Overthinking It: Bread and Circuses

Welcome to Overthinking It – a column where Fussypants delves entirely too deep into something not nearly as nuanced as she’s interpreting it to be!  What follows is undoubtedly a fine collection of speculation, assumptions, and general tin-foil hattery. Today, we tackle a divisive subject: the potential impetus behind the current Battle for Azeroth expansion.

Why are the Horde and Alliance fighting once more?  This seems to be one of the quintessential questions of the current expansion – after all the destruction suffered in the string of past expansions, one would think that the collective peoples of Azeroth would like to just sit down and take a break for a moment.  But instead, we’re up and at it again, waging major campaigns against densely populated cities like there’s no tomorrow. And, with the state the planet itself is in, there may very well be no tomorrow.

There’s a lot of possible answers to this question of ‘why’.  According to Blizzard, it’s due to deeply ingrained animosity mixed with the advent of Azerite.  Talk to Blizzard detractors and it’s because the company has “lost all it’s creative juices and just keeps rehashing the same ol’ garbage for the fanbois to lap up” (no, I’m not a particular fan of this explanation).  Ask Taran Zhu and it’s because the leaves fall. Or something like that. I don’t particularly love any of these answers. So, I’m going to logic out my own.

Why are the Horde and Alliance fighting in Battle for Azeroth? One word answer: Food.

When questing through Kul’Tiras for the first time, I stumbled upon a most interesting grey item.  The Old Sailor’s Almanac wasn’t the most lucrative piece of vendor trash, worth only about 5 gold, but the riches it had were in words instead.  The flavor text of the item read “Decades of meticulous notes about the weather, tides, and navigation rendered useless by the Cataclysm.” The first time I saw this, I chuckled at the obvious surface humor.  Haha, obsolescence, amirite? But then I began to think deeper. This almanac hinted at a more serious problem than I first imagined.  

We all know about Deathwing’s rampages across Azeroth, whether we were burned directly or we quested through the altered zones.  The Barrens rendered in two. Hyjal burning. The Wetlands somehow even more wet. The Insane Earthwarden wreaked immense damage on the physical features of the world but, apparently, he also did a number on the physical cycles.  Wind patterns, ocean currents, temperatures, rainfall.  This last item is key.

In a world such as Azeroth, just as is the case in our real world, farmers, ranchers, hunters and gatherers of every kind rely on the steady and predictable cycles of nature in order to produce food.  We plant corn in the spring and apple trees in the fall. We grow barley up north and rice down south. We tend to our animals based off their rhythms, which are in turn driven by nature. Any massive disruption in these cycles can cause a cascading effect of food production failure.  Crops fail, animals die, and people starve.

When Deathwing burst free from his lair, he didn’t just cause the Stonewall Dam to fall, he disrupted something as fundamental as the weather.  That, undoubtedly, resulted in droughts and flooding which would drastically alter how everyone on Azeroth eats. Even if this effect is only temporary (and the evidence points to it being a permanent shift), a change this big would have a ripple effect outwards. 

Now, you might be saying something along the lines of “Deathwing might have ruined some farmland but he probably also created new fertile areas, right?”  You probably are correct in this assumption, but if anything, this makes the problem even worse.  Firstly, there is an issue of infrastructure.  Regions that, traditionally, have been farming hubs typically have a lot of processes built up over time that aid in that – roads, irrigation systems, the like.  These new fertile regions won’t have these things built up, which means that even though food production potential is there, it’s going to take a hot second before farmers can move in, settle, and access that.

However, there’s an even more pressing issue – much of Azeroth is contested territory.  The Horde and Alliance claim only nominal control over these regions, and they’re often pressed right up against territory of the enemy faction.  It’s a patchwork of blue and red out there and now each side is trying to consolidate.

In a way, this problem is similar to that posed by the appearance of Azerite.  We’re talking about valuable resources which have popped up in unexpected, isolated, or contested areas, which will obviously resort in a massive scramble to gather and hold.  However, there’s a critical difference between Azerite and arable farmland. Azerite is a strong military advantage. It helps immensely in warfare and could give one side the edge in battle over the other.  Arable farmland however, is vital.  If there is no food then there is no army, no matter how strong their weaponry is.  What’s more, this extends far past just the battlefield; this impacts almost every single aspect of life for every single individual of your faction.  Everyone eats after all (except maybe the Forsaken, so they’ve got a leg up here I suppose).

Image courtesy of Reddit

Let’s break this down even further.  Pretend you’re Anduin Wrynn, King of Stormwind and leader of the Alliance.  You’ve very recently assumed the throne over a very large and very diverse confederation and you want to do everything you can to ensure your people are contented with your reign.  You know the price of unrest – your mother’s death can attest to that – and you also have a pretty good idea of what causes the kind of unrest that leads your people into rebellion.  On the surface, money. People want to be able to support their families and not be thrown into abject poverty. But even simpler than that, food. People want to eat. It’s not from your universe but you’re likely familiar with the idea behind the phrase “bread and circuses”.  Bread in particular in this case.

Speaking of bread, you’re very worried about this commodity.  Westfall, the breadbasket of Stormwind, your capital city, has been suffering from drought-like conditions pretty much ever since the Cataclysm.  That’s been a lot of years now, so you’ve likely worked through much of your grain stores in the interim. Now that you’ve finally finished up fighting off the Burning Legion, this has become the most pressing issue on your agenda.  You need a new breadbasket, and fast.  

Unfortunately, so does the Horde.  While their Forsaken members may not need to eat as much, or even at all, the other citizens of the Horde definitely do.  If you’re Sylvanas Windrunner and you’re already having problems with unrest, you certainly don’t want to add to that fire by adding in a famine.  A few individual leaders dissenting is one thing, but every member of the Horde outside of your specific faction?  That’s just the kind of thing that took Garrosh Hellscream down.

Let’s say, in this scenario, there are a few WoW zones that become particularly fertile regions.  These are zones with plentiful resources. Zones with lots of good soil and water. Zones without major polluting influences like the Scourge or the Legion.  Zones adjacent to major transportation hubs. Let’s choose, for example, Darkshore and Arathi Highlands. And gee, wouldn’t you know, these two zones are already warfronts!

Some of you might be asking, where exactly does the Azerite fit in with all of it?  The resource is too important a factor to be a complete non-issue in the considerations of the Horde and Alliance.  I would generally agree with you. You remember how earlier I mentioned the idea of bread and circuses?  Azerite is our circus, folks.

Think about it this way.  The armies of the Horde and Alliance are gearing up for a big war for arable land and they need a new recruitment drive.  They previously just used the classic “Enlist to protect your families!” with the whole Burning Legion thing and now they need a new angle.  Unfortunately, while food is an important part of a happy populace, it doesn’t make as good as a motivating cry unless your people are already starving (and there’s been little evidence I could find which points to that being the case).  If you offer food as the reason people should go to war and lay down their lives, they’re going to scoff at you and walk away.  It just doesn’t seem that dire yet, even if it is. Your citizens see their own personal little picture, not the overarching big one.

What you need is something more dangerous, more exciting, and more explosive.  You need a new threat which merits response even when people are tired and war weary.  Enter Azerite.  A glittery material literally oozing from the world’s pore (enjoy this imagery) with the potential to save your life or end it.  And look, the enemy might get it first!  Now that’s a good recruitment pitch.  That’s a good circus.

While the Horde and Alliance may have their official rhetoric about the volatile new threat of Azerite, the mineral merely acts as a reason to go to war rather than the underlying cause.  The Horde and Alliance fight because of food.  The two factions battle it out because they need reliable breadbaskets to feed their people if they hope to do anything in the future, and that anything even includes eventually making peace.  Both sides are vulnerable right now, and in that vulnerability, they’re frantically scrambling for basic resources.  The current war may be complicated, with dozens of moving parts and conflicting players but the motivating factor is quite simple.  Folks need to eat. 

Or, ya know, maybe I’m just adding way too much realism to my video games.  But hey, it’s a fun thought experiment!

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The End to Traditional Raid Sets?

Ahh, gotta love some of these earlier ones!

Yesterday, GameInformer released a summary of their Blizzcon interview with game director Ion Hazzikostas. While the article is rather scant on specific detail (I would imagine the full transcript of that interview will become available later), the main piece of news coming from the interview is that the traditional system of Raid Tier Sets is going away in Battle for Azeroth. The article then speculated that the new Azerite system might take it’s place, allowing players far more flexibility in both abilities modified and pieces of gear equipped.

The information about this thus far is really, really lacking (the article was only about three paragraphs afterall), but I have to say, I’m definitely intrigued to see how this change would pan out. Juggling tier and better loot has always been the bane of my existence, a situation that has only gotten worse in Legion. It’s a little soulcrushing to get brand new loot that would be good if it weren’t in a tier or legendary slot. I’m glad to see that Blizzard is awknowleding this problem and working to solve it. However, I think this plan, for what we know right now, has potential goods, bads, and just plain unknowns.

The Good

Gear Flexibility!

Like I mentioned before, removing the requirement to wear certain pieces of gear to maintain a four set bonus gives the players a lot more choice in what they equip. Especially now in the world of Metzenforging (as my guild lovingly calls it), massive upgrades often have to be shelved because they do not proc in one of the ‘Free Spaces’ that is our Bingo board of gear.

For myself personally, I’ve had the same Normal Warforged Tier shoulders on since I got them one of the first nights of Tomb of Sargeras, despite having several sets of shoulders that are significantly better stat wise, in order to maintain my four set. That’s incredibly frustrating. The RNG nature of gearing can already be very irksome, so that added disappointment of not being able to use upgrades is just insult to injury. If I get an ilvl 945 chest piece with enough critical strike to fill an ocean, I want to be able to use it, darn it!

Faster Gearing Up Process! (potentially)

As it currently stands right now, raiders are locked behind a time gate in regards to tier. There are a set number of bosses that drop tier, and those bosses drop a set number of tier tokens (depending on your group size) each week. Those tokens can then either proc Protector, Vanquisher, or Conqueror, locking that item to specific classes. Perhaps one week you get lucky, and the boss drops one of each type of armor. But perhaps you get unlucky, and every token is a Vanquisher helm. And we haven’t even touched on group composition yet; suppose your raid has a ton of people on the Protector token and very little on the Conqueror token. Your paladin tank will get their four piece almost right away, but your hunters and warriors are straight out of luck with so many people rolling on, comparatively, so few pieces.

For many classes, because of the necessity of the four piece bonus, certain tier pieces are their Best in Slots. Players will keep from rolling on other, non-tier pieces in tier slots because they are holding out for that tier drop. But because so many classes overlap on the same token, your Best in Slot chest comes from the same token that five other people do, even if folks are different armor classes or spec priorities. That’s a lot of artificially created competition in an arena that, I’d argue, already has plenty. Chasing after those tier bonuses adds weeks to the gearing up process.

However, if I’m interpreting the article correctly, it sounds as if Tier Tokens might be done away with entirely (since there would no longer be any slots for raid sets). If that is the case, then raiders will no longer have to wait for weeks to get those bonuses. Gearing up would increase exponentially, since an entire extra layer of RNG would be removed. Absolutely, there would still be the RNG-laden hunt for BiSs, but players would be competing with a much narrower pool of competition. The number of potential upgrades would jump from just a few non-tier slot to practically every single one. Even as someone on the often underrepresented Conqueror token, I would have to say that this is a very, very positive change.

The Bad

The Future of Class Raid Appearance Sets Unclear

The article was particularly vague on this topic (and I could have completely misconstrued it), but from what it sounds like, with the move away from tier set bonuses, Blizzard was also going to be moving away from tier set appearances. Potentially. According to Hazzikostas, “the gear will be more heavily themed from the place it comes […] there’s more customization we want to express through the new Azerite system”, which could mean any number of things. Will there still be class appearance sets, but upgrading a specific slot will augment the look and make it cooler? Will they move away from class-inspired sets to a couple of more general raid appearances? And how will transmog for all of this work?

You guys can read the original quote for yourself in the article, but the impression I’m getting is definitely a lot of column B. And I have to say, I’m a bit sad about that. While some sets are definitely more appealing than others, I’ve always loved the look of one unified look for each class per raid tier. There’s an excitement in the initial reveal. And the class fantasy is pretty great (especially for paladin that headcanon’s a very traditional paladin persona). This is absolutely not the worst thing in the world, but if class appearances sets truly are pulled, I will be saddened.

The Unknown

Honestly, for everything that I’ve talked about thus far, the singular unifying idea right now is that there’s just so little information. Without the full transcript of the interview, we can’t get a solid glimpse at what Hazzikostas was describing. It might turn out that all of the ideas I proposed are moot point in just a couple months (although, it’s always fun to speculate now!). Here are some of my biggest questions regarding the switch that I just couldn’t comment on without more information.

⦁ Will the Azerite system act as a replacement with more options?
⦁ Will every piece of Azerite gear in the same slot have the same ‘talents’, or will it vary by piece?
⦁ If the latter, how many different talent options would there be?
⦁ Will talents be changeable?
⦁ Speaking of the Azerite system, how exactly does that thing work?
⦁ Are you planning on adding set bonuses to specific pieces of gear (i.e. a matching ring and cloak would unlock a small bonus)?
⦁ Any retroactive changes to older tier?
⦁ …And a whole lot more.

I’m hoping more information about this will be available soon since this is potentially one of the bigger shake-ups for the raiding scene that Blizzard has implemented. And hey, if I no longer have to scare people off my tier token, I’m down for that!

Making Battle for Azeroth a Global Conflict

A few days ago, JD Kenada over at Amateur Azerothian wrote a thought-provoking blog post about the necessity of Battle for Azeroth really feeling like a global conflict. You can read the whole post yourself for more details, but the basic premise was that the world hasn’t changed much since Cataclysm and in order for Battle for Azeroth to be believable, it has to. War has to be seen all throughout Azeroth, not just in “a tenth of the (known) world”.

From a lore perspective, I believe that JD Kenada has really hit the nail on the head. Battle for Azeroth is not just some skirmish over newly discovered lands or a fight for some very specific resources, it is a world war in the truest sense. The expansion features cinematic included a very polarizing image of the map with Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms each being conquered by one the factions. That’s going to mean battles just about everywhere since at the current, the two factions are pretty intermingled, even within the same zones.

JD Kenada also brought up the fantastic point that wars don’t only mean fighting, they also mean preparations and construction. If we are to believe that each faction is actually capable of fighting a war on as many fronts as Battle for Azeroth is promising to be, both the Horde and the Alliance need to have the necessary infrastructure and supplies to do so. You can’t fight a war without weapons or siege machinery. And, equally as important, you can’t fight a war without food. For as many battles as Battle for Azeroth will have, there should be just as many factories, farms, lumber operations, and every other implement of a wartime society.

This is all wonderful and good from a lore perspective, but from a gameplay perspective, the idea is a lot trickier to implement. Cataclysm has proven pretty conclusively that folks do not like it when Blizzard fundamentally changes old zones and quests. Revamping the old world would also run the risk of worsening the time discontinuity, as the beginning leveling would all deal with Battle for Azeroth story and once players hit 58, they would jump back in time to either the Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King. If Blizzard were to make the new zones generic enough so as to not break the timeline, the tie to Battle for Azeroth’s global war could very easily be weakened. Messing with the old world could bring more negatives than positives.

So how do you throw Azeroth into a world war without fundamentally changing everything within the world?

The solution I thought of? Phasing, and a lot of world quests.

The phasing aspect, the more straightforward of the two, would enable upon reaching 120 (or perhaps 110, if there would be quests in the new world) and would change the world to reflect the new division of faction lands. This wouldn’t need to be entirely new zones with different layouts or anything like that, but instead the zones how they would look if they had been a part of a global conflict. There might be active battles going on in some zones. Others could be devoted to the production of resources. For example, Westfall might be converted into a huge farming zone to feed Alliance troops. Durotar could become a smithing hub.

Preferably, this new phasing would be toggleable via a member of the Bronze Dragonflight similar to how Theramore is today. It would probably make the most sense for said NPC to be within Stormwind or Orgrimmar and be able to toggle the whole world at once, but I could also see Blizzard going for a zone by zone basis. Players will still be able to go back and see the world as it was before the war, but they would have to activate that themselves.

The world quest portion of my solution is where Blizzard could really have some fun hammering home the idea of a global conflict. Some examples of quests could be aiding in a skirmish between your forces and the enemies, or clearing out the forest of enemies so your side can gather resources. The world quest system, one of bonus objectives that spawn temporarily before being replaced by differentt quests, is perfectly suited to the fluid nature of war. One day your side might be winning in this one zone but the next, you could be almost forced out. World quests would also give players incentives to go all around the world and actively take part in the war efforts themselves.

Battle for Azeroth must include all of Azeroth. Not just the new islands or a few cherry picked faction hubs, but the whole shebang. I don’t know about you guys, but I’d honestly love to go back to the zones I know and love to defend them for the Alliance. I’d absolutely dig more incentives to run around in Stranglethorn Vale or Winterspring. And if we’re going to embark upon a quest of global warfare, I want to fight on all fronts.

What do you guys think? Have any other ideas that I didn’t think of for making Battle for Azeroth a global phenomenon? Or would you be totally against any changes to the old world?

Tin Foil Hat: Battle for Azeroth

Battle for Azeroth.

All things considered, it’s a pretty great title for an expansion. It’s snappy, easily acronymed (the internet has determined, BfA it is), and vague. What are we battling for? Well, Azeroth. But does that mean actual land territory? Or maybe the titan soul within the planet itself? And who is doing the battling?

When I first saw the expansion title, fading in all slow motion and awesome-like after the cinematic, the first place my mind went was oh, this is a Horde versus Alliance expansion. And when you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. Both factions are going to be spending much of their time trying to conquer the cities, zones, and continents of Azeroth. It is quite literally, a Battle for Azeroth.

But a question kept coming up.

Why?

Why now, after seeing the value of working together to defeat threats like the Legion? Why now, after learning via Magni of the dire fate that Azeroth is in? Why now, with a King on one side who favors peace and a Warchief on the other who just wants her people to be left alone?

Something doesn’t add up. While we don’t have all the story yet (the expansion is many, many months away, after all), it doesn’t make sense that the Horde would try to burn Teldrassil. It seems downright insane that the Alliance would attack Lordaeron. It seems downright insane….

One of the biggest threads left over from Legion (at this point) is the resurgence of the Old Gods. From the Shadow Priest artifact experience to the Magni questline to the entire zone of Val’sharah, it’s clear that the Deep Ones are beginning to gear up for something big. The world soul within Azeroth is vulnerable, and the Old Gods may be trying to capitalize on that weakness.

Unlike the other foes we face though, the Old Gods are never direct about anything. They don’t open portals and send armies through in endless hordes. They don’t tear free of the ground, burning all in their path. For all intents in purposes, they’re barely seen at all. Instead, Old Gods manipulate. They act behind the scenes, whispering to this person or that one to slowly but surely create chaos in their favor.

What better form of chaos is there than a global war? If all of the defenders of Azeroth, all of the people who could potentially see what the Old Gods were up to and put an end to their actions, are otherwise occupied fighting and killing one another, that gives the forces of madness plenty of breathing room to do whatever they please. No one’s eyes are on the old Titan holding facilities anymore, they’re all trained towards the enemy faction.

So, here’s my tinfoil hat theory: Battle for Azeroth has nothing to do with the conflict between the Horde and Alliance. Instead, it is the struggle between us, the heroes of the world, and the Old Gods who wish to corrupt the world soul. And, at this point, we’re losing. Badly. We don’t even see the threat.

Looking at it through another lens, the only other expansion we’ve had that, from first glance, appeared to focus predominantly on faction warfare was Mists of Pandaria. However, as we went through the campaign, we quickly learned that there was other forces involved. Specifically, the sha, remnants of a long dead Old God who were still inciting negative emotions and stirring up chaos. Mists of Pandaria taught us that using our own deep-seated hatred for one another is a classic Old God tactic. And if they used it once, they’re bound to use it again.

It took an entire expansion to fight off the effects of one dead old god (and his sha-infused orc puppet). What would happen if several, very much alive Old Gods decided to play with some emotions?

World war. We’d fight each other more viciously than we’d ever fought each other before. We’d burn down sacred places despite our own respect for them (the World Tree, while home to the Night Elves, is also revered by many other races). We’d attack the husk of a long dead city out of a vain desire to rout out the woman who runs the place. We savagely go at one another, all because someone or something is quietly dropping hints in the background.

I don’t think it’s any mistake that our “artifact” for this expansion is The Heart of Azeroth. There’s something going on at a much larger, more cosmic level than just an escalation of the faction war. While I do think it is pretty plausible that the Horde and Alliance would, when given the chance, keep fighting, the intensity at which they’ve picked up the fight seems extreme.

Azeroth is in immediate danger. The Azerite leaking out all over the place is the most visble symptom of a world soul under attack. Every moment that the Alliance and Horde spends fighting is another moment that Azeroth battles the Old Gods who would corrupt her. We refuse to listen to Magni’s warnings and our world soul only weakens further and further. It’s a race to see which will run out first: our hatred for the opposite faction or the nascent Titan’s life essence.

My prediction is that the first couple patches are going to be centered solidly around the faction warfare. We’ll fight, and fight, and fight some more. But, similarly to how we went to Argus halfway through Legion, I’m guessing that we will see a shift. Whether it be at the faction level, with both sides ceasing their battle or at the individual player level with us, the heroes of Azeroth, being pulled away from the battlefield for a much more pressing threat, I’m predicting that the focus of the expansion will shift to a more holistic scale. To a more… Old God scale.

War is never well timed. But this global conflict presented in Battle for Azeroth seems suspiciously ill-advised. The Horde and Alliance have a history of pulling together when it counts, so for us to be splintering now is downright worrying. There is something more going on.

Sk’yahf qi’magg luk sshoq anagg’qen, my friends.

Blizzcon Recap Day 2

(Blizzcon spoilers ahead my friends!)
Well, it turns out, the day I thought would be full of live coverage of Blizzcon ended up being surprisingly devoid of anything WoW. Standardized testing in the morning and then an 8 hour Star Wars marathon with friends meant that I never got a chance to sit down and read about all the Blizzcon news until this morning. Hence, no blog post yesterday (I’ve officially used one of my eight free passes).

However, the news from yesterday absolutely merits a whole bunch of discussion, so I’m going to go ahead and do my Blizzcon Day 2 wrap up now!

Of all the information to come out yesterday, some of the most exciting and most polarizing definitely came from the Warcraft Q & A panel. First off, I think we need to address the elephant in the room.

Anduin is not a paladin??

Whaaaat?? Look, I don’t buy this! He’s running around in plate armor, carrying a sword, and casting spells that look suspiciously like Consecrate, how on Azeroth is this boy not a paladin now?? Per the Blizzardwatch live blog of the event, Afrasiabi seemed to insist that King Anduin was a hero class and could do things that players could not. But, correct me if I’m wrong, the hybrid between priests and warriors are paladins. Swinging swords and the Light is kind of our thing! Also, I was really, really looking forward to Holy Pally Anduin; Blizzard, you’re breaking my heart! I’m hoping that this decision gets overturned before the expac drops, Pants wants more lore paladin buddies!

No, you’re the one exploiting every opportunity to post more screenshots of Anduin

Second most important thing that came out of the Q & A was the hint at more body customization in the WoW character creation screen! The example given was straighter backs for orcs, but personally, I’m really hoping they put in more body types for female characters in particular. Curves can be wonderful, but I’ve always wanted more muscular options for all of my melee characters. It just feels wrong to be prancing around in plate with double Ds. If Blizzard is truly going to give more options on body times, I’m also hoping that they’ll introduce more hairstyles as well. And more variety in skin tone. And face structure. And pretty much everything. More customization, woohoo!

The clarification that Jaina was “complicated” and damaged rather than bad news bears brought me a lot of relief as well. Rather than throw her under the bus as another generic bad guy, it sounds like they’re making a concerted effort to tell a story with her, one that includes shades of grey. While I might main a solidly Lawfully Good paladin, I find that the most interesting stories are those that aren’t clear cut good or bad. With Jaina, Blizzard has the potential to tell a wonderfully nuanced story and I’m really hoping they take that path. Also, mages are my second favorite class, so definitely hit me up with that mage lore!

The announcement of a stat squish in Battle for Azeroth wasn’t unexpected in the slightest, but I won’t lie, I’m a little sad. There’s something so thrilling about doing millions of heals per second. It’s hard to see the squished numbers as nearly as impressive when you were just creating numbers so much higher. This is not to say that Blizzard shouldn’t do the stat squish; for the health of the game, I firmly believe that intermittent stat squishes are important to keep the numbers from becoming insane. But a little part of me will miss critting for three million with one Holy Shock.

Along the same lines, comes the item level squish as well. This one I’m actually a lot less concerned about. I’m curious to see how this will pan out for older expansion gear, but seeing as how we’ll be getting 1000 ilvled pieces of gear in Antorus, smaller numbers there would not be remiss. And if anything, with the smaller amounts of stats on gear (due to the stat squish), reducing the item level as well would make a lot of sense.

Image courtesy of Blizzard Watch

One of the other big features of the upcoming expansion is the Heart of Azeroth. While a lot of the details are a touch fuzzy, it sounds like the Heart will be Battle for Azeroth’s Artifacts. Players will explore the world and defeat bosses to get Artifact Power Azerite in order to power up the Heart and gain access to new traits. Unlike the spec specific approach in Legion thought, the Heart will be a spec and class neutral necklace (I think?) and will impact the helm, shoulders, and chest slot.

I am definitely going to need to give this one a lot of time and a sizable amount of in-game testing before I come to my conclusion. One of my biggest complaints with the early implementation of the Artifact System was the way that it severely penalized players who couldn’t log in every day. With how central artifacts were to your character’s power level, falling behind had a noticeable impact on gameplay. Credit where credit is due though; the developers did a fantastic job improving the system over the course of the expansion. However, this type of power increase system has still left a sour taste in my mouth. I’m all for more customization in terms of traits and talents, but this method has not been my favorite way of doing so. Gearing up becomes so much more complicated. But, like I said earlier, it’s still way too early to pass definitive judgement.

I’m positive I’m forgetting so many tidbits of information but in order to maintain some semblance of pithiness, I’ll go ahead and wrap up here. Blizzcon 2017 was pretty dang awesome! It maybe wasn’t the most hype-filled convention ever, but all of the features that Blizzard brought to the table are the kind of deep dive fixes that desperately needed to happen. While some of the big changes might not look as flashy, I firmly believe that much of what has been announced will improve the quality of the game immensely. I eagerly await where the game goes next!

Blizzcon Recap Day 1

Image from the official World of Warcraft account

(Blizzcon spoilers ahead my friends!)
Day one of Blizzcon is coming to a close and boy, has it been a wild ride of emotions! So many amazing things announced, so many unexpected twists, I wish I could have been at the convention itself! However, I have to give a shout out to BlizzardWatch and the Warcraft Twitter community for reporting so diligently on what goes on in Irvine.

Like I suspected, I wasn’t able to watch the opening ceremony live due to school (no matter how hype I am, I suppose grades are important), but I managed to watch the new Warcraft expansion trailer on the way to an after school activity. And man oh man, did I have so many emotions! It’s a darn shame that none of my IRL friends play the game, I had no one to nerd out with for a few hours, ha ha!

I’ll try to avoid a full blown analysis of the cinematic now (since there’s so much to cover!) but there were a few moments that I just have to touch on. First is something rather small, but it really stuck with me. Right in the beginning of the video, as Sylvannas is ascending the steps to the top of the wall, something hits the stone structure she’s in and all the rubble clatters in such a realistic and urgent way, I was immediately hooked! Like I said, I know that’s a super strange thing to pick up on but I feel like that moment really showcased just how incredible the WoW cinematic team is that, they managed to capture something so seemingly mundane so perfectly.

Secondly, Saurfang!! I’m an Alliance girl through and through, but even I was freaking out when it looked like the venerable orc was about to go down for good. I won’t lie, when he popped up later and was ok, I let out a veritable sigh of relief.

I have a dozen or so screen grabs of this boy, don’t judge

Speaking of being an Alliance girl, can we just take a moment to appreciate Anduin Wrynn? Take a moment and soak that all in. Usually I’m the last person to notice or comment on this sort of thing, but dang, Anduin is looking fine. But, more importantly, it looks like our not-quite-so-little king has graduated from priest school. Anduin Wrynn is a paladin, baby! This one actually got me to cheer out loud when I first saw it.

He is so sweet!

I’m very curious, however, to see what led Anduin down this path. Up until this point, he’s been a large proponent of peace and I wonder what forced him from this. Did warhawk Genn Graymane push the young king into it? Or did Anduin choose this course of action by himself?

Ok, one more before we move on

As soon as I got home, I sat down to watch the full opening ceremony and catch up on all the panels. There’s so much information floating around so I’m sure I’ve probably missed a few things (and I’m positive other things have been garbled in translation) but I won’t deny, my excitement did tone down a bit to more realistic levels. None of the features that were showcased were anything that I absolutely adored, although I thought all of them were excellent quality of life changes. And I’m very curious to see where this whole “Island Invasion” thing will go.

Actually, scratch that earlier statement, there’s definitely one feature that I was totally stoked for – Allied Races! (Side note: my wish from the other day came true!) I’m so down for Lightforged Draenei, I’m seriously considering raceswapping my main, and I’ve never changed her appearance in all my years of playing her. This might also be the thing that finally gets me to play Horde; I’ve wanted to play as a Nightborne ever since Suramar, so I might have to swap sides, at least for a bit, in order to do so.

I spoke too soon again, there’s another feature that I’m really down for (I’m going over a crash course version of what was announced today as I write) and that is level scaling. This is such a huge quality of life change, I cannot stress enough how awesome I find this change. There are entire zones that I have not stepped foot in post Cata because of the way that quest XP used to work (also, I’m a bit lazy and getting Loremaster was way down on my priorities list). But, now, if I can actually level my characters at the same time that I explore the zones I missed, that’s a win-win! I’ll be curious to see if the faction control of continents will apply to all levels or just 120 (my guess right now would be 120 only, as that would otherwise require a good deal of re-jiggering), but on the whole, I’m very excited about this change. No more dungeon leveling if I can avoid it!

It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows however. I made the mistake of reading some of the commentary about all the new content and a rather vocal amount of it was surprisingly… negative. My perception of past expansion announcements might be skewed, but I don’t remember any other announcements being met with as much negativity. Being entirely frank, seeing all of those complaints really put a dent in my enthusiasm.

I want to be clear here, I don’t mean to dictate how people should feel about all this news. I’m definitely not telling people that they can’t have opinions. But on a purely personal level, I was bummed out. Approaching all of this news with excitement and then seeing largely criticism in response, it definitely took the wind out of my sails.

Since I’ve already touched on it, let’s go ahead and tackle the next expansion in general. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. A return to the theme of faction warfare. With no more (visible) global threats that need to be neutralized by the combined might of the Horde and Alliance, we are left to our own device. Which, in the world of warcraft, definitely involves battles.

Personally, I am cautiously optimistic about the next expansion! It’s no Legion, with it’s features upon features that seemed to be catered specifically towards appeasing the fanbase, but I think there will be a lot of good stuff inside. From a historical standpoint, the only other expansion we’ve had that has put the primary focus on faction conflict thus far has been Mists of Pandaria, which was one of my favorite expansions to date. But, just like Pandaria, I think we’re going to find that there’s more going on than just battle. I’m still holding onto my Old Gods idea, and that partways through the expansion, we’re going to see a shift in focus. Regardless of whether that happens or not, I’m geniunely looking forward to Battle for Azeroth (what will our short acronym be? Battle? BfA? Azeroth??). Am I as hyped as I’ve been for previous expansions? Maybe not. But do I trust that Blizzard can put out a highly enjoyable product? Absolutely!

Overall, I’m thoroughly enjoying all the Blizzcon excitement! I can’t wait for tomorrow, where I can actually hear about a lot of this happening live.

Oh, and let me leave you with this kick-ass image of a Jaina who is not Crazy, just Angry (both predictions came true!)