The Dark Heroes Below the Storm

Two patent applications have been unearthed, ‘The Dark Below’ and ‘Heroes of the Storm’, the opinion of WoWInsider, and presumably other Warcraft blogs which I don’t read, is that these are both hoaxes, and not names of the next expansion. It’s since been confirmed that Heroes of the Storm is the new name of Blizz All Stars. However, it made for a good blog title so it all works out.

We’ve had the last raid tier of Mists, blizzcon is next month, if nothing leaks before then we’ll get some announcements there. So, this is my next expansion post, I’ve been planning it for quite a while. It’s all complete speculation, and some complete fantasy but I’ll try to keep it in the realms of realism, as it would be cool to link back to this post and say “I called that”.

It’s hard to believe that we’re talking next expansion already as Mists has only been out just over a year. I do have some concern over that, that we’re going to wind up with another Dragon Soul. After all with Dragon Soul came LFR and so people were seeing the raid maybe twice on their main, and then again on their alts, presuming of course that they were raiding normal/heroic. Even those that weren’t though if they had multiple alts were still seeing it multiple times a week, and even once a week over the months adds up. With Siege flex was brought in, some people are seeing the raid 3x a week, more on alts, how long will it take for people to be sick of it? Especially as we have no news of 6.0, let alone it being in beta. However, that’s this expansion and we’re talking 6.0 here and the future.

What it says on the tin
I did a breakdown in another post about what each expansion gave us. I’m not doing that again, repeating myself is boring. So rather than doing that I’ve just booted up the preview trailer from Mists on YouTube, this is what it said we would get.

  • New Race: Pandaren
  • New Class: Monk
  • New Continent: Pandaria
  • Level Cap Increased to 90
  • Challenge Mode Dungeons
  • PvE Scenarios
  • Pet Battle System
  • New Talent System

Now we’ve got the standard features, each expansion has brought us a new race/class, there’s been new zones, increased level cap and a tinkering with the talent system. The question for the fifth expansion is do these features have to be standard? Also, what else will it bring? This is my second attempt at writing this post, as I felt the first attempt just regurgitated things I’d read elsewhere. True some of it I’d thought myself, but having read it elsewhere before I wrote it here, well it just seems like I’m repeating things to sound vaguely intelligent. That being said here’s what I suggest the feature list for the fifth expansion will say:

  • New Character Models
  • New Continent: Somewhere off Azeroth
  • Level Cap Increased to 95
  • Challenge Mode Raids
  • Level scaling
  • Item squish
  • Account wide heirlooms, tabard list and toybox
  • Player housing?

New character models are a no brainer, we know we are getting them, and including them in a box rather than for ‘free’ makes more sense. I doubt we’ll get another class, even if they do add more so far they’ve done it every other expansion, another new one so soon seems unlikely to me, especially as I’m not sure what they’d add. I also doubt we’ll get any new races. We’ve either got a new race or class each expansion, it’s been a staple, but I’m with the group that says it’s unlikely for number five. The artists will be busy on the new character models, there’s a lot to choose from already and without being lore breaking what else would they add? In my opinion they need to develop something existing substantially, or come up with something pretty new (aka pandaren) in order for new races to make sense. Level cap is also a no brainer, I’m going with five levels as that seems to be the new status quo. Plus 100 is coming on fast and, for new players, it already seems like an unassailable mountain, without adding on another zero. My guess is they’ll want to delay reaching 100 for as long as they feasibly can.

Which brings us to the features I’ve added on. I think gear normalised raids, with or without the timer, are highly likely. If we look at blizz’s recent trend. They’ve tried to push everybody into the same content with LFR and flex to make more people raid. Challenge modes are just a numbers game on regular dungeons, scenarios re-use art assets from everywhere, dungeons and open world, it’s rare to see anything new in one. So, that’s their MO right now, to re-use as many assets as possible, or to be kinder, to get as much use out of everything as possible by changing numbers and calling it new. Ok that wasn’t much kinder, but my point stands. So it’s not a giant leap, and it would be something they could do for the ‘hardcore’ to stem the tidal flow of complaints that everything is too easy.

For much the same reason I’m thinking level scaling will be a big feature. All it is, is again playing with numbers, but it can open up a lot of possibilities. It’ll enable the level 90 challenge mode dungeons to be run past Mists. It’ll also leave open the old LFR’s, for the unique colour transmog, pets etc. that drop in them. Going further it could open up all the old dungeons and raids. Depending on how they tuned it would depend on what running these would give you, the least it would be is a lot more variety for grinding out points, or getting a satchel/cache etc. They could even take it further and make it possible outside of instanced content, maybe for a buddy system. However far they take it, I’m pretty sure they’ll do some level scaling. It could just be wishful thinking but I doubt they’ll leave the Mists challenge modes in the dust. They might, and then you’d have to leave an alt, or level another character to lock at level 90, if you didn’t manage to get it down before the new expansion. I hope that isn’t the path they will take but it could be, they do like to look forward and not back.

Item squish is something I’m very apprehensive about. They’ll make sure everything is right for max level, and if things earlier are a little wonky they won’t care. After all the real game is at max level. I love soloing and I will be so sad if this means that I can’t solo things anymore. I admit, I like that every expansion I get a lot more powerful and then I can solo more things, or I can solo other things faster. I like going for mounts/pets/transmog/achievements. However, they nearly did this in Mists, I doubt they’ll let it go another expansion, so they will do it. We’ll stop doing 100-200k dps on average in raids, it’ll be 1000-2000 dps or something. It’ll be the new normal, and as it’s just a measure between people and everyone will be brought down the same, it’s not going to be an issue, except for the soloing.

Account wide heirlooms, tabard list and toybox is a bit of wishful thinking on my part. Ghostcrawler did mention the explosion of vanity items, and maybe doing something about it on twitter. However, he says a lot of things on twitter, it’s just ideas and those ideas may never see reality. They have been saying that account wide heirlooms would be nice for a while, but that the tech wasn’t there. With all the crz, connected realm etc. I’m thinking now is the time, and adding a toybox would reduce the number of complaints about storage space, same with storing tabards in a tab like mounts/pets. Personally, it’ll help a bit but not as much as I need. I need a wardrobe for transmog more than I need a toybox. I’d love one of those, once you’d looted a piece of gear it unlocked for you on the list, no need to keep the actual item. That really is a pipedream though unfortunately, but they may do something with tabards/vanity items which I guess would ease the pressure slightly.

Player housing I put a question mark next to because I think this is more what I want, rather than what I think we might get. I love my Tiller’s farm, I have 8 level 90’s right now and the first thing I did on all of them was unlock the farm. It is overpowered, you can farm mats too easily, I haven’t needed to use my gatherers since the beginning of the expansion. We are obviously going to be leaving Pandaria, and that means leaving the farm, which is ok as it’s only geared for Pandaria mats. However, I want the farm concept to outlive Mists, I want that to continue on. They should set up a phased area in each races starting zone, which is that players house, like the farm is phased currently. There you can grow current expansion mats, but they should also include the ability to grow herbs/ore etc. from all the expansions. That’s also wishful thinking as with crz farming old content is such a pain now, especially in Outland where the respawn rate is awful.

They could do more with the player housing than just make it a farm outside Pandaria. Ghostcrawler recently mentioned something about account wide professions and I’ve read suggestions places for that. Personally I don’t think it’ll happen, and the most that would happen would be some kind of workbench, where you could access your alts profession. All it would save is the mailing around of mats etc. that currently has to be done. They could put this workbench in the player housing though, same with any toybox, heirloom storage etc. that they came up with. It could also be something that they added to over time, that required a lot of development using all the professions to make. Imagine that when you start you have a phased shack, and through rep grinds, profession crafted items, rare drops etc. you fix it all up. There could be a series of achievements and rewards, a title ‘the homebody’ I don’t know, they could make something of this if they chose. It is just wishful thinking though I’m sure, I’m pretty positive this will never come to the game. Just as an aside while I’m talking about wishful thinking – class quests! I had to get it in here somewhere, we’re not going to see them, certainly not to the extent that I would like them, so for a fun levelling experience I will continue to get my fix in swtor.

That’s it basically. I don’t think the next expansion will introduce anything groundbreaking. I think we’re going to be facing the Burning Legion, Wrathion has certainly dropped enough hints. That’s why I think our new continent will be another planet, plus where would they put another continent? North, south, east and west are all taken. Given that we have to kill trolls once every expansion, I’m thinking we might have a side trip to Zandalar. I would certainly love a side trip to Kul Tiras too but that’s never going to happen, about as likely as the Alliance trying to retake some land in the northern eastern kingdoms, I only wish. For Lordaeron!

I would really like them to pick up some of the story threads they left hanging in Cata. They left them so they had some story to continue one day, I get that, but now I’d like to see some resolution, or at least some further development. Is no-one else concerned about Koltira Deathweaver? Or more importantly what Sylvanas has been up to while our eyes have been on Pandaria and Garrosh. I’m sure we’ll be fighting the Legion but let’s not turn all our attention away this time from matters closer to home. We got various isles of Pandaria, Thunder, Timeless, Giants etc. so next expansion lets have areas back on Azeroth. The main action will be off world, but we can have smaller areas back here too.

I don’t know what the next expansion actually holds. From looking at the blizzcon schedule, we’ll find out first thing day one. I can’t wait.