Oct 212011

As I write this, Blizzcon starts in a few hours, which places me in the wonderful position of being able to go to sleep, wake up, and digest all the news at once. (Yay. I think.) As I did last year, I’ll post quick roundups of the news and my impressions, but here’s some quick-hit predictions. (Yes, I now write for WoW Insider; no, we have no confidential information…not that I would reveal it if we did.) Apologies in advance if this is poorly formatted, my Internet is currently set to turtle speed.

– There will be pandas. If there’s not, than Blizzard has pulled off the greatest cover-up in MMO history. (I read a spy novel once where the CIA takes an aircraft engineer working on a prototype stealth bomber project, pump his head full of fake bomber info and interrogation resistance techniques, and arrange for him to be ‘kidnapped’ by the Russians. The Russians interrogate him mercilessly and eventually break him, where he spills everything he knows, real and fake. He comes home, despondent, and is told ‘oh, we’re not focusing on bomber tech at all, we just had to make you
believe it so they would. /ramble) Playable? Gut says no, but they’re a major focal point. Remember Dalaran? Think “Pandaran.”

– No new classes. Yes, people will complain that there are no new playable classes or races.

– Talents will be overhauled in some significant way. This will be the biggest news of the day, even bigger than the pandas. Exactly how they will be redone is anyone’s guess, but I’ll go out on a limb and say all prerequisites will be eliminated…instead of a “tree,” you just have three talent families, where you can freely spend points. There will be some kind of limitation for leveling players to decrease complexity; talents that are tied to specific abilities will be hidden until the character gains that ability. Specialization will also likely stick around, meaning you’ll still be limited in the number of points you can drop in an off-spec tree. Many people have floated the idea of additional roles being added; I don’t see it happening (no rogue/shaman tanks, etc.)

– Announcement of a LOTRO-style skirmish system. I’m not sure why I think this, but I still don’t see player/guild housing happening, and
transmog will be old news by 5.0, so they need a new customization system. Similar to Diablo 2, you’ll get a merc (you choose the class) with his/her own clothing tree and talents that you can choose/equip. This becomes an alternate means of endgame progression for those who don’t raid. The big
sticking point with this is how it will work in non-skirmish zones, since Blizzard is fond of things working the same across the board (PvE/PvP).
However, I think they’re starting to move away from that (crowd control). Eventually cut before 5.0 releases because they can’t get it balanced right.
(This last sentence is said in jest…somewhat.)

– Dance studio is finally released, though the eventual experience (picking from a few canned animations, instead of something more free-form)
isn’t very great.

I know the prediction thing’s been done to death already, but had to get mine out there so I could laugh later about how wrong I was. Looking forward to waking up to exciting news!