Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm with him...

So this weekend, Tobold made a post about MMO-Champion's "leaks" concerning the next WoW Expansion. Link here.

Tobold posted about them in an article titled Not Believing Everything (Also, thanks for pointing me at RSS feeds allowing me to read your full posts Tobold), and I have to admit that while I disagree on some of the details, I think his overall assessment is correct and that this is just someone pulling a hoodwink over others eyes for their own jollies.

First I'll touch on what Tobold pointed out:
"The level cap in the next expansion will be slightly lower than expected this time around; 85. This suggests Blizzard wants more room for expansions before hitting the level 100 cap." Already highly suspicious. There is no such thing as a level 100 cap. There is no reason at all for Blizzard not to add 10 or more levels per expansion and arrive at level 200 or more one day.
This one's spot on. Level 100 cap? I think this is just your standard placing of additional meaning on BIG ROUND NUMBERS! I mean, the how many people were predicting doom and gloom for the year 2000 (and not because of the Y2K bug). Eeeee! A big round number?! This obviously means something important! *facepalm*

Additionally, the change to adding 5 levels would call for a dramatic shift in talent design. Up until now, while there's an occasional X6 single point talent power, most of the talents which added a new power were X1 talent, like the 11 point talents. These were particularly iconic for the max level talents (31 point, 41 point and 51 point talents). For those who have leveled up as an Arms Warrior (especially pre-tBC Arms Warriors), remember when you got to level 40 and then suddenly... MORTAL STRIKE!

This is a huge shift in talent design because (assuming they add a new single-point max tier talent), there's no talent tier between the 51st and 56th talent (obviously, but follow me here). Now, we have much less wiggle room if we want to spend 20 points outside our given tree of choice.

Also, they usually add a lot of new talents and time is spent figuring out what are good choices and what are bad choices, but at least we have 10 new talent points to spend on them... now we'll get close to the same amount of talents, but only half as many talent points to figure out what to spend them on...

Next portion:
"Troll Druid" In the list of new race / class combinations there is just one new race allowed to play druid. Which would give the Horde two druid-enabled races vs. the Alliance's only one. Never going to happen.
This implies that there were only two races who could roll as Druids for balance reasons. I might buy this if it weren't for the fact that for every class that has an equal balance in races which can access it on either side (Druids, Mages, and Rogues), there are two that there are an unequal balance between (Hunters, Paladin, Priests, Shaman, Warlocks, and Warriors).

I do agree with Tobold this sounds wrong, just for different reasons. Class/race combos are based upon the lore. In fact, one could argue that it's one of the few areas where the lore still stands strong, and at least as of right now, there's no lore justifying Trolls as Druids (or a lot of the other class/race combos that MMO-Champion is listing). While I've seen it pointed out that the Trolls in raid instances change shape, that's hardly justification for Troll Druidism... first off, we know mobs, and especially bosses, do things we can't. Second off, if changing forms is a sign of being a Druid then that means every shaman that has ever existed... IS REALLY A DRUID! OMG! But seriously... Trolls have, since they were introduced in WC2, been practitioners of Animal Shamanism. This is where they get their shape changing powers. From their Shaman ANIMAL TOTEMS.

Before I go to Tobold's last point I'll give my thoughts on the other class/race combos:


Dreanei ???: First flaw in this theory. Assuming this is the full list, all the rest of the races get one or two "new" classes. Draenei? They get diddly squat. Nada. Hmmmm...

Dwarf Mages: Being a Mage is merely learning magic. There's nothing stopping the Dwarves (and in fact, in Alpha and possibly Beta for Vanilla WoW there were Dwarven Mages).

Dwarf Shaman: Uh... what? I mean... it's been hinted that some of the WILDHAMMER Dwarves (as in the ones in the Hinterlands, who aren't the same Dwarves as the Bronzebeard Dwarves which are who the "Dwarven" players play as). So... either you're a Wildhammer Dwarf or the Wildhammers taught Shamanism to the Bronzebeards. >.>a I... guess? Seems like a bit of a stretch to me...

Gnome Priests: Again... uh... what? About the only thing that the Gnomes worship is Technology. I mean, unless Mimiron came and granted them powers or something.

Human Hunters: Hey, if Nathanos Marris (aka Nathanos Blightcaller) can do (before he became an undead monster), so can the rest of us.

Night Elf Mages: This one both works and fails at the same time! Exciting huh? Okay, so this one ties into a quest that's being datamined in 3.2.2, where there's a Highborne (not High Elves, but Night Elves who practiced Arcane Magic but hadn't started looking like Legolas) who comes out of hiding (there is a precedence for this with the Highborne in Dire Maul) and asks to rejoin "his people" (or something like that... haven't really looked into it seriously). So... Night Elf Mages, right?

Well, this works up until you have the whole "They caused the Great Sundering thing, then after seeing what they had wrought, they still thought Arcane Magic was cool, so to show what they could do, despite it being outlawed in Night Elf society, they attempted to help and caused another disaster (though on a much smaller scale)." Why in the Nine Hells would the Night Elf leadership let these guys back in? This fricken' baffles me. *froths at the mouth some more before continuing*


Blood Elf Warriors: Totally seeable. I've been of the opinion that the primary reason that there were no Blood Elf Warriors previously was to balance out the amount of classes being added with the Draenei. They would have needed to slip another class into them in order keep the total amount of class/race combos equal. But if they are adding a bunch of new classes to both sides, this gives them the chance to correct what they had to leave out before.

Orc Mage: No precedence for it, but far from being impossible. What happens to a Warlock if he decides to break his pact with his demon. Could take up Elemental or Restoration Shamanism, but becoming a Mage is a much closer step.

Tauren Paladin and Tauren Priest: Putting these two together because they both suffer from the same core problem, but the former much more than the latter. Tauren weren't even originally Druids in early development of WoW. Druids were limited to (as they had been in WC3) Night Elves, but this created a rather large gulf between the two factions, with the Alliance getting two unique classes, and the Horde only having one. So they worked it in that in the peace filled aftermath of the Third War, the Druids of the Cenarion Circle found information that there had once been Tauren Druids or that they had been on their way to becoming Druids, only they didn't finish their training or something. Anyway, it balanced the two factions with 7 classes that they shared and one class that was unique to that faction.

But I digress. Anyway, the problem with both Paladins and Priests is they are organized religion with all the Holy and Shadow stuff. While the Tauren are a religious people, their religion is very nature-based.

Now, I'll bite... I could maybe see Tauren Priests. There's the Earth Mother stuff, and this is kinda similar to how the Night Elves worship Elune and also are Druids. Maybe instead of nature worship through Shamanism, it's directly worshiping the incarnation of the Earth Mother herself. I've also heard rumors of worshiping the sun (as a sorta contrast to how the Night Elves worship the Moon through Elune).

But Paladins? Yeah, sure... Taurens are noble. Heck, they are, IMO, the most noble of the player races in the game, including the Draenei. Even the Draenei hate the Orcs for the mass genocide they committed on them while they were under demonic influence. The closest the Tauren come to hating anyone are the centaur, because they attack the Tauren, and anyone who defiles the earth. I mean, given a chance I'm pretty sure the Tauren would just chill out in Mulgore and take advantage of their Herbalism skill bonus... But being a Paladin is more than just being noble. It's also requires you to channel the powers of The Holy Light through you. Again the Sun comes up, but there's a very very big difference between sun light and The Holy Light. It's a very specific energy source that is either drawn through faith or taken by will (or was it ever taken by will by the Blood Elves? I know Mu'ru let himself be captured... did he fake letting them take the energy and gave it willingly, knowing his fate? I need to read up on this...), but either way it was The Holy Light... a source of energy and a religion that the Tauren have no history of associating with up to now.

Undead Hunter: See the Human Hunter entry. Even more-so for them since they have/had an active ex-Ranger General on their side.

Two more thoughts before I go onto the last part of Tobold's post: Arioch posted a detailed view on the new classes and amongst her thoughts, she included this very insightful train of thought:
My gut reaction is it is to facilitate the faction transfer process. How many Alliance paladins are out there that want to make the switch to the Horde but don’t want to be a blood elf? (To those of you in that camp – you don’t know what you’re missing /flex).

How many Horde shaman want to turn traitor but don’t want to be a space goat?

What if they don’t have The Burning Crusade expansion? “Ah, yes. I’m a human paladin and I want to switch to the Horde… but I never upgraded my account so can’t quite be a blood elf… so, what are you going to do with me? Upgrade me for free?” Yeah right. Now you can be a cow. Like it.
This is a really insightful, even if last point is a bit of a stretch (really... who hasn't upgraded?). At the end of the day, having choices will always trump being railroaded into a single option. Let's say you're a Night Elf Druid and your friends are all on the Horde side, so you transfer. As of right now, your only option is changing into a giant, hulking, cow monster... but after Cataclysm goes live you could change into either a giant, hulking, cow monster or a lanky, tusked, cannibalistic monster! Awesome! Okay, all jokes aside, more options are never bad, so with this in mind, I think the addition of more classes is... okay? I'm not thrilled about certain race/class combos, but this makes it seem a lot more sensible than they just got out two dartboards and started throwing one at each until they got the new pairings.

Oh right, and for those thinking "But there are only 3 Druid races. What if I'm a Horde Druid and I want to go over to the Alliance? I don't want to be a dorky Night Elf". Well if Arioch is right on why they are adding these new race/class combos, then it's far too likely that the Worgen will also have Druids as one of their classes (this starts an entirely different rant that I'll go into later).

The second point is that of the four I really have issue with (Dwarf Shaman, Night Elf Mage, Tauren Paladin and Troll Druid) three of those are the currently "single-race" classes on one of the sides, or both. Thus the driving reason for this addition makes me want to kick a puppy. I realize they have to stretch to figure out a way to slide these classes into races that don't quite fit them because if they were a fit, Blizzard would have already added them back at the start or during an earlier expansion (like tBC). While I can accept that these changes are there for The Game Balance over The Lore (note the capitals), they still really bother me. I have no intention of stopping playing because of this. As I mentioned in my previous post based on a Tobold blog post, I love WoW. It's the best MMO I've played to date and I've played a lot of them. This is mostly just me griping.

Anyway, the final part of Tobold's post:
"Part of the redesign of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor is the introduction of flying to the two continents" There is already software available that allows you a virtual flight through Azeroth, basically a viewer of the World of Warcraft. And when you use it in the old world, you notice that large parts are just Potemkin villages, places of which only the facade exists. Enabling flying in the old world would mean completely redoing every single bit of that world, so people don't fly up and see behind the empty facades. Given the huge amount of work that would be, and the speed at which Blizzard traditionally works, this is rather unlikely.
This actually matches what Blizzard has said all along. Pretty much since the introduction of flying back when tBC went live, players have been requesting access to flying in the "old world". And all along Blizzard has stated that while it is technically possible, it's not an effective use of development time.

This is because (as Tobold pointed out) there are large swaths of the world that are not developed, or if they are developed, created just to add graphical flavor when flying over, and are not meant to be accessed by the player base. Shatterspear Village (aka The Happy Dancing Troll Village) between Darkshore and Moonglade is a perfect example of the latter.

So basically to do this, Blizzard will, literally, have to redesign a majority of the old world. This will be a very, very time consuming project, considering that they plan on also redoing much of the old world itself. Totally revamping, amongst other places, Barrens, Azshara, and major changes (if not total overhauls) to zones like Thousand Needles, Durotar, Gnomeregan, Wailing Caverns, and Blackrock Mountain.

So instead of developing new content for the majority of the playerbase who's already max level, they will spend time redesigning the world mostly for leveling players (Barrens split in two, but still for the 10-30 range) and Azshara being changed to a 10-20 leveling range (possibly to be the second zone for Goblins)? Maybe it's just me but this seems like a really bad use of development time.

Though I will give a counter viewpoint of my previous thoughts:

First off, back when Blizzard added tBC, the game was already a little over two years old. Those who rerolled as Blood Elves and Draenei were fine for the first 20ish levels in the new zones, when all of a sudden they were stuck back in the middle of everything with all the content everyone had run a million times over. Sure, they slipped a few new quests in here and there with the two new races spreading across Azeroth with their allies, but for the most part these were single quests or maybe a full quest chain. I know there's a mostly Draenei quest hub in eastern Ashenvale, not sure if the same goes for Blood Elves in a different location, but the point still stands.

It has now been over two years since the release of tBC, and with the exception of the revamp of Duskwallow Marsh in 2.3, there haven't been any quests added to the 1-60 level range. At this point, anyone who's leveled a non-DK alt has done most if not all the quests available in the 1-60 run.

With the potential addition of two new races, suddenly the dearth of new content in the 1-60 run rears it's hideous head once more. Sure Blizzard could do what they did in 2.0 and spread a spattering new quests across the zones with Worgen and Goblins popping up at the various quest hubs (wait... there are already Goblins at the various Horde quest hubs...), but it doesn't make the portions where you're stuck without new quests any faster.

Some people would just request that they remove the 1-60 (or even 1-70 or 80) grind. Have characters start at 55 like DKs, or even 60 to get past it all. While this has it's merits, what about those who want to do the newbie zones? Should there be a one-way trip to 60 or 70 the moment you finish it? Would it only be available to the new races or good for anyone?

Instead, doing a massive overhaul to the design of the old world, they will give players who start one of the new races or one of the old races a whole new set of quests to go through. And if all the new quests are not counted by the old quests' completion tracker, then if you don't want to start a new character, you can just run back to the old world on your level 80 and stomp through every quest for the thrill/lore of it.

Additionally, since the release of WoW, back when the core of the old world was designed, WoW has undergone massive changes. And I'm not just referring to in The Lore (though that alone could be enough), but also the technology of the game.

First off, the technological changes: Even if we look past the graphical upgrades, relatively minor as they are, there are additions such as Daily Quests and Phasing Quests. These two additions, especially the latter, would create a much different and more lasting situation in the world.

Imagine, first off the quests focusing on the Gnolls are removed from Lakeshire, so all the quests are focusing on the threatening Blackrock Orcs who control Stonewatch Keep. After defeating them, said keep is then filled with Alliance guards and others working to rebuild it. It could then become a quest hub to deal with the remnants of the Blackrock Orcs in and around Stonewatch along with the growing threat from the Gnolls.

And that's just one quick example I can think of. If pressed I could probably think of alterations for every zone currently in the game. Ways to give them a more concrete feeling. Additionally, these post-phase zones could be used to give a dynamic feeling to the growing conflict between the Horde and the Alliance.

What if, once you got to a certain zone, there were reports coming in that the other faction was moving in to take some strategic location, if they hadn't already taken it. So you, the loyal hero of your faction is tasked to attack an equally vital position in the hands of (whoever is the NPC enemy group of this zone), and take it in the name of the King/Warchief! So you go to this location, fighting your way through the zone and defeating the boss. You then report back to the quest giver, who thanks you for your work and tells you to report back to the location you just secured. Now it's a Daily PvP quest hub, all thanks to you!

So technologically speaking WoW's undergone major changes and the same can be said for the setting itself. Since WoW's release Blizzard has pushed the overall story forward, either via the game itself, or via companion products such as novels and the WoW comic book. While Blizzard as do minor things like adding and removing characters (for example, the removal of Katana Prestor and the "return" of Varian Wrynn), it's always been "fixable" with a quick change.

But if WotLK ends the way it's looking like it will end (with the death of the Lich King! O_O), this will be the most major change to The Lore yet. What difference will it make? Well, for starters, all the Scourge locations will be in disarray, their leader dead. The current implementation of places like the Plaguelands just make no sense with the Lich King dead. By redoing them, maybe focusing on other powers in the Scourge who have taken control of groups of its remnants (much like the Cerebrates did in Starcraft after the death of the Overmind).

Also, with the cold war between the Horde and the Alliance growing hotter with every patch, this will allow Blizzard to redesign many of the quests and zones to place a greater emphasis on it. This could very much be used as a replacement for the Scourge in certain zones such as Tirisfal Glades, the Plaguelands, and Silverpine Pine. If the Horde is depicted as defending itself against Alliance incursions in Silverpine and Tirisfal Glades, you still have a wide variety of quests, but they could show early the struggle between the two factions.

Other zones could also be used to emphasize the greater importance of the battle between the two factions, such as Ashenvale. Instead of having a few quests where you fought the enemy faction, we could have out-and-out war!

So while it would be time consuming, and a part of me wants more max-level content, I can understand the benefit that would come from redoing old content.

Anyway, all of this is just speculation. We'll have answers quite soon. In fact, I'm due to leave for BlizzCon in about and hour (and thus I cut down this post a bit...). Well, if you're interested in my thoughts and don't want to wait until after BlizzCon, check out my post below concerning my BlizzCon Twitter account!

See y'all later!

No comments: