It’s go time tomorrow: BlizzCon is almost here, and I’m going to be liveblogging my way through most of the event. And boy, it’s coming at an interesting time, what with the game officially declaring that it will no longer announce subscription numbers in the same year that the game has lost about 45% of its subscriber base.
I could write a whole column on that, sure, but it would mostly be 1200 words about the simple fact that the Powers That Be realizing how bad the news looks even when the financial falloff isn’t as bad as it may appear. But to be quite honest, what’s far more interesting to me is what needs to happen over the next couple of days, and I’m penning this now so we can all argue about whether or not BlizzCon delivered after it’s all over. So what do we need to see about Legion to serve as a much-needed boost to World of Warcraft player morale?
Beta dates (and perhaps a launch window)
This is so basic that if it’s not in the opening ceremony, I will be stunned. Beyond stunned. Flabbergasted, if you will. We need to know when the beta starts, and if there’s anyone thinking about it, the ideal date is “as soon as this convention is over.” The only reason it wouldn’t be while the convention is still going is that people would be mad. Seriously, we’re already five months out from content. This is a problem.
A launch window is more iffy, and we may or may not see that, but boy, wouldn’t it be lovely if it happened? It’d be good for more than simply people with my job, too; it’d be a chance for Blizzard to show players that it understands how much this content gap weighs on players. Yes, the launch window might wind up changing, perhaps even should wind up changing, but it will at least serve as a guideline for players. It’ll provide some sort of context ahead of time, a future for players to expect and anticipate, and a picture of how much longer this gap is going to be. Right now it seems like it’s going to be over a year; curtailing that perception would be a good thing.
Hard data on promises
Telling the players that five-person dungeons have gotten short shrift is a good thing to say, and also an honest one. That was back in August. It’s November now. If we don’t have hard data to back up how that’s being addressed, it’s only so much bleating.
I don’t need to address the game’s huge problem and obsession with raiding at this point, do I? I’ve gone over it multiple times by now. And this is not the way the game needs to be; it’s the result of conscious decisions by designers who both should and have learned better over the years. We’re in the same spot where we were at the end of The Burning Crusade, with most of the development resources aimed at a small portion of players.
Don’t tell people that things will be different. Show how things will be different. No, we can’t know every detail, but now is the time for Blizzard to show off how much it’s learned after the mistakes of this expansion. More relevance for small-group content, less randomness, useful professions, all of that. This is the sort of thing that will galvanize players now, give them reason to log in and build up resources for when the expansion finally comes out.
Do I expect to see it? Eh, it’s a mixed bag; previous BlizzCons have been hit and miss in terms of relevant data. But I’d still like it just the same.
Class fantasy and what it means
A great many words have been spent about how one of the big goals of Legion is to bring back the fantasy of given classes. On an inherent level, I am totally on board with this. I’ve mentioned in the past that one of the biggest weakness of “bring the player, not the class” has been that every class now gets slotted into a pretty narrow role; bringing back the spark to the various specs would be a good thing.
This does not, however, mean that the phrase itself communicates enough meaning. If there’s only one lesson to be taken away from “Ravenholdt or Riot” (and there are several), it’d be that what the designers have established as the class fantasy may not line up with what the given class fantasy really is. So if that phrase is going to be the watchword, it’s time to define what these class fantasies really are. What is the fantasy for Enhancement Shaman? For Combat Rogue vs. Subtlety Rogue? Survival Hunter? Protection Warrior?
I’m not pretending that everyone will necessarily be on board with these definitions, but I am saying that at least defining the terms means that everyone’s arguing from the same place. Cut down on the arguments about what a given class fantasy is before working on the narrower definitions.
PvP systems and artifact weapons
One of the things that’s still sort of unclear when it comes to the new PvP system is how very obviously PvP-centered talents, skills, and glyphs will work when the expansion launches. Will they remain in place? Will they be altered? Will they be unlocked by PvP? Will skills work differently depending on mode?
This is all stuff that we should know, even if we don’t have all of the details. I don’t, for example, need to immediately know what’s replacing some obviously PvP-focused skills for Paladins, but I do need to know that they’re going away. Maybe they’ll be replaced by something more universally relevant, maybe they won’t be replaced at all, but knowing is good enough to start with.
Similarly, having a loose idea of how the various artifact weapon abilities will work is important. We know the weapons will enhance as we level, but how? What sort of long-term effects do they offer? What sort of elements can be improved other than just stats? Will they bring back weapon procs, being a functional extension of talents? Give us some idea, here.
As with everything else on this list, it comes down to driving up excitement. We need excitement, reason to be all pumped for the next expansion. At the moment, there are lots of reasons to be potentially annoyed by the expansion and the wait for same, but we need more reasons to be jumping up and looking forward to it. Sure, I think we’ve got at least half a year of waiting ahead of us, but if we get told things that will make us all excited for when it does show up, it’ll help a lot.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or by mail to email@example.com. Next time around – which will be sooner than normal, I’ll note – I’ll be going over what we actually learned at the convention and whether or not it fit the bill. I really, really hope it does.