Aaaaaaaannndddd — We’re off!

Unless there has been a gaming news blackout on your home planet, you know that the next WoW expansion will be unveiled officially next week at Gamescon. Already the blogosphere and the forum-o-sphere and the Twitterverse have spewed out thousands and thousands of words on the subject, more will be written in the coming days and even more in the coming months.

Speculation of course is rampant. The leading theory is that the new xpac will have the general theme described in a leak from a week or two ago — the one published on MMO-Champion and then hastily unpublished at Blizzard’s request. To my mind, the fact that Blizz was so concerned about it pretty much proves it was an actual and unintended leak. I do not think even Blizz would be so cagey as to engineer a false leak, then feign concern deep enough to have it retracted, all to throw everyone off the track of the “real” xpac theme. But if they did, honestly my hat would be off to them, it would be a brilliant strategic feint.

For those of you who did not get a chance to see the MMO-C item before it was yanked, you can get the main points in this gottabemobile piece published yesterday.

I am not going to speculate further about the various parts of the new content, there will be plenty of time for that in the weeks and months to come, and it really is pointless until we have some official word on it. But I will make a couple of comments:

1.  Lessons from the past. Historical precedent notwithstanding, I fervently hope Blizz has taken lessons from their past mistakes. For example, I hope they are technically prepared for the huge server loads at launch, and that for once we might have a smooth rollout. If they use themes from the past — for example a water world theme — I hope they remember all their mistakes from Vashj’ir. And I hope they have learned their lesson about flying — it is toothpaste that cannot be put back in the tube, they must allow it at a reasonably early time in the new xpac, better yet, build play around it from the beginning.

2.  Player choice. I would like to see a turnaround in philosophy by reinstating more player choice in the game. This would involve things like letting players choose how they want to earn their gear and what that gear will provide in terms of stats — that is, a step away from pure RNG as the sole determining factor. More player choice would also manifest itself by moving away from strict linear play that requires raiding for all players as the only acceptable end game.

3.  Class balance. Class balance seems terminally broken. I would love to see a serious effort to restore not only individual class and spec balance, but also decent meta-balance across classes. Not the band-aid approach we have had in WoD. There should never be vast differences between the highest performing damage dealers and the lowest ones, among skilled players. It’s fine for some classes to perform slightly better on certain types of fights than others, but the huge pendulum swings of WoD are unacceptable. And no player should be forced to play a certain spec because that class’s other specs are not viable. Last, step away from the homogenization of classes and bring back the unique “feel” of each class.

4. Early player feedback. By this, I mean Blizz needs to dig deep into player feedback from beta and the PTR, not just apply a quick fix and move on. I don’t really have any good examples for this, but I know that many of the worst problems in WoD were noted by players in beta and on the PTR, and Blizz’s responses — if they did not outright ignore them — often tended to be quick tweaks that never addressed the underlying problem. Which brings me to my last comment,

5.  Time. Blizz needs to take the time necessary to bring us a fully-developed and fully-tested product, not rush it out the door to meet some accountant’s deadline before the next quarterly report. Yes, if the expansion is delayed, players will whine and throw tantrums and such, but better that for a few weeks than having it continue over the life of the expansion. Because once it launches, there will be a swift judgement about it, and if it is perceived to be bad, then there is almost no way to ever change that.

Everyone make sure you are strapped in, we are done with the little kids’ merry-go-round, the roller coaster ride is about to begin!

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

3 Responses to Aaaaaaaannndddd — We’re off!

  1. Casually Odd says:

    Yup, yup, yup.

    But to add even more to the things I think:

    1. Lessons from the past.

    From your lips to their ears (I put “your fingers to their eyes” but that just seemed wrong)

    Before I started blogging, one of the things that I was kicking around in my head for a topic was to discuss flying. You know, because no one was doing it. One of the things that I wanted to touch on was this bizarre irony that they added a flying game to the Darkmoon Faire not long before they told us we wouldn’t have it in Draenor. It was just like two different minds were in control. I do think they’ve learned a lesson about the community and flying…I’m just not confident it was the right lesson. We’ll see.

    2. Player choice

    We need an RNG intervention at Blizz stat.

    4. Early Player Feedback.

    Yes. YES. I can’t yes this enough. Listen to the feedback and you will stop so many problems. Simple technical glitches, small oversights, and major mistakes *coughflyingremovalcough*

    5. Time.

    *nodding so hard I’m dizzy*

    I’m not against point 3 above, but that hasn’t affected me like the others. Plus, to be honest, I think if they take points 4 and 5, that will really improve all of the others. Not simply solve them, but it will go a long way to addressing them.

    • Fiannor says:

      LOL! Maybe fingers in their eyes is what’s needed….

      I am afraid that the flying lesson they have learned might be to engineer content to make flying seem impossible. For example, assume the new xpac is a water world of some sort. The underwater part would include 3D travel, but it would be limited to Vashj’ir type travel. The above water part could be via ship, but instanced like travel between Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, except it would be between individual content zones. If each zone is small enough, it might have a Timeless Isle flavor to it, which Blizz believes most players were not clamoring to have flying in.

      All wild speculation, of course, but I still think they have made the decision to have no more real flying, and the lesson they learned from WoD is that they just have to be more polished about how they do it.

      Very cynical, I know, and I would love to be proven wrong.

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