WoW Factor: Where do we go after WoW Legion?

So at the risk of being dinged for spoiling the current World of Warcraft expansion, let me say this: Azeroth is not going to be destroyed or completely overtaken by the Burning Legion. That’s a given. The threat certainly feels real, and I hope more than anything that when our victory comes it feels like a natural outgrowth of the story rather than an arbitrary “well, the story says you win right now so the Burning Legion just got dumb,” but it’s pretty much a given that we’re going to win out in the end. The basic premise of the game doesn’t work otherwise.

The question, of course, is where we go next.

A lot of people have been speculating whether Legion is meant to be the final expansion for the game for precisely that reason, and while I think that’s obviously wrong on the face of it (it’d be silly to turn down that money, after all), the point stands that from a narrative perspective, this is it. This is the big confrontation that has been built up since Warcraft III, and if you have no doubt that there will be a next expansion, it still raises the question of “where does it go?”

Let’s explore the possibilities.

Look, a convenient unexplored continent!

Here in this land, which we will call... this land.The thing about Azeroth is that it’s not like Vana’diel or Hydaelyn. Those worlds have a pretty well-known basic layout, and it’s easy to say that the world stops at a certain point. We know where landmasses are, they’ve been well-established. Azeroth, by contrast, is a world that has great landmasses arranged at any point where they would be logically convenient, so there’s always space for another continent to show up.

Not that there isn’t some logic to it anyhow; the southern parts of every extant continent that stretches toward the south (Pandaria, the Eastern Kingdoms, and Kalimdor) strongly hint that the southern tip of the world we currently know is the equator. There’s still probably plenty of world out there to be explored with fair justification, although some of it should rightly include landmasses the size of Kalimdor or the Eastern Kingdoms, so creative work would have to be done to justify this heretofore unheard-of landmass.

What would work about this, of course, would be a chance to explore some part of Azeroth that isn’t directly related to the Burning Legion, possibly even spots where that invasion happened and was defeated through other means. Or perhaps the remnants of the Legion invasion have taken root elsewhere, meaning that we need to go deal with that while also encountering political groups that the Alliance and the Horde may not have realized were out there before.

The down side, of course, is that it’s hard for a new space to seem as if it’s not being handwaved into existence. General speculation currently centers around the idea that all of the unexplored area of Azeroth is just empty ocean, which is certainly possible, but it’s also just as plausible that no one actually knows what’s back there. There are lots of little spaces that we know are out there but haven’t seen in some time or ever (such as Zandalar proper), but that creates the risk of just slamming several places together to fill in the gaps. It seems like the route to go, but I think it’s far from a sure thing.

Beyond the sea, somewhere.

Heading back to Draenor after all

By contrast, we have little-to-no idea what Draenor looks like. Sure, Warlords of Draenor was a mess and a half, but the end of that expansion leaves us with plenty of opportunity to go back… especially since this time the whole place has no reason to expect it’s ever going to be ripped to pieces. We can explore this place, we have NPCs there who might welcome the return, and we have… um.

The biggest problem here, obviously, is that there is no particular reason to go back here at this point. All of the expansions have involved a certain amount of things rather unceremoniously being dropped in the laps of Azeroth’s inhabitants, from invading demons to invading undead to a whole lot of pandas showing up. Even if, say, the Ogres on Draenor vomited an invasion force up, they’d probably be going to Shattrath or something… and the Horde and Alliance have no particular reason to care about that. It’s alt-Draenor’s problem, not ours.

But the plus side is that unlike the previous example, it’s a matter wherein we know full well that the land is out there, and it was even something that had been promised early on as something we’d see in the game. It’d also have the advantage of making the whole excursion to Draenor seem less pointless after all; we weren’t just going to handle things and then never go back, we went to start by solving a problem and then we returned later to take care of other business.

For that matter, we could just as well have another drifting remnant of Draenor in Outland that was heretofore unknown. Yes, that requires a bit more of an arbitrary expansion, but it’s not like people have been making expeditions to find everything that’s drifting along out there. Who knows what might be floating in the void, perhaps even devoid of inhabitants…

Yeah, let's keep going, Azeroth is boring.

The world-hopping never stops

Of course, there’s nothing to say that we have to stop going from world to world once we’re done with Argus.

Here’s the funny thing: while we’ve always had access to some degree of world-jumping stuff in WoW, it’s rarely been under our own control. The Dark Portal just opened to Azeroth, which was not under the control of either world’s resident; Garrosh managed to use it to jump back in time to an alternate Draenor, but that also wasn’t really under his control. The Burning Legion has a lot of control, but it’s disinclined to let Azeroth’s residents use it. In fact, the end of the Demon Hunter class campaign is the first time I can think of when the power is really left in player hands by the time the story ends, even though there’s not much else to be done with it right now.

The obvious thing to do at this point is to start crusading against the Burning Legion once we’re done with this invasion, but that seems like a pretty long-term and major goal that’s going to require some guidance. It’s also just as possible that something is out there that’s just as attractive to the Horde and the Alliance, and we start hopping to another zone not as defenders, but as immigrants. Perhaps even conquerors, depending on what we find there.

Of course, at that point you have to take care to keep the game feeling like WoW instead of some ersatz Spelljammer sequel or a Planescape campaign. Which it’d be all right with regardless, but one assumes the designers would like to actually still feature Azeroth and all.

So what do you think? Or do you have completely different speculation? Feedback is welcome down in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time around… I think I’m going to see where we’re at with 7.2 and what’s there worth speculating about. Speculation is fun; what can I say?

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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52 Comments on "WoW Factor: Where do we go after WoW Legion?"

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Pedge Jameson

When the Muppets got boring they retconned that Gonzo was from outer space instead of some….well they never retconned him. So add another planet???

Sykes
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Sykes

The old gods are next, I think. Ashara’s due for revenge for having the Tidestone denied to her. It would be a great excuse to launch the somewhat already developed assets intended for the expansion of Vashjir.
We woke up an old god in the Emerald Dream when we defeated the Nightmare. What would N’zoth do once it’s awake?
On top of that, Bolvar seems increasingly corrupted by his position as Lich King.
There’s plenty of unexplored threads in Azeroth itself, and given what we now understand of the Void, bigger enemies out there than the Legion that have been closer to home this whole time.

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Danny Smith

I think the story of Azeroth is reaching the point anything that’s not drastically different is just going to be more of the same. Which isn’t really a bad thing for MMOs in general but with when that same is “no no THIS is the world ending big bad and this time they will do something instead of be loot tier pinatas we swear!” it is wearing real thin and the more it happens the more insincere it feels.
Legion was the “when in user number freefall break glass” fan service expansion, but it wasn’t shat out since there was in game stuff suggesting it was the intended follow up to mists and dreanor was a filler expansion to cover Legions long dev time. But it was still a bandaid pulling people in with things they cried for for years.

So what do they do when thats all spent? Clearly they have some plan as they are pulling a tier shift retcon with these void lords that totally won’t be just ani titans for the writers corruption fetish but the legion is going to lose, that’s what enemies for wow expansions do, its why the warlords were damp squibs. So with only old gods left to brush off the table its new territory and do they just add a random new world ending loot pinata each expansion pulled out their ass?

That’s not a healthy longterm plan for any series.

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Dread Quixadhal

If it were MY game, I’d allow us to defeat the Legion, but at the cost of turning Azeroth into a desolate wasteland. The next expansion would be about how to survive and restore the world. It would be a great excuse to chop down all those stupidly high numbers, since magic would be gutted and weakened, and everyone would be sickly and weak in general from the toxic environment.

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J. J. Sándor

Kill the Titans and take their place, maybe. That would open the whole new area of possibilities for future expansions. The entire universe.
Maybe that would be the right time for “Warcraft 40K”. ;)

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agemyth 😩

You mean “StarCraft”? :P

They just need to go land on Azeroth and give the Horde some space tech.

hurbster
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hurbster

Heresy.

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Dyer Oac

Kind of off topic, started listening to some of the podcasts. Elliot your voice sounds so familiar , did you raid with Molotov on an ocean server years ago?

ceder
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ceder

My theory:

This actually -is- it. We -don’t- win. Legion ends up destroying Azeroth and itself and Argus.

What happens next is we are told we have been saved by some time stasis. We are then asked to go back in time very far back in time to right wrongs etc. We can to our former timeline just before the Obliteration of the time line if need but the next expansion would be our going to the time of the high elves or earlier. This lets them yet again throw classes and abilities into all manner of changes etc as well.

Then after that expansion we’ve altered time to the point that the legion(and us) don’t succeed in destroying everything and we then are open to encountering new(or old) enemies due to changing the course of events etc etc.

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Tim Parisi

I would actually like to see Draenor and /or Outland expanded. Although that was supposed to be their entire world, it’s really just one continent, sMiller than Kalimdor and the eastern kingdoms. What if you just started sailing from any coastline? What’s beyond those oceans?

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Manastu Utakata

Or more Azeroth drama. Where Gallywix for example is made Warchief this time due to some death of Sylvanas, and he immediately starts banning the Gadgetzan Press from his throne room…

Bree: “Uta, pigtails! Snip, snip!”

…oh..err..something like that. :(

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Manastu Utakata

“Also, inane Uta.”

…yeah. :(

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Byórðæįr

So technically the build up has been building up far longer than that. I would totally dig having a spell jammer mount in wow… though most of the air ships in wow have ballons except the exodar type legion ships and few dwarf ships and mounts… should be interesting to see if we end up with captured exodar ships to get to argus or another gate or redirecting the dark portal…

Then again if you read through the death knights artifact history they could have any number of conquered worlds to play with. I seem to remember a image some where of world blown apart so who knows it should be interesting to see where they take things. Since we finally got a nice transmog system in so we can run dungeons for gear that may or may not look cool and simply mog over any pieces with stuff we like better grin.

misanthropomorphic
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misanthropomorphic

I honest to god don’t care where they send us. Just please let me play a murloc. Over many expansions, murlocs have gone from these evil, horrible things that gank you to a full-fledged race with hopes, dreams and plans. I *never* get tired of the Murky quests in Legion. And the baby murlocs with their cute little babbling? omg, can you imagine having an entire city of them to take care of? it would be heaven! And they could make an entirely new water-based class out of them. And that all fits really well with other’s comments about a South Seas expansion.

Let me be a murloc ship captain out on the high seas! I’ll give you all the moneys I have!

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Bannex

WoW needs boats. Something to mix up the gameplay, make them customizable movable player housing. Add waves and revamp the great sea. Give the boats auto pilot let players tackle giant world bosses as ships circle themselves.

I think they could really do a blizzard meets AC black flag and blind side the world with awesome.

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Pedge Jameson

I want dog fights!!!! Customization for the planes too!!!

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Tim Parisi

Well, we do have a shipyard. Could be fun to use the boats for more than just garrison missions.

rondstat
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rondstat

The smart money’s on Nazjatar and the South Seas, but what I’d REALLY like to see is a return to the Eastern Kingdoms.

EK has two closed zones and half a dozen unseen islands, some of them very important in terms of lore. Meanwhile, you’ve got Sylvanas’ increasingly sinister schemes (ramping up since Cataclysm) on the one hand, and Jaina with (potentially) a whole kingdom at her command on the other. I could see a story that puts the ‘war’ back in Warcraft, and moves away from ‘universe-shattering threat of the week.’ It would be great chance to deal with a lot of long-dangling story threads.

Besides, I feel like we need one last blowout to (canonically) end the faction war for good, before we go traipsing after these new big spookies the story keeps nudging us with.

quark1020
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quark1020

You may be on to something with a “last blowout”, but i feel like the current grievances between the horde and the alliance will likely get settled within this expansion. It now depends on when blizzard decides to make Jaina relevant again and if they want us to eventually kill off Sargeras in this expansion or the next.

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Brother Maynard

Well, how about this:

We know for a long time their plan has been to use the MMO format to develop the Warcraft story and the RTS format to work on Starcraft.

What if they will keep this expansion going through more and more content patches and use the next Blizzcon (or the year after that) to announce the reversal of their previous approach by announcing a soft reset of Warcraft lore through an upcoming RTS game, while Starcraft will get a brand new MMO using combat systems perfected through Overwatch?

Discuss…

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tyrk

Well considering N’Zoth is now free from his prison, my bet is that we’ll finally have the south seas expansion.

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Leviathonlx

They are setting up N Zoth way too much for us to not be dealing with him next expac and maybe finally Azshara.

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Sorenthaz

I just want a South Seas expansion where they take the Garrisorderhall system and utilize it in a way that would fit perfectly: player owned naval ships with recruitable crew members where your professions impact what your ship can have. Guild ships would be a thing where guilds get one big ship to upgrade and fight with. Bloodsail Buccaneers would become a big faction along with the Undermine Goblins and your choice between the two would impact the end game options.

Treasure you find via Archaeology and such would be displayable. Achievements would give numerous ship customization options and ships could have different looks based on race and or class.

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KumiKaze

I think the failure of Project Titan threw a wrench in the plans for WoW. It does feel like Legion was going to be the last expansion and WoW would “end” allowing for Titan to become the new Blizzard MMO. I think they would have continued the Warcraft lore through Warcraft 4, so maybe what they had planned for that will become the new expansion.

Crow
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Crow

From what I understand, WoW is now Blizzard’s voluntary gulag where you go and grind gold so you can buy Hearthstone packs.

I’m only half-kidding.

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Akufen

Add mythic+ world quests and just call the next expansion Diablo 4?? :P

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Pandalulz

Stargates: I’m gonna keep saying it until they do it, heh.

wandris
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wandris

I know where it is going.

Warcraft has a key and very important piece of lore which has been underemphasized over the years. Sargeras the fallen titan created the burning crusade and does the things he does to combat the void lords. The forces of the void were so terrible that he believed the only way to actually win was to destroy everything in the universe. Perhaps the titan himself was corrupted by the void in some way, much like deathwing. There is already strong indications in some of the legion content that this is being brought to the front.

C’thun and the old gods are forces of the void, malevolent beings sent to feed on the universe, devour entire worlds like azeroth which are actually unborn titans.

So where is the story going? First to take the fight directly to sargeras. It is unclear if this fight will happen in this expansion or perhaps a follow up one. My bet is Argus or another world(s) will be the place of the next expansion. My bet is that when the legion is defeated and sargeras out of the picture the void will make a resurgence without the legion to counter it. That particular war could take multiple expansions and go many places.

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Vail3nce

They already said that 7.3 will be Argus, next expansion can’t be Argus. My bet is something that involves Azshara.

wandris
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wandris

Why not? Argus is an entire world. A single area could be merely the tip of what they have planned. It is also not uncommon for games to deploy new assets in a pre-expansion update. I would say if we get to agrus and see a ton of new art assets, then it will be an indicator of it being the next expansion. If it is merely a rehash of legion stuff, then perhaps not. Ashzara is certainly possible, but I do not think people are going to be very interested is more underwater naga zones. I bet that Azshara comes at some point in the future as more of a filler expansion to break up a multi-expansion void war.

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Legend Of Vinny T

The one question that’s been on my mind since Warlords of Draenor created an alternate timeline: What’s happening on alt-Azeroth?

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TheDonDude

Well, the Orcs never invaded so the original WC1 Stormwind still exists. No Lich King or fall of Lordaeron, either.

Demons probably got ’em.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

There is no Azeroth in WoD’s alternate reality; ‘ours’ is the only one it exists in.

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hugmonster

I hope it’s not time travel.

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Oleg Chebeneev

>A lot of people have been speculating whether Legion is meant to be the final expansion

Thats some really stupid speculating. Considering BLizzard upped their WoW team to record 300 members in Legion and population _raised_ compared to WoD.

They will milk this MMO for at least 10 more years. And as creators of this universe they can always introduce new heroes and new epic events

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Greaterdivinity

These are WoW players, after all : D

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TheDonDude

Old Gods sleeping under Azeroth.

Who’s known for digging too deep until they run into eViL tHiNgS? Gnomes.

Who has a kickass underground city on Kezen? Goblins.

Which races would grab the spotlight for that shiny new Tinker class we all know/hope/wish is coming? Goblins and Gnomes.

The stars are aligning, baby.

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agemyth 😩

I have an old god living in my dagger. He’s not so bad. How much of a threat is anything else if we take down Sargeras even if they contrive some reason for him to not be at his full strength?

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TheDonDude

Please. Old Gods rule, Burning Legion drools! As the great Harbinger Skyriss once said, “It is a small matter to control the mind of the weak… for I bear allegiance to powers untouched by time, unmoved by fate. No force on this world or beyond harbors the strength to bend our knee… not even the mighty Legion!”

…course, then he got beat down by 5 random level 70’s, but that’s not the point.

pepperzine
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pepperzine

It would be so nice if this was the last expansion and they focused on making a World of Warcraft 2 instead. Then they wouldn’t be tied down to the limitations of the engine when it comes to altering the combat and graphics.

Crow
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Crow

Blizzard won’t make another MMORPG. That ship sailed.

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Nathan Aldana

also then they could alienate half their playerbase given half the allure of wow is you can run it on a potato

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agemyth 😩

It’s already one of the most flexible MMO engines and best looking games on the market. WoW2 would be starting from a new-ish slate and far less diverse and flexible as a result. /opinion :P

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Brother Maynard

Best looking games? To quote Sheldon: in what universe?!

Leaving aside the childish ‘stylised’ graphics that arose partially from its early flirt with the Warhammer franchise, combined with the poor PC performance which at that time could not process anything close to realistic graphics even at low resolutions, how would the hundred-times-updated-20-years-old Warcraft 3 engine be able to deliver even decent looks?

Just look at the models, they’re so rough you could use them as the next Lumberjack song – ever seen the trees in the game whose models are basically a handful of polygons relying 90% on transparency?

Compare that to games like BDO – how on earth can WoW be considered even good looking? I’m not talking about taste, that is purely subjective – but “best looking games” – almost a 20 years old graphics technology that had its dying breath with upgraded fire textures in WotlK?

Graphically, this game was outdated 15 years ago, the fact their developers can squeeze orange juice out of a turd does not make it a jewel.

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Grimmtooth

Best looking != high poly count.

90% of the current crop of MMOs with high poly characters are uglier than Satan’s port-a-potty. Let’s step offa that.

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agemyth 😩

To be clear, I do think it is among the best looking MMOs on the market. I failed to qualify it that way above. A lot of the older assets in WoW could jokingly be referred to scaled up WC3 assets, but the game has gotten better looking with every expansion.

“Best looking” is not, for me, a judgement of how high res the textures are or how many polygons are on the screen at a time. BDO is gorgeous in screenshots, but in motion the pop-in is severe enough for me to not like the visuals overall.

I have no interest in pretending there is anything worthwhile in discussing about “objectively” better aspects in how a game looks.

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Brother Maynard

I do agree, they still make the effort and after all those years it is laudable – without any doubt. And I do acknowledge the fact they are one of the (too) few studios who actually go deep in their original game engine and try to improve whatever runs the game.

But I’m just too wary of studios who claim minor tech advacements to be highlights of their expansions (WotlK fires, Pandaria waters, etc.) when in reality these minor engine tweaks mean literally nothing and technologically are the laughing stock of any modern MMO game (like BDO).

As far as any kind of innovation goes (graphics, gameplay, etc.), to me WoW died with the South Park episode. Whatever is discussed as far as graphics quality goes, it’s all slightly upgraded 2003-2005 Warcraft 3 tech and does not deserver a single mention in any contemporary source.

But then it’s just me and I’m partiaslly drunk, so I guess there’s a moral to this story after all: don’t drink and type.

Disclaimer: Please excuse all the typos, they were not intended, but somehow sneaked in as part of my previous engagement. The End.

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gulducot

I’m a huge fan of wow but graphically speaking it’s been outdated 10 years ago. After Guild Wars in 05 and then Conan wow looked old and tired. Today it’s pretty much lego wow.

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agemyth 😩

Modern WoW looks far better than Guild Wars 1 and Age of Conan :)

If one were to go down the path of just talking about number of polys, sizes of textures, etc I can say with 100% certainty that World of Warcraft has all the bigger numbers than Guild Wars 1. It likely trumps Age of Conan as well because of how small the zones in that game are and how there is relatively less environtment, character models, and particle effects going on in general.

I do not imagine you will agree with that at all, so I won’t jabber any further on the subject :P Have a good one.

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Nathan Aldana

spelljammer.

We need giant miniature space hamsters.

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Honors Hammer

Go for the eyes, Boo, go for the eyes!!

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chriskovo .

Hamsters are already being added to crowfall so you are covered. :P

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