It almost seems like yesterday, but the last Blizzcon was in fact nearly a year ago. Across my Twitter feed, I am again watching friends preparing to travel to California from around the globe: Blizzcon is almost two weeks away, and that means the rumor mill is already grinding out a ton of potential announcements. In amongst the excitement and anticipation, there are some real possibilities for pushing the Warcraft franchise onwards and not all of them rely on providing new content. In fact, if I’m honest, there’s an awful lot of nostalgia in the air, more so than I think existed during the 10th anniversary celebrations.
I think therefore it is time to haul out my Crystal Ball and have a go at predicting what you could be seeing at the yearly Blizzard Lovefest in Anaheim, quite apart from killer cosplay (waves at my bestie @FlyDraenei who’s frantically putting the finishing touches to hers), a Q&A which will undoubtedly have at least one query on Legacy Servers, and the World PvP Championships. I know there are those of you interested in Overwatch, Hearthstone, Starcraft, Diablo and Heroes of the Storm. I am, however, strictly a one title girl. I only play World of Warcraft, so this one is for me. Here are 5 things Warcraft needs from Blizzcon.
1. A Black Temple 5-Man Mythic ‘Experience’ for 7.3
I was probably as surprised as the next person to hear 7.1 hits the live servers on October 25th. Quite apart from this being a most excellent birthday present for yours truly, it relaunches Karazhan as a five man with all the same bosses but a very different aesthetic. I’ll give you a handy dandy primer to 7.1 next week but for now, I think it is fair to say that this different approach to repackaging instanced content is going to prove hugely successful, location notwithstanding. Perhaps most importantly of all for all the people attempting to farm the original location for rep, items and mount drop, you won’t lose the existing version that exists in the TBC timeline.
This change is really important because it maintains the sanctity of content that has been lost, as in the cases of Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub, meaning that in turn, we have less stuff to Legacy farm going forward. Blizzard designers have spent quite a lot of time digging about in the Black Temple in the past: the green fire scenario for Warlocks made extensive use of the instance, and I feel that maybe Karazhan is just the beginning of repurposed timelines and existing stories successfully existing alongside the classic backdrops. Come on, if you had a 5-man version of Icecrown Citadel that had been reanimated by a new Lich King, are you saying you’d not at least be a wee bit curious to see how that would turn out? Blizzard’s overriding skill, after all, is recycling old content to make it new and interesting… and this way there’s just more things to do once existing content dries up.
2. Warcraft 1-3 Available to Download on the App Store
Talking of old content, there was a job advertised on the Blizzard Careers site last year for someone to help create high definition versions of classic Warcraft titles. I reckon a year is plenty of time to have come up with something and there are enough devoted Warcraft players on my social media to convince me that if the company relaunch those RTS warhorses as tablet titles, people will bite. When you see classic adventures such as Baldur’s Gate going great guns with an entirely new audience? Yeah, they can make it happen, along with the possibility of other classic Blizzard games such as ‘The Lost Vikings’ getting similar treatment.
This move would also have the advantage of snagging all those people who are coming to Warcraft for the first time via Duncan Jones’ hugely underrated translation of Azeroth to the big screen. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I’d wonder if there isn’t some kind of TV show tie-in being considered on the back of Traveler, the Young Adult novel that’s being written and (presumably) will be released fairly soon. If you put a free access code for one of these games on the inside cover of every YA paperback or stuck on the title image that adorns your Kindle, think how many people you might snag into Azeroth for the first time. On that front, what if you advertised the game inside every copy of Candy Crush?
3. More Warcraft Companions in the Style of the Legion App
I’ll freely admit that without the Legion app on my phone, some days I’d never get a chance to ‘play’ World of Warcraft at all. I need a weekly clear of content (helpfully with my husband’s tank in tow) to keep my resources total at an acceptable level. After that? It is amazing how well stuff runs without the need for a login. I’m hoping that maybe we will see more functionality added to the app with 7.1 and beyond. It also sets me thinking about what might be possible if Blizzard extended their remit and started looking at the title overall for inspiration. As a one game girl, the company could use mobile games to suck me further down their rabbit hole.
I know how many players, for instance, would go mad for a Pokemon Go styled Pet Battle app. There’s the potential for re-skinning a Candy Crush styled game with Blizzard characters. I’d be interested in something that utilized classic content but combined it with the current mission interface, especially if it allowed me to collect pets, mounts, and toys as is the case with the existing code. I might consider an Orcs v Humans platformer with the UI sound effects. Honestly, with the amount of existing material that could be lifted from Azeroth? A Nat Pagle fishing game would probably be something I’d consider.
4. More ‘Cosmetic’ Rewards In-Game
It did, I’ll freely admit, come as news to me this week that 7.1 has a three boss instance with a ton of difficulties with the main purpose being, apart from awarding Artifact relics to players, cosmetic versions of armor and not tier. For a very long time, I’ve maintained that the future of this game is wrapped around the aesthetics in Azeroth and it would appear that the designers are beginning to agree. With the pace of change currently demanded, and new content craved every few months, it is impossible to keep up the design pace of creating new tier sets and far easier just to recolor items and offer them as interim rewards.
However, I’d argue this doesn’t go far enough. There was talk as far back as Warlords of ‘cosmetic’ items to add to players that would grow in stature and size as they levelled. I’m already a huge fan, as you will know as regular readers of my column, of the Highmountain totems available for reputation that sit on a player’s back as an extra flavor accompaniment. What this game needs are more totem-style items and the ability for players to mix and match everything and anything to create their own distinct looks. We’re already well on the way to transmog nirvana, if I’m honest, but the quicker this can be achieved the better. If even my husband takes the time to mog himself, you should too.
5. A Complete Overhaul of the Graphics Engine
I left the most contentious change until last because this one is roughly equivalent to what happened in Cataclysm when all the old quests vanished forever and zones received a makeover many believed was unnecessary. I know a lot of you got very upset when that happened, and that’s not what I’m asking for. What I’d like to see is roughly akin to that sequence in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy walks out of her black and white house into the technicolor mastery of the Munchkin’s capital. All the old world could be converted, in stages, to high quality models as we see in the Broken Isles. In fact, looking at the zones with Elf-style housing, that covers a lot of the existing zones quite easily. There’s a lot of Human-style brickwork lying unused in my Garrison that could be used too, there’s just things like the Dwarven buildings that need working on.
After that, the conversion of a lot of animal models on the Broken Isles says to me that there are almost enough resources available to transition the old world to HD, if the choice was made to do so. I’ll be looking at the upgraded Alcaz Island, for instance, with particular interest once 7.1 hits, as that’s one area where the old and new could be combined quite seamlessly. It would be an interesting exercise not to alter any questing or stories, but simply level the graphical playing field to a stage where everything is at least a constant, including flora and fauna. It makes sense going forward that this should happen, but I’m wondering if it will. If people are prepared to accept amended versions of old dungeons, for instance, would they take an upgrade to looks ahead of stats?
Those are my picks for November 4th and 5th, such as they are. This year, as always, I’ll be watching via Virtual Ticket, and I wish nothing but joy and fun to all you lucky people who will be there in person. Remember: what happens at Blizzcon stays at Blizzcon, and let’s hope at least one of these shonky, yet earnest, predictions comes to pass in a fortnight.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Blizzcon, BlizzCon 2016, Column, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday