Saturday, June 11, 2011

I can see ... THE FUTURE! (Not Really)

And the future is a hazy green? Gosh, I hope not.

Ah me, amidst Blizzcon tickets selling out at a new record pace, the Interwebs start to whisper of the possibility of a new WoW expansion to be announced in October.

I think it's going to be a busy Blizzcon. I suspect Diablo will be front and center stage at that event. Unless I'm mistaken, there may be only a few months left before its release by the time Blizzcon rolls around.  There are clearly developments in Starcraft as well, even though I don't expect to get any mega-announcement about Heart of the Swarm at all in 2011.  But, in all likelihood, I think we will hear the first beams of news about World of Warcraft, Expansion IV.

What shall be in this expansion? Let's consider a few possibilities:

The Emerald Dream?
This one has been banging around the rumor mill for a loooong time now. Is it finally time to step through those gates into Nightmare?
Maybe Yes - There's a gob of incidental lore pointing the way into the Emerald Dream. There is a significant batch of Old God corruption there that seems to be of different source than most of the old god mess we have seen so far. The Emerald Dream is also pretty much the only really significant dimensional space that is well-established in lore that hasn't been explored yet.
Maybe No - The hallmark of the Emerald Dream thus far has been that annoying green aura that clouds up the screen. I really don't want to look at that aura for a full expansion. We have had an awful lot of Old God development in the past two expansions. Presuming that we kick Deathwing's butt and break the influence of the Old Gods who caused the Cataclysm, I think it may be time to give these particular Big Bads a break for a while.

Further into the Outland?
There have been suggestions that there's a lot of other spaces and dimensions that could be explored. Maybe Yes - Argus, the former home of the Draenei and current home of the Eredar, is a named planet that might be worth visiting. Turalyon and Alleria Windrunner, two of the finest heroes of early Warcraft are out there somewhere and fans are clamoring for their return. Personally, I like the Burning Legion and would love the idea of entering the twisting nether to knock back demons on their own turf. How bad-ass would that be?  Using current Outland as a stepping stone into this new content might be the excuse Blizzard has been looking for to revamp the questing in those zones as per the new 1-60 content.
Maybe No  - There's very little to suggest what might be out here. Frankly, If they were to go this way, it might be that another chunk of Draenor turned up and needs exploring and well, that would be kind of a letdown if you ask me.

What's on the other side of Azeroth?
I look at our current map and think, "Y'know, seems to me there's room to spin this globe around and see what's on the other side."  Why shouldn't another continent or two be back there?
Maybe Yes - Imagine whoever lives over there has been suffering through a ton of the tectonic activity brought on by DW and his floozies and suddenly decide to come over here and see what's going on. Or maybe they are a bit more hostile than just exploring.  Talk about something that could unite the Alliance and the Horde!
Maybe No - This would involve a fairly huge retcon, which is something I have no real problem with, but does tend to send many players into a tizzy.  There is no lore-basis for something like this happening at all. I'm not sure what I would want to see over there: something very brand-new, or like. distant-cousin versions of current Azeroth races.

Time for a new class?
In addition to new story content, there has to be new features, right?
Maybe Yes - More hero classes that don't level from the old starting zones would be welcome to players like crazy.
Maybe No - I'm voting no. I can't think of any real niche a new class could come in and fill. Especially in the time of class homogenization, I'm thinking that any new class would look an awful lot like the other classes. Fitting Death Knights into the game was much more complicated and troublesome than Blizzard expected at the outset. (They try and save face saying otherwise, but look at how much that class has morphed since it popped into our world at the beginning of Lich King.)

How about a new race?
I like new races more than new classes at this point anyway, although many have argued that the newest races in our world are troublesome. They have some points, the old worgen models looked a lot more terrifying than the models we have now. And female worgen... hmm... I kinda like them, but I agree that their appearance is problematic.
Maybe Yes - There are all sorts of lore and story possibilities for bringing new races to the playable classes, even though I think it's funny still how uptight the Horde got about losing the Worgen to the Alliance. This can be settled easily right now:  Alliance get the Ethereals and Horde get Quillboars.
Maybe No - They only just did this

Other Features?
The Devs have been doing a pretty massive job of co-opting most every bit of cool UI development seen in the add-on department. I'm not sure they have much left.  I guess they could still co-opt Omen, but they have just regulated threat production to such an extent that almost no one I know plays with Omen anymore (most of the time at least). 

Here's a mystery that could be fixed in the future:  When Patch 3.9 came out, they created those new large visuals to help you see when one of your procc abilities went off and Merinna displayed the coolest of those: two brackets of fire that showed with Lava Surge procced to reset the CD on Lava Burst.  However, those visuals disappeared when patch 4.1 came out. I searched high and low for some control I tripped. I wrote on the forums and got no reply. Finally, I submitted a ticket in-game the other day and got this reply:
There never was a visual aura around a character when Lava Surge procs actually, or any special visual effect other than the floating combat text displaying Lava Surge, and its icon highlighting on your hotkeys.

Ach! No! It can't be true. I know what I saw! I'm not crazy! I am NOT crazy!

In all reality, there must have been an add-on doing that job but I have no idea which add on or why it stopped.  I value my add-ons significantly, but I wish maybe somebody would come up with a better way to diagnose what's going on with them sometimes. Basically, an add-on diagnostic of some kind would be spiffy, no? 

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