Nov 052014
 

I haven’t done this since 2011, but it’s time to revive the tradition. Let’s pull out the ol’ crystal ball and predict/guess/speculate wildly as to what we’ll see at the convention!

World of Warcraft

Traditionally, even-numbered years have been pretty light on WoW announcements. 2008 showed some footage of WOTLK, 2010 showed some footage of Cataclysm, and 2012, of course, never happened.

Now, Talarian, who I respect greatly, thinks that Blizzard’s consistent proclamations of “we’re moving to a faster release cycle” means that they have to announce something significant this year, like the next expansion. Possibly supporting this theory is a large block of unscheduled time on the Main Stage immediately following the opening ceremony; right now, the ceremony ends at 10:45 and a “Warcraft Movie Presentation” doesn’t begin until 2:15. I could definitely see the opening ceremony ending with a “oh, and stick around to check this out.”

Unfortunately, given Blizzard’s constant failure to actually succeed at speeding up development time despite promises to do so, I’m in firm “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode. Even if they are planning on speeding development, I’d expect an 18 month cycle to be a more likely initial target, meaning a Blizzcon 2015 announcement and a Spring 2016 release date.

I do think, though, they go ahead and release some info on 6.1, and with absolutely nothing to go on, I’m going to wildly speculate it’ll be Ogri’la 2: Two-Headed Boogaloo. Maybe another split double raid with Ogres and Arrakoa. No clue. What I DON”T want to see, though, is any alternate universe Azeroth shenanigans. “Garrosh convinces Iron Horde warlocks to open portal to Azeroth, recruits an Old-God corrupted Medivh, who rescues Illidan!” Ugh. No.

Starcraft II

Legacy of the Void gets announced, with a huge info dump. (Well, technically, we already know the name so it’s not really an announcement, but stop arguing semantics.) This is the big headliner of the show. WoW’s not going to have much; D3 might have some news, but it’ll be too far out to get much love; HS/HOTS aren’t tentpole franchises. I’m so confident in this, I’m going to even say they’ll have pre-alpha demo stations for trying out some of the new Protoss stuff. No hard dates for anything.

Diablo III

I haven’t followed D3 for quite some time. I found a good sale on Reaper of Souls recently, so I picked it up and leveled a Crusader to 70…and then haven’t really touched the game again. That said, I can’t imagine they’re ending things with one expansion; after all, they’ve got a shiny new console edition to sell DLC on! (/sarcasm) Yes, I think they announce a second expansion, level cap increase, new class, all that jazz, though this is my least confident prediction. If they do announce a new class, it’ll be druid-themed, because honestly, they’ve left out the best D2 class for so long already.

Hearthstone

HearthPwn has collated all the “Eye of Azshara” leaks/speculation, which seems pretty legit. I’ll agree; I say we  see the expansion announced, with some of the new cards previewed. Expect there to be cards for newly prominent WoW figures (Vol’jin, Kairoz, some of the Warlords). Also, since there seems to be a mechanical bent to the cards and the last expansion was Naxxramas, it wouldn’t surprise me to see some Ulduar-themed content.  They likely won’t announce a release date other than SoonTM.

Heroes of the Storm

I think HotS is going to be pushed HARD at this Blizzcon, much like Hearthstone was last year. It seems to be following roughly the same trajectory, so by my crystal ball, I think we can expect much wider alpha access to start post-Blizzcon, with open beta in January, and “official” release sometime next summer.  Like everything else, I don’t think they announce any hard dates, though I do think they will announce a timeframe for open beta, something like “Winter 2015.”

Fair warning: I say this as someone who’d actually like to try the alpha and has yet to receive a key, so I may be projecting.

Other

There will be a trailer for the Warcraft movie, that’s almost certain. They showed bits and pieces at another convention, but here’s where they give it some love.

I do not think there will be anything about the Warcraft remakes that Blizzard may or may not be working on. Several people have pointed out that this is Warcraft’s 20th anniversary, which is true, but I think a more likely date to release a WC remake, if it even happens, will be in concert with the movie release. I also don’t think there will be any out-of-left-field announcements, like an entirely new franchise.

So, to sum up:

  • No new WoW news, save for some teasers for patch 6.1.
  • SC2: Legacy of the Void is headliner announcement; demo stations, posters, swag, etc. No date.
  • New Diablo 3 expansion, with level cap increase and new class. No date.
  • New Hearthstone expansion, with cards for new WoW figures and Ulduar. No date, maybe a timeframe.
  • Heroes of the Storm: no major new features, just announcement of open beta timeframe for Winter 2015.
  • Trailer for Warcraft movie.
  • No Warcraft remake news, no Warcraft 4. (Sorry.)
  • No new franchises.

We’ll see on Friday! For everyone that’s going, stay safe, have fun, and try not to kill too many memories with alcohol!

 

 

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Oct 222011
 

Wow. Well, the announcements this year were a bit more shocking then last, weren’t thay? (Of course, Blizzard did a much better job of controlling leaks this year.) Let me take a look at how my predictions from yesterday fared, then I’ll go over my thoughts (briefly) about today’s news.

There will be pandas, but they will not be playable: Well, I almost totally whiffed on this one. I couldn’t see a fair way they could give Pandaren to one side or the other (they couldn’t either, so chose both). Call it a quarter-point for being right on pandas.

No new classes: I figured the balance changes for adding a new class would be too much work (apparently not). No points here.

Talents significantly overhauled; trees eliminated, three talent families to spend points in, limitations on leveling players, specializations kept: Overall, I mostly nailed the changes here. They were a bit more radical then I thought; I figured you’d still be choosing talents within a spec, not a common talent choice for all specs. Three quarters of a point.

LOTRO-style skirmish system, merc that you can customize/equip: Well, I got the “new thing you can customize” right, though the actual thing was wrong. I never would have guessed WoW pokemon, but this is a genius move by Blizzard. I also was sort of right about skirmishes. Half-point, with a bonus point next year if I’m right about it being cut before launch. :)

Dance studio announced, not as impressive as expected: Maybe still an incomplete, but I figured they would have featured it at Blizzcon if they were at least planning on it, so, no. No points.

Total: 1.5/5. Go me!

Anyway, on to the other news I found interesting, in no particular order:

No flying until max level: Big ups here. You don’t really experience the content if you can just skip it with flying mounts. It’s probably worth further discussion, but I’d argue that unrestricted flying has been a net negative for the game.

Monks: Probably the most predicted idea for a new class. Love the idea, especially the idea of no auto-attacks. I’d love to see them take the leap to removing auto-attacks for all classes. As it stands now, autoattack is just a persistent DoT that requires melee range to function.

New talent system: Love the idea, but there will still be “cookie-cutter” builds, they’ll just be a lot easier to type out. :) I have a further discussion coming on the talent system in this week’s Shifting column on WoWI.

Challenge mode dungeons: Very cool idea, though I wish they’d implement solo Challenges. I also am STRONGLY against the idea of challenge mode dungeons being accessible through the Dungeon Finder. Why? Imagine you start an 5v5 arena team. You find some other people who want to play, work hard, get beat up a bit, and eventually rise to a rating roughly equal to your level of skill. Now imagine a different person who clicks a queue button and gets put on an arena team filled with a bunch of other good players, and he is instantly rated the same. You get the picture, I hope. Thankfully, there’s no gear rewards, and you have to specifically queue for Challenge mode, which should help prevent, um, “motive mismatches.”

Pet battles: Meh. It’s WoW Pokemon. If you like Pokemon, great. If you don’t, don’t. Hopefully, there’s no in-game reward to make me feel like I have to do it.

Four specs for druids: No more bearcat. I’m quite sad, though I expected it (I expected it for Cata, actually). Those level 90 talents look very interesting, though…

Pandas: My first reaction? Nerdrage. “THEY REALLY DID PANDAS OMG THIS GAME JUST JUMPED THE SHARK!” Now that I’ve thought about it a little more, though, my thoughts have changed a little bit. I started playing WoW in earnest almost three years ago. I was a geographical bachelor (long story), and looking for a community. I became a hardcore player. I would have HATED Pandas then.

Now? A little over a year ago, my wife and I had a large fight over where my priorities lay. I walked away from the game that day, and came back, much later, as a *cough* “casual.” Today, I have a three-year old son, who I haven’t seen in several months…and according to my wife, he’s crazy about pandas. One part of my brain scoffs, “a perk called ‘Bouncy?’ That’s so lame!” The other part, though, is envisioning him laughing over the rolls and spinning kicks.

So….

Go Team Panda! (Except when you roll on feral gear.)

Day 2 thoughts tomorrow.

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!

Aug 222009
 

Cherrypicking some things from the various panels to discuss…

Guild Improvements

  • 2o guild levels. Raiding/PVP/leveling/crafting/gaining rep/questing (basically anything) will add guild experience. Only top 20 earners count per day (so you can’t build a 1,000 member megaguild and ding 20 in a day)
  • Each guild level adds a guild talent point. Unlockable abilities in guild talent tree include lower/reduced reagent costs, increased gold drops, mass rez, mass summon. Guild talent tree will be respec’able (presumably by the GM)
  • Once guild dings 20, guild exp converted to guild points, which can be used as currency for guild items. Some things discussed: mounts, profession recipes, banners, cheap potions/reagents, heirloom items. All guild-items are linked to the guild and will be removed from a player if they leave the guild.
  • New guild  recruiting tool
  • Guild achievements (replaces some player achievements)
  • Can browse profession books of guildies
  • Guild news feed on Armory
  • Calendar can now be used to invite other guilds to raids
  • No guild hall. :(

Like I said yesterday, I’m really blown away and pleased by this change. I think the guild experience is one of the better things I’ve experienced with WOW, and anything that reinforces that design is welcome. The dual design (everyone gets level 20 eventually, but only seriosu players get achievements) is definitely the way to go.

LFG Improvements (possibly implemented in 3.3)

  • Instances will be cross-server.
  • LFG leaders will receive some type of reward.

Wow! Not anticipating this one at all, but this fits perfectly with my current playstyle. Cross-server instances will help drastically with the early-morning groups I’ve been doing.  The whole “leaders get a reward” thing is cool in theory, but then you run into the “everyone wants to lead” problem…and most of those people won’t be great leaders. It’s nice to get some in-game appreciation though. :)

Aug 222009
 

Thanks to Lissanna with a very nice liveblog of the panel that I was following since work blocks MMOC for me </cry>

Mechanics Changes

  • MP5 removed. Regen now based off Spirit. Spirit removed from DPS caster gear.
  • Spellpower removed. Throughput now based off Intellect.
  • Attack power removed. Damage now scales based on Agility (leather/mail) or Strength (plate)
  • Defense removed. Crit immunity via talents.
  • Armor Penetration removed.
  • Haste now increases rate of energy/runes/rage/focus regen (Ret/Enh will be compensated somehow)
  • Block value removed; Block becomes a % mitigation stat.
  • Reforging added; crafters will be able to reallocate stat points on own and others gear, with limitations (can’t stack a stat)

Wow. Let that one sink in for a while.

Okay, I’m both excited and worried about this. This is obviously directed at a goal of 1 stat per concept. (STR= power, AGI= avoidance (and power for leather/mail), STA=health, INT= spellpower, SPI= regen.) While this makes things like gear balancing and such easier for the developers, it also reduces a lot of gearing complexity. I seem to remember a blue post from early in WOTLK that said that the devs used gear itemization as a balancing mechanism, and another that said choosing between AP, ArP, haste, crit, etc. was part of the fun/challenge of the game. They’ve obviously moved away from that. While I think the majority of the playerbase will appreciate the change, this really increases homogenization, and eliminates alternate gearing strategies. (For example, kitty druids now benefit most from +agi, but fully raidbuffed with the proper trinket, can benefit most from +ArPen.) Hopefully the complexity is restored with the mysterious  “mastery” system.  The reforging system is moderately interesting, but you know the best configuration will be quickly theorycrafted, and we’ll all end up there, so meh.

The haste change is welcome. That’s what haste is SUPPOSED to do, make you “faster.” Swing speed buffs aren’t really that noticeable; faster ability usage is. Thankfully, this should hopefully finally kill the idea of ability ‘rotations,’ and swing it over to priorities. Finally, I’m not in favor of the block change as currently stated. Block definitely needs reworking, as the flat damage reduction is terribly hard to balance. (As explained in much more detail by Kalon). Unfortuantely, with defense gone, block just sounds like a clone of armor at the moment.

Aug 212009
 

So, to kick off the Cataclysm discussion (I’ve been holding off until Blizz officially confirmed it, but MMO-Champion nailed it like usual), here’s a list of the discussion-worthy new features from the preview panel. Obviously, this isn’t a whole list, but I don’t think I need to explain that xpac = new monsters and raids. :) All this is from wow.com’s liveblog…can’t exactly stream the panel from work.

Guild Levels

Guilds will now have a “guild level,” which is advanced by guild members performing different stuff. High-level guilds get access to perks, such as cheaper repairs/less durability loss and mass rezz. 

WIN. Sorry. I don’t usually devolve into Internet speak, but this has now become, IMHO, the biggest thing I’m looking forward to. While it won’t make much difference for high-end raid guilds (who will minmax it as another raiding buff, as always), this will really breathe life into more-casual guilds, and create more ties to prevent guildhopping. Looking forward to the details, but three questions spring to mind immediately.

1. How do you level the guild? If it’s a point/badge type system, which I expect, then any guild can eventually reach max level, it’ll just take time and persistence. If it’s an unlockable/achievement type system, then only skilled guilds will be able to max it. Either way, there will be conflict between  skilled guilds (who want guild achievements to demonstrate/differentiate their progress) and casual guilds (who don’t want to be shut out of perks).

2. What are the bonuses, and will they be required to raid? Hopefully, from what I’ve seen, Blizz is going down the convenience bonus path. I think this is vastly better then a character stat boost, which has to be then taken into account when balancing raids.

3. So, we have new phasing tech, and we have guild levels…WTB guild housing? I know, the topic’s been discussed to death, and I’m pretty sure we’ll never see player housing, but we’re so close to guild housing now. Tell you what Blizz; If customized guild housing isn’t possible, just make a single instanced “guild hall,”  (or non-instanced, if the phasing tech is usable) and let the guild levels be used to unlock a mailbox, repair NPC, bank access, etc. Stick one in SW and Org (or 1 in each main city if you get ambitious) and call it a day. I know you don’t want to put too much into a guild hall (don’t want to depopulate the main cities further…low levels like seeing high levels run around), but we really need some tangible rewards from this guild level thing.

Character Customization

Top level 85. No new talent tier, so just 5 more pts to invest in current trees. Talents depowered, new “mastery system” installed to do the +10% dmg bonuses and such. New progression path, Path of the Titans, leveled via new secondary skill, Archeology.

Well, we knew they’d have to get the spiraling gear levels under control at some point. I’d imagine that the gear reset will not be nearly as severe for the new expansion. The talent changes were unexpected, but this should (hopefully) make the trees much easier to balance, which frees up dev time. Can’t really say more until we see what the bonuses are. So far, I like the idea of the new progression path…reminds me quite a bit of EQ2’s AA system.

Azeroth Revamp

Flying available in Azeroth. Most zones reshaped/reworked to improve leveling experience.

This is a GREAT idea by Blizz, and it has all kinds of upside. Players like it–let’s face it, most players try to level as fast as possible to get out of Azeroth and into OL/Northrend, which is a shame. From Blizz’s perspective, though, they don’t have to use dev resources on a whole new continent, which makes things much easier. (Yes, they’ll probably have more TOTAL work to do, but much less initial design/prep.) This trick only works once, though…they won’t be able to get away with an “Outlands remodel.” :)

New Races: Worgen/Goblins

Not much to say that others haven’t already said. Worgen druids seem odd, but I’ll get used to it (druids are supposed to be friends to nature…does anyone see a werewolf as nature-friendly?).  Other than that, good all around.

Looking forward to what else drops from Blizzcon.