With news breaking this week that World of Warcraft has dipped to a low 5.6 million subscribers, many have taken the liberty of busting out their sandwich boards and various MMORPG-related scriptures to proclaim that, despite what you might think, the end is very nigh. While that remains to be seen, Blizzard is also set to unveil their new expansion today at Gamescom. Fans are understandably nervous, as the details of this expansion will likely to set the tone for World of Warcraft for the next year. Considering how Warlords of Draenor has transformed from the massive hype surrounding it in November to, perhaps, Blizzard’s most reviled expansion to date, the company is at a crossroads. The optimist in me sees this as an opportunity for Blizzard to rectify the sins of Draenor and win back their audience, but the skeptic thinks that this is merely another bandaid on a necrotic wound.
Regardless of how you feel, we’re all eagerly anticipating what Blizzard has to show and say for themselves with this new expansion. In honor of that, I’ve rounded up a little wishlist of items I’d love to see present in this new expansion. Expecting all of them to make the cut would be a tall order, but here is what I want from the new World of Warcraft expansion.
More Dynamic Content
Don’t read this and think that what I’m suggesting is akin to what we saw in Draenor, where dynamic meant a shallow reason to try and get you to login every day. No, instead what I’m suggesting is that Blizzard develop something that is truly dynamic and evolving and isn’t hamstrung by their (in)ability to produce content in a timely manner.
The problem with themepark MMORPGs has always been that developers can never create content as fast as their fans devour it. So, instead of trying to create content better suiting to our voracious appetites, most developers insist on just stretching out what they have and finding ways to make it more grindy. Not fun at all. What I’d love to see in this expansion pack is for Blizzard to look at what sandbox MMORPGs get right and take a page from their book. Create an end game that doesn’t rely on grinding and running the same content over and over.
Bring Back the Social Element
One thing I would love to see return to World of Warcraft is the sense of community that burned so brightly in the game’s younger years. Maybe I’m just being a crotchety old man about this, but it’d be great if Blizzard could devise a system that encouraged players to socialize outside of their current social circles. Guilds are great, but with the added emphasis on things like cross-realm dungeon finders, it contributes to World of Warcraft being considerably less of a social game. Outside of your guild, you really have no reason to talk with anyone, and even the guild itself is optional for many players.
In a way, achieving this would likely have less to do with creating a whole new system surrounding it, but rather crafting every aspect of the new expansion to help foster a more socially driven experience. One idea that may work kind of touches on my next point.
Boom. The big one. Players have been pining for some form of housing for years now, and this new expansion is the perfect time to give us exactly what we want. Of course, a housing system on its own is only so much fun, and I’d love to see Blizzard really flesh this idea out to make housing a consistently rewarding endeavour. It could feed back into the social element of the game by pairing your house with others in an instanced neighborhood, with bonuses and benefits to interacting and working together with those neighbors.
Furthermore, the system could help revitalize crafting by providing an always relevant pursuit for those professions. Even better, housing should require cooperation between various professions just to even partake in it. Blacksmiths, Engineers, Leatherworkers, and more all having to gather to produce materials needed for the process. Housing would also provide World of Warcraft players the opportunity for some much needed customization. As the game continues to become increasingly homogeneous, housing could be a lively and vibrant way to make your mark on Azeroth.
One of the bigger sins garrisons were guilty of committing was a total butchering of the crafting economy that existed in previous Warcraft expansions. Simply put, the garrisons provided access to required materials far too easily, negating the need to interact with other professions. Revitalizing crafting has a serious opportunity to also fulfill some of the other items on my wish list, like those included above.
By bringing crafting back to the forefront, Blizzard can make World of Warcraft an exciting place to be again. Increase the reliance on other crafters to progress, and build an endgame with dynamic content that keeps things fresh without the static instances and dungeons that become boring by the fifth time you’ve run them. Provide crafters with recipes that make them powerfully relevant in World of Warcraft again—especially the professions that could use some serious love. Don’t lock all the best rewards behind the gear treadmill; give players the power to create the best gear themselves.
This one has been on my mind for a while because, as much as it pains me to admit it, classes in Warcraft have become painfully boring. In the pursuit of perfect balance, Blizzard has also stripped these classes of all the flavor that made them so distinct to begin with. Furthermore, viable builds are becoming simpler and simpler, dumbing down the gearing and skill building aspect of World of Warcraft. I’m not sure if this was in some misguided attempt to make the game more accessible to a wider audience, but the fact is the result is that a lot of the soul of World of Warcraft has been bled dry. Let’s bring it back.
Inject some personality back into these classes with the new expansion pack. Use class specific storylines, mounts, and even cosmetics to add a sense of exclusivity to each one. Create abilities that classes have that make them desirable outside of combat, like needing a warlock to help you with a certain part of a quest-chain—something to make classes feel distinct and encourage people to identify themselves by how they play. And finally, cool it on the dumbing down on progression and bring meaningful choices back into how to grow your character.
Broaden the Endgame
This has slightly been touched on by other topics, but I feel like it deserves its own point. In order to make this next expansion a real winner, Blizzard needs to abandon raids as the only meaningful way to progress beyond a certain point. The fact of the matter is that raids are highly exclusive to a large portion of people and, quite frankly, not all that exciting. Gone are the days of Ulduar it seems.
This new expansion should have a wealth of options for endgame that appeals to players of every persuasion: group content, solo content, small group content, and other avenues that don’t focus on combat entirely. Too often endgame in World of Warcraft offers you a single choice for how you want to play when it should, instead, give you a diverse set of paths to progress down that are distinct from one another yet also rewarding..
Revitalize Player versus Player Combat
Now I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest PvP player, but that doesn’t mean I can’t spot dying vine when I see one. It’s time to cut Ashran loose and head back to the drawing board. Player versus player combat has always been one of the more distinctive elements of World of Warcraft, but Ashran buried it under a heap of garbage and left it there to die.
Cracking the PVP nut is no easy task, especially considering the awful imbalance that exists due to a certain racial buff—a problem the mercenary system is only a band-aid for. Player versus player content is in dire need of a total overhaul, racial buffs included. Listen to the audience, renew the focus on arenas and battlegrounds, and then bring something else into the mix that takes what Ashran aimed to do but doesn’t over-extend itself. In a sense, bring PvP back to basics and rebuild from there.
These are just a few of my ideas for what I’d love to see in a new expansion. Of course, new races and classes are always on my list too, so those deserve mentioning. If I could sum up my hopes for this new expansion and Blizzard’s mutterings about switching to a yearly model, it would be that I hope Blizzard thinks that more content is the way to solve World of Warcraft’s predicament. Instead, I’d rather Blizzard focus on what they’ve always done best: quality over quantity. This new expansion is an opportunity for them to realize the mistakes of Warlords of Draenor and win us all back with an expansion that truly lives up to what we all expect of World of Warcraft. I just hope they don’t squander that.
That said, what’s on your wishlist for this new expansion? Do you agree with some of my ideas or think they are awful? Let me know in the comments!Related: Column, Expansion, Listed, MMORPG, World of Warcraft