The Fifth Element

When I wrote the post about why Mists was such a big deal I mentioned potential. Each expansion has added something, and that something has become a staple of the game, and been added too in future expansions. Mists is adding a whole host of new features which will become part of that staple, so what could they add in the fifth expansion? Unless the world explodes then there will be a fifth expansion. I’m not going to speculate on the lore of that, that’s for another post, this is about features.

In Mists we’re getting Pet Battles, Challenge Modes, Scenarios and more. What could we have in the 5th instalment of the warcraft universe?

Challenge Mode Raids
The dungeons are the same for challenge modes as regular dungeons but your gear is normalized, there’s also the additional ticking clock which dictates what reward you get. Recently I wrote a post about the issue of hardcore gamers wanting some recognition for doing it when it was hard. My point was that it was impossible to draw the line as after world first everyone would have had more time, better gear etc. So when do you restrict the rewards? When do you give out the extra ones? If you had challenge mode raids though then it could be like Herald of the Titans.

The first step to equalizing everybody’s achievement, so no-one would have it easier and then everyone would deserve the reward the same, would be the gear normalization. Blizz has already shown they can do that with these challenge modes for dungeons. There would also have to be a level restriction so you couldn’t come back and blow it away next expansion while wearing old gear. The only advantage left that people would have would be time. Those that complete it first, and then post their strategies for others, those others would then have it a little easier.

The only way to combat that would be for time to decide the rewards. At the end of the tier the first 5% would get the gold, the next 10% the silver, the next 15% bronze and then the rest just get a ranking, or some other split. The challenge modes supposedly have a ranking leader board that you can see when you have completed gold. This could have something similar only it would be region wide (as the US and EU are on different systems and can’t be linked for a world board) and they could even have a section on the website.

Part of me kinda doesn’t want this as I know that it’ll be something that I’ll be locked out from. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a challenge mode team going, but finding four other people is a lot easier than finding nine. It’s actually really hard to find other people to raid with, where you share the same attitude towards it. However, another part of me thinks that perhaps this is something the game needs. If only to stop the incessant war between ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’. If the ‘hardcore’ truly just want a challenge then this could work. It would be an extra level of difficulty and they could get the recognition they seem to crave. The different ranks don’t have to award anything but a feat of strength saying that you finished in the silver rank, number 154th in the world, or in the gold rank number 22nd or something.

The ‘casuals’ got LFR at the end of Cata, which I used to gear up my main faster, but which lots of people do use to see the content. So maybe the ‘hardcore’ should get their LFR.

True LFR is accessible by everyone and not just the elite. However, the technology for these challenge mode raids already exists with the created challenge mode dungeons. A lot of people are going to be locked out from doing these as they aren’t on the queue system, meaning you need to sort a group out yourself. People will be further locked out because the very name implies a challenge. Therefore they’ve created these which aren’t accessible for everybody, porting the system out to raids for the small population who’d use them, doesn’t seem like an impossible use of resources.

Proving Grounds
Bashiok way back in March posted a blog “A Night in Mists of Pandara” and one of the features mentioned was this Proving Grounds. They were said to be – and I quote – “They’re like lored-up solo instances that make trying out my rotations a lot more fun since I can chase achievement”. Now sadly this is the only mention of Proving Grounds at all. The only Proving Grounds datamined about on beta is a new arena – the Tol’Vir Proving Grounds, so it’s likely that this feature has been dropped.

I was really excited about this feature as I’m one of those people that love soloing old dungeons and raids, pushing the limits of the capability of my class and my capability as a player. Even with the nerfs to gold drops I’ll still run what I can. Originally for the challenge to see if I can beat it and then regularly for whatever it drops (mount, legendary etc.) that I want.

Proving Grounds would have to operate a little differently. For a start there would have to be a different one for every single class, or given that some classes have markedly different specs (ala hybrid) then maybe similar class specs would be grouped together. For example shadow priests and mages would share a Proving Ground. This would have to be done very carefully as the Dragonwrath Nexus boss proved not all classes/specs are born equal. There would be an achievement for completing that proving ground. With account wide achievements there could be a meta for completing every single one, to do that you’d need almost one of every class though.

These Proving Grounds could be kept fresh through having mechanics that changed, like Halfus’ drakes or Hagara ice vs lightning phase, every time you entered. The achievement for completing the Proving Ground could be a meta where you’d need to complete every variation first. The meta for the Proving Ground and the meta for all the Proving Ground achievements could reward something. For your Proving Ground a title ‘the Paladin’ or whatever your class is. If they can alter the title depending on sex for Matron/Patron that shouldn’t be too hard. For the whole Proving Grounds maybe ‘the Altoholic’ as a title and then a mount as well.

I’ve learnt more about tanking through soloing than I think I’ve learnt through playing it normally. When you’ve only got yourself to rely on you have to get those cd’s right. You have to be able to pull intelligently, because if you pull everything you don’t have a healer to keep you up. When you’re a tank you are the thin line between the boss and the rest of the raid, when you’re soloing you’re the thin line between the boss and a wipe. You don’t learn about threat, or positioning, or the best way to quickly pick up a ton of adds. Proving Grounds could add these mechanics in by giving you NPC’s to protect. Healers could still run Proving Grounds if the job they had was keeping a bunch of NPC’s alive.

Warcraft sorely needs a way for people to better learn their classes. Levelling doesn’t do it as endgame is so different from levelling there’s no point. The random queue instances will teach you eventually, if you’re paying attention, but they don’t highlight anything. Also it requires somebody to be decent rather than just abusive. If somebody yells at you that you’re a ‘noob’ and kicks you, you don’t know where to begin to improve, as you don’t know what you did that was so grievous as to merit that response. Basically if you don’t have a guild, or friends, you’re in for a tough time to properly learn your class. I’ve long advocated for class quests to come back in a meaningful way. These Proving Grounds would be the ultimate class quest.

The end of the holy trinity
The Grumpy Elf wrote a post recently wondering whether scenarios would lead to dynamic instances. Where you could have a raid of 9 or 16 people (or whatever number you like up to perhaps 40) where the raid would adjust itself depending on that. It would also have intelligent sensor’s which could pick up whether you had 1 healer or 3 and adjust accordingly. Therefore you wouldn’t have to bench anyone, or force someone into a role they didn’t want to have the right number to raid. You could just go with what you have.

I’ve not done any scenarios on beta so I don’t know if they work how he suggests. I imagine that they’d have to adjust a little otherwise certain group combos would be much more difficult than others. True if you’re random queueing it could intelligently queue you up with the right mix of specs, but I think you can queue as premades too. If that technology exists then porting it to raids or creating a different kind of raid could really work. You could have traditional raids, the way they are now, and then flexible raids which adjusted according to who was there.

The flexible raids could be the same level as LFR perhaps of the other raids. So it would be like running LFR with your friends as opposed to strangers. Only it would be easier to get together a team without the number/role limitation that LFR employs. The only problem with that is the good players wouldn’t run LFR anymore, they’d find their own groups and go flexi LFR. This would just leave the dregs in LFR and LFR is bad enough as it is.

Maybe it should just be a different raid, like a world boss raid, only it would be instanced. With these world bosses there isn’t a number of people restriction, only what you can put together, and I’ve read that it uses the lfr loot system so guilds wouldn’t have to worry about random people taking their loot. Anyway, like in wrath where there was a number of single boss raids (Sartharion/Onyxia/Malygos) there could be different single boss raids in addition to the main ones. These would be flexi raids and wouldn’t have an LFR difficulty to them. This could have the added benefit of bringing back more pug raids to a server. As you could take your guild and some friends without having to bench anyone.

The loot system could work the same as LFR where everyone has their own shot at loot. Therefore a guild wouldn’t lose out on loot by bringing in other people who’d roll on it. Guilds could use this to try out new recruits, smaller guilds would have something to kill on a night where they have roster issues – everybody wins.

My imagination is lacking
That’s all I can come up with right now. I mean who would have ever thought that Pet Battles or Farming would come to warcraft? These ideas I have above are all variations on the theme of what we already have. We could get something completely new like the Plants vs Zombies made replayable or the horde quest Welcome to the Machine. Well these aren’t new because they’re in the game already, something really new that I can’t think of. There’s so many possibilities and it’s really exciting.

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