So many questions, so little time

Looking back over my education, I think the single most important skill I learned was to ask questions. The Jesuits who schooled me were big believers in the Socratic Method, so we were not only encouraged but required to ask questions as part of every learning process. Sure, fractions and Shakespeare and the date of the Magna Carta and the underpinnings of an agrarian economy are all good to know. But when it comes right down to it, asking the right questions at the right time of the right people has saved my bacon in life more times than I can count.

So today I have been thinking about Patch 8.x. Yes, I know we are not even a year into Legion, and the hints from Blizz are that we have a lot of time left to experience it (my bet at the start was that we are looking at Legion being with us for very close to 3 years). Still, I feel like speculating a bit, in the form of a series of questions.

Location.

  • Is the 7.3 excursion to Argus a prelude to the next expansion, or is it just that — a one-off adventure?
  • Will we ever see the other side of Azeroth? Is there an other side?
  • What if any lessons did Blizz learn about time-travel worlds like Draenor and underwater zones like Vashj’ir? This is less a question than it is a hope — I hope they learned both these ideas were big mistakes.
  • Will Blizz expand its recent trend of making classic parts of Azeroth relevant to current game play? 

Stats.

  • What will be the nature of the next stat squish? I think a dev mentioned that much of the code has been rewritten to accommodate very large numbers now, it still is cumbersome for humans to speak of character health in the millions and boss health in the billions, for example. What about ilevel? Very soon even in Legion we will break break into 4-digit ilevels. Will secondary stats and damage/healing numbers be squished in 8.x?
  • Will stats be simplified in the next expansion? What is the official Blizz view of the complexity of stats in Legion? Do they understand the frustration of players when a higher level piece of gear is not an upgrade? Are they happy with the proliferation of web sites and apps designed to do the intricate math necessary to determine a piece of gear’s worth to a player? 

Quest hubs and population centers.

  • Will we see new faction capitals? Blizz seems — both in WoD and Legion — to have concluded that faction capital cities are too resource-intensive to justify them. If Sanctuary Cities are the norm for the foreseeable future, will we see more of them in Horde areas, with Horde racial architecture?
  • What has Blizz learned about the garrison concept? It was innovative but not well liked in WoD, and it was extended — as Class Halls — in Legion. Is this idea now a core game mechanic going forward? Will we see the concept applied as guild halls in 8.x?  More wishful thinking on that last one, I am afraid.
  • Why is Blizz so dead set against player housing? This is really more of a pet peeve question and not so much of an insightful one about the next expansion. Certainly the technology is there — that was proven with garrisons, and with Sunsong Ranch before that. And there is player demand for it, though I am not sure how much. Yet Blizz steadfastly refuses to do it, citing from time to time the “war footing” nature of the game as being antithetical to cozy homesteading. My own opinion, completely biased, is that there is a culture at Blizz that insists WoW is a “hardcore” game, and to give players housing is just too girly and frilly for them to contemplate. They put it in the same category as playing house or cutting out paper dolls, and that would destroy the manly studly war aspect of the game. (Yeah, yeah, let the hate mail begin. But deep down you know I am right.)

Class development.

  • Will there be another major rewrite of classes in 8.x?
  • What is Blizz’s long range vision of class roles and balance? Are they on a path to achieve this, or do they have none and merely make change for change’s sake each expansion?
  • And the big question: Can Blizz stop screwing with hunters for at least one expansion? (Sarcasm flag.)
  • Will we see the pendulum swing once again towards class-provide raid buffs?

Gear.

  • Is the concept of artifact gear a one-and-out for Legion, as Blizz has claimed? 
  • Are there any big contemplated gear changes in 8.x, for example cutting the number of gear slots, maybe by eliminating necks and rings?
  • Will we see some sort of non-RNG mechanism for getting gear in 8.x?
  • After the debacle of legendaries in Legion, what is the future of legendaries going forward? Will we return to a single long-questline legendary, or have we crossed a line and henceforward they will fall like candy?

Miscellaneous.

  • Is Blizz happy with the complexity level of the game now? If not, in which direction do they think it should go?
  • Are there in-game advertisements in the works? Tie-ins with other Activision franchises, such as the King line of games?
  • What is the future for professions? Will we see them get less relevant and more complex, or will we see some semblance of a return to their classic role? Will Blizz move towards a Final Fantasy approach? Are they indeed an integral part of the game’s economy, or would it be possible to eliminate them altogether?
  • Will alt play remain viable in 8.x? It is narrowly so in Legion, but Blizz’s clear preference is for players to have very limited number of alts.
  • Are there significant quality of life improvements in store for 8.x? Off hand, I can think of a few: account-wide banking, better group finder interface, unlimited quest log, *coughplayerhousingcough*, removal of that ridiculous talent-changing tome requirement, improving exit process from caves once a quest is completed, increasing the number of stable slots for hunter pets, adding mythic dungeons to the auto-group finder, probably lots more.
  • Will Blizz help to make the role of guilds more robust? Like alt play, the trend since mid-Mists has been to make guilds less and less relevant, with the removal of most guild perks and advantages to guild membership.
  • With the apparent advent of interplanetary travel, will we eventually see honest-to-goodness actual working space ship “mounts”? Will space actually be a working environment — like an underwater area only without water — or just more of an abstract concept?
  • What will be the eternal-grind mechanism of 8.x? Because we know there will be one, just a matter of how Blizz repackages AP (like they repackaged garrisons into class halls).

And last but certainly not least:

Will we get a concept of the next expansion at Blizzcon this year?

What questions do you have?

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.

4 Responses to So many questions, so little time

  1. So much work to be done! Those are great questions. The top of my list would be a complete over-haul of the Auction House and a massive increase in Guild support.

    • Fiannor says:

      For sure, on both. I thought of another one: improve the whole interface for skinning, make them shared rather than first-tagged, develop a mechanism for being able to skin when players refuse to loot the corpses, add aoe-type skinning, etc.

    • I just don’t understand Blizzard sometime. So, WOW has its hey day with Wrath of the Lich King, and the next two expansions were filled with the angst and worry if they’ll ever get back to those kinds of subscription numbers again. So, clearly there was a concern that WoW was not retaining enough of their subs throughout the course of an expansion. It became clear (to Blizzard) at some point during this 5+ year saga that they weren’t going to be able to get back to those high water mark numbers. It is my belief that is why they changed their reporting methods during their quarterly reports. Any report, whatever the numbers, are always going to be compared to past high water marks and always be cast in a negative light because of this.

      So now we live in the world of MAU/DAU, measuring success by the time spent in game by players. While they may have successfully stretched out the grind across the entire play experience, there is a risk of alienating players who sense the grind and want to opt out. The obvious (to my mind) question is, are there any other ways we can incentivize players to spend more time playing? Historically, one of the reasons WoW has been so successful at both recruiting and retaining players, because they’ve created an environment where becoming a part of a community (big or small) personally invests players in playing the game. Even to this day, I look at the discord chat channel and see my old team raiding, I WANT to be there. I WANT to be a part of the team again. Being part of that team, being part of that community, gave me more reasons beyond personal individual amusement, to spend time playing. Farming for mats to craft raid consumables, hunting for transmog for guild transmog contests, and these activities, even though I might find them boring, I was still invested in participating. I CHOSE to do them, knowing they were boring because I was investing in the community that I was a part of.

      If being a part of a community made me want to play, want to do activities I would not do if I was playing only for myself, want spend time in game, then WHY would you steadily remove incentives for being part of a guild? It clearly works towards the goals Blizzard has set (more MAU/DAU). It clearly invests ppl in each other and creates that much more incentive to stay playing. I just can’t see the reason.

      Could it be they don’t want to spend resources on developing guild related things because not everyone is part of a guild? (That doesn’t pass the smell test, they invest in professions which some don’t participate in, raiding which some don’t participate in, etc AND they are still making guild achieves and guild mounts, so can’t be a blanket NO INVESTMENT in guilds).

      It just doesn’t make sense to me, but that is Blizzard since WoD dropped for me. Ya just aren’t making sense. One step forward, two steps back.

      • Fiannor says:

        You highlight a complexity of the whole “social experience” aspect of the game. Like you, I really never minded gathering mats in order to provide tangible benefits to my raid team — fish for feasts, herbs and other items for flasks and cauldrons, components for a noodle cart, the quest line to get Jeeves on my engineer, etc. The actual gathering was a bit boring, but I really liked the end product and as you say, the feeling of being invested in my community. I am not a real achievement hound, but I always loved being part of groups that got guild achievements.

        To me, though, there is a qualitative difference between that feeling and the “investment” one in Legion, where the primary activity consists of grinding your OWN gear — getting the “best” legendaries, the BiS trinkets, the highest possible ilevel, highest artifact trait level — as your contribution to your raid community and/or your guild. Both pursuits undeniably help your raid team, but the second one just feels more selfish and lonely. Yeah, I get that the pursuit of gear and AP frequently involves group activism like Myrthics and Mythic+’s, but it still somehow feels less community-centric.

        So yes, I, too, remain puzzled by Blizz’s systematic deconstruction of guilds, for the very reasons you list. I’ve written on this subject a few times in the last couple of years — basically since WoD. In my most recent one on the subject, I even advanced a few suggestions to reverse the trend. Futile, I know, but we are after all creatures of hope.