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The reaction to yesterday’s Blog Post has produced a WTF moment in me that needs a little bit of exploration. Normally I’d do this away from the keyboard but considering the current state of reality as I see it? I think it might be worthwhile for everybody if, for once, I did this with an audience. It occurs to me that there’s more than just the issue of how Activision Blizzard sells this game to the people who play it going forward. Perhaps more important than that, is how players perceive Azeroth for themselves. I’ve seen some quite vocal objections in the last few weeks as to how the company communicates new ideas. However, what is perhaps more important is the view from the stalls, looking back up at the game unfolding. Player perception becomes a bigger deal with each passing day, and I have an effect on that, whether I like it or not.

It occurs to me that, as a website, my point ‘in the Community’ is probably twofold: providing information about this game (see Post #1 yesterday) and then passing comment on events that happen as a result of this game (see Post #2.) I have a very small core readership: if I sat down with pencil and paper I could probably name over half. This is not a place that is hugely popular, and the more I think about it, the happier that makes me feel, because when I look at what the larger communities end up both breeding and then hiding? That’s not anything I’m sure I want a part of. In essence, it is my independence and objectivity that keep this site functioning. However, as I am well aware, that attitude’s not welcomed by everyone with open arms.

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In fact, there will be those who say that it is people like me that cause the problems, by pointing things out when they don’t do what they’re supposed to. People don’t like to be told when they screw up, nobody does. I’ll grant you some days my people skills could do with some work, that maybe you don’t focus on the negatives to make progress. Every time someone decides to tell me that I’d do far better with kindness than honesty? Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. If love really could solve everything that would be utterly great, but speaking from the point of view that knows full well it can’t? What am I supposed to do here, I wonder. I suppose a lot of people would love it if I just shut up. On days like today, that is really rather attractive as an option.

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I play this game as a realist. I suppose this is why role-play’s never been that attractive. Even my fiction has an element of reality spun in it that allows the notion of stepping back from the pixels to see a bigger picture, that simply immersing in fantasy isn’t 100% possible. I suspect that because I am well aware of the darker side of gaming compulsion (and I use that word for a good friend who knows using the A-word isn’t actually solving anything long term) there will always be this stand-off going forward. When you have an addicting personality, and that has been pointed out to you, everything is a potential hole to get lost in. Right now I could easily play 24/7 and not care, because I’d dearly love something to take the pain of a particularly unpleasant reality away. Escapism is only one factor in an incredibly complex equation.

Once you can see behind the curtain, it becomes quite hard to lose yourself to the fiction.

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That means that Legion’s almost total reliance on the notion of ‘renewed fantasy’ is becoming rather fascinating as we move increasingly closer to the pre-Expansion patch. Last time around there was nothing to keep us hooked, and this time that’s not only been solved, but has the potential to never let you leave. I’ll freely admit that having listened to the Artefact/Class Order Hall Dev Chat yesterday I get the ideas , but I’m wondering what the point is. In all of this I can see myself waiting for somebody else to tell me what I should put in my weapon, because once everything changes again I have no grasp of what will be the best thing for my play style. After all these years, it is still too complicated. I never had the intelligence to grasp how to play RTS well, or the patience to theory-craft. I find numbers frightening and intimidating, and all I really want is a good story and to be able to stay alive when I’m fighting a hard boss solo. I get this is an MMO, and if that’s the case and I am expected to play with other people?

Leaving me to make my own choices will never really work.

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There is an inevitability to Warcraft that I am only just beginning to understand. If you want to do it ‘properly’ or ‘correctly’ being on the fringes will never allow you a chance to be either accepted or embraced. The only real means by which you grow and expand is to grasp that there are only a finite number of answers: eventually you could beat every boss with an all Druid team, but you’ll never be anything other than ignoring conformity. If you cannot enjoy content ‘traditionally’ and have to wait until it is Legacy, you never got the memo about how the game’s supposed to be enjoyed. If you don’t want to be nice and helpful you will, at some point, end up being the problem. So, you can choose to conform, or stay outside the playing field. If you choose the latter, the game may never give you what it is capable of affording to those who just follow the game plan, because like it or not it is made to be played a certain way. Like all games, there is a winning path. That is provided by the data-mining sites, and the streamers, and the Developers. If you choose not to take these ideas on board?

Your experience will vary.

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Petitioning for change from outside is quite a hard ask. Doing it when inside is maybe harder, on certain days, but what we have seen in the last year is a company that, like it or not, has altered pretty much every aspect of game-play in order to accommodate the requirements of an audience that, on any given day, doesn’t have a fucking clue what it really wants. That’s no mean feat, when all is said and done, but there are some things that will never change. Complexity may have been ‘rationalised’ both with Warlords and Legion, but for every system removed or streamlined, there’s been new ideas inserted and rotations created that mean the economy, like it or not, is negligible. I’m going to suffer terribly in the weeks that follow as I try and get to grips with new play styles, a change of currencies, relearning processes and memorising flight paths and maps. For every thing made simple, something new has to be learnt. I’m still going to rely on stuff outside the game for support. In that regard, very little has changed in 12 years.

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Yet, with all of this, people can’t be happy. All that effort and work and yet, some still complain. When I complain about the complaints, I then get complained at in turn, because what this Community desperately needs is less friction and more co-operation. I can’t argue with this. Yup, you’re absolutely right, because if that happened everything would be fabulous right up to the point when the quiet person in the corner who nobody noticed because they weren’t a problem yesterday goes on a rampage and everyone’s surprised and shocked it happened to begin with. You do not solve problems by simply pretending they don’t exist or by the misguided hope that all it needs is enough stardust and you can just fix everything. Life is not black and white, however much you might like to rationalise, and the greys that exist are so many and complex it can be impossible to balance everything. In game terms, balance has become the metaphor for Expansion success. In shock news, that’s always been the case in the real world, too.

Now we have an Expansion that has, like it or not, redefined balance. It isn’t just class abilities, you have to combine them with weapon abilities and if you get lucky you can share that with the World and for a brief and glorious moment be the #1 Artefact Build EU. Just because Blizzard took the gear score and loot reliance demons away does not mean that there’ll be nothing to fixate on. This Expansion will create as many problems as it solves, inevitably, and it will be down to ‘The Community’ to study the consequences. If I don’t do this with a smile on my face some days I’d like to apologise in advance, but I can promise you some brutal honesty along the way. I may well say the things other people only think, but I’ll do my damnedest not to offend as I do. However, it will happen. I know I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t, because some of you can only be happy when I’m fucking you off.

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When I state an opinion, it is mine. If others choose to agree, that’s their choice to make and simply mine to observe. That’s how life works. You may not like it but in that regard we are all subject to the same set of variables, just as you are in game. In the end, you need to remind yourself of why you’re here playing. That’s nothing to do with me, and everything in your hands. I can’t in good conscience be something I’m not, because I’d not only be lying to myself but to you as well. That means that, for the foreseeable future, this is what I do: honest, often painful, and I’m sorry, seldom sweet.

After all these years, I think you deserve the truth of what you’re getting.

3 thoughts on “Passing Strangers

  1. I am slightly confused. I thought that the idea with the Artefact weapon was that there was not an optimal build as they expected you to fill it completely and in fact had mechanics in place to make this possible for everyone (assuming you are willing to put in at least a little effort.) This would mean that while there may be a path to completion that is a little better than others, in the end it matters not because completion is the goal.

    I realise that there will still be the three sockets to fill but that will probably need dungeons or the like but I like they way they seem to have set it up that a soloer like me will be able to easily open up all the traits if I am just willing to put in the work to do the world quests, etc.

    Also, you talk of non-conformity. I get the feeling that the way the weapon is set up, Blizzard have realised that the old system of level to max, do dungeons and then do raids is not something done by a large part of the current population and I am glad that this expansion seems to be catering to many different play-styles instead of focusing on the ‘”norm”.

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  2. I would love to believe that, in an ideal world, everybody could just play the way they chose and there would be no penalty, but unless I am missing something basic here, there will come a point where you will go to a website, and just pick the most popular build to play with, if you expect to make progress in organised content.

    I really hope that isn’t the case, and I look forward to being proved wrong.

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    • That is just human nature and nothing to do with the game. People want the patch of least resistance and getting a cookie-cutter build or optimising your character using Mr Robot are just ways of facilitating that.

      The real question to ask your self is if you are playing the game for you or for a team of people. As a soloer I am playing for me and doing things the way I want to. If that means that I will never see raids and dungeons until they are an expansion or two old then so be it. Hell, last week I did ICC for the first time. Enjoyed it a lot.

      Equally, if you are just part of a bunch of friends that get together to shoot the breeze and have fun running some dungeons then you have no need to optimise because the goal is just entertainment. But, if you are playing for a team then you probably feel you owe it to the team to be the best you can because that will be better for all concerned because you have a goal in mind and you do what you have to to achieve that goal. This isn’t a bad thing.

      Anyway, any Artefact build will purely be an order of picking traits and if, like me, you play a fair amount, a few months after launch it won’t matter at all as all your traits will be complete. Consider it to be more like having all your spells than picking the right talents.

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