Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Blizzcon Dissected – Part 1: Goblins and Worgens and Titans, oh MY!

The first day of Blizzcon is over and man do we have some news. Some people have had their faith in Blizzard renewed by these. My faith still is shaken, but it’s definitely not all bad. In this multipart series I will dissect the announcements and let you know what I think about them. This is a blog after all.
Check out World of Raids and MMO Champion for full details of the changes.

The Cataclysm
Azeroth has been hit by a catastrophe, reshaping the old world as we know it. The Barrens have been sundered in two, Darkshore has been flooded and Desolace has become a lush oasis instead of a desert. In gaming terms, these changes mean an overhaul of the old leveling content to get it up to the quality of the Lich King levelling zones, or better. In the process of the revamp, the old world also finally got flyable – which is obviously cool.
This change is neat lorewise and it’s great to see the world actually change. It’s obviously also nice for players who level up but has almost no effect on people like me who play for the endgame.

General verdict: Nice!
Personal verdict: Couldn’t care less.

New Races
The bestial worgen have joined the alliance and the horde finally got its own tauren food, goblins. Blizzard, new races are not new content. Sure, two new levelling zones will be fun if you actually start playing a new character but levels 1-15 are such a small part of the levelling experience that really, class choice doesn’t matter. Racials will obviously have an effect as well, but in the grand scheme of things new races are just wasted development time. This is a cheap contrivance to keep us playing without too much of an effort. Oh and the lorehounds are furious.

Verdict: Waste of time.

New Level Cap
The level cap will be raised (hardly a surprise) to 85 (now that IS a surprise.) Apparently they want to focus more on end game content and less on levelling content. That is obviously fine by me. More of the stuff I care about and less of the stuff that I just want to be done with? Brilliant.
One might say that they lost so much development time for the Azeroth revamp that they didn’t have the resources for a full ten levels. Still fine by me if it means I have to level less. And if you really care about levelling content, go roll a goblin and shut up.

Verdict: Good stuff.

Talent Tree Revamp
We will get five new talent points while leveling up, but talent trees will not get larger. Instead, talent trees will be slimmed and the boring passive talents weeded out and moved into a new mastery system. Points put into a tree will at the same time increase certain passive stats, or that’s how I understand the mastery system. There will also be a new, class independent progression path called the “Path of the Titans”, possibly connected to the new archeology tradeskill. This can be both good and terrible. If we get more customization options, it’s obviously good. But if they make the trees too slim, we might end up with something resembling the mastery trees (!) of Warhammer Online – and that would be bad. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt here and hope that they actually make things better.

Positive verdict: Diversity = fun!
Negative verdict: Homogenity = ick!

New Dungeons and Raids
We know of four new raid zones and eight new dungeons that are coming up. The raid zones sound about par with what we’ve seen so far, though they did say that they will give us more endgame content than before. That makes me hope that we’ll get four actuals raids instead of one-boss-caves like Sartharion or Malygos. Eight dungeons is not a lot (TBC had 15, Wrath 12), but these might be long too.
Among those eight dungeons are heroic Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines. Now I know many people have asked for this before and are happy that this is being implemented – I for one have no idea how this is supposed to be good. Just like the Onyxia and Molten Bore (wait for it) rehashes, running Deadmines again can never give you the epic feeling again that you had back when you did these for the first time. At best your memories won’t be soiled, most likely they will. Just look at the Naxx 2.0 desaster. Naxxramas was a great instance back in classic (or so I hear), but the Northrend version was just terrible. Even though I had never entered Naxxramas before Lich King, I still hated the place. Why would you take great old memories like my first Van Cleef kill and besmudge them with the joke that is a heroic instance?
This trend of reusing content must stop. Give us new things to think our teeth in, instead of reusing yesterdays leftovers like a soup kitchen.

Verdict: Yuck to the power of ick.

New (Rated) Battlegrounds
The expansion will give us three new battlegrounds, a new Wintegrasp-esque PVP zone and some new Arena maps. That is already a lot of content, but the really cool thing is that we will be able to do rated battlegrounds. Rated BGs will award the same rewards as the Arena system but should be infinitely more fun. Instead of just raiding three times a week, your guild can now have organized battleground teams that play rated battle grounds for fun, profit, and rank. This should also be great for WoW as an esport. Broadcasting high rated battleground matches with or without video seems much more interesting and also much more manageable than broadcasting arena matches. The focus of a BG is less on single, split-second actions and more on overall strategy and fighting success. Assuming that blizzard implements stong observer funtionalities, such as the possibility to set up multiple “cameras”, this will be huge.

Verdict: I’m excited.

Guild Leveling System

I’ve seen guild levelling systems in other MMOs. They aren’t bad and can give the guild an effort to work on together while not organized in a group. On the other hand these put a bigger hurdle on forming new guilds. There are many reason for forming a new guild out of your old one, mergers or splits for example. These will be harder to do if they require completely new levelling of the guild.

Verdict: I don’t care.

Join me later for Part 2 in which I discuss class and itemization changes. Be prepared for a rant on the latter 😉