Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 12.54.19 AM

To All Things comes an End

“All good things must come to an end.” …Or so they say.

Even as I write this, finally making real the words that have been drifting in my mind for months, it is hard to believe that we’re here. As the preceding post suggested, 11 years later, it’s time for me to move on from the World of Warcraft – at least, for now.

I made this decision in March of 2016, knowing it would be “difficult” to pen down my final thoughts before I took the plunge. I did not, however, anticipate how hard all of you wonderful people would make doing this. I did not anticipate how hard nostalgia would hit, how emotional the whole experience would be.
But then again, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ironically, if it were only a matter of playing the game then I would not have bothered writing this. Let’s be honest: My absence from World of Warcraft would have been no more or less significant than that of any other player. I could choose not to play for a couple of months, come back for a few days and then go right back to not playing again.

It’s never that simple though, is it? My connection to WoW goes beyond “just playing” – it extends into the myriad of communities that have formed around this game. It touches deeply personal relationships that I’ve forged with people over the course of my stay in Azeroth. I have responsibilities, connections and expectations placed on me that necessitate my writing of something like this.

As a warning: My last post was largely about good memories, feels and generally upbeat trends. This post, however, covers more negative and harsh topics. I am, after all, writing about the rationale and reasons behind my decision to walk away from something that has meant a great deal to me. For some of you, who’ve been messaging me about how much you enjoyed my writing and my take on things, this may end up being a little more blunt than you are used to. If you aren’t in the mood to deal with such topics, I suggest turning away now.

Still with me? Without further ado, let’s begin.Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 12.40.11 pm

The plan

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after watching people blog about how they plan to quit World of Warcraft, it’s that making bold declarations and commitments in the heat of the moment almost inevitably leads to coming back with one’s tail tucked between their legs later on.

This is why I’ve been careful to state that I only plan to leave WoW and the community “for now”. The current commitment I’ve made to myself, one that I believe will be relatively easy to live up to, is that starting on the day that the 7.0 prepatch hits I will begin a three month long hiatus from Warcraft.

As I noted earlier however, this doesn’t just mean not playing the game.
It means no longer tweeting from my @MagdalenaDK account. It means resigning from my position as a Death Knight columnist at Blizzard Watch. It means ceasing all blogging and communications in the mediums that are associated with my WoW identity. It also meant having to say “No” to places such as Wowhead when the time came to decide whether or not I was going to write the 7.0 Legion Death Knight guides. Most painfully, it means taking a hiatus from the #Acherus community – which I helped found and then took full ownership of from 2011 up until now with no interruptions.

Thus, for the months of August, September and most of October, you likely won’t see me in any capacity barring serious emergencies that require my personal attention. Following that however, I make no commitments. I don’t want readers thinking that I’ll make a sudden return to Azeroth because an arbitrary amount of time has passed. One thing I’ve observed over the years is that it seems to be easier for people to stay away from the pull of returning the longer they’ve been gone. Whether or not that will be the case for me remains to be seen, which is partly why I wanted to list a “strictly gone” period that didn’t feel overly punitive.

The thing is, even if I do return to playing WoW one day, I’m also very much aware that things are never going to go back to the way they were. It’s not just a matter of missing content when it’s fresh, but also of missing events, happenings and also communities evolving. Most importantly: Leaving also means saying goodbye to a lot of people that I consider friends. More on that later.Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.31.44 am

The Why (Game)

In public, I’ve made vague allusions to strongly disliking the direction of Legion and the design behind 7.0 DK. In semi-private spaces such as #Acherus and among friend groups, I’ve been somewhat louder and more vocal about this dislike. Strangely though, to me, it feels as if I’ve largely kept my silence, screaming inside and keeping my thoughts bottled up.

Why is this? Because writing all of my thoughts down, giving them form and putting in the time/effort needed to get them to a standard where I’m personally satisfied with their clarity is an exceptionally taxing matter. My thought process, when it comes to analysing features or changes, is approaching the issue from multiple angles and trying to put forward an argument that also accounts for potential counterarguments; I’d like to think that a great deal of my existing writing reflects this as well.

In many ways, I am my own worst critic – any serious writer can tell you about the number of half formed ideas, thoughts and incoherent ramblings that never make it past the furrowed ridge between their brows due to the paralysing indecision one’s own mind conjures up. Despite having such a cacophony in the back of my mind, when Legion changes first began to appear I tweeted about a “massive googledoc” I was writing concerning my thoughts on Death Knights. Even with self-doubts and with the problem of indecision, I resolved to put that document out there. I saw it as a responsibility and as something that could potentially avert the level of changes that I saw.

Unfortunately, as many of you have probably guessed, that enthusiasm eventually faded and gave way to despair. With every Legion Alpha build seemingly pushing forward changes that I increasingly disliked, the question of “Why are you bothering to do this?” rang louder and louder in my mind. My biggest regret, at this point, is that that googledoc will never see the light of day. There are roughly 40 or so pages of it lying dormant somewhere – but I doubt I’ll ever release them to the public.

I’ve seen enough speculation about my reasons for quitting, so let me state this unequivocally: I am quitting World of Warcraft because I strongly dislike the design behind Legion as well as the general direction in which the game is going. This includes class design, systems such as Artifacts, bonus loot, legendaries and more. At the forefront of all this is the design of the Legion DK, which to me heralds the end of the class that I have loved and played for so long.

While I believe that there are certainly positive aspects to Legion design, the negatives outweigh them to such a degree that I no longer consider the game to be one that I have any interest in investing the amount of attention to that I have in the past. Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 2.42.37 am

On “burnout”

I want to address a topic that multiple people have brought up to me over the past few days. Given the number of responsibilities I’ve had as a raider, a community leader, a columnist and also as a figure in the Warcraft community, it has been suggested to me that the “real” reason I’m leaving is due to burnout and that my lack of interest in Legion is more a matter of deflection than a serious reason to make this decision.

As I did above, let me state this clearly and for the record: This is absolute nonsense.

If it were truly something as simple as burnout, then what these suggestions would imply is that all I need is a “cooling off” period before coming back and cheerfully romping around Azeroth once again. Were this the case, don’t you think I would have left a long time ago? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to simply skip the great content droughts of 2014 (i.e. 14 months of Siege of Orgrimmar) and 2016 (i.e. 16 total months of Hellfire Citadel)? Heck, why stop there – wouldn’t it have made more sense to simply leave during Wrath of the Lich King when Icecrown Citadel lasted a full year?

Leaving aside the highly condescending and smug rationale behind trying to authoritatively declare that someone’s own reasoning for their actions in such a matter is at fault (this very much applies to several players and to a number of WoW developers as well), something I need people to understand is that the burdens and stresses I’ve taken on during my time in this game and this community have been voluntary.

-I chose to get involved with the Death Knight community.
-I chose to build that community into what it is today.
-I chose to become a guide writer, to become a community figure associated with the class.
-I chose to believe developer promises about how useful my continuing feedback was.

More importantly: Three of the above points are responsibilities and commitments that I would still be willing to shoulder going forward, if I intended to play the game and remain engaged with the community. Simply being “burnt out” would likely cause me to suddenly abandon all responsibility and simply disappear without warning – which is obviously not the case here.

What I’m trying to get at here is that in the past, despite there being aspects to the game that I did not enjoy, I’ve always had a reason to keep logging in. I may strongly disagree with some portions of how Blizzard has conducted itself and its design of the game, but the product and the community combined gave me enough reasons to stick around… Most of the time, anyway. If it was genuinely a matter of just needing to go away for a bit, I could make excuses to all of you about why I need to go.

I could tell you that I’m looking to leave my current job for a more senior position that also requires more hours than I was putting in before. True.

I could tell you that an elderly relative has fallen gravely ill and requires my attention several times a week for prolonged periods. Also true.

I could tell you that I recently discovered I’m the heir to a great fortune, and plan to devote lots more time towards utilising my wealth travelling the world. Not true, but isn’t that a nice thought?

Ultimately though, the hard truth is that I could still devote time to playing WoW and being active in the community if I were inclined to do so. Thus, it isn’t a matter of not having the time or simply needing a break – it’s the fact that I simply can’t reconcile my desire to play the game with my dislike of the new systems Legion introduces. Until (and unless) I get past that mental block, I can’t see myself playing and enjoying myself.Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 2.37.14 pm

The How (i.e. making the decision to leave)

The irony of the “burnout” suggestion is that my ultimate decision to leave World of Warcraft and the community came about in a way that I could only describe as being the polar opposite of the aforementioned phenomenon. When flying was first announced as having been cancelled in Warlords, my first reaction was to go to my account and immediately cancel my recurring subscription to the game. Belatedly, I realised that I had been exactly two days too late: My account had already been billed for an additional six months of game time, and I’d used several tokens from the Auction House a few days prior. As such, my time in the game was “guaranteed” until at least March.

At the time, as I noted during my discussion about flying, I had decided that even if I quit during the current expansion (which ended up not happening because flying did indeed come back), I would “try out” 7.0. Although Legion wasn’t public knowledge at the time, I had a general idea about some of the new features the expansion would introduce and was interested enough that my distaste for how Warlords of Draenor was unfolding was overshadowed by this interest.

Then, shortly after Blizzcon, the Legion Alpha began.
Suddenly I was able to test out Demon Hunters, class changes, Artifacts and more. With every build that came, my disbelief and despair with the state of changes grew wider. I tried to convince myself that it was just shock – that I simply needed to give these systems a chance, and that my experience could be pegged down to Alpha being buggy, or what have you. Sadly, this did nothing to dispel the bleak contrast I felt when I logged into the game on Live versus Alpha.

I recall mentally scolding myself: What’s wrong with you? Warlords has been a terrible expansion on the whole, and has had no new content for months. You should be enjoying the chance to play this! Demon Hunters, hello?!

For nearly five months, I made excuses excuses to myself. I bargained and tried to rationalise my own doubts about Legion. Indeed, the irony of hearing people accuse me of “burnout” or of simply “not giving the changes a chance” is heightened by the fact that these very words surfaced as internal struggles within me long before anyone else vocalised them.

I was miserable.
I’d agonise over whether I’d play Legion, whether I’d switch classes and whether I’d be able to continue doing for the community what I had thus far done uninterrupted for so long. All of this was with the constant reminder of how much I disliked the gameplay Legion is set to introduce every time I logged into Alpha.

It was on a March night, just as the weather had begun to warm up after February’s icy grip had loosened, that an epiphany struck me. I remember the same questions echoing in my mind, disturbing my attempts to sleep and get some rest – when suddenly I sat bolt upright. It was almost as if someone else’s voice was speaking, but for the first time things started making sense.

This is a game. You began playing it to have fun. It grew into much more, but the basis of continuing to play has and always will be dependent on how much fun you’re having. If you are so fraught with internal conflict over the mere prospect of still playing this game, isn’t that a clear sign that it’s time to get going?

I actually laughed out loud to myself when I came to this realisation. I won’t claim that it was a simple decision to make, but viewed from the angle that I eventually did, it was an obvious one. It was never, I realised, a question of whether or not I should speak up about how I felt about the expansion but rather one of whether or not I should even play the expansion. Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 4.59.31 pm

Savouring the end

Once I’d made the decision to quit at a set time, everything else seemed to fall into place. With a definite sight in end, it felt as if a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I no longer needed to worry about giving feedback or a sense of guilt towards not doing everything that I could to serve my community better.

I began logging into the game on Live with a new zest and appreciation for the things around me. I completed long-term goals such as acquiring “The Insane”, obtaining 300 mounts, concluding some challenging solo kills, hunting elusive achievements and just plain enjoying the game for what it was. Indeed, the more time I spent playing the game on Live, the more my conviction that the course of action I had resolved to take was the correct one increased. Even with what a poor expansion Warlords of Draenor has been in terms of its content and story, the gameplay of my class has never felt better – and I was determined to enjoy every moment of it that I could. This didn’t stop me from voicing my criticisms about Legion changes as they were unveiled, but the difference was that I did not allow those criticisms to consume me. A lot of my public tone prior to March wasn’t just critical of Legion, but bitterly so because I saw it as “ruining” the game I had enjoyed thus far. Now that I had no personal stake in the Legion pony, I was able to have a much more pleasant time during my remaining months.

Even now, as I write these words, I smile as I recall how much fun I’ve had over the past four months.

-I got to raid with my friends on both Horde and Alliance.
-I got to help followers and acquaintances get some of their first kills on tough progression bosses their guilds were working on.
-I got to experience the depth and gameplay behind talents such as Breath of Sindragosa to their absolute maximum.
-I got to come up with a variety of fun contests, Beta streams and giveaways methods for the Beta keys that a friend at Blizzard gave me to hand out.
And so on.

In short: The past couple of months have been my swan song within the game, and I’m cognizant of how lucky I am to be able to set the terms of my departure so precisely. How many times have we heard stories of players forced to quit because of real life circumstance, or because they suddenly became so fed up with the game that they pulled the plug without warning? I get to defy that trend and make a relatively graceful exit with largely good memories and good feelings intact. That’s more than most people can ask for, and I’m only happy that that I’ve been able to do it this way. Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.29.35 am

Interlude: Demon Hunters, main switching and the crux of Legion

As a warning, this section is likely going to read as the the most “feedback”-esque of this entire blogpost, since I point to some of my specific dislikes about Legion features. I do want to be clear though: It is not intended to function as such. I don’t plan to offer a comprehensive argument about why I dislike something about Legion, and nor do I want “gotcha!”-type comments trying to use them as a basis for starting flamewars on here. I am, after all, long past the point where I thought it worthwhile to craft a constructive, coherent piece of genuine feedback for a group of people that I do not believe deserve it.

Because I know that it will be asked, I’m going to answer a question that I know some of you have posed to me before: Yes, I did seriously consider main switching. Yes, the choice I made would likely have been a Demon Hunter.

This answer is less surprising when considering the fact that Demon Hunters were some of my favourite units to play in Warcraft III. If, back then, you’d asked me whether I enjoyed the story/theme behind Demon Hunters or Death Knights more, I would have been unable to give you an answer. I spent three solid months playing my Demon Hunter on Alpha (for at least 20 or more hours a week) and learning the intricacies behind the class. In the end however, I realised that it didn’t compare to the mechanics on Live that I love about my Death Knight.

What was my assessment of Demon Hunters, based on the time I spent playing one?
I consider the class to be an excellent representation of Blizzard’s intention behind 7.0 design – not just limited to classes, but to how the expansion itself fits its intended audience. Demon Hunter has a lot of “flash” going for it. I do not solely refer to combat animations or spell effects, but the fact that abilities such as Fel Rush, double jump, Glide, and so on, bring a very immediate and visceral level of satisfaction when playing. It it only after playing the class for a prolonged period of time – months, perhaps- that the true hollowness behind its rotational depth becomes apparent. Instead of the depth and reliance on precision that I’ve grown to love about Death Knight on Live, Demon Hunters seem to be more about RNG being incorporated into their base rotations, and the elusive chase towards a tangible “skill cap” towards facets of their play is largely unreachable.

This fits the greater whole of 7.0 class design very well, especially in the DPS department. Kris Zeirhut himself made sure to mention that “…more unpredictability to respond to in combat” was part of the core design behind Legion classes. In many ways, this gels in very well with the random nature of other systems, such as Warforged/Titanforged gear, legendary drops, Mythic dungeon affixes changing by week, Artifact Power acquisition, endless grinds and so on.

Along with this is a reduction in the number of buttons, abilities and, most importantly, toolkits that most existing classes have had up until Legion. Going off of Death Knight alone, the number of abilities that have been removed, made PvP exclusive or made spec-exclusive in Legion far dwarfs the “ability prune” of Warlords – and I am told that the same applies to many other specs in Legion. While Blizzard claims that a great deal of this complexity now comes in the form of talents that we can “choose” to opt into, the reality of balance in Beta thus far has suggested an overwhelming bias towards passive talents.

Even if we accept that this is just a consequence of unfinished tuning and that an ideal world would put active talents ahead of passive ones when utilised correctly (Hint: In multiple specs, this simply won’t be the case regardless of numbers), the fact remains that the average count of abilities and spec toolkits in Legion has shrunk a great deal. I’ve also ranted and railed about how disappointed I am in the direction that Blizzard has taken Tanking in Legion, whereby the role seems to be headed back to a world where an overwhelming majority of its survival is in the hands of healers, DPS is largely a byproduct of “Tanking” itself rather than an active choice made by the Tank

Why do I think that Blizzard is moving towards such design? Why simplify baseline class design and add in so many systems of RNG? Why place an emphasis on flashiness and immediate satisfaction at the cost of long-term depth? My mind keeps going back to something that Watcher (Ion Hazzikostas) stated during an interview when he was questioned about the drop in subscriber numbers during Warlords of Draenor. He spoke about the “cyclical nature” of the playerbase, and how World of Warcraft was no longer seen as a constant investment by this demographic.

I believe that Legion as an expansion caters most strongly to such a demographic. These are the type of people that subscribe to the game for two or three months, allow their subscription to lapse for a few to follow, and are then back to playing when a new tier of content is released. Imagine, for a moment, if you were such a player. The fact that there are so many potential ways to “get lucky” or to have RNG work in your favour with rotations, with acquisitions and also without feeling like you have a ton of catchup to work on will be wonderful. Such a playerbase would likely not even stick around long enough to feel bored by the constant effect of RNG on everything that they do (i.e. “I’ve gotten so much better at my spec, I’m so tired of not being able to exert more control over it!”).

Legion hits just the sweet spot that would keep World of Warcraft worth coming back on a semi-regular basis, without really investing a huge amount into the game for these players. Themes such as instant gratification (which is very much what good rotational RNG, Titanforged/Legendary drops and so on) as well as an emphasis on “flashiness” with features such as new combat/spell animations, a revamped Transmogrification system and what have you are likely to be a much bigger draw for this demographic proportionally speaking, compared to the type of player that is more interested in long-term gameplay and the nuances that accomplish it.

Because I know that somebody will inevitably bring it up, I’ll also touch on Artifact design: Yes, these items do indeed represent massive time sinks for the truly dedicated. At last count, I believe investing Artifact Power into the 14th trait on an Artifact exceeded the combined cost of the previous 13th. However, it is also important to consider what the final traits on these items are: Largely flat % increases that increase a role’s baseline effectiveness. There is nothing exciting nor particularly compelling about this final stage of the long-term grind, and that is precisely why I do not believe that players who are not invested in World of Warcraft as a long-term venture will treat this “final grind” as being cumbersome or annoying, given that they are not likely to be the type of players that would move mountains for what are ultimately very small and not very satisfying incremental gains.

All this is a perfectly valid way to design a game – just not one I’m interested in investing myself into like I have with WoW thus far.Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 5.54.51 PM

On subjectivity and the game to follow

Having spent time criticising and dissecting what I dislike about Legion (albeit on a fairly superficial level, most of you probably know how much into the true minutiae of analysis I can delve into), it’s also important for me to state something else: My criticisms are mine alone. They aren’t intended to persuade anyone reading this about how they should feel about Legion or about the direction in which the game is headed. If you’re able to relate to some of them, then I’m glad that you’re able to see you aren’t alone.

At the same time: Please don’t feel insulted or guilty if you’re excited about Legion or genuinely believe that its systems present considerable improvements. In my community alone, I’ve seen multiple individuals praise the design of 7.0 DK, tell me that they’re excited for Legion and that they’re much happier with the prospect of what Legion brings for the class compared to Warlords.

And you know what? That’s great. At the end of the day my dislike for Legion and for the general direction of WoW, however strong and passionately argued as they might be, is mine alone. Expecting anyone else to have some sort of obligation to feel the same way is just silly.

If you are among the many players that I’m confident will enjoy Legion, will find all the systems I’ve described fun and could even see yourselves fitting the cyclical demographic that I mentioned then I’m certain you’re going to have a fantastic time with the game in the near future. Something that I’ve read on multiple forums and that even some players in #Acherus themselves have said in relation to class changes is that they were quite happy if the amount of steps it took to get them to master a talent or playstyle to a level acceptable for their intended level of content was greatly reduced. One example, for instance, was comparing the fact that you could potentially get as much gain from using the new Summon Val’kyr talent for Unholy DKs compared to the Breath of Sindragosa playstyle that’s been prevalent throughout most of Warlords.

While I do not believe that I will ever be able to relate to such a mindset, I don’t plan on lambasting players for holding it as well. For some of you, the priority of gameplay might come secondary to how you conceive of the game’s narrative or the fantasy behind the character you’re playing (for the record, I’ve said that Death Knight fantasy if far weaker rather than stronger in Legion – but maybe you disagree).

It would be foolish of me to try and argue that Legion heralds some sort of “death” or “end” to WoW when that simply isn’t true. Even with all the massive subscriber losses the game saw in Warlords, it managed to retain the title of the most popular subscriber based MMO in the market. Considering the fact that it’s held this distinction for over a decade, that’s pretty impressive for a single game running on a relatively outdated engine.

As such, allow me to repeat myself: If you’re excited for Legion and genuinely look forward to playing it, then I wish you all the best and hope that you find the same joy and wonder in the expansion that I did in this game for many years. Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 5.27.42 pm

Dealing with the Blues

Titular puns aside (do you like the shot of Watcher?), I’m aware that this is the section many of you have simultaneously been looking forward to and also dreading. It’s been hard for me to write this section myself – I’ve oscillated between being too harsh and also going on the opposite end of the spectrum where it largely felt disingenuous not to address what legitimate grievances I had.

I’m going to start off with a disclaimer: If you scrolled down to this section hoping to see lots of flaming, bridge burning and Blizzard bashing by me, you’re likely going to be disappointed. This isn’t because I’ve suddenly developed a sense of concern for the few people that I’ve been disgusted and disillusioned by for months, but largely because I do not believe that betraying their confidence and leaking every single communique that I found objectionable will be productive. It won’t change the attitudes of these few individuals, it will hurt and cause harm to people that I care about, and quite frankly it just isn’t something I consider to be in my style.
That said, I haven’t held back from voicing my frustrations either.

Additionally, it would be wrong to give readers the impression that I’m disappointed with a large swathe of people. Saying that I was disgusted with “Blizzard” would be silly, considering that it would mean an entire company with diverse teams working on different games, many of which I hope to enjoy for years to come. Saying “The Warcraft team” would also be patently false as well – I’ve never been more impressed with the art and zone design teams, as well as the music composers working on World of Warcraft. I still enjoyed some of the zone story quests that I encountered in Legion, and I’m likely to hold fond memories of all the content that’s been delivered in the past.

Finally, I also want to acknowledge the hard work that some of my own friends such as Katherine ‘Heartless’ Joplin, Anthony ‘Skullflower’ Trejo and Nathan ‘Zinnin’ Kilker have put in, among many others. While I can’t speak for the many faces behind the project, I can say with confidence that both Skullflower and Zinnin put in a massive amount of work as part of QA, often when faced with fairly ridiculous limitations. Regardless of how much I dislike Legion as an expansion, full respect to them.

But let’s move on to why many of you are really reading this. Rather than simply tell you about my own personal experiences with Blizzard’s developers and the feedback process, I want to share several personal points that I’ve reflected on over the past couple of weeks. Some of these points will only be relatable to people that have been in a position somewhat similar to mine, and I apologise in advance if that makes them a little harder to relate to. Regardless, here we go:

1. World of Warcraft’s developers do not deserve your rudeness… And nor do you deserve theirs.

I wanted to begin with a topic that directly addresses where a great deal of my anger and frustration with the developers that I used to directly address comes from. In the past, I’ve scolded peers who I’ve seen engage in personal attacks on Blizzard employees on the forums, Twitter, etc. My reasoning was that no matter how frustrated you might be with the direction of the game or with a particular change, taking it out on an easy target was never justifiable.

Sadly, this is a lesson that I can confidently say several Warcraft developers have yet to learn. Over the course of the past 6 months alone, I witnessed fairly inexcusable incidents of rudeness – not aimed solely at me, but at a variety of people.

-A friend, upon providing feedback that a spell in his toolkit didn’t feel fun, was told to “…get a reality check”.

-Another friend was callously informed that a developer wasn’t going act on their feedback “…even if I was inclined to”, as if to suggest that unless proper supplications were given during a post, then its point wasn’t even worth considering.

-My own Death Knight community was referred to as “the peanut gallery” by a developer that likely wasn’t aware of the highly racist connotations behind the term, but even when divorced of historical context the highly insulting and demeaning use of this phrase when referring to an entire community filled with over 1000+ people cannot be understated.

These are only a few examples out of multiple such instances, and every one of them is as inexcusable as when players engage in such behaviour. Indeed, compared to several other friends, I wasn’t even subjected to the rudest of the rhetoric. I remember angrily emailing a peer of mine at the time. Here is a direct quote of what I said to this friend, slightly edited to remove names:

Developer attitude would be entirely understandable if we were a bunch of forum trolls that engaged in the type of behaviour you commonly see on the forums. This would include common insults, arguing about how qualified you are to offer feedback based on progression, etc.

That’s not the case here though, and all of us know it. We are a group of people supposedly engaged for our ability to provide feedback. We are not paid to do this, and nor is there anything particularly glamorous about this. So again: What is accomplished by treating us like forum trolls and being rude to us? What purpose does it serve other than having us as convenient punching bags for frustrations we probably can’t understand? Why even approach us for feedback if the end result will be a combination of condescension and snark?

Developers are under no obligation to act on anything we say, I completely agree. I’d appreciate if my chain weren’t yanked in that case though. If my feedback is “valuable”, then I’d appreciate not being talked down to when I offer it.

I don’t support being rude to developers. I also don’t support developers being rude to players, and it’s time to stop pretending that it hasn’t been happening with frequency. Unlike players who get expected to go back to playing nice or stop all communication, developers get to pretend as if nothing was said and no foul occurred. That is entirely hypocritical and disgusting. If you treat your feedback base like the dirt beneath your shoe, don’t be surprised when they either become apathetic or actively hostile towards your efforts.

Despite all the disclaimers and previous sections of this blogpost, I realise that there are those who will read this section and react negatively. I can only say that I’ve written this particular section with a cold, detached mindset. While the tone of my quoted email is definitely an upset one, I only mention it because I wished to represent my thoughts alone. I cannot and will not apologise for voicing those thoughts in my own space, but hope that you can understand they were not offered with malice in mind.

2. Blizzard wants to sell you their product… And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I know that some of you might read this and think “…Duh?”, yet it never ceases to amaze me how many people fail to internalise this reality.

Let’s get something straight: Blizzard is a corporation, and the fact that it wants to make money off its products is neither scandalous, nor surprising. It’s a baseline fact of how corporate capitalism works, and while I’m sure there are those of you that would love to get into a discussion of that (as I often do with friends in real life!), it’s tangential to the point I’m making.

What does this have to do with the Warcraft team? Quite simply, I’m stating that it is natural and understandable to have the game’s worst failures described in language that seeks to mitigate the potential fallout as much as possible. There is nothing sneaky or underhanded about this – it’s just good business sense to highlight the positives and underplay the negatives.

So why bring it up at all? Because all too often I see players begin to accept Blizzard’s rhetoric on this subject as the baseline for what is “rational” or “acceptable”. Quite unfortunately, it sometimes also leads to public discourse being fairly ruthlessly manipulated by some developers, by branding everything outside of that spectrum as “hyperbole”.

Am I saying that hyperbole, wild exaggerations and outright lies by the playerbase, in its communications on the Blizzard forums, don’t exist? No, of course not. At the same time, I take considerable issue when the buck on “rational” feedback is solely determined by a small handful of individuals. I acknowledge that I am speaking from a privileged background, whereby I’ve been able to see players attempt to offer genuine, meaningful feedback only to have it flung in their face (as opposed to the multitudes of trolls in most other spaces) – but that is no excuse to use such tactics in regard to such players.

I suppose that the overarching point of what I’m trying to get at here is that Blizzard’s own communications with players is subject to the same biases, faulty thinking and logical problems that are present among all of us. While there’s nothing innately wrong with this, and while I certainly don’t support personally attacking them for it, I would also urge players not to fall into the trap of defaulting to the proverbial “Blizzard position” when attempting to formulate their thoughts on a matter.

By the way, this absolutely isn’t restricted to matter such as class design or balance, but also to issues such as discussing problematic aspects of the game’s lore, systems in the game that you dislike and so on.

3. WoW’s development team is larger than its public face.

The implications of this statement could be viewed as being both positive and negative, depending on one’s perspective. The immediate point that I want to raise in this regard is concerning the relaying of public positions that Blizzard often mentioned.

Let us consider instances such as the debate over flying, the reduction to maximum camera distance and the changes made to the ability to swap talents. It is fair to say that all three of these decisions received a fairly strong reaction from the playerbase. In the case of the former, it was strong enough to cause Blizzard to reconsider. I can’t speak to whether the latter will get much iteration, considering the fact that they were snuck into a Beta and thus can be justified as having given people “advanced notice”.

But what about how players were informed of these matters? What about the people that made the announcements, engaged in public forum posts or tweets, etc? This is where I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that Blizzard’s developer team isn’t always on the same page. This can lead to awkward situations where people may have to publicly defend policies or decisions that they may not agree with internally. I cannot imagine that doing so, especially in the face of a large and vocal playerbase, is an easy exercise.

To be clear: This doesn’t excuse the problem of rudeness or snark that I mentioned above. Provided that players aren’t personally attacking/insulting a blue poster or just ranting with no useful purposes, there is absolutely zero excuse for for the blue to respond poorly either. With that said, I’d like people to reflect on the fact that sometimes the decisions we hate or dislike the most aren’t just inconveniences for us but also for the development team that has to accommodate a new paradigm not all of them might be on board with.

Yes I know, it’s strange to read a section defending or even sympathising with blues in this sea of criticism isn’t it? It’s almost as if I’m not a black and white troll out to get his jollies, but someone simply intent on communicating my final thoughts – both the good and the bad!

4. “Your feedback is valuable to us” is true but only up to a certain point.

This ties in somewhat with the issue that I raised preceding this.

I’m not going to beat around the bush or be delicate when I say this: For the past 18 months or so, I have felt that my own feedback as a player in terms of what I could offer that the Warcraft developers would consider or act on, has increasingly diminished up till my current state where I have nothing left to say to them.

It would be factually incorrect to say that Blizzard hadn’t harkened to certain player feedback over the course of both the Warlords of Draenor expansion, as well as Legion itself – but this was only provided that that feedback harkened to certain design parameters that the developers were fixed upon.

One of the biggest reasons as to why I stopped providing any feedback concerning Death Knights was because of the realisation that the differences of opinion I had with Blizzard weren’t trivial “Talent A is stronger than Talent B”-type nonsense, but major philosophical differences that would require them to move away from their original goals. As Warlords of Draenor itself has demonstrated, such changes in philosophy only get forced when a sizeable chunk of the playerbase raises a hullabaloo that cannot be ignored (a.k.a. flying). In most other cases, that change either has to come from within, or you’re largely stuck with whatever is coming.

All of this might sound very obvious to some of you, but I do wish that it was a realisation I had come to almost five years ago. Having been so personally involved with Death Knight feedback for so long and, modesty aside, having played a significant role in arguing in favour of design changes that worked well, the evolution of the Cataclysm-model Death Knight all the way to the Warlords of Draenor Death Knight was like seeing my own work in action. Even if the changes and design decisions made in regard to the class didn’t always happen as quickly as I’ve have liked, or were sometimes accompanied by fairly silly changes in tandem, the base design always felt like an improvement.It was for this reason that seeing the planned Legion model for Death Knights upset me so greatly. In many ways, it was like seeing all the work, all the mehnat as we say here, I’d put in for years get tossed out and replaced with a model that I find far inferior.

My point in saying all this isn’t specifically to discourage players from giving feedback, but rather to counsel them about how far their expectations should go. Understand that your perspective as a player will never be considered as valid as a developer, and that your ability to affect change largely hinges on whether or not the team agrees with the premise of your argument. I can’t speak for other game studios, but I can confidently say (as if it hasn’t been made abundantly clear) that Blizzard’s developers are hard to sway from their fairly jaundiced views on particular class/spec/system paradigms. Perhaps, to them, it’s a survival mechanism considering how much contrasting feedback they get on such subjects?

In my case, I continued giving feedback and providing my perspective largely out of a sense of obligation to my community. I won’t speculate as to whether or not that was the right thing to do, but will say that I sincerely hope anyone suffering from similar doubts or pauses does the healthiest thing and disengage.

Something else I want to point out on the topic of feedback is some of the Blizzard rhetoric we’ve seen concerning Legion specifically. Using this post as one example, we see a clear intention developing behind what types of feedback might be considered “valid”. For instance, when Blizzard tells you that the “line between the theoretical best talent and others” is becoming more blurred, it makes arguing the choice that much harder. Regrettably, even when this might not be the case (as is true for multiple DK talent rows), blue “goal” posts like this serve as a subtle way of letting the playerbase know that the existing margins of difference are usually acceptable enough that the most they can hope for is number balancing on the odd occasion.

In other words: Half the battle with feedback isn’t purely about mathematics or objective facts, but presenting your case in a manner that challenges the perceived status quo. If I sound overly cynical while saying this, it is only because I’ve experienced this situation enough times to see a repeating pattern.

5. Do not allow yourselves to be bullied or concern-trolled by friends – even if those friends happen to have a blue tag.

This last point is probably only relatable to a handful of people, so other readers can skip right past it if they wish. That said, it’s also an extremely important point that I wish to raise because it is one that has affected close friends of mine on multiple levels.

There are a subset of players that are able to refer to Warcraft developers or other employees on the Warcraft team as friends. This is entirely understandable, considering the fact that many current employees on the team were once fans of the game themselves. I’m not going to speculate on the dynamics of how things get handled in-game or between guildmates, since that’s a separate topic. Instead, I’d prefer pointing to mediums such as Twitter or other social media avenues where many of us formed connections in the first place.

It’s come to my attention that sometimes people have felt as if they cannot voice their frustrations or true thoughts on a matter due to the fact that a Warcraft developer or a Blizzard employee follows them. This isn’t simply an existential fear, but one actively perpetuated by the guise of someone they consider a friend asking (or lecturing) about making the latter feel bad or hurt by their criticisms.

I take a very dim view of such actions: It is extremely unethical, unprofessional and frankly a very shitty way to behave, by utilising a personal connection you have with someone to silence their criticisms of something work related.

To be clear, I realise that seeing criticism, especially from friends, can sometimes hurt. It’s probably hard not to be passionate about or emotionally invested in a game such as World of Warcraft when one is personally involved in working on it, and I cannot imagine seeing friends criticise aspects of it are easy. That said – criticism of a game’s systems or developments are rarely meant as personal attacks on someone that these individuals consider personal friends. Chances are that they do not, for instance, PM their blue connections with froth filled rants when something they dislike happens in the game. Unless the actual criticism is directed at an individual, treating it as something incriminating to be used against a friend is extremely underhanded.

This is why I take very strong issue with a phenomenon whereby those same friendship connections end up being abused and subject to emotional manipulation that stem out of a desire to silence that criticism at the cost of a friend’s own well being. I’m not even going to apologise for being blunt here: If someone on the Warcraft team (or, for that matter, any game’s team) is trying to bully you into silence either by being aggressive in DMs or by telling you they feel sad by criticisms not personally directed at them, it is a form of emotional abuse and absolutely not something that should be tolerated.

This particular section is where I was very tempted to do some public callouts for such horrible behaviour, and only refrained out of respect for my friends themselves. To be clear, it absolutely isn’t the case with any of the friends I’ve mentioned by name in this post and probably isn’t true for the majority of employees that are friends with players across the WoW cosmos.

The final line

I’ve forced myself, after writing so much in the preceding sections, to try and condense this bit to a few simple thoughts. So, if you happen to be one the Warcraft developers with whom my relations have soured, here is what I have to say to you:

I admire your work.
I respect the obvious effort it must take to deliver that work.
I empathise with the gut feeling of fear that must accompany every major design decision you make – What if nobody likes this? What if I’m making a major mistake?
I sympathise with the stresses and burdens that someone in your position must undergo on a daily basis. Warcraft fans aren’t an easy crowd to deal with, and I would know that better than most.

Lastly, I hope that you understand that my disagreements with you and obvious anger at how you have mistreated me and my peers on a personal level (forgetting design decisions), do not blind me from acknowledging the fact that you put out a product that I have played enthusiastically for 11 years. I cannot and will not apologise for saying what I have, but will balance that by saying that it comes from a place of still caring enough about the community to be honest enough to give my thoughts – even when they aren’t always pleasant thoughts.

Thanks for the good times. Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 9.49.17 AM

The Why (Community)

So here we are.
Multiple sections, thousands of words and a whole jumble of thoughts later, we come to the question that the largest number of you have asked: “Why leave us? Why not stay and keep engaging with all of your friends? Don’t we mean enough?”

I’m going to answer the last question by discussing some personal matters that, till now, have only been known to a select few people. Although I’ve discussed relatively inane topics about everyday life happenings on places such as Twitter and #Acherus, very few people are aware of how much WoW has meant to me; how much the game has helped me through some of the darkest periods of my life. I credit World of Warcraft with saving my life when I was close to taking my own life as a student coming to terms with bipolar disorder and extreme depression.

As an adult working in a job that requires me to come into contact with some of the most brutal human rights violations imaginable to some of you, WoW and the community have served as essential outlets to let me destress from a job where I sometimes have to question whether humanity has any hope left.

If my persona on places such as Twitter has seemed relatively light and sanitised, it’s because I purposely avoid mentioning instances like the 8-year-old girl whose account of her own rape by her father I had to sit down and transcribe for two hours.

It’s because I cannot bring myself to recall the instance of half-carrying a sobbing adult man who had come to report the death of his 11-year-old son to a U.S. drone strike in the North.

It’s because at night I can still see the victim whose face seemed to have been nearly melted off due to the horrific acid attack she suffered at the hands of her former husband, and I want to forget for a little while.

It’s because I don’t want to ruin all of your days by telling you that the reason I’m tweeting from home right now is because there is a suicide bomb threat in my city that day.

None of this is to imply that I’m anything but grateful to work where I do, and that my life here hasn’t been a rich and fulfilling one. It’s simply that you -the people that constitute this community and this game- have meant far more to me than many of you realise. It isn’t an exaggeration for me to say that there was a time when I would have called World of Warcraft an essential survival mechanism for me, and I will never deny nor forget how getting lost inside a game where I could actually kill monsters with the slash of a sword or the flick of a wrist meant so much at a time when I saw far too many monsters in real life walk away.

I’m not going to pretend as if 100% of the community has been fantastic all of the time. There have been bad times as well. I’ve had to utilise the block feature on Twitter more than I’d like, and I’ve also had to deal with some unpleasant personalities in some of the various guilds I inhabited over the years. But considering that we’re talking about the internet with its propensity towards terrible behaviour, hate speech and worse, the very fact that I can say “The majority of the people that I interacted with have been awesome” is truly saying something.

I know what some of you will say in response to this: Yes, I could stop playing the game and still remain a presence in the community. Yes, I could stop talking to developers and still have my friends around. So why do it? Why choose to say goodbye? Largely because I know myself too well. The origins of my Twitter account, my community presence and probably how all of you got to know me, were World of Warcraft. Even as I type this, Patch 7.0 has already gone Live and many of you are likely enjoying a much needed update to your classes, specs and game systems after over a year. It wouldn’t be fair or realistic of me to try and curate a WoW-specific profile into a non-WoW oriented feed. Moreover, it would make little sense: Magdalena is a Death Knight from World of Warcraft. The artwork that represents her is reminiscent of her in the game.

In short: Sooner or later, after seeing all of you tweeting about the game, engaging with you on mediums where the game’s presence hangs heavy and essentially still hanging in an atmosphere where WoW was what brought us all together, I would become frustrated because a part of what brought us together was no longer accessible to me. That, in turn, would either lead to me leaving more abruptly (not good) or giving in and buying Legion (absolutely not good).

So, with a heavy heart but firm conviction, I’ve decided that it’s time to let go of the crutch that this community and this game has been to me for many years. The months ahead might be painful, might be difficult and might even prove to be overwhelming – but for what it’s worth, I’m very excited to see where they lead. Perhaps, at some point, the clarity that this time off affords me will lend itself to coming back to both the game and the community with a healthier mindset and a new appreciation for the time I miss out on.Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 1.44.55 pm

And to All Things comes a New Beginning

In the past few days, since I announced my decision to leave, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the amount of love, support and caring I’ve gotten from so many of you. Whether it’s been from people I consider close friends or entirely anonymous strangers writing to tell me how I affected their lives for the better with my work, you have all simultaneously given me strength but also made it that much harder for me to get this final goodbye out of the way.

Many of you have asked me what I’m going to do with my free time in the coming months, and the truth is that I’m not entirely sure. Despite having a full-time career, friends, family and other responsibilities to attend to, the absence of WoW in my life will likely mean the need to make some major adjustments in my time spent.

Despite the fact that all of you won’t see or hear from me, rest assured that I’ll be watching from the distance, checking up on all of you and keeping myself sporadically up to date on how the story progresses. In case of a major emergency that requires my personal attention, friends like Nazuvious and Calli know how to get in touch with me. I’m sure that they’ll also keep me up to date on the various happenings in both the game and the community.

I’ve also made sure not to leave #Acherus hanging: New moderators have been promoted, as well as given very clear instructions and details about how the community should be governed once I’m gone. I am confident that the people I’ve selected and that the spirit of the community will remain intact long after I am gone – just as I intended for it to be all that time ago, when it was new. Rest assured that all of you are in good hands, and that I could not be prouder of the community you’ve become before my very eyes.

In my final 60 days playing this game, I got to hand out Legion Beta keys to hundreds of people, coming up with fun contests (artwork, screenshots and cooking), Discord/IRC giveaways to help bolster my community and some incredibly fun Beta streams thanks to my faithful four horsemen and their agreeing to host me as they ran through Legion dungeons. In many ways, I managed to enjoy this facet of the expansion without actually playing it! How’s that for being sneaky?

A very wise crab once told me: “The nice thing about the game is that even if you do decide to leave, it will be there, and you could always go back and check it out, see if you feel differently, see if anything has changed.” He is correct. Some day, perhaps not soon and perhaps long after this blog post has been read by anyone that knew me personally, I may return to see how Azeroth is faring.

If there is one final request I’d make to all of you as I leave, it would be to remember that this game is defined by people such as yourself. Enjoy it and the community for what they are, but also remember to prioritise yourself in a manner that is supposed to constitute a leisure activity which you actively pay for to enjoy yourself. Most importantly, during your time in Azeroth: Remember that you’re the person that matters the most. I realise that making commitments towards things such as raiding or dungeon teams can foster a sense of obligation – and that is precisely why it’s important to remain centered on yourself when it comes time for you to make your leave too.

I’ll always look back at my legacy in World of Warcraft and smile. From the emotional, heartfelt and touching words so many of you shared to me, the in-game item that was named after me by a person I have immense respect for and the plethora of class communities that all originate from a single idea for a single community in the back of my mind, nothing can take away the fact that I’ve left my mark on this game as much as it has on me. No one, not even a Blizzard developer or two with a bone to pick, can take that away from me.

I spent my last 10 minutes in the game yesterday, parking Magdalena in the spot that I knew would be her resting place: The Storm Peaks. She’s wearing her helm -the one designed exclusively for her, but transmogrified so it became a proper crown- and is located up in the Temple of Storms. Both the zone and the location are significant because of how fondly I remember that moment of pure joy when I was a simple soul questing and taking in the majesty and beauty of everything around me: The story, the music, the atmosphere: All of it.

Speaking of music, I’ve also been browsing the eternally important question of how I’d want to be remembered if the sum of my legacy in this game and effect on this community had to be conveyed via music. So, when looking back at how long I’ve been around here and interacted with all of you, I suggest listening to this. And when considering what kind of music piece you think I’d like to be remembered with -my last hurrah, essentially- then consider this to be the piece that I got drummed out to. Blaze of glory all the way till the end!

Finally, my friends, the time has indeed come. To each and every single one of you that has somehow reached out to me, spoken/written to me or impacted my playing this game in any way, shape or form (from a single dungeon pug to years of raiding together): Thank you. If I somehow was unable to respond to you at the time or even later, please forgive me – I have been utterly swamped with messages, and likely intended to thank you but forgot. Know that every single kind thought or gesture sent my way means a huge amount.

Farewell my friends. You will not be forgotten.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 12.54.19 AM

“The time has come,” the Walrus said


“It’s called Warcraft,” my friend tells me. It’s by the same guys that made Starcraft and that creepy horror game you liked.”

I’m intrigued, but still wary – I haven’t forgotten how long he hogged the computer last time.

“Okay, but do you promise I can play first?”


My father asks me what I want for my birthday.
I pause to look up from the book I’m reading, and ask if he could order something called the “Warcraft III Battle Chest” off Amazon. It’s just a passing thought, but I’ve heard from friends that it’s a good game.

When I finally get the chance to play, I’m hooked. I have vague memories of Warcraft II being fun, but this game just blows it out of the water. All my conceptions about “Orcs are Bad, and Humans are Good” get turned on their head.

I love being able to interact with characters such as Jaina Proudmoore. I’m fascinated by this mysterious new race of elves, and this entirely new setting in the world of Azeroth.

My 13 year old self is left clutching the chair in excitement when the final Frozen Throne cinematic concludes. My comprehension of “Warcraft” has been utterly redefined, for the better.


It’s July of 2005, on a hot summer night in Lahore. My cousins and I have just gotten back from a long day of swimming at the gymkhana.

I am immensely excited when one of them offers to show me the game he’s brought with him on his laptop. Of course I’ve heard about it! Owing to the lack of a good computer in the preceding years, I’ve largely dismissed thoughts about being able to play WoW. Still, I’ve made sure to stay up to date on all the tidbits of lore/story about the game as it unfolds.

When he offers me the chance to explore it on my own, I don’t hesitate. Race? Night Elf, of course – they were my favourite race introduced in Warcraft III, and Illidan was one of them! Class? My cousin tells me Priests are very powerful.

Once I’ve finished customising my character’s appearance, I hit Enter. The screen pans to a beautiful forest, as a voice recounts my place and role as a Night Elf in modern society. The clock reads 8:20 pm as I accept my first ever quest in the world.

I blink and turn away from the computer screen momentarily to look at someone telling me that I need to go to bed.

Wait, wasn’t it dark outside when I began playing?

The clock now reads 4:37 am.


When Wrath of the Lich King is announced, I cannot believe my ears. I have never forgotten the final cinematic from The Frozen Throne, and now I get to play a class modelled after Arthas? Count me in!

By this time I’ve managed to procure a laptop that can actually run the game. While visiting a relative in D.C., I stop by a game store in Bethesda and pick up the World of Warcraft Battle Chest.

It is late into Patch 2.4 when Abravayah the Draenei Paladin begins her journey on Dawnbringer server. I fail miserably at some of the later quests on Bloodmyst Isle, but what does that matter when I’m having so much fun? And how very generous it was of that one Level 70 Paladin to help me take down the fearsome Sironas, leader of the renegade Blood Elves!

Once my Paladin reaches Level 55 however, I unceremoniously abandon her in Silithus. It is time.


I’m in 10 man Naxxramas. I’ve barely been Level 80 for a week. My group has just wiped to the “Frogger” slime bridge for the sixth time, my talents/build are probably atrociously wrong and my DPS is terrible.

I could not care less.

We’re all too busy laughing. Not tittering or giggling, mind you: Full on belly laughs that have us clutching our sides, with tears streaming down our eyes. It doesn’t matter that I don’t get any loot, that we don’t kill Gluth that night or that the entire tier goes by without us making much progress – we’re having the time of our lives!

Bladelady, Astarot and the other fine folks of “Fractured”: You are not forgotten.


Time passes. Tiers go by. My incessant curiosity gets the better of me, and before I know it I’m visiting that site everyone uses as a mantra… something-Jerks, I think it was called?

In the interim, I go from being a nobody to joining the top Alliance guild on the server as well as garnering a reputation for being the “best DPS DK” on my little backwater of a server. I discover that the desire to raid and to kill hard bosses only grows in me. It’s a cultivated skill, but one that’s accompanied by an increasing hunger.

I want more. There’s a bigger world out there, and simply ending Icecrown Citadel 25 Heroic with 11/12 bosses down doesn’t satisfy me. I’m forced back down to reality somewhat by the acknowledgement that I’ll never be able to commit to a four or even five day schedule like some guilds do – but perhaps I can still manage three days and be among the best on my server.

With a heavy heart I say goodbye to Dawnbringer, the server that I experienced the largest number of “firsts” on, and indeed the last server that I recall truly being a community unto itself. This is an age before Battle Tag, when players of the opposite faction are mysterious strangers and where you can only hope to talk to a friend if they happen to be logged into a character you recognise.

Still, I take the time to send in-game mail each and every individual I can think of that meant something to me. “I’ll never forget the fun times we spent together”, I say.

Seven years later, it’s still true – I haven’t.


I’m quite worried: The Death Knight theorycrafter whose blog I’ve been visiting quite regularly has announced that Cataclysm‘s endgame does not interest them! Their Unholy and Frost threads have already been locked, and it seems that (a site once populated by Tanking Death Knights) has fallen to the wayside.

What shall our community do? Wherever will I go to rant now?

On a whim, I make a Twitter account as my Warcraft self. Before long, I’m embroiled in a lengthy series of tweets with a European DK named Fengore and a US DK named Heartless, the latter of whom has taken on the job of taking over the Elitist Jerks Unholy thread.

We rant and rave to one another, but bemoan the character limits of Twitter. Surely there has to be an easier way to do this?


May 11th, 2011: #Acherus is born.

A community forms.
It grows.
It matures.

May 11th: 2016: #Acherus celebrates its 5th birthday.

It changes the very landscape of how class communities in the World of Warcraft endgame populace function. No matter how distinct their conduct or their functionality, every other class or role community operating within an IRC or Discord framework owes their existence to #Acherus – to the model we pioneered.

I could not be more proud.


I get a PM from a name that I’m vaguely familiar with- something to do with Druids, Beta threads and the new Purgatory talent being in a different row than it actually is.

“Hi Magdalena, I really appreciate your feedback on the Unholy thread. I’m a developer working on World of Warcraft, would you mind giving me some feedback on some changes we’d like to introduce to the class next patch?”

I roll my eyes. Obviously this is somebody’s idea of a joke. My cursor hovers over the /kick button, but a small, nagging doubt remains in the back of my mind.

Pushing aside better judgement, I type “Would you mind emailing me at [address] to verify that you are who you say you are?”

Five minutes later, I’m looking at an email with a address.

As I mentioned, we’re interested in feedback on some prospective Unholy changes for the next patch.

In retrospect, I suppose it’s mostly a good thing I didn’t click.


It’s another warm summer night, around eight years after that first time. My guild is progressing on Ra-den, the final boss of the Throne of Thunder raid. It’s been a long time coming, but we’re confident that we can achieve a server first kill with a respectable U.S. ranking.

Patch 5.4 has been on the PTR for some time now, and there’s a new build being datamined tonight. We’ve just hit break time at 11 pm EST, and I’m only half listening to the chatter in Mumble.

Suddenly, I hear “Oh my God! Is this helm named after Mags?!”

I refuse to believe it until someone links me the actual item. As I typed out in the comments section then, I’ll repeat now: “Floored and honoured!”


“Hi there, I was wondering if you could tell me how this talent works?”

“Could you recommend what piece of gear I should use?”

How do you feel about Death Knights this patch?

Would you be willing to be interviewed about your thoughts on Death Knights?

We’d like to hire you to write a guide.

Would you consider being a Death Knight columnist for our site?

How do you feel about this major change to the game?

What is the story behind your community?

And a whole lot more.


Friends come, friends go. I build memories.

I enjoy the minutiae of actual gameplay as much as I enjoy working in the service of a community that I helped build from the ground up. I discover other roles besides DPS. I discover other classes.

I conquer the most challenging bosses within the tier they’re introduced – admittedly that’s not saying much in the context of 5.4 or 6.2, but still deeply satisfying as a whole. Through all of Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, I get used to seeing the words “Realm First!” pop up on my screen, and it feels good. I develop a deep love for extreme soloing and taking on challenges that few players ever thought possible.

World of Warcraft is an omnipresent force that accompanies both some of the best and some of the worst times within the past decade of my life. It accompanies me as I move continents, timezones, trade academic settings for real world jobs and as I begin to settle into routines that I realise will likely stay with me for the rest of my life.


I am cynical. Disillusioned. Upset.

My words seem hollow, my ability to affect the change I want insignificant. I know, I know – nothing good lasts forever. That doesn’t make the rapid succession of blows any easier.

I decide to write a long letter to someone that I know is under no obligation to respond or to even acknowledge what I have to say. Nonetheless, my respect for this person demands that I say what I do.

“I guess the gist of what I wanted to say to you is: Thank you. Thank you for helping to create and maintain a game in which I was able to lose myself for so many hours, and forget about some of life’s own traumas… No matter what my opinion of WoW’s current direction, I will never deny the good times and the people that this game has introduced me to. I credit you with a good deal of the fact that this enjoyment has been able to last this long.”

I send it off without much thought to whether it will get a response – but it does. Promptly. More than that, the response is beyond anything I could ever have dared to dream of. It ends with a line I have to read several times to truly comprehend.

“In any case, please do keep in touch. I have come to respect you enormously.”

It is rare for me to encounter something that renders me speechless, but this does it. Is it really possible to be able to end things on a higher note?


I think I’ll log into World of Warcraft one more time.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 12.54.22 PM

On the brink: Before Patch 6.0

Pocket Watch in Sand

Even as I write this post, it astonishes me that we’re finally here.
The Warlords of Draenor Beta is in the process of beginning its final chapter, and Blizzard has just confirmed that Patch 6.0 will hit Live servers on October 14th- barely 4 days from now!

As I take a moment to process this, it occurs to me that I cannot recall a pre-expansion patch before which I rushed to complete this much content. Indeed, Mists of Pandaria has shaped up to be the expansion during which I’ve had the largest “To Do” list before the patch goes Live. While it hasn’t solely been restricted to content that the patch will remove, it’s definitely entailed a sense of urgency that I don’t recall experiencing during any previous Beta.

So, what list of accomplishments can I boast of the day that Patch 6.0 hits?

-I completed Gold Challenge Modes on six different characters. In order of completion, this list goes: Death Knight, Druid, Monk, Priest, Paladin and Warlock.

-I attained 9/9 “Challenge Master” Feats of Strength for realm best Challenge Mode times on my Death Knight last year. Although my best clear times have been beaten handily long since, it’s still an accomplishment that I’m proud of and hope is given more lucrative permanent rewards in the next iteration of CMs.

-I completed the Green Fire questline on my Warlock. Not only was this a very lore-rich and fun experience, but it provided a fun challenge to complete at a relatively low item level at the time. I shall wear my “Of the Black Harvest” title, awarded only to Warlocks who completed the quest change before 6.0 hits, with pride!

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 12.02.16 am-I reached Rank 10 in the Brawler’s Guild, which was a huge relief after squaring off against horribly bugged bosses like Hexos and Anthracite.

-I completed Endless Proving Grounds on all 3 roles: Tanking and Damage Dealing on my Death Knight, and Healing on my Druid (special shoutout to Dayani and Hamlet for their encouragement and advice in completing the last one!).

-Speaking of Proving Grounds, my most recently reached goal was fulfilling the requirements for the “You’re Really Doing It Wrong“, which Celestalon confirmed is currently tracked by the game and will be visible when the patch hits. I specifically completed Gold DPS as Blood on my Death Knight, in case you were wondering.

-I completed the Herald of the Titans achievement on my Mage, after an Openraid member very kindly organised a run after I tweeted about looking for a group.

-I managed to complete 4 (count them) Legendary Cloaks on various characters. This is as much an accomplishment as it is a tragedy, I fully admit! What this should also tell you though, is that I was able to experience Heroic Mode raiding on all of these characters. This allows me to say that I experienced Tanking, Healing and DPSing across a wide range of characters in challenging content- I’d say that’s certainly milking content for all it’s worth!

-I raided Cutting Edge content (literally!) for the majority of this expansion with a pretty amazing group of people. <Something Wicked> will continue to be my home in Warlords of Draenor, and I hope to be able to rejoin their Mythic ranks when life circumstances permit.

-I completed various soloing goals this expansion, with some of my proudest moments being killing Heroic 25 Lich King in Tier 14, Heroic Ragnaros, Heroic Cho’gall and Sinestra in Tier 15 and finally concluding with a solo of 10N Elegon this tier.Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 3.52.46 am

-I managed to attain a number of mounts I’d coveted, including Mimiron’s Head, the Onyxian Drake, Baron Rivendare’s Deathcharger and of course- the Astral Cloud Serpent!

All in all, as a player I’m very happy with how I’m concluding Mists of Pandaria. While I certainly haven’t set any records in number of achievements attained or participated in cutting edge PvP, I truly feel satisfied with how much I managed to accomplish/experience in these two years.
While I can’t say for certain whether I’ll be ending Warlords of Draenor on a similar note, I am grateful to have been able to experience/complete so much of the game before a lot of content is removed or greatly altered by the 6.0 systems changes.

See you all in Draenor!

Where ‘Unfair’ becomes ‘Fun’: The Special Snowflake Paradigm, Round II

It’s been a ridiculous amount of time since I last posted here. I’d apologise for the lengthy gap between posts here, but you knew what you were signing up for when I first began this blog.
Given the transient nature of testing periods, I’ve largely held off on spending too much time and energy on blogging (both about Death Knights, and in the larger WoW context) since the Warlords of Draenor Alpha went Live. Even the information contained in a single, early analysis post of mine on Death Knight changes from the first round of Alpha patch notes has become largely outdated.

Thus, today’s post doesn’t exclusively focus on Warlords, but continues from a topic that I began in an earlier post. Previously, I discussed the legendary paradigm that was introduced in Mists of Pandaria, and seems to be poised to largely continue in the same vein (barring some minor changes, such as a lack of Valor Point acquisition or forced PvP) in Warlords of Draneor. Among the details of what I discussed in my previous post was the loss of the “Special Snowflake” feel: While I’ve acknowledged that there are clearly numerous advantages to the legendary model introduced in MoP, the visceral satisfaction of being more powerful and somehow feeling more special than other players is also one that I firmly believe contributes to part of the game experience. This was a feeling that earlier legendaries were largely able to accomplish by virtue of their slow acquisition, and which currently doesn’t exist.

So, what do we do if we approve of the MoP legendary model but still want to find a way to bring that sense of “unfair fun” back to the game? Well, in my case we put our armchair developer hat on and lay out a theoretical model that tries to recapture that sense of fun in a world that also accepts the status quo with legendaries!

A Step Above Others

Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings


The existence of an item class even higher than that of “Legendary” isn’t new in WoW. Prior to Cataclysm, the term Artifact was primarily associated with this type of item- and indeed, it continues to be the term that they are most commonly identified by. Artifacts have only appeared in the actual game as GM-only items, that are mainly used for testing purposes. The most infamous of these items, Martin Fury, was once mistakenly awarded to a player who used it to exploit a number of high-end raid bosses at the time.

On the whole though, Artifacts have not seen legitimate availability for players in the game. Back in 2006, Tseric wrote:

The devs would like to improve on Legendary items through addition or revision. At this point, adding Artifact items is somewhat unnecessary, as it would only mostly serve to devalue Legendary items as a whole.
Perhaps when the level cap gets a little higher and that next step in itemization is needed.

At the time, this was a very fair point to make: Up until MoP, the relative rarity of legendary items and their special significance for players who managed to attain them was sufficient for generating the sort of gameplay I’ve discussed previously. Now however, we find ourselves in a paradigm where everyone is guaranteed a legendary item provided they put in a sufficient amount of effort.

As such, I can’t think of a better time to formally introduce Artifacts as a new class of items that are available to players. Furthermore, because of the way in which legendary items are now handled we have a lot more room with which to play around with how these items are obtained.

Building blocks: Learning to love frustration


Given that we’re trying to accomplish a number of goals with the introduction of Artifacts, what rules would I apply to these items?

The first and most important rule I’d make about the potential introduction of Artifacts is this: They’d be rare. Scratch that, they’d be exceptionally rare- to the point where their acquisition would not be banked upon by guilds as part of their progression plan.
We would not, for instance, have a situation similar to what became of Dragonwrath by Patch 4.3: Most raiding guilds were able to equip every one of their caster DPS with the staff, and indeed would often only accept applications from casters with the staff. This not only lead to the item feeling rather “unlegendary” among these echelons, but was also unfair to any casters who had not been fortunate enough to receive a legendary thus far.

Speaking of which, we move on my second rule: Acquiring Artifacts would be a matter of luck. The exact item required to start the quest chain for Artifacts would be the result of a very, very fortunate RNG roll as bonus loot. There would be no allocation of items and no ability to “choose” the individual fortunate enough to begin the process of acquiring one. In doing so, we completely eliminate allocation drama
I realise that there is a heavy amount of irony with my including this particular point, given how vehemently I’ve opposed the bonus loot system in WoD. Bear with me though: The main reason behind why I believe this level of RNG would work in such a situation is because the acquisition of an Artifact would be so rare to begin with. Unlike bosses that are killed each week, and unlike Best-in-Slot items where the chances of obtaining a “plus 3” (i.e. tertiary stats, Warforged and extra gem socket) are frustratingly tantalising enough to make you gnash your teeth in frustration when your 20th kill of a particular boss doesn’t yield it, you would never bank on or expect an Artifact. The chances of your acquiring one would be so small that a particular server would be fortunate to see more than two or three in total.

Since we’ve already established a number of rules about rarity, my third rule shouldn’t cause any surprise: Artifacts would only be available at Mythic level raiding. In Siege of Orgrimmar terms, the only bosses that I’d probably allow to have a chance of dropping the quest item required to begin the Artifact quest chain would be Malkorok onwards- meaning that something like Mythic Immerseus, which is arguably easier than Normal/Heroic Garrosh, wouldn’t have a chance at awarding it.
The rationale here is simple: One controversial aspect of the MoP legendary system was the fact that it allowed LFR-level players access to items that had previously only been seen by serious raiders (with Heroic mode raiders almost always acquiring the items at a much faster pace). There is sound logic behind why Blizzard chose to implement the questline in such a way, and why this trend will continue in WoD, but we’re not here to debate that. Artifacts, in the role I’ve assigned them in this post, would exist to bring back that sense of “unfair fun” that I’ve alluded to. Furthermore, I am also able to see the logic in Mythic raiders (known before WoD as “Heroic raiders”) feeling as if they’ve lost something in the general diversification of legendary availability- they have. These items, therefore, would exist as a reward exclusively available to only the most skilled of players.

Acquisition: Getting back to our (legendary) roots

Now that we’ve dealt with the preliminaries of how often and who, let’s move on to the items themselves.

My fourth rule would involve the quest chains themselves: Assuming you were fortunate enough to be able to begin the process of acquiring an Artifact, the experience would be a fairly gruelling one. Given that we’ve specified that only well-progressed Mythic raiders would have a chance at these items, we can thus tune our quest chain assuming a certain level of competence with one’s class as well a certain level of gear. I’m also a much bigger fan of tough, individual quests where the true gate is a player’s own skill, rather than “Collect x fragments for y weeks”.
Unfortunately, we also hit a wall here: How do we design quests that are appropriate for multiple classes and specialisations? Part of the reason that the quests surrounding Dragonwrath, or the Fangs of the Father (Rogue-only legendary daggers) were so appealing was because they were designed for the role (in Dragonwrath’s case) or the class that the item was appropriate for. Perhaps an even stronger example that I can personally provide is that of the Warlock Green Fire quest chain- despite not being designed for the purposes of acquiring a legendary item, it was a challenging experience (at appropriate gear level!) that mandated a player use many abilities/tactics from their arsenal, rather than sticking to the same “standard rotation” in raids.
In short: We want quests that present challenges extreme enough to push even Mythic raiders to their limits, and demand that they play at the top of their game if they wish to succeed. Reaching that level of depth is impossible with a highly generalised questline.
So, do we limit specific Artifacts to only be available to certain classes? Certain roles? Or do we try to undertake the gruelling task of providing 34 different specs in the game with a worthwhile challenge for their just reward? Damned if I know!


You’ll also notice that while I stated my aversion to “Collect x”-type quests for Artifacts, I did not specifically state that I thought the process of acquisition should be a solo one. While I consider tough individual challenges to be a necessary hallmark of skill, I’m cognisant of the fact that my proposed model thus far seems like a highly lonely one, with it being restricted to individual, bonus loot and what have you.
Thus, my fifth rule: Guilds would play an important role in helping with Artifact acquisition. I see there being multiple ways to do this. The first would be economic: Much like Primordial Saronite acted as an economic gate early on in the Shadowmourne questline, Artifacts could potentially demand a large monetary or material investment. The flaws in this are immediately obvious: Not all Mythic raiding guilds are equipped to finance expensive burdens for their players, and some might not even see it as being a worthwhile investment depending on the player (a harsh, but unfortunate truth in today’s competitive raiding atmosphere). Furthermore, economic investments don’t necessitate a guild, so much as they incentivise it.
The second, more realistic way in which a guild could be of service to a player would be by including parts of the quest chain within raids. Much like Infusion quests for Shadowmourne, or Delegation for Dragonwrath, the active involvement of an entire raid group would most assuredly cement the need for a coordinated guild effort. This could entail fighting new mechanics on existing bosses, or perhaps even facing bonus challenges that would otherwise be inaccessible.

At last, we come to the most important rule concerning Artifacts. Up until now, we’ve set up a fairly brutal number of requirements and conditions that would see a player be able to acquire such an item. Why then would you wish to undergo such a gruelling series of trials, unless the reward were more than worth it?
Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 5.29.06 pmThus, my sixth and final rule: Artifacts should always contain a sense of unfairness, in that they provide players with a performance boost that no other available item can. Yes, you read that correctly: I’m advocating for items that match or even exceed the effects of the original Thunderdury on Vanilla-era Warrior Tanks, or the pre-nerfed version of Dragonwrath. Whatever the initial item level might be, an Artifact should provide a boost so clear and so potent that its value is set through the rest of that expansion.
Artifacts are, after all, intended a step above the quality and potency of Legendary items. Given that I’ve devoted all of my previous points/rules towards detailing their rarity, the difficulty experienced in the acquisition and the fact that they’d only be available to the most hardcore of players, it should come as little surprise that the final reward more than makes up for the amount of effort that the player undertook. I’d also probably associate a unique mount or transmogrification piece with the Artifact, denoting the significance of obtaining it even after its reign of supremacy as a usable item is over.

Reality Bites

Get it? Bites? Alright, nevermind...
Get it? Bites? Alright, nevermind…

If only it were that easy, right?
Despite laying out an Artifact model that I think could work and coexist with the existing legendary model, there are numerous problems and shortcomings that I’m all too aware would lead to the idea not being feasible.

  • First, there’s the sheer amount of work involved in implementation: What I’m essentially proposing is an experience with the depth of something like the Green Fire quest chain (which, fun fact, was supposed to be even longer and more complex than what ended up on Live), yet with the general availability of the Eye of Sulfuras from Ragnaros in Molten Core. From a development standpoint, that’s asking for a large amount of resources to be devoted towards a segment of the game that only a lucky few out of an already small elite pool will ever experience. Note that we haven’t even clearly established whether Artifacts would be class/role specific (in which case they’d reach an even smaller number of players), or whether we’d design entire Artifact experiences around multiple classes/roles (which, if you stayed true to the spirit of the concept, would entail making multiple questlines).
  • Second, despite my attempts to eliminate “allocation drama”, there still exists a great deal of other drama that these items could cause. Imagine killing Heroic Siegecrafter Blackfuse on a farm night, and suddenly having that underperforming applicant who you were probably going to fail receive the quest item instead of a main raider or officer? Even worse, suppose it was that buyer you told to hit the boss and then go die in a corner? If the item is as powerful as I’ve suggested it should be, you can bet that some guilds would attempt to aggressively poach anyone with it. Do you therefore bank on the trustworthiness of the lucky individual with the item?
  • I’ve explicitly stated that the quest chain associated with Artifacts would be hard. What if, as a result, you were faced with individuals that lacked the necessary skill or ability to complete said quests? Whatever group you were raiding with at the time would want you to acquire your new, overpowered item as quickly as possible; they would therefore presumably not be too happy if you were unable to progress in the chain due to personal issues.
  • While Artifact availability might cause them not to make a major difference in the macro level of raid progression and ranking, they could certainly cause a great deal of strife within guild. Would it really be fun for multiple raid groups to hinge strategies and reliance on the presence of one individual who happened to wield an item of such power? Would it be fun for players in competing roles to know that, assuming relatively equal play, they were always going to be outperformed by the wielder? How would these items be treated in scaled content such as Challenge Modes, where gear is not supposed to provide an innate advantage outside of certain stats being more useful? What about Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds, where legendary items became a much complained about and sore topic among the PvP populace?
  • Even if my initial concerns were seen as “acceptable” by both the playerbase and by Blizzard, we come to our final problem: The mere existence of such items would still be greatly upsetting to some. There’s nothing unique or special about this- there has always been a degree of upset/envy over the existence of items that difficult to attain. That’s part of what makes them fun. But if left entirely at the mercy of RNG, such items can also make passionate, hardcore players feel cheated out of a prize that they felt they deserved compared to whomever attained it. Remember: There is a reason multiple players, including myself, are opposed to the bonus loot system being introduced in WoD. While I posit that the rarity of Artifacts should dissuade players from treating them like they would bonus items, I cannot confidently say that my intentions would match results.

A song for another day


Ultimately this post has been less about any concrete/realistic analysis of game mechanics, and more a fun thought exercise that’s been brewing in the back of my mind for some time.

As I stated in my first blogpost on the matter of legendaries: Despite what’s been lost, I consider the Mists of Pandaria legendary model to be a success, and one that I’m glad is largely staying intact in Warlords of Draenor. In order to recapture some of what was lost, I’ve tried to present a type of item that I feel could occupy the niche that legendaries once did, and also take that feeling to all new heights by virtue of what an ordeal it took to get it.

While the majority of what I propose in this model is probably not feasible or attractive enough to where Blizzard would consider approaching something similar, I do hope that some elements of it resonate within those of you who have experienced past incarnations of legendary excitement. Perhaps there’s a sweet spot I’m missing that could mitigate the majority of the problematic aspects I’ve mentioned, while still preserving that feel that I’d like to be associated with Artifacts?
Regardless, I hope you enjoyed reading my scatterbrained fancies in this post- they say jotting down and fully fleshing out even the silliest of ideas can be a healthy thing to do!

In other news, Blizzcon is fast approaching. While I will regrettably be unable to attend, I hope to hear from many of my friends as they meet for the first time. Be sure to share in the festivities online, so some of us can experience them vicariously!
See you all in Patch 6.0.

Sentrytotem Audits: Come one, come all

Yet another “Quick Note”-esque post.

Sentrytotem is one of the newer community sites that has popped up in MoP, but has received a pretty positive response from the community thus far. I expect it to become a hub for a general multi-class/spec discussion in WoD if it continues in such a fashion.

One of Sentrytotem’s special features is its “audit” system: Players are able to submit armouries and parses of their characters to “Class Experts” for feedback on their performance, outlook, etc. Some classes/specs have multiple Experts, and it’s even possible to specify your preference for the auditor by mentioning it on your ticket.
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’ve signed up as a consultant for DPS DKs, and encourage anyone interested in constructive critical feedback to put in for an audit. With a good 6 months of MoP playtime left, now is as good a time as any to to bust out that DK alt- or, better yet, make the sensible choice of mainswitching to one!- and get on track to getting the most of it.

Special shoutout to some close friends who also serve as class experts on the site, especially Mendenbarr, who is also a DPS DK expert- he introduced me to the site in the first place!

Leading with Lightning: An interview with Moshne

This week, I was fortunate to have another friend graciously accept my request for an interview. Moshne has been known to dabble in Shaman theorycraft, and also has an item that drops off Ordos named after him. He frequents the AJB forums, and can sometimes be found at MTG tournaments. For those of us in <Something Wicked>, Moshne is also our GM and Raid Leader. As someone who has played the game since Vanilla, he brings a nuanced and experienced perspective on numerous paradigms within the game today, as well as a keen analysis of things to come.  Thanks for being with us here today Moshne!

Hello! Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been playing WoW? What class(es) do you currently play, and do they differ from what you played in the past? Besides WoW, are there any other games (not limited to PC games) that you enjoy playing?

I started playing WoW shortly before the open beta. I originally started on a rogue, as I wanted something completely different from what I’d been playing in Everquest (I was a Shaman and a Bard there. The WoW shaman around the BC era is a pretty good hybrid of those two EQ classes.) I’ve played mostly continuously since then, taking a small break during Vanilla when the servers were too unstable. Outside of WoW I don’t play a lot of games anymore, it takes a fair bit of my time. Between tiers I play a lot of the Civilization series and (shamefully) way too much Puzzle and Dragons lately.

<Something Wicked> has been around for quite some time. Can you briefly take us through the history of the guild? Was it founded with high-end progression in mind, or was that something that it grew into?

We created SW in mid-late Vanilla with the idea of being a raid focused guild. I’m not sure we really knew how to define “high-end” progression at the time, but we had a similar mentality as we do now – do as much as we can with a very trim schedule. We have been a three night guild since the beginning, though I think we’ve gotten better at it since then. The guild originally formed through probably pretty typical means. We absorbed a flailing guild, recruited what we could and eventually trimmed ourselves down into something that was a bit more manageable. There are some colorful (sometimes less than noble) details, but those are best saved for getting out of me during late night Mumble chats.

In addition to being GM of <Something Wicked>, you’ve also been its raid leader for quite some time. Looking back, what have some of your most memorable moments as a raid leader been? Do you find yourself nostalgic for certain elements of raids that are currently lacking (3-tank encounters, 40 man raids, etc)?

I’m absolutely nostalgic for some of the things that have vanished. I miss multitank encounters specifically, not necessarily because the encounters were better, but I appreciated the guild design that it supported. Most of the things I miss in the past are related to changes in raid philosophy that have altered the way I’ve recruited or prepared for raids. BC was a high point for me from this point of view, as I appreciated balancing the various utility roles that have sort of vanished from the design paradigm since then. The most memorable points for me are the ones that demonstrated the community within the guild:

  • Killing Illidan was when we really felt we were a “legitimate” guild. It was a tangible victory for a lot of people when we’d prior to then been pretty considerably behind the curve.
  • When we transferred to Whisperwind at the end of Wrath every single raider came along for the transfer, even the initiates we had at the time, and all of the non-raiders who were actively playing. It really showed me the level of community we’d built within the guild.
  • A few years ago we had a guild meetup in Las Vegas. We had some eye opening surprises finally getting to meet people we’d been playing with for years. I discovered we had a charismatic group of raiders that I found were great to hang out with outside of the game. I’m still in contact with many players, some of which were there and I consider them to be good friends. I’m not sure if Margaritaville in Vegas is actually a good bar, but I have memories of it being fantastic because of the memories made there.

Speaking of raid leading, can you share your thoughts about the state of raiding this expansion? Does anything about the raiding paradigm stand out to you as having been particularly fun or, on the other end of the spectrum, particularly boring?

The Good: The encounter design has been fantastic. There have been a number of new feeling mechanics in a game that is nearly 10 years old, which is a fantastic feat. My favorites, in no particular order: Gara’jal, the first tier Sha, and Siegecrafter. Surprisingly, I also have fond memories of the earlier outdoor bosses as well.

The Bad: The beginning of the expansion felt a bit grindy, but it seems this has been acknowledged.

The Ugly: Pacing, pacing, pacing. The first tier was about a month or two too short. ToT could have been a few weeks longer, and now, SoO has been out for too long, with no date for it to end. This is a mistake that has been made before, and Blizzard is aware of how it affects players. I’m disappointed to see it made again with little discussion about it from the devs.

Factional imbalance among raiding populations has been brought up a lot this expansion. As a raid leader for an Alliance guild, how have you found recruiting to be over MoP? Do you feel that better racial balance in Warlords of Draenor will have a meaningful impact on this imbalance?

I think faction imbalance is a major problem and it has absolutely caused a negative impact on my guild. A number of players are just not willing to come over to the Alliance side. I don’t think this is because they just like Horde more, but as a purely economic/practical concern, it is more expensive and risky to come to the minority faction for raiding. If they join us, and it doesn’t work out, they are looking at more likely than not having to pay the faction transfer fee again. It makes more sense to just stay on the side with more guilds. I’d like to see the server transfer and faction transfer fee to be merged together rather than separate so players can pay the same amount to join any guild, regardless of faction. This might actually make the faction imbalance worse (as Alliance players could go Horde), but it would make the downside of being on the minority faction significantly less. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the last guild standing on Alliance side, as long as it isn’t twice as expensive to join us. I don’t think the racial changes will do a thing. I think the racial imbalance before was overblown, and really wasn’t the reason the imbalance exists. People are going to join the faction that has more people, it just makes sense. You see it in every game with factions; the racials were just a nice scapegoat. The changes feel good, but they aren’t fixing the real problem.

Getting back to MoP for a moment: What has your experience as an Elemental Shaman been across various forms of content? What do you feel are some of your spec’s biggest shortcomings, and what hopes do you have for your spec and the class as a whole in WoD?

Elemental has been hamstrung by being given too much movement and burst. These are things that are advertised as class assets, but good players minimize the amount that movement affects them, so being balanced against it ends up being a net loss. Finally, concerns about our burst (mostly in PVP) has made scaling issues. All that said, the class has been mostly fine this expansion. I have minor complaints, but they are being addressed in WoD already. Removing the constant ability to cast while moving should go a long way to fixing the devs hesitation to increase our damage.

On a larger scale, what have you thought about class balance as a raid leader this expansion? Have you felt compelled to stack particular classes/specs for progression, or avoid others? How does this compare to your experience in earlier expansions?

Honestly, I thought it was fine. I’m hardly a Blizzard apologist, but I really didn’t have many class concerns. I was one of the people complaining about melee problems early on, but it never really impacted my recruiting, and honestly we’ve been pretty melee heavy most of the expansion, and I never felt like it really held us back. The only class stacking that comes to mind in MoP is really just warlock supremacy. There have been a handful of fights where we’ve wanted some niche ability, like DK grips, or some rogue gimmick, but it never really affected recruiting in a major way. My biggest “stacking concern” this expansion has really been anti-healer stacking.This isn’t in favor of any one class, but against an entire segment of the raider population. There was a notable downward pressure on the number of healers required and against certain specific healers. “Class Balance” arguments tend to focus on DPS, but I think most DPS just can’t see the forest for the trees. If there was anything broken in class design this expansion, it was in the healing department.

Warlords of Draenor promises a number of major changes and new features to the game. While we (sadly) aren’t in Beta yet, what have some of your initial impressions about some of these features been? Examples include Garrisons, the item squish, stat changes, etc.

I don’t really care about the item squish at all, it is a non-event. If I was forced to have an opinion, I’d call it positive just because it might make people comprehend data more easily. The stat changes, I’m withholding judgment on. I have some concerns about a world where reforging is gone and secondary stats become more important when other issues with secondary stats aren’t being answered (capping stats, and disproportionate scaling being my personal peeves) Garrisons I’m sort of in a “wait and see” pattern as well. If they don’t matter for raiding, I probably won’t care about them. If they do matter, I’ll probably hate them. But hey, I loved pet battles and I assumed I’d dismiss them too, so we’ll see!

If there were any one announced decision/change about Warlords of Draenor that you wish could be averted, what would it be and why?

I’ll admit I haven’t had my ear as close to the ground as others. I’m in sort of WoW apathy mode right now until there is actually a game to play again. My only real concern right now is not having shared lockouts between the different raid tiers. I’m worried there will be pressure to run multiple runs of the same zone a la ToC. I’d consider that a massive failure.

It’s pretty hard to believe WoW turns 10 this November! Do you think <Something Wicked> will do something special to celebrate? Speaking of celebrating, how has it been meeting guild members in real life at events such as Blizzcon?

I’d like to think we’d done something. That is around the time of BlizzCon. There has been some talk of getting a guild house and maybe having a bigger get together. Nothing really set in stone. I think I addressed the rest of that above, but it is really the highlight of running the group. Without that first Vegas meetup and subsequent Blizzcon get-togethers, I’m not sure I’d still be playing. I play for the community and that is really the biggest thing.

Tell us the first word/phrase that comes to mind when you think about any of the following: “Mythic Raiding”, “Melee vs. Ranged”, “Bonus Gearing” and “Amber-Shaper Un’sok”!

Mythic Raiding: Feels like New Coke branding

Melee v. Ranged: Are the DKs and Rogues really complaining about fight design?

Bonus Gearing: The Loot System will endure.

Amber-Shaper Un’Sok: I hate bug zones.

Last question: Why do the birds cheep so much whenever you queue your mic?!

They are just really friendly. The mic picks up their sounds much more loudly than they actually are. When I call home, I hear them like the raid does, but sitting around they are just background noise. I suspect the reason they talk is they hear people through the headset and are constantly responding to it. Happens to me when I’m on the phone too. They just really want to say hello!

Multi-Spec Specialisation: If we but dream…

Greetings from analysis central!
The current lull in information disclosure up till the WoD Alpha becomes publicly available (cough!), means that most of us in the community find ourselves with a surfeit of time to discuss existing or proposed featured in Warlords of Draenor. Most recently, I began a discussion on a topic that I found pertinent: Multi-talent specialisation, and whether it can or indeed should be a future feature.
In the post, I hope to reflect and build upon some of that discussion.

Specialisation as a concept: A quick overview

It’s ironic that I refer to “Multi-talent” specialisation, given that MoP talents are no longer innately tied to specs. While it’s true that some classes currently have talents with effects that differ vastly according to spec (and hence may as well be “spec specific”), the majority of talents still seem to follow a loose goal of attempting to have at least some appeal for any spec played by a class. There are, of course, notable exceptions to this such as Roiling Blood for Frost Death Knights!

Prior to MoP however, “talents” denoted a series of both passive and active abilities that were ostensibly presented as choices a player committed too. Once enough talents in a particular tree had been selected, the player’s character “became” that spec- Restoration Druid, Enhancement Shaman, etc.
There has been a great deal of debate amongst the playerbase concerning the role that specialisation plays in defining character identity. For instance, my friend Lhivera believes this to be a matter of tantamount importance that should take precedence over other matters of convenience in the game: A Frost Mage should be defined as a Frost Mage, and the option to “respec” into Fire or Arcane should either be a difficult choice, arduous to accomplish or even impossible.

To be fair, such a view represents a line of thought that Blizzard has not seemed to share even in the early stages of the game. The ability to switch from one specialisation to another has always been present in-game, and I’d argue that it’s never been one with overly strong restrictions attached to it. The biggest downside/turn-away for me would likely have been a limitation based on the number of times one can respec over a given period of time- a limitation that has never existed.
So what has acted as a roadblock (or series of roadblocks) for spec switching in the past?

The Limiting Factor: From Vanilla till WoD

A number of factors have tied together to form limitations for characters wishing to respec. My friend and fellow theorycrafter, Hamlet identified three which I’m further expanding upon here:

  1. Money. Each respecialization costs a certain amount of gold when visiting a trainer. Over time this gold cost increases, but caps out before it gets out of hand.
  2. The UI: Respeccing usually means having to reevaluate a number of UI elements such as action bar settings, macros and even raid frame/indicator placement. This can be quite taxing for the unprepared.
  3. Inconveniences other than the UI. Respeccing also costs time. It requires having to journey to a capital city or location where a class trainer might be present, and spend time there. It can also require completely separate sets of gear if the player intends to play a spec or role that differs greatly from what they previously played. Separate gear can also mean needing to Gem, Enchant and Reforge that gear differently than the character’s previous spec.

For a Vanilla WoW player, I can see why these shortcomings represented a significant obstacle towards respeccing. There were a myriad of reasons that aided in this being a reality:

  • Gold (particularly in high amounts) was much more difficult to attain.
  • Travelling wasn’t nearly as easy with no flying mounts, and even ground mounts being a difficult goal for many to attain.
  • New sets of gear, particularly for high-end gaming, were difficult to attain given that raiding was largely monolithic and at one “standard” difficulty per instance.

Now let’s fast-forward to the present situation in MoP. We’ve had a significant talent system revamp, whereby changing talents is no longer tied to specialisation, and largely ignores most of the above limiting factors- some UI issues aside. More importantly however, the circumstances surrounding the original limiting factors have changed greatly. For instance:

  • Gold is no longer difficult to attain. This can’t be emphasised enough- the amount of gold generated via 3-4 daily quests alone is sufficient to cover the base cost of respeccing.
  • Traveling back and forth form capital cities is much easier in a world where 310% Flying Mounts are the norm, and Hearthstones are on a 15-minute cooldown. Let’s not forget class/profession perks like Death Gate and Wormhole Generators too!
  • UI complexities are able to be greatly mitigated (if not entirely overcome) with addons such as Action Bar Saver, ReforgeLite and Bartender.

The fact of the matter is: Respeccing, when required, is no longer nearly as inconvenient as it once was. This is not to say that it is not inconvenient to some extent, but that the ceiling on its attainment has been greatly lowered.
You’ll also note that up until this point, my blog post has solely referred to respeccing under the lens of a character only being able to hold one specialisation at a time.
That brings me right to my next point.

Enter: Dual-Talent Specialisation

Making respeccing less difficult has been part of the natural progression of the game. While its limiting factors could probably have been enforced, it’s likely that they were allowed to ease in the hopes of encouraging more versatile play amongst an increasingly growing population. Still, up until Patch 3.1, a character was only ever capable of holding one specialisation at a time. You were either a Blood or a Frost Death Knight, assuming you knew how to select talents properly!

The introduction of a feature that allowed players to simultaneously hold two, unique specialisations and corresponding glyphs that could be switched around outside of combat with nothing but a simple button push changed that paradigm forever.
What I find particularly interesting about how the feature was implemented, was the way in which it was introduced to us: One of the points put forward by Blizzard at the time was that Dual-Talent Specialisation allowed hybrid classes to utilise alternative roles more easily. I do not say that it was the only justification they used for adding the feature, but that it was definitely a major line of reasoning at the time.

Why do I find this interesting? Well, mostly because the subsequent implementation of the feature gave it much more versatility than simply fulfilling the aforementioned goal. The developers could have made Dual-Talent Specialisation only available to Hybrid classes that could actually utilise different roles. They could also have potentially placed restrictions on these classes to ensure that their second spec had to differ in role from their original one, although I admit that I imagine this would have been exceedingly difficult to guarantee with how the WoTLK talent system was coded; not to mention the fact that all 3 Death Knight specs and 1 Druid spec had both Tanking and DPS capabilities.
In the end, such a move would likely have made the feature a lot less popular and seem unfair to pure DPS specs. Indeed, one of the benefits (as I see them) of the way in which Dual-Talent Specialisation was introduced was that it allowed more stubborn “purists” to maintain two versions of the same specialisation with minor adjustments to talents/glyphs for versatility. I myself recall maintaining two variants of my Unholy DPS specs (one optimal for AoE, the other single-target) for such purposes.

Of course, the introduction of such a feature wasn’t without its controversies. Some, such as Lhivera, argued that a “fourth wall” of immersion in an RPG world had been broken with the introduction of such a feature. They argued (and still do) that character identity as defined by a specialisation was important to maintain and that the option to change such an identity (should it even exist in the first place) should never be a trivial matter.
While I myself do not agree with such a sentiment, I can respect where it comes from. Regardless: Dual-Talent Specialisation was implemented, and has been a feature of the game for quite some time.
The only question now becomes: Does it stop there?

Present Imperfect?

So, here we are in Mists of Pandaria.
Swapping talents, specialisations and gear-sets has never been easier for players, and WoD promises to make it even more so with some of the announced gear changes. In short order:

  1. Every secondary stat now brings mitigative value to tanks, while Hit/Expertise are gone.
  2. Tier pieces now “morph” to grant appropriate bonuses to correct specialisations.
  3. Reforging is gone (one less step of customisation), and Gemming/Enchanting will become much rarer on different pieces of gear.
  4. The only gear that currently promises to be Tank/Healer only are pieces of Jewellery, and possibly trinkets.

Combine these facts with my earlier points about how easy it is to already switch talents, and one thing becomes clear: If there were ever an opportune time to introduce multi-speccing specialisations, this would be it. Thus, I’ll rephrase my earlier question: Should Dual-Talent Specialisation continue to represent the end of the line for speccing options?

You’ll also note that my original question on Twitter asked people to come up with theoretical reasoning behind why Tri-Specialisation was a bad thing. However, my guildie Esoth brought up a valid point: Why stop at Tri-specs? Imagine a system whereby it were possible to not only maintain three specialisation profiles, but also “sub-profiles” within each spec with different talents/glyphs.
For instance, I could not only switch between Blood, Frost and Unholy freely, but also switch around saved variants of each spec.
If Dual-Talent Specialisation did indeed kill off some individuals conception of specs defining character identity, then it’s fair to see that further enhancing that concept won’t do any further damage in that specific regard.

There is, however, a major difference between implementing the option for Tri-Specs (or Quad-Specs in the case of Druids), and the full “Multi-Spec” system I mention early. While the former would remove one of the last remaining inconveniences of having to visit a trainer occasionally, the latter would remove any need to switch glyphs/talents point blank.
Individual acts such as paying for Tomes of the Clear Mind, having to manually switch talents and glyphs, and the subsequent time they require may seem trivial (and thus, removable) on their own, but collectively form some of the last vestiges of continuously interacting with specialisations. Would this necessarily be a positive for gameplay?

Changing Tides… Hopefully?

As I hope I’ve illustrated in the post, there is a strong case behind why implementing Tri-spec, were it a goal, would make sense in WoD. This, however, doesn’t mean much unless it is a goal for the future.
As it currently stands, the majority of limiting factors behind spec switching outside of Dual-Talent Specialisation are trivial to get around. My friend Hamlet, whom I mentioned earlier, stated that he felt the significance of some of these costs (specifically, monetary-wise) should be increased if the developers wish to retain them. This is an understandable sentiment- why keep barriers that aren’t really perceived as barriers, but rather as nuisances?

Other costs, such as action bar/keybind setups likely need addressing as they present the wrong kind of barrier- a player should never feel hesitant to switch specs simply because they cannot stomach the thought of having to redo their UI. While add-ons such as ABS do address this issue for some players, it is my hope that their functionality is incorporated into the game’s core UI, making it universally accessible.

Realistically, there would probably be a much less enthusiastic response to the notion of full multi-spec switch capability (i.e. allowing more than 3 set spec profiles to be saved) than to Tri-speccing due to how much gameplay it would remove. Even now, I acknowledge that the implementation of Tri-spec capabilities in the game would essentially invalidate the need to ever visit a class trainer for someone who did not maintain two variants of the same spec, and also eliminate a potential gold-sink (not that it’s one right now!).

Perhaps it’s fitting to conclude this post with a followup to the original question that inspired it: Do current respec requirements add meaningful gameplay, and will they continue to do so in WoD?
I think that I’ve made my thoughts on the topic clear- how about you?