The Future of WoW (And Why I’m Excited)

Drawing of a Pandaren

No matter how much you try, Pandas will never look cool

No doubt you’ve all heard the news about WoW’s next expansion and some of other big changes Blizzard plan on introducing. Not only does this prove that I’m psychic to a scary degree of accuracy but it’s also got me rather flippin’ excited. About the playable Pandas? No, I honestly couldn’t give a crap about them (I reserve the right to completely backtrack on that statement as expansion fever kicks in later on next year). What’s really got my boat floating and my fancy tickled though is the promise of new character models, animations and a complete overhaul of the talent system. Now that’s hot stuff.

New models and talents are something I’ve been harping on about for ages and I’m truly delighted (and rather flabbergasted) to hear that they are finally becoming a reality. Art direction and aesthetic preferences aside, WoW is starting to look dated and suffer from problematic gameplay issues as Blizzard try endlessly to balance classes in both PVE and PVP environments. A complete overhaul of the way talents work is a brave move and, personally, I think a massive step in the right direction of making the game more about fun choices rather than about following cookie cutter builds or partaking in a class vs class rock/paper/scissors style of combat. It also signifies Blizzards committal to PvP as a sanctioned form of gameplay, an interesting admission for sure.

More importantly though I think the announcements at BlizzCon prove that WoW isn’t going anywhere for a long, long time and also that Blizzard are finally stepping on the gas a little. I have no problem with most developers taking their time to deliver goods but when you pay a monthly subscription to a game that’s enjoyed by millions of people, you’d think they would be able to update things and release content at a faster pace in order to justify the expense. Hopefully we won’t have to wait 12 months for Mists of Pandaria (and all of the changes promised) and a Spring release would go a long way to restoring consumer faith and appreciation in Blizzard.

Regardless of release date though, I have a lot of admiration for Blizz and what they’re doing with WoW – assuming they deliver that is. Simply put, no other MMORPG has worked so hard to keep refreshing itself and updating the game world. By next year we could have a game that’s not only regenerated and revitalised most of its original content but also character graphics and animations whilst completely and radically overhauling a core component of its gameplay, talents. Throw in PvP battlegrounds, arenas, dungeon and raid finders and PVE scenarios and it’s little wonder why WoW is still dominating the MMO marketplace today.

To end on a negative note though (’cause we all just love that), I’m not particularly thrilled about the new Pandaren race nor the look of the new starting area. It just seems all very cliché and a real departure from the darker tones of Cataclysm and WotLK. I’m also pretty sure I already played it when I bought the Fallen Dynasty adventure pack for EQ2 back in 2005. Still, I’m sure the Pandas will be a huge hit with the younger audience and the diehard WoW fans but, alas, they aren’t for me. Plus, where the hell are my playable Ogres?!

-Gordon

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18 Comments

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Good call on the Fallen Dynasty. I’ve been thinking of the Hua Mein because, well, they’re pandas but we had the whole setting years before that. Fallen Dynasty was a pretty unpopular addition to EQ2 at the time as far as I remember, although Mara became something of a hub due to it’s ease of use, full facilities and neutral faction.

    I’m pretty much a bystander on WoW, but I’m not entirely sure I share your optimism on its future. I don’t think it will be going away, but all fads and fashions have their day and I suspect WoW’s day has already passed. Cults persist pretty much forever but WoW broke out into the mainstream and mainstream tastes are a lot more fickle.

    Still, a smaller WoW with “just” a couple of million EU/US subs would still be nothing to sniff at commercially or culturally, and I’d guess the game will plateau not too much short of that and sit there for a long time to come.

    • Gordon says:

      I really liked the Fallen Dynasty adventure pack, especially the super tough dungeons and small raids. The big problem is though that for these Asian themed areas in MMOs, I kinda feel that if I’ve seen one, I’ve seen them all.

  2. Roger says:

    I’m uncertain as to my exact feelings about this. We’ll be talking about it on the podcast tomorrow, and I’ve been trying to get my opinions straight so that I’m not bouncing around like those pandas in the field.

    As it pertains to the panda race, I disagree with you. It’s not only going to be the younger audience and diehard WoW fans who like them. At 40, I don’t believe I qualify as “younger” any longer, and to say I’m a diehard WoW fan wouldn’t be accurate either, as I’ve started and stopped my membership since it all began. I’ve openly talked about what I dislike about the game, and am by no means a fanboy.

    That said, I am interested in the Pandaren. I don’t see it as them buckling under the Chinese pressure, nor as them dumbing down the game for kids. How can someone play a huge honkin’ cow and say they think pandas are silly?! (Not saying you have… merely pointing out the flaw in others’ insults.)

    As for pandas having been done before in other games, well, so have orcs, trolls, undead (you can’t spit without it landing on a zombie game nowadays), as well as nearly every playable race in WoW. Pandas are no different.

    As for the asian influences of the starting Pandaren zone, I see it no differently than the Victorian influences in Gineas… and that was ok for most folks (in fact, I never heard anyone complain about it). Cultural influences abound in WoW, though we had not had much asian influence till this.

    I like the concept of a single race for both factions, and the potential lore that will come of that.

    I’m not certain about the talents system overhaul, and will have to reserve judgement till I try it. It does seem as though it will simplify things greatly, however that’s not always a good thing. Plus, though they say it will mean no cookie-cutter builds, the truth is, looking through the talents, you can still see how most classes will probably still use very, very similar builds.

    They say they want to get away from cookie-cutter builds, however the majority of those who use c-c builds are those who are hardcore raiders… and as we know, that’s a small percentage of WoW players. Most folks I know play around more with their talents, simply because they don’t care if they’re the top of a raid DPS recount guild post. They just want to mess around and be a special snowflake, unique in their little world (myself included).

    We’ll see, I guess. I’m going to go into it with an open mind, though I’ve got reservations already.

    And then there’s WoW Pokemon. If anything should scream “dumbing down for kids”, it’d be this… and yet I’m ok with it. I’m 40, and I buy nearly every Pokemon DS game that gets released. I laugh and have a blast with my kids and we battle and trade and it’s just plain fun.

    So the idea of doing that in-game with all of my pets? Plus being able to catch more and battle using a random tool like LFD? Dude, that actually made me smile big time. It’s hilarious, outrageous, potentially copyright infringing, but who gives a rat’s ass. I’ll play it.

    I’m happy their updating the models… finally. I agree with you that with the amount of cash that they have consistently flowing their bank accounts, this should have been done a long time ago. There’s no excuse. This bullshit of “we can either give you new content of fix the old character models” does not hold any water with me. Cause they can do both. Period. Hire more staff if you need it. You CAN afford it.

    Like I said, I’m still undecided about this. There are some things which interest me, however looking over everything, I can see how I’ll be in the same boat a few months after this expansion, as I was with Cataclysm… bored and looking at other games to hold my interest. As it is, I’m seriously trying to decide if the annual membership is even cost effective for me, as I’d been thinking of suspending my WoW membership anytime now.

    Four free months (as I’ll probably get the D3 CE) may wind up costing more than if I suspend my account and just renew once MoP launches. The Tyreal mount really doesn’t do much for me.

    • Gordon says:

      I have little doubt that I will get MoP – I’ll probably get sucked into the hype machine like everyone else. For me though the big attractions will be the new character models, animations and talent system. I’m hoping the latter will balance PvP a lot more too.

  3. Roger says:

    ^ forgive the spelling and grammatical errors… I didn’t re-read my comment before leaving it… and there’s no edit.

  4. Nils says:

    As is widely known by know (I guess) the Pandas are a terrible turnoff for me. This alone is a sufficient reason to never pla ythe game again.

    That having said, they have several good intentions. More focus on open world, less flying, more conflict, etc. But overall I don’t see how the story is ever going to become good again after the fall of Arthas. Deathwing’s story – especially the way it is told in-game – is terrible. And the Panda story looks even more boring. The Horde/Alliance war they apparently want to focus on was never a good narrative for WoW, because they shy away from open world PvP. Which has its reasons and is fine with me – but it’s hard to concentrate on this war then.

    PvE Scenarios could theoretically save the day, but ten normalizing gear for competitive speedruns is the most ridiculous idea I ever heard for a game that is to 90% all about gaining better items.

  5. smakendahed says:

    I was going to tear you a new one for this post but you completely redeemed yourself with the last line.

    “Plus, where the hell are my playable Ogres?!”

    Yes.

    I think the 60-80 level range of the game is going to remain somewhat stagnant as there aren’t any options for bypassing leveling through TBC or WotLK. 80-85 was also getting very ZZZzzzzz… after the third character through there.

    They re-jig the talents and abilities from release to release so I wouldn’t call it ‘bold’ rather ‘expected’. I wish they’d stop screwing around with the systems. Gameplay isn’t the problem, content is.

    PVP is and has been a driving focus of WoW – check out all the PVP servers out there. Things are a little more tasty on PVP servers… assuming the zones aren’t dead, most of the lower level ones are though.

    I’m with Nils on the last point he makes.

  6. Kierbuu says:

    Could be all those years reading ‘Usagi Yojimbo’ comics, but I’m actually looking forward to rolling a Panda shaman.

  7. amcl says:

    I’d better keep levelling my toon, then… still haven’t finished burning crusade.

  8. vortal says:

    Personally I think this is really cool, although that could just be my bias towards this game. For some odd reason I like the idea of playing a Panda Shaman, and this next expansion’s theme is pretty darn cool despite many denouncing it for being too “Childish” which I find absurd. Panderans have been around since Warcraft 3, and are a major race within the lore, so why not bring them out of the dark to become playable races. I also approve of all the things Blizzard is trying to do with WoW, I appreciate the new direction their moving towards. However I feel there needs to be more talents for the new Talent system.

  9. Wolfshead says:

    I think my predictions back in 2009 of a monk class with Pandarens as a race might have been a bit scarier than your predictions Gordon, just sayin’ :)

    http://www.wolfsheadonline.com/predicting-the-second-wow-hero-class/

  10. Good post.

    I agree that I really like the direction Blizzard seem to be heading with the next expansion. Especially with the new talent trees!

    However, although there are reasons to throw against it, I am quite looking forward to the new race. I feel we have a lot to learn, and a lot of stereotypes and first impressions to drop before we really know for sure!

    - Jamin

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