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Warlords of Draenor – Post-BlizzCon Excitement November 11, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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I am not ashamed to say that, right now, I am excited about the next World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor.

Now, part of that is, of course, because I spent the weekend watching BlizzCon.  I bought the virtual ticket and went through and watched/listened to all the WoW panels at least twice.  It is a very different thing, listening to the people in charge of the expansion describe it, how they came to the idea, and why they think it is a winner than it is to read a dry listing of what the expansion will contain.  I have said in the past that Chris Metzen exudes an enthusiasm that I find particularly infectious.  He is seriously into the lore and has a particular affection for the orc clans.  He was rattling off the whos and hows of the various orc factions and responding to serious deep-dive nerd questions with gusto.  The orc chieftains, the warlords in the name Warlords of Draenor, will clearly figure heavily in this expansion.  We will end up knowing more about them than we ever expected to be sure.

Of course, my pointing at Chris Metzenhat isn’t to diminish the rest of the team presenting.  They were all clearly excited and into talking about their new thing, though Greg Street needs to stop slouching in his chair while he speaks.

In addition to the team’s enthusiasm, I was also interested in their honesty about some aspects of the expansion.  Here we go again with Garrosh Hellscream as the main bad guy for a second expansion in a row.  And orcs, orcs, orcs.  And yes, they are nostalgic for the good old days of Burning Crusade as well.

The Hellscream Dream

The Hellscream Dream

And they were up front that while they are using time travel to get us all to Draenor of 35 years prior, it is not going to be a time travel story.  No paradoxes or what not.  Time travel just seemed like the best way to get us to a venue they thought would make for a great expansion.  And “savage” seemed to be the prime adjective for how Draenor was going to feel, since that word kept popping up so much that they started to apologize for its overuse.

A Better Draenor vs. Outland map

A Better Draenor vs. Outland map

So BlizzCon got me rev’d up on the expansion.  Some of that will wear off.  In about two weeks they will turn off my ability to watch the panels and the memories will fade.

But there is more to my own enthusiasm than just a reflection of the presenters.

First, I am happy that the 10 level expansion is back.  End game has never really been my thing.  I have managed to pick up some level cap activities in the past, like the Argent Tournament.  But mostly getting to the end of levels tends to mean the end of fun, so if I can’t find something else interesting and I have made enough alts, I tend to walk away.

So 10 levels, versus 5 in the last two expansions, is kind of a big deal to me.  Especially since the five levels of Cataclysm went by pretty quickly for me once I did go in that direction.  And the fact that there are no new starter areas to work on and no current plans to alter the previous content means that all that energy is being focused on Draenor.

I am not saying that something as simple as 10 levels versus 5 is going to bring things back to what was the peak of the game for me, Wrath of the Lich King, but it seems like a step in the right direction.  And then there is the focus on the leveling aspect of the game.

Leveling

Leveling

They are not going to drop a bunch more abilities, so it sounds like there will be some sort of specialization for abilities to hone them.

Leveling Rewards

Leveling Rewards

So it sounds like they are trying to adapt to the realities of dropping another 10 levels on top of a game that will have nearly a decade’s worth of complexity already heaped on it.

Also, in a last bit on the 10 levels, it sounds like we will be back to the Alliance and the Horde having very different paths through Draenor.  They will have cities in different zones and different story lines when it comes to dealing with Garrosh Hellscream and his new vision of an Iron Horde.  So sounds like there will be some replayability in running through both sides of the expansion as well.

Second, I am interested in the whole Garrison thing.  I put out housing as one of the things that Blizzard could do for WoW, completely expecting that it would never come to pass.  And yet there it is on the list.  Granted, it seems to be slanted in a very Blizzard way.  They can’t just put something like that in the game and not make it a part of the game.  So part of it feels very much like base building from the old Warcraft RTS games (on which Blizzard is actually working), a comparison brought up by the team during one of the later panels.  And the whole followers and crafting and such, I am not sure how that will play, if that will end up being good or bad.

The Garrison Slide

The Garrison Slide

And the decorating aspect seems to be pretty minimal.  I don’t think Garrisons will be a draw for people who really like housing in EverQuest II or dimensions in Rift.  But there is a promise of being able to display trophies from your adventures, and you will have a spot in the game to call your own, so I am keen to see how this plays out.

And then there are the details, which I find surprisingly important.  There is the inventory management improvements and the removal of quest items and toys and heirlooms from my inventory.  Those are huge to me.  I have characters from 2005 onward with full bags and full banks and anything that frees up some bag space or makes it easier to find stuff is greatly appreciated.

And there are the planned gear changes.  They foretold the death of the +int plate armor drops.

In WoD, the primary stat for equipment will change based on who is wearing it and what spec they have chosen.  So if you have a retribution paladin the prime stat on that plate drop will be +str.  If you change spec to holy, the prime stat will CHANGE to +int.

I cannot tell you how huge this is.  As somebody who can barely keep one set of equipment up to date and yet wants to play multiple specs (I adventure as a retribution pally or a feral druid, but want to heal in random instances with both) this is a big fat hair deal.

There will also be some simplification of things like enchants.  There will be fewer things enchantable, but the enchants will be higher quality.  Gems will not be so common.  Reforging, something that I have only read about at this point, but which sounded annoyingly complex, will be out for good.  And itemization sounds like it is getting a good hard look.  I get the sense that the blow-back from Diablo III itemization issues has made Blizzard as a whole stop and think about this.  Here are some screen shots of slides from the presentation.

Rohan has a closer (and more informed) look at the changes to itemization here.

So those are things that I think the expansion really has going for it.

Then there are the other items on the list.

One of them is the flip side of what I wrote above, in that there will be no new race or class introduced.  This will be the first WoW expansion that will not come with a built-in reason to start a fresh alt from scratch.  Other games have done that and lived.  EverQuest has 20 expansions, and only some of them have one or the other.  EverQuest II has only introduced one new class since launch and a smattering of races.  Lord of the Rings Online has had no new races and only two classes added.

But other games are not WoW.  Leveling up an alt because it wasn’t as onerous as in other games has been part of the WoW tradition for ages.  And Blizzard has seeded us with new reasons to do this with every expansion up until now.  So I wonder what the impact of that will be.  Will people be relieved at not having to grind up through the mid-game yet again?  Will there be enough end-game activities to make up for that absence?

There is the instant level 90 option that will come with WoD.  A number of people I know are really excited about this one, and they are often people who already have a couple of level 90 characters.  They want another level cap alt.  In fact, some are already wondering when Blizz will sell them additional boosts to 90.

However, I am as unimpressed by this showing up in WoW as I was having it show up in EQII.  I do not feel as strongly as some about being allowed to skip “the game so far,” though I think people are missing out if they do.  It is more a matter of how do you deal with a character brought into the world fully formed at level 90 if you haven’t learned how to play it up to that point?  I will be interested to see how Blizzard handles this, as you clearly cannot just throw a new player in a level 90 and say, “Have fun!”  I will also want to see how such a character gets equipped.  And I will likely do this by creating a fresh level 90 when the expansion comes out in a class I never play.  Probably a warlock.  If they can teach me to play it, it will be a success.

That said, I do think the “insta 90″ feature was something that Blizzard had to do.  It wasn’t so much that getting from level 1-90 is hard or even because they feel that playing with friends is important.  No, I think this became a must have feature the moment that Garrisons entered the picture.

Blizzard is putting in a brand new feature, their own vision of housing, and I am sure they fully expect that alone to bring back old players as well as draw in a few new ones.  However, they are only working on Draenor for the expansion, so housing is going in there.  And thus, to use this shiny new feature, you HAVE to be level 90.  So you tell a new player, or even a returning player, “See you once you hit level 90!” then the draw falls flat pretty quickly.

So, while it isn’t a feature for me necessarily, I can see why they put it in.  Mentoring or buddying up wasn’t going to cut it if housing was going to be a draw.  They had to get people to 90 right away.  And, following on that, I bet that you will get to make a garrison not very far into the expansion.  You’ll get through some establishing quests and be offered up a garrison.  Or such is my theory.

And then there are the new character models.  I am not sold on this, if only because I don’t mind the original character models the way they are now.  I am sure there is somebody out there who won’t play WoW because the cartoon dwarves were rendered with 2004 video cards in mind, but I am not on that list.  And in my industry segment, people spending time to rework code that is serviceable and doing its job are generally wasting their time.  Netscape taking a year off to rewrite Navigator in Java killed the company.

And there is risk involved.  Screwing up somebody’s character model can break their relationship with the game.  Because of that Blizzard seems to be going very conservative on the model updates.  They emphasized multiple times that your character will still look like your character, just “better.”  Still, some people are freaking out and asking for free barber shop tokens or class changes or whatever just in case they don’t like what they see.

But even with that, I seem to be in the minority on this one.  Even SynCaine says this update should have happened years ago.  So there we go.

And then there is the rest.  Dungeons interest me, raids and PvP not so much.  We shall see if Blizzard can make open world PvP work this time.

In the end though, I am looking forward to this expansion.  I don’t think it can heal all of the wounds of Cataclysm, but it feels like it could breath some new life into the game for me.  See answer #10 on today’s XKCD comic.

Meanwhile, reactions to Warlords of Draenor are mixed in posts and comments around the blogesphere.  People who have never liked WoW continue to dislike it.  But there was the odd unexpected response.

I will plug more into that list as I spot them.  I like to compare initial reactions to how things play out, especially my own.

Now I have to go back and watch the panel on the Warcraft movie.

Comments»

1. Tesh - November 11, 2013

On the insta-90, I’ve said for a while now that they should offer level-capped characters for those who just want to jump into the raiding game. I’m not sure what class I’ll make that insta-90 in, but I’ll make one… and continue to play my alts through the leveling curve as usual. The “leveling content” is still something I enjoy playing, but I think it’s good business sense to get people into the “endgame” if they want to be there instead of leveling.

2. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 11, 2013

@Tesh – I am clearly in the minority when it comes to looking askance at the “jump to 90″ option. As I noted above, I will be interested to see how Blizz handles the “Okay, you’re level 90 now, here is what you do” aspect of it. This is where I felt EQII fell down, hindered as it is by the need to have 48-60 abilities on hot bars in front of you at all times.

That said, my pally is already on his way through Pandaria, so I will have a level 90 I can play. It is only five levels, right?

3. bhagpuss - November 11, 2013

There’s obvious solution to the genuine problem of suddenly getting a level 90 in a class you have no idea how to play: don’t choose an unfamiliar class, just an unfamiliar race.

Especially given the potential two-faction content.

4. Talarian - November 11, 2013

I can’t find it offhand, but the number of Monks in MoP was quite low for the first 3/4ths of the expansion if I recall Cynwise’s graphs correctly, so I’m thinking that Blizzard thinks that a new class or race doesn’t have quite the draw that it used to. People are pretty invested in the characters they have already.

I am super, super stoked about Garrisons, though. I can’t wait to have minions to do my bidding!

5. Tesh - November 11, 2013

Well, I do maintain that it’s not all that hard to learn how to play a character. The leveling content is a fun romp, but it’s really a lot of repetition of actual “play”. Actually learning how to run your own character shouldn’t take long. Learning dungeon and raid techniques does take a bit longer, and memorizing specific raid “dances” a bit longer still, but you can solo to the level cap and hit the same learning curve once you start grouping. Questing and dungeoneering really are almost two different games, and I don’t see a problem with getting people into the latter quickly if that’s all they want to do.

That said, yes, they need to teach players how to drive their shiny new cars. I just don’t think it’s going to be hard.

6. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 11, 2013

@Bhagpuss – Because I need another druid! Hah!

Actually, if you have been away for long enough… for example, if you sat out Pandaria up to this point… there are no familiar classes. A lot changed with that expansion. I spent some time trying to figure out how to fight with my retribution paladin this past weekend, as they took away consecrate! How can I possible win without consecrate?

That said, Blizzard does have a new tab up on your skills and spells book that covers your core abilities and what you should be doing with them. That is actually almost good enough… if you know it is there and actually go and look at it… and about a light-year beyond where EQII is on that front.

7. Jenks - November 11, 2013

“In WoD, the primary stat for equipment will change based on who is wearing it and what spec they have chosen. So if you have a retribution paladin the prime stat on that plate drop will be +str. If you change spec to holy, the prime stat will CHANGE to +int.”

I’ve been making this joke for years, as they game has been repeatedly dumbed down, that eventually they would remove all stats from gear and replace it with “Stat.” Weighing different statistics against each other is just too hard, so instead we’ll just get “Stat” so that everyone knows the mace with +6 Stat is better than the mace with +5 Stat.

I can’t help but read the slide “Gem enchant reforge valor YUCK!” as “Thinking, YUCK!”

8. Balkoth - November 11, 2013

“It wasn’t so much that getting from level 1-90 is hard or even because they feel that playing with friends is important.”

I think it is that, though:

http://balkothsword.blogspot.com/2013/07/i-just-want-to-play-with-my-friends-on.html

Being told you need to play for 120+ hours to just do something with your friends is rather daunting — that’s like three times as long as most single player epic RPG campaigns.

And I’m very, very worried about raiding right now (or at least current Heroic level raiding — Mythic in WoD):

http://balkothsword.blogspot.com/2013/11/okaywell-uhraiding-in-wod.html

“I can’t help but read the slide “Gem enchant reforge valor YUCK!” as “Thinking, YUCK!””

What thinking? People just read a guide and picked the best gem/enchant, used ReforgeLite or AskMrRobot to tell them how to reforge, and spent valor on each new item they got. Where precisely is thinking involved here?

No one is considering various options and going with what they think is best (except in some very rare cases for tanks and healers).

9. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 11, 2013

@Balkoth – I meant more that other options… buddy systems or mentoring, which I mentioned in my “what could they do” post… were closed off to Blizz once they had garrisons in as a level 90 feature. Playing with friends is important, but my gut says that getting everybody into this new feature drove their options on that front.

In contrast, if you go read Syp’s post at Bio Break, which I have linked at the end there, he is outright calling Blizzard “lazy” for not doing mentoring and just letting people pop to 90, while Tobold says that the insta-90 means that Blizz wants us to forget everything before level 90. I am offering up an alternate theory, though without directly calling them out in my post.

Anyway, when it comes to friends, I find the “my friend is on a different server” to be a far more annoying problem than “my friend is at level cap and I am not.”

10. Gripper - November 11, 2013

I agree – I am also excited about the new World of Warcraft expansion!!!

11. qyte - November 11, 2013

I really like to hear your opinion on the Death of Dailies, and how do you think will affect the players and your view of the game… (http://goo.gl/Mk3Ric) just search there for “daily quests”.

I just can’t believe the twist blizzard is taking in that direction after supporting them firmly for so long.

Even though the new Grepolis/Ikariam addiction is introduced and you most probably now need to log in just in time to put another work in the building queue, but at least that takes one click instead of forcing you to participate in 30 minute sessions just so you are not left behind the flock.

12. sleepysam - November 11, 2013

I will confess to having my interest piqued as well – maybe I’m just sick of crappy ios games.

13. HarbingerZero - November 11, 2013

Eh, for me you are missing the point on the insta-90. I don’t want it so I can raid or so I can skip content. I want it so I can see the content that I would not otherwise have had time to level up enough to explore and enjoy. Its not blocking out content, its opening it up.

14. Coppertopper - November 11, 2013

The instant 90 might actually bring me back for a month.

15. Coppertopper - November 11, 2013

Instant 90 is a fantastic move. This is what has kept me from getting any previous xpacs. Honestly I am curious enough about pet battles and farming and garrisons to buy this next expac.

16. Balkoth - November 11, 2013

“Playing with friends is important, but my gut says that getting everybody into this new feature drove their options on that front. ”

Eh, maybe. I think you’re giving the Garrison too much credit, though.

“Anyway, when it comes to friends, I find the “my friend is on a different server” to be a far more annoying problem than “my friend is at level cap and I am not.””

Talking about friends you’re trying to get into WoW, not friends already playing.

17. Ming - November 12, 2013

To be fair, with CRZ and opening all raiding except for mythic to be cross-realm capable, it looks like Blizzard is trying to remove the server barrier when it comes to playing with friends as well.

18. Jenks - November 12, 2013

@Balkoth

Some of us write those guides. This sounds like an exciting change for you, though.

19. Balkoth - November 12, 2013

Thanks for the attempted insult, Jenks, it’s very much appreciated!

Of course, it might work better if I hadn’t been involved in writing those guides myself at times: http://forums.elitistjerks.com/index.php?/topic/16847-tbc-shadow-priest-101-how-to-melt-faces-effectively/?hl=%2Bmelt+%2Bfaces

On top of that, none of these changes affect stat weights. They’re aimed at reducing the problem of Int Plate (only 1 out of 34 specs can use) and people having to gather two sets of gear which doesn’t work well in heroic progression raiding.

So if you’re doing the SimCraft to determine whether Mastery or Crit is better for a spec, that won’t change — and players will still need to know that fact. They just won’t have to gem, enchant, reforge, and valor upgrade an item to make it usable (some of those but not all). Especially since reforging simply involved very little besides entering in the stat weights and hitting calculate.

I mean, back in Vanilla all you HAD were enchants and those were on far less slots than they currently are.

But, please, continue. Perhaps you really enjoy the taste of your foot as you seem to be putting it in your mouth.

20. Druids in Warlords of Draenor | OMFG Soup - December 9, 2013

[…] Warlords of Draenor – Post-BlizzCon Excitement (tagn.wordpress.com) […]


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