Last time we were here, I wound up just talking about potential class and race additions for the next World of Warcraft expansion. As I said then, it’s not really a question that the expansion will add new zones or new quests or whatever; that’s just normal. It’s like asking if a new Star Trek series will include spaceships. But there are features beyond just levels and even beyond new classes or specs or whatever that are worth considering, including things that people have long wondered about.
Now, we are admittedly far ahead of the actual announcement, so this is heavy into speculation, but today I wanted to look at the bigger possibilities. What about the bizarre and unusual possible additions to the game? What are the odds we get something truly unexpected? Let’s speculate about those chances, the big things that could be coming with the next expansion – starting with the one everyone brings up every time, including me.
This one keeps coming up, and I’m not entirely sure why. Not because people don’t want housing; lots of people do. Definitely not because Garrisons exist because that wasn’t really WoW trying to do housing so much as it was WoW trying to claim it was doing housing and then badly deflecting with it for ages. And yet people ask about this every single expansion, and we keep getting the exact same response from the same people who were in charge before and are in charge now by claiming that it’s complicated to do.
Strictly speaking, yes, this is true! Housing in an MMO is difficult to do. Housing being added to the game this late in its life cycle will require a lot of work. But the thing about that excuse is that it only keeps feeding on itself. It’s difficult to do this expansion, and it’ll be harder to do with the next expansion, and so on and so forth into the future. It only gets harder until you start working on it, and claiming that it’s hard now to deflect from not doing it only… you know… deflects from not working on it.
And we’ve heard this for multiple expansions now, and Blizzard has demonstrated to us over and over that the people in charge of the game and its development do not really understand the question. These are the same people who say “with gear currencies you can plot your upgrades on a calendar” as if that were a bad thing. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the priorities of the players asking for these features, and since the developers are holding all the cards and are apparently maintaining the blessing of the people in charge, they have no reason to learn otherwise.
Heck, it was literally this week that a different team at Blizzard wrote a whole thing about players being angry at lies without any trace of acknowledgement from the devs that maybe the devs made bad decisions or mistakes. This is simply not a studio that tries to acknowledge mistakes and move forward.
I’d like to be wrong about this, but I just don’t see housing happening. And yes, that probably means that the game is going to continue to make only very minor changes in an effort to win back a only specific segment of the crowd. Sorry.
You might be groaning and saying that if the developers have time to put together a whole borrowed power setup that’ll be used for only one expansion, they could make longer-term changes to the game that would address some consistent issues it has suffered from for literal years. And you’re correct! But let’s be honest, which one do you see Ion Hazzikostas greenlighting?
Now, while the last entry was quite pessimistic, I feel a bit more optimistic in forecasting that this one seems at least medium-likely. It certainly would not surprise me to see borrowed power slipping in, especially as the return of the talent system with Dragonflight came with explicit statements that it’ll probably be torn out and replaced again within a few expansions. (Probably not in the very next expansion, though.) So it’s clear that the team is already thinking about borrowed power. But I do see the moratorium lasting longer than literally one expansion.
In some ways this is a bit of a mixed blessing; it’s clear that whatever team liked to come up with new tools for various classes and specs to use is no longer part of the WoW development lineup, so I would not be surprised if the next set of levels are a bit dry without borrowed power to give you a new button or two to hit. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if instead of a literally adding a new borrowed power system, the developers expanded talents in an interesting way. Evokers already have some interesting racial talents; maybe every race gets a talent tree in addition to the class and spec trees? That’d be neat.
My guess is that any big power changes will be somewhat muted, but at least for the next expansion it will focus a little more on still courting talents. Talents have generally been a win for Dragonflight, even as the expansion has been received with a general sense of “well, all right” rather than enthusiasm. Take the W where you can.
If there’s one thing that has been received consistently well and praised from Shadowlands to now, it’s customization options. And while I am reluctant to believe that we’ll get housing, I do think that the team is aware of this and will make a concentrated effort to improve this further, ranging from more transmog options to potentially even bigger changes and additions to the game’s current lineup.
One thing that has long been brought up by lots of people (including me), for example, is that there are a lot of potential classes that may not be all that functionally different from one another but still look different. There’s no reason why you can’t have “nature” Paladins as an option, mechanically the same as the existing class but with glowy green bits and leaves instead of the Light. Or Mages themed around lightning, or earth, or air spells. Yes, I know that there are potential lore reasons, but these sorts of things actually tend to go over very well, and we might as well offer more class skins.
I also broadly lump cross-faction play in within here; it’s not really different content, but I see the continued erosion of the faction lines as just being a thing now. It has gotten some pushback from the usual suspects, but not all that much. It wouldn’t surprise me to see it go even further, especially when you consider that a continued erosion of class restrictions make it less and less relevant.
And as for other customization… well, there’s one obvious customization feature that has been long awaited. Delayed and yet still talked about in hushed tones, still on everyone’s mind even years later. A dose of emote goodness that I think all of us can agree is very important, even now.
That’s right. Sure, I don’t expect it to happen, but I wouldn’t entirely count it out. I would not be stunned if the next expansion finally, finally includes Dance Studios.