the garrisons evaporates.

Maybe Blizzard could give players tools to turn their garrisons into more social spaces — for roleplay, group games, and even small PvP matches. I’m not saying all of this should be done, just that it could be done instead of letting nature reclaim these keeps and hoping that time would erase players’ memories of garrisons the way that it has for the Pandoria farms.

Preparing for Legion

legion

It’s quite interesting to watch the World of Warcraft community stir from its content drought-induced coma in preparation for something. In this case, two somethings: the pre-expansion patch and the expansion itself. The question that seems to be on the mind of most is: What do I need to do to get ready?

Technically, as long as you have a level 100 warm digital body, the answer is “nothing.” Just show up and stuff’ll happen. But I understand very well the urge to get one’s ducks in a row and do everything that can be done now to make later a more enjoyable experience. Plus, it’s all about making goals for right now, projects to complete.

If one is lacking in ideas, there are plenty of suggestions out there such as Wowhead’s and Bellular Gaming’s:

I would say that I’m a pretty happy place with my two main characters. Both my Hunter and Death Knight have around i700 gear, and I have no urge to push further into the gear envelope before Legion comes and resets everything anyway. I’ve also gotten both of them close to 700 for both engineering and mining, which I’ve been dutifully leveling at the garrison every day.

Other than that, it’s mostly treading water: Making some more money before that goes away, running Cataclysm raids for money, and doing things like the Kazzak fight on a weekly basis for money. When the pre-expansion patch hits, I’ll probably focus more on transmog collecting, but right now I’m pretty chill about that.

Instead, most of my interest has been in leveling up a new character: a Worgen Druid. The thought behind her is that I wanted to have a healer and I’ve always loved healing on Druids. Plus, I don’t have to be a Night Elf, and that’s always a major bonus (can’t hear you, Demon Hunters, la la la).

I started her a week or so ago with the idea that once I got to level 15, I’d park her in Stormwind and just chain-run dungeons from then on out. So far that’s been working pretty well. Having a few heirlooms equipped has given me a running start, and as a healer I’m getting into dungeons within a minute or two if not immediately.

And it’s been fun, too. Heal-over-times are pretty cool to use, all about revving up a healing engine on a target and keeping that going. I do miss my FFXIV fairy pet, but already I have more healing utility at my disposal than I ever did on my scholar. It’s more satisfying, too.

Sure, I’ve had a few bad runs, mostly with teams splintering or the odd jerk rolling need on gear that I could use but he did not need. But the good has outweighed the bad, with lots of gear (I’m keeping all leather drops for transmog), some good conversations and experiences, quick runs, and reasonable advancement. I hit level 50 the other night, which is great, but now I’m only getting a level every other dungeon run. That’s only going to slow down from here, more so after 60 when my heirlooms stop working.

It’s been a grand tour of World of Warcraft’s early dungeon designs. I got the achievement for having done all of the classic dungeons (I just queue for randoms for the extra gear/XP/money), so I guess I’ve seen everything that the current pre-TBC world has to offer.

I’m not racing to get her to 100 or anything for the expansion. If that happens, great, but if not, it’s not as if I can’t play her afterward too. There are a few skills and talents that I am looking forward to attaining, and it wouldn’t hurt to get a garrison for profession advancement, either.