Thursday, February 26, 2009

WoW's third expansion to be announced at BlizzCon 2009?

I haven't responded to anything from the last open Sunday thread this week, mostly because you guys were slacking ;) and there wasn't much of a discussion going on. The only discussion was about the next WoW expansion, and the number of hero classes. I can't find the source any more, but I read somewhere some rather optimistic person predicting Blizzard would announce their next MMO at this year's BlizzCon. But I think Dillon nailed it by predicting that this year's announcement at BlizzCon will be World of Warcraft expansion number 3.

Basically it fits the Blizzard calendar better. TBC was announced at BlizzCon 2005, WotLK was announced at BlizzCon 2007, so BlizzCon 2009 announcement is likely to be the third expansion. And the previous two expansions took 15 months from the announcement to release, which would end up with the third expansion released in November 2010. You, me, and Blizzard itself, all wish they could make one expansion per year, but there is no indication at all that this is ever going to happen. End of 2010 is for the moment the safer bet.

I'm not an expert on Warcraft lore, so I can't make an educated guess whether the third expansion will be about the Maelstrom, or about the Emerald Dream, or about something completely different. My "Freezing Jihad" prediction was a play on words on the Burning Crusade, I didn't even think of Northrend being in the Warcraft 3 expansion at the time. I don't know how well an underwater expansion would work, and I do know that the portals to the Emerald Dream are already in the game, but I guess anything is possible.

On the other predictions, the third expansion having 10 more levels and 1 more hero class sounds highly likely to me. I do think that hero class will be a healer, probably one with great dps, because even Blizzard doesn't know how to make healing feel epic. I don't think there will be more than one new hero class per expansion. Balancing one new class with all the existing classes is hard enough.

The question that interests me even more about the next hero class, and by extension to all the hero classes in all future expansions, is at what level they will start. Probably not at level 1. But will they start at level 55 like the death knight, or will they start at level 65, to keep the same 25-level difference from starting level to level cap? And if they let the new hero class start at level 65, will they upgrade the death knight starting level by 10 levels to 65 as well, or will they leave it at 55? In the long run, do we really want a game in which 9 classes start at level 1, one class at level 55, one class at level 65, one class at level 75, and so on? I think sooner or later Blizzard has to come up with a way to unify all that, for example by giving all classes the option to start at level cap minus 25. They'd just need to introduce a sort of quick tutorial which teaches you your class in a few hours, like they did for the death knight, to all classes. Nostalgia apart, nobody really needs to play level 1 to 55 again. Even new players are maybe better served starting at a higher level where there are actually other players around to play with than with being forced to wander the empty continents of Azeroth alone.

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