Massively Overthinking: Hopes and fears for BlizzCon 2017
Tomorrowday, BlizzCon will be upon us, and this year we’re expecting a full reveal of the new expansion for World of Warcraft, still the most lucrative MMORPG in the world. It’s always a fun angle for our team to cover WoW, since to us, it’s just another MMO among hundreds, albeit an outsized one. Indeed, we have writers who strongly dislike everything about it and consider it directly or indirectly responsible many of the genre’s woes. Even so, there’s no denying that whatever WoW does next is a big deal for the MMO genre, even if you’re not a fan.
For this edition of Massively Overthinking – a bit of a special one for the site, as today marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of Massively-that-was – I’ve asked the staff to outline their hopes and fears for BlizzCon, for WoW and the studio’s other games, and especially what they want to see in the expansion itself!
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): As usual, I’m guessing World of Warcraft will get news of another expansion that will largely feature “new” mechanics those of us who have gone beyond mainstream MMOs (and sometimes even mainstream games) have played with for years, just not combined with each other. Lore will be sacrificed to make it “fun,” but it’s OK because the other Blizz IPs will see some promotion for it that might actually be really cool. I can’t think of anything I’d like to see in particular because, sadly, at this point, I really don’t think anything could bring me back, but I do hope there’s some actual instanced housing coming down the line, at least for guilds, but Elder Scrolls Online really set the bar high in my opinion.
If we’re lucky, we’ll see more PvE modes in Overwatch that take better advantage of the out of game lore, and if we’ve been really good this year, there may be an announcement of an Overwatch movie. Pixar will sweat at the thought of losing their more gamer oriented staff members.
Hearthstone will get new stuff that sounds fun but once again makes older cards feel more useless. Heroes of the Storm will get more Overwatch characters and possibly even a Hearthstone hero: the card! Starcraft 2 and Diablo III will get cross IP promotions and… I don’t know, an expansion that involves an anti-hero?
Biggest fear: Activision forces that patented whale generated onto Blizz.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Blizzard used to lose me and win me back every other expansion. Wrath and Pandaria stole my heart. By rights, Legion ought to have done the same after the disappointment that was Draenor, but it didn’t. I’d finally truly moved on, such that Legion was the first WoW expansion I didn’t buy at all in all the many years I’ve played the game. If the rumors are true, and I hope they are, the new expansion might do it. I say “might” because while I love the rumored theme and think there is an ocean’s-depth of mechanical potential to it to be found in the MMORPG genre (:D), what turns me off is usually Blizzard’s bumbling and pandering and failure to learn from the genre’s past mistakes. The good parts are always great. We always have that drama and hoopla to look forward to and the fun of seeing what other studios will borrow. But the test for me is under the hood of the studio, in the cracks between the big presentation slides. So we’ll see.
I know we aren’t getting any Diablo news, though I wish we were since the franchise is one of my favorites, and I’ll always hold out for D4. Blizzard has fumbled on Diablo over and over, catastrophically. My fear is that the studio will never come back to it and will forget to even mention it, as it forgot a few years ago.
For my husband’s sake, I would have hoped for Overwatch goodies, though it seems the schedule is light on those.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Ah, BlizzCon, the time of the year when a certain populous group of gamers acts like this is the most important event in the world and like Blizzard’s many examples of mismanagement don’t count, while another group acts like Blizzard ruined everything ever forever and they can’t let you know loudly enough. For those of us watching with a bit of a smirk, it’s certainly a spectacle, filled with some things that wind up being pretty darn cool and others that make us want to flip a table over the company’s ceaseless rush to turn everything into an e-sport.
Note: I reserve the right to change my mind about this if they somehow make roleplaying into an e-sport, because I will character arc you right into the ground.
Let’s start from the bottom. Diablo III needs to be sent upstate to a nice farm family, and no, I’m not just being sarcastic; the company needs to just say “we’re not really doing much more with the title” so people stop hoping. The back-and-forth of whether or not D3 is a live and updated game or just a finished game that gets limited-time events deserves to be put to bed. I’d also love it if we could get the console interface on PC.
StarCraft 2 really, really needs to get some more single-player missions. The ironic part is that people were tired as heck of the game’s writing by the end of the main expansion, but the Nova add-on missions were actually better plotted and written than the entire sequel trilogy. Either that, or the game also ought to head to the nice farm family along with Diablo.
Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone… eh, I don’t care. My predictions are worthless because I don’t like what the games are trying to be, and outside of “more heroes/maps” and “more cards” I don’t have any insight to details. They do what they want to do.
Overwatch is in a weird space. On the one hand, the title is indisputably popular, people love the characters, and so forth. On the other hand, the game’s storytelling is nonexistent and the out-of-game storytelling has moved forward about half an inch since the game’s launch a year ago. Someone was expressing hope for a single-player/PvE expansion, which is honestly what it would take for me to have any interest in the game beyond the surrounding culture. The whole Overwatch League thing has also been really struggling to materialize, which doesn’t do the title any perceptual favor.
All that having been said? There’s also the question of whether or not any of this would help the title itself. I think it would make for a better overall game, but it’s certainly not dropping off in interest aggressively. So Blizzard can really get away with a new hero and then just phone it in, and the fact is that it would still float on all right. I’m reluctant to conflate “this is what the game should do” with “this is what I want the game to do.”
Last but certainly not least? World of Warcraft. A title I’m sure I’ll be talking about a lot this weekend anyway, and one where I’ve already talked about both realistic speculation and my entirely tongue-in-cheek me-pleasing expansion. But in all reality, I think that a lot of what we see this weekend is going to depend on what Blizzard sees as its successes and failures over the past year.
First of all, I expect another promise of testing by the end of the year, although I’d hope the developers avoid the “beta” label this time around. (It kind of bit back last year.) I also 100% expect that we’ll see another ten-level bump and either new class or new race options. (Both? Possible, but less certain.) And I think it’s inevitable that we’ll see new continents, even if we do get some old-world revamps going on.
Beyond that point, there are a lot of systems that have been roundly and repeatedly criticized (with good cause) that may or may not be marked as successes. Will we see more Legendaries? It depends on whether or not Blizzard sees the many complaints as a sign that the system needs to be changed. I am honestly not entirely hopeful about this, because the past few years have proven that the team seems to feel that “more opportunities at random chance” is better than “less random chance,” which probably means that some of the most disappointing aspects of Legion will be carried forward.
That also, however, gives hope for the better parts of Legion to carry forward as well – the World Quests, the level scaling, the strong overall storytelling, and so forth. My biggest hope, honestly, is that the developers look at Legion and address the troubles of randomness and inconsistency while keeping a lot of the rest intact. I can tell a convincing story where they don’t, but on a whole Legion winds up ranking pretty highly among WoW’s expansions. Fixing the stuff that doesn’t work would hopefully make something even better.
And if we actually get proper housing? I will scream endlessly. (I don’t actually expect it.)
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Like many, I’m breathless with anticipation over hearing about the next World of Warcraft expansion. I’ve been enjoying revisiting WoW as of late, and I know that an expansion announcement could go a long way to cementing my return — or prompting me away for a long time. Apart from the rumors we’ve heard, my greatest hopes for the xpack is that we’ll see Blizzard do something surprising and enjoyable. Customizable sailing ships (floating housing?) would be amazing, but really anything that would prove to be a huge “hook” is what I’m waiting to hear. I don’t think a new class is in the cards and I don’t care too much about subraces, but giving players a fun new way to grow their character post-artifact weapons will be essential to making this expansion compelling.
Apart from that, I’m not interested in all at the rest of Blizzard’s library, so they can announce whatever they like and I’ll keep my blinders on for the developers’ sole MMO.