I was not as into Warcraft prior to Cataclysm as I am now. If I was around for any major changes, I never completely felt or understood them. The endless talent tree changes came and went all during breaks in my playtime. And even then, those changes that I was around for I experienced while leveling, so whatever new end game paradigm existed was of little consequence for me. I remember enjoying the pre-Mists patch – mostly fueled by an appreciation for the streamlined talent system and an enjoyment of the new glyphs. So the experience of Patch 6.0.2 has been nothing less than an adventure.
Patch 6.0.2 has the special burden of introducing the item squish to World of Warcraft. While class changes can affect performance at the starting levels of an expansion, the item squish (and related adjustments to health, healing, and damage) mean that Blizzard cannot ignore existing content and assume that it will be fine. This is the first patch in a while that required extensive testing for old content. And while the focus was always on “how will it feel for me to solo raids at max level?”, the problem is that the feeling of actually playing through the content at level was ignored. As a result, leveling dungeons were reportedly overtuned, with many players struggling where once content was easier.
To be fair, this is our fault as much Blizzard’s. The majority of the players on the beta are testing new content as opposed to running temporary characters through a familiar grind. And while leveling is important, Blizzard can always go back and retune those numbers once everyone is happily enthralled with Draenor. And that is ultimately the problem.
Blizzard pushed this pre-expansion patch out a month before Warlords, just as they had with pre-expansion patches previously. And while the new content for the expansion is not currently live, we were given all the changes made to the base game. The majority of those changes (new models, bank\bag improvements, new group finder tool, etc.) are significant quality of life changes that don’t affect combat and are well overdue in many cases. I am excited those features are in the game and World of Warcraft is a better game today than it was fifteen days ago because of those changes. But the itemization and stat changes should have been held back until Warlords released. The reduction in health and damage, and all the moving parts it encompasses, needed more tuning before being unleashed upon the playerbase.
For example, in running the final Throne of Thunder wing in Raid Finder it became apparent that the Chi-ji mechanic on the Twin Consorts fight was incorrectly tuned. While Chi’ji can be used to summon a flock of cranes to damage the two bosses, upon launch, the cranes were doing at least 80% of the damage of the fight, making it trivial. This, of course, was mitigated by the following battle with Lei Shen. His Thunderstruck and Lightning Whip were damaging players for way too much (especially on LFR!) and as such his damage had to be adjusted in subsequent hotfixes.
While boss damage can easily be addressed, the paradigm shift for healers has caused a great amount of consternation. Previously, with players over-geared for end game content, healers were able to focus on topping off everyone’s health throughout the fight. Now, healing is intended to force the healer to make hard choices. The tanks need to be their focus, and DPS are intended to be given just enough healing to survive while relying on their own cooldowns and self-healing instead . Ordos was a cakewalk prior to 6.0.2, but right after the he was brutal. It took a few days for players to adjust their strategy (failure to leave the group when afflicted with area-effecting spells like Burning Soul can lead to several deaths, as players can no longer take the falling damage incurred).
Pre-patch is an odd time for a game like World of Warcraft. While the game is basically Warlords of Draenor, we are still stuck in Mists of Pandaria content. These fights were designed with mechanics for a completely different skillset. Furthermore, players have been used to over-gearing this content for months. Aside from minor hotfixes, players have been fighting the same bosses for over a year while their ilvl has steadily gone up. LFR and World Boss fights are intended to be challenging, but no one expects them to be overly difficult at this point. Yet the changes to skills, numbers, and healing has made every group activity a risky proposition.
To Blizzard’s credit, they have been working hard address these problems, with each unexpected realm restart applying a new hotfix to bring the content closer to Blizzard’s vision. (Even today’s patch features the latest in a long line of raid mechanics that “should no longer deal an excessive amount of damage.”) And, as Cory Stockton recently pointed out on the Instance, by pushing all this content live now, this is tuning that does not need to be done at Warlords launch. But tuning should only be done on live servers as a last resort. I am hard pressed to remember a patch with such a rocky launch. It seems that the content could have used more testing, either internally or on the PTR. Many of these changes may make more sense at level 100, when our full set of skills (in the form of our level 100 talents and the Draenor perks) are granted, but we do not have them now, and it feels like that fact was an after-thought in the development process.
Blizzard is due a slight reprieve at Warlords’ launch, as the bulk of the player base will be stuck doing quest content and leveling up, as opposed to now, when everyone is at max level and either running the same bosses over and over again, or running old raids for loot. In the excitement of a pre-patch, players should not have to stress that they need to relearn the game just to replay content they are all too familiar with, and Blizzard should not feel that the first two weeks after release are going to be focused on tuning and retuning content that players will only be experiencing for another month. At the very least, with the pain of the item squish and ability pruning now incurred, the Warlords of Draenor launch has the chance to run smoothly.
Blizzard released the television commercials that will be broadcast for Warlords of Draenor. I want to see the Grommash death stare vs. the Luigi death stare! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/16515627/new-wow-tv-spots-10-26-2014
New Artcraft on level design! As long as the bubble is between the two lines, its level, right? http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/16549666/artcraft-level-design-part-1-10-27-2014
WoW Insider has a great interview with Terran Gregory about making the in-game cinematics. Learn how to parlay a hobby for machinima into a supporting role on an online reality competition. http://wow.joystiq.com/2014/10/27/warlords-of-draenor-cinematics-machinima-and-more-with-terran/
There’s another Behind the Scenes video for Lords of War with an interview with artist Laurel Austin. I’m disappointed that at the 3:16 mark, Laurel does not say she just whipped your ass. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/16515622/behind-the-scenes-of-lords-of-war-10-24-2014