We’re going to find out a lot about World of Warcraft: Legion in November. Not just because I expect that’ll be around the time we get our beta announcement and date, which may even be as soon as BlizzCon ends; we’ll just be told a lot while we’re there. We’re going to just be learning a lot of design goals and ideas from the panels and what-not whilst we’re there. And that, I think, is a good thing. It’s so something we already need, but you know, I already wrote that column.
So I have a little more than a month before I find out all of the things I want that I’m not getting. And while I’ve spent the past several weeks listing some of the things that I’m looking forward to seeing from the game’s next expansion as examinations of larger topics, let’s talk a little bit about the stuff that I’d really like to see from the expansion that I’m also not expecting to actually see happen.
Better use of old content
Timewalking dungeons have already started us down this road, along with bringing back some currency-based progression that almost everyone seems to like. And with the game bringing back classes in a big way, it seems like an ideal time to expand this idea and make it work for more older content.
An obvious option would be to make Timewalking currencies extend to buy level-appropriate versions of older tier sets; they’re no longer relevant for progression, but it gives players a reason to wear older sets that already have their art finished. It establishes iconic looks for classes more firmly, and it gives players an advantage for collecting this stuff.
One of the big assets that World of Warcraft has at its disposal is a decade’s worth of content. If the developers are going to be lazy about giving us new dungeons, that’s fine as long as we can just make several expansion’s worth of dungeons relevant again. Saving development time and making use of existing tuned combat seems like a win-win to me.
A bit more bringing the class
“Bring the player, not the class” was an admirable philosophy when it first surfaced. The idea was that there were several different classes providing vital functions, so you weren’t limited to having a Shadow Priest in the party for mana recovery, for one example. The problem came when “vital functions” was expanded to include nearly every conceivable function, leading to such elements as totems being gutted for buffs, blessings and auras being wildly redesigned, and so on.
The fact of the matter is that at this point, there’s very little practical difference between an Arms Warrior and a Retribution Paladin; you look for slightly different secondary stats and have a slightly different rotation, but not substantially so. That isn’t a good thing, I’d argue. So I’m hoping that as long as we’re moving into having specific class artifact weapons and redoing class fantasies, classes get to have more of their distinctiveness come back to the forefront. It should feel different to play different classes and specs, even if they’re similar.
Yes, that means that there might be certain functions you miss when a given class isn’t in the party, but that is always going to be the case. You can at least have classes that feel different in play.
Professions in the game need a serious overhaul. It’s been a problem for a long while, really, but for most of the game’s lifespan it’s been easy enough to ignore. At this point, though, Jewelcrafting is half-useless, Inscription is a mess of randomness and hope, Enchantment feels superfluous, and we’ve also given up on any meaningful profession advancement partway through Warlords of Draenor because who needs the help of other professions? You can functionally gather and craft everything all by yourself, after all.
I understand the reasoning behind this, and I honestly don’t think the problem has its roots in the Garrison; I think that’s a symptom of a larger problem: that each new 75-point skill increase is treated as wholly independent of the last one. The Garrison stuff hasn’t helped, but it hasn’t made things specifically worse, either. It’s a mess that’s been running for a while. We’ve been told that there are lots of people working on each new bit of the crafting professions, so let’s see what they actually can do to clean out cruft and make the game as a whole work better.
Some of this is just the nature of the game because crafting is always going to be a sideline activity in World of Warcraft. That’s how the game is designed. I don’t begrudge that fact. But this is another case in which the hard work has already been done, and all that the designers really need to do is make that hard existing work matter more. Yes, revising things was one of the goals of Cataclysm, but discussing the differences between that revamp and what would work far better is a topic for another week’s column.
Better targeting of endgame
As much as I’d love to see more Timewalking-style rewards and more Timewalking dungeons that provide a progression system, I also want to see better new content and a better progression system there. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Final Fantasy XIV and how the game structures its endgame systems thus far, and I think the lessons of that game are ones that could well be applied to World of Warcraft as well.
New dungeons are fun – not just retuning of older dungeons into heroic difficulties, but brand-new dungeons meant for that high-level play right from the start. Having a variety of different content types needed to advance beyond a certain point keeps players engaged. The fact that we have a whole new PvP progression system alone implies that we could have a unified gear progression system that rewards players chiefly for doing content, not simply for playing our way through various tiers of raiding with a vengeance.
I’ve said many times that one of the biggest weaknesses currently facing Azeroth is the tendency to focus on one sort of vanishingly rare endgame player whilst ignoring all others. That’s not the reason subscriptions have dropped rather aggressively over the past few years, but it certainly doesn’t help. Past content being made more relevant is a good thing, but making new content for everyone is just as viable as an advancement strategy.
Yes, it’s all pie-in-the-sky dreaming, and I’m fully aware of it. I don’t expect to hear about or see most of these things happen. But I’m trying to be optimistic and have faith that all the talk we’ve heard thus far about refocusing on class fantasies and offering more varied content isn’t just so much lip service. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but we’ll find out soon enough.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I want to expand on that offhand mention here and talk about the large-scale Cataclysm revamp of old content, why we need some more revamping, and why what happened then doesn’t necessarily have to happen again.