Yes, I know we don’t have Legion yet, but there has been a lot of muttering and general grumpiness around the World of Warcraft community in the last few days about how the whole Alpha ‘testing’ thing is going down, and as I have no desire to add any fuel to that fire I’m going to ignore Legion completely this week. Instead, I am going to provide you with five things that I think would be cool for the NEXT Warcraft expansion, because I’m pretty certain I’ll be writing about this game for some time to come. It might seem ridiculous to be looking ahead another eighteen months, possibly more, but I believe there are already indicators in place that could point to future developments. Mostly this allows for me to not have to think about the present, where my bags are so full I’m close to being unable to do anything on my main. As it’s not September yet, anything that will act as distraction is No Bad Thing™.
Without further ado, let’s give you Five Features We REALLY Want In A Warcraft Expansion, beyond Legion, that aren’t outside of the realms of possibility, already have support in the wider community, and might yet give a new lease of life to an MMORPG which, at the point in time we’ll be considering it, could be close to fifteen years old. Yeah, I don’t want to think about that either, so let’s roll!
1. A Third, Neutral Faction
This idea has been on the table, at least for me, since around the middle of Mists of Pandaria when all of that mucking around in the Jade Forest got to the point where I’d had enough of not only the constant inter-factional fighting, but actually being part of the Alliance. As a Dwarf, of course, I could hardly pack up my beer and go home, and it isn’t as if Ironforge is going to stop being part of Stormwind’s major defense force any time soon. The idea of being True Neutral is something I have discussed on my blog too, and I assume it would have to come with a price, quite possibly the removal of a lot of Alliance-based reputation, for starters. I would not have this idea as front and center in my head right now were it not for the fact that a Blizzard Dev suggested the possibility in the last few weeks, with the caveats that if you were neutral, you would need to accept the cost of losing Auction House access or Guild membership.
Mostly, this idea gets laughed at a lot by people who love to point out ‘this isn’t World of Peacecraft you know’ and yes, you have a point. The fact remains, however, that there are a fair few of us around who would quite happily become mercenary at the drop of an epic. It does have possibilities and I think that perhaps with the right incentives, this could be offered as a viable alternative to a new race or class in a Warcraft expansion. After all, this would not adversely affect class balance, for starters. You could build an entire new questline for players from level one upwards, and the choice to be neutral could be introduced as part of a revamped leveling system. I know a few people who would celebrate if that happened too, and you could combine both to reinvigorate the Old World. That conveniently takes us to number two in our list of five features we REALLY want in a Warcraft expansion.
2. Scaleable Content, Everywhere
There are those who will now quite gleefully inform you that Timewalking is just part of a larger plan on Blizzard’s part to reinvigorate all of the old content as scaleable. I’d like to believe this is true but I’m not 100% certain, especially knowing how creaky the existing UI actually is. Certainly this could work with instances but as to the old world itself, this is probably a far bigger ask. However, I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be REALLY interested in seeing this come to pass. Mostly, I like the idea of going back to a starting zone and being forced to play as a low level, rather than the content coming up to match me. I doubt I’m in the majority however, as most would probably take issue at having all their high level stuffs being squished by stupidly trivial amounts.
How could this work? Well, ideally you’d have a daily quest at level 110 that would scale an Old World zone up to you so that you could be biffing Classic Murlocs at max level. Maybe you’d actually end up having to take a hit in Outland and do Blades Edge Mountains (as an example) at 68 again, and in that case, I think people might be willing, as that is the lowest level that Timewalking currently works at. And on consideration I’m sure some people would jump at this. I for one would like more Timewalking generally, and more use of Old World locations (see point five).
3. True Cosmetic Customization
This one has been an issue of mine ever since Garrisons received decorations for Christmas and Hallows End, but nothing more. I truly crave a situation where I could be offered a selection of furniture and external items, such as trees and bushes, to allow me to build my own locations. I’m not looking for The Sims levels of customization here, let’s be clear, but simply a choice to be able to build and shape the Class Order Hall (or whatever comes next) into something like my own idea of accommodation. Of course, that’s the problem now: Class Order Halls aren’t player housing, and nor are they ever likely to be.
Choice is quite a contentious topic right now for players, with many complaints centering around the lack of it in the current and upcoming content. For me, at least, it seems a criminal waste of all the artwork I see to have customization stick to the same layouts, that there can’t be at least some measure of independence wrought to design and aesthetics. I would get very excited indeed if that changed, and it doesn’t have to be just with my environment. Dyes for clothing, accessories for mounts.. the possibilities are endless, but that’s not how Blizzard works right now. Cross everything that this changes at some point in the future.
4. Cross Server Guilds
This one would be potentially game changing, because with Realm Firsts remaining a ‘thing’, you won’t ever see the possibility of the cross realm guild. That’s a REAL shame, especially for those who cannot afford to move (and there are a lot of them around, myself included, because 22 alts would take a fair investment). If Blizzard changed the rules with neutral factions however, one would assume they would have to at least consider the possibility of people needing shared spaces to work in. Even if you couldn’t be in a guild in game, you could perhaps entertain a Super Guild that would only exist as an entity outside of the game and organize all of its activities through (effectively) a website.
I don’t think the cross server guild would be something people would want to be a part of if they were interested in progression, as it has the feeling for me of a far more social experience. With the option now available to play with anybody, anywhere, as long as we both have a Battle.net tag? Perhaps that would be the place where your guilds could reside. Maybe it wouldn’t be guilds any more either, but clans or teams, which would allow anyone with eSports aspirations the opportunity to develop and build a network of like-minded players and friends. Yeah, I think that would work very well indeed.
5. No More ‘Expansions’
Mostly, I’d like to see an end to this circus of changing everything and starting from scratch that has now become less of an expectation and more of a chore. There is plenty of land mass that currently exists in Azeroth to support simply updating skins and landscape on a continent by continent basis. So, for the expansion after Legion you could see Kalimdor upgraded, with high definition landscapes and new quests and… oh yeah, hang on, that was Cataclysm, and look how THAT turned out. The thing is, the old world really does look very old indeed, and even if nothing changed in terms of questing, let’s be honest, is that experience really fit for purpose any more? Most people will tell you it’s not, and in fact everything could really do with an upgrade.
In our five features we REALLY want in a Warcraft expansion, this is possibly the most contentious point of all because of what happened the last time this was attempted. However, the more time passes that that old content is left untouched, the more ridiculous and dated it becomes. People don’t live exclusively in the new world 24/7 anyway, and Legion is beginning to utilize elements of the Old World in new and interesting ways. If this is a dry run for the future, then I’m all for the move, because honestly, it’s the most tired and overlooked part of the entire UI.
Mostly, I’m a big fan of evolution: things need to move forward and not live in the past. However much you might think nostalgia is great, I’d not want to live there, and trust me when I tell you that actually, forward is the only realistic direction for this MMO’s development. So, when I suggest five features we REALLY want in a Warcraft expansion that you think aren’t realistic? Remember that your perception of Azeroth may and will vary. What works for one person won’t hang with another.
This is only a game, after all, and we’re here to enjoy it.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Expansion, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday