What’s next?

It’s way too soon to start speculating about the next WoW expansion (NWE), so let me speculate about it. There is not much else to write about these days anyway, and it has been a while since I have put forth any crackpot ideas, so what the hell.

Disclaimer: Everything in this post is the product of my warped but robust imagination, I have absolutely no insight into any current or future Blizzard development plans.

In considering what we might see in the next WoW expansion, the process I used was to look at past trends and add in recent game features. I am not a lore buff, so I am not going to address much at all about the background story line — plus, honestly, WoW lore/history seems really only to exist in order to explain game design not the other way around, so I have never been able to get too excited about it. (I know some of you really love it, not disparaging you for this at all, just it is not my cup of tea.)

Location and scaling. There will be new zones. Whether they will be somewhere on Azeroth or — as has been coyly hinted — on another planet is, in my opinion, not important. On the other hand, zone scaling, a huge hit in Legion, will continue in NWE, and I look for it to be expanded in some way. Not sure exactly how, but one idea might be that some legacy zones become scaled, permitting leveled players to revisit and explore them in a somewhat challenging way, making it more fun to go back and finish unfinished or even new quest lines in those areas.

Content. Blizz believes they have finally hit on a winning plan to keep content flowing in Legion — whether this is true or not is a subject for a whole different post — and so NWE will see the same content paradigm. To wit:

  • World quests.
  • Mini-events/holidays.
  • Rapid patches and semi-patches.
  • Continued use — and likely expansion — of RNG as both the carrot and the stick to force more play hours for every facet of the game, from gear to professions.
  • Mythic+ dungeons, expanded in some way. For example, there might be some sort of “plus” mechanism for non-current raids, or add the “plus” concept into weekly timewalker bonus events.

Classes. I do not expect to se any new classes introduced in NWE, but I think we may see some or all race restrictions lifted for class selection. I also think we may see some further spec role changes (not mages, of course, don’t be ridiculous). For example, we might see another spec added to Demon Hunters to give them three. I would not expect it to be a healing spec, more likely would be a ranged spec, possibly using a combination of magic and thrown weapons. In the wishful thinking department, I would like to see SV hunters become a tanking spec, using pets in creative ways to really open up possibilities for some exciting tanking innovations.

I expect to see yet another huge rewrite of nearly every class, because Blizz has demonstrated that they simply cannot refrain from doing this every expansion, even when they are able to achieve a semblance of balance by the end of one. The rewrite will continue the recent trend of making some classes more or less indispensable to certain raid fights, finally driving a stake into the now disfavored notion of bringing the player not the class.

I think Blizz will also place more back-door restrictions on spec flexibility. They will continue to tout how a player can freely switch among all their specs, but they will increase the penalties for doing so, whether by charging gold or by creating restrictive gear or by limiting the times/places it can be done.

I also think we will see a continuation of the trend of “mini specs”. In Legion, we saw the notion of class begin to take a back seat to the notion of spec, as demonstrated most obviously with artifact weapons. In addition, we saw a very distinct differentiation in spec “specialization” emerge based on talent selection, and we saw a very slight but nevertheless active attempt to put some controls on changing that specialization. In effect, I think we saw the emergence of specs as the new class, the concept of class becoming more one of general category, and a growing importance placed on specialty builds for each spec. This trend will continue in NWE, and it will become more pronounced, to the point of identifying players by class, spec, and build specialty — “Single-target destro warlock”, “Bursty MM hunter”, etc.

Gear. First of all — RNG, RNG, and more RNG. Also, the secondary stat mess will continue and possibly get worse, compounded by the inevitable total rewrite of most classes and consequent unforeseen results of overpowered or underpowered secondary stat interactions.

As I alluded to in a reply to a reader comment a couple of days ago, I expect to see some continuation of the artifact weapon mechanism in NWE. Yes, I know Blizz has told us that artifact weapons are a one-expansion thing, but remember they also told us that same thing about garrisons, then gave us mini-garrisons in the form of class halls. We will have some piece of gear in NWE that will require upkeep mechanisms eerily similar to AP and relics and such, because:

  • Too many dev resources have gone into artifact weapons to trash the idea completely.
  • Spec abilities are rather intimately tied to weapon abilities now, and Blizz seems to like the possibility of tweaking abilities by tweaking gear traits.
  • The artifact weapon — or follow-on — plays a rather large role in encouraging players to spend more time in the game chasing infinite upgrades.

As to the whole Legion legendary debacle, who knows? I think Blizz is embarrassed enough by it that we may see legendaries as lottery winnings disappear in NWE, but we may see some return to quest lines for them. I would expect these to be less involved and time-consuming than the ones in Mists and WoD, but still requiring weeks to complete. Moreover, I think we may see options for obtaining more than one legendary per character, once again with the Blizz benefit of extending game play time.

Crafted gear? No clue. Wishful thinking is that it would become relevant again, for all professions, but I don’t know. My suspicion is that it will fall prey to the drive to devalue professions in general. Which leads me to —

Professions. I am not hopeful about this area. I think NWE will give us even more hurdles to professions, and I think Blizz’s inability to see the large picture will once again give us clear winners in losers in the profession lottery, as we saw with for example winner alchemists and loser skinners in Legion. The problem I see with professions is that they are totally tied, in Blizz’s collective mind, to the use of alts. To allow profession leveling and item production for characters not played the same number of hours as mains is to condone the evil practice of having alts support a main. Why this is bad is still a mystery to me, but we have heard that oracle of acceptable game play and approved fun, Ion Hazzikostas, lecture us many times on the fact that, take his word for it, it is evil evil evil. So it must be. So professions will continue to become more and more elusive for characters that do not spend main-level time in game.

Alts. They will continue to be forced into an “other mains” play style temulate. See above, end of discussion.

In short, I expect the next expansion will be a veritable clone of Legion, just different locations and a few changes either for cause or merely for the sake of change. I am not saying if this is good or bad, I am just saying that Blizz considers Legion to have been an unqualified success, they think they have found a winning formula after the failure of WoD, and they are going to stick to it. They certainly have cause for considering Legion to be successful — I agree with them for the most part — but I suspect the formula will wear a bit thin if it is repeated. Furthermore, the tendency for self-congratulations on the success of Legion means it is unlikely Blizz will take seriously some of the major flaws and missteps they committed. They may have gotten the message on legendary gear, but thus far it still seems like they are oblivious to the pain and chaos they caused by their horrible changes to many classes and specs, and I honestly expect them to repeat the same mistake in the next expansion.

What about you? Any predictions for the next expansion? (Tinfoil hat theories also accepted.)

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.

6 Responses to What’s next?

  1. Marathal says:

    I am going to get a big roll of tin foil out here.

    We go to Argus, and we get our butts handed to us. We cannot win, the fight is coming back to us, desperate times call for desperate measures.

    Lady Sylvanas dons the Helm of Domination and becomes the new Lich Queen.

    Wrath reboot, we fight the Legion across all of Northrend, finally as a last stand we are backed up to the Argent tournament, where we win, because the Legion just cannot joust.

    • Fiannor says:

      LMAO! I love it! True story — I kept count — it took me 42 (!!) tries to win my first Argent tournament joust. However, I did finally get the hang of it, so I think I could acquit myself well in your final battle.

  2. demonnick001 says:

    OMG i totally love the idea of zone scaling applying to older content, and I’ve never even considered it as a possibility.

    I think your spot on with them adding a range spec to demon hunters. A very VERY common theme in the forums is the lack of new range classes being added to the game. If I were a betting man, and I am (despite protests from my wife), I would say Blizzard has probably taken note of this.

    As far as our legendary weapons go I don’t think we will carry over the exact ones we have now into the new expansion. I think this only because I feels as though players will get really bored carrying around the same weapon for 4 years. I’d be willing to bet that we will pass on the weapon in some kind of way to an NPC or perhaps (less likely) the weapon will be destroyed in the final battle, which will be the pre-pactch of the next expansion. Regardless, I think the weapon leveling system will continue as you have mentioned…just too many resources invested by Blizzard on this one.

    Now to get completely speculative….

    I saw a really compelling argument as to what the next expansion will be, and of course it was the South Seas…again. However, this time (unlike all the others) I felt there might be some merit to the rumor. This entire expansion I have felt like Blizzard has simply put too much work into Suramar for it to become irrelevant after this expansion. This particular post pointed out the docks, which seem very developed and detail oriented for something that isn’t really used in this expansion. Basically long story short the person said that Surmar will be the next major city in the upcoming expansion, with the docks being the kick off point for the southseas expansion and the inevitable battle against Queen Azshara, which ties in nicely to her involvement with this expansion. Furthermore it allows Blizzard to recycle previous work from the garrison shipyard in WoD, which to me seemed more like a testing project to begin with.

    Anyways just speculation haha.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, I agree that we will not carry over our artifact weapons, for all the reasons you list. I do think, however, there will be some gear mechanism that will require us to continually upgrade one or more pieces throughout the expansion, and those upgrades will be tied in with a spec’s abilities, just as the artifact weapon is now. I also think the idea of making players grind eternally for infinite upgrades is one Blizz loves.

      I liked your description of a possible next expansion setting — you are right, it is kind of a compelling argument. I am not a fan of Suramar in its current incarnation, but I could absolutely see it becoming the next major city, and I find I really like that idea, along with it functioning as a jumping off point for a South Seas set of zones.

  3. Banard says:

    “Malfurion Stormrage yells: I Pray that purging the Nightmare’s corruption buys us enough time to defeat the Legion and catch our breath before the black armies rise up from the depths.”

    My ideal xpac…whole of Azeroth updated (think cata update to all zones …northrend/pandaland even broken isle) … have zone story lines that don’t tie into xpac conflict/story (ie they become ageless) but more horde vs alliance …which is the base plot of this game.

    This will be the “catch our breath phrase”…BUT…add level scaling too all zones…so all of Azeroth becomes end game content…(so its not like cata where they spend all this capital/resources on the levelling content…but on end game content)

    add weather…dangers to flying……night and day..make the world alive….(think felreaver while flying but instead its a platoon of cross faction NPCs that knock you off your flying mount and smash yar head in if you survive the drop)…make the world interactive.

    Then..some zones will change..think how Suramar story unfolded. So as we are catching our breath…some zones change as “the black armies rise up from the depths”

    • demonnick001 says:

      I can’t express how much I love the idea of zone scaling all across Azeroth. I absolutely love visiting some of those areas for nostalgia, and having tangible rewards as an addition would just be prime.