Thursday, May 8, 2014

Five "Bad" Things Mists Did Right

There have been a lot of things people have complained about this expansion but there are a few that for the most part, while they might have had some problems, were actually done quite well this expansion.  In my opinion there are the top 5 things that get complained about often that I think mists did right, even if people want to bitch about them.

1) Lesser Charm Collection

When the expansion started and the lesser charms were items in your bags and they did not stack very high I would have been all for complaining about them too right now, if that had never changed that is.  After a few days I had so many stacks of lesser coins I was actually thinking of starting to throw them away but once they were made currency the transition from annoyance to excellent design was complete.

People still complained about them.  Having hundreds or thousands that they would never be able to spend because they were limited to spending 50 (90 at release) per week or because they felt it was something else they needed to grind and complained about how poorly the luck of the roll was with the coins they did get but it is the idea of the collection and spending method of lesser charms was the absolute best addition to the game this expansion as far as functionally goes in my opinion.

I would love to see this method expanded because I think it is great but what makes it so great you might ask and that is what I am writing this to tell you.

For an expansion that was originally marketed as one that should be about choices we had very few this expansion and in fact you could go as far as to say we had none this expansion and you would not be far off.  For an expansion about choices there were very few to be had and lesser charms were one of them.

The word mandatory gets thrown around a lot because this expansion seems to be all about "having" to do this and "having" to do that.  Almost everything ever step of the way had some degree of feeling mandatory to do it, and do it ASAP.  Not lesser charm collection.

About the only thing that limited that feeling was the design for lesser charm collection.  Unlike everything else there was no limit on what you could gain, only on what you could spend.  If you felt like playing a lot that week you could collects hundreds of coins and if you did not feel like playing at all you could spend coins you made from the week you didn't mind collecting them.  The system was limited by what you were allowed to spend each week, not what you were allowed to gain each week.

That is the key to the four letter word, as it has become, called mandatory.  If you were only allowed to get 50 lesser charms per week to trade in then getting those 50 each week felt more so mandatory.  But if you could, like I did, stack up on enough lesser charms in the first few weeks of the expansion that you never needed to worry about them for the rest of the time it was out it completely loses its mandatory requirement.

I have not worried or even cared about lesser coins all expansion.  At least on my main that is.  I never had to worry about running out and collecting 50 lesser coins so I could get my bonus rolls before raid time.  I had enough coins to last forever.  I think I had over 10K lesser charms one month after the expansion came out and that was before they started dropping from mobs, from rares, from pet battles.  Heck, I already had my 5000 pet battle wins before they started dropping from pet battles.  Effectively that meant that for me there was one thing in the game that never felt mandatory on my main and I loved the shit out of having one less thing that felt mandatory.

On alts I was allowed to go the feast or famine route.  Like on some during the barrens quest hub time I would tag along with everyone that would go there on my healing shaman.  Not so much to finish the quest, even if that was the idea, but to collect lesser charms.  I would tag along with a few people here and there and at one point found myself, on a rarely played alt that had never even had a stash of charms was sitting at over 1000 of them.  So I could trade in once a week, build some extra rolls, and if I ever did start playing it, I had a nice stash to work off of for a while.

Lesser charm collection was an amazing change to the currency collection method and I would love to see it expanded and added to everything.  It would greatly lessen the feel of mandatory.  Sure, we might still think getting our bonus rolls are mandatory, and if you do not have a stash of coins you will need to grind for them, but you could get ahead of the game if you wanted to.  So far ahead, like my main, that I never needed to farm for lesser charms this entire expansion.  Not even once did I need to think about it.  Now that is how everything should be designed.  That allows for more choice.  That reduces the feeling of mandatory.  I can't really see how people complained about having 2K coins... how is that a bad thing?  You don't have to grind for them any longer.  That is a good thing people.

Lesser charm collection was the greatest change to currency collection ever added and I would love to see it expanded.  It offers choice, something we usually do not have, and it lessens the feel of mandatory.  Could you just imagine if valor worked that way instead of how it does now?  Where we could collect as much as we damn well please but we only can spend so much each week?

How many times this expansion did I cap valor on a tuesday and then go into the raid already valor capped wish I wasn't "wasting" valor by not being able to collect any?  Dozens, maybe more.  How many times have I started to play an alt and stopped playing it because I was capped and it felt like a waste to keep going because I could not get valor?  Maybe hundreds.

The lesser charms collection, one where you get as many as you want when you want to is a great change and blizzard should roll with it and change everything to a collect and spend method.  Pushing it a little further, wouldn't it be nice if your cloth daily added up.  You forgot to do it for three days so on the forth day you go and make 4 pieces of cloth instead of the one per day because you had 3 days you did not do it saved up?  That would reduce the feeling of mandatory to log in and do it wouldn't it?  It might be different from the lesser charm collection, but it is in the same concept, let us build up things and then spend them when we want to.  Don't limit collection, just limit spending.

2) Flying

I will make a post on the warlords flying in the near future as I have to lot to say about it, as you might expect being I am quite long winded most of the time but this is not about warlords flying, this is about mists flying.

Being we had flying from the start of cataclysm people expected flying from the start of mists and that was not to be.  There was a lot of complaining about it and there still is.  To be honest I am surprised there is not a book like there was near the end of wrath you could send to alts to allow flying at a lower level, but having no flying until max level works.  For as much as people complained and continue to complain about it, it works.

I did not fly in BC until 70, could not fly in wrath until later (78 I think?  don't remember).  We did not need flying from the start.  Leveling and more so seeing the world is so much better on foot even if you hate it every single step of the way.  I think one of the reasons cataclysm sucked so much is because you never really needed to experience any of it.  You just flew over everything.  That is fine and dandy when you are max level and you are just out heading to the raid, or collecting herbs or mining ore but when you are leveling you should need to work your way through a zone, not fly over it.  Opinions might vary of course and listening to people they sure as hell do.

There is something to be said about being on foot however and I think mists did well going back to the no flying until max level approach.  I also like that they added a different type of flying that required you finish a quest line while getting the cloud serpents to exalted.  First off, they did not make the cloud serpents a grind fest.  It was a quick to get to exalted reputation and it was not a golden lotus *shutters*  100 rep per quest 1200 quest adventure.  There were a few quests all offering a fair deal of reputation and it would only take a few days to get to exalted to get that type of flying.

It basically meant that if you wanted it, it was well within the grasp of anyone.  Honestly, I would have liked to see this be how we got flying in Pandaria instead of just playing 2K gold and mounting up.  It makes it more an earned thing, even if earning it was an easy less than 2 week reputation grind, than just spending some pocket change on it.

Either way, no matter what complaint there was about no flying until max level, blizzard did right in not allowing it and they did good in adding a second type of flying that you needed to do something to get.  I really can not side with the complainers on this one or even feel any sympathy for them like I usually do because I can understand the other side of an argument, but on this one I can't, this was something mists did right.

Now if only we could get flying sooner for alts, maybe the first year it was not needed but now with nothing else to do but level alts because we are in a year plus long drought with no new content it is due for hand me down flying in pandaria.  Now is the time for them to do something right with flying again, and make that hand me down book like they did at the end of wrath.

3) Quests, Yes Dailies Too

I'll be the first to say I felt like putting my fist through the monitor a few times just thinking about the quest grind at the beginning of the expansion and I am someone that loves to quest.  Nothing irritated me more than doing 728 (surely an accurate number right) golden lotus dailies each and every day to get reputation at clips so small they were barely noticeable and then even after reaching exalted doing all 728 each day hoping that the end quest would be the crumbling halls which was the only one I needed for the only achievement I was missing under the quests header.  But enough of the complaining about them, as I said, lots of complains about dailies but mists actually did quests and even dailies right as much as we, myself included, complain about some of them.

If you remove the golden lotus tiered questing that felt like it offered no reputation for anything as well as it gated two other reputations and the fact that they locked starting gear behind both reputation and valor (probably the worst decision of the expansion after the 14 month no content decision) questing this expansion was pretty darn fantastic.  It was done better than questing had ever been done before.  Took the best of previous expansion and added to it, took the worse from other expansions and excluded it, and then gave everyone extended options for valor, lesser charms and gold collection at max level.

And all that is just taking about the starting quests.  The stories of the zones where nicely zone centric.  You would have nicely grouped quests that sent you to a single area.  You would get continuation quests that popped up and you did not need to go back just to get it to run back to the same area.  There were more than enough hubs that you could pick and choose which ones you liked and which ones you didn't on subsequent runs through the game leveling characters.  There were a few, but not many, must do quests, and that is part of the reason it was a solid questing design.

At max level there were daily hubs everywhere and there were a nice variety of them, even if it did sometimes seem like the randomizing system was broken when you would need to get goatsneck 5 days in a row, but at least it was entertaining to watch people go flying off the mountain.

The leveling quests were nicely designed and the dailies gave people things to do if they wanted to (and if they were not tied the rep or the only way to get coins at the start they would have never been considered mandatory) but it does not end there.  Their quest design and story telling throughout the entire expansion through the quests went from good at the start to better as it went along.

Landfall offered one hell of a story line from both sides of the coin and anyone that has not done both sides is doing themselves a disservice.  Seriously, go level a horde or alliance alt, the other side, and do them.  The reputation moved along fast enough, the number of quests was reasonable for a daily hub and the story that it told as you did it with incremental side quests was perfect and in a world where doing things multiple times seems kind of useless this one never felt forced if you did it twice, it truly felt like a do it if you wanted to do it endeavor which is absolute questing perfection.

While no other quest additions came to match the landfall experience for well designed questing that does not mean that we were left with no good additions.  The Isle of Thunder added its own questing experience that came along with the opening of the island as people progressed through the quest line at a server wide pace which is a nice touch and something we had not seen in quite a while.  Oddly enough the stating quests seemed more random than the ending quests once you opened it all up.  Seems kind of off that when everything was opened we always basically had the same last few quests every single day.  They should have mixed that up a little more but over all it was good.  And let us not forget the solo scenarios that worked as a story telling vehicle throughout the opening of the island.  I just wish that once you had finished them all that they had a random solo scenario each week you could do for 25 valor and repeat the ones you did, so if you ever wanted to go back and see them there would be a way to.  But over all that quest hub was a plus once again.

The barrens quest hub was more a single weekly with a story telling arc.  Just like landfall if you did not do both sides of this you did yourself a disservice, but sorry if I am the bearer of bad news to some as it has been removed now and you can never see either side of the story again.  The quest line was a nice little hub, longer on the horde side, and told a bit of story.  It showed that blizzard understood that each new quest line or hub did not need to be in "current" content, they could have quests anywhere as long as it forwarded the story, and this did.  Lets not mention that the weekly became an excellent way to get valor if you could find a group to grind out supplies.  At the point I had alts galore parked there with all their supplies in their bag waiting for me to cap my main and then they would all start the week with 300 valor.  Not a bad start to the week.

Then came timeless island, probably the worst questing the expansion had seen so far.  Sure the introduction quests where fine and dandy but after that we were left with one daily, two weekly's and basically nothing else to do but run around the island and kill stuff.  While it was amazingly fun to start, it wore out its welcome fast and shows that blizzard can still fuck up a good thing.  For an expansion that was so well done with quests, outside of the weekly visions of time, this hub offered nothing but boredom on the questing front.

Over all questing, even dailies, were awesome in mists.  Blizzard took everything that could be done right with questing and did it.  They did a few things wrong as well, but over all as much as we complain about the questing and dailies more so, it was not the questing that was bad, it was what blizzard tied to it that made it feel mandatory that made them feel bad.  So when people were complain about the questing they were not actually complaining about the quests, at least I do not think so, they were all done well except for the golden lotus, they were complaining about the mandatory feeling.  The feeling they needed to do it for reputation, the feeling they needed to do it for lesser coins, the feeling they needed to do it for valor or what have you.  The quests were fine, what blizzard tied to them was not.

I want to see a lot more of this sort of quest design in warlords.  Not so much timeless quest design as that was dreadful and the one true down point of questing in mists, but as it seems blizzard seems to be pushing things more in that direction.

Public service announcement for blizzard.   Timeless island was fun for 15 minutes.  Do not make warlords one big timeless island, it will get boring and frustrating really fast.  It is fine for one small island for patch release content, it will not be fun on a world wide scale.  Even more so with no flying and rare spawns that die so fast that unless you are standing on them when they spawn you will never get a hit in.  This is not a replacement for questing.  Look at the starting quest hubs like tillers, anglers, shado-pan, celestials, and the landfall story telling daily arc for how end game questing should be done.  None of this kill 5 rares bull shit.

Mists did questing right from the leveling hubs to the daily hubs to the story telling hubs.  Each and every step of the way there was something to like, again, with the exception of golden lotus and timeless island questing.  Complain as you might about questing, but mists had the best questing of any expansion we have seen thus far.

4 & 5) Pandaria & The Pandaren

If I were to print out every page online I have seen complaining about the oriental theme of pandaria and the cartoonish silly nature of the pandaren I could probably wall paper every single building in manhattan, twice.

I'll be the first to admit I was not into the idea of an expansion with all oriental design or a world with a bunch of king fu pandas running around but unlike every one else I really did not care.  Game play trumps all to me.  Always has and always will.  I can live with things I do not like to some extent as long as they do not go full on stupid and as it seems from the complaints most people believed before the expansion came out that it would go full on stupid.  Even after the expansions release some still say the same.  A day does not go by where someone will not post on some forum somewhere that having an expansion with an oriental setting or filled with pandas has destroyed warcraft.

I am here to respectfully disagree and say that the addition of the culture and race was one of those bad things that blizzard did right.  The way they managed to do it right is by not being heavy handed with anything they did while implementing the culture or the race.

While many people have said, and rightfully so, that the culture on pandaria is clearly one of oriental inspiration they did not go over board with it.  It is not completely covering the entire continent.  There is a great deal of additional culture around that does not follow the idea that the entire expansion is based on an oriental design like most complaints say it is.

The pandarian culture is no more egregiously stealing from oriental culture than the tauren culture steals from the native american culture.  Speaking of the tauren stealing from the native american culture it was interesting to see that their brothers, the yungol, also seem to have a base in the same culture even if the two "brothers" have been separated for an extremely long time.

And that brings me to my point, the oriental backdrop is just there as a backdrop for the race that was added, it is their culture and this is their land.  So while it does seem to be around a lot this expansion it is because this expansion is based on their continent and introducing their race but it is not the only culture we get to see.  There are a lot of designs on pandaria that are in no way shape or form inspired by the oriental culture.  They did not over do it, they did not make an entire expansion based on it, it was just one race and their cites.  Same as all other races have in their cities that were obliviously inspired by their real life counterpart culture in terms of architecture and dress.

As for the pandas themselves it was easy to believe that they would end up being the joke of all jokes.  It was easy to imagine Po the kung fu panda when playing a pandaren monk and thinking of it as silly kids stuff not meant for the more older teen and adult audience that warcraft seems to attract but images aside they ended up being nothing even closely resembling the joke people complained they would be, or still complain they are.

Outside of the over the top death animation, which I love mind you, there is not a great deal silly about the pandaren at all.  They are just like any other race.  In truth, even if people pictured they would be a joke, I can not think of one single occurrence that could even come close to reaching the level of comic relief that goblins often give us, or gnomes often give us, and that is all done on purpose to be funny.

The pandaren never really seem to delve into that area of comic relief and the only one that I came even close to thinking was being used in an effort to get into that role of comic relief was Chen's niece Li Li with her comments when you are leading her around in the valley of the four winds.  But it does not reach the level of silliness that our good old buddy Budd reaches on a daily basis in many expansions, and he is human.

In the end Li Li does not seem like a silly panda, she seems like the average tween to teenage girl.  Just listen to the things she says and then go with your teenage daughter or any young girl and listen to the stuff she says and then tell me that she is not cut from the same cloth that Li Li is.  Li Li is not some silly panda, she is a smart ass teenage girl.

She is normal and so are the pandaren, no different than any other race and most definitely not a joke race.  That distinction still belongs to the gnomes.  In the end, and because they had such a build up that they were meant to be a joke, to be silly, the pandaren are a well rounded (no pun intended) race that comes off no different than any other race and to me that means blizzard did something really right because pulling that off was a huge up hill battle when everyone expected them to be a joke.

So there you go, five "bad" things about mists that blizzard actually got right, no matter who complains about them.


  1. I mostly agree with your observations. I think that the only thing that would have made lesser charms better would have been to allow you to purchase the older greater charms directly, instead of locking them to the latest token.

    As far as flying goes, I would have preferred the WotLK model over the current one. I would even be fine if you had to get to 90 once without flying (it was 77 in WotLK), but the older expansion allowed you to buy flight for your alts once you hit 80 in patch 3.2.

    That leads to quests, and I agree completely. My only gripe is that after the first half dozen or so alts get to 90 it all gets stale. I only go to Timeless to for the weekly bosses and my lesser charm farming. Meh.

    I may be biased on the last two points, but I was looking forward to the Pandaren and Blizz did not disappoint. It was a nice mix and tastefully done.

    1. Yes, absolutely, I agree. You should have continued to be able to do all lesser charm turn in quests. If you wanted to get elders, mogu and seals each week you should be able to get all three by spending 150. Agreed.

      I had forgot when we learned flight. Thought it was storm peaks so that I why I thought 78 but I swear, I originally typed 77 and went back and changed it thinking I was wrong. I loved when the pass me down book came out. I bought it for all my characters.

      I did not really have a like or dislike opinion on the pandas. I was worried they might go kiddie with it, but I was surprised at how well they were handled.

  2. I'd like them to turn the Darkmoon Faire tokens into currency one of these patches. It'd save me a bag slot.

    1. That would be a nice change. I have tons of them on all characters too but at least they are only 1 bag slot for me. I had a bank bag full and a normal bag full when they changed lesser charms to currency. lol

  3. I heartily agree with your assessment of the lesser charms, first thing I do on Tuesday is spend them. Wish I could spend them on older bonus rolls though, it would help alts get gear for SoO faster. I wish there were more things to spend them on, right now my huge piles will go forever unexhausted and while I'm glad I don't need to farm them, I get the itch to spend and can't :) I like the idea of valor like that, although I think it would be harder for them to balance spending because of the wildly different prices for some of the pieces. Building up daily cds is awesome, or like dreamcloth for cata, once a week on a few, much better. I waste too much time daily hitting all my crafting cds, because if I don't they go to waste.

    I also agree with the flying point, I loved being forced to see the world the first time, especially with how gorgeous and well done the landscape was in Pandaria. I did the brewfathers achievement before I had flying and it was awesome to climb the heights and see the amazing vistas (and also get some vertigo and nervousness about possibly falling off that huge mountain in Kun-Lai with the tiny path to the top :) And Cloud Serpents, perfect example of the 'mini-grind' I wish the other reps had, not those god awful 100 rep GL dailies that too over a month to hit exalted. I've never done any of them on alts, except to open specific crafting recipes, they take too long.

    I'm not as annoyed about alts not being able to fly as some it seems, the questing is linear enough that I'm never far enough from the next quest hub that I feel being unable to fly slows me down terribly. It would be nice to have a way to give alts flying, but for me its not been a hinderance. But to each their own.

    Your assessment of questing is spot on, I too hope WoD does it like MoP, although I think the daily complaints resulted in Timeless, which sounds more and more like how they plan to do WoD :( God I hope not.

    As for the Pandarians and Pandaria, I was amazed and blown away at how well they did it. I think the oriental theme was the best choice they could've done. One of the benefits of using real world cultures as a jumping off point is the depth of material to steal. Also, the idiosyncrasies that cultures build up over time seem more 'real' than anything a fantasy author can make up in a couple of months, the contradictions are something authors never get right. It goes back to 'truth is stranger than fiction.' You can't make up real world stuff, it's too weird for anyone/group to ever pull together in a believable fashion. Instead you get most of WoW, which is so bland and generic that it feels throw away, it would've been better for them to use an example human culture (or a blending of 2) for each, it would've given more diversity and interest, being far more memorable.

    The blood elves and to a lesser extent the Draenai, have the best architecture in the game, and its awesome its completely made up, but it's hard to pull that off well for all of the cultures. Icecrown and the titan stuff are also pretty good.

    Pandaria was awesome - architecture - awesome traditional oriental, the culture was honor, peace, respect, and drunkenness - pick a few traits of a culture and just caricature it, no need to model every aspect faithfully.

    1. I agree that we should be allowed to get older charms with them but not sure what more we should be able to buy with them. If they added more, even more so good things, it would start to feel like we "must" grind them. As it is now once you have a nice stash you never feel that way. That is why it is a winner of an idea in my opinion.

      I am not annoyed with alts being able to fly, but with 18 90s already I would not mind skipping the ground route now and just going faster to objectives.

      Yeap, it seems that they are going to try and do the timeless island on a larger basis and that is going to suck on a level of sucking like we have never seen before. It is fine design for a content patch that is meant to keep us entertained for a short time. Not as the basis for an entire world for an entire expansion. It sucks trying to get to a rare on one little island as it is, how fun will it be when rares are being called out all over the world and you can get to none of them, ever.

  4. Completely agree on lesser charms collection, flying and quests (Isle of Thunder >>> Timeless Isle), but disagree somewhat on pandas.

    After all the expansion, how pandas fit into lore? Apart from current events, there's a bit of a tie via zandalari, and maybe one or two other, smaller bits. That's it. OK, so, what is their role in current events? Uhm, Taran Zhu spent a lot of time lecturing the Alliance (somewhat less the Horde) on how to do things and the continent suffered from Garrosh's digging and unleashing the evils. No panda did anything useful, no panda heroes, several pandas played sidekick for Vol'jin and that appears to be their ceiling. Ah, yes, the Celestials "judged" Garrosh (if you didn't read Golden's novel yet, I will just quickly say that after Garrosh manages to escape the "trial", the Celestials don't blink an eye and say they feel that "justice has been done", a complete farce even for Golden). A complete and total meh. And how pandas will tie into lore going forward? Well, nohow. There will likely be a token panda guy in whatever is going to be everyone's capital in the new Draenor, but otherwise pandas won't be remembered.

    Compare to one of the real races like night elves or, heck, even underdeveloped taurens... Even goblins make more sense than pandas, and that would have held even if goblins weren't made into a playable race in Cata. Goblins feel like part of the world, pandas feel like part of a small corner of the world. Like wolvars in Sholazar Basin.

    The technical side of pandaria - the architecture, the ornaments, the cloud serpents, the items, etc - was fine. As to the lore and pandaria making sense other than for killing a couple of mantids or mogus and making a pretty selfie, well, that's another story...

    1. Panda have always been hidden. With the exception of a few, very few, there has been no contact with the rest of the world, so there is little lore in "our" world with them.

      Everything from now on will involve them. Have to see if they keep writing them up and in or completely ignore them after they were added just like they have every other race they added. My money is on they will ignore them.