Direction

I usually try to avoid meta-topics when it comes to WoW mainly because I generally don’t have the first hand experience to base my opinions on, but occasionally a topic will crop up where even my outsider perspective is worthy to share. Tonight I’ll attempt to share my feelings and speculation on the direction Blizzard is heading with WoW.

First and foremost let me state that I am not a progression raider. Hell, I rarely raid period. I have very limited experience with end-game content, not because I can’t hack it, it’s just that I don’t have the time to dedicate to progression raiding. So take my opinions as an outsider looking in, although I’m not trying to discredit my opinions as I feel they are valid.

Okay, now that that is out-of-the-way, let’s get on with it.

Wrath of the Lich King has served as a monumental sandbox for Blizzard to try out new ideas with end-game content. From loot systems to “hard modes” each content patch has brought a new idea to the table. Some ideas, such as hard mode, have been extremely successful and well-received, while others such as Trial of the Crusader have lots of folks scratching their heads.

While hard mode has been wildly successful, it’s starting to cause problems with how the end-game systems have played out. Blizz has accelerated the iLvl tiers for these modes to make them worth doing for the hardcore raiders while keeping the normal modes accessible for the larger population of WoW.

With each major content patch it seems the gap between normal and hard mode grows larger and larger. As this gap grows larger, it puts many “middle-road” progression raid teams in a hard position where normal mode isn’t challenging enough and hard mode is just too punishing. In this situation morale and motivation suffers from raiders burning out on running the same “faceroll” content and can’t find the motivation to keep throwing themselves at a brick wall.

This problem wasn’t quite as prevalent in Ulduar because there were a number of encounters with a variable difficulty to them which were controlled and triggered by in-game mechanics. With the introduction of an UI toggle progression raiding will be either “faceroll” or “brickwall.” To me this is a shame and seems like a step backwards from evolving and interesting gameplay mechanics.

Hopefully Blizzard rethinks making hard modes a UI toggle and brings back variable triggered hard modes ala Ulduar, but otherwise I think they’re on the right track. Changes such as top-level head/shoulder enchants becoming BoA are a godsend to those of us with alts at max-level without the time nor drive to grind out reputations.

There’s also the plan to allow BoA items to be transferrable cross-faction which will help some folks out, but I’m holding out for cross-realm BoA transfers to become available. My character slots are 100% horde on Cenarius and I don’t plan on creating an Alliance alt on Cenarius unless they increase the character limit per realm. (Pretty please Blizz!)

Yet I forsee one more aspect that Blizzard could continue to make the game more rewarding for the time invested: BoA emblems. Currently this would be difficult to implement since emblems are currency, but I see an easy work-around that currently exists in the game that could be modified to allow for this. Create a new BoA item that can be purchased by emblems and then be redeemed for emblems via a vendor.

You can already purchase BoA items that can be redeemed for honor, so it shouldn’t be difficult to expand this idea for emblems. This would make life much easier for those of us with multiple max-level toons, but don’t have the time to gear each toon up.

One could argue that you should have to invest that time on gearing up alts, but let’s think of the benefits of allowing BoA emblems. Raid teams wouldn’t be burdened with gearing up other people’s alts and should the need arise for toon swapping, toons being swapped in would be on average better geared.

Then there’s the issue of tanks and/or healers that have DPS alts that have all their BiS equipment, but are constantly called upon on their mains to run something. Now instead of feeling like they’re wasting their time and not getting anything out of running the same content, they can still gear up that DPS alt.

I can only think of one downside to this system: lack of familiarity with your alt geared through BoA emblems when running high level content. Even then, the downside isn’t that big, especially if you are consistently running high level content, it wouldn’t take much time to acclimate.

So are there any other possible downsides to allowing BoA emblems? There might be, but I honestly can’t think of any others and whatever downsides there might be are greatly outweighed by the benefits of such a system. Perhaps even the downside I did present could be dealt with only making base level emblems BoA and not the current tier of emblems.

Either way, I hope Blizzard is thinking about this and decides to implement it. It sure would make my life trying to gear up my DK for tanking a lot easier 😉

Cataclysm

So there is a lot of leaked information out there, so I figured I’d chime in with at least some of my thoughts revolving around WoW: Cataclysm without going into each and every single detail. Nothing has been confirmed or denied by Blizzard at this point, but that doesn’t mean anything. I do, however, have faith that much of the leaked information is true if only because Boubouille over @MMO-Champion hasn’t steered us wrong in the past and would only post information that he had been sitting on, (at least according to Stompalina via the Rawrcast podcast/site) after someone else “leaked” the information first.

It might seem that I’m prefacing my comments a lot in this, and that is only par-for-the-course. As of right now, the leaked information is only speculative rumor … possibly founded from a legitimate source, but with the recent inclusions of “false” or “funny” information for dataminers to find could serve as a basis for all of this information to be false and that Blizzard is only playing a cruel joke (and/or trying to nail down leaks within their organization) on us all.

BUT, and that’s a very big “but,” I’m going to go out on a limb and state that I believe most of what is up at MMO-Champion to be factual. There is supporting evidence to at least there being a huge catacylsmic event coming to Azeroth, and you only need to take a trip into the Halls of Lightning to see this evidence.


Kalimdor as seen in Halls of Lightning (Click to Enlarge).

Blizzard has gone on record as stating that they like to pre-seed hints of forth-coming content and mechanics, etc within the world before they’re officially announced. The data-mining and semi-clever cover-up of the new Halloween masks could support this, but nothing supports this more than this screen shot of the Kalimdor continent in Halls of Lightning (it can also been seen in Ulduar evidentually). The globe is obviously Azeroth with a vortex of energy between Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms but I never gave it much thought before.

Now it is possible that this globe that is present in Halls of Lightning has been recently updated, either in 3.1 or 3.2, but I think I vaguely recall this globe and Kalimdor appearing like this predating back to 3.0. Should this devestated Kalimdor be true, and I think with almost certainty that it is true, it adds a lot of legitimacy to the entirety of Boubouille’s post. Fortunately we won’t have to wait long to find out as Blizzcon’09 is only a few days away.

We know the userbase is clamoring for their flying mounts to be usable in old-world Azeroth, and what better way to actually accomodate this by actually having a lore-related reason to rebuild Azeroth to include the ability for flying mounts? It makes a lot of sense from a game-design principle and putting all of this work into reworking old-world content sensible from a business sense. Which alludes to something also mentioned on the Rawrcast podcast …

Could WoW: Cataclysm be more or less treated as a stand-alone “expansion” in that all prior content will be included in Cataclysm in one sleek package for new users and existing users alike? If Cataclysm was the only thing you needed to buy to get into World of Warcraft and have all prior content included (TBC/WotLK mechanics) it’d make it incredibly easy to attract a brand new audience for WoW.

It was also tossed around that Cataclysm in a way could be World of Warcraft 2, and if the “stand-alone” essence of this expansion is a reality, it is almost a virtually seemless sequel to WoW. This is pretty “far-fetched” from a game design standpoint and there’s a lot of logistics that aren’t cleanly addressed with this, but it does make sense.

So what else is there that has me excited and/or disappointed if these leaks come true? Well I’m going to be really annoyed that Taurens will be able to become paladins, (I’ll instantly reroll my poor-still-level-30-BElf-paladin as a tauren if it is true) and I’d much have rathered playing a troll druid instead of a tauren druid, but that’s not to say that Blizz doesn’t have one more card up their sleeves.

Yes, that’s right … I am alluding to Blizzard finally allowing FULL re-customization of your existing toons by allowing you to change their race. Before you get too up-in-arms over this, I think it’ll also come with another new gameplay mechanic where you can choose racial disciplines so that you can get the racial-abilities you want, (likely still limited by the existing racial groupings) but play as the race you want. Now unlike Boubouille’s post my feeling is a pure gut-feeling and has no basis on reality or sources … but if it does come true, I’ll happily take credit for calling it.

Moving on I’m also perplexed by the Horde being left in the hands of Garrosh Hellscream. I love Thrall and not looking forward to Garrosh throwing the horde into full-out open war with the alliance (even though they’re evil and stink). BUT, if this is what it takes from a lore-standpoint to include Wintergrasp world-pvp zones in Azeroth, I’m all for it. Maybe I’ll even get back into my gnome-punting ways … ^^;

But you have to weigh these negatives against the positives, and fortunately there are a lot of them. Revamping old-world content to make leveling purposeful and more immersive is a great thing. WotLK showed me that Blizz CAN make quest-content that plunks your toon into the lore and makes you feel like you have an influence on your environment. Phasing technology has made this possible and I’d expect a LOT of phasing in the next expansion, (which will make my computer cry … lol).

I am also looking forward to the old-world finally getting the attention it deserves and being fleshed out more and more. There will still be tons of new content in the expansion, so arguments about Blizz being lazy and reusing content hold no water with me. Granted retuning old dungeons for max-level heroics will seem like taking the easy way out, but fortunately WC is being completely redone and hopefully won’t be as completely confusing as it is right now.

There are also plenty of places within Azeroth that have gone undone: Uldum, Hyjal (present-day), Grim Batol, Gilneas, Undermine, etc. So there won’t be a lack of brand-new zones to explore and grind up in. Which brings me to the new level cap: 85. THANK YOU Blizzard, I really really wasn’t looking forward to rerolling and grinding to 90, AND hopefully all of the epic-loot I’ve been lootho’ng won’t be replaced until I’m at the new end-game in Catacylsm.

But, with the cap only being nudged up 5 levels, I don’t think we’re going to see massive talent tree upgrades/reworking with the next expansion. I doubt that we’ll see 56 pt talents in the new expansion, but I could be wrong. Rather it’d make sense to just keep the trees virtually as is (there are still a few bloated trees that could use some streamlining) and allow us to plunk another 5 pts into our secondary tree without making a 51/25 combination broken.

All in all if all of these rumors turn out to be true I already cannot wait. Thankfully we still have the biggest raid in the game coming in 3.3 to keep us satiated until then.