WoW Factor: What I want to hear from World of Warcraft during BlizzConline

All over again.

So hey, BlizzConline is coming up very soon, and that means more announcements about World of Warcraft! Within a fairly narrow lineup of possible bits of news, anyhow. Let’s be honest, we all know at this point basically that we’re going to be hearing about patch 9.1, which hasn’t really been discussed thus far. We’re not yet at a point of hearing about a new expansion (even though we probably will be later this year, but who knows how far the schedule is thrown off). And we’re expecting the next leg of Classic, of course.

As a result, any wishlist for what we’ll hear about this month should be tempered with the harsh light of reality. I have no expectations about the next expansion or some major new update we don’t already know is coming or whatever. I do, however, have at least some things I am still hoping to hear about that feel realistic, so let’s start diving into my list of likely wishes, less-likely wishes, and unlikely but plausible ones. I’ll let you rank them as an exercise at home.

stfu noob

The Burning Crusade: Classic

All right, this one is arguably the worst-kept secret conceivable; there have been a ton of hints on this one. That doesn’t mean I’m not excited to hear about it, even if I don’t actually have a burning desire to play it, because it will mean that Blizzard has to figure out the future of its classic content model and we’ll get a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes in that regard.

However this one is handled is likely to bother some people, whether there are specific servers for the first expansion, a uniform progression, or any other cocktail of different options. But I think everyone is basically expecting to hear about this complete with a cheeky little trailer, and I don’t think there’s any reason to assume all of this is misdirection at this point.

Changes to Shadowlands’ loot model

The more I spend time diving into community feedback and the general vibe around this expansion, the more I find myself feeling like the whole issue around loot is the biggest weakness that Blizzard needs to reckon with. This is something of a problem because right now there’s little to indicate that the developers actually see this as a problem, but time and again I see sentiments expressing that this is an issue and people find that the current state of loot feels bad and removes incentive from playing.

Contrition is not a strong suit of the current development leadership, but I would really like to see steps taken to address this comprehensively and at least start to make some changes. Obviously, I’d be most in favor of an out-and-out deterministic gearing system, but even just a more ample distribution of items would do a lot to enhance the feeling of loot being relevant and not miserable again.

Can I come out yet?

Additional Allied races

I’m well aware that there’s a lot of weirdness implicit with having the various dead races of Shadowlands become allied races, since they’re kind of ethereal creatures who don’t really adhere to mortal restrictions. And I might care more about that if the diagetics of the afterlife wasn’t already a mess here, but I’ve talked about that already. So I am less than upset by that prospect.

But then, I never said that I wanted those additional allied races to necessarily be more of the races from Revendreth, Bastion, and so forth. I still dearly want an Eredar allied race, for example. There are still places to go with allied races, and while I don’t really expect much, I still would like them along with some expanded allied customization options.

New zone(s)

Shadowlands launched with the smallest number of new zones of any expansion in the game’s history (tied with Legion, unless you count the Broken Shore), but it also launched with the easiest possible reason to expand that lineup. After all, each of these zones are literally floating out there in a featureless void of space. All you need to do in order to add a new one is to open up a new flight point from Oribos and there’s not even a need to explain why you hadn’t gone there before! There are more problems to be addressed, here’s another side of the afterlife, bada-bing, bada-boom.

Yes, the Maw is still our slowly unveiled endgame zone and I sadly don’t see that changing a whole lot, but I also think the Maw is kind of unique as zones go and some more “conventional” endgame zones would go a long way toward improving player response (especially with, say, zone-specific deterministic gear systems – which aren’t uncommon over the past couple expansions). It’d definitely be nice.

This. Is. Exhausting.

Additional patch outlines

If Blizzard really wants to surprise people, it doesn’t have to reach far into its bag of tricks to find an answer it already latched on back when Legion was new. Our first BlizzCon after the expansion launched didn’t just give us the outline for the first major patch but outright teased all of the major patches incoming, giving a sense of what was happening far in the future of the expansion and a general shape for the expansion moving forward.

I feel like that would be especially valuable with Shadowlands right now because while people are happier with this expansion than Battle for Azeroth… well, the sense I get is that they’re not that much happier.

Obviously, part of that as I mentioned is the loot systems, and I really believe that addressing that would do a lot to make player reception more positive. But when you look past the people who were also in the BfA fanboy mines, this expansion has been more warmly received but still not quite into well-loved territory. There are a lot of things that feel like unforced errors, a lot of pain points with the way the expansion has been designed, and a general sense that maybe that month-long delay before launch wasn’t nearly enough.

This isn’t to say that whatever is announced for the next two patches after 9.1 will be loved. Rather, it gives people a sense that there is a plan, and… well, hopefully convinces people that the plan will be getting better rather than worse. It might be a good time to deploy that sort of forward thinking.

At least one crowd-pleasing feature

One of my personal metrics for any big game announcement event is surprise factor. Not because I necessarily expect these events to surprise me (even though I am generally learning this stuff at the same time as everyone else), but because a nice big surprise tends to overwhelm everything else and really create some positive association. Announcing some big crowd-pleasing change would definitely help get some people fired up about WoW no matter what else was happening.

What would qualify as a crowd-pleasing change? Well, lots of potential things, including a lot of things I can’t even guess at. I’m sure some people wouldn’t be happy with an announcement that Covenants aren’t borrowed power any longer, for example, but others would be thrilled. And I’d sure like to see that the team has something big and welcome to reveal as a gigantic bomb right in the middle, a nice reminder that WoW’s team has the capacity to engineer good surprises.

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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