Hooray, we have a release date for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth instead of just a release window! And contrary to what many skeptics (myself included) expected to get, it is actually quite a bit faster than other releases. But as you all have no doubt noticed by now, my love of math means that I’m hardly sore about this. It just means that there’s another data point to consider when we look to the future.
So let’s talk about this new piece of information while using the same information from the column in which I made a reasonable estimate, based on this new information. Again, I think it’s important to note how much faster this expansion is actually releasing compared to prior expansions; it’s significant, even if it means that the people predicting things like June were being wildly wrong about “optimistic” predictions. (After all, pessimistic predictions were equally wrong, just in the other direction; my own estimates were off by 2-3 months.)
Last week, we got confirmation that Kul Tiran Humans and Mag’har Orcs are coming to the Allied Race roster for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. We don’t know when, but I have a bit of a theory about that as it is; from what we know, it’d make sense to have Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag’har Orcs brought in at the start of the expansion, while the Kul Tiran Humans and Zandalari Trolls are brought in after you’ve finished the leveling story for the respective factions. The former are more solidly members than the latter, after a fashion.
But we don’t know for certain when they’re getting added, just that they will be. And that’s interesting, because it means that both factions have significantly increased their race options within one expansion. And that becomes kind of relevant when you look at how many choices individual players have in terms of having something for all of these different races to do.
It’s funny to me that people had such an aggressive reaction to the changes coming to Hunter pets and damage formulas in Battle for Azeroth. The latter in particular should be both invisible and completely immaterial for actual play; the only real change is that they now use weapon damage on abilities which were previously disconnected from weapon damage, but these formulas have always taken into account, say, the difference between two-handers and dual-wielding options. The former is, at its core, an opportunity to make pet families relevant again after most of the pets of Legion were more or less difference in appearance only, which is a far cry from the days when your choice of pet was significant.
To make it clear if it’s remotely ambiguous: Yes, these are changes I support and ones I think are good for the game on a whole.
And yet all of this does prompt a pretty salient question about World of Warcraft because even if these are intelligent choices, the weapon damage issue has existed for ages now. The time for fussing about with Hunter pets was also ages ago. It’s a big change to functionality being tossed into the mix more or less out of the blue with no other prompting, and that raises the question that’s been relevant ever since Cataclysm rolled around: Why is it that Blizzard can’t stop messing with everything?
Probably the most challenging aspect of creating a “top 32” list of the best World of Warcraft music isn’t coming up with a track list. Heck, that’s the easy part, considering how many great tunes Blizzard’s composers have added to this MMO over the years. No, the difficult job is taking those 32 tracks and then ranking them as part of a countdown.
What makes one track better than another? Do I go by perceived popularity or by my own preferences (hint: I went with the latter while remaining influenced by the former). Is it a slight to put tracks further down on the list? What happens when we count down to the number one spot… and still haven’t included a track that a fan considers essential to such a list?
I’ll have to get over these worries and fears. That’s on me. For your part, all you need to do is enjoy the next batch of World of Warcraft’s best tunes as we travel through the 20s!
Last week, I wrote about the addition of allied races without having actually gotten to play around with them much. You have to understand that at some point in the past I angered an elder deity of some sort, a fact which I myself was not previously aware of, but which remains the only real way to explain World of Warcraft releasing its pre-orders on the same day that my other game of choice released a major update which demanded my attention.
Or it was just bad luck, but “angered the gods” feels like a more all-encompassing explanation of same.
The bright side, though, is that it meant I finally had a chance to experience both big new things at the same time, enjoying the worldwide level scaling at the same time as I was enjoying my new allied race characters. So now that we’ve talked a little bit about the conceptual side of things, let’s talk about the actual leveling experience beyond the first unlocks.
A week ago, I started to engage in an interesting thought experiment. I started jotting down what I thought were the best World of Warcraft music tracks to see if, I don’t know, I could come up with a top 10 list or something. What would those tracks be, anyway? I drafted good prospects from my own collection, scouted around on various soundtrack sites to see what others said, and even polled Twitter.
The list grew. And it grew. And it grew some more. That top 10 list became a top 20, and before I knew it, it had topped 30 tracks with no signs of slowing down. While World of Warcraft has a surprisingly large number of filler and forgettable music tracks, Blizzard has put so much care and effort into creating the game’s score that dozens of masterpieces have been added to the soundtrack (which is somewhere around 600 pieces, depending on how you count them).
So I drew a hard line and decided to count down from my personal 32 favorite tracks over the next five installments of Jukebox Heroes. Some of these are definitely popular hits while others might only exist as my guilty pleasures. Let’s get started with the countdown — and let me know what you think should be included in the weeks to come!
The “when will Battle for Azeroth” speculation train is rolling once again because it looks like patch 7.3.5 is just around the corner. We haven’t actually been told when that’s landing yet, of course, but the World of Warcraft community continues to push forward with the sort of boundless optimism that it’s so well known for. “This time is going to be different!”
Here’s a spoiler for the future: It’s not. This time is going to be exactly the same, just like how previous times have been exactly the same, just like each time we’ve talked about this have been exactly the same. Betting on anything before October is optimistic, betting before September is wildly unrealistic. Similarly, betting on 2019 is pessimistic, and later than January is wildly unrealistic just as surely.
The significance of Vanguard’s development, release, long-running drama, second chance, and eventual closure should be of great interest not just to game historians but to everyone who plays MMOs, period. What happened with this game caused a huge fallout in the industry, and we are still feeling some of its effects even today.
As our own Bree once put it in her blog, “Vanguard’s implosion was a big deal at the time and marked the beginning of the post-World of Warcraft destruction of the industry that hobbled Age of Conan and Warhammer Online a few years later.”
While the crash and burn of Vanguard was a very well-known tale several years ago, I’m wondering if today there might be many who are quite unfamiliar with what happened to this unassuming title back around 2007. Let me put on my old fogey glasses and we shall begin!
Antorus is out now, and if you want to see the cinematic that ends the very long-running story about the Burning Legion and Sargeras, well, that’s easy to do. It’s kind of spoiler-filled, though, so I’m not going to be talking about it here in any detail beyond mentioning that Azeroth does not exactly end things without a major impact. And needless to say, people have already started asking “why is it that World of Warcraft’s next expansion is going back to factional squabbles when this just happened?”
It’s a question with lots of good answers. So I want to dive into exactly those. In fact, you can neatly divide the answers up into three categories: The anthropic principle, real-life parallels, and the change of flavors. And it’s not that one or the other is the “real” answer or the “right” one; it’s that all three of them combine perfectly to make factional squabbles a perfectly reasonable next destination after the cosmic invasion of the last expansion.
Whether you play it now or not, chances are that your paths have crossed with World of Warcraft in the past. This is true of pretty much every MMO blogger I know, and as such, all of them have emerged over the weekend to offer their thoughts on BlizzCon’s classic server and Battle for Azeroth announcements. So what do they have to say?
On World of Warcraft Classic:
“Meanwhile, a lot of what Blizz said about WoW Classic was set in the future tense. It sounds like they had a small group do some research and found a viable path forward. Everything else, however, seemed to couched in ‘we will,’ ‘we’re going to,’ and ‘we want to.'” (The Ancient Gaming Noob)
The last time I saw this many people asking “why?” about a new World of Warcraft expansion was at the announcement of Mists of Pandaria. I agreed then, too; the idea of bringing in the Pandaren to the game seemed to be slipping into territory that just didn’t feel appealing to me. I’m still not entirely sold on the idea, a fact which is not helped at all by the fact that the very next expansion was so creatively bankrupt the team seems to have thrown every good idea at once into Legion.
Really, we don’t know what happened behind the scenes of Warlords of Draenor development, but that seems like a plausible theory.
So, yes, Battle for Azeroth. That is the actual title of the next expansion, one which feels almost as if it was cobbled together by drawing a few random words that usually get used with the game and hoping they assembled a coherent sentence. It seems, at face value, like a really dumb idea, especially since the very basic premise is one that you know is absolutely not going to be resolved by the end of the expansion.
Every so often, when I can think of no better introduction, I put some genuine musing into the opening of What Are You Playing. Usually it’s meant to be absurdist nonsense, but this past weekend is an example of my actually thinking about something, debating how I felt about the whole Allied Races announcement for World of Warcraft. It feels like something I wanted, and yet it feels like it’s not actually how I wanted it, which was an odd sensation.
In some ways, allied races seem like something that we’ve long needed in the game, especially since some of the races in question have just been around for so blessedly long. In other cases, they seem like a patch on another issue… and yet it’s another issue that’s being addressed in the same breath. And at the end of the day, you can explain a lot of it just by thinking about action figures.
It’s really, really weird to me to think that we’re getting an announcement about a new World of Warcraft expansion next week. Admittedly, we haven’t been told the details yet, but let’s be real here: The only conclusion if we don’t get an expansion announcement is that the game is shutting down. Everything has been set up to pull that trigger, everyone’s expecting it, we all know it. And we’ve even seen rumors, datamining, and hoaxes flying about faster than you can say “someone photoshop up a Murloc in Tier 2 Warrior gear.”
Some of the speculation is, of course, complete hogwash. “The next expansion will bring back talent trees!” “The next expansion is about Jaina as a dreadlord!” “The next expansion will have Blue Mage!” But some of it is, at least, stuff that’s been hinted at. So with a week or so to go, let’s take a look at what we know is on the table as being possible, being plausible, and being reasonable.