Tobold's Blog
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Not believing everything

The problem with leaks is that you can never trust them. Many a creative soul would love to fool millions of World of Warcraft player with invented patch notes or feature lists of the next WoW patch or expansion. Thus I'm somewhat sceptical about the latest Cataclysm leaked info on MMO Champion. Here are some arguments why these might be a bunch of lies:

Quote: "The level cap in the next expansion will be slightly lower than expected this time around; 85. This suggests Blizzard wants more room for expansions before hitting the level 100 cap." Already highly suspicious. There is no such thing as a level 100 cap. There is no reason at all for Blizzard not to add 10 or more levels per expansion and arrive at level 200 or more one day.

Quote: "Troll Druid" In the list of new race / class combinations there is just one new race allowed to play druid. Which would give the Horde two druid-enabled races vs. the Alliance's only one. Never going to happen.

Quote: "Part of the redesign of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor is the introduction of flying to the two continents" There is already software available that allows you a virtual flight through Azeroth, basically a viewer of the World of Warcraft. And when you use it in the old world, you notice that large parts are just Potemkin villages, places of which only the facade exists. Enabling flying in the old world would mean completely redoing every single bit of that world, so people don't fly up and see behind the empty facades. Given the huge amount of work that would be, and the speed at which Blizzard traditionally works, this is rather unlikely.

So, personally, I don't think this batch of "leaked" information is true. It is just the usual fake assembly taken from various people's wish list, and peppered with not-completely-false-sounding lore, but with no regard to technical aspects and game balance. Doesn't look like Blizzard at all.
Having read this, I believe the majority of it is accurate, if subject to change.

Remember their was also huge skepticism towards Death Knights, Dranei, Horde Paladins/Alliance Shamsns, and leaks that occurred during BC/WotlK era.

Blizzcon is soon and information such as this could be getting into more hands.

A redesign of Azeroth would make more sense at this point then adding an additional continent, and the announced revamp of the Onyxia encounter into 10/25 man only seems to support this theory.
the new alliance race for druids would be worgen so it would balance out.
Also, if they're dedicating time to redoing old world, and have been at it since last year (they do have a different team that works on expansion vs live), redoing old world is quite possible.

Not to mention adding new zones to old world is something they've hinted at before.

As for new class combos, alot of it comes from things found in the PTR, and don't forget this patch on horde side a quest leads to a conversation of Tauren rediscovering they're worship of the sun (ie light, which would lead to Tauren Priests and Paladins).

All the guesses for the upcoming patch is based on facts that have been found through recent patches and datamined, and thus is a very believable conclusion.
re: Druids. Remember the leaks included new races too. If the new alliance race could be druids, then troll druids wouldn't upset the numbers.

I share your scepticism but ... even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
I'm of your mind on this issue. What surprises me is that Boubouille not only posted it, but highlighted it so prolifically. I feel like he's taking a big chance this time.
MMO Champion has been right before, so this might be incomplete, but true.

On the other hand I wondered about the same things you did.

One thing is certain, however: The general idea of these (fake?) patch notes is the correct direction. Offering just another continent and 10 levels again .. I doubt that would be good. I know I wouldn't like it.
The lorelol of Malfurion Stormrage (a druid who dislikes magic) appointing Thrall (a shaman) as the champion of the Order of Tirisfal (an all-mage organization) sounds like 100% Metzen, so I'm taking a "wait and see" approach for now.

During/before BC, there was an interview where they complained that making the Draenei and Blood Elf starting zones took time away from making Outland. Unless Blizzard needs an excuse for not having Nazjatar ready for at least a year or two, they're not going to touch the old world if they can help it. But then again, their "we don't want to touch old stuff" guys have probably been reassigned to work on the new MMO.
Revamping one instance is nowhere near the same amount of work that revamping two continents would be >.>

Don't forget the part about Thousand Needles, which having no direct connection to the sea, gets flooded, and Dustwallow Marsh doesn't.
100 level "limit"? I don't think Blizzard would be so short-sighted as to do something like split a byte value. More likely the 100 level limit is a psyhcological limit: 100 has come to be regarded by designers as "the end". As they approach the end, the pace of content additions will likely slow down. Hence 5 levels.

I believe the Troll Druid value is in the current PTR build. It's quirky, but there are many classes without perfect racial balance - Shaman, Warlock, etc.

More interesting is the redesign of "Old Azeroth". WoW's older content is in desperate need of improvement. Go from playing Northrend to playing somewhere like the Barrens. It's almost a different game now. This would be a very hard sell - existing players are going to have to fund a lot of "new" content primarily aimed at new players (since you cannot expect a new player to buy all the expansions just to try the game). So flying (often requested) might be a way to sell this "expansion" to existing players.

Technically I don't think it is so hard to create mountains where there are none, or move areas like Stormwind onto the main map (some cities are currently optical illusions). The most difficult area would be north of Eastern Plaguelands, where the continent is hosted on 2 separate servers.

Overall, I take almost everything said about WoW with a "pinch of salt" until it actually happens. And while I have more faith in the accuracy of this information than you, it's still WoW; and anything can happen before it goes live.

Whilst I share your skepticism about this particular "leak", I'm not sure you've singled out the right bits for criticism.

The troll druids (if they existed) would be introduced to balance out worgen druids, so that there are two druid races per faction.

Enabling flying in existing Azeroth, whilst it would require quite a bit of terrain modelling work, would leave all the other aspects of the game design in place, so it's markedly less work than designing a new continent full of content.

None of the supposed leaked information seems absolutely nailed on to me, but the following feel plausible:
- new races are goblins & worgen (although I don't buy the backstory they present in the article)
- class changes (easy to do and none of them are terribly anti-lore)
- flying in Azeroth (but not the complete reworking with destruction of Orgrimmar; a new continent seems more likely).

There's an excellent discussion of this at Scrolls of Lore
I hope it's not real, I really do, but there are a few grains of truth supporting MMO-Champion's hypothesis.

Only a few days until BlizzCon... we'll find out soon enough.
I fail to see how the Onyxia thing supports anything related to the xpac. It's totally just a fun anniversary thing, by the time the xpac comes out it will be totally deprecated again and serve no use.

I think there's some truth to the 'leaks', it honestly does make sense to redo the original world to some degree as they could reuse the landmasses for the Emerald Dream.

I am currently calling BS on most the class/race info atm, or at least it feels like something key is missing.
I also agree on the lvl 85 vs 100 thing, there's no reason a cap would exist at 100. They seem to pick 10 levels as it's a nice way to basically even out the fields and ensure all the old gear/content isn't that useful.

If they go with 5 levels then I'm hoping they are planning to reuse level 80 content or just make the leveling process special in another way.

Maybe they're just pulling a sneaky and they'll release another 5 levels (85-90) in one of the content patches as a way to bring everyone in line again for the big dungeon of the xpac, instead of the free gear they seem to be doing this time around (yes I'm bitter about the coliseum).
You don't seem to understand the term "redesign."

The goal for blizzard would be to remake all of the original landscape, and content. It would end up being smaller, which would make it less of a task than first imagined.

The "new" old world would funnel people quickly into outland. They'd probably get rid of a lot of content but make the leveling experience overall more streamlined.

As a side effect, you'd be able to fly in the old world.
I'm extremely skeptical about this. I don't see the point in believing unsubstantiated rumours as they could've been made up by anyone. It all sounds a little fishy to me.
I do not believe everything either.

But it seems to be too much to be completely made up.

Many things mentioned are probably still subject to change or just misinterpretation due to lack of information and a lot of speculation.

Still, if only a quarter of this is true it is still pretty exicting news.
As much as I may not like (or care) about the changes, most of those make sense to me. The reasoning behind the level cap ("Leveling from 80-85 should be a much bigger deal") sounds blizzardish.

And I don't believe redesigning the old continents is any more complicated than making a new one, perhaps it's even easier. The zones which are now unfinished could easily be done and flying would probably be restricted to certain zones (mostly to prevent ganking).

As for the druids, who said alliance won't be able to make draenei druids or whatever?

Everything's possible, it's Blizzard afterall.
When I wrote a parody after the Burning Crusade, fake predicting the "Freezing Jihad", a number of my points came true in the Wrath of the Lich King. Anyone with half a brain and a bit of research can make up a list of features which not only sounds believable, but also will have some hits among the misses. What I'm saying is that the PACKAGE is fake, there is no leak telling us all that. That doesn't mean every single component has to be wrong.
All I can say is the Troll Druid combination was *datamined* - which means its already there.

Whether it serves for players or a new mob type, is, however - a completely different question.

Also, Two Alliance druid races are possible - dont discount worgen.
By way or rebuttal, and only IMO, of course:

1) The "100" may be a reference to a leaked "road map" in which the "final expansion" was deemed to be 100-ish. So what they may be saying here is that they want to spread out the intermediate stuff over more frequent, smaller expansions.

100 might also be an artificial design limit. Not to mince words, sometimes WoW's data storage design sucks. I point to the whole ammo/shard storage issue as an example. So, would not surprise me.

2) Thing is, that was based off data mined from the PTR. Personally I don't think it matters if you have one or two per race, but if the Wildhammers are going to be putting on shammi suits, who WOULD be druids besides Nelfs?

3) Well, this is why they aren't going to just flip a switch and turn it on and call it "Cataclysm", right? They have actual work to do.

I think they're might use Cataclysm as a springboard from which to resolve this issue - Azeroth is to be remade in many ways under this scheme, so why not fix the flying thing if that's the case.

"Doesn't look like Blizzard at all". Hmm, and space goats did? :)
They don't have to rework all of old Azeroth for flying there. They can create new versions of it using their phasing technology, while leaving the existing assets as they are. So its possible that the new phased version is fully rendered and not just empty facades like it is now. My guess is that only certain parts of Azeroth need to be "phased" like this, so its not a complete rework to make this happen.
It would be a huge amount of work for potentially very little benefit. Changes to zones are likely, especially improving leveling quests, but a total remake would just be silly.
All of the arguments trying to prove this wrong are exactly the arguments for WHY Blizzard should do it.
I don't know about Blizzard, since WoW is the first of their games I've played, but in general I wouldn't think "Lore" has ever stopped a game designer doing just whatever the heck he thought was a good idea at the time. The only people who care about Lore are players, and only a vanishingly small percentage of them, at that.

I jib at the feasibilty of flying being added to Azeroth. The obvious customer service issues alone would be enough to ring alarm bells well outside of the designers' cubicles. The rest of it looks pretty standard fare for expansions for a well-established MMO, though.

Removing class/race restrictions, re-using old content, and especially the hoary old cliche of throwing a few earthquakes at the land-mass, all seem not just plausible but boringly predictable.

I'd bet that if the expansion is exactly what's been leaked it will include elements that are closely analagous.
The level "limit" bit is the only unbelievable part. Several have explained why troll druids would make sense and a new expansion would be the prime time to budget for the work needed to make the old map flyable.
1. The comment about the level-100 cap reads just like that to me: it's a comment by Boubouille on the leak. The "This suggests" phrase indicates that, and that sort of verbiage wouldn't ever come from a leak but talk about the leak. Granted, Boubouille could have made a better contrast between allegedly leaked info and his comments about it, but that remains my interpretation.

2. I agree with the consensus here that Worgen will likely end up having druid as a class. Plus, what people have said about the datamining. Of course, again, there's been stuff datamined that never appeared for years after the fact, so who knows.

3. I'd have to think it's less work to give portions of a continent a facelift rather than to create a whole new one from scratch, but I'm not a modeler, so what do I know?
I'm 100% with you, this is BS.

Having actually done a little level design for FPS games, I have a tiny idea of the time this reconstruction of old Azeroth, and the re-balancing of all these new classes, etc. would take.

I don't believe this "leak" for a second.
There were too many "may" and "should be able to" things in there to really make me think it is all true. We'll all find out soon enough hopefully though what is true, and speculation is fun, and i can honestly say i've always wanted to play a night elf mage. *drool*
We'll most likely see if this is true or not at Blizcon, I'd bet money that you're wrong though ;)
I believe there is an unofficial limit cap - character spacing. I.e how do you display three digits where there had only been width for two.

Remember, Blizzard is so absolutely devoid of process and project management that they keep making changes without getting the tool-tips updated. ISO-9001? Complicated software having issues on myrad of hardware is understandable. Allowing a designer to make a change without documenting for the tool-tip righting team is just sloppy and not caring.

Besides, WoW is the only software I have used this millennium that presents large text lists unsorted. E.g. the pain of finding glyphs.

So their desire to avoid having to make fields wider is at least credible; shouldn't be, but is.
Redoing the old continents for flying would require a *lot* of work. Check the video in the post to get an idea:

Even if Blizzard was able to clean up everything efficiently, we're talking about a ton of modeling work on just empty space.

Not saying its impossible, it just seems unlikely.
I have to say, Tobold, I'm not quite sure where your arguments are coming from. They seem overly nitpicky and based on specious reasoning. I say this with all due respect and someone who often and even usually respects what you have to say on this blog.

On the Troll Druid, I don't think it's ever been established that Blizzard must always without fail "balance" the number of races that can be a certain class between factions. The Paladin/Shaman deficit is a perfect example. Even so, we don't know the new Worgen class outlay yet either. They could be Druids.

On the level 100 thing, it seems like you're nitpicking the exact phrasing a bit much. Maybe 100 isn't an official "we're never going to make another level increasing expansion cap," but level 100 is still a significant milestone and number that has a lot of psychological significance as a milestone for real or imagined "mudflation," being the first triple digit number.

And on flight in the Old World. Blizzard has never said they wouldn't do it, just that it would take a lot of work. So why not do that work for an expansion, where they can charge for it to defray any costs and take more time than they would for a normal content patch? It makes perfect sense to use an expansion as a jumping off point for improving the Old World.
I will publicly apologize if I got this one wrong, and the expansion is EXACTLY like MMOChampion described. Not if there are tiny bits rights, because as I said, make enough predictions and you'll get some right.

Of course I'll expect a public apology from YOU if it turns out that there was no leak and somebody just made up a list of likely and desirable features. :)
I think, once again, you are probably wrong, and the leaked info is probably right, or very close to being accurate.
Well, I'm still pretty iffy on some of the lore points, so I won't say I expect it to be 100% accurate, but I am pretty positive the leak is almost entirely accurate. If you're right about the 3 points in the OP, remind me, and I will make a public apology in this thread or another thread or public forum of your choosing.
Well Tobold, since the expansion is a year out I'm sure some details could change, but I am pretty sure that majority of this will come to pass - not just tiny bits.

Remember the same disbelief appeared at WotlK and BC leaks.
I believe that if it does actually come from Blizzard, it's an elaborate hoax, leaked purposefully to lead up to their real announcement at Blizzcon.

All of what I'm seeing is matching up perfectly with what people have been speculating regarding what we do know, and very little brand-new information.

We know that worgen and goblin masks were added to the halloween event, but that doesn't really prove anything. People speculated about why these races would be joining the factions, and what do I see here? Almost exactly the same lore explanations people were giving.

There was a conversation between two NPCs in Thunder Bluff, and some people were speculating that tauren might be able to be paladins in the future. What do I see? Exactly that.

People have been speculating forever that Uldum and Hyjal would open up, that it would have something to do with Azshara and the Maelstrom, maybe we'd see Deathwing again, and that we would be able to fly in the old world -- despite Blizzard's constant assurances that they had no plans to do so.

Out of all this information, I'm not seeing anything new. It's all just a wish-list of things we've been wanting, but nothing unexpected. I find it all quite boring, personally, and if it turns out to be true, it just shows me that Blizzard's best people have already left the game to work on other projects.
"Exactly?" That's an awfully high bar.

Hypothetical: let's say there'd been a leak like this about Wintergrasp, back before the Wrath announcements at Blizzcon. Let's say you similarly disbelieved. Because the initial concept included aerial combat - and that was lost before launch (late in Beta, IIRC) - would you insist you were right all along, despite the expansion not being "exactly" like what you'd heard?
Back before WoW was released I avidly read everything I could regarding the upcoming game. I remember (hazily) Blizzard stating they coded the game with the idea level 100 would be the limit of the engine and the game was designed with this limitation in mind.

I have no source other than my recollection. I believe I read the quote in a magazine.

I really wish I had a better memory.....
On the level cap for the next expansion, Blizzard developers have said repeatedly that they are hesitant about creating the expectation that every expansion will bring 10 character levels. They don't want to create a situation where player stats are inflated beyond all meaning and ability to balance. Moreover they've also said that they're interested in expanding laterally, pointing to things like the Caverns of Times as a way of exploring new content in old ways without simply adding a zone and X number of levels.

I am hoping that the mmo-champion's information is accurate (it has historically been). It would be a departure for the series, one that offers Blizzard a chance to experiment even more with how they present content and tell stories.
I can't believe you at least won't analyze whether you think the alleged expansion is good or not. Who knows whether the leaks/data-mining pans out or not, speculating on the speculation isn't terribly interesting. But you can at least analyze the direction of the possible changes. It's a totally different direction from the "Frozen Jihad" method of expansion in WoW, and a lot of the features seem extremely appealing to someone of your MMO interests (not necessarily mine); in terms of the horizontal expansion possiblities.
No new continent : this one makes perfect sense from a lore perspective, there is no support whatsoever in current lore to account for such a land mass. Of course Blizzard could ultimately resort to an enigmatic "lost continent" rediscovered, or even resurfacing following the "cataclysm" theme but I don't believe they will do that (yet).

Taking this into account and excluding any idea like developping the Emerald Dream (which will come but more likely in a further expansion), there are precious few things they can do, the redesign of vanilla wow makes sense.
Contrary to what Tobold seems to think the challenge does not come from the undermodelled zones (holes in the current map) which could be easily filled with at least graphical content if not actual game content. No the challenge lies mainly with the ability to fly over existing complex landscape. For example, I think at the time of TBC the dev team had stated that it was difficult to redesign Stormwind to allow for fly as the zone relies heavily on ground-based optical illusions to give the impression of a bustling city.
The second technical hurdle stems from the fact that, until now, expansion zones were only accessible from Vanilla through portals, this solved two problems : preventing Vanilla-only buyers to access those areas and allowing easy server load-balancing. If they want to keep the experience of flying through Azeroth seamless they will have to come back on those limitations, which might prove technically difficult...
Another thought : we have seen the first attempts at phasing technology in WotLK. The potential of phasing is amazing from a storytelling point of view (taking aside the problems it triggers when wanting to help a friend who is not in the same phase you are in).
Let's take the "Blizz wants to make levels matter more" statement, they could very well say : OK when dinging 81 you have to complete a quest in which you witness the destruction of Orgrimmar, at 82 you could participate in the creation of the new Horde capital in the Barrens, at 85 it would be something like witnessing the eruption of Blackrock Fortress etc...
I see one of two scenarios playing out.

Senario one: The items data mined from the PTR are accurate, this is reasonable to assume due to the trade mark on the name 'Cataclysm'. Old world azeroth will make heavy use of phasing technology, Allowing level one lowbies to play next to level 81'ers in Goldshire with out even knowing it. Since most of the Azeroth content is already there, Blizzard would focus on adding detail, covering up fly-over areas and adding undergroung, flying, or other parts. Remaking Azeroth would be a huge amount of work on Blizzards behalf but so is every expansion?

Scenario two: Blizzard has had information leaked in the past, many times. Blizzard purposely put things in the PTR weeks before Blizzcon because Blizzard knows it will be data mined. Blizz con comes around and Blizzard tells us something entierly different.

It is either scenario one or two, because I don't see how that much information being data mined could be wrong, unless it was intentionally wrong. Also MMO-champion has long history of data mining and predictions based on the data mining. I trust them, but I always take it with a grain of salt.
i actually wouldn't be surprised if they stuck some intern in a closet about a year ago and said "finish the azeroth landscape models you scrub. Don't come out until you finish. Here's a sandwich."

Not that i really expect to see it happening, but i'd love to see it. Gooo IF airstrip!!
Hi Tobold -- long time reader and fan of your blog. :)

1) It looks like I'm the only one, but when I read the "cap" comment, I interpreted it more as "mark" or "point." As in, yes that'll certainly be a milestone in terms of levels, but not necessarily the end of leveling progression. It makes sense to me in that the farther along we go, the greater the challenge and time committment in getting a level 1 character up to cap. I could see Blizzard flattening out the numbers a bit to support that.

2) First, it's true that not all classes are balanced equally between factions, but I agree that Blizzard probably wouldn't leave only a single option for Alliance druids, while creating multiple for Horde. As people have already pointed out, there is a) the possibility of Worgen druids (assuming the Worgen/Goblin part is true), and even more likely in my opinion, b) the possibility that there are more new race/class combinations that we just don't know about yet. I'm crossing my fingers for gnome druids - think how cute their forms would be! (Kidding! Although, having a gnomish kitten druid tanking WOULD be adorable...)

3) This is also true, it would be a pretty huge undertaking to revamp the majority of the old world -- which is why I couldn't see them doing this in a content patch, only in an expansion. People have been asking for the ability to fly in the old world ever since BC and flying mounts first hit, so it's not a brand new concept; I wouldn't be surprised if they've been figuring out how best to do it for awhile. Not to mention the fact that part of the post states that "Some zones and dungeons will change drastically to fit this."

I'm not saying everything "leaked" so far is going to be 100% completely accurate and true, but I think the majority is more likely to be true than not. Looking forward to finding out. And a question for you - since none of us will know for certain for another few days; if this information WAS true - what would you think? Do you like the concept of revising the old content so the old world isn't the ghost town it's been since 2007, or do you think the old stuff should be left in peace?
Not much to say on this, other than that I wish I could get WoW MapViewer to work. I want to see these Potemkin villages. (Yes, I've heard of them before, so I don't doubt your citation of them, I just want to fly around Azeroth and take in the sights.)
Additionally, the argument of "imbalanced class distribution" doesn't really hold up. Currently, the alliance has 3 races that can be paladins vs. the horde's 1. The horde has 3 races that can be shaman vs. the alliance's 1. The alliance has 5 races that can be warriors, the horde only has 4.

And I think they're already massively redoing zones--they say 1k needles will be flooded as well as others--so I think they'll redo them to allow flight as well.
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