Ah, you feel that?
That wonderful time dwellnig in the trough between the waves.
A new patch comes, content gets dumped in the water like chum and we scramble to tear it up and get it all down…
That’s over now.
Now we glide idly through the game taking a nibble or two, relaxed and happy, digesting the last big meal, letting off a burp or two knowing we’re going to get another dump of chum in just a few weeks.
Maybe you’re in a different place right now, but that’s how the cycle feels to me. A patch comes, new stuff to do and shinies to pursue, and the server slams the twin Evinrudes full throttle chasing after it. We all thrash around overfishing the same small holes until everyone hits their limit for the season, and then we get to relax a bit before the next tourney.
Perfect pacing, thank you. Having just a little time to enjoy our success gives us a palate cleanser before the next patch brings fresh fish.
Patch 5.2 has been good, but the thrill has trailed off. The raid is out in full and it’s been good… but it has lost that new raid smell.
New raid smell. Need to get me a can of that, spray it on the seat cushions.
I like where we are at because we know the lull will definitely end, and soon. We don’t have the empty wasteland of nothing to do for the next eight months staring us in the face.
I’m spending my time chilling out and finishing off some of those Pandaria reps that were so two patches ago. I’ve been doing the farm assignments to get reputation each day, and I had the bright idea of patrolling the Valley of the Four Winds for Dark Soil, to try and get Best Friends with everyone.
I figured by this point, everyone who just had to have everyone as Best Friends did, so I wouldn’t have much competition for the Dark Soils.
The result? Yep, true story. Some nights, I’d do a pass and end up with 15 Dark Soil items to turn in before going back for another round. Only took a week of flying around to get ’em all. My farm looks mighty purty now, and I like the chickens. Wish I could click one, kill it and have chicken to fry for my dinner. Ah well, as long as Dog gets to have a fresh chicken snack pack, it’s all good.
I just completed exalted with both Golden Lotus and Shado Pan last night, too. Yes, both. It was the first time any of my characters reached exalted with either of them.
Completed Cloud Serpent a few weeks ago, too. After all, why not? I’ve got some time now that the Isle of Thunder is completely unlocked.
Now that I have the rep, sooner or later I’ll have all of those tigers, cloud serpents, cranes and goats. New mounts are a grand thing. My low level alts will look nice on the back of a blue Shado Pan tiger.
I’ll tell you something. As nice as pet battles and scenarios are, I love having those faction reputations to pursue in my free time.
It’s not the Valor or Justice gear. Those are a joke. They are perishable items, and most of them were stale at their price points on the day they were released.
No, the reputations are fresh and tasty because most of them have FUN stuff to get, stuff that has nothing to do with gear or game performance.
By all means, Blizzard. Give me some factions with a cool story arc and daily quests, and a quartermaster with pets, mounts or attractive transmog gear.
You can keep all the Valor and Justice gear, get that off the faction quartermasters. Stick that somewhere else. Just put a gear vendor in a capitol city that isn’t gated by reputation levels. Valor Points are gated by a weekly cap anyway, so why put a rep level gate on top of it? Just put all the new Valor gear for a tier there at once, and let me decide which single piece I’m saving my Valor for first. I don’t think that having all the items available to pick from is unbalanced when you are still limited to only one item per two to three weeks of capping Valor. Oh no, if all the gear is available from the beginning, then in twenty weeks I could have it all without grinding Rep! Oh noes! Yep, that’s too damn OP. For sure, dude.
The game should feel challenging and reward a certain amount of dedication without feeling gratuitously punishing. What feels punishing is subjective, but I said my piece on Valor Gear vendors, and now I’ll drop it.
Back to the point of factions, daily quests and reputation.
I love having these in the game as filler, without being tied to necessary gear upgrades. I like not feeling that I have to grind that rep every day to stay on top of where my gear should be at.
I might not do the faction today, I might not spend every waking moment grinding rep. I might have a raid instead, or real life, or whatever. A week long family vacation, maybe.
But when I’m queued and flying around bored waiting for something to pop, I’ll go to your faction hub and do some quests, smack some Mogu around and take their fruity pebbles.
I know I said it at the beginning of the expansion, and it’s holding true. I love having faction daily quest hubs that are story driven with actual arcs and new quests at various rep levels along the way, and end in some kind of story reveal or special quest that wraps it all up for you.
A new mount, pet or transmog item for a final reward is the sweetest prize ever. That Onyx Cloud Serpent for Shado Pan? Beautiful mount, and getting it felt like a prize that enhanced an already great final faction quest rather than being something I ground to get for a better ilevel.
I’ve even come around to appreciating the Order of the Cloud Serpent gating the training required to fly one. Although I still think the training should be account bound. You raise one yourself, it’s special, and you fly it for a while, but there are other, special cloud serpents out there waiting for you.
I haven’t reached exalted with August Celestial on anyone, but I’m looking forward to that as well.
I like the direction Blizzard has gone with Factions. My only worry is whether they can maintain the quality of the faction quests and story arcs. They have set the standard very, very high.
The completion of each Faction story arc have become some of the best moments in the game for me. The final Klaxxi reveal, the defense of the Black Ox for Shado Pan, the defeat of the Bloodletter and the battle on the steps of Mogushan Palace for the Golden Lotus. The whole sequence with Operation: Shieldwall.
I find myself doing the factions to see what will happen next. And isn’t that what you want from the people playing your game or reading your story? To keep them looking forward to finding out what happens next?
Oh, and the final ceremony of the Order of the Cloud Serpent! That was steller! Alex loved it, too, when he completed it. And the fact he could go tame serpent hatchlings.
That is what it all comes down to. That is the cycle I’m enjoying, all boiled down.
A new patch comes with content for boosting your gear and power. We tear into it and burn through as fast as we can to stay on the leading edge of Valor gear and LFR drops. But when the patch is been and gone, when we enter the lull, it is the faction daily quest hub that I fall back on, with progression at my pace, a story to look forward to, and a cute fun reward at the end of it.
Please Blizzard, just keep on doing what you’re doing. Only more so.