Let the speculation begin

Well, it’s that time again — rumors are ramping up about WoW’s next expansion. This is one of my favorite seasons in the cycle of the game, a time when anything is possible, when you can hope for your fondest game wishes to be fulfilled, when you can be excited about something new and shiny and fun. Anticipation is one of the greatest feelings in life.

The first hopeful harbinger of a new expansion is the fact that Gamescom 2017 is just two weeks away, and that it likely will coincide with the release of Patch 7.3, which some believe will be the last major patch of Legion. (Not sure I agree, but it is possible.) Blizz has not always reserved just Blizzcon for major announcements — Legion was unveiled to the world at Gamescom a couple of years ago, and that announcement alone did a lot to stem the flow of players exiting the game as a result of WoD. So hoping for a next expansion announcement at Gamescom is not unreasonable. Raider’s Tavern has a summary of what we know so far about Blizz’s participation in Gamescom this year, and they don’t discount the possibility of a new expansion being unveiled, but neither do they hype it too much.

And now there are also rumors of leaks. Suzie Ford at MMORPG had a post a couple of days ago that purports to give us a significant amount of supposedly leaked information about the next expansion. It seems quite detailed and I suppose it could be legitimate, but who knows these days — it could just as easily be someone’s fertile imagination, or Blizz starting to hype the next expansion. The original leak was posted on Imgur by someone named elderu. It’s a fun read, though, so check it out if you have a couple minutes. If nothing else, it might get your creative juices flowing.

About a month ago, Steven Messner at PC Gamer had a wildly speculative piece on the next expansion, based on a bunch of subreddit comments about certain data mined armor features. It seemed pretty far-fetched to me at the time, but it was kind of fun and honestly some parts of it track with the most recently “leaked” information.

Others are thinking about a new expansion, too. Matthew Rossi at Blizzard Watch posted a piece asking if people are really ready for a new expansion yet, given the wealth of content in Legion. And there is a WoW forum where people are indulging their favorite pet theories and either hyping or pooh-poohing the latest “leak”.

I guess the point is, Legion is now pretty much officially the “old” expansion. Sure, there is still a lot of content left and a new raid tier to come, but generally when speculation about the next expansion starts to be widespread, it marks the psychological end of the current one. If we do not get a Big Announcement at Gamescom, I feel certain we will get one at Blizzcon. Which probably means we are about a year out (give or take a couple months) from it going live. If so, it will be a real achievement for Blizzard, because they will have carried out their promises not only about patch and raid tier timing, but about length of an expansion.

I don’t know what I want in a new expansion, haven’t given it more than a few passing thoughts. I have a better idea of what I don’t want:

  • Artifact weapons in any form. No single piece of gear should dominate every aspect of game play the way they do in Legion.
  • Garrisons in any form, whether they are renamed “order halls” or anything else. I was sick of the concept about a month into WoD, and I am way past sick of it now.
  • Cattle-chute approach to end game, where every end game activity forces you into raids or Mythic dungeons.
  • Legion-style legendaries. These are possibly the worst gear idea Blizz has ever had, and they are nothing but a headache for nearly every aspect of game play, from gear calculations to spec switching.
  • Profession levels of proficiency for every item, especially when the only way to advance them is by getting lucky with RNG. This sucks.
  • Nomi. He was an annoying little snot in Mists, and he is an arrogant incompetent boob in Legion.

I suppose there a few things from Legion I would like to see continued in the next expansion, though:

  • Zone scaling. I was not sure I would like this when it was first announced, but I think it is a real success. Above all, I like the fact that you can select any leveling order you want. It just makes the whole process more pleasant and varied, especially as you start to level a few alts. I also like the idea that once you get decent gear the mobs become mostly trivial — you should not have to struggle for the entire expansion just to pick a few herbs or do some mining.
  • World quests and emissary quests. Although these are really just dressed-up dailies, I find them much more enjoyable than I did, say, dailies in Mists or WoD. I like that you can pick and choose how many you want to do, what type of reward you want, and that you can skip a couple days and still catch up. The main improvement I would make to them would be, once you exceed the gear level they offer as rewards, you get an option to get gold or some other expansion valuable instead. (However, I do not like Blizz’s practice of forcing you into doing them almost forever because of some endless artifact or other requirement. I would like to do them because I want to, not because I have to grind out some infinite currency.)
  • Getting a special hearthstone to the hub. Seems minor, but I really like having more than one hearthstone. And while I am on the subject of travel, keep the taxi whistle, too. It was invaluable before flying was authorized, but I still use it a lot even now that I can fly myself.

I’ll have to think more about what I would like to see in the next expansion. (It might be time to actually rename all the various time-limited cities, for example, beyond “Old Dal”/”New Dal” and the like…) I’m not in a hurry, though — in addition to having a ton left to do in Legion, it is kind of tantalizing to just imagine what the next expansion might bring.

The weekend is upon us. Enjoy yours.