Tobold's Blog
Monday, November 03, 2008
An unexciting prediction

The difference between a vision and a prediction is that a vision describes the future how one would like to see it, while a prediction is a far more realistic view of what is most likely to happen. Two weeks ago I told you my vision for the third expansion for World of Warcraft. In this post I'll list my predictions, which are less exciting, but more likely to actually happen:So, would you say my prediction is right? Is this what is going to happen? Or do you think that the third expansion will look radically different from my description? Again, we are not talking about visions how we would like things to be, but predictions of how things are most likely to turn out.
The third expansion will be competing against Diablo 3, and that's going to be an interesting showdown. I'm still betting (and this is my prediction) that Blizzard finds a way to connect both titles, so D3 players don't cancel their WoW subscriptions. My next prediction is that the third expansion will have a new race (probably a short race, such a goblins).
It is a pretty unexciting prediction, but probably right. Player housing would be a good one for them to take, to be honest. People love housing.

They'll need a new craft too, perhaps? Maybe something silly...
I remember there was a little quote from Blizzcon that didn't gain much buzz. It was one of the CMs talking about how they already have a team working on the next expansion (which is something everyone would assume) but that it was not what players will expect. Who knows what that means.
@Mordiceius - I remember that bit from one of the panels. One of the guys was saying that the next expansion wouldn't be about a continent as such and my guess is that the next expansion is going to focus on the Maelstrom at the middle of the map.

With Arthas dead, I wonder if the next expansion would also free up another faction?
Not a continent? sounds like emerald dream.
Not what the players will expect, eh? Given the breadth of speculation about the next expansion, it would have to be something pretty far out for nobody to have predicted it. If we take that literally, that would rule out the Maelstrom, Emerald Dream, Old Gods, Titans, other planes and a complete re-working of the world via the Caverns of Time. What's left?

I think I'll put my money on Tobold's more conservative predictions. The Emerald Nightmare sounds like a good bet.
1. they won`t release D3 and WoW the same year...D3 will be sold next x-mas i guess.
2. Tobold will be right...why change a winning team ?
...and the patching up for the next update starts a world event with zombies and other nasties trying to capture the Old World, forcing capped toons to roam around Old World and destroy the shards...

Hey! That's happened twice already and both times it was confined to the capped ones to gain anything from the events!

i think public quests will come before a new addon
I'm thinking maybe they do something a bit more PvP oriented, since wit most of the imminent threats gone, and Wrynn declaring war on the Horde, it would seem that the only real people to fight are each other.
It will sell a lot more than 4 million copies.

Wotlk will sell at least 8 million copies in the western market during its first year. The expansion after that will sell equally many unless its delayed a lot more.
I think PQs may come before the addon and IMO they will only do housing if there is a game out there at any point, that does housing very well and seems like a danger to WoW. As long as there is no need there will not be housing in WoW. That's my prediction.

While some consolidation of content as you proposed in the Shattering of Azeroth sounds exciting (and smart) in many ways, I think this predicition is indeed more realistic than your vision. Though I find it hard to believe there will be "yet another expansion" and I am hoping very much there will be something more Azeroth shattering than "another 10 levels". As long as people - like me - are still buying another 10 levels however ... why change?

Anyways I had fun in BC and I think I will have in Wrath so it's not all that bad ;) And beyond level 80 ... we'll see. Though I am curious about any and all plans for the future of Azeroth et al.
What's going to be interesting to see is how Blizzard contends with the growth aspect of its "new user" base where installation and patching is concerned. Even before the WOTLK hits we're already looking at ~11 gigs of data that needs to be installed, so patching and installation issues will almost certainly have to be addressed with a new retail offering of some sort before a third expansion actually hits the shelves.

I agree with Tobold on the new level cap of 80-90, but I also think that the third expansion(possibly even before then) will see the death of the PvP e-sport model and a switch back to the BG style of competitive PvP. I also think that there will be PvE elements added into the PvP model thru the use of dynamic, possibly even "forced" scenario(world event?) encounters. I say this because I think that cross faction dependencies are highly possible in the third expansion, given the tidbits of info floating around about Undermine and the Emerald Dream. I hate to think that the Horde vs Alliance meme will continue to drive the crux of future WoW development, especially since the bulk of WoW's lore rests pretty much on what Azeroth has had to overcome on a much grander scale. Cross faction events would enrichen the PvE and PvP aspects of the game enormously, and I wouldnt rule out something along those lines in the third expansion as well.
I'll put my money right here.

It will be set in the Emerald Dream.

New Horde Race - Wulfen (starting zones Wulfenhold/Xorothian Plains)
New Alliance Race - Pandaran (starting zones Pandaria/Hiji)

Gilneas - 77 to 80
Grim Batol - 78 to 81
Kul Tiras - 79 to 82
Kezan - 81 to 86
Tel Abim - 83 to 85
Zandalar - 84 to 87
Plunder Isle - 86 to 88
The Broken Isles - 87 to 90
The Maelstrom - 89 to 90

Call it a hunch.
I predict at least two more hero classes added between WotLK release and the next expansions.

Tobold I don't know if you talked much about hero classes in the past but one thing that chaffs me about them is there implementation vs what was originally promised (links unavailable due to it being ancient history). But when hero classes were first talked about the intent was it to be a evolution of your existing character, in that you do a quest or whatever and you stop being your previous class and you now whatever hero class. But the abandoned this idea in favor of the "here is a free level 55". It does make sense however, Hero classes are not really for old school players but are for new players as a way to catch up rapidly.
Quick predictions:
- casual lower level raiding
- pug arena's
- new grand BG to rival AV
- weekly/fortnightly/monthly large dynamic events (zombies was a success)
Sad...but true.
Caverns of Time would give them the most room to work with. What if it's not where we are going but when?

War of the Ancients? 1st and 2nd wars?

Looking at it I don't see how they could get away with simply more of the same. TBC brought a lot to the table and WotLK looks to add a lot as well.
Public Quests sounds far more likely than player housing.
At Blizzcon, they only used one word to describe the next expansion -- "Boldness". It's anyone's guess what that could mean.

Player housing will only be implemented as a money sink. Maybe they'll add new skills like wood gathering &carpentry (could also build shields or catapults?).
Wolfshead did this already:
Predictions and Wishlist for the Third WoW Expansion
I'm sure others have as well, so I'm not calling cheater here. Rather, I'm pointing out that such are easy predictions, and it's disappointing that Blizzard might be so predictable. More troubling than that is the wanton abandonment of existing content, and the bizarre mindset that "ten more levels" is the epitome of design.
It just feels like WoW is on cruise control, calling in design and cashing in on inertia. They let WAR and AoC (and SWG and SGW and STO and EQ2...) try the crazy innovative stuff, and then Borgify it. Is it bad? Not necessarily, since I'd hate to think that everyone is trying to reinvent the wheel. It's just that it's predictable and, well... underwhelming considering the potential. It's almost like they have the B team working on WoW, while the A team works on Diablo 3, StarCraft 2, and the unknown MMO. In the immortal words of Ed Catmull, "B work is bad for your soul". (He was talking about the artists, but it applies to customers, too.)
Player housing will only be implemented as a money sink.

Money sink? I think player housing will be more of a gear grind. :) (It does seem the sort of thing, that will require a bunch of rep grinds and instance runs to completely fill the house, though.)

And yes, the 10 more levels plus healing hero class plus some feature from another MMO seems the most likely scenario, no matter how it is described now.
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I highly doubt there will be another hero class... I remember reading an interview about them, and it was said that creating a hero class (with a new mechanic) and inserting it in the game is really hard on the game balance. As you already know, Blizzard is intending to make WoW an e-sport with arenas, where balance is really important. My guess is: if they want to work less and gain more, they will not create another new class anytime soon.

As for the rest, I predict pretty much as Tobold + more arenas/outdoor PvP/Battlegrounds.
One thing I think they will steal is some sort of more story based quest line, similar to the deathknight starting quests. I think this will be a direct competition with KOTOR online as that will be their primary competition in 2010.
They'll do their everchanging copying from other MMOs like: PQs. Like they just implemented seige-weaponry ( to challenge WAR ), and hero class ( ONE CLASS?! ). Each of their expansions are a grind--nothing innovative at all. With all the money they have, they could atleast think up an idea that's amazing and stolen from another game.
There will be no next xpack.
Gosh, imagine after 6 expansions -- level cap would be 120 and characters would have 111 talent points. Your whole interfce would be a jumble of action bars!!
I think your prediction for the content of WoW's third expansion is right on the money, but I don't know about the sales. We know WOTLK will move huge units, no question about that, but I think 2009 is the year we might finally something of a decline in WoW's suscriber numbers. Once the shine of WOTLK wears off, probably mid-year or so, I think a significant number of players will realize they've done nothing new and move on to something else for good. From all indications I've seen, The 'face' of the content, the graphics, lore, quests, etc. are better than ever, but at its core it is completely derivative of the TBC expansion. Netherweave becomes frostweave, prismatic shards become dream shards, adamantite becomes saronite, Shattrath becomes Dalaran, Aldor/Scryer becomes Frenzyheart/Oracles.. all the same associated grinds, just with the numbers bumped up. I think this is where the shoe has to drop in terms of subscribers. Nothing to threaten its #1 status, but significant.
I wish Tobold was a little unbiased with his posts though. Why can't we get reporting about other MMOs out? Like WAR.
Interesting prediction with the healing hero class. I bet you will be right.

I think they will also go back to the add new races thing. Yes it is an enormous amount of work but I think they are going to learn with this expansion that having absolutely no new content that is under lvl 55 to bring people back to the old world was a mistake. Not an end of the world mistake, just not a good idea.

It could also turn out to be just 1 new race. Goblins starting in Undermine. It is also possible that they will start as the beginning of a neutral third faction. We already know from the zombie event that system can handle a third faction. No reason why a third faction couldn't start neutral to the other two. The Pandaren would also work better as a neutrals in my opinion. If they did add a third faction I could also see them allowing for the other races to cross over by way of quests similar to the quest that allows you to change scyer/aldor allegiance. This may sound far fetched, and it is, but given the amount of cross faction cooperation that Blizz now has a history of doing and the isolated nature of the battlegrounds, it could happen. Neutrals would just have to stay out of the battlegrounds if they want to stay neutral. And their are a lot of people that never bother with PvP. It also opens the door for them to add a truly evil faction (undead,demon,naga) to the game someday. The "Not evil, just misunderstood" meme is a bit tired. What ever the result, a third faction would definitely not be just more of the same. On the other hand, if they find that a neutral faction is too hard to create they could also just allow people to choose their goblin's allegiance at creation time. That is far more likely.

The Emerald Dream is a good possibility but the lore surrounding it seems a bit thin to support a whole expansion. I predict that the Emerald Dream will be the next Caverns of Time. Nice self contained instances that can be rolled out over time.

If that is the case then I predict the Great Sea and the Maelstrom to be the basis of the next expansion. And I expect to see an all the time, open pvp island somewhere there.

Public quests will happen will start showing up in a point release. Player or Guild housing will happen in an expansion. And hey, The Great Sea? Why not player ships?

I also agree with fish. They will do epic story quest lines. But hopefully they will not screw it up by making them depend on instance and raid runs.

Big picture prediction: The cracks will start to show with the third expansion even though it will still be wildly popular. Queen Azshara as the ultimate end boss of the expansion will seem disappointing compared to Arthas. War despite a rocky start and a sucky first event will settle in at somewhere at about 1.5 million subs and be thought of as the PvP game. WoW will continue to try to try to out PvP WAR but when they see KOTORO poised to make a grab at the PvE crown they will swing back to concentrating on that. Possibly over compensating. They will try to resurrect some of the old raid instances by giving them a heroic version. The 4th expansion will take us though a gate in the outlands to the home world of Sargeras were we will find out that we need to kill Kiljaeden again on the first new raid tier and the new big endboss will be Sargeras himself. Then they really will be out of bad guys. This expansion will hit very early in 2012, much later than intended. And there will be no 5th expansion because of the work they are doing on the their new MMO. The "5th expansion" will be Worlds of Starcraft!

"At Blizzcon, they only used one word to describe the next expansion -- "Boldness". It's anyone's guess what that could mean."
At first the word that they choose was "Meh" but after a little research they figured that might not be a great way to introduce an expansion. No, really, its all true. :)
More of the same from Blizzard. What used to be innovative is now just rote and boring.

Housing...*YAWN*.... been there, done that.

More level grinding... *YAWN*...

I don't see how so many people can still find WoW entertaining. Even the "new" content is just the same stuff with a pretty wrapper on it.
I have heard (as a rumor, mind) that Blizzard's current intention is to run each game series for three games, then finish them with an MMO that eventually caps at level 100. This is a very unconfirmed rumor, from an unreliable source, but is still very ripe for speculation. And boy, do I like to speculate!

With a final level cap at 100, that would mean that there would be at most two more expansions. If I am correct, there are two big, known Lore areas that have yet to be explored, or be more than touched on: the Maelstrom, and the Emerald Dream. So, assuming that there are two expansions left, I believe the expansions would be in that order. The reasoning for that is that the Emerald Dream, according to the lore, is what Azeroth would have looked like, had it remained untouched... which means that it encompasses all three continents, at the very least, and would thus be the largest expansion, offering plenty to do even after level 100 is reached.

Now I have two assumptions: the next expansion will go from 80-90, and will take place in the islands and coastal lands around the sea, as well as beneath or above the Maelstrom itself; and that the final expansion will go from 90-100, and would, by encompassing all of Azeroth, be the largest expansion, perhaps even larger than the initial release. Based on these assumptions, I'm going to try to expand a bit.

For the Maelstrom, a few races would be most featured, specifically the Naga, the Murlocs, and the Goblins. There would likely be a new heroic class (probably still starting at 55, though it might be upped to 65, and the exact nature of the class is hard to determine), and possibly a new crafting profession. There would be a variety of zones, from small tropical islands to underwater areas, to perhaps an exposed ancient set of ruins in the center of the Maelstrom, where the remains of the Well of Eternity lie. There will likely be another conflict or two with the Old Gods in some form, an interaction with the Elemental Prince of Water (possibly as a neutral faction, unless you took down Ragnaros). Also introduced would likely be new underwater mounts and/or vehicles, with more complicated zones to steer around in, requiring layered maps.

The final expansion would likely see the Archdruid as the Hero Class, and would likely have the following villains: Neltharion (also known as Deathwing), the Old Gods (again), possibly Sargeras himself, and maybe even a corrupted Green Dragon Aspect (whose name escapes me). Since this would be a big blowout, here is where they'd take the time to update the old zones, perhaps seal up the Azeroth map for flying mounts to make the Emerald Dream map more navigable, and maybe even offer level 100 versions of all the old raids and dungeons. The last battle would likely be against Sargeras himself, perhaps with the aid of another Titan, or the surviving Aspects, or who knows what else, end with the sealing off of Azeroth from the Legion, and still (in Blizzard fashion) leave a vague sense of dread that not all is, in fact, finished.

All speculation, but damn, wouldn't it be cool?
I think that if there was a new expansion, it could either go to 90, or skip straight to 100. As for new features, i would really like to see a new faction, while still having horde and alliance. This new faction could include a few new races, possibly the hero classes. If a person created a character in that faction, they could choose to side with alliance or horde. By doing a quest chain to gain favour with horde/alliance, they could then interact with their own faction, as well as horde/alliance.

I also think it would be awesome to see people being able to have their original characters swap allegiance. For example, a dwarf doing a massive quest chain to gain favour with the horde.
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