Thursday, August 6, 2015

[WoW] The Features are Legion

So far I have successfully predicted that Blizzard would announce the expansion at Gamescom, the Burning Legion would be a possible theme, and I was only off by 0.2 million for my subscriber base guess. And looking at my predictions, a few more in there are on the docket for "true" as well. That's not a bad track record.

It's pretty easy to be cynical about the WoW reveal. With WoD still firmly in the collective consciousness, everything we see about the future will be through the lens of current content. I'm cautiously optimistic about the expansion outlook now that I've heard more, but my days of blind fanboyism are behind me, but that doesn't mean there aren't pieces of it that make me excited. So let's break this down shall we?

First, however, a caveat:

Things That Are Potentially Awesome

  • Moving Our Story Forward
Aside from the strangeness that is AU Gul'dan opening the MU Tomb of Sargeras to get...I have no idea where Illidan came from because I thought we had killed him...BUT that aside, we complained about the lore--or lack thereof--in Draenor, and it seems the WoW team was listening.

Now we'll have Vrykul backstory, the Emerald Dream/Nightmare and Xavious, Azshara, the Val'kyr and Sylvanas, Tauren, Alleria and Turalyon, Fel Elves (Felves?), the Burning Legion itself and their former prison world, and more. While our story was on hold in Draenor, this expansion they're throwing in the kitchen sink, it seems. I'm totally on board with multiple storylines in parallel, so it'll be interesting to see how these disparate pieces fit together (hint: Titans and Pillars of Creation). Also, Anduin's growing up!

Bonus, the only orc is Gul'dan. I can live with that.

  • Pre-expansion Event
Afrasiabi mentioned that we'd have a pre-expansion event, similar to the one for Warlords, except more story oriented. He claimed we'll be really surprised and shocked, so my interest is piqued. But if we wake up to a "world on fire" sounds like we're in for the Burning Legion doing something pretty nasty. If they can finally tell us a full story that brings us into the next expansion, rather than leaving it in a book, I'll be quite pleased.

  • Class Orders
This could be great. Class-specific questing, you being the leader of your class. I hope there's a decently significant chunk of class quests here because where in WoD we were commanders, in Legion we're the pinnacle of our profession. This is Blizzard making us the heroes of our story. At least, I hope so.

The other part of Class Orders is the evolution of the Garrison system. Fewer followers, we're not raising an army. Ostensibly more customization for these followers. But these followers won't do things instead of you, rather they'll give you bonuses in a specific zone if you send them to that zone, or perhaps they go on a scouting mission which reveals a quest for you to go perform. This seems like a good evolution of Garrisons in that it would actively encourage you to go into the world. It becomes almost a quest dispenser, really.

  • Artifacts
Artifacts seem like the natural progression of the Path of the Titans, plus some visual customization. So we have not just class-quests here, but specialization quests where you go find your specialization's Artifact Weapon. These quests will potentially take us across Azeroth, which would be an amazing way to tie the world to our current tasks.

They'll earn "artifact power" as you perform activities: questing, dungeons, PvP, raiding, etc. And you spend that power on basically a "talent" tree for each weapon. Ostensibly the artifact will power your character, though we don't know if you have to be wielding it to get the benefit, but it'll be an interesting question for dual-spec folks.

Of course, folks worried about every Ret paladin wielding Ashbringer need not fear too much, because we'll be given the capability to pick alternate models/color variants for our Artifact Weapons. With 5 models from what I can see and multiple colours on each model, per spec, we're looking at more models than we might get in an expansion altogether.

As an example, in Warlords Enhancement Shaman had a total of 11 models: 2 in Highmaul, 2 in BRF, 4 in HFC, 3 in PvP. But those 11 models are also shared with 2 Rogue specs and Windwalker Monks, meaning really that's only 3 models per spec, not 5. So I don't think we really have less choice here if they can actually pull off this many variants.

Of course, can't leave out the druids. They'll get to modify their forms since they can't actually see their weapons, and that's pretty spiffy. Also, confirmed hi-res cat form. I wonder if boomkin will finally get an update?

Overall, this feels a lot more fleshed out than Path of the Titans was during the Wrath announcement, so perhaps we'll actually get this one. Seems like this will be our progression, rather than picking up new class abilities and/or more talents. Nice way to give us new progression options, though it'll be interesting to see how this system moves forward...if it does.

  • Dungeons
Ion started with talking about how they feel they've given dungeons a bit of disservice. That there'll be more dungeons, more replayability, more reasons to go into them. I really enjoy 5-player content, so I'm hoping they can deliver on this.

They showed off art/screens for 3 of 9 total 5-player dungeons, which is about par for the course over the past few expansions, though hopefully they release more during the expansion.

We don't have many more details from a systems perspective.

  • Raids
Aside from the leveling experience, Warlords' biggest success has been raids. The raid dev team has this stuff down to a science and an art. Boss fights have been fantastic, and the zones have been varied and show off Blizzard's capability of telling and selling a story via the environment.

Highmaul then BRF worked pretty well overall, so Blizzard is going to do that again. A 7 boss raid, then a 10 boss raid.

Sounds like Blizzard is happy with how LFR, Flex Normal/Heroic, and 20-Man Mythic are working out. I call this a successful prediction on my end.

  • Improved Transmog System
Listed as a box feature, but we know nothing more about this at this time. However, if we see an improvement, another of my predictions will come true.

  • New PvP Honor System
Similar to CoD's Prestige system, you'll get new PvP talents unlocked as you gain PvP levels. You'll be able to voluntarily reset this Prestige level back to 1 and get cosmetic stuff, like titles, mounts, gear sets, etc.

So now the devs can balance PvE and PvP separately since they have separate talent trees, and folks have something they can choose to either sit at level 50, or if they want to grind for all the cosmetics they're free to do so. Also, gear as a whole should have much less impact on PvP as a whole, which is nice.

Things That Are Off or Strange

  • Jaina's no where to be found
Where'd Jaina go? Why is Khadgar the leader of the Kirin Tor? All we know is she was pissed off and ran off to do something. If she becomes the "I went crazy and now I'm a raid boss" route, I will be disappointed.

  • Emerald Nightmare
Xavius is destroyed multiple times in the book Stormrage, yet here he is again trying to push into Azeroth. Rumours are N'Zoth is behind this, but we'll see in the raid, I suppose. But I find it odd that they had apparently largely tied this up in a book, and now are tapping it. Part of the kitchen sink.

  •  Survival Hunters get an Artifact Spear
O.o Are they going to be a melee class?

  • Artifacts
If we thought it was hard to balance the specs before, now we have so many more knobs. Also, how will this affect off-specing?

  • Demon Hunters
While I'm happy to see Demon Hunters are a new hero class (like DKs), and that they look freaking awesome, I'm not sure we need yet another Agility Leather Melee class (3 specs of Rogue, Windwalker Monks, Feral Druids, and now Havoc Demon Hunters). There's also the case that ranged tends to be preferred over melee in raids--though Blizzard is getting better at not unduly punishing melee. There's quite a few bosses in HFC where being ranged actually is actively worse than melee.

I'm happy to see they're only doing 2 specs, to ensure concentrated awesomeness, but I'm not quite sure how they'll really fit into group content.

Things That Are Unsaid

Of course, Blizzard only had an hour and a half to talk about all of this, so there's a lot left unsaid, not to mention all of this information brings up a lot of questions unto itself.

What about professions? How do they plan on making 5-player content relevant longer? Is Dalaran our capital city again (which would be a clever way to save on asset creation time)? Are there other systems changes? What are the "improved social features" touted on the expansion feature list?

This expansion is very much by the book, though with some kitchen sink tossed in. If you were hoping WoW would reinvent itself completely somehow, you're probably not going to be happy with Legion. But if you want more of classic WoW, Legion looks like it might just deliver. If they can manage to ship another leveling experience as awesome as Draenor, and nail the landing of post-110 content? That'd be a solid win in my mind.

Beta? Release?

Oh, and before I finish, they mentioned Beta before the end of this year, which means my beta by Blizzcon prediction is quite possibly correct as well. So I'll throw down another prediction since I'm apparently on prediction fire this expansion: I predict a pre-expansion date of Thursday, March 31st, 2016, and an actual release date of April 28th, 2016.

If they do Beta by Blizzcon, then that gives almost 4.5 months on the PTR, then the traditional 1 month of the x.0 patch with old content (plus the pre-expansion event). The full expac would be a bit late for the first quarter, but the pre-expansion patch would give 2016 Q1 a subscriber bump just before the end, as they generally do.

It would also mean 8.5 months of 6.2 before new content, which isn't actually that bad. Not great, 6 months would be better, but if they could hit these dates, they'd be doing pretty well for themselves. #WorldOfWarcraft, #Expansion, #Predictions


  1. The questions ought to keep us chomping at the bit; a lot of the things you brought up (like how artifacts will interact w/ off specs, etc) I saw asked to Celestalon on Twitter so hopefully we'll get SOME answers (or at least where their heads are at).

    As for the appearances, while yes there were 11 mogs that we shared, they were all very different looks and were mog-able so you see a lot of variation. We don't know if the artifacts can be mog'ed beyond the apparent 5-ish variants. Additionally, they may be different but they boil down to the same framework: all Ashbringers are a rectangular blade w/ a circle on the back. Plus we won't see the same level of weapon type variation that we used to. I already know some people are annoyed that their favorite spec is being pushed to a specific weapon type (admittedly my inner Shaman wanted a fist weapon b/c WC3 but Doomhammer is a suitable compromise).

    That said I think we'll probably see a large number of looks and have more added over time. I'm still hoping they make them modular.

    1. Artifacts can be moved, so that should solve all the visual issues (fist weapons aside).

      I doubt they'll ever be modular. WoW doesn't have that sort of tech. Items are tied to a specific model; even color variants as far as I can tell count as different models. Modularity would require new data structures, new server tech to handle the new data, and client tech to put together models in the fly.

      I doubt head go that far for a one-off concept.

    2. Transmogged, not "moved". I really need to stop commenting from mobile devices. Autocorrect is terrible >.>

  2. I wonder if your hashtags would work better if you would spell them right. ;)

    Are you sure that demon hunters are agility leather? I somehow got the impression they were a cloth wearing class. Or a naked class, if you judge by the images. Apparently there is a strong demand for naked elves.

    1. Whoops, I predict I'll be fixing a typo in the near future :P

      I'm not 100 percent certain about the agility leather bit, but cloth might be a thing.

      As to naked elves, I think you may want to resurrect the blood elf porn tag :P

    2. Nope, they're agility leather:

  3. "Where'd Jaina go?"

    Good question. Apparently Tirion is also dead or something, there was a line about retrieving Ashbringer from where it fell.

    "O.o Are they going to be a melee class?"

    If by class you mean spec, yes. And Marksman is going to be petless.

    "I'm not sure we need yet another Agility Leather Melee class"

    No kidding. And their personal loot comment made me completely facepalm (something like "So many Leather wearers doesn't matter due to personal loot").