Last Saturday, a senior Blizzard Game Designer gave a panel at Dragon Con in Atlanta, which has been met with a range of emotions from interest all the way to unbridled glee. If it wasn’t for the immediacy of Social Media we’d have not known about this until long after it was concluded, but some industrious tweeting during the event gave the Q and A with Jonathan LeCraft an entirely new resonance. Because Blizzard have deliberately announced their intent to say very little or anything at all about the upcoming Expansion until they’re good and ready, any crumb of information is being voraciously consumed, and this event was a case in point. On reflection, there was an awful lot to talk about, and the consequences are being discussed at length in the Community, so it makes sense to discuss them this week. There’s a good chance you’ll not be getting any other ‘real’ game news until Blizzcon anyway, which is still two months away, so let’s make the most of what we have in the meantime.
First off, let’s cover the Demon Hunter skinny: they’ll start at 98, are confirmed to wield both glaives and one handed swords, are rocking both melee and ranged abilities and they even get a transformation with ‘inner demon’ visuals (whatever the heck that means.) For those of you who like your Lore? It appears that Illidan is ready to lead Demon Hunters against the Legion, which is interesting considering when I killed him back in Outland he had other things in mind. It also makes me wonder how he gets out of Gul’dan’s employ, whom we know is responsible for awakening Mr Stormrage from the Tomb of Sargeras. Needless to say, there are a lot of questions that need answering in the plotline department. Start making your notes of the Blizzcon Lore Q&A now 😀
Then there is the mention of ‘Adventure Mode’ by LeCraft, which has left many vibrating with anticipation. Quite a few commentators have been pushing for a viable alternative to raiding for those players who have no real interest in organised endgame for some time. Could this be the answer: a system that allows players to gear and play themselves in single player mode, with accompanying quests and events that don’t need you to be Guilded or even have friends to help? How would such a system fit with five man content? Again, there are more questions than answers but this concept (if true) could well be a major selling point in November. I’ve written myself this week on how forcing competition on certain players has always been doomed to failure. If the game is to become more Open World (as Tanaan’s design and implementation would suggest) then this move makes all sorts of sense, allowing people more immersive choices in how they gear and play.
On that front, you can expect some major changes to pretty much every class: the ‘fantasy of the specs’ appears to have become far more significant, with resources and roles likely to not simply be updated but have their names changed (no more sharing that Restoration role, Druids and Shaman?) Shadow Priests for instance will be managing their Sanity as a resource (HP Lovecraft roleplaying gets a nod, more news at 11) and I suspect if that one passed the planning meeting you can expect other classes to be getting the same treatment. Oh, and it appears that having an overhaul in recent memory doesn’t mean you’re exempt from attention (Warlocks, you’re getting poked too.) I’m getting excited that Hunter’s Survival weapon’s more harpoon than spear: I’d better start making sure I have some top quality weapons for transmog (see below) because that Artefact’s already far too ostentatious for my tastes.
However, it is Professions which I’m really looking forward to see change.
Blizzard have admitted that a lot of what was shoved into the Garrison experience didn’t really work as planned, and it’s not a surprise to see that aspects have been cherry picked to remain whilst the vast majority is likely to vanish without a word. However, you will get to keep being able to start a Profession at skill level 1 when you’re 100 and on the Broken Isles, because that has been hugely convenient quality of life change that everyone can agree was beneficial in the long term. I only have to look at my latest L90 Hunter in Draenor to know that low skill levels are no longer an obstacle to effective progression in an new Expansion, and that encourages more people to pick up professions to begin with. But I digress: you’ll still have a three item crafted limit for wearing gear, but as none of those will be a weapon? That will make life interesting, especially as all daily cooldowns are going to vanish. Oh, and say goodbye to the hugely frustrating stage upgrade tokens too, but with no idea of what will replace them? Time to get our tinfoil hats on for what this could mean (and watch this space next week.)
What we do know is that Obliterium (spelling to be confirmed) is the new material everyone will be hoarding: when you produce something with the new Professions you’ll no longer want to stick it on the Auction House, instead you’ll destroy whatever that crafted thing might be for this new material, because recycling will be coming very much into it’s own as part of this new process. This should be familiar territory to anyone who plays sandbox games such as Trove: the process of disintegration is as important as the making of the items to begin with. Can it be traded? Will it be Bind on Account? Again, these are questions we cannot yet answer, but trust me when I say people are already writing out their desires in various places. You should see my notes… oh you will, probably next week. Blizzard didn’t get the balance right with professions in Draenor, but with a whole team on the job for Legion? Heck, we get whole quest lines this time, so that’s already an improvement…
There’s finally one great bit of news for those of us who like to dress our characters as we choose: the Transmog system mentioned in Legion’s feature list is real, and would appear currently to be working on an account-wide basis. It is also rumoured to be using a UI similar to that you’ll find in Diablo 3, which makes a great deal of sense considering the amount of armour and weaponry you’ll potentially have access to once the feature finally goes live. However, and this is crucial, you will still only be able to mog gear on a like for like basis: cloth still only works with cloth, and so on. You won’t get any new storage this time around, but frankly this shouldn’t matter, with the amount of space the feature is going to free for people like me. That’s pretty much half my bag space right now, give or take. I’m just hoping all those items that are no longer available in game are also being considered for inclusion, and not just anything that exists in the client as currently wearale. Oh and for all you people who keep asking? Sorry, but no there will be no Tabard storage. It’s like the Dance Studio, you’ll just have to imagine how awesome it might have been and understand that soemt things may be promised by Developers but the reality remains they are nothing more than speculation only. However, it transpires that players will get a Moose, just like ex-Warcraft Dev Greg Street promised during the Canadian Winter Olympics in 2010. So, that’s something.
All in all, all these snippets give a great deal of encouragement that early Legion development’s going in the right direction: there have clearly been a lot of mistakes acknowledged, and those issues are being worked on. I know it will be genuinely difficult for a lot of people to accept this as being all we get until Blizzcon, but if that is truly to be the case I’d remind people that the next time the PTR opens up it should be to facilitate the introduction of the pre-expansion invasion event patch. I honestly don’t think we’ll have long to wait: if you can get through September without going too mad, I reckon October will bring at least some reward for your patience. For now I’d suggest you do as I am, and get all those 100 alts you never got around to levelling flown around Draenor for some easy XP collecting treasures and killing rares. It really is incredibly easy to rack up the XP if you’ve had your toons just sitting in Garrisons piling up Resources for months, and then you can be ready for whatever Legion brings to the table. Hopefully by the time you’ve sorted all that out, we’ll have some more real news to share.
Time to cross everything and hope for the best.
Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Developer, Event (Real Life), Expansion, Legion, MMO, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday