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The QueueApr 13, 2020 12:00 pm CT

The Queue: Alpha Monday

It’s Monday, what a concept! Also apparently this was Easter weekend? Who knew! I’m as confused as the rest of the Queue writers about what days even mean anymore. At least I have the Shadowlands alpha to keep me company. With its adorable Owl Butlers and randomly dying while running past waterfalls, what more could a person need?

Still, I can’t spend all my time in Alpha, so they say, sometimes I have to answer questions about Alpha too! So I take you now to — The Queue.


Q4tQ: Now that we have a little bit more info (although far from all of it): Which Covenant will you choose (for your “main” if you plan to level alts)?
Has the reveal of some of the abilities you get changed your plans in any way?


Even before we’d seen anything about the abilities or bonuses or even the transmogs I knew I was pledging my first character to Venthyr. They’re 110% my aesthetic. Spooky Vampire counts? Count me in! Carrying a tombstone around on my back? It’d be a grave mistake not to. Forbidden blood magic? You best be positive I’m signing up for that.

As a bonus, I’m pretty happy with the extra ability that my Druid is going to get. It’s not quite as cool sounding as the Night Fae’s ability that launches 16 Druid spells over four seconds, but it’s still neat.

I was never going to choose one based on which ability sims highest though. I’m not pushing the bleeding edge content where I feel like I have to choose the less interesting (to me) option just for the sake of a couple of extra points of damage. The rest of my characters might do a Covenant more fitting to their class. I’m pretty sure my Demon Hunter is going to be hanging out in Maldraxxus, my Mage feels like Bastion, and unspecified alt #3 is going to be hanging with the Night Fae.


Muti-part QftCoryQ: Many practices of high-level raiders such as favoring specific races, specs or talents and likely in Shadowlands, Covenants, that are really only applicable at the very top levels of play seem to trickle down and be viewed as requirements for everyday players. How much responsibility does Blizzard have to manage behavior around these? How bad do you think a situation needs to get before Blizzard should intervene to “fix” things? What isn’t Blizzard doing along these lines that you think they should and would be effective? 

High-level Mythic Keystones are the easiest place to see some of the discrimination and bad practices. Ask any player who isn’t part of the established meta for the season what its like getting a run in the premade finder. I know a bunch of amazing Warlocks and Shadow Priests who spend upwards of an hour each time they start applying to keys above level 15 — all because they’re not a Mage or a Hunter.

Blizzard shares some of the responsibility, but it’s not on them entirely. Saving the player base from itself must be a fulltime job for some of Blizzard’s devs. But even as far back as Vanilla World of Warcraft players found “the best” class for the content. In these days of Raider.io, streamers, and guides on websites, it’s easier than ever for players to find the one right build for their class. In a perfect world, every class would be perfectly balanced against each other, and every skill or talent would be an amazing choice. But that’s not possible, there’s always going to be the right tool for the job and players will figure that out pretty quickly.

The only direct Blizzard intervention over something that felt truly harmful in Battle that I remember was when they changed the War Mode bonus armor to not be as strong as a Heroic raid piece. Limit faction changed about 40-60 characters so that they could take advantage of that, and then faction changed them back. They didn’t have their armor stripped after the fact, but for future weeks Blizzard nerfed the reward so it wasn’t as strong. Indirectly they used the Artifact Knowledge system to limit how quickly you could get levels for your Legion Artifacts and Heart of Azeroth. It even mostly worked — except for high-level raiders.

Look at Island Expeditions, there’s no cap on them, and they only award a tiny bit of Azerite Power. However, players in Method and Complexity-Limit realized that you could clear them pretty quickly and that tiny bit of Azerite added up. Then they spent hours and hours just chain-running Islands to level their neck.

But making changes to stop things like that from happening, without harming the wider player base is hard. You could put a blanket restriction on them like: you could only run 10 Islands a week or only the first three each day have rewards — but what about players who are running them because they really enjoy them, or are hunting for transmogs and mounts?

That’s why we see time gating on as much content as we do. If there weren’t any, there are definitely players out there who would grind 0-100 as fast as possible. As much as the cost to get into Horrific Visions rankles, it was put there to stop us from just running 35 of them the first week and getting burnt out on the content. That had other issues, like how much it sucked to fail and then lose the currency for the key, but it was set up that way in an attempt to save players from their worst habits.

We probably need more time-gated content for expansion long features like Anima and Torghast or we’ll see the same thing happen in Shadowlands. I know, I know — it sucks and you want to be able to play as much stuff as you can all in a row. But having something to look forward to in the next weekly reset is ok too.


Q4Cory: what is the most exciting thing about the alpha for you so far? 

The most exciting thing has been just getting into the alpha at all! I’ve never been in this early in the process before, and I’m loving every second of it. I’ve been reporting bugs, and people phased into rocks, random deaths and just leaving tons of feedback about things. I can’t wait to see it all come together with each new build.

The second most exciting thing was taking a trip to Icecrown Citadel and seeing the Shadowlands skybox effect. Holy moly that’s neat. I also found a hilarious bug while getting these pictures where dismounting from your flying mount doesn’t start you falling. You just stand there in mid-air like Wile E. Coyote.


What are you liking most about the new customization options found so far? 

The heterochromia option for the Blood Elves is pretty badass. I hope that all the races can get that as an option. I also love how many people I’ve seen happy about the new skin tone options for Blood Elves and Gnomes. Lots have been saying something along the lines of “Finally my character will look like how I always imagined it”– and I love that. More options!


Cory, in those times of quarantine how are you keeping yourself sane? 

Well having all of the Shadowlands information start showing up has really helped. All of us were really busy last week with the daily content drops and then the actual Alpha. Beyond that I’ve worked through some of my gaming backlog, I finally got a chance to play Jedi: Fallen Order, which was a pretty fun game. Any game where you can kill a squad of Stormtroopers by deflecting all of their blaster bolts at once is a good one. I’ve watched a bunch of tv shows and listened to a ton of podcasts too. They’re the perfect accompaniment to all of the dishes we’re washing now since we’re at home for every meal.

Today’s Anna Earworm™ Heroes

Over the weekend the Blizzard Watch squad played Shadowrun. Joe leads a great game, and it was fun to get to play alongside Rossi instead of him being the DM. I’m dedicating today’s Anna Earworm™ to my characters cyber-Monkey — Bowie. The best hacking cyber-monkey pal a guy could ask for.

Don’t forget to leave Anna lots of questions for tomorrow! Have a great week!

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