Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Does WotLK have a trick up its sleeve?

Last year when Tobold wrote a parody article that made fun of what features Blizzard would put into its next expansion it was treated as a joke by most players. Sure, a couple people thought he was serious and started arguing about his claims on the comment thread but most people got it. Later on in the year though Blizzcon shocked most of us when the feature list for Wraith of the Lich King looked very similar to what Tobold had jokingly posted. While this is old news it starting to have more importance as the unofficial deadline for another WoW expansion gets closer.

You see back in the beginning of Febuary last year we had less of an idea of what kind of competition World of Warcraft would be facing. But since then we have gotten a much better picture of Age of Conan and Warhammer. While Age of Conan was originally supposed to be a push over they have made some smart decisions lately. One they reduced their class base which I think is a smart move looking at how much trouble Blizzard has just balancing 9 classes. Secondly, they have moved their release date back several times to avoid releasing with an unfinished game. While this drives some people crazy I think its a good decision especially considering Tabula Rasa and Pirates of the Burning Sea which both would have benefited from a month or two extra development.

The major competition for Wraith of the Lich King is of course the marketing giant Warhammer Online. While some people think they are a little too full of hype they do have the talent and funding to release a great game. There is also something just exciting about the concept of Vivendi/Activision fighting EA through our favorite form of media. While Warhammer is promising some raiding and PvE content the real upper hand is their PvP content. Recent trends in World of Warcraft have suggested that raiding was mostly supported by having a exclusive lock on epic items. As soon as decent rewards for PvP were introduced it became apparent that a lot of people didn't like hanging out with twenty-five people and having some guy named Bob telling them what to do.

That's not to say raiding is dead or even that its a bad game mechanic. Its just that fantasy based MMOs are starting to look at alternative forms of end game content. That's really where Warhammer thinks they can dominate World of Warcraft. When people hit max level in their game they can fight people for castles, territory, and better items instead of just killing raid AI #318. Blizzard has realized that Warhammer might have a point here and that's why they introduced the open PvP zone in Wraith of the Lich King. Details are sketchy but it looks like the threat of competition finally got Blizzard off their asses and put siege weapons into the game.

Still while Blizzard is probably patting itself on its back for Lake Wintergrasp you have to wonder about Warhammer. They are going to have several zones like the one World of Warcraft is making and they have had longer to make them. Also Blizzard doesn't exactly have the best record on making World PvP rewarding and fun. Anyone remember the open world Silithus quests? Nothing like a zone people avoid like the plague to highlight a weakness in your game design prowess. Still Blizzard isn't stupid and they do have a tremendous amount of talent.

That's why I simply don't think Lake Wintergrasp, one hero class, and ten more levels is all that Blizzard has up its sleeve. The feature list is too small and we haven't heard anything for too long for Blizzard not to be holding onto one or more aces. Either they are waiting a bit closer to release date to announce something big or else the development of Starcraft 2 and their new MMO really ate up all their personnel. While a hero class is a major feature it can't hold the expansion up by itself. No matter how good you are at polish you can't make the same old stone look like a diamond.


Askander said...

I agree wholeheartedly. This also has precedent. If you recall, one of the last things blizzard announced, pre-BC, was the Shaman/Paladin faction swap. I know several folks were caught by surprise on that one.

Viet said...

I think you are pretty dead on with this one. They released enough info to get people thinking about WotLK, but I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled something big a couple of weeks before release.

BTW, great blog. Wish I could comment more, but most of the stuff you write I haven't heard about before, which is highly refreshing.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking this for a while now. One thing I've noticed is Blizzard's evasive responses to predictions a deathknight glut come WotLK. While they consistantly promise that the quest to unlock the class will be accessable to casual players, they also seem pretty confident that the game will not be overrun with deathknights. To me, this implies that there are additional hero classes yet to be announced.

wowup said...

somebody discussed about whether a new class will come with WotLK

Anonymous said...

WoW is the incumbent. They have no reason to list their coolest new features until closer to release, because then they risk all their competition copying their ideas.

On the other side of the coin, newer-comers like Warhammer have to offer their best ideas to get some press and to get people interested enough to look at some other game.

Blizzard can sit back and pick and choose which ideas they feel are on the right track and adding more to.

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Galoheart said...

If I wager a bet i would bet and say that blizzard is playing poker and holding the cards for a big surprise in the end. What it will be only Blizzard knows and they not gona say untill the expansion is near I would guess. It would just shock everyone if Blizzard came out with more than one hero class. So who knows what it will be. But I'm sure blizzard is cooking up something big. The joke may be on all of us in the end.

Capn John said...

They better have more Stable Slots or this is one Hunter who won't be buying the expansion. I'll keep subscribing (for a while) but I won't buy WotLK unless they increase Stable Slots. I don't care if it's 100g for each subsequent slot, just make them available. Three slots are not enough.

SolidState said...

I'm going to go with the SC2/Next-big-MMO guess.

I think Blizzard have realized they can only expand WoW so much. A large percentage of the player base have been playing WoW for over 2 years now and more of the same -- another tank/dps combo class, mediocre world-pvp, enchanting-like profession, etc. -- will not keep them in the game long against real competition. In fact I think many people are still playing WoW simply because there isn't anything better out there at the moment.

I think Blizzard are probably investing major effort right now into an alternative to WoW so that when people leave WoW they do so for another Blizzard title and not an EA title.

Personally even after 3 years of WoW I'm still having fun and looking forward to WotLK :) But from seeing what is happening to guilds and what bloggers are writing, I'm guessing even the most die-hard WoW fans really are ready for a major change, for something new.

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