Quick Alpha Thoughts

Honestly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to talk in-depth about the Alpha patch notes for Warlords of Draenor that we’ve gotten. This may actually be a short entry! (hahahaha, if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.)

The first thing anyone needs to do in order to have an informed opinion on these changes is to read the entirety of the patch notes. No, I’m not kidding. Pretty much everything they posted is necessary to further understand the changes. What is absolutely wonderful about these notes is that they do attempt to give you context. That is amazing and you have to thank the devs for trying to do so. From what I can tell, they attempted to explain the whys pre-emptively. The whole bit about ability pruning is particularly interesting.

So what am I going to discuss here? I’m just going to say that I’m a little disappointed to see some abilities go, from a hunter perspective. In particular, the loss of Aspect of the Hawk, Distracting Shot, Hunter’s Mark, Rapid Fire, Scatter Shot, Silencing Shot and Serpent Sting altogether are, to me, fairly disappointing. The changes to Kill Shot (no longer available to Survival Hunters) and Lock and Load (being removed by itself, but still able to be procced from Black Arrow) also sting a bit. That Stampede is now a talent is interesting, so I’m not all that fussed, although I don’t know how Murder of Crows or Blink Strikes can compete.

Note that I’m not going to lobby to get these things changed — I know things will naturally change and evolve due to feedback and play data in Alpha and Beta. That said, I did want to talk a little bit about why I feel these changes are disappointing, from a PVE standpoint.

Aspect of the Hawk

Okay, seriously, I know. I know! I get it. We always use Aspect of the Hawk. To not use it is to use Aspect of the Cheetah or Aspect of the Pack. This is absolutely ability bloat at its finest. The trouble is, it’s only ability bloat NOW because we used to have other options. We had Aspect of the Wild (nature resistance!), we later had Aspect of the Viper (mana regen!) in addition to Cheetah and Pack. That Aspect of the Hawk finally goes the way of the Wild and the Viper is not terribly surprising to me, but it feels like an iconic part of being a hunter is going. Yes, they’re baking the buff itself into the abilities and such, but I’m someone who actually enjoyed the different aspects back in the day.

What they really need to do is a way to prevent morons from running around with Pack on constantly, particularly in things like LFG and LFR. >.>

Distracting Shot

I will freely admit that I rarely use this ability. However, when I have used it, it’s generally been in key situations where I ended up kiting some damn thing halfway across the room/area/etc. We’re talking General Drakkisath in Upper Blackrock Spire, back in the day. What about on a pull gone horribly awry? Forcing a mob to pay attention to you and chase you down is a core part of what hunters have been. And while I was thrilled to not have to always kite Drak (thank you, Toga!), I enjoyed knowing that I could and that I had successfully done so previously and could do so again. This kind of gameplay doesn’t really happen these days, though, and I think the game is poorer for it.

For what it’s worth, I occasionally use this out on Timeless Isle when fighting the Gulp Frogs if I pull more than one so that my poor bear doesn’t get 10 stacks of their poison. I could use another shot, like Arcane Shot, if I wanted, but I use Distracting Shot because I want that other mob to look at me and I want it to look at me now. The only way we’ll be able to kite things in the future is if we’re the last one standing, essentially. While that means that kiting in the middle of a raid encounter, for example, will no longer be our domain (and perhaps it hasn’t been for a long while), it’s worth taking a moment to think about where we started and to respect what we were able to do.

Hunter’s Mark

More bloat, I’ll grant you, but another iconic ability going the way of the dodo makes me sad. True, it’s automatically applied on virtually any shot. True, with the raid icon markers, we no longer need to use Hunter’s Mark to actually differentiate between different mobs. But it pre-dated the icons and, for a long while, was the only way TO distinguish mobs from each other.

Rapid Fire

They’re getting rid of a lot of cooldowns. I’m okay with that. I’m even basically okay with Rapid Fire being removed. I’m not a fan of blowing all cooldowns on the pull and on CD thereafter, which perhaps makes me not the best hunter in the world (which is one reason I haven’t raided seriously on Kurn since Vanilla). It’s just that it’s so weird to see all of these abilities that have been around forever finally being cut. We lost all of our melee abilities (even our ability to wield both a ranged and a melee weapon) in Cataclysm and this feels like they’re coming back around to finish the job. Even if it’s just a silly cooldown that I probably never used as much as I should have, I’ll still miss it.

Scatter Shot

Once upon a time, back when I spent a lot of time in Warsong Gulch while levelling my hunter, I was defending the flag in the Alliance base. An orc hunter named Dar (not to be confused with the awesome mage Darista, whom we all called Dar) came up the tunnel with a feral druid named Elu and, while I called it out (dude, I had humanoid tracking on and was shadow melded and was watching Dar’s dot come up the tunnel), I was unable to prevent them from taking the flag. Why? Because when I gave chase, I was suddenly disoriented. I lost control of my character. “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” I yelled at my computer. As I waited to be resurrected (Dar managed to DESTROY me), I scrolled up in my combat log. “Scatter Shot?” I said, “What in the hell is Scatter Shot?”

As a hunter, I knew I must have had the same abilities as Dar, who was about the same level as me, so I found it in my spellbook and put it on my bars AND YOU BET YOUR ASS I Scatter Shotted him every single time I saw him thereafter.

It’s another shot I rarely use, mostly just to prevent spellcasting if Counter Shot or whatever is on cooldown, but I’ll miss it, too.

Silencing Shot

I remember getting Silencing Shot. I believe I spent some time in the Western Plaguelands playing with casters as I learned how to use it. Counter Shot is fine, I guess, and I understand this is part of the larger picture of no longer having silences ATTACHED to interrupts, but it’ll be missed.

Serpent Sting

Oh, Serpent Sting. I think I’ll miss you, most of all! Hunters used to have a fair number of “stings”. Serpent Sting has always been around and it used to be terrible and not worth the debuff slot on mobs in Molten Core, for example. Scorpid Sting helped reduce the target’s chance to hit (and before that, reduced their Strength and Agility by a certain amount). Viper Sting was a mana drain. Wyvern Sting, a Survival-only (for so long) form of CC. I always thought that stings could be a REALLY interesting mechanic for hunters, that Survival hunters, in particular, could be a great DoT class, right up there with warlocks. Instead, they’ve already removed Scorpid and Viper, Wyvern is a talent and now out goes Serpent Sting. It was one of the very first abilities I gained as a hunter and I remember being awestruck and fascinated at the green vapours that appeared on the recipient of my sting.

I think this is the one choice that I don’t really understand. Serpent Sting isn’t automatic. It’s a deliberate choice one makes when they’re attacking the target. Not using Serpent Sting at all, or as much as you can (aiming for 100% uptime), is, well, silly, but it’s also the sign of a not-great hunter (at least on single-target fights). While we all SHOULD use Serpent Sting and aim for that 100% uptime, I’m sure many people don’t. Since it’s not automatic like Hunter’s Mark (unless you’re Survival and using Multi-Shot — which, by the way, will still exist!), I don’t see why Serpent Sting is going away. Is it bloat? Perhaps, I guess, but it’s not bloat like Aspect of the Hawk or Hunter’s Mark, both of which are either used 100% of the time due to lack of other options or are applied automatically. Even world-class players can’t always keep Serpent Sting up 100% of the time. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why this ability, which takes a bit of skill/practice to use properly, is being culled. Alas, poor Serpent Sting, I knew you well. /salute

What about Holy Paladins?

Honestly, good riddance to the Guardian of Ancient Kings as a holy cooldown. Adios, wings. Seeya, Divine Plea. I’m fine with all of these. (My jaw dropped into the apartment below me when I saw Druids are losing Innervate, so I was more prepared for our loss of Divine Plea.) I’m sure I’ll have more to say about healing, but for now, I’m pretty much okay with things. (Although Flash of Light and Holy Light healing for roughly the same amount feels wrong to me, but that’s another rant for another day.)

What do you think about the Alpha notes? Anything you’ll really miss?

But Wait, There’s More

Before I forget, my bio and first column are live over at SentryTotem.com! Every Tuesday and Friday, there should be a brand-new column from me about Guild Leadership. In fact, there’s a second column scheduled to go live today, so be sure to check it out sometime after noon Eastern, 9am Pacific. :)

So You Just Boosted to 90…

Like many other people, you just pre-ordered the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft and that means you get an instant 90 boost. While you might have some idea of how to play the class and spec you boosted, maybe you don’t. Maybe you boosted a brand-new character that you just created.

Once you boost to 90, you may be tempted to jump into group content right away. You are technically able to queue for, uh, anything, I think, except for the Siege of Orgrimmar LFRs.

I beg of you to do a few things before you queue up for anything. Please. Pretty please. With sugar on top.

Do a Bit of Reading

For every class and spec, there are various guides for you on the Internet that are very simple and quick to read, so that you have a clue as to how to play your brand-new 90. Here are a couple of places to go:

Take note of what your rotations/ability priorities are for your chosen spec and place those abilities on your action bar in the rough order in which they’re prioritized.

Time to go Shopping/Questing/Reforging

If you have other characters on the same server and faction as your boosted character, awesome. Buy your recommended glyphs (as per the guides above!) and apply the glyphs to the boosted character.

If you don’t have spare gold and you’re finding that 150g goes pretty quickly, or you don’t have other characters on that server or faction, don’t worry. You probably also don’t have any professions. That’s okay. You should start out by questing. You should be at the Timeless Isle and there are some quests you can do there for gold. There are also dailies you can do over back in the Vale of the Eternal Blossoms (Golden Lotus, etc). Doing these quests is a great way to acclimate yourself to your new character and earn money, which you can then use to improve your character by buying things like glyphs or enchants for newer, better gear that you’ll come across on Timeless Isle.

You’ll also want to reforge your gear a bit, at least if you’re DPS, in order to hit 15% hit (for casters) or 7.5% expertise/7.5% hit (for melee and hunters). You can use AskMrRobot or the ReforgeLite addon to help you reach your hit caps. Don’t worry too much about reforging until you get some better gear, but please make sure that you’re hit-capped. Please. :)

Professions

You probably don’t have any professions. Here’s where you can make a bit of cash. I would recommend picking up herbalism or mining as a profession and pick a secondary profession that’s a good match for it. For example, if you pick up herbalism, this funds the alchemy and inscription professions, whereas mining funds jewelcrafting, blacksmithing and engineering. My personal preferences are herbalism/alchemy and mining/jewelcrafting, but don’t discount tailoring and enchanting as possibilities.

Don’t worry about levelling the professions to max, especially the crafting profession. You can herb and mine in Pandaria even with a very low skill level, so concentrate on that and then sell the herbs or ore that you’ve gathered. You may want to check your local auction house to see how much various ores (Ghost Iron Ore, for example) and herbs (Green Tea Leaf, for example) sell for before you even choose which to pick up.

Professions aren’t strictly necessary, but if you want to be able to make some gold to help fund your continuing boosted adventures, having a gathering profession (particularly if you’re on a new server without a lot of friends or resources) will go a long way to helping you to maintain your character.

A Bit More Reading

Once you’ve glyphed yourself up and you feel like you’re somewhat comfortable on your new character, go ahead and do a bit of reading about whatever instance you want to queue up for. Icy Veins has guides for all of the fights out there, so take a quick look so you have an idea of what to expect. And so that you don’t fall through the floor on Elegon…

Once you’ve done that, you should be able to go in and perform at a somewhat acceptable level for various LFR-difficulty raids.

Why Bother?

Here’s the deal: this stuff matters because if you waltz into group content without knowing the first thing about your class or spec, you’ve just made everything that much more difficult for your entire group — which includes you, by the way. The fights, even the LFR ones, are designed to have a minimum amount of damage or healing done, or for a tank to get a certain number of stacks of a debuff or what-have-you. Can a group get through if they have some strong performers to make up for those who are a drag on the group? Yes. However, the entire community will be better served if the boosted players who are participating in the group content have half a clue as to what to do. If you want better runs, faster runs, more successful runs that don’t end in complete failure, you have to take responsibility as a member of the community.

Expecting boosted 90s, even those of experienced players, to be amazing at group content is kind of silly. But what’s not silly is asking them to know the basics for their new characters and taking a bit of time to get hit-capped and have decent glyphs. It’s not silly to ask them to take a quick look at the various boss encounters. It’s not silly to expect these basic things from people, even if they had no idea on how to play a class beforehand.

The WoW community is a large one, with millions of players around the world. If you, as a boosted character, can help make one run that much smoother, just by virtue of knowing how to play your new character at a basic level, by having an idea on how to kill a boss (or not drop to your death on Elegon) or by knowing enough to reforge to make sure you’re hit-capped, then you are a boon to the community. If, on the other hand, you, as a boosted character, are a drag on the runs you queue up for, where you literally auto-attack or don’t use your pet or don’t even have a clue as to which abilities your spec ought to use, then you are part of the reason the game has become less enjoyable for a sizable portion of the population.

Take the time to learn a bit before you queue up. Take the time to reforge and glyph. Practice your skills. That’s how we can all work to improve the overall WoW community together, even if it’s done one character at a time.

All KINDS of Warlords Stuff

I have not one, but two post about the Warlords of Draenor healing changes sitting in my drafts folder, but then I took a nap and when I woke up, the Warlords of Draenor pre-order (and included boost to 90) had gone live (along with the $60 paid version of the boost to 90).

It’s as though I have too many thoughts racing through my head to get any of them down, but, by golly, I’m going to try.

“On or Before December 20, 2014″

The thing that seems to be causing people’s heads to explode is that, on the pre-order page, it says quite clearly “Game is expected to release on or before 12/20/2014.”

First of all, they’ve already said that’s not the release date. They’ve said fall of 2014. So that’s somewhere between September 23, 2014 and, shockingly, December 21, 2014.  My money is on early fall, but they’re obviously being very Blizzard about things and hedging their bets, as per usual.

Still, people are upset because that means more than a full calendar year in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid instance.

This isn’t new, though. Icecrown Citadel, the final major raid of Wrath of the Lich King (no, Ruby Sanctum doesn’t fully count), launched on December 8, 2009. Cataclysm launched one year later, on December 7, 2010. Dragon Soul, the final major raid of Cataclysm, launched on November 29, 2011. Mists of Pandaria released, surprisingly, on September 25, 2012. Siege of Orgrimmar, the final major raid of Mists of Pandaria, launched on September 10, 2013.

Given that track record, it’s hardly news that people are going to spend a year with Siege of Orgrimmar as the “current” raid content. It is, however, quite disappointing to a lot of people, I would imagine. I would further submit that this is probably the entire reason why pre-ordering now gets you the level 90 boost immediately.

On the bright side, Blizzard typically has beta periods that last approximately 6 months. 6 months from now is, you know, September. In my opinion, this means we are very likely to see beta launching in the next month or two. So they’re going to try to keep players occupied with new toons at 90, the beta launch, plus their other properties. (D3′s expansion is coming out soon, Hearthstone is certain to be ending beta soon, Heroes of the Storm is on its way…)

I’m not surprised. I’m not even disappointed, although I know a lot of people are. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve not played much of this expansion and I’m fairly separated from what’s going on, or maybe it’s because I’m just that jaded, hah! I actually thought it wouldn’t be impossible to get things going for a June release, but apparently I was wrong. Ah, well. I do think it’ll be closer to late September than late December, but what do I know, eh? Clearly not a lot. ;)

Healing Changes in Warlords of Draenor

Honestly, over the last few days, I’ve written over 3500 words talking about these healing changes and I can’t make up my mind about them.

On the one hand, I’m in favour of absorbs being less potent (I’ve always hated absorbs and yes, I’ve played a holy paladin), I’m in favour of smart heals being less smart, I’m in favour of having time to make intelligent decisions about on whom to cast which spell.

I’m not in favour of the cast-times being added to Light of Dawn, Word of Glory/Eternal Flame, Wild Growth, Prayer of Mending (and other priest spells) and Uplift.

I’m not in favour of healers having to relearn how to do their jobs all over again. My previous drafts rambled a lot about this point, but here’s the thing: DPS basically still does today what DPS did when WoW launched. Tanks have changed a lot, I’ll grant you, especially with this whole “active mitigation” thing. But healers had to relearn how to heal for Cataclysm. I’m not saying that was a terrible thing or that healers didn’t need a serious retooling, but here we are, just 3ish years later, and they’re removing the “mid-level” heals (or whatever you want to call them). So much for the three-heal system. (Actually, I’m well-aware that the three-heal system was already out the window come the end of Cataclysm, with healers spamming AOE and smart heals, and I can’t imagine that’s gotten any BETTER throughout Mists.)

It’s not that healing doesn’t need to be reworked, because I’m certain it does. I just think it sucks that the burden of relearning falls to the healers. Again. As if relearning your specific class again doesn’t suck enough (and it can!), learning how healing works in a whole new system of healing can be painful. Blech. I read the healing changes and immediately did not want to heal, period.

Out of the many words I’ve written on the subject, perhaps the most poignant (for me) were those that made me see that perhaps I’m just too old for this stuff. I mean, not necessarily because I’m old (because I’m not, shut up!), but because I’m weary. Part of the reason I stopped playing is because rolling with Blizzard’s punches just got really exhausting after a certain point. After seven years of adapting to every change and all the retuning and retooling and redesigning, I was just tired. Heck, I still feel tired. It used to energize me to know that changes were on the horizon. I’d jump at the chance to learn anything new.

But I just… don’t, anymore. That lack of passion, lack of desire to learn, it kind of indicates to me that maybe I’ve truly outgrown the game…

But You Just Pre-Ordered! WTF?

Warlords of Draenor Pre-order
… yeah, I did. Guilty as charged. I bought the pre-order for two main reasons:

  1. I’m going to at least check out the new expansion. That’s never been in doubt, even if my lifelong dream of getting server-first skinning has been crushed. I also had the money to pay for it now, so why not spend it now on something I know I’m going to want to have later?
  2. Even if I don’t play much for Warlords of Draenor, I want my stable of alts to be ready for the expansion for money-making purposes. (I’ve quite enjoyed having a stash of over 220,000 gold sitting there, ready for me if I ever wanted to come back and raid seriously again.)

I’m also seriously considering resubbing for a bit, but I wouldn’t expect that to last through to release. Maybe I’ll spend the next month or two playing around a bit and then let things lapse before coming back at the 6.0 patch, at which point I will endeavour to learn how to heal all over again, unless it really makes me want to cry. (Which is a possibility.) Still, I feel as though I owe the community at least a 6.0 holy paladin primer. We’ll see.

That said, because I pre-ordered, I have a shiny new boost to 90 I could use, if I resubbed, and I am incapable of deciding. Here’s a poll. Vote for your favourite options and I promise to take them into consideration.

Crazy or Crazy Like a Fox?

As North American realms came back online today, after the application of Patch 5.4.7, a new option became available for a short while: Boost a Character to 90. The price was set at $60 USD.

As I understand it, this option was not supposed to go live, especially since it vanished quickly thereafter. Still, it certainly gives one food for thought.

1) Is $60 a reasonable price to bring a character up to level 90?

Obviously, this depends on several factors.

a) Do you have a lot of disposable income? If so, $60 is going to seem a lot more reasonable to you than someone who only just manages to pay $15/month for their subscription to the game. It also means that you’re likely to see fewer new-to-90 characters, which may (or may not) be a way for Blizzard to throttle the number of people who have no idea what on earth they’re doing at max level.

b) Is the character level 1 or level 60? Level 70? Level 80? Level 85? Obviously, if the character is brand-new, you’re getting more bang for your buck. 90 levels divided by $60 is basically 1.5 levels per dollar. But what if you, like me, stopped playing regularly after Cataclysm and your characters are mostly level 85? 5 levels divided by $60 is $12 per level! That’s the point where I’d be all “well, eff that, I’m going to go spend 12 hours or so and get to 90 on my own!” Actually, I’d probably hit that point around level 70 or so, but that’s just me.

That said, time is money, friend, the goblins tell us in-game. What’s that time worth to you? That’s what it ultimately comes down to. For myself, I would have expected something around $25-$30 USD. I know that I would have paid easily that much to ding a few characters to max level, but remember, this is only max-level for a short period of time! The boost-to-90 option will still be available once Warlords of Draenor comes out, I imagine. Will there be a boost to 100? Maybe, but maybe not. You’re not paying for a max-level character for Warlords. You’re paying for a level 90 and, in just a few short months (I’m still saying June 10th +/- 2 weeks), that’s not going to be max-level anymore. Does that devalue it for you, going forward? Should it? Perhaps.

2) Did they mean to allow the option to be available?

I don’t think it’s impossible that this is a way for Blizzard to gauge reaction on a price point. Most people’s reactions seem to be “that’s way too much, they’re crazy!” Could it be that they “accidentally” left the option in the build, gave people enough time to see it and then hotfixed it out? If so, then perhaps they’re crazy… like a FOX. All of this market research! Not to mention all of this buzz. And potential buzz if they drop the price later on when it actually goes live…

Then again, I’m not sure this is the case, because there were rumours of people getting a question about this in a Blizzard survey/email or something a while back. Still, nothing can prepare someone for the reaction of announcing something to the world, not even surveys and polls. Maybe this was their way of doing that. Maybe not.

3) But seriously, $60???

I keep coming back to that price point because I think it’s somewhat ridiculous. The way I understand it, and I could be wrong, is that people started talking about buying multiple licenses for Warlords of Draenor in order to get multiple characters to 90. If the average price of a World of Warcraft Expansion is somewhere in the realm of $40 USD or thereabouts, then why price the level 90 boost to be ~150% of that? If kept at this price, a level 90 boost would be the most expensive purchase you can make for your character, exceeding even the realm-and-faction transfer fee of a $55 USD, combined.

4) The conversation has changed.

Hilariously, the conversation regarding 90 boosts, say, two months ago, was the fear that people who didn’t know what they were doing would infiltrate a highly-skilled playerbase. Ignoring the fact, of course, that much of the playerbase isn’t all that skilled to begin with, the conversation on whether or not people should be able to boost their characters to 90 has now been replaced by why does it cost so much? which neatly removes a lot of controversy amongst people who were concerned that the overall level of player ability would drop. (I’m still concerned about that, because I like thinking about how things affect the overall community.) The controversy now is “if I want to buy a level boost, it should be affordable, it shouldn’t be the equivalent of FOUR MONTHS’ worth of WoW!”

Lots of food for thought. We have a lot to look forward to on this subject, as well as the pre-order and, of course, beta testing for Warlords of Draenor. It’s going to be an exciting next few months, that’s for sure.

Speaking of excitement… My newest guide, Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Raider is launching next Tuesday, February 25th! And don’t forget to join in the Twitter Q&A on Sunday, February 23rd at 3pm ET (noon Pacific) with the #AskKurn hashtag. :)

Level 90 Boost on Pre-Order

Over the years, I’ve been, shall we say, less than adoring of the way Blizzard has handled a variety of things. Blizzard has made a lot of mistakes, in my opinion.

Giving out the free level 90 boost at the time of pre-order is not a mistake. It’s pure genius.

I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? There are no new races and no new classes coming out with Warlords of Draenor, so there’s no death knights or monks, draenei, blood elves, worgen, goblins or pandaren to “save” your boost for, so why not try to stave off end-of-expansion malaise by offering a free boost to level 90?

While I don’t have any hard numbers to prove it, I think everyone has anecdotal data that shows that the last six-to-twelve months of any expansion leads to boredom in World of Warcraft. While I’ve never quit playing during slow periods (I’ve managed to keep raiding and such), I’ve seen countless raiders in my guild just stop playing because they feel as though there’s nothing else to do. Of course, that’s kind of ridiculous when you think about how much content World of Warcraft has to offer. (Hint: there’s a lot.)

One of the things you can do is, obviously, roll a new toon and level it. A lot of people enjoy the levelling experience. While I’m mostly “over” levelling, I do enjoy the initial grind to the level cap on my hunter. But that’s usually just 5-10 levels. The idea of rerolling, from the start, going through Teldrassil, Dun Morogh, Goldshire… it all kind of makes me want to cry. If I were bored by the game, the last thing I would personally want to do is go through the starting zones yet again. (Even though they were changed somewhat in Cataclsym, the idea of going through Goldshire again makes me ill.)

So why not remove levelling from the equation entirely in the time prior to Warlords of Draenor?

With the Timeless Isle (or the Island of Phat Lewtz, whichever you prefer), it’s ridiculously easy to gear up. My hunter is sitting at a 503 equipped item level after spending less than a week going through various LFRs and spending a few hours out on the Timeless Isle.

The idea of getting a free express pass to max level in the dying months of Mists of Pandaria is a stroke of genius, just to continue to engage the playerbase. Even if it only ekes out another month or two of enjoyment (and thus, subscription), it’s totally worth it for Blizzard to allow people to boost to max-level, even if it’s just for a short period of time. (And perhaps, one might imagine, this experiment will allow Blizzard to gauge how they and their customers feel about paying to get to max level, skipping the levelling process entirely!)

I haven’t even touched on the fact that Blizzard has confirmed that they’re thinking about ways to get you other boosts to 90 for other characters, without buying multiple copies of the expansion, which, I would imagine, is going to be another bit of revenue for them.

So if boosts are going to engage a bored player for another month or two (at minimum, I would imagine), thus staving off end-of-expansion malaise, how about all the revenue they’re going to get for the expansion several months before it even comes out? You only get the boost on pre-order, after all. That means a bunch of people, God only knows how many, are going to happily plunk down their $39.99 or whatever, perhaps even before we have a release date for the expansion (my money is still on June 10th, give or take two weeks)! You can probably include me in those numbers as well, even though I’m still not resubbed and I still don’t know what character I would boost to 90…

Some may be wondering how I feel this will affect the playing community… and I’m going to say that this is probably going to have less of a noticeable effect than if it happened all at the launch of Warlords of Draenor. Why? Well, first of all, even though I suspect there will be a large wave of freshly boosted 90s as soon as pre-ordering is possible, they’re going to be dinged to max level amongst groups of players who already know and outgear most of the fresh-at-90 content. This is in opposition to a large population of players who probably don’t know what they’re doing being unleashed upon the regular population who might know what they’re doing, but are struggling to level up to the next level cap. Anyone remember how crappy heroic Stonecore or heroic Shadowfang Keep or heroic Deadmines were before people understood the dungeons, the abilities, the pulls? Gear helps, so boosted characters will be able to gear up relatively quickly, if my hunter’s experiences over the holidays were any indication, and chances are they’ll LFG into a group where at least one person knows what they’re doing… Honestly, I think dungeons and early LFRs will be okay (not 100% pleasant, but when are dungeons and LFRs guaranteed to be pleasant endeavours?) even with people dinging max level instantly. Certainly, the flood will be less noticeable than having a bunch of new 90s unleashed on the population and learning their abilities as they are also grouped with random people who are trying to get through the levelling dungeons.

So, really, this is a huge win for Blizzard. They get:

- more monthly revenue from otherwise bored players who might have quit for a bit before the expansion comes out
- more money upfront for the expansion than they would have garnered otherwise, perhaps
- perhaps more revenue by virtue of offering a boost-to-90 option
- valuable data on how people react to being able to skip the entire levelling process

Plus the players don’t have to slog through 90 levels of quests, dungeons and exploring before they can actually play “the real game”.

(Note that I do find some use for the levelling process, I really do, but I’ve done it a lot and I have no desire to revisit the lowbie experience.)

Well-played, Blizzard. Well-played.

What do you think? Is this good? Bad? Brilliant? Stupid? Tell me which character of yours will get your level 90 boost!

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