Having seen the largest info dump on Legion for some time happen on Friday, I feel I would be remiss not to dedicate a long-form post both on what we now know and my thoughts about it. There was an amazing amount of shiny new details on all manner of subjects in the World of Warcraft Legion Summit. Roundups have appeared across all the major data mining areas and fansites worldwide, and there initially appeared to be a measure of contradiction in places. However, now the dust has settled it has become considerably easier to summarize and reflect with a measure of clarity.
I won’t discuss plot spoilers, because I’m not that person, but there is a lot of stuff you need to know. Most sites are being good about it, but having been spoiled on social media a few times in the last couple of days? Some of you would be wise to proceed with caution. My personal Legion Summit roundup, however, starts with a subject dear to my heart, and that which caused a bit of a moment when it became public on Friday.
Professions are Absolutely Not Broken
An awful lot has become publicly apparent about a part of the game I’ve loved since launch: making stuff. Professions are often strictly only for casuals in MMOs but for a while World of Warcraft made them an essential part of the hardcore’s pre-expansion ritual. However, with combat bonuses completely removed in Warlords, it has become far less about which profession you need to speed grind before Legion arrives. The only remaining tangible bonus (Jewelcrafting) has its +600 gems made Bind on Equip, and suddenly there is no longer a need to have a particular class with a specific crafting complement for progression. In fact, having seen the process of how you learn a profession from scratch? At least a couple of my Veteran toons will be doing just that for the unique experience it will offer. However, there were some protests that making the main crafting material Bind on Pickup would mean that certain characters (with double crafting specs and no personal gathering option) would be unable to work as effectively.
Players, inevitably, have very short memories. Many crafting mats have begun previous expansions as Bind on Pickup for a very good reason: longevity. It grants a sense of actual value to the content produced and means that you don’t just sit in Stormwind and ferry all your gains to an alt, and those who do the work can sell at a profit. Mostly, this fits in beautifully with Blizzard’s clear plan to make the casual side of gameplay possess as much value as raiding or dungeons, a situation which has not existed since… well, probably back in Vanilla. I’ve publicly stated that I think these changes are the best we’ve seen in over a decade, and what I’ve played in Alpha/Beta gives me HUGE confidence for the expansion in general. The fact that the Warcraft Legion Summit interviews mention this in several places? So much the better.
What the noise on Friday tells me is that some people like the current situation where all you need to do is keep a bunch of people static in Garrisons and you can craft at a profit. That’s not ever how this should work: doing ANYTHING in an MMO should also involve a measure of individual satisfaction from the effort expended. Of course, there are those who’ll point out that actually, they get their pleasure from doing things this way and the Devs are wrong. I’m looking at the hundreds of thousands of players pouring into the title as new and thinking that maybe, what they’d like is to do something that doesn’t involve them playing 24/7 and focusing on one small aspect of the UI. Like it or not, professions are only one small part of what is a VERY large picture for most, and should be considered accordingly. I’ll give them top billing because I can, but I’m well aware of their place in the overall picture.
More Content, All the Time
What has become apparent from many of the interviews I’ve read is that the lack of content in Warlords has a lot to do with that team thinking that Legion would be ready sooner. If it really was a left hand-right hand disparity, one can only hope everyone will learn going forward, because that excuse for many long-term players has the same ring of truth as ‘I didn’t do my homework because my friend never told me it was due today.’ You just have to look at the Siege of Orgrimmar period in Pandaria to understand the damage that protracted periods of no new content can do to players’ confidence in a title. I don’t want to be that person, but we’re also coming up for the first birthday of Hellfire Citadel’s arrival. It is easy, therefore, to see why there are those looking closely at Legion for a distinct speed up in new content deployment. We are reliably informed that there are 235 people working on the current development team, so one can only hope that this means the wait between Legion and the next expansion will not lead to waits of over a year in patches.
What we do know from the Warcraft Legion Summit is that Blizzard have promised up front that we’ll have three patches and effectively the same number of Tier sets. You’ll get two raids with release, another in Patch 7.2 and the last (presumably) in 7.3. There’s been comment about the same look and feel for these sets too, and this was actually referenced in an interview: you can expect to see less symmetrical armor and a divergence from the traditional looks that have become the norm. This is actually quite exciting for those of us who like to play dolly-dress up with our characters and should offer some much-needed variety to my Transmog Wardrobe.
Most importantly of all however, the Legion team understand that the rate that people consume content is fundamentally different. The plan for this time around is to cater both to players who do everything immediately at launch and those who take significantly longer, with shorter play sessions. These are the two ‘ends’ of World of Warcraft’s massive and expansive demographic and are often overlooked in preference to the average approach (that is, everyone else inbetween these two points). It makes sense to look at the extremes, as this isn’t something that’s been the norm for many years, if perhaps at all. By doing so this gives a more balanced idea of how long it takes for people to complete the content overall. The upshot of this, one hopes, will be a far more measured and organic approach to how everyone consumes their content in Azeroth going forward.
The Pre Expansion Hype Train is Coming
Now that Overwatch is released and there’s nothing else on Activision-Blizzard’s plate for a while, you can expect the advertising hype train to go full steam ahead. There’s quite a lot on offer in terms of teasing you for the conflict on the Broken Isles: four comics, a web-based animation series called ‘Harbingers’ which will focus on the Illidari and their significance to upcoming events, plus the much-anticipated (in this parish at least) audio-only drama that will concentrate on events prior to the cinematic trailer. I did notice however that this is not set in stone, and I for one will be gutted if they don’t do it. I absolutely love the potential that audio-only grants to fantasy settings, and this would be a really delightful bonus if they can pull it off in time. It’s also a welcome divergence form the normal visual festival an expansion release becomes and a nice nod to all those people who podcast on the MMO and have done so over the years.
We’ve learned from multiple sources in the Legion Summit that there are some changes that won’t make it to immediate release, and most have a lot to do with Facebook’s arrival on the scene (see last week’s column). These ‘social’ changes are supposed to offset the issues that many players have with multiple characters on realms that do not match those of their friends: once upon a time you would all roll in the same places, but with the changes to the game architecture over the last few years, that is no longer the case. Blizzard is clearly aware of players like me with large alt families who are effectively tied to servers because it is financially difficult to switch. They must also see social matching sites such as Open Raid who have done great things in recent years in enabling players to complete content using social networking. The future, after all, is social interactions with the chance for advertisers to capitalize on effectively captive audiences.
Mostly, it is now time to play a waiting game. The first sign we’re close to the pre-expansion event will, undoubtedly, be the call to end the last PvP Season before that part of the game changes forever. Once that happens, the floodgates are likely to open with new and returning players, but I already know the movie is having a positive effect on players returning. I’m seeing a Battle.net friends list busier than it has been for some time, including players returning I’ve not seen online since (in several cases) before Warlords. The feel-good factor of the cinema hype is undoubtedly having a positive effect on interest. Blizzard will want to capitalize on this wherever possible, and I’m wondering if we’ve seen the last of tie-ins and additional incentives on the back of the release. For instance, once the movie gets its DvD release I can see more freebies slipped into your Steelbook case. If there’s one thing Blizzard have grasped with both hands this year, it’s the power of effective marketing.
The Legion Summit is something of a departure from previous pre-expansion press junkets, and I’m wondering if Blizzard haven’t taken a leaf out of Legendary’s book in how to deal with the media when you’re selling your product. Everyone left the exercise with a swag bag too, so I feel we’re entering a new stage in proceedings: far larger reach of potential influences, lots more to say, and a genuine desire to make sure people understand just what Legion will be about going forward. Mostly, I’d like it to be August now, please. I’ll be back from holiday, relaxed and refreshed, and utterly ready to go with the new stuff. My characters bags are full to overflowing and I’m almost at the stage where all my 90’s are 100. I’m so ready for Legion it’s becoming embarrassing.
Is it August 30th yet?Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Expansion, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday