World of Warcraft Patch 8.2.5 – Intent vs. Execution

8.2.5 development notes are out, and I find the stated intent interesting.

Firstly, I feel like I need to start with my opinion of developer notes. I like developer notes for upcoming content that is far enough along to discuss, because even if I disagree, I like knowing the thought process behind changes that are forthcoming. One of the things I really liked about the Ghostcrawler era of WoW (and something I will certainly be revisiting during Blaugust!) is that conversation around changes was constant, and even if my initial reaction to a change was negative, they at least made an effort to explain the reasoning and make it all make sense. Sometimes they’d fail, but I feel like in a lot of cases, Blizzard in 2019 doesn’t try to really be clear on these changes and it makes things objectively worse (see: portal room and corresponding changes).

So seeing these notes, however brief, is fantastic – and something I want to see more of!

With that all said, let’s dive into the actual content!

Worgen and Goblin Model Updates – Confirmed

They were the last ones on the list needing the WoD-era revamp in visual fidelity. While these models weren’t lacking in detail to the extent of the ones that were revamped during WoD, they came in at an odd time – they are extremely detailed, but as the animation engine in WoW had not undergone the massive improvements it later went through in Mists of Pandaria to allow Monk animations, they have some weird movements and a general lack of fluidity. Excited to see how this goes!

WoW’s 15th Anniversary Event

The anniversary event already had a lot of details out from earlier this year when the pre-orders for the 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition were detailed, but this gives us some more solid information. Logging in during the event nets you Lil’ Nefarian and some other in-game items, and during the event you can complete 3 special raids with “iconic encounters from past expansions”, which total 9 bosses. Doing all of these nets you the Obsidian Worldbreaker mount, aka Deathwing with a saddle. There’s also going to be an Alterac Valley event, although it sounds like it will be “inspired by” rather than just old-school AV. This event gives currency which can then be used to buy two new mounts, which themselves are throwbacks to the old school AV mounts.

Bee Mount is Coming, Alliance!

Cool. Not much to say here, other than that this seems like it is going to be a parallel to the current Horde questing for Kua’fon.

Cataclysm Timewalking Gets a Raid

…and it is Firelands. The right choice, IMO – Firelands is actually one of my favorite raid tiers of all time and one that really fits Timewalking with the mix of vanilla lore (Ragnaros and Fandral Staghelm both present) alongside some fun, if lore-devoid, boss fights. Now if only we could get events to activate some of the Hyjal daily quests with scaling!

Party Sync

This deceptive little paragraph hides one hell of a feature, one that I think WoW sorely needs and can use. The first portion of party sync is a set of solid quality of life improvements – aligning partied players into the same phase, and showing quest progress for all allies including who is ready to turn in a quest. This is nice and should cut down on confusion with phasing and parties, and the other features are already sort of present via some addons, so great!

Now, the second stretch of this paragraph is what I am really excited for. In addition to the QoL improvements above, a complimentary feature to this, “quest replay” will allow a high-level player who has already completed the quest to do it again, regardless of level, and receive a level-appropriate reward for the quest. What remains to be seen is how this scales – gear rewards might be nice but they’ll also probably cap near the current leveling quest item level, I’d imagine, but gold scaling could be tremendously helpful. It could also be massively exploited for the sake of gold gain or item farming, but requiring a group means that bots will at least have to align and so I imagine the economic impact even at full exploitation would be relatively minor – there are easier ways to earn enchanting mats, gear, and gold, after all.

The final stretch has the most exciting thing for me – a level scaling feature to allow you to scale downwards to run a dungeon at the appropriate level, which, unlike Timewalking, will also remove abilities that are not level-appropriate (basically matching the Level Sync already present in Final Fantasy XIV). My hope is that this also means you could farm acheivements like the Algalon acheivement Herald of the Titans without having to roll an alt from scratch – just party sync to level 80 and the right item level average and run in to do it. I think that this is a great idea, however, it now runs into a bit of a problem with Blizzard’s idealogy for leveling – if I, a long-term WoW player whose lowest-level non-Allied Race alt is 100, want to play with a friend who is brand new to the game, would it be easier to just take one of my remaining 110 characters and level alongside them after they boost a character, or would level sync be the better option? I could see an interesting argument to be had here, but I do think this is a net good for the game, and it can solve some problems that crop up with an experienced player running with a new friend (XP gain rate vs. heirlooms, outleveling your friend, rest discrepancies, one player plays longer than the other or does side quests/gathering with XP gain, etc).

Overall, I have to say, this sounds really cool, and it will be an interesting way to run old content that doesn’t involve downloading and installing classic (plus, you can run Death Knights, Demon Hunters, and Monks through Molten Core as level 60s!).

Recruit-A-Friend Returns…Sorta

The new Recruit-a-Friend is coming with 8.2.5, and with it, a new model for gaining rewards. The old model was basically just tied to the introduction to the game, and as such, your goal with a friend (or a “friend,” in my case where I had 5 extra accounts in order to level alts via multi-boxing with the XP bonus and then grant levels to an additional alt to power-level through the grind on multiple classes!) was to get them to buy the game and pay for one month of subscription, and to level with them on the triple XP bonus.

The new system now folds in both Recruit-a-Friend and the old Scroll of Resurrection system, expanding the focus of the single system to cover both brand new accounts and also returning players, and (in what is almost certainly not a coincidence with the current dire state of MAUs and active subscribers) will reward the recruiter for each month their recruit remains subscribed, rewarding currency that can be used to purchase in-game rewards for the recruiter, with the actual rewards TBA.

Now, I am of two minds on this. On the one hand, with the introduction of party sync and quest replay, I could imagine a world where I sucker my girlfriend into starting a new account and just farm gold by completing quests with her, or even level alts to 120 (assuming that quest replay and party sync also makes for worthwhile XP per hour), and I could get the rewards for doing so. I mean, hell, I already have 7 total WoW accounts (only one active!) because of the old days of RAF rewards and wanting the new mounts that came out every so often (I have the Zhevra, the Rocket, and the Obsidian Nightwing!), and convincing my girlfriend to play would allow me to gain those rewards without having to setup weird multi-boxing setups or seem like a total loser (I’m friends with myself 7 times?). The other side of me sees this as purely cynical – Blizzard really, really wants to drive up subscriber numbers and MAUs by encouraging a recruiter to evangelize for the game over the entire lifecycle of the new player, and convince us to sucker our friends back into the game for rewards. However, as cynical as I feel about it – at least this is the natural cycle of gameplay being encouraged, rather than a pure time-sink, and it brings with it some legitimately good ideas to better enable you to play with your friends who are new. So, overall, I hesitantly give this new RAF system a thumbs-up.

With that, bring on the actual datamining! (soon, please?)

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