Category: World of Warcraft


(*A 17th Century term for altering the direction of a ship – seems pertinent.)

Despite its faults, I’m really enjoying Battle for Azeroth. As a storyteller myself, I appreciate how the game has gradually changed over the years into what feels like taking part in a movie or a novel. The story is a driving force. While this could be said – to a degree – of former expansions, it wasn’t so obvious, since most of the action and drama took place inside the large raids that few players got to see back then. But now, even my friends who’re not that interested in lore like the way the story’s currently presented.

But… There are problems with the game, not least the rather stumbling iteration of gear progress this time round. I have to be honest and say I can live with that, (albeit with a sigh and a frown at the ineptitude of the development team), as to me gear is only a means to an end, and if our guild can complete the end game content with the gear we have, fab. I don’t lust after ever higher ilevels, nor enjoy the prospect of having to sim my gear continually (urgh the tedium). To me, the most efficient and least awkward way of maintaining your character’s effectiveness is to be aware of which secondary stats are good for their spec and why. Also, we should be able to tell easily from the dungeon guide where the ‘best in slot’ pieces drop for us and aim for them. Surely it shouldn’t have to be more complicated than that? I resent having to look outside of the game for information about my gear, (which for Azerite armour appears essential). If I can do my job effectively in a team, that’s good enough for me. Our guild habitually finishes Normal mode in raids and then ventures into Heroic, not always finishing it before the next raid comes out. We’re not hardcore by any means, and I suspect the majority of guilds are similar to us, with a range of player ability and skill. We take part in a wide range of WoW activities, more than enough to fill my limited play time. However, outside of mythic raiding and the high level Mythic + dungeons, I reckon the gear as it stands is good enough for anyone. It’s not right, and in some cases is frustrating to acquire, but it works, and teams can still kill bosses. That said, I do understand the anger and frustration the vocal players are expressing on MMO Champion and such like. For them, gear is all.

Other mishaps that have occurred (to put it lightly) such as the mismanaged class balancing, the pruning of talents and skills, the fact some characters fare far better than others in solo content, and the frankly horrible changes to the GCD, really need seeing to. I have no idea how things got in such a mess, but you’d imagine the development team is savvy enough to fix it. Shouldn’t have happened in the first place. What on earth were they thinking? Certainly not thinking things through sufficiently, such as the detrimental effect that removing legendaries and artefact weapons would have on characters during levelling.

But, there are many good things about the way WoW is changing. The world of Azeroth looks great, the dungeons and raids are fun, the new voice acting from established actors, including from well-known shows such as Game of Thrones, is very professional and perfect for the story, plus the questing and storylines have been enjoyable, atmospheric and on theme. For those who like collecting, there’s plenty to collect. There are more activities to take part in at end game. And we’re only a few months into the expansion, so there will be much more to come. But I have been aware of niggles, things that have made me slightly discontent, or else had me pondering what improvements could still be made, outside of the obvious ones to do with gear and classes. I’ll leave the dissection of that for those who are adept with the number-crunching aspect of WoW; its more competitive side. I’m going to look at the aspect of pure entertainment. I know my views won’t be shared by everyone, and I don’t expect all to agree with me. These are just some ideas I’ve been pondering.

I do think WoW is in a strange position at the moment. It’s an old game, and a large proportion of its player base, those loyal subscribers who’ve stuck with it since Classic, are also older. Looked down upon as ‘casuals’ by whatever demographic still plays relentlessly 24/7, some of these players must now have responsibilities and interests outside the game, not least young families that they might not have had at the start of their adventures in Azeroth. Yet they still want to play, albeit in a pared-down manner. I too have less time than I did to tinker about on WoW, because my publishing company has got busier No more staying up till 4 a.m. because I just have to get a particular alt to a certain level before bed.

Older players, who were once hardcore raiders, often now want a more laidback approach to the game, and fewer hours spent bashing theirs heads against raid bosses. They still enjoy raiding, progressing through Normal to Heroic, but they don’t want a frenetic pace, frayed tempers, dramas or burn out. I know because we have such people in our own team who were once in dedicated raiding guilds but who don’t want that pressure any more. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the higher end of raiding is on a downward slide in general, as more and more people feel the same way about it. WoW is predominantly a game for grownups now – It’s quite worrying that the excuse we used to make for badly-behaved idiots was ‘they’re kids’. Sadly, I don’t think that excuse is quite so accurate nowadays. But anyway…

Subs are said to be sliding too, and this could be because the more hardcore type of player is stomping off or sighing dismally, or whatever it is they do before cancelling their sub. Perhaps one of the truths Blizzard has to face up to is that the modern WoW player is different to what they were back when the game was launched. And… here I almost wince as I type it… most players probably want less group content not more. In fact, if I dare go so far, I think the majority of players would cheer from the rigging if Blizzard took that tack and steered the ship into waters where a solo player could do more in the game, the type of player who might have a few friends they can team with now and again, but who often finds themselves online alone. I see time and again on forum threads people bemoaning the fact their friends have left the game, they’ve got no one they know to team with, don’t feel they have enough time to commit to a guild, so are forced into the murky swamps of Pugland, simply because Blizzard designs the game to include a lot of group content.

I play both Alliance and Horde, with my main focus being on Alliance, but even on that faction I often have to pug my way through story progress, because guild mates have already done it on their main, aren’t interested in progressing alts through it, or are concentrating purely on Mythic Plus dungeons and don’t want to waste their limited playing time doing story stuff. As for Horde, I have to pug or nothing. There’s rarely more than two people online in our Horde guild. I hate pugging and have to steel myself to do it, as does just about everyone else I know in WoW. I don’t think progressing through the story should ever involve group content. Like professions, it should be a solo activity. The only exception to this is perhaps the plots that unfold inside raids. If you’re not in a regular raid team, it’s fairly easy to keep your head down in LFR and not attract the attention of idiots, so to me it’s acceptable that raids provide a bigger stage for the bigger stories.

The new communities feature has helped with team activities for our guild. We’ve joined forces this expansion with two other guilds comprised of great people, one guild on our own realm, another somewhere else. This has been a lifesaver in terms of raiding, and it’s been wonderful (if not a relief) to start making new friends in the game. But I don’t think this is enough. Each guild has their own activities outside of raiding and, as yet, we’re not teaming up for any other kind of content.

Blizzard has to face the grim reality that pugging can be a dire experience, and mature players don’t necessarily want ‘enforced teaming’ thrust upon them. Sometimes, it’s as if the developers imagine we’re all like happy little children, dancing around holding hands as we complete dungeons together in perfect harmony. As we ALL know, the truth is very different. It would be really liberating if Blizzard could let us have the choice about group content. We know scaling technology exists, and surely that can be utilised further, so that more content is soloable, or playable for small teams of two or three players. Even dungeons. It’s been done in other MMOs and I’ve really enjoyed sampling that kind of content when I’ve played through it. I’d love to be able to tackle achievements in the current expansion rather than have to wait until I can steamroll through them at a higher level in the next expansion. The dungeons don’t have to be made easier, simply scaled to single player, rather like the earlier challenge modes or mage tower, but not quite so challenging – even solo dungeons could have a mythic+ mode for those who like a harder experience. This would inevitably interfere with the enshrined idea of the ‘holy trinity’ of tank, healer and 3 dps, but we have to deal with that already in island expeditions that are for a team of 3. Tanks are a great help there, but healers aren’t essential, more DPS being preferable for an effective run. All the solo scenarios we already do require us to survive by ourselves. For those who have plenty of people to team with, or are happy to pug, the 5 person version of the dungeons would still be there.

As far as trying to complete dungeon and raid achievements, I admit I could make the effort to try and recruit other like-minded players in the group finder, but then I won’t know the other people, making it more complicated to coordinate them efficiently to succeed at the achievements, preferably using voice chat, and if that’s not possible try to organise the team through typed text etc. It all seems rather a tiresome, time-consuming headache, before I even get started. I’d just rather do it with friends or alone, on the spur of the moment with no fuss. I think this is a dream of many players.

During levelling, needing a group to complete quests along the way is often annoying and time consuming, when you just want to be getting on with the job. Are group quests really appropriate for working towards max level? I see their point and relevance in end game content, but not before. For the more difficult quests, perhaps quest text could signal that a group would be helpful, but shouldn’t a skilled player be able to solo tackle all the ‘group quests’ as they level, regardless of class? This time around, the situation’s been worsened by the fact our characters get progressively weaker as they quest towards 120 and all mobs continue to scale with us as they did in Legion. So, instead of being able to go back to those group quests a bit later on, we’ll pretty much always need a group, or at least one other person, unless our character happens to be one of the privileged classes who can cheerfully do things by themselves because they have the toolkit to do it. (Paladins are a prime example of this. I’m currently taking mine to 120, and it feels like levelling a character in an earlier expansion. She’s unconcerned with mob strength or numbers because of the tools she has at her disposal to ensure her survival until all enemies are dead. Even surprise ambushes by opportunistic mob patrols converging en masse are unlikely to kill her. But I wouldn’t fancy my mage’s chances faced with the same situation – other than by running away!) I imagine few players will want to go back and do group quests once they do outgear them, because they’ll be irrelevant by then. It’s surely preferable to do them as they’re current in our levelling. This also applies to dungeons being required as part of vital campaigns within the game. On the character you level first, it might be easy to find guild mates or other friends to do them with you. Not so on your fifth alt and beyond. Dungeons with a pug can be… an interesting experience. Occasionally, it’s good, but you tend to remember the worst examples of teams you’ve been herded into.

For players who get stalled on group content during one of the few evenings a week they can play, the game might lose its shine, and possibly lose those players completely. If certain aspects were more solo friendly, perhaps a lot of disaffected former players might be tempted to return, because they could play at their own pace unimpeded. And there will be more for them to do. The solo pet battle dungeons are a great idea – that could be extended to dungeons in general, couldn’t it? And island expeditions? And war fronts even? I would say raids, but perhaps some things should remain sacred as an activity for teams, and remain entirely group focused until a later expansion, when people can pile in and steam through them solo if they want to. However, I must confess the idea of raid scaling for smaller teams of 5 holds great allure! I realise this is probably impossible because of balancing issues.

I imagine that some people reading this will be saying to themselves, ‘she’s off her head, this is an MMO – multi player – we’re supposed to group’. I’ve heard this refrain many many times. But the fact is, you can be part of a dynamic, thriving online world, teaming with others when you like, and interacting with them in other ways, but still spend time alone in it. If we compare it with real life, you might live in a town full of people, yet you don’t group with them to go shopping, or visit the dentist, or form a team to do the housework. You get together to socialise and take part in specific activities when it’s appropriate and desirable. No one (well few) would want to live in an empty ghost town, but neither would they want to do everything with other people. It’s good to feel part of a community but do our own thing within it. Sometimes it’s cool to go shopping with a friend, but it’d be an almighty pain if you couldn’t go shopping without one. I know that other players feel the same, because I’ve talked about it with them. That doesn’t represent everyone, obviously, but a range of people.

Another thing that could be addressed is how to keep players online – providing an experience so they want to log on every day or at least as often as their real-life permits. That is not the same as feeling you have to log on every day to do stuff that doesn’t exactly set your heart racing with excitement. At the moment, Blizzard’s main weapon in this battle is shoving a lot of rewards behind RNG so that people have to grind endlessly with no guarantee they’ll even get what they’re grinding for eventually. (The mounts from the Paragon caches in Legion being a prime example – I’m still working on them in BfA.) Quest chains to acquire cosmetic items are a great idea, if they don’t involve RNG. For example, I’ve already spent too many hours trying to get the pterosaur egg that will enable me to start a long quest chain on Horde to acquire a mount. Unfortunately, the egg to start the chain won’t drop from the appropriate mobs. If the egg were a tad easier to acquire, so I had a starting point, from which I then had to log on every day to do tasks to make it hatch, I’d be online to do so, even if it took quite some time. Making people grind mind-numbingly isn’t the only way to keep them online. I’d happily do any amount of quests and so on if I knew the reward was 100% at the end, and so would many others – instead of thinking, ‘why the hell have I just wasted two hours or more mindlessly killing mobs for nothing, when I could’ve been doing something productive? Sod it, I can’t be bothered, life’s too short…’ and abandoning the endeavour completely. Blizzard at present dangles the carrots, but for many the carrots are never reached. So the idea of carrots becomes horrible and players are no longer tempted by them. I cannot understand why luck should be such a huge factor in the game, because some people simply don’t have it. Some RNG is essential, perhaps, but not to a punishing degree.
Blizzard does implement non-RNG content effectively sometimes, with quest lines like the ones for Ba’al the demonic goat pet. They’ve included activities like these for a while now and they’re – mostly – fun. The Lucid Nightmare chain from Legion wasn’t that great, because some of it was well, ridiculously difficult and/or irritating, but the tasks to unlock Kosumoth the Hungerer as a weekly quest were fine. This kind of content appears to be popular. At the moment it’s aimed towards collectors – mounts, pets, toys – but perhaps it could also extend to gear, say a desired weapon or piece of armour – much like the original legendary quest lines in earlier expansions, but easier to acquire than those legendaries in that you attain them in a different way that doesn’t involve RNG, although perhaps a lot of time investment or other game activities (professions?). By this I mean, regular engaging content that has a beginning, a middle and an end, much like a good story.

Another thing that seems somewhat nonsensical to me is the continuing faction divide. If the common forum threads on the topic are anything to go by, it appears that the majority simply don’t care about it anymore. Some people, I know, are still invested in the war of Warcraft and think the heart of the game would be destroyed if the faction divide should go, but it has more or less gone already, but for the artificial resuscitation it’s received via the story in Battle for Azeroth. In every expansion, Horde and Alliance have ended up working together to defeat a common foe and save the world. I’m fully prepared for a moment later in this expansion when the factions resolve their differences again and focus on what really needs to be done. Does any other outcome seem at all likely? (Please prove me wrong with great plotting, Blizzard, but I won’t be holding my breath.) The faction divide could still exist as a kind of ‘cold war’, and that could provide many interesting stories. Neither would such a change have to affect the PvP aspect of the game, because battlegrounds and arenas could remain as they are, (regarded as a kind of gladiatorial combat), nor world PvP for those who want it. Think what a relief it could be if Blizzard allowed players of different factions to communicate and team together, and perhaps even go so far as to join the same guilds (as in Rift). The friends that many players have who are part of the opposite faction would be able to play with them. At present, the faction divide halves the amount of players available to each side, in what seems to be a diminishing player base. Doing away with it to some degree would double (roughly) the amount of potential team-mates. There could be limits, such as not being able to visit the other faction’s cities, but I’ve even seen some players suggest that earning rep with an opposing city so you could actually set foot in it would be another game activity for people. There’s a lot that could be done, post faction divide, that would provide content, not cull it.

One thing I’m firmly against is WoW going free-to-play. In the MMOs I’ve played where this has taken place, I’ve seen nothing good come of it. In fact, those games end up being far more expensive to play than simply paying a sub, because if you want to get the best of the game, so much has to be purchased from the store. I’ve no doubt WoW would go the same way if it went free-to-play. That business model is a cold-hearted, greedy game killer that simply encourages gambling with loot bags etc. I hope Blizzard do everything they can to prevent this eventuality for WoW – and part of that might well include listening to the best ideas from players, ideas that a large part of the player base would welcome and enjoy. I really think expanding solo content dramatically, reducing RNG and bringing in some ‘crowd pleaser’ features that players have asked for repeatedly could provide a boost for the game. And it goes without saying, (although I have less hope of this happening), that class balance, talents and skills could be addressed with a surgeon’s precise hand and expertise rather than hacked at with a butcher’s cleaver, not caring if the best bits of the meat fall off with the fat and gristle.

If you got a group of WoW players together (sensible ones, not whiners, haters or hotheads), and asked them all to come up with an activity to keep them online that wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility, you’d get dozens of cool ideas. Instead, it seems that Blizzard has an edgy relationship with its customers. Sometimes, like a warped parent, it showers us with gifts, such as the fan-pleasing elements of Legion, yet other times it’s almost as if they delight in being cruel, denying what players want, making us struggle – and sometimes making quality of life and classes worse. It comes across as if they enjoy taking things away from people just as much, if not more, than giving them things. This seems at best a peculiar relationship. For example, why won’t they bring in player housing, something that’s been asked for persistently? Wildstar’s rendition of it is universally praised, and that was an MMO that took itself quite seriously in its appeal to a more hardcore type of player (perhaps too seriously since it’s no longer going – we can only conclude the hardcore are a minority). This idea could go even further, such as the guild housing found in Runes of Magic, a free to play game. While suffering from the downsides of other ftp MMOs, in that it’s very expensive to play, the guild housing is amazing. Castles to be built up over time, players contributing resources to add features and conveniences, plus the ever-expanding visual aspect of the guild hall. The original Guild Wars had amazing guild halls, all intricately themed and beautifully rendered. I would imagine a large amount of WoW players would love this feature.

A large proportion of modern players lack the time or dedication to play an MMO like they used to be played over a decade ago, and surely it could only benefit Blizzard to go with the tide. Adding features like player housing to the game, with built-in longevity, plus more solo content, and less RNG could make it far more appealing. If such changes came to pass, we might even be able to ‘recruit a friend’ again. (That pool dried up years ago for me.) As it stands, all that potential new players see is a wall of levelling in front of them, too much catch-up, too much group content, and too much focus on progressively more challenging end game. It’s fine to have all those things – and they are part of what make a great MMO – but emphasising them exclusively does nothing to appeal to a wider audience. People I’ve spoken to, who I know would love WoW if they tried it, always say the same thing: ‘there’d be so much catch-up it’s too daunting to start’. And there is – if players aim only at cutting-edge content at the current highest level. The hardcore players (or more accurately perhaps, the wannabe hardcore) complain that WoW has been dumbed down and made too accessible for their taste. Their desired content is valid, but is it the prime interest of the majority? I love WoW and I don’t want to see the game sink further into decline as its players drift away. There are things that could be done not only to retain players but to attract new ones, which frankly I don’t see happening at all at the moment. One character boost does not a new fan make.

After mulling over all these ideas, plus others (too many to list in this article) that other players have come up with, I can’t help thinking that giving WoW some of the benefits of a solo RPG, but within an MMO environment would be a good direction for it to head towards.

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I’ve played Battle for Azeroth for some days now, long enough to talk about my first impressions. I’ve also got my main character to top level.

First off, navigation about the world is far more user friendly than it was in Legion. Finding quest objectives in the previous expansion was sometimes so difficult the majority of our guild resorted to using an addon that helped you find where you were supposed to be. There’s a new version of it for BFA but so far I’ve not had to turn it on. There are still quest items and mobs hidden in caves, but at least the dot on the map specifying where they are in the landscape is reachable without going round the outside of a huge mountain, across a few lakes, to find a tiny hole in the ground amid dense shrubbery that’s the hidden entrance to the cave you need to be in. Now – there’s simply a pretty clear path to a cave. Short of physical sign posts along the path, it can’t get any better.


(Drustvar Mountains from the Air)

BFA’s landscape is also less vertical. While there are breathtaking mountains aplenty and beautifully realised topography, pathways up the mountainsides are clear and easy to find and lead to where you want to go without any screaming, hair pulling or frantically looking things up on the internet.

The questing itself, however, isn’t quite so user friendly. It’s clear this is because at the end of Legion we had to surrender the perks of our incredibly powerful and multi-talented artefact weapons. We were used to being amazingly strong, scything our way through foes as if they were mosquitoes. While the artefacts still work as ‘stat sticks’ until around level 115, even though their special qualities have been disabled, thereafter they’re replaced quickly by questing greens – those throwaway bits of gear you hasten to replace immediately you hit top level. Your legendary items work until 115 too, so the first half of levelling feels like you’re skipping round the beautiful landscape, singing to yourself and admiring the scenery. Then… at 115 all the special qualities of your legendary items are disabled. Bam! The mobs have scaled up as you have, but you are effectively far weaker than you were only a level ago. You’re soon replacing those legendaries with more questing greens. From thereon, questing gets slower and more onerous. We’re used to being superheroes in Legion. Now we’re back to being foot soldiers, wielding a stick with a nail in it, dressed in ragged hand me downs rather than sparkly armour.

It’s always been this way at top level in new expansions. Traditionally, the moment you get to max, you go from carefree questing to being as weak as a kitten who can’t even hit a ball of string. We expect it then. The idea is that at top level we start earning new and better gear through world quests, dungeons, raids and so on. That’s what end game’s all about. But levelling to get there wasn’t taxing or that annoying – other than (in Legion) problems with navigation.

I really hope Blizzard will do something to fix this situation, because I think the effects of the recent stat squish and scaling, coupled with the disabling of our superpowers, have been more catastrophic than they realised. I’ve read forum threads about this topic, where there are plenty of people scoffing at those complaining, claiming that levelling is supposed to be hard, not ridiculously easy. The usual smug cries of ‘learn to play, noob!’ abound. Actually, levelling is supposed to be fun. It is (or should be) the easy part of WoW. The challenging content comes in dungeons and raids, in doing mythic+ content, or the various challenges Blizzard offer to the hardcore and those who really like to be tested.

My main character was equipped with heroic raid gear from Legion, so was used to having a fairly easy time of it in the open world, but he struggled through the last few levels to 120. He died to things I’m really not used to him being killed by. The main problem is that he now doesn’t regenerate energy fast enough. He’s a Druid, and I habitually level him in his Feral cat form. Now, he doesn’t have enough of the Haste stat to regenerate energy efficiently, and if more than two foes attack, making a fight lengthy, he quickly has no resources, so I can’t use his skills and have to wait painfully for his energy bar to refill. This also has a huge impact on his instant Regrowth procs, essential for a cat whose skin is rather thin. Friends who play Rogues or Monks have also reported the same frustration. Now, after my Druid’s limped to top level, hissing furiously, I’ve had to use his bear Guardian form instead of cat. It’s going fine as his personal resource regeneration is far easier to manage in that form and the reduction in damage is more than made up for by his survivability. I’m trying to finish the quests in all the zones in order to gain reputation with the various factions, and hostile creatures in more than pairs would be lethal at top level for the cat. Mini-bosses found at the end of quest chains also seem overtuned. Some quests intended to be soloable really aren’t. I know I only have to wait to get more gear and be patient but… patience isn’t my best quality, and I do think questing shouldn’t be so burdensome.

How on earth my lesser alts will fare, especially the extremely squishy cloth-wearers, I can’t bear to imagine. All my characters capable of being a tank will certainly be one the moment they set foot in the Isles. But if things don’t improve for the more vulnerable characters, (including all classes affected by the drastic reduction in resource regeneration), I can’t see me levelling them, because the experience post level 115 won’t be fun at all. As a friend said to me today as I was complaining about the situation, this will be the worst it’ll ever be in BFA. From now on, we’ll be earning gear and getting stronger. But that won’t help my mages and priests, nervously waiting in their flimsy negligees for me to take them out to level up. (I won’t include warlocks there. They are a class unto themselves and operate outside usual WoW parameters – as any player with a lock will know!) I wish Blizzard – and all the masochists banging on about loving challenge – would just remember that a game, by its very nature, is supposed to be fun and enjoyable.

Another thing I’m really not happy about is Warmode, Blizzard’s way of (allegedly) pleasing both those who like to PvP (player versus player) against real people in the game and those who prefer their enemies to be pixelated, i.e. PvE (player versus environment). I hate world PvP, which to me seems only to give unpleasant people, who love annoying others, license to be a jerk. I’m no good at it, and don’t have the gazelle-like reflexes to cope with my characters being attacked by frenzied teenagers without dying almost immediately. So I avoid it as much as possible, doing any kind of PVP only with gritted teeth, when there’s a reward I particularly want that demands I take part in it. But with Warmode, which players can elect to ‘turn on’ in their capital cities, they can do all their questing in PvP, only seeing other players in the landscape who’ve made the same choice. So ideally all the pvpers can inconvenience each other to their hearts’ delight, leaving us pvers to get on with levelling hassle-free. Except… Blizzard has dangled an immense carrot with Warmode. Players who elect to have it on get increased experience and better quest rewards. As this is an attractive prospect to any player, regardless of their feelings about PvP, they begin to think it’s mandatory to do it. A lot of players are desperate to get to max level in any way possible because the thing they enjoy most in WoW is end game content, and levelling is just a chore they do to get there. The knock-on effect of this is that quite often I’ve been playing on my own in the landscape, never seeing other players. I can only assume this is because so many have opted for the rewards and turned on Warmode, thus making themselves invisible to me and the PvE world seems empty. This makes it difficult to find other people for group quests too. I’ve tried making my own groups, but after 15 mins of no applicants, I’ve given up.

Another downside of Warmode is that Blizzard will now see world PvP in BFA as a big success. They won’t (or will refuse to) see that the majority of players only turn it on for the rewards and swift levelling, not because they want to PvP. I read one forum thread where some PvE players were discussing the hardships of Warmode levelling. ‘You only get killed about once every 7 quests,’ someone said plaintively. ‘So it’s not as bad as it could be.’ Excuse me? Getting killed by a PvP player once every 20 quests would be too much for me and would only make me angry. I want to get on with killing mobs and picking up quest items, as well as paying attention to the story, not have to fight off aggressive players as well. The impression I’m receiving is that people are resigning themselves to Warmode in order to level faster, not that they’re enjoying it. But what they don’t seem to realise is that they’re allowing Blizzard to set a precedent. Since I started playing, it’s always seemed they’ve wanted more players to take part in PvP. They’ve often forced PvE players into it to complete important quest chains or achievements, which we’ve done with a shudder and a grimace. Now, they’ll claim Warmode is a huge triumph and clearly players have wanted it all along, which could lead to world PvP being forced on us even more. Really, I think people who hate PvP but are using Warmode for convenience are stupid and doing harm to the PvE game. Why not take a bit longer to level? Is an extra day really that bad? And for how long exactly will you keep those slightly higher ilevel questing greens? The precedent is dangerous, because once lines are crossed, it’s nigh on impossible to go back over them.

Enough griping! There is still so much to enjoy in BfA. I’ve tried out the dungeons and they’re all amazing to behold, with some interesting bosses and beautifully designed landscapes and interiors. The island expeditions for three players are also enjoyable, which you can complete either against NPC foes or in PvP mode against the other faction. These are a race against time to gather resources and stop the other team from grabbing them. We still have Warfronts and the first raid to come, adding more content to end game play. On top of that we have factions to cosy up to and increase our reputation with them, unlocking vendors who sell gear and crafting patterns.

The storylines in each zone are compelling and rather like reading a story or watching a film. You want to know what happens next, which helps offset the horror of being jumped unexpectedly by multiple mobs that slash your questing greens to ribbons. There is a main narrative thread, but also multiple sub plots found in the landscape. Drustvar did not disappoint me. I adored that zone, especially the spooky child quest line. That was genius. More of that type of thing please, Blizzard. The whole zone, with its theme of dark witchcraft and tainted families, its strange wicker effigies and creatures that are seemingly constructed from sticks and bones, PLUS the absolutely disgusting pig men – apparently humans with heads of pigs grafted onto them in some obscene magical experiments. I loved wandering through the haunted forests, and in such a setting the constant sense of threat works very well.


(Drustvar Forest)

I’ve just finished questing through Stormsong Valley too, which is more of an open landscape. The theme is sea-faring communities and – naturally – pirates. Here, the minions of the naga queen Azshara begin to make their presence felt as well. There’s something funny going on, with Lovecraftian beings appearing here and there. Evil is building in this beautiful zone. The Alliance also meet with the Tortollan, a race of humanoid turtles, who are amusing creatures saying things like ‘I’ve seen things that would scare the shell off you!’ We need to be friends with them (and as they’re a neutral race I assume it’s the same for Horde) because a lot of crafting patterns are locked behind reputation gains with the Tortollan.

From what I’ve seen of professions in BFA (and I’ve only scratched the surface so far), advancing them will be more pleasurable this time round, after the horrid mess that Legion made of crafting. The fact that each expansion will have its own crafting tier is a great idea. In BfA, we start at level 1 in each profession we have and only have to reach 150 to max out – which anyone must agree is a far better prospect than levelling up to 900 through all the expansions.

So, after nearly a week, my first impressions are mainly good with only the levelling experience and Warmode to complain about. Actually, well, the levelling experience is rather important right now, so perhaps casts a dark shadow over all the good stuff. I hope not, and that Blizzard will make a few adjustments to make the process smoother, especially once everyone’s got their main characters to top level. Take pity on the alts, Blizzard.

I make no apology for the fact this post contains complaints. So… off we go…

As anyone who keeps an eye on the amount of WoW subscriptions will have seen, subs have dropped by 3 million this quarter. That’s with the new xpac only 6 months old or so. We often see doomsayers claiming that this or that game will be the WoW killer, but really, as other more sensible people have stated, WoW itself is the only thing that will kill it.

There was some mystery concerning the release of WoD, which was so much later than we’d been given to expect. Internal problems? Most likely. We’ll never know. But my personal feeling is that WoD was in a way written off from the start; it wasn’t what it was initially supposed to be. Some inner fraughtness within Blizzard affected its development and release – not least that the zone Fahralon (Netherstorm in Outland), is no longer a part of the xpac, which originally it was mentioned as being. There are rumours the next xpac might be as close as an Xmas release. Let’s brush the whole thing under the carpet… perhaps?

I have my own thoughts about the dip in subs so early in an expansion. First of all, (the anti-flying people will rise up and rant at this), the continued no flying is a big annoyance for a large percentage of players. Yes, we *got* the whole ‘experiencing the new world from a worm’s eye view’, and yes, most of us agreed with that, and saw the point of it – for our mains. But I’ve levelled 15 characters to 100. I have two accounts – full of Alliance and Horde on one realm – and by now, dear god, I’m sick of fighting every boring mob from point A to point B. Are hard to get to treasures even important any more? Sheesh. That is surely the only reason not to have flying. I was never a massive fan of Archaeology, as I found it fiddly and frustrating, but now… forget it. Without flying, having to ride round cliffs, and other insurmountable surfaces, while fighting off mobs who are low level and pointless, made any desire to level Archaeology fade to nil.

Also, I bought store mounts and ground (grinded?) for years for mounts in game – that fly. Most look ridiculous and too huge lumbering about on the floor. Plus, one of the most prestigious mounts in WoD is the one that drops from the world boss Rukhmar, which is a flying mount… er, for what point? The new ground mounts we’ve been given are for the most part dull, and all the variations of them are simply recolours. But Blizzard are stubborn. They won’t give in over flying. So the money we might have spent, and the long hours of grinding we might have put in, are worthless – except for any alts we might still be levelling through previous expansions. Not good enough.

I think I speak for many to say that yes – with a new expansion make it non-flying for our first time through the content, but after that – we’ve seen it, done it, let us fly again.

Flying aside, the lack of engaging content at top level was misjudged. I love my garrisons, on every alt, but I can simply log on of an evening and spend nearly all my playing time in the garrisons attending to maintenance. That’s ok, but… We were told that Blizzard wanted more people out in the world. This hasn’t happened. They could have done more with each of the garrison outposts in the various zones. After getting them, they have no point. They could have though, couldn’t they? At the very least, we could have got faction rep from dailies there…. something. We have NO faction dailies now. How many people have even bothered to level the faction reps to exalted apart from the Arrokoa, who we get some follower missions for? I’m guessing… few. The ones we can advance via the Trading Post, for Alliance and Horde, are more of a numbing grind than any before. I just can’t be bothered with each kill in Shattrath or Everbloom granting only 5 rep. Really? Even the Emperor rep in MoP, which was acknowledged as dreadful, wasn’t as bad.

Another thing is what’s happening with guilds and raiding. At the end of MoP, Blizzard introduced flex raiding, which was great for guilds like ours – mainly family and friends – who are of varying skill and experience. SoO was great for us, and we looked forward to the same in WoD. Those of us with a bit more skill could still have fun, but without the crushing experience of endless wipes. Highmaul delivered on this, but then the difficulty curve with BRF caused many guilds of our type to falter. Normal BRF is not flex as we were introduced to it in MoP, which we were told WoD Normal raiding would be. Because we have a limited amount of players, this affects us greatly. We’ve now got the situation where our more competent players are fed up and hiving off – not from our guild, (as we are still a group of good friends), but into the premade group finder, in order to progress in Normal BRF, or Heroic, as is their level. This obviously affects our usual team detrimentally. Others have simply stopped raiding altogether because of frustration. Flex was introduced for guilds like ours, but BRF is too punishing for many. So what happened to that gradated raid difficulty level? I’ve said it before – numerous times – but will say it again. Most raid teams of the ordinary calibre of guild are of varying skill level. We can’t field a constant team of cutting edge experts. Who does Blizzard get to test the raids on the Alphas and Betas of xpacs? Hardcore raiders? It seems that way. Heroic and Mythic are for the younger players who have lots of time they can devote to raiding, and that’s fine. WoW is supposed to be a game for all, the biggest and most successful of MMOs, so what happened to their accommodation for the more mature players? After 10 years, surely, a lot of players are what can be termed mature, with responsibilities and commitments outside the game that prevent rabid raiding at top level of skill. Normal raiding should be a step up from LFR in that tactics and knowledge/experience are vital, but not a guild killer. It should be tuned that the occasional brace of numpties will not mean failure for weeks.

It seems to me that Blizzard’s agenda is to try and herd all players into LFR except the elite minority, who can finish Heroic and Mythic levels of raiding. The way things are going with our guild – but for a very new, potential alliance with another guild on a different server – we’ll have to take our members into LFR if we want to raid. That’s not good. Don’t get me wrong. I love LFR for my alts, but for my mains, two of them, (healer and dps), I want proper raiding. Our guild has existed since Classic WoW. We started raiding in TBC and have kept going since then, with dips and highs, as any guild of our type experiences, but we’ve never had to abandon Normal standard raiding before. I do acknowledge that when players go into LFR, they are then less patient with ‘proper’ raiding, which requires learning, strategy and skill. LFR is a boon, but also a curse. At the very least, it breeds impatience in players, who are no longer willing to spend weeks working on a particular boss.

Another setback I’ve noticed with my army of alts is heroic dungeons. OK, everyone in my guild, (and its sister Horde guild), has got their mains, and often their second main character, through the beginning of the legendary ring quests. Now, if I want success, I have to PUG to move onwards. Dungeons that are risibly easy in PUGs are not so with guild groups, because PUGs get an advantage with the built in buff. Consequently, most guildies now elect to PUG with alts rather than do the dungeons with friends. And that’s good, how? Why should guild groups be penalised by a higher difficulty level? It seems Blizzard discourages guild mates to play together.

I’m not saying Heroic dungeons should be made easier, but when players are faced with the option of an easy run with a PUG or a potential 2 hour stint with a guild group, (happened to me several times), what are they going to opt for? Most of our players are mature people with limited time to play. It’s a no brainer for them to opt for the PUG.

All of these things are bad for guilds that might be termed casual, but which are in fact the majority. And because they’re the majority, when their members get frustrated and bored, off they go. Hence the sub dip. Blizzard has a reputation for its massive pendulum swings within the game. They always go for extremes, rather than look for what succeeds and what needs tweaking in a small way – such as dailies.

I keep an eye on the forums and have seen a lot of extremely good ideas that players have suggested in order to make end game more interesting, long-lasting and engaging, but I also know Blizzard – if they even see these posts – will take no notice. These ideas aren’t radical, or even seem expensive to implement, just ways to extend longevity within the game. It amazes me that some guild mates and I can have a chat about the state of the game and come up with tons of ideas for tweakings, yet the developers don’t even see at the start how their ideas don’t actually work too well. It’s like they don’t think things through, or maybe don’t have the time to.

I guess, ultimately, we’d all like the perfect game, and that will be different for everyone, but there are certain things that are desirable by the majority of players. These things can’t be that hard for Blizzard to accomplish.

Been a while since I added to my WoW blog. Not because I haven’t been playing but because I’ve been so busy with work – and playing – I haven’t had time to write in depth.

WoW had been in the doldrums for me at the end of MoP. I wasn’t just fed up with the lack of new content but somehow with the whole attitude of Blizzard towards their customers. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but since the dearth of new stuff in WoW urged me again to play Rift, the generosity of Trion towards their loyal customers in contrast to Blizzard’s meaner attitude grated a bit. OK, Trion *need* to woo players. Bizzard doesn’t have to. But even so… grated a bit.

Still, WoD lured me back totally, and I’ve loved the majority of the new content. There are some fun quests, and lots of things to explore and discover in the landscape. I’ve enjoyed the story and even though I now don’t look forward to tackling certain quests hubs for various reasons, on the whole I’ve not got sick of levelling alts. I like the end game play and want to get all my characters to it.

On Proving Grounds, Pick Up Groups and LFR

I’m no great fan of the Proving Grounds, because on some characters it does seem harder to attain the Silver level and be qualified to do heroic dungeons, than it is for others. Also, how can failing by only a couple of seconds mean you’re unfit to do a heroic dungeon? The DPS challenge is the worst. It really is a DPS race and the tasks involved barely emulate what’s required in a dungeon team. Surely, the most vital requirement is moving from the fire? While my hunters and warlock sailed through PG to silver on their first attempts, my mage took a frustratingly long time. I’ve yet to succeed with my paladin, even though my DK sailed through like the hunters. I imagine that I find it easier on certain characters because I play their class the most, but I know others in our guild have had similar complaints and that’s with their mains. But I do have to concede the Silver PG requirement appears to have improved the PUG community. In dungeons – and maybe I’m just lucky – I’ve not come across any jerkish behaviour. Often quite the opposite, as people ask whether others in the team want to complete quests or do the tasks to gain followers while in there. The atmosphere feels lightened. This might be because the standard of play is higher so people get less frustrated. Or maybe it was the lesser skilled people who were the jerks, and they’re just not there anymore.

LFR too doesn’t seem quite so fraught. I assume that the level of gear form it, plus the removal of tier pieces, has put off a lot of the wannabe elitists who often used to make the experience so miserable. LFR is still great for alts, even if the gear isn’t as shiny as it used to be. However, I do think the ease with which people can use PUGs now, plus the fact they’re not as hideous as they used to be, has been a bad thing for guilds. On my alts, if I want to do the legendary ring quests, I have to PUG the heroic dungeons for that part of the chain. Everyone in the guild is either doing their own thing, pugging themselves, or attending to garrison maintenance. We only seem to get together for group play on raid nights. That’s rather a shame because I remember that the last time we were in Draenor – or its alternate version Outland in The Burning Crusade – guild heroics were available every night. Now, it seems rare guildies get together for them. Of course there’s no reason to do them now but for the ring quests and to get a character geared enough to start raiding. No currency to gain, and mediocre gear that’s appealing only to a character who’s just dinged 100 and won’t wear it for longer than a few days. Another reason, I think, is that PUGs of course get a buff that makes the task easier. Without that, taking lesser geared or skilled players along can still make a dungeon such as Slag Mines a possible wipefest. Given the choice, I know I opt for finding a PUG myself, rather than go with a team unlikely to find easy success.

I think heroics need to offer more than a tiny window between hitting level 100, completing legendary quests and then moving on. Being able to attain reputation with various factions in them, or apexis crystals and garrison resources as rewards for completion might be good incentives.

Garrisons

Although I really enjoy maintaining my garrisons, and hope this is a feature that remains – in one form or another – in future expansions, I must say that multiple garrisons on alts are now getting a bit wearing. It takes so long to attend to them all once a day! I wish some mechanism would come into play whereby we could manage the garrisons a bit more effectively. At the very least, let a follower in the mine or herb garden actually collect those materials for us. Have you tried keeping on top of these things on 8 level 100 characters? I don’t mind the constant repetition with garrison campaign quests and Harrison Jones adventures, but please let the mine and garden be a bit quicker to maintain.

I also think we need some tweaking with the garrison followers. As we can collect so many, being allowed only 25 active ones seems a bit mean. OK I get we can’t have a horde of followers chomping at the bit to devour missions, but perhaps things could be changed so that followers working in profession buildings or the Barracks don’t count towards that 25 man total. Also, couldn’t the inactive ones still appear spontaneously as npcs in our garrisons? We’re allowed 10 mini pets to wander around, so why can’t followers be the same? When our main team are out on missions, our garrisons are sparsely populated.

Paying 250 gold to reactivate a follower you’ve put into retirement also seems a bit steep to me. If we can only have 25 active followers, I think the remaining idle ones should be swapped in and out of our active team as we please, at no cost. As it stands, on my main character I have a bank heaving with bits of gear for my followers that I can’t use, and I don’t want to swap an idle one in temporarily just to slap a couple of 615 pieces on it, then retire it again. It would be nice if it were easier to bring some lower level ones onto the team quickly and easily to level them up and provide more options for our best team. Or alternatively, let follower gear be bind to account, so that our alts can benefit from all that gear lying useless in our mains’ banks.

It’s become clear that the Dwarven Bunker and the Salvage Yard are absolute musts for our characters, especially for alts, yet the poor tailors/enchanters struggle with levelling their followers because many will opt to have the Tailoring/Enchanting buildings, at least until top level, so miss out on the Salvage Yard. Conversely, those of my characters without professions other than gathering end up with a wasted small building slot. So I do think some flexibility needs to be introduced somehow.

Travel

My only other complaint is the continuing lack of flying. On the one hand I get why flying would ruin a lot of the little features in the game, like reaching difficult treasures, but on my 9th alt heading towards 100 I’m utterly sick of fighting my way through every annoying little mob en route to objectives. I remember when flying was brought in for alts in Wrath of the Lich King, and it felt sublimely liberating. Could do with that now too. Yes, we have these odd individuals who want the game to be as hard and irritating as possible, but I imagine the majority feel as I do. Yes, we did the content at worm’s eye level, enjoyed it – even did it on a few alts – but now we would prefer convenience and speed. We’ve already seen all of what Draenor has to offer.
I also think the lack of flying has killed world boss fights. In MoP, I’d regularly log on and join a team to kill the world bosses every Friday evening. I never see that in WoD. Maybe people just do it silently on the Group Finder, but I find myself passing over those bosses continually as I’m being taxied around for quests, and no one’s fighting them. Rukhmar – who can drop an amazing mount, ironically a flying one – is always flapping around Spires of Arak unmolested. Reason? I don’t think people can gather quickly enough, so don’t even bother to try. The bosses are too spread out, but then the starting zones for Horde and Alliance are as well, so that must also contribute to the problem. In MoP, both Galleon and the Sha were very close to the home cities (or shrines) so were quick to reach. Oondasta and Nalak were a bit further away, but didn’t feel as far as the WoD bosses are, mainly because we could fly to them. When you reach Spires of Arak or Gorgrond, even if your taxi is quick, you then have to ride on the ground, around mountains and through areas thick with mobs, to reach the relevant boss. Chances are it will be dead by the time you get to it.

I absolutely understand Blizzard’s reasoning behind why flying was not allowed at the start of the expansion. Being confined to the floor did bring a lot more depth to the levelling experience, but now I truly believe it’s time for Blizzard to relent. Also, doing archaeology without flying is vile. I just don’t do it any more. Not only might you have to ride round an immense unclimbable hill or cliff to get to your next spot in a dig site, (then have to go back to where you started for the next one), it also takes far longer to reach the different sites on ground mounts. Archaeology was never fun for me in WoW – I far prefer the Rift take on it with random artifacts, like the WoD treasures, to be found in the landscape. The mechanics of archaeology are clunky. Your surveying equipment seems dysfunctional to say the least. It can direct you for a long way in one direction only to change its mind and direct you another way. Flying at least made the profession slightly less tedious.

Last Thoughts

Despite my gripes, I think WoD is a fine expansion and I’m not sick of it yet. Blizzard have brought in many quality of life changes that I think enhance the game hugely. I’m all for simplification in an ageing game that had in many areas become cumbersome. I’m glad to see the back of the overcomplicated gemming, enchanting and reforging for gear. It’s great to do a raid, win something, and be able to wear it straight away without it damaging your delicately-tuned reforging etc. I like the changes to gathering professions in that you can start them straight away, wherever you are, without having to spend days in the starter areas, picking the right herbs or whatever. Players have wanted player housing for a long time and garrisons are moving us towards such a thing. All we lack now is a customisable personal house in our garrison!

I expect an announcement from Blizzard at this year’s Blizzcon concerning the next expansion. I’m eager to discover what they’re planning for it and whether the good parts of WoD will be built upon, and the weaker areas strengthened. We still have at least one major patch for this expansion, and that too might spring some pleasant surprises on us.

Like everyone madly awaiting news of the new WoW expansion, I’ve got my own wish list of things I’d like to see to appear in the game or things that could be refined or changed. Here is my top ten!

1. The Mighty Wall of Leveling

Creating a new character now from level 1 is daunting to say the least. Maybe not so for a new player, who has so many exciting things to discover and explore, but for the veteran wanting to try a new alt it’s not a happy prospect. You might have leveled an account full of characters already, or even two accounts, or have another set of characters on a different realm. Do we really need to grind though all those quests and zones we might have done over a dozen times before? I think Blizzard should do something to remove that wall of leveling for alts. I’m not sure what, because there are different ways it could be implemented. I’ve read the suggestion that a ‘micro transaction’ of real money could be involved via the game store, but by experience we know that Blizzard’s concept of micro is rather larger than anyone else’s. I wouldn’t like to see another £15 cost added to the services. What would be better would be the ability to create a character of higher level, perhaps just before the level of the current expansion, or at least higher than Death Knights begin at now. If new races and classes are introduced, whether in the next xpac or one after, people will want to try them. But for many the wall of leveling will be a huge turn off. I wonder how many Pandaren are languishing unplayed just beyond their starter zones? I know for a fact in our guild it’s quite a lot.

2. Guild and Player Housing

As I’ve played several MMOs that already provide these features, it’s something I’d love to see in WoW. While it won’t be for everyone, many players enjoy creating imaginative homes. Buying items for such things can create another gold sink in the game – which we’re always told is needed. Again, as with some other games, items could be sold via micro transactions in the Blizzard store, as long as they’re not too expensive. I liked the way player homes were introduced in Rift, where you got a quest line to acquire your first one. During this, you were rewarded with a decent amount of ‘furnishings’ to start you off. Some players excel at landscaping and interior design and can create some pretty eye-popping domains. The best of player housing includes grounds to the main building that can be landscaped. In Rift, your ‘dimension’ (as your home is known) can be open to the public if you want it to be, so other players can admire your creativity. You might even pick up some commissions!

As for guild housing, I think it’d be fun to have a guild quest chain to acquire and start building your castle, palace, mansion, or whatever. Players could gather resources or donate gold to help with the construction. Features could be added as they’re earned, such as rooms like a Trophy Hall, where the heads of boss kills could be displayed, vendors, crafting areas and so on. In Runes of Magic, high level guild castles have grounds where players can farm resources, much like the farms we have at Halfhill in Pandaria now. Guild Housing in other games is instanced, so everyone enters through the same portal. It would be cool if the Guild Halls could be themed to particular areas, so (like in the original Guild Wars) you could choose the appearance and ambience of your Hall to suit your tastes. The Arathi model could be an old time castle, the Durotar one an Orc fortress, a Duskwood one like a haunted mansion, Stranglethorn like a jungle tree village, and so on. The potential is vast.

Blizzard has always maintained that guild and player housing would empty the cities, but if the portals for them were situated in cities, and things like the AH and the Bank (which let’s face it is the only reason players visit cities now) are still in the main square, I can’t see it making much difference. Especially if guilds could have ‘open nights’ (or days, weeks, whatever), so others could enter certain areas of their domains. This could aid in recruitment. Apart from Orgrimmar, Stormwind and the current City of the Year in whatever expansion we’re in, the cities are pretty much dead anyway. In Rift, on the housing interface, there is a list of dimensions you can enter. It couldn’t be that difficult for Blizzard to do something similar. It would be cool for guildies to have somewhere to hang out together that they have created themselves.

3. Character Model Overhaul

Well, we’re all waiting for this. It might happen in the next expansion, or partly, or it might not. I think we can conclude it will come eventually. What would be a welcome feature is the ability to customize your character much more, including the option to have different skins, i.e. Taunka or Yaungol for Tauren, and so on. The majority of MMOs now allow you to adjust all aspects of your characters, allowing for a more realistic array of different appearances in-world. While you might not be able to change the height of your gnome or goblin, (as a giant of either of those would be plain silly), you could perhaps adjust their weight or body shape. We could do with far more face and hair options, or the ability to tweak those ourselves.

4. Vanilla Pet Model Overhaul

Some of the original companion pets in the game are a pretty horrible lump of polygons – rabbits, prairie dogs, frogs, etc. Most of us use at least some of these pets for battling, if we’re into it. The humble rabbit can be a dreaded foe, hard as it might be to believe. It would be great if the old pets were tarted up a bit to look like the rest of the pets, i.e. realistic.

5. New Races

While I love new races being introduced, especially if they’re exotic, the point I raised first – leveling – is the only downside, unless you’re prepared to pay for a race change. I’m torn between the desire to have a cool new character, such as an Ethereal, Saurok, Naga, Vrykul, etc, and the heart-sinking prospect of leveling another character from scratch. So, for me, new races should only be introduced if an option is given to start at a higher level.

6. New Classes

While I read of players’ desire to have Demon Hunters, Tinkers, Battle Mages, Bards and so on, I wonder if any new class could be different enough to warrant its introduction. To me, those desired roles could be better fulfilled by offering them as new and exciting specs for existing classes.

7. Inventory Space

There can’t be a player in game who doesn’t want something done about our lack of storage options. If tabards, toys and other paraphernalia we tend to collect and carry about with us can be made like the pets and mounts and placed in our spell book, that would free up a lot of space.

6. Gear Sets
An extension of the above point, I think it’s clunky that we have to have different sets of gear for different specs, and these items have to be carried about with us in our inventory. Either make it that one set of gear functions for all specs or let us have a wardrobe feature like in Rift, where such gear sets are stored on the character, and easily changed, and not in the bags.

7. Gear Customization

We’ve got used to gemming, enchanting and reforging, as it’s been introduced a step at a time over the years, but it must be a daunting prospect for new players. I don’t like the way that changing only one piece of gear can mean a whole reforge is needed, which often doesn’t come cheap. Reforging is fiddly if you don’t use an addon like ReforgeLite to do the work for you. Otherwise, you have to use third party web sites to get the relevant information, unless you’re adept at working out all the stats yourself. Personally, I don’t want to spend a lot of time doing that. I think it’s time Blizzard overhauled the matter of stats on gear and made it more stream-lined and comprehensible. Do we really need 3 types of gear adjustment? Just seems like too much to me. Stats should be designed more cleanly so that reforging isn’t needed and gear enhancements are a boost rather than, as with reforging, a necessity to reach certain caps.

8. Cross Faction Contact

Perhaps the most controversial of wishes, and one shared by many, is the ability to team across factions, and in fact simply have communication between them. We have all these sophisticated races, yet they still behave like primitive bullies and, despite nods towards diplomacy, trade, co-operation and peace, WoW is still very much a school-yard us versus them scenario. I don’t think the rivalry should be done away with completely, and political relations could always be potentially volatile, but as so many NPCs of the opposite faction are willing to talk with, trade with and befriend members of the other side, why can’t players do the same? I know the argument against is that the second W in WoW is Warcraft, but after 10 years of virtual existence can’t the inhabitants of Azeroth start growing up a bit? PvP enthusiasts could still have their battlegrounds where characters fight for honour, perhaps in a more gladiatorial sense than we see now, (and on PvP realms still have their all out dog eat dog situation). Not everyone would have to see eye to eye, or join hands and skip among the daisies surrounded by chuckling kids, but there could be more realism by allowing players to make choices themselves about who they wish to hate, or not hate.

I prefer the Rift model of the factions, where the leaders of each regards the other with contempt for their views, politics and way of life, but out in the landscape, away from the politics, players are able not only to talk to those of the rival faction but play alongside them. You can’t actually team, but you can run around together closing rifts, taking part in world events, and such like. I would very much like to see this in WoW, but I’m aware the game population is probably divided right down the middle about this subject.

9. Resource and Mob Tagging.

Get rid of it. It works perfectly well in Guild Wars 2 that any player hitting a mob gets partial credit for the kill and therefore loot, whether teamed with other players or not. Resource nodes can be farmed by more than one player; they only disappear for you once you’ve mined them and another player can then come along and take their turn. We know that Blizzard can make mobs free for all in respect of tagging, as we see on the Timless Isle. There would be far less hatred and anger among players competing for limited resources and mobs if tagging wasn’t an issue. First nights of new expansions would be a far more joyous occasion if this was brought in – except for those whose pleasure is to turn on PvP flagging and make the whole experience more miserable for everyone. But we could do with fewer of those types couldn’t we?

10. Let PvE Realms be PvE

If people want to attack other players, what are they doing on PvE realms? Ah, of course, your average PvE player is easy meat for them. In my opinion, PvP should only be available in battlegrounds and arenas on PvE realms. Why make those of us who rolled characters on realms specifically to avoid that shenanigans have to put up with PvP players trying to trick us into hitting them and initiating combat and just generally making a nuisance of themselves, i.e. the notorious early days of new expansions and zones.

These are my ten wishes, and I know some of them are highly unlikely to happen, and there is massively divided opinion about others, but there’s no law against wishing, is there? I can also say that my wishes are not mine alone; I’ve seen them repeated across forums by many other players, as well as discussed with friends. Ah well, we’ll just have to wait until Friday when Blizzcon gives us the first of the revelations about WoW’s next chapter.

On the whole patch 5.4 has been a big success for our guild. We’ve teamed up with another guild to do Flex raiding and our two visits so far to Siege of Orgrimmar have been a lot of fun. We’ve got the first couple of bosses down and nearly got the third the other night before people had to leave because of work the next day. For a new team getting used to working together we’ve done really well, and most importantly we’ve had some enjoyable evenings’ play and have made some new friends on the server. While we’ve struggled over the past few months to get 10 people together for a raid, this Tuesday we had 19 in the team. Some people who’d given up formal raiding in favour of LFR have come back to the team and because people can come and go from the raid without affecting everyone else, guildies who have to start late or finish early could also join us. The difficulty of the encounters adjusts to however many are in the team. This is such a great feature for people who get home late from work, or have kids to put to bed or, at the other end of the night, have to leave especially early for whatever reason.

As well as getting together with another guild who’d been suffering the same problems as us, we’ve also picked up some new guildies who are friends of existing members. I know from experience that the state of guild rosters can – time and time again – change dramatically for the good and the bad, and I’m happy we’re now going through a good time once more.

The Timeless Isle has also been fun to explore and at the start was an absolute gods’ send for alts. I’ve geared up quite a few already with the bind on account epics that can be found in treasure chests and from mob kills. It seems now the drop rate for epics has dropped quite a bit, but the initial week was great. The only thing that’s spoiled the island for me and my friends is the PvP aspect. Yes, we get that Blizzard loves PvP and occasionally, (legendary quest line, Long Strange Trip achievement), likes to force it on players who hate it, and yes, we get that many players actually like it and want it, and we also get that the Timeless Isle is supposed to have a world PvP element to it. But the amount of griefing that goes on does nothing to change my mind about mixing PvP with PvE. For example, late the other night a couple of friends and I decided to team up and find some rare mobs. As we were killing random creatures around us, a group of Horde, all flagged for PvP and all riding huge Traveller’s Tundra Mammoths, congregated on top of us as we were fighting, clearly with the aim of making one of us accidentally hit them. They were taunting us as much as possible with emotes, supposedly to make us even more annoyed with the situation. When these tactics failed – we simply moved to a different area – they followed us and grouped up on our kills as we were looting, again with the clear intent of making someone click on them by mistake and thus initiate combat. There are enough Alliance actually wanting to get involved in PvP, so these idiots should go and pester them instead. If this is world PvP then I don’t think it belongs among PvE players. Also, how brave they are in numbers! It’s not something they’d try alone or in a small group. Cowards.

But anyway, apart from that aspect, which if you don’t like PvP you just have to take a little extra precaution to avoid, the island is a fun addition to the game. Not sure how long that fun will last, but there are at least a lot of pets to collect off rare mobs, which will extend the interest for some. For those not into pets, I don’t imagine there will be much left for them to do once they’ve earned the timeless coins to buy the items they want. As with all content, the island won’t have an infinite allure – things get used up and players move on. I’m trying not to use it up too fast. Some people are obsessed with grinding the rep for the Emperor, and that’s all they do. But once it’s done, and if done too quickly, what will be left for them? I think it’s better to pace yourself and make the most of the content, rather than gobble it up and then complain about having nothing to do.

I’ve not tried the Celestial Tournament pet battles scenario on the island yet, as I want to get more of my pets to level 25 before embarking on it. Also, you need to put aside quite a few hours to do the scenario while you’re learning it. Friends who’ve done it have taken up to six hours to complete it, (not necessarily succeeding on their first attempt either) and at the moment I don’t have such a chunk of time to devote to one activity. One friend had got almost to the end – bearing in mind you cannot heal or revive any of your pets throughout the scenario – and then failed on the last fight because he literally ran out of level 25 pets to do it. (He has around 100 of them.) He’d spent four hours getting to that point. You can’t ‘save’ the fight – you have to complete the whole scenario or start again. Another friend, who completed it on the first day, has 250 level 25 pets, so as I only have 70 or so, I know I need a far bigger stable of available pets before I attempt this challenge. Once you have learned the fights and if you have enough of suitable pets for the battles, then it takes less time to do the scenario. One friend completed it in 40 minutes today, when he was taking hours to do it last week. I dare say more and more strategy guides will appear for the fights as people complete them, and I’m content to wait a while until others, through trial and error, work out the best teams. I’d rather do the scenario in a couple of hours than in the equivalent of a working day!