I’m excited for Warlords of Draenor. I’m so excited that it’s taken me over a week to get any sort of coherent thoughts typed out. I usually try to write about a thousand words for each of my columns, and “F***ING AWESOME!!!” is only two. There are so many quality of life improvements coming (the inventory changes alone are exciting, as are the stat and armor changes) that it’s a shame they aren’t already in the game. I also can’t wait to get my hands on a free boost to level 90 for an alt. Besides having several misguided alliance friends that I’d like to raid with, I’m also looking forward to checking out the alliance-side of certain questlines. It’s much easier to go back at level 90 than it is to speed level now (As it was, I had to push my druid to level 35 just so I could check out Theramore).
I know some of the announced features have drawn criticism – especially the change for top-level raiding from ten or twenty-five man heroic to twenty man mythic. Guilds are prone to drama, and managing raid teams is such a challenging task it’s one of the few WoW skills players can claim on their resumes. Forcing top-level raid teams to cull five players seems callous of Blizzard. That said, I don’t understand the anger over ten man raid teams being forced to shift to twenty. All you need to do is find another ten man team to merge with. While I get that that is easier said than done, every ten man group is in the same boat on this. I’m sure it won’t be easy, but one of the benefits of flex applying to Normal/Heroic raiding means that you can run through those modes while adding players to your existing team until you hit the magic number of twenty. I think that once the system is in place, much of the anxiety will be alleviated. At least, that’s my hope anyway.
The Boost-to-90 feature also seems to be drawing much criticism, especially since the expectation is that it will be available from the store sometime after launch. It only makes sense, since players could conceivably buy a second WoW account and Warlords expansion, and then transfer the boosted character to their primary account. (Let’s assume that Mists will be added to the Battlechest in time for Warlords’ launch, then that’s $40 for WoW, $40 for Warlords, and $25 for the character transfer, resulting in a fee of $105. Given that Blizzard wants to make the content in Warlords accessible (which is why they are introducing the boost in the first place,) it only makes sense they would release the feature at a reasonable price.
I don’t understand any of these complaints against Warlords. First, the boost feature is intended to bring lapsed players back into the fold. Mists of Pandaria received lots of praise for its narrative structure and varied endgame, but for players who lapsed during Cataclysm or earlier, they still had to play through that old content (that turned them off) to get to the new material. This circumvents that issue, allowing new and returning players to jump right in to all the hyped-up new hotness. Furthermore, it allows players to recruit friends and then get them instantly to a level so they can play together. As pointed out many times during Blizzcon, World of Warcraft is a social game, and this only makes it more social. Plus, getting players to 90 faster means that they can get to 100 quicker and enjoy endgame content. More players at endgame means a greater pool of raiders, which will help struggling guilds get to their twenty member targets. Boosting characters to the level required to begin current content seems like such a boon to the game, it’s odd that Blizzard hadn’t implemented this sooner. Given that players will still need to learn their class and play through ten levels of content, this is far from a pay-to-win feature. This feature is just simple win, for both players and Blizzard.
Another feature drawing criticism is that flying on the continent of Draenor is going to be withheld until patch 6.1.. Blizzard has stated repeatedly that flying mounts changed the nature of the game, and it’s a genie they wish they could put back in the bottle. They can’t. The normal progress for expansions has been to restrict flying until max level, and then allowing it. However, in Mists of Pandaria (and even the Firelands portion of Cataclysm), Blizzard has taken to implementing max level zones where flying is disabled. The fact that players can so easily jump over obstacles – obstacles the developers are spending time generating – is disheartening to them, and changes the nature of the game by removing some of the challenge. While being grounded would be inconvenient, it sounds as though Blizzard is working on making the process of acquiring flight into an epic experience by giving us a sequence of quests which will culminate in a finale granting flight in 6.1. While this would be annoying, I can’t imagine that it will be gamebreaking enough for anyone to quit over (especially given all the exciting features the expansion will contain.) If the questline is even half as epic as Blizzard sounds like they want it to be, the wait to fly will be worth it.
Players are also experiencing consternation over the new player models. While I personally think the orc, dwarf, and gnome (and what we saw of the forsaken) look infinitely better than the current models, I understand the concern that players may not agree with Blizzard’s character changes, and there exists the desire for Blizzard to grant a free re-customization along with the new models. Frankly, that makes sense; given how improved all the looks for the characters will be, players should be allowed to look them all over and re-customize based on what is now available. The relationship between a player and his or her avatar is paramount in any game, but especially in an MMO where that avatar is used to relate to other players as well. If a player decides that another face would better convey who they are than the face they received with their new model, then players should be given the opportunity to choose that face free of charge, as they would if they were rolling the character fresh that day.
Given Blizzard’s stance of “let’s wait for the player models to be done,” I think this is a logical allowance that they simply haven’t considered. There were plenty of questions players asked that seemed to catch the developers off guard (like the what-happens-to-the-reforging-vendor-on-the-yak and the can-my-alt-hang-out-at-my-garrison inquiries) that this seems like a case of the player base’s expectations getting ahead of what Blizzard is looking at. If this isn’t rectified prior to Warlords’ launch, then Blizzard will be turning one of the expansion’s best features into a disappointment for many players, which will be quite the waste.
Overall, I’m extremely excited about Warlords of Draenor. When I logged into Warcraft for the first time after the announcement, I found myself disappointed with Mists of Pandaria for the first time, as it did not possess any of the features that Warlords promises. No one knows when Warlords of Draenor will launch, but whenever it is, it’s not going to be soon enough.
Christie Golden’s writing about Garrosh’s trial! There are those who say this is the Trial of the Decade! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/11685565/New_World_of_Warcraft_novel_War_Crimes_Out_Next_Year-11_18_2013
The Blizzard Student Art Contest is back. Time to practice drawing your orcs! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/11685564/Blizzard_Entertainment_Student_Art_Contest-11_18_2013
The new Recruit-A-Friend progam is new and improved! But how can I recruit friends when everyone I know is already in my guild? http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/11524458/Recruit_A_Friend_Program_Offers_New_Rewards-11_12_2013
Karazhan is getting cleaned up! That place must be pretty dirty after seven years! http://wow.joystiq.com/2013/11/20/patch-5-4-2-ptr-karazhan-cleanup-efforts-underway/
Blizzard is testing Cross-Realm Account-bound mail. Now I can spam my alts! If only I could send them Recruit-a-Friend requests… http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/10587459185
Dawn of the Aspects is now in paperback! It’ll make a great holiday gift for the lore nerd too cheap to buy the books! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/8896365
There’s a new charity pet coming! Its an Alterac Brew Pup, cuz everyone feels more charitable after a beer or two! http://wow.joystiq.com/2013/11/20/new-charity-battle-pet-coming-to-the-pet-store-soon/