It was a happenin’ time in Stormwind last night. The place was overrun with people… at least the bank was… enough to make you believe that World of Warcraft subscriptions are up 600K users from their second quarter dip down to 6.8 million.
Actually, I have no doubt that the subscription numbers are up to 7.4 million, I just have to admire Blizzard’s preemptive end-run around potentially depressing news regarding subscription numbers for the third quarter of this year, which ended just a couple weeks back. We may eventually know what that number was back on September 30th (or maybe we do, totally missed that in the footnotes) when the third quarter results come out in about a month or so, but it doesn’t really matter because the number today is 7.4 million. Basically WoW subs jumped by about one and a half EVE Onlines.
Anyway, it was happenin’ because the long awaited WoW 6.0 patch was successfully deployed yesterday.
And with that came a pile of changes. The patch notes are long.
Of course, the first thing I saw was the new character models.
I am not in love with the new human models.
The design philosophy seemed to be “make these guys look a bit lost and not quite up to their tasks” or some such. Of course, I thought the originals were just fine, and they were a bit more ruggedly handsome to boot. So my pally went from looking like a hero to some guy who looked like he just got off the Google bus from SF. Fortunately, the barber shop lets you change hair style and color as well as which of the faces your character has. I was able to tinker that into something more acceptable for about 50 gold. At least he looks a little less like a hipster waiter in a themed restaurant. (Belghast’s post has pictures and describes a similar need to change up.)
The new Vikund in Azeroth
The new male dwarf models are hideously ugly… so are pretty much unchanged. Basically they have a more high def texture so you can, by changing faces, dial in exactly how weather worn and craggy you want to be. The range seems to go from “worn hard and put away wet” to “one step from Dark Iron,” your choice. Dwarves live a hard life.
The male night elf models, on the other hand, do look like an upgrade. They seem more lithe and and smooth and generally more like the high born. A pity about the way they now run. Rather than a feral grace, the male night elf runs like a guy who has pebbles in his shoes or who is trying to run barefoot over a hot beach. Not sure who felt that captured the essence of the night elves, but I am not on board.
So I am not a big fan of the model change. It doesn’t hurt the game to my mind, so it isn’t a huge deal, but I wonder if the time could have been better spent… or better directed. Certainly the goal of retaining your character’s essence through the upgraded models failed for me. (Though there is an out, but now I’ve change my look for the new models. Bleh.)
Of course, the character model malaise faded into the background when I found that two of my characters had lost levels as part of the patch. Color me confused, but I didn’t see anything in the patch notes about changing experience. One of them, Alioto, my instance group character, who had been 88 for months, was suddenly back to level 87. Granted, he was just ONE experience point shy of level 88, but he was no longer that level.
One point shy…
So I figure this might be akin to what happens in LOTRO when they tinker with exp, that I will just have to get a kill and I will be bumped back up to where I was, which was a third of the way into 88. But no, I went and killed something, leveled up, and was only into 88 as far as the experience from that one kill would take me.
I could not figure out a pattern as to what might have caused this. I first noticed it on my rogue, the character I had been using for the Outland quest achievements, who was past the halfway point into level 71 out in Shadowmoon Valley when I last left him. Now he was one experience point shy of 71. But he had just gotten that level over the weekend, so I thought maybe it was newly leveled characters. But then there was Alioto, who had leveled up back in June. Plus I had another character who leveled up on Friday at Darkmoon Faire, and he was just fine.
So I have no idea what happened and I have not seen anything mentioned about this anywhere, certainly not in today’s “whoops” patch notes for the first post-6.0.2 hotfix. Anybody?
That was the low point of the evening, not being thrilled with the new look and having lost experience on a couple of characters where it matters. (Maybe THAT was the link! Hah!) But after that it was mostly upside.
The stat squish seems to be working from what I can see. Vikund, once over 500K hit points (with buffs) during Siege of Orgrimmar LFR groups, now sits at a much more modest 57K hit points, and his mighty two handed sword checks in at mere 98 dps.
Big sword, small dps
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a screen shot of the “before” stats, though I know I have one tucked away somewhere, but for comparison my now level 70 rogue was dual wielding heirloom weapons at level 71 that were each flagged as doing 133 dps. Those now show damage at just 32.68 dps. I am going to have to go check how that level 20 hunter I have is faring.
But eventually we got to the high point of the night, when I started in on the inventory changes.
The new button to organize your bags… well, I probably shouldn’t have touched that until I had tinkered with some of the settings, because it moved everything. That said, my only real objection is that I have to have my hearthstone in slot 1 of bag 1, as I have had it since the end of time. Then I went to the bank and made the best 100 gold investment ever. The new reagent tab in the bank is not free.
This bank is not a charity
But once I paid the 100 gold and pressed the big button at the bottom, I was a very happy person.
All the reagents I had on me…
There it is. On one character this change basically opened up 89 inventory slots on my character and in my bank. That was maybe the most extreme example, but I am not sure any character had less than 50 slots freed up by this action. Best 100 gold spent ever, Totally worth it.
I was a little less thrilled by the toy box. It works and it looks okay (if maybe a bit too widely spaced), but because it lists out all possible toys, I am now daunted by how many I am missing. I have less toys than I thought, though perhaps I was applying toy more widely than Blizz was. Also, there was the perennial Blizzard problem with what to do about dupes. On various characters I had toys that were flagged as “already known,” but I am never sure what to do about them. I am paranoid about deleting them, but I don’t want to keep them around cluttering up my bank. (Though that is certainly less of an issue at the moment.) I have old pet tokens in the same situation, can’t redeem them, afraid to delete them, nothing to do but store them.
That out of the way, I went out to see the first bit of new content. There is a set of lead-in quests that the game tells you about the moment you log in, at least if you are level 90.
Hey, did you hear? New quest!
You can click right on that to get the quest which sends you out to the Blasted Lands which is changed (or phased) to reflect the Iron Horde coming through their shiny new strawberry flavored dark portal.
The new dark portal
There is a quest chain to run down which is primarily there to lay down the lore for you. This is one of those times when you really should slow down and read the quest text. There are not that many quests and the whole thing should take less than an hour if you digest everything, unless quest mobs are completely hunted out, (Though I was there when the zone was packed and that wasn’t much of a problem), or maybe 20 minutes if you blitz through like a crazed Munchkin.
This allowed me to play a bit with some of the changes.
As it turns out, retribution paladins are even easier now. My rotation used to include a build-up to trigger a damage enhancing buff before I could really start in on the high damage attacks. However, that buff seems to be gone now, so it is just build up for a big hit and let it fly.
The new quest log… well… I will have to play with it a bit. Basically, the quest log and the map have been joined into a single window. It seems to be well done… and it flags all of the quests by their type, which is new and useful… but I am going to have to use it for a while longer before I am settled on it.
The quest tracking in the mini-map is… changed. Quest objectives are little yellow dots, but not the same little yellow dots they have used forever. We have new little yellow dots, and they mark more things. I was also able to turn off the new comic book outline effect when mousing over things right away thanks to a tip on twitter. I was not big on that at all, but I am somebody who plays WoW with floating names off as well.
Questing itself seems to follow on in the Mists of Pandaria style, where it is meant to tell a story or involve you in an activity that changes things as opposed to old format which often seemed more interested in having you slaughter 12-30 things. If you didn’t like the Pandaria style, you probably won’t like it in Draenor. I actually liked the Pandaria philosophy, so it looks good to me.
The quest line itself shows you around the zone, has a cinematic, and then sends you off to the king in Stormwind where you get an achievement for completing this limited time event, plus a new title and the special Iron Starlette pet. (Oh, and now there is a gear reward, which wasn’t there last night. Erf.)
The big turn-in
The pet looks like a barbed metal ball. It is visible in the picture of Vikund up at the top.
As for the old kiwi-lime portal to the old Outland, that is gone from Azeroth. You now have to take a special portal in the tower of magic to get there.
A vision of past portals
In general I am pretty happy with the state of things. I still have to try out my other classes to see how they play now. The healing thing has me a bit nervous, as I was a pretty marginal healer with my druid to start with, depending a lot on insta-heals to get me out of jams. And I still have to queue up for the special, limited time Upper Blackrock Spire dungeon, which is only available through the Dungeon Finder currently. I also wish I could manage the Garrosh heirloom smash and grab, but that is for real raiders and not LFR scum like me.
Overall though I am keen to see how things will play out when the expansion finally drops in a little less than a month.
Others looking at the new patch: