Tobold's Blog
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.
I think your commenters are right on the Blizzcon timing. It fits the basic calendar, and I'm expecting/hoping that mystery patch 3.2 will add some sort of event to build hype for the expansion (which won't have an Arthas or an Illidan to sell itself with, unless they bring a dead WCIII character back).

On levels, I think the most reasonable thing to do would be to offer an option for everyone to start at level 55 next expansion. That levels the playing field so that you don't have the two hero classes vastly skewing the population. I've previously predicted that the feature would happen this year, but, after seeing how they're handling dual specs, I suspect that they won't want to roll out anything until they can create a new Death Knight like tutorial for all the other classes. That kind of content would probably be expansion material, not patch material. Of course, as you pointed out in your Shattering of Azeroth post, that would effectively mean that TBC would now be the base game and the game would then have 35 levels. Unfortunately, that appears to be the price of not having time to revamp content.
Maybe Blizzard will recycle content as it makes no sense to have 1-55 become completely wasted by introducing a lvl 55 starting cap. Might as well get rid of it otherwise.

They could stage a major event for the Expansion which has Azeroth wrecked by an invasion of Demons or a war between the Alliance and Horde - have new quests and change the areas around, pVp areas in the mould of wintergrasp dotted throughout.

Would also mean because alot of Azeroth would be transfered to the expansion they can concentrate more on
1) Redesigning so they can introduce flying mounts to Azeroth as they said it would require to much work to do so before
2) spend more time on quests, new class and skills
3) Areas that are not accesible
Tobold, if you're not already you should read

He makes predictions of where Blizzard is going next based on Warcraft lore. Really great reading.
Blizzard probably will never get rid of the level 1 starting classes. They have said that they can rework old content or create new content (I think this is Activision talking though, they want to monetize as much as possible).

I don't know how it is on your server, but on mine there are actually quite a few people in the level 30-60 zones. Maybe not as much as Northrend, but you can generally find someone to help with group quests in STV.

As much as I liked having my death knight start at level 55, there is a point to starting at 1. The end game is not the entirety of the game. The leveling up process is. When you skip that, all that is left is raiding and heroics. Also, I expect level 80 tanks to know how to tank, and to know what defense cap is. I don't expect it on a level 16. Starting at level 1 allows you to learn your class better.

I would be ok with Blizzard letting you create max level characters for PVP purposes only, just like in Guild Wars. However, you'd probably need to segregate those premade characters from the rest of the normal 80 PVPers.
@Tdubs: Tobold has suggested the same thing in the past - my minor tweak to the suggestion is that there's no reason to actually REMOVE the existing content. If Blizzard goes that route, they could use the Caverns of Time as the new Dark Portal and have it send players into an alternate future where all these bad things have happened to existing zones. I think not having flying mounts in the old world is getting increasingly silly, and reusing zones is the only way they'd have time to make the old world stuff not look terrible from the sky, so this may be a safe bet.
I'm confident that the next expansion will try and be a tad less unpredictable. I think we are going to see the level cap go from 80 to 100, and I think blizzard is going to add two new hero class. I also think the content is going to be based largely on azeroth, so blizzard can save time on content.
Green Armadillo:
"If Blizzard goes that route, they could use the Caverns of Time as the new Dark Portal and have it send players into an alternate future where all these bad things have happened to existing zones."

Or they could use their phasing technology to do this automatically once you reach a certain level or finish off a quest chain. I think the latter is the best option, as it allows for better ingame explanation as to what is about to happen. It also has the added benefit of allowing people to choose whether they want to enter this "new" Azeroth.
@GreenArmadillo: the caverns of time does seem almost made for allowing blizzard to make decisions like that. I would be suprised if they did not use it more to revisit events from within the Warcraft timeline.

I doubt they would start all classes at 55 - while low level content is now the demain of small groups of friends leveling together or an alt with a high lvl helper it would fundementally change the game as you would start with most of your skills and little experience of how to play a class. I dont think Blizzard would make such a radical change - especially with how successful the current model of the game is.
@Fremskritt: Having characters irrevocably advance the timeline creates a number of problems. The Horde has a preview now, with quests that can no longer be completed because of Varimathras getting himself killed. Permanently advancing the timeline for the entire original game would cut off dozens of achievements, and you'd never again be able to access the content to help lowbie friends or harvest materials if you decide to swap out tradeskills.

The hook for using the Caverns of Time would be the same as it has been in the past, the infinite dragonflight is messing with a timeline and we have to go in to clean up the mess. If one imagines that Deathwing managed to corrupt Nozdormu into having him start the ID, Deathwing is your new expansion villian (with Nozdormu being a victim in an earlier raid).
@Tdubs: In an expansion, they could take the time to make an optional Death Knight style starter experience for the 9 existing classes - reusing old zones gives the team enough time to do something like that. If they don't go this route, as Tobold suggests in his original post, new characters are increasingly going to skew towards DK's and the hypothetical new healing hero class.
I know I'm in some tiny little minority here but I would be sad if I didn't get to level 1-55 anymore. Leveling is my favorite part of the game. =(
Maybe they could do an expansion in old Azeroth and combine phasing with the Caverns of Time. You complete a quest to enter the new expansion and are phased into Azeroth after the shattering/scouring. This removes you from any pre-expansion content though, so you can use the caverns to re-vist the past and phase back to the old content and actually interact with old content.

They could reuse the old assets for the most part, giving the modeling staff time to fix things and allow flying mounts. Maybe they could spruce up the old world to the graphic level of Northrend. Aside from wanting old and new world mail/auction systems just for believability, I think it could work.

My other expansion prediction stems from a thought that bind on account items might just be an experiment. What if they just wanted to try how scalability works in the real game in preparation for a EQ2/CoH style mentoring system?
@Green Armadillo: I agree they could implement the DK style learning zones but it would mean the 1-55 zones would be completely redundant and probably would need to be removed. I agree with Tobolds assessment that having classes started at different levels would be confusing.

I just don't see Blizzard making such a fundemental change to the game by starting everything at 55, it would be a very bold move which i doubt they would want to do unless it upsets the Apple cart. That said i would like to see them do it - unless it was a "microtransaction" (or worst case scenario) pay $15 for a new lvl 55 although i doubt they would do it.
It's sort of a wash. By allowing anyone with a character that is level 55 to create another of any class at 55 would probably increase playability for alot of people. Most people want alts, but don't want to start at level 1 again.

You can't remove the content between 1-55 because low level alts DO make up enough of the market to warrant it.

As for the Heroic class I really don't want to see a healer. I think it would hurt the current healers to much. I have a feeling Blizz would do something like the DoK from WAR. Let the people that enjoy playing healers continue to play them as they are. Stop trying to "fix" something that really isn't broken.

Creating a heroic healing class will not encourage people to heal. It's too much of a back seat/support role. No glory. Now with the upcoming nerfs in 3.1 to spirit based healer mana regen, I expect more healers to drop off.

We will have to wait and see.
I could potentially see them doing an expansion surrounding Deathwing =) After all, we have already meet many of his allies and enemies!
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You don't even have to introduce new starting zones/questines for the other classes. Just use the phasing system to make the _existing_ starting zones (Dun Morogh, Azuremyst, etc.) be scaled at level 55 "difficulty" for people starting at that point. The people who start from scratch still see the mobs and quests as level 1, and the people starting at 55 see something different. And the 55 quests reward skill points and experience, just like the DK ones do. All the starting zone's quests end with the capital city anyway, so after finishing you can just fly off to Outland or EPL or whatever.
With regard to the whole discussion about training new players, I really think that starting from level 1 is actually doing them a disservice. No one is teaching these new players how to play their classes as all they seem to get is boosted runs and that soloing is the fastest way to level. A friend of mine picked a hunter and levelled up using white and grey gear because there was no explanation anywhere that he could find that agility and strength were "hunter" stats. Even worse, as he hadn't grouped until level 30, there was no one advising him that he could substantially improve his playstyle (even then, he had found that picking the right gear didn't help much until he hit instances in Outland).

Put simply, level 1-60 is just a way to keep money flowing in for Blizzard. If they announced a way to jump from level 1 to level 55 and play a boosted class, you can bet a vast majority would just pay up; eventually becoming a trend, it would just be introduced into the game.
Seriously there's no chance of them removing 1-55. Maybe only if u've attained max level in at least one character. I actually think there's a lot of fun quests and instances in that spread.

Thanks for that link - a good read indeed. It seems to support my hunch that the Emerald Nightmare is the next expansion: the dragon-related theme seems to fit it well and provides a natural link from Northrend.
One idea that really interested me is a back-in-time where you hop between present day Azeroth and the Emerald Dream, and back in the Great Sundering, when there was just a single continent.
Even with this links I still think Great Sea is next, though I have gotten less sure of that guess.

As for what to do about the heroic classes, I wonder if this is one of those things that wasn't really planned in advance by blizzard, since it does seems that any solution to the problem will be quite messy.
Regarding creating new characters: maybe Blizzard could offer players a chance to decide whether they want to create level 1 toon starting in existing starting areas or level 55 toon starting in new (phased) starting areas, similar to death knights' Ebon Hold. New level 55 could be created only if the player had at least one high level toon (e.g. level 75) and one per realm, per account, or if the player had one high level toon of the same class (leveled old-fashion way), but without realm/account restrictions.

I'd appreciate if Blizzard changed 10-toons-per-realm cap to 12 or more toons-per-realm too.
A Caverns of Time is a kind of hockey solution to the leveling problem. But let's say you start classes at 40. Redo starting zones for 40, and up the levels of other zones. All those currently below 40 are pushed up to 40 and reset to they're starting zones (easily done by blizz).

Current level 10-20 zones will be 40-50. Current 20-30 zones will be 50-60. Have a free FP through blasted lands INTO the Dark Portal to do 60-70.

70-80 would be Northend, and then back to old world where current zones 30-60 (Tanaris, Feralis, Desolace, Arathi Highlands, Alterac Mountains, Burning Steppes, Stranglethorn Vale, etc etc etc) will now be levels 80-100. BUT put the level cap at 90. That's what I'd do, in the current situation.

At those who think that starting at level one will teach a player more or have a tank be better. You are absolutely mistaken. 1-60 means jack squat, since you still have Huntards (wearing shaman resto gear to keep they're mana up, and to power Mend Pet!). People do not LEARN how they're characters work by leveling. Either someone tells them, or they notice they're having a hard time, and look up how to make things easier and find out then.

Since that's the case, starting at level 40 or 55 isn't going to magically make make people not learn how to play the game. And in fact if done as well as the DK starting area, starting out with more skills/abilities will not only help people figure out what class is right for them (which you really won't know until level 60 currently anyways), but will also help them know what defines they're class.

For example warriors don't get berserker stance until level 30. Shamans don't get an instant cast HoT until level 60. Paladins don't get avenger's shield until 50, and ret pallies don't get an instant melee attack until 50 either.

This will also give them a chance to expand more on Dire Maul, Emerald Dream, Nerubians, Trolls, Gnomes. Imagine that WoW 4.0 becomes a permanent leap into the future of WoW. Where Gnomereggan is taken back, and Trolls rebuilt they're capitol city. I would play that, and I'd play it for 4 more years to boot.
I think your right about the timing and the hero class, I mean why have only 1 hero class. But I doubt that they will make everyone start at lvl 55 it just leaves out so much.

I rate that the next expansion won't be to much new stuff INSTEAD they are going to be going through the old areas and making things there so that ppl can come back or make people want to start new. Like upgrade old areas.
My opinion is that if everyone was given the choice to start at level 55, then no one would want to do 1-55 anymore. It would just make it worse for the people who actually like to play 1-55. And also, I think it would be wierd since the new starting level would be 55. If this happened, blizzard might as well set 55 to 1, and 80 to 25. It would ruin the game because everyone will cap their characters so fast that they would just get plain bored.
if bliz was smart about it they would put a command in for people lv 80 to ding thier charaters to the 55 mark instead of 1-80.
it would give people who have done the content the option to make annother charater for the same content but on a diffrent aspect.
like doa's command to skip the training levels.
better yet add in a quest for max level to make all the charaters you make 55 if they do announce a expansion it will probbly be malestorm in a interview they said they were going to finish out the old area's starting with northrend before they make any new area's where you have to gate in there is still plenty of open land they have space for like maelstorm,the 4 islands off tanaris and plenty of areas they never finished like the dwarf town south of undercity on the sea and the tauren town on the sea north of the sands
Why someone want to lvl from 1-60 again? Cause they want to lvl an alt! So it might be 2 options:
1) lvl from the very beginning, including old content and classic WOW or -
2) Just re-class one of your current character. Let's say, you bored with you 45 lvl hunter? So just go and make it to be a 45 lvl druid. Blizz may limit this function by making one-time per one character, or may do it payed.

If you want to have hunter AND druid - so go ahead, use you time and play again.
I was reading posts that have to do with phasing the "Vanilla WoW" content to show scars of a possible war between the Alliance and Horde. The one problem is that we know how blizzard feels about revamping old content. We have seen this in the Burning Crusade when flying mounts were introduced Blizzard said they would not put it into Azeroth because of the complexity of the situation. It would just be to time consuming. This means that blizzard wouldn't be able to work on current end-game content in which people would get peeved that their raiding and/or PvP is taking a back seat to "Phasing" old content and giving us flying mounts.

The most likely situations have to lye within the Maelstrom or the Emerald Dream. The Maelstrom is a harder to do but more likely seeing as how it would take about as much work as Northrend did if not less. Only problem is lore says that its almost devoid of life mind you besides the goblins that have taken refuge. Also no notable being have been sent there: i.e Illidan in Outlands and Arthas in Northrend. The best bet though would be to say either way Deathwing will be put into the game, seeing as how with the elimination of Arthas only him and Sargeras would be left to take the title of most powerful being. That being said everyone presented good points. Blog on.
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