WoW Factor: The smart World of Warcraft stuff from BlizzCon

    
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When you realize that your Hunter has turned into an FFXI Dragoon.

Let’s get something out of the way first and foremost. I am not going to count Warcraft III: Reforged as a smart thing for World of Warcraft, even though it is literally the thing I am most excited about coming out of the convention. Those models look gorgeous, the game looks great, it’s all of the stuff I loved from the original but no longer looking like, well, a game from nearly two decades ago. Seriously, this is something I want so desperately.

Last week, this column focused on all the dumb things WoW did at BlizzCon. But there were some smart decisions made by the developers too. It doesn’t really counterbalance or outweigh the dumb stuff, I’m sorry to say, but it does at least ameliorate some of it. Or… provide a counterbalance, of sorts. It offers some things that aren’t elaborately bad. Look, let’s just enjoy the good stuff and agree to leave discussions about all of the bad stuff for last week – can we go with that?

We've achieved something.

Smart stuff for 8.2

I’ve already pointed out that the 8.2 reveals had at least one that landed like a lead balloon, but that was notable in part because everything else went over pretty darn well. Not one but two new land masses on display certainly helped matters; we don’t know how large they’re both going to be, but assuming they make up about a zone’s worth of exploration, that’s definitely a lot of open-world content for people to explore even if they don’t fully address the problems with the game’s other endgame activities.

Obviously, we’re not yet clear on what all of the rewards for this patch will be, due in no small part to the fact that it’s a bit further off in the distance. But it does look at least from a quick glance like we’re getting regions closer to the structure of Argus, Timeless Isle, Tanaan, and so on – places with lots of things to do for reliable rewards, which is a good thing. We saw something similar with the Broken Shore in 7.2, so it seems likely that the general cycle will repeat itself here with 8.2 (and then a similar addition in 8.3, by extension).

Sure, it’s all speculative now, but it would make sense. It’s an intensification of conflict, but it also pulls our attention in other directions with the added invasions to the main continents of the expansion, which is… a nice promise of further development, albeit one that makes only passing sense from a tactical sense, and darn it I said I wasn’t going to be talking about bad decisions this week.

I also do appreciate that it’s offering a nice diversity from where we’ve already been. As I mentioned before, Legion had a bit of an issue with feeling like the game’s greatest hits album right up until 7.2, when it was just all demons all the time. This feels more like a breather before we get into the real final act, wherein the final boss is going to be Sylvanas and I start biting my tongue hard enough to draw blood.

she's got the look

Smart talk of cosmetics

Out of all the answers from the Q&A, the one negative answer I actually agree with was the talk about how making transmogs open for any wearable armor matters more to Paladins than Mages (to summarize). This is actually a worthwhile and important element to consider when it comes to balancing out transmog restrictions, even if it’s only a halfway solution and relied a bit too heavily on the tired “silhouette” argument already dismantled with the existence of Pandaren.

But there was actually a lot of good acknowledgement and development of cosmetic options, which is a good thing. The reveal of Tauren and Gnome heritage sets was a good thing, even if it feels like we should be getting a lot more of these sets a lot faster. It’s difficult to believe how slowly sets actually get put together and revealed, all things considered, when you factor in the size of the team and the complexity of the sets, and heritage armor doesn’t even have the usual excuse of having to fit on multiple races. It doesn’t have to; that’s the whole point.

Still, these kinds of sets are things I want to see for literally ever reputation in the game. I’ll take a partial success over no progress at all, and it helps that the sets we’ve actually been seeing say something pretty fundamental about the races in question. The Gnome set in particular isn’t a set just for engineers, but it plays up how fundamental engineering is to the race as a whole; you can’t separate one from the other.

Having more options for one-handed transmog helps, too. It’s something that Legion made a bit worse with Warglaives, which make sense as being exclusive to Demon Hunters in broad terms but causes problems in terms of having limited crossover with other classes, but fixing the issue with fist weapons and daggers is a more pressing and long-standing problem.

It’s also nice to see that Worgen in particular are getting retouched. Yes, Goblins are getting updated models as well, but that model feels like it’s aged reasonably well. Worgen didn’t launch terribly well to start with, and the fact that the female model has been hideous basically since launch has turned a lot of people off from the race undeservedly. I look forward to seeing how the overall spread of changes will look.

Let's be honest, what you think you want isn't really important here.

Smart pricing for classic WoW

It’s a known fact that I’m not particularly excited for classic WoW, and the reasons for it were so well summed up by longtime reader Utakata that I can’t add anything she didn’t already state. In short? The problems current WoW has are in almost every case the problems vanilla WoW had, with the added benefit of being all old content. But the team definitely got one thing perfectly right with the decision to bake the subscription price in with the existing price.

My own speculation would have been that it would be a separate subscription or possibly a boxed price, but both of those have their own issues. A simple buy-to-play would reinforce the image that this is an archival product, which it is, but it doesn’t need the extra kick of planned obsolesence. And making it a separate subscription would encourage splitting the playerbase or having players choose to be invested in one version of the game over the other.

Having the pseudo-progression unlock helps too; it definitely gives players something to look forward to if the game’s launch state is more like “launch WoW, but with later systems and revisions.” As someone generally opposed to making later-day changes in the classic experience, this feels like a fair compromise point, and it probably works out better than just having all of 1.12’s content ready to go as soon as the game loads.

Last but not least, while I’ve gone back and forth with it in my mind, it’s probably also the right call to not have any unlocks in classic WoW for the main game. Part of me feels like it reduces motivation to play the title, but that part of me is quickly told to shut up because reducing motivation is the whole point. It means the people playing classic WoW are only the people who want to play the game wholly on its own merits, and seeing how large that community actually is in the long run.

Of course, in light of all this, the question becomes in part whether the smart stuff outweighs the dumb stuff. And in response, let me say… gee, it sure took a while to get that experience reduction for leveling, huh? It seems like that should have happened faster.

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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Rottenrotny

I’m glad they’re relaxing on transmog restrictions, but I’m still salty that I can’t transmog from 1h to staff on my priest.

My priest was my very first character back in Vanilla and I raided MC to get the priest staff Benediction/Anathema. I’ve always transmoged my staves to that, but in Legion I was stuck with the spriest dagger and for the first time since transmog became a thing I was unable to wield my priest staff. This really grinds my gears.

Not to be too chessy, but that staff along with my old school titles such as Blood Guard or Hand of A’dal says “Hey I’m an old school priest who’s seen some shit.” and feels like part of my character’s identity.

I hope they loosen up the restrictions more in the future. If a plate wearer can transmog to robes why can’t I transmog my 1h weapon to a staff?

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Chris Walker

Not really interested in WoW classic. I played it to death when it was live, and I see no need to go backward and play it again.

I’m glad they’re making it free for subscribers though — that’s a great move.

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Bullwraith

WoW Classic. I am SO looking forward to skinning Worgen again! :)

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Utakata

…and Wendigos! O.o

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Ben Stone

I would have preferred a WoW remastered. Back in the original world, with the original talents and class builds, but with new models and graphics (like the Arathi overhaul).

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TomTurtle

I never experienced the Timeless Isle nor Broken Shore when they were current, so my enthusiasm is dimmed for Nazjatar. And that’s along with it being so early in development that how exactly it works is left up in the air. I like the sound of what it could be, but it’s really just something to wait and see about.

Heritage armor is a nice touch. One that they want to tie story into which helps to explain some of the delay in between sets.

I’m glad to see female Worgen get some love finally. They really needed it.

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Paragon Lost

“In short? The problems current WoW has are in almost every case the problems vanilla WoW had, with the added benefit of being all old content.” -Eliot

Current WoW is an entirely different mmorpg than WoW Vanilla was. Both have issues, but by and large they don’t feel like the same issues. Not sure how you Eliot and Utakata came to that frame of mind. I wasn’t totally on board with Vanilla WoW at first, but I’m actually really starting to come around.

Even with the parts that were broken I’m starting to think that it’s a better mmorpg experience than todays WoW. If I had my choice I’d want to play a Wrath or MoP WoW. Since I don’t have either choice I’ll take the short comings of a Vanilla WoW over a current WoW.

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Weilan

That’s a very nice way to put it. Cataclsm+ versions of WoW didn’t fix the Vanilla-WoTLK issues, they just made them different.

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Harry Koala

Yeah. Vanilla WoW was one kind of thing. Burning Crusade was by and large more of the same until lvl 70 introduced flying and daily quests, which for me were the first things that changed the feel of the game. Then WotLK went further down that route and started the streamlining that headed firmly in the direction of modern WoW, although still with a fair bit of vanilla mixed in.

Thing is, it is precisely the streamlining and QoL stuff that for me ultimately lost the feel of what I enjoyed about WoW, for an that I welcome the changes at the time.

It’s a bit like comparing a band’s first album made on the cheap in their garage with their sixth studio album. Sure, the sixth album may be more polished well produced and technically accomplished, but my experience is that all highly produced albums tend to be a bit sandy, and lose the original, unique quirks and rough edges of the garage album that actually made it stand out and give it a personality.

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Skoryy

How about those of us who are just stocking up on cupcakes for when nostalgia collides with reality?

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Utakata

…yeah, think of an example of those who want to roll a Shamans (only available Horde side) to get their totems back. Only to find your ass kicking abilities where all for not when the raid tiers start to come down. ‘Cause all Shamans really where expected to do back in the day was to heal, heal, heal…while your dps abilities goes the way of a forgotten memory. Oh yes, plus heals and plus spell power where entirely two separate stats.

I’ll save everyone from the asinine hit stat stacking. Or the grinding up myriad of spell resist stats, lol. Had to have different ones for the latter for every new tier raid. I could go on…

Fun times! Not.

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Skoryy

Its not even that. I’ve started up a blood elf paladin, and leveling in zones that haven’t been touched since TBC has been very, um, interminable. And that’s with heirloom gear and all the improvements from over the years.

There’s a lot of horse hockey that Blizzard’s cut from WoW over the years. Sure it was tolerable back when it was the best game in town, but now that we’re older and there are more time friendly and less frustrating experiences available – even on the same sub?

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Utakata

Of course, there will be no playable Blood Elves either. The Vanilla Naz…err, I mean the fandom will remind you of that if you merely blink it.

…if you mean “interminable” as in a long slog, yes it is. Even made more fun when you are Fed Ex’d all over the world as you interminable your way closer to 60. With more frequent just-pull-a-group-out-of-ass quests dotting the way. :(

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Utakata

“…Utakata came to that frame of mind.”

…because the pigtails are kinda large and poofy, so they stick out a lot…

Oh wait, that’s not what you’re talking about? o.O

Anyrates and anyroads, my issue primarily is that Blizz should be moving forward, instead of looking backwards. In order for WoW to be great, it needs to let go of Vanilla. And move on. The problem with BfA it clearly hasn’t. And since it’s seemingly much more miserable than Legion was, it’s even more embracing that.

So to be clear on this, if you remove the differing mechanics that distinguish Vanilla from BfA, that’s what you get. A dated philosophy of “raid or die”, the “hardcore, cupcake” and RNG coming out the wazoo, which oft are ram down your throat. /bleh

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Jokerchyld

I agree that Classic WoW is completely different game from current WoW. And I think it has to do with the time. When WoW came out MMORPGs were small and the theme back then was about building up a character living in a world where everyone works together to exist.

I think that model of gameplay had to change over time because the systems became antiquated. Leveling from 1-60 was great as long as you were there when 60 was max level. But today at level 120 it no longer makes sense to force users to go through all those levels.

Gaming also changed. It exploded. I remember playing games back in the late 70s and early 80s. I explicitly remember playing Asteroids in a seedy bowling alley my father used to go to. They weren’t for kids. The audience was small. Compared to today, gaming is ubiquitous. Its everywhere. So WoW had to change to accommodate the new audience who by nature were more causal. They didnt come into gaming to grind they came in to gaming as something quick to do to let off steam. I think thats how we got current WoW.

Classic is a great idea and I think it will take off next year. The real question though is where does Classic WoW go AFTER level 60? It can there for a time but eventually it will become stale. Do you advance through the expansions eventually coming back to current WoW and its changes? OR do you diverge? (If that is even technically possible).

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Ironwu

Not going to wind you up on this, Elliot. I have played WoW since 2004 and the current version just does not cut it for me personally anymore. And I do not play RTS anyway, so that was not of interest either.

However, hearing that CWoW would be out next year was a big plus, and quite exciting. I suspect that CWoW will be my home until SoL launches. Unless Blizzard elects to release Classic WoW Progression Servers (Capped at WoTLK). Then I don’t know WHAT I will do! :)

For sure, everyone that likes current WoW can and should enjoy it to the max. There is something for everyone out there in MMO and Almost-MMO land!

hypefordays
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hypefordays

I’m all for the least amount of changes possible, personally. Though I don’t know why they just didn’t call it WoW: Remaster if they intentional make changes that aren’t needed.

I’ll stick with my vanilla private servers. I was on the fence of playing it anyway as that’s all I’d play with my subscription since BFA and its direction has been abysmal for me.

Though we’ll see what happens. It seems as there is a large “all or nothing” crowd when it comes to the purity, that will only play if it’s as such. Then a crowd that will play regardless. Business wise, I wonder which Blizzard should attend to — especially since they said it’s important to them to recreate and preserve history. No historian in their right mind would alter the facts for convenience — that’s the job of propaganda and nations.

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ThreeSpeed

Don’t have time to type up a lengthy reply, I’m trying to get my rep up in the WoW forums.

Jibrille
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Jibrille

I already played Vanilla, I loved it and I have never forgiven Blizzard for Cataclysm and the complete tossing of the old world. However, I did it already and the only reason I can see myself playing it again is to unlock things in the main game that I tossed for bag space back in the day. I would happily play, people who are obsessed with transmogs and mounts are some of the most dedicated players, but if it is all walled off I just don’t see the point. I will probably go visit some zones I miss, but that will be the extent of it.