Warlords of Draenor

It’s Blizzcon time and they did announce the next expansion, well obviously they were going to. So I’m going to compare what I predicted and what they announced. I wish I could do a table but I don’t know how to do that. The website for Warlords of Draenor is up, as well as the feature trailer that they previewed at the opening ceremony.

I started writing this post right after the opening ceremony but realised that I couldn’t publish while new information was still coming out. I was writing something and then having to delete it as they explained the answer to my question. So I’ll probably be late to the blizzcon post party but hopefully what I write will make sense. Blizzcon isn’t over, they still have that big Q&A later but I reckon all the announcements are over now, so I’m going to post this. It’s already 5000 words, I know hardly anyone reads this blog but that’s still probably my longest post by a huge margin.

There’s some changes coming in Warlords and as usual some people like them, some people don’t. From my point of view there’s good and bad and I can’t wait for beta. I got into Mists beta thanks to the annual pass, and they’ve confirmed they aren’t doing another annual pass. I guess I can see why, I mean I got the annual pass and extra stuff to sub for a year, which I was going to do anyway, so they made a loss in that respect. So I might not be lucky enough to get a beta key whenever it does come out. It looked pretty far into development so I’m going to go out on a limb and say beta will be in out December/January. They need to get started on it really as otherwise the expansion won’t be released, and Siege of Orgrimmar will be out for too long, especially as they’ve said there isn’t going to be a patch 5.5. Anyway I hope it will be soon.

Taking it by the numbers
I said New Character Models and they announced these so check one for what I said. However, I thought even if I didn’t say, that they would release with the new expansion, or maybe more likely with the pre-patch that comes before the expansion. I thought they would do all of them at one, as it was a feature on the box. Rob Pardo just said that they wouldn’t all come at once so I’m surprised and disappointed with that. Male Dwarves, Gnomes and Orcs were previewed at the first panel, and on the website. However, during the art panel they showed Undead and Tauren, as well as female Dwarves and Gnomes. I don’t believe that I saw Humans, Night Elves or Trolls. I wonder what order they will come out with the new models. They said that they wanted to be careful and keep the soul of original characters, but obviously improve the quality. So I wish they had shown the Human models, as my main is a female Human. I’m nervous as I’m attached to my paladin, so I’d like to see what they’ll do with her. I guess I’ll just have to wait. I also said that there wouldn’t be a new class or race, or that I didn’t think that there would be and none have been announced. They’ll be no new class/race this expansion.

I said New Continent: Somewhere off Azeroth, somewhere on a different planet and they announed New World: Draenor which is basically that. I thought we’d be battling the Burning Legion, but I guess as they are one of the final enemies, they want to wait off on that. However, we’ve back in space, and back in time, so we are at least off world. I said level cap to 95 and they raised it directly to 100 which I didn’t expect at all. I thought that they would want to avoid reaching level 100 for as long as possible as it’s a big number. However, I should have predicted 100 as that is what the heirlooms that drop from Garrosh said, so it’s not too much of a shock. They said 100 felt more epic and fair enough they bit the bullet there.

I said account wide heirlooms, toys and maybe tabards and Greg Street just announced this at the panel, and showed the UI for it. Along with some sorting functions for bags that I probably won’t use. However, the increase in stack size for mats, crafting directly from the bank, quest items no longer put in bags, it all helps quality of life. This is important stuff and I’m surprised it wasn’t in the intro video, or on the website. I guess they wanted to leave something for the panel. The new account wide toybox/heirlooms won’t help my storage problems that much as most of what I have is transmog gear. I crossed my fingers and hoped like hell that, as there was a lot of space on that screen, we would get a wardrobe of some description. No such luck but I’ll continue to hold out hope for the future.

What I said as an outside bet was playing housing. I wanted the Tiller’s Farm but bigger and better and obviously not in Pandaria. Now what they announced was Garrison’s which is expansion locked to Draenor so it’s not in Azeroth, and it’ll be left behind when we move onto the expansion after. However, it shows commitment to the Tiller’s idea so if Garrison’s work out then wherever we go after Draenor, hopefully they’ll be a Garrison/farm there too. However, it’s not just a farm, Garrison’s seem to be a lot more than that. The ‘stalwart followers to man your base, send them to loot dungeons, fulfill missions and craft items, even if you’re not online’ reminds me of Swtor’s companion system. Obviously not the constant companion for combat that Swtor gives, but the remote mission idea. The building gives buffs and limited access to professions, there’s a lot of customization options. I really can’t wait to see and explore this feature, it’s huge.

I listed a bunch of other predicted features and it’s not that they didn’t announce them, it’s that they didn’t announce any features. Now Garrison’s sound very involved, very huge and no doubt took an enormous amount of time. I am super excited for them, player housing was more on my wishlist than something I expected and I’m thrilled to have been proven wrong. However, I guess because Mists brought in a lot of new features I was expecting something more. So my prediction of challenge mode raids and level scaling on content is going to go on the backburner. I still think they are likely additions to Warcraft and it’s possible that it could be added in a patch of Warlords, like 4.3 brought in transmogrification and LFR. They already said that another zone, which is old Netherstorm, will be released in a patch like we got Isle of Thunder etc. So they are already thinking about what patches will bring, whether those patches will include features obviously is just speculation. I would be surprised if they don’t add something, whether it’s what I’ve suggested or something else, I reckon they’ll add something.

Barrier to entry
What I didn’t call in my post but what I have thought, and what I actually came out and said in a comment on WoWInsider’s breakfast topic this morning, is that they needed to reduce the barrier to entry. They are adding the ability to level boost one character to 90 with the purchase of the expansion pack. There’s a lot of people who are worried that this will open the doors to micro-transactions, where people could pay to have another character boosted. I don’t know whether they will go that way but to be honest it doesn’t bother me if they do. I will have a level 90 of each class before Warlords drops so it doesn’t really affect me. I will use my free boost to probably make another paladin. They haven’t said what they are doing with content like challenge modes which are locked for level 90, but I would just lock that fourth pally at level 90 and it would solve that issue. Much like people still have level 80 alts for Herald I might be able to find a group to get the medals.

To be honest part of me thinks they should offer a micro transaction, or just the ability to create characters at a higher level. Much like how Death Knights start at level 55, and you can’t create one of those until you have a level 55 character of another class. Maybe they should offer the ability to create level 90 characters once you have a level 100 of something. That levelling process is a huge barrier to people swapping classes which can cause problems when they fiddle with class mechanics. If someone starts to dislike the class they play and want to play something else, but have to level up that something else 100 levels, they might just quit instead as they’d always be so far behind. I don’t think of this as being pay to win, but I guess people would criticize it for that, so maybe they could introduce a way to earn some form of in game currency. You could then buy the ability to roll a higher level character using that in game currency so people wouldn’t have to splash real life cash for it unless they wanted to. As I said I have an alt of every class already but for those that don’t this could be a big boost to the game.

As they are including a free level 90 boost with Warlords, there’s a work around where people buy Warlords again and then character transfer the 90 to their primary account. I’ve done this with recruit a friend, buying the battle chest on sale and transferring the characters over. It isn’t cheap obviously but it was worth it not to have to conventionally level all the way to 80 multiple times. Given that people could just do that it would make sense to cut out the middle man and offer it as a service, like they do with character transfer/race changes etc. now. They’d likely make more money in the long run and the genie is already out of the bottle.

If you speak to my co-raid leader then he’ll tell you what I say pretty much everytime we have to do confirms. “I want to take everyone, I don’t want to have to choose, why can’t normal be flex.” Well, now normal can be flex, raiding has been completely shaken up again. There is no more war between 10 and 25 man as there is no more 10 or 25 man. There’s LFR which is much like it is now. Flex is gone and instead normal and heroic use the flex system. From the arrows it seems the tuning indicates where flex is now, is where normal will be tuned in Warlords. Where normal is now is where heroic is in Warlords, and where heroic is now is where a new difficulty called Mythic will be in Warlords. So in Warlords heroic is the new normal for a guild like mine.

They didn’t say, though it’s possible they will in another panel, whether you need to complete normal first to open heroic. You do currently but as normal is old flex in terms of tuning it’s unclear whether that lock will still be in place. However, as the lockouts are separate. You can clear normal, then heroic and then Mythic if you have to clear one before the other, all in the same week. I think this is crazy personally, when I first read the new system I assumed the locks would be locks, you had to choose a difficulty per week like you currently do. I know that flex can currently be done alongside normal/heroic but I thought that was too much, 3x a week for the same raid was a recipe for burnout in my mind. Although, it gets worse in terms of lockouts, or better depending on the point of view. You can run the same raid difficulty multiple times in a week, you are locked from boss loot, not from the raid, so it’s like personal loot even though it’s traditional loot. Part of me likes this as it means that I could go and help a friend, I wouldn’t be locked out from helping them, or risk getting locked from my own raid. However, most of me thinks this is bad, as people will whine that they missed killing boss x and they want to go back and kill it for the loot. We can be firm about this in guild but I can see it might cause a lot of tension.

Mythic is the new heroic and that is restricted to 20 man, so it’s not on the flex system. My guild currently doesn’t have 20 raiders on the roster, we can fix that by recruiting. However, I’m not sure my PC can handle it. With updated character models I’m sure that system requirements will go up. My fps already takes a nosedive when I’m in a raid with a larger group of people. I can handle 10 man obviously but 25 man and I’m not performing optimally. I can’t move out of stuff fast when my screen is freezing every few seconds for a moment and then releasing because my fps is low. So even if we can recruit enough to be able to run 20 man Mythic after we’ve cleared heroic, I’m not sure that my computer can hack it. I’ve already upgraded it a couple of times, but it is six years old and the motherboard can’t handle anything more.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the downsides that flex brings. It’s killed 10 man heroic, my guild mostly does normal so I’m not going to borrow trouble and worry too much about Mythic. However, flex brings issues. It eases one raid leader headache of mine which is choosing between people, but it adds a lot more logistical issues. On the whole I think having the option to take more people is better than where we are now, as I really really hate benching people. However, there will be times when we don’t have the right balance of roles, we won’t have enough healers to take those extra dps so I’ll still have to disappoint people.

There will be times when people are underperforming, flex will have tuned up the difficulty for their presence and they won’t be pulling their weight. It’s a harsh reality that some people are better than others, I don’t like to think it, I feel mean not trusting some people as much as others, but well it’s just the way it is. So with flex normal I won’t have an excuse not to take them for progress nights, there’s not going to be a hard cut-off that I can blame for standbying them. I can just see the possibility that we have trouble and I’ll have to ask people to leave the raid. I don’t want to do that, doing that is worse than benching people in the first place, I hope I’ll never be in that position but if I am then I hope that I will do what’s right. This change will make one part of raid leading easier, and also make it a lot harder.

There’s also been a concern raised that people will take raiding less seriously. I have no problem with people getting off work and joining the raid 30 minutes late, I think that flex normal will be awesome in that regard, as it’ll mean that people that are left out now, can join in. However, we will have a start time and an end time and barring things like the work scenario, people should be on time. Also, barring unexpected events like people getting sick mid-raid, their kid being sick etc. they should stay for the whole raid. We have a good group of people and I don’t think that they’ll lose their commitment. However, I suppose as the flexibility is there maybe people will push the boundaries. Once we learn more about it, and see the tuning etc. in action on the beta, we can formulate new raid rules, so everyone knows where they stand.

Beyond just the people there is the loot. Currently flex uses personal loot like LFR which works fine as it was intended for pugs, or people that didn’t raid together a lot. So there was no drama with loot allocation as it was taken out of players hands. However, normal/heroic and definitely mythic are for organised raid groups. I was slightly concerned that they’d go the personal loot route but they are using traditional loot so that’s a relief. They’ll still be loot drama though, as I mentioned above with the personal loot lockouts. People will want to run bosses they missed, it could make running a consistent raid week a lot harder.

Group finder
It sounds like they liked what OpenRaid and OQueue (that addon is buggy) have done and are trying to bring it into the game. They didn’t show any screens but I’d imagine it’s something a bit like OQueue. So you can look for groups for all sorts of things. Random grouping like this scares me. I won’t do OpenRaid with people I don’t know, and though I downloaded OQueue to look at (and promptly removed due to the bugs), I was too scared to use it. However, maybe this will become as natural as LFG, we’ll have to see what peoples expectations are like. If you get abused like people do in LFR, sometimes for not even doing anything wrong, then I’m definitely not queuing, or definitely not alone. If it’s like LFG where it’s like dungeons, quick, fast, easy and most of the time no-one is mean, then it’ll be ok. Of course this isn’t the tool it’s the community. However, I think how it’s implemented will affect how toxic it might be.

Hit and expertise – gone. Dodge and parry – gone. Reforging – gone. Number of items that need enchanting reduced, number of items that can be gemmed reduced. Gear dyanmically changes primary stats/set bonuses on spec change. This is good as it means I won’t get ret tier legs when I wanted prot and be unable to change it. However, I’m not sure how it will work in practice. They’ve removed a lot of the secondary stats but they didn’t mention removing haste or crit or spellpower. Will these stats change also?

They also talked about tertiary stats which are random extra gear like sturdiness to reduce durability costs, movement speed bonus and combat ones like cleave or lifesteal. This reminded me of Marvel Heroes, and is probably something they stole from Diablo. They have stats in there which increase the number of credits per drop, increase the amount of xp gained etc. so these type of stats aren’t new. They said they’ll be random drops and hard to get so people won’t be able to get a full set of these tertiary stats. I really don’t get these new stats. It’s like they are reducing how complicated gear is, by taking out hit/expertise and stat balancing by removing reforging. So gear is simple now, and here’s a bunch of random stats to make it more complicated again. Just why?

Gear is getting a massive shakeup and I’m really wondering how optimization will work. It sounds like they are intending you to just have one set of gear, aside from the extra items like rings, trinkets etc. which they said won’t dynamically switch, rather than having a main and an offspec. However, as I’ve said above there’s the issue with secondary stats, there’s also the few enchants/gem options that will remain and what enchants/gems are chosen will be dependent on spec. It’s like when I went bear as a kitty druid in Cata. I was optimised for cat so I was not in the best shape as bear, I could run 5 mans but nothing beyond that. I suppose this might help the tank/healer shortage as people won’t have to collect a set of gear for that spec. It won’t be optimised but for dungeons and LFR that won’t matter.

It’s too soon to worry about this, as I’m repeatedly saying it’s not even in beta yet. However, I’m not sure whether I like the randomness that they are suggesting gear will have. They said that quest drops may change so what’s green for one person, will be epic for another with presumably a higher item level/stat budget. So when you’re gearing up there won’t be a list of quests you can hit for easy entry level gear. Then there’s the randomness of tertiary stats, and of gem sockets which may or may not appear on loot drops. I dislike rng at the best of times, and if they are making rng worse by making more elements random then that is a step in the wrong direction.

I wonder what the future of sites like Ask Mr Robot will be, if the gear optimisation is being gutted. No more reforging, less gemming and enchanting. They said that there was too much to do to gear when it dropped and they are cutting it out, you get something good and equip it, job done. I didn’t think all that optimisation was a bad thing, it at least weeded out people that were too lazy to even go to AMR and follow the directions. I admit I felt smart balancing my own stats rather than clicking the optimise button, and making my own decisions on gems/enchants rather than going with what it said. I felt like I had control over my character, I despise rng, I really do.

Item squish
I was dreading this announcement as I love soloing and I figured they wouldn’t worry about the tuning before max level. People that have been on the demo have said that item squish seems to be in effect, as tanks have 50k health rather than 500k. Ghostcrawler said in the systems panel that this was in effect and showed the difference in numbers that they were dealing with. He promised that the relative power would be the same and that soloing wouldn’t be affected. I am going to hold him to that. Bizarrely item level isn’t going down, so they must be doing some behind the scenes magic. I’m still not sure how it’ll work but so long as soloing still works the same then I’ll be happy. I don’t care what my numbers are at the end of the day, I just care about what I can do.

Metzen and the Alliance and Horde
Metzen appeared on the Direct TV panel I think it was, I don’t know exactly what it was but they did the pre-show. They asked him about Horde bias and he said the Horde was all gritty and bad, the Alliance was morally upright. He said comic book writers found Wolverine easier to write as he could be morally ambiguous and dangerous and gritty, whereas characters like Captain America who always did the right thing were harder to write as they always did the right thing. My jaw dropped, I couldn’t believe that he said this. Horde are the evil faction and Alliance are the good faction? Seriously? That is so narrow minded and I really, really disagree. It’s not about good and evil, it’s about inaction and reaction. The Horde does things and the Alliance react to oppose them. Doing things doesn’t make the Horde evil, sure they do some questionable stuff but so does the Alliance, and actions of one character in a faction, or part of a faction isn’t representative.

I’ve said before that the Horde, especially the Orcs, were the bad guys, as they came through the portal, invaded Azeroth and destroyed it. They were the invaders, they wrecked their home planet and so came and took a part of another. However, that is in the past, that was a generation or two ago, new orcs have been born and you can’t blame them for their ancestors mistakes.

They really tried to pump up the Alliance, saying that we were heroes, we were born from the Alliance of Lordaeron. Now mentioning Lordaeron is enough to make me happy as I love that. I really hope that as we are going back to battle the old Horde, the reimagined Iron Horde, the same orcs but different that the Alliance of Lordaeron battled the first time round, that there will be callbacks to that Alliance. We are taking the place of heroes such as Anduin Lothar and I really want to hear more about them. We are reacting to Garrosh’s actions, he is going back in time and is forming this Iron Horde, which he wants to bring forward into present day Azeroth to get revenge on us for kicking his butt in Siege. However, that doesn’t mean the Alliance has to just react to Garrosh’s plans. They said that we’re going through the portal, to take the battle to him before he brings it to us. I hope that it plays out exactly like that, a pro-active strike, and I hope we see more pro-active strikes.

In mind of course the Alliance are heroes. The Horde are heroes too, but of course I play Alliance. As I’ve said though it’s about action and reaction. I want the Alliance to make their move and have others react to it, rather than the Alliance being those that react all the time. I said in my prediction post that I hoped that we wouldn’t just go somewhere new and forget everything on Azeroth, that there was lots of hanging plotlines from Cata they could follow up. They haven’t said that they’ll be any action in Azeroth. In terms of Sylvanas they said she had no interest in a planet full of orcs so they were going to leave her to her plotting, so I guess we won’t be getting to that this expansion. I’m going to hold out hope, perhaps a futile hope that we will see some Alliance action back home in Azeroth. Though I will settle for some Alliance action just in Draenor too.

The Setting
Time travel is something I never would have have predicted. As I’ve said, or alluded to, many times I would love to see Lordaeron, to go back and have a scenario of a caverns of time raid/dungeon in that time period. I would also like to be able to play the wrathgate again. There’s been a blue post on this topic, about revisiting things like the Wrathgate, or the opening of Ahn’Qiraj and that said that blizz wanted to look forward and not back. Now this is going back to Draenor, it’s changed history but it’s still going back to a previous time period. Does this open the door to potentially visiting other areas of the past? The war of the ancients perhaps? After all drinking the demon blood changed the fate of the orcs, but the sundering of the world changed the fate of Azeroth.

I think what is remarkable about the setting is that it shows that there is no rules. That time and space are not limitations on where future expansions may see us go. Before Mists blizz had talked about distinctive character silhouettes and how it was important to have faction identity, and then we got pandaren for Alliance and Horde. There are no rules and that opens up a world of possibilities.

In all honesty aside from it’s significance in being different I don’t have much else to say about adventuring on Draenor. We haven’t seen much of it yet, and it could change a fair bit between now and release. It looks to be more of the same, they’ll be zones to quest, faction hubs like the Shrine, it’s all pretty standard. Sure the backdrop is different but the activities are the same, and so I’m not too bothered about the window dressing. I’ll quest and get Loremaster of Draenor, I’ll explore the whole map, I’ll kill all the rares/world bosses etc. I’ll do these things wherever we go. I’m not excited to see the Horde bigwigs because I didn’t play Warcraft 2. I know of them from reading lore posts and history, but it doesn’t hit me. Bring back Anduin Lothar and I would be having a completely different reaction.

I want beta to come out. They still haven’t, at the time of posting, given any indication of when beta will be released let alone the actual release date. They threw a lot of information at us, but a lot of it we really need to see in context, or I need to see in context before I know whether it’ll be good or bad. Raiding and gear is changing massively, it’s a huge overhaul and with any big changes there’s going to be a lot of issues. I think that eventually these changes will work out for the best, however in the short term I think it might be quite painful as everyone gets used to it.

The more I think about the changes to the raiding system the more worried I get. The way it is now could be restricting in many ways, it was difficult benching people but it was a firm boundary. Now they are eroding the boundaries and so it won’t be the game implementing them, it’ll be me and my co-raid leader and my guild leader. I won’t be able to blame the game restrictions for the decisions that we make. We’ll make them for the good of the group, because we’re trying to do what’s best, for the greater good. I don’t like drama, I hope with clear raid rules setting down expectations, what we will do and what we won’t do, I hope with open lines of communication where we’re very transparent with reasons, I hope that there won’t be many problems.

We’re a 10 man guild, we have more than 10 on the books because you need more in order to always have enough. We do not have 20 and finding enough for a consistent 20 means we’ll need to double our roster. Either that or just forgo doing Mythic, we are getting a bit of heroic time now so having that brick wall where we can’t progress any further is hardly an incentive to progress fast. 20 man raids isn’t something I want for a number of reasons. It’s going to be interesting, I really hope that we survive the transition as I really like my guild, it’s the best guild I’ve ever been a part of, and I really like the people in it, so I don’t want to lose that.

In terms of the expansion as a whole it’s a lot to take in right now. There are no rules now and it’s going to be really interesting to see the final product. I really do want beta to come out soon, and I hope I’m lucky enough to get a key. Despite my reservations about raiding and gearing I am looking forward to Warlords. We’ll just have to see what happens in beta.

Warlords is coming whether we are prepared or not.

One thought on “Warlords of Draenor

  1. I don’t think we’re going to be time traveling, for what little that’s worth… could be wrong but I think that’s going to be the case. I think only Garrosh and hit helper will be time traveling, we’ll remain solidly in the present even if the present on the other side of the portal has changed significantly from what we remember. If we remember. Time travel confuses me. 🙂

    I’m glad you mentioned AMR, I’m hoping they’re able to stay viable in WoD even if just for BiS gear lists if nothing else.

    At least they picked 20-man Mythic raiding rather than 25-man if your system performance is an issue. I wonder how much of the choice of 20 has to do with making things easier for both 10s and 25s (25s struggling with numbers should have a much easier time hitting 20 and it’ll be much easier for a 10 to grow to 20 than to 25) and how much is acknowledgment that they’re still struggling with lag in larger raid sizes… maybe both.

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