Or, in less pretentious terms, something stinks.
(Warning: strong language ahead.)
First, an admission. I am a bit of a tech geek. (Hardly a surprise, I know.) So I have a little story of something that happened about a year and a half ago. At the time, Apple’s iPad was not just the most popular tablet out there, it was more or less the only significant tablet out there. There were a few Android based products, but none of them sold in significant quantities. There was, however, a consensus among the tech press that there was an opportunity there, an opportunity to make a tablet that would be the PC to the iPad’s Macintosh.
One of the companies that hoped to make such a product was Hewlett-Packard. A year or so earlier, they had dropped a billion dollars and change to buy Palm, ostensibly to acquire the software that would be used to launch the company into the mobile computing space (i.e., iPhone and iPad competitors). And about a year and a half ago they were ready to go, and released a product called the HP TouchPad.
So many people wanted to get behind that tablet. Prior to its launch, the tech press were bending over backwards in the hope that this could be the one, that finally there would be a real alternative to the iPad. But as much as they obviously wanted to love it, when they actually got the device they had to admit that it wasn’t quite there.
The original TouchPad sold for $499, the same price as an entry level iPad. A little over a month later, HP threw in the towel and cut the price to $99 in a fire sale.
Now, I won’t recount the corporate disaster that went on at HP afterwards. Rather, I’d like to give my summary of what HP was saying when it discounted the TouchPad:
Hi, HP stockholders. You know that billion dollars we spent to buy Palm? The year and a half we spent trying to develop a post-PC device? Well, we wasted it. Our product stinks, and we give up. We don’t have a clue what we’re doing.
If there were ever a time to short a stock, that was it.
Now, back to Warcraft. As you might know, there were a few drastic changes that were made recently, and I’d like to write about two of them, and what Blizzard has to say about one of them.
It seems that with 5.1, Blizzard stealthily cut ore and herb spawn rates by 50%. Here’s what they had to say about it:
Mining and Herb spawn rates in Pandaria have been reduced by approximately 50% in patch 5.1, and this is indeed an intended change. These are in addition to the hotfix that was applied in 5.0.5 to lower the spawn rate of Ghost Iron.
In all of these cases, the reduction was prompted because the resources were too abundant, resulting in ore and herbs being undervalued, and also therefore the effort that our herbalists and miners put in to collect each node. We’ll be monitoring the situation, though, and should the current rates prove to be too low then we’ll make further adjustments as necessary.
Now, I’m a jewelcrafter so I do keep a close eye on ore prices, and I have one word for this: bullshit. The idea that the game undervalued the effort gatherers put in to collect each node, if true, is not solved by making it twice as hard to gather each node. Ore prices spiked temporarily, but now they are back to the 32-33g a stack level they were stably at pre-patch. (I have not yet seen them dip to the sub-20g levels I occasionally saw during obvious fire sales, but it wouldn’t surprise me.) In any case, gatherers now must spend twice as much effort to get something that sells for maybe 10-20% higher. Don’t pretend you’re being sympathetic with their plight, Blizzard. You just fucked them over.
Lest someone think I am saying this out of anger, I’m not. This turn of event has worked out remarkably well for me, as I have a hoard of gems gotten from the 17g/stack ghost iron bonanzas, while other jewelcrafters seem to be running low on supply. Primary color cuts are worth selling again, and secondary color cuts have soared into the 200g-300g price range. It’s not a 4.x patch bonanza of demand, but I am raking in gold pretty quickly.
Here’s the thing: I did not get the impression that the game in 5.0, at least in terms of gathering, was particularly broken. I liked that I could get a bunch of ore quickly when I needed to, and I thought Blizzard had done this deliberately to reduce frustration gatherers had. And in theory Blizzard had piles of data from beta testers as to how the ore spawn rates would affect the game and made a deliberate decision to make ore (and herbs) freely available.
Reducing spawn rates by 50% is not a minor tweak. It is a full-scale abandonment of that decision. It is Blizzard’s equivalent of putting the TouchPad on firesale and admitting the money they spent on Palm was wasted.
It’s a sign that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing.
So here I come to the change that I really am angry about. I suspect this is one of several; for instance, I can’t determine the effect of the hotfix on Monk healers because I don’t play one, nor do I regularly talk to one. In any case, here’s what happened:
When 5.1 hit, there were a number of changes that affected fire mages. The three that I found most concerning were:
- Deep Freeze’s duration was reduced to 4 seconds.
- The damage absorbed by Ice Barrier has been reduced by 25%.
- Combustion’s periodic damage is now based only on the current Ignite, instead of both Ignite and Pyroblast. Damage has been increased to bring it up to approximately the same level as before.
Changes 1 and 2 were nerfs that significantly affected my ability to quest and solo things. The Deep Freeze change meant that I could no longer get off a critical strike pyroblast with a Frostjaw/Deep Freeze combo, making it less useful. And the damage nerf to Ice Barrier meant that I couldn’t take as many hits as before without taking defensive measures. The third change was specifically stated as being neutral. So I felt I was getting nerfed, but in all it wasn’t so bad it didn’t affect raid dps too much (although it did affect it somewhat, with me now having to cast Ice Barrier more often).
And then the November 29 hotfix hit. Combustion damage was halved, and my crit rate was cut by 17%. I haven’t raided yet with the hotfix in, but my best guess is those nerfs will amount to between 15-20% less dps. To give you an idea of what that means to me, I’d like to take an example of something I worked a few weeks on getting. My current robe is the Vestments of Thundering Skies, which represented approximately three weeks of valor tokens from quests and LFRs and scenarios over my previous robe, the Imperial Ghostbinder’s Robes from Feng on Raid Finder. The upgrade increased my intellect and secondary stats by about 15%.
The nerf effectively removes thirteen item levels from my equipment. My 486 item level that was one of the best in my raid group’s? Now it’s no better than 473, which is probably someone they could pick up from LookingForGroup or Trade.
It’s like the last month and a half of improving my gear has been completely wasted.
That would be bad enough, but the way it was done was completely mind boggling. I complained about it last night but I feel like complaining about it more. It’s a tacit admission that Blizzard did not know what it was doing with regards to fire mage. What happened? Did no fire mage in an arena ever pull off a Deep Freeze/POM Pyroblast/Inferno Blast/Pyroblast!/Combustion combo before last Tuesday? And could you think about it for a little longer than two days before fucking over every raiding fire mage into irrelevancy?
These are the sorts of hotfixes and patches I would associate with a brand new MMO that is still feeling its way into figuring out class balance. Not the sort of game that has thousands if not millions of people eager to test new things on PTRs and provide real data.
If my gear level is going to be cut from 486 to 473 on a whim like this, I’m not sure doing dailies and LFRs and other things to work on making my gear better is worth it. So expect me to continue to post more about the AH. At least I have confidence that Blizzard isn’t going to take my gold away.