It's usually about this time in the life of an expansion, not to mention we're a few months before Blizzcon, that many of us podcasters, bloggers and whatnot start playing the part of the WoW prophets and predict what we expect in the next expansion. Usually, that revolves around the setting, the big bad, and new races and classes. I'm not going that route, for the most part. I'm going to put on my game designer hat. I'm not really predicting anything, just pointing out where I think Blizzard did a good job in Mists and were I think there is some low hanging fruit and easy wins for Blizzard when it comes to designing some parts of the next expansion.
If you've not seen WoWCrendor's video about what WoW would be like if the players designed it, watch it now. While the video is funny, it's a pretty valid representation of how insane the game would be if every vocal minority got their way. While I understand that, I can't help but want to express the direction I would like to see the game head. Overall, I think I manage to do so with a pretty level head, but still, understand I'm not a game designer and there may be some fundamental aspects of designing a game that I simply don't know and therefore am out to lunch on some of my points.
Since this is probably going to be really long and wordy, lets jump right into it...
Leveling and Quests
Overall, I think the questing during the leveling process was well done. The story of the new continent and the new race we've discovered was very well told, but there were a few that were disruptive or that I loathe repeating. Chief among them is the quest where you play as an NPC that's telling what happened to them so far. It felt a bit like Rashomon, which was cool, but that's where the cool stops for me when I hit that quest.
One popular QQ topic is dailies. I think the lesson was learned on gating one set of dailies behind another like was done with Golden Lotus. In fact, they're removing that gate in 5.3. The dailies for 5.1, though, were extremely well done, pacing the story of the patch very well and not overly grindy (except that cave...damn that cave). The Isle of Thunder, contrary to popular belief, is a lot more than just dailies, so there's not much point diving into detail on how dailies have been handled since launch.
While the quests for leveling were probably the best I've seen in game, there needs to be more variety when it comes to dailies. I'm not sure if it's bad RNG, but some of the quests became really grindy over time while some of the more entertaining ones like Roll Club were rarely offered. Hopefully, this is something that can be 'fixed' in the next expansion.
Simply put, not adding dungeons to the game after Mists' launch was a mistake. Sure, there are new scenarios, new raids in the form of LFR, normal and heroic, as well as new areas added to explore and kill world bosses in. But this missed the mark with a lot of players.
Many players prefer 5 mans as their max level activity. For a game that leaned on these instances for so long, many of those players formed regular groups to run them with. Scenarios eliminate 2 from the group of friends. Besides that, what's the appeal of running the launch dungeons, now? If you're LFR geared (or better), you're not getting any upgrades. Sure, you get valor, but that's too closely related to another topic, so we'll skip that part for now.
In terms of difficulty, the "level 90" dungeons are just too easy. I don't mean they're too easy now that we out gear them, I mean if you're fully equipped in 463 (the gear they drop) they're too easy. I know the folks who want more difficult content have challenge mode, but I still think "heroic" dungeons need to be more difficult, without being punishing. When content is too easy, it's not challenging. When content isn't challenging, it loses its fun.
I believe Blizz should plan from the beginning to add some 5 man content in the content patches. If that means we get a few less a launch - fine. And make them a little more difficult than they are now. All I'm saying is that they need to require more effort than we see now. Nothing like CC absolutely required, tanks and heals are gonna cry themselves to sleep difficult, but what we got were simply too face roll to be entertaining after a few times through.
Player opinion on these tends to run hot and cold. I'm pretty luke warm. I like them and can't wait to see what Blizz can pull off with this tech as it matures, but...I don't run them often. Sure it's basically an instant queue and a decent amount of Valor (again, another topic), but there is a problem with them.
The biggest problem with scenarios is that it alienates tanks and healers because they're not necessary (and in many cases a hindrance). I know Blizzard has the data on how players are playing and could probably say there is plenty of tank and healer representation in the scenarios, but I've seen people rage over a tank or healer being present. That's not very fun when you're the tank or the healer. Judging by the words expressed, it's apparently not fund for the DPS, either. Even though I tank, I despise playing melee DPS, so when I run a scenario on my DK I either have to go as a tank and run the risk of bringing down someone else's play time, or go as DPS and bring down my own...that's two fun options right there.
All in all I'm in favor of scenarios, though. I hope the plan isn't to replace 5 mans with them as part of the post-launch patch cycle. I know it's been said we'll get new 5 mans when we get the next expansion, but if the plan is to continue the trend that's developed in Mists, then I feel the need to repeat that I feel this is a mistake.
In my last blog, I expressed my frustration with the linear design of Throne of Thunder. There's not much need to go into detail since I already did, but I will reiterate that a linear raid with more than 8 bosses is not a design that is appealing to many players. If a tier is going to have more, break it up into multiple instances or make the raid design non-linear.
There needs to be something done to end the 10 vs 25 debate (so many other possible word choices for this). Kill one of them, or kill both and make it all 15, I don't care. It sucks to have to recruit, or cut, raiders but that didn't stop them from dropping from 40 man. It doesn't really matter since we're talking about in the next expansion. Most raid teams experience roster churn around that time, anyway. Blizz needs to bight the bullet and make a change. sure, it will be painful and cause a lot of uproar in the short term, but in the long run the game will be better and the raiding community will benefit. The iron is hot, Blizz, strike now.
Another thing I'll add, though, that I specifically didn't address in my previous blog post is difficulty. For normal mode raiding (and if you listen to the show you know we've not yet started ToT normal), I think the 5.0 raids were pretty much on the money. There are a few fights that seemed out of place, though. For example, I think Stone Guard had insane mechanics for what was supposed to be the first raid boss in a tier. I'm not saying it's a bad fight, I'm saying the complexity of its mechanics was poorly placed in the line of progression.
To further highlight the difficulty curve we saw in 5.0 being askew, how is it a raid team can struggle against the final two bosses in Heart of Fear and then go one-shot the first two bosses in Terrace? Why is that? You'd think that if we have to clear HoF in order to unlock ToES that it would be more difficult. Maybe there's some logic to that design, but not being a game designer I'm not sure what it is.
One last thing about difficulty. I think it would be a boon to non-LFR raiding if the difficulty was set somewhere between pre-nerf Dragon Soul pre-nerf T14. Not smack in the middle, probably closer to T14. On a scale of 1 to 10, if you consider 5.0 raids a 10, maybe make them a 9. This is less of a concern to me, really, but I do think it would encourage more people to raid normal modes as well as still be challenging enough for most normal mode raiders to not lose interest because it's too easy.
There have been cries from players ranging from wanting tabards back to reputation being account-wide. I think both are a mistake. If we could get all of our rep with a tabard, we'd all just chain run dungeons until exalted, change tabards and do it again. Once players are done with that, they'd be stomping their feet wanting new content because they're done. I think the system allowing us to champion a faction is a perfect compromise and needs to stick around in the next expansion.
Nobody likes repeating a rep grind on an alt, but account-wide rep is way too easy mode. It's just an insta-win button for your alts. I think the bonus rep you can earn on alts once you bought the commendation was a very good 'fix' to the reputation grind. However, I have an idea to alleviate the reputation grind for alts, but I addressed it in the next section, which may seem out of place at first.
Our top tier currencies (Valor and Conquest) seem fine, for the most part. They can be earned at a decent pace and the caps make sense. If the caps weren't there, we'd be able to obtain the gear bought with them too quickly. The lower tier of the currencies become obsolete too early, though. Being a PvE player, I'm going to address Justice Points here, but my understanding of Honor is that it suffers a similar problem so some of the ideas may apply.
There are plenty of things players can do with Justice Points, like buying trade goods (even if it's an indirect route like buying Motes of Harmony, converting them to Spirits and then buying trade goods), but the way to do so is convoluted and overall, the value of this currency is so limited it's not worth having.
However, why not extend its lifespan by allowing players to spend Justice Points at a faction quartermaster on a BoA item that grants reputation from a that faction? Maybe something along the lines of needing to be exalted to buy and friendly to use and a limitation of using one per week. For example, once I've maxed reputation with Golden Lotus on my DK, I could spend 2500 Justice to buy this item and send it to my priest. Once my priest has reached friendly with GL, he can use this item that grants him 1500 reputation. I could buy as many of these per week as I can earn Justice Points for, but my priest can only use one of them per week.
The specifics of my exmaple were pulled from thin air. Doing the math on this to balance out what reputation level would be required to buy and use the item, how much would be earned, as well as the cost is something I'm not sure how to approach, but Blizzard has some pretty crafty people and I'm sure they could figure this out.
This seems like a good compromise. Maybe because it's my idea, but it seems too good to me. The lower tier currency has a longer lifespan, the rep grind for alts get some relief and more players will be running 5 man content to earn Justice Points and none of it is in any way 'required'. There has to be a problem with it, but I'm not seeing it, to be honest.
There is a forum post, or several, almost every day revolving around what new race the poster is predicting, or what class, or they're asking for people to guess. I don't think we need either, really, and I think we specifically need to not get a new class.
While we don't need a new race, if we get one there's nothing wrong with that. I'd prefer our 'new race' be new models for our existing races, though. We've been waiting for it since before it was 'announced' at Blizzcon 2011 they were working on it and it's been mentioned a few times since. I suspect these will be our 'new race'.
We don't need a new class, at all. I know some people probably just spat their drink on their monitor, but let me explain. Adding a 12th class will force further homogenization of the classes. Why? Because we already have 11 classes in a game where the most popular form of normal mode raiding only uses 10. Classes have had some of their unique abilities shared with others to help promote the 'bring the player, not the class' mindset, but it's pretty handy to have a timewarp/hero/lust available isn't it? If we add a 12th class, it will require more of those abilities/buffs to be shared and each class feel a little less unique. Now, if we were to see a change to all raiding being 15 man, this becomes less of a problem.
This is something that really makes me not envy the devs. Ghostcrawler has already said via twitter that the current talent system will be sticking around. Sure, some tweaks/changes will be made, but not an overhaul like we saw coming into Mists with "talents 2.0". I'll assume we get 5 levels in the next expansion, as we've seen in both Cataclysm and Mists. Does this mean we keep 6 tiers and don't start getting talents until we reach level 20, rather than 15? I hope not, for a few reasons.
For starters, that would mean even longer for a new character to start getting the really cool abilities. Secondly, not getting a new tier means we will have the same abilities. Who doesn't want a new can added to the case of whoop ass? This would also mean stagnation in terms of how we play our classes and would likely lead to player complaints of "nothing new" and "same old game". Ultimately, this would make game play feel pretty stale. We need another tier, and therefore an adjustment on which levels they're rewarded.
While I don't think the next expansion will take us to level 100, it would present some interesting options for talents if it did. For starters, if we unlock a new talent tier every 15 levels like we do now, we'd get our first talent at level 10 (isn't that when we used to get them?) which makes the game a little more interesting to a new player just starting out. This assumes we get a new tier, which also makes the game a little more interesting for the max level character. Sounds like a win-win to me, but alas, I think we'll be stopping at 95 in the next expansion.
That's it. There are plenty of other points to talk about, for sure, but those are some of the topics that seem to be pretty constant or recurring over the past several months. Like I said at the top, I think some of these are low hanging fruit that could help please some players. I'm curious what other people think would be good changes from this point of view. More specifically, I'd love to see what holes people find in my currency/reputation idea.