Patch Notes from 5.4

There is some exciting news in the world of 5.4 patch notes, with new additions coming out all the time. In case you missed them, you can view the most recent ones here:  http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/10158897/54_PTR_Coming_Soon-6_11_2013.

Three of the big features of 5.4 are very interesting/exciting to me: Flex Raiding, Virtual Realms, and Proving Grounds.

New Feature: Flex Raiding (see also: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/10175200/)

The new Flexible Raid system is designed to allow social groups a close-knit raiding experience outside of the usual 10 and 25 player formats.

This new raid format is intended to appeal to players who enjoyed the 10-player normal format in Wrath of the Lich King. It’s something players can enjoy doing for fun on off-nights with their Real ID or Battle.net friends. There isn’t an ilvl requirement for Flexible Raids, so new alts can tag along too!

This should also be a welcome alternate to LFR, where players can run through easy content solely with their friends and don’t have to rely on PUGs to round out 25 players. Rewards are also slightly better in this format–higher ilvl gear, and the chance to complete achievements and win mounts.

  • A raid’s difficulty will scale based on how many players are in the Flexible Raid. Between 10 and 25 people can be in this raid.
  • This raid format has a separate lockout than LFR, and Normal/Heroic. You can also complete achievements on this difficulty level.
  • Gear rewards will be between LFR and Normal quality. Players can also get some items not available in LFR.
  • There’s no ilvl requirement for Flexible Raids, and raids can include Real ID or Battle.net friends cross-realm.
  • Players will acquire loot via the Raid Finder’s “per person” loot system.

This feature isn’t immediately useful to me. Most of my problems in terms of getting raids off the ground has been in the “can’t get 10” range rather than the “I have too many raiders” range. That being said, the dynamic scaling as applied to raids is a rather exciting new feature. I really like the idea of a dungeon/raid that scales to your group. This is something that I’ve wished WoW would incorporate since I first experienced it in Dungeons & Dragons Online. I’m hoping that this feature will be successful enough at the 11-25 level to apply it to the 5 and 10 man settings, as well. More flexibility in groups is always a good thing. If it is indeed an attempt to recreate the flavor of Wrath raiding, then IMO it is a VERY  good thing.

New Feature: Virtual Realms

Virtual Realms are sets of realms that are fused together, and will behave exactly as if they were one cohesive realm. Players on the same Virtual Realm will be able to join guilds, access a single Auction House, join arena teams and raids, as well run dungeons or group up to complete quests.
Players belonging to the same Virtual Realm will have a (#) symbol next to their name.

This could potentially be exciting to me, depending on how the mashups work. On the one hand, I always scout for and choose low-to-medium population realms because I enjoy my player community on the smaller side. I’m willing to make raiding (a once or twice a week activity) more difficult in exchange for making everything else (that I do every day) a more enjoyable experience. Virtual server merges will almost certainly result in ridiculous amounts of overcrowding as Blizzard gets things balanced where they want (“where they want” generally being “standing room only”). So, if CRZ is anything to judge by, this feature has great potential to really, really suck. On the other hand, I am intrigued by the idea of cross-server guilds and cross-server AHs. We already have all the downsides of this sort of feature, I’m anxious to see if having the benefits might balance out the crappiness of CRZ a bit. I have alts scattered (and abandoned) throughout several realms. It would be interesting to reclaim them (and their vanity guilds) under the same umbrella via merged realms (assuming the stars align enough to have those realms merged with mine).

New Feature: Proving Grounds

Proving Grounds is a new feature for individual players to test and improve their combat skills.
At the Proving Grounds, players may undertake trials, designed for Damage, Tank, or Healer roles.
It provides a great opportunity to learn how to Tank or Heal, without the need of a group.
Each trial is available in four separate difficulties: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Endless. Harder difficulties include more difficult and varied enemies.
Endless mode allows you to test your mettle against increasingly difficult enemies. Compare your best scores to friends and guildmates!
[PTR]: Access to the Proving Grounds and more information is coming soon.

This is just flat out exciting. I’ve wanted a “practice mode” since the beginning of time. While this isn’t exactly what I wanted, it’s close enough for the time being. I will probably spend a great deal of time testing myself with the more challenging and endless settings. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that no matter how good you are at a class, you can always get better.

One feature that I really hope makes it in is a “viewer/observer” setting. As someone who has been tasked with training recruits in more than one guild, a feature like this would prove invaluable to me in that role. I could just start up the Proving ground with the recruit and watch him go, giving tips and pointers while correcting mistakes as they happen in a private and (IMO) far less stressful environment than a random PUG group. While the practice mode itself will provide some manner of feedback, I’m sure, an experienced hand to help translate and focus that feedback into a usable (for the uninitiated) format would take it to the next level.

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