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Weekly World of Warcraft #5 - Expansion Outlook: Pre-E3 Edition

By: Nick Arvites

Weekly World of Warcraft #23 - Goodbye to the Old Stomping Grounds
Will the new lands signal the end of the old?

Weekly World of Warcraft #22 - Burning Crusade First Impressions
Positive first impressions from our resident warlock.

Weekly World of Warcraft #21 - Thoughts from a Disgruntled Wyvern Windrider
Won't anyone think of the Windriders?

Weekly World of Warcraft #20 - New Year's Resolutions
Nick lays out some WoW-related goals for 2007.

Weekly World of Warcraft #19 - Calm Before the Storm
A look at the most-recent patch and Blizzard's next game.

Weekly World of Warcraft #18 - Casual Raiding Vol. 2
Another look at casual raiding from our brand new writer!

Weekly World of Warcraft #17 - South Park, Expansion Plans, and Updates
A look at the infamous South Park episode, and talk of the future.

Weekly World of Warcraft #16 - All Quiet on the Kalimdor Front
The calm before the Burning Crusade storm.

Weekly World of Warcraft #15 - How to Make a Crusade Burn
Burning Crusade will have a negative impact on raiding, but it should bring some good PvP changes.

Weekly World of Warcraft #14 - Should I Stay or Should I Go?
It's time to renew!

Weekly World of Warcraft - Raiding for the Rest of Us
Our first guest discusses how a casual player can raid successfully.

Weekly World of Warcraft #13 - I Still Hate the Baron: Clarifications & Responses
Clarification of last week's points after receiving a deluge of responses.

Weekly World of Warcraft #12 - Dungeon 2 Armor Complaints
I hate the Baron, and other .5 tier complaints.

Weekly World of Warcraft #11 - Undead Events
A deeper look at Patch 1.11 and the Scourge Invasion.

Weekly World of Warcraft #10 - Busiest Week Ever
You want more of this?! Patch 1.11, Diablo/Starcraft MMORPGs, and more!

Weekly World of Warcraft #9 - Mailbag Edition
9 out of 10 naked dancing dwarves agree: mailbags are good!

Weekly World of Warcraft #8 - Guild Woes
Guild improvements and raid interface changes discussed this week.

Weekly World of Warcraft #7 - PvBroken
What's wrong with PvP in today's World of Warcraft.

Weekly World of Warcraft #6 - Post E3 2006 Thoughts
We look at the addition of the Draenei, and various problems with Burning Crusade.

Weekly World of Warcraft #5 - Expansion Outlook: Pre-E3 Edition
Looking forward to next week's E3, and what the future holds for WoW.

Weekly World of Warcraft #4 - Class Warfare
Nick's perspective on playing the nerfed Rogue class.

Weekly World of Warcraft #3 - Over-Raided
The third in our series focuses on the lack of content for smaller groups.

Weekly World of Warcraft #2
The second in our series of weekly World of Warcraft rants focuses on crafting.

Weekly World of Warcraft #1
The first in our series of weekly World of Warcraft rants by our resident level 60 Rogue.

The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of VGGEN.com as a whole or any of its affiliates. This is simply one writer's opinion, and should be accepted as such. Weekly World of Warcraft is usually updated each Tuesday.

This column is going to depart from the rest of the series, since it will discuss basically what I want to see from E3 as well as the general direction of the game itself. E3 2006 marks almost a year and a half since launch, and things are starting to shape up. The expansion is due out at some point, and more details are being released. Even with the expansion, Blizzard is delivering content patches, next one being 1.11’s Naxrammas raid dungeon. Even with the new content, there are still many unanswered questions about the general direction of World of Warcraft.

The Burning Crusade expansion promises to add new dungeons, flying mounts, Outland, and many other new things. Yeah, we all know the drill: standard expansion stuff. You know, the thing I’m most excited about is the new Horde race, the Blood Elves. I don’t even play as a Horde character, but I’m really glad they’re getting Blood Elves because they’ll now understand the torture any Alliance player. After almost two years, the Horde will finally understand what it feels like to have dozens of female elves saying things like, “I DO SEXAY ELF DANCE 1G PLZ THX!” Oh yeah, get prepared for the thousands of spelling variations of Lord of the Rings character “Legolas” too. Ok, on a serious note, I am glad the Horde is getting some sort of “pretty race.” If anything, the Blood Elves will bring in more people to the Horde side and correct the server population imbalances between the two factions.

On that same note, I simply do not care what the Alliance race is. The popular picks are Draenei, Pandaren, or about a dozen other races. It hit the point shortly after last October’s Blizzcon that I simply stopped caring about their secret Alliance race. Even if people guessed it right, Blizzard won’t release the info until they’re ready. The one condition I have on it is this: if the Alliance race is indeed Pandarens, I will roll horde on a PvP server just to kill them. Pandarens are an April Fools Joke gone horribly wrong.

The biggest problem I have with the expansion is the lack of any new classes. Sure, I understand their reasoning. Blizzard’s stated several times that they were going to forgo new classes because of the balancing issues with the current classes. In my view, this appears that Blizzard didn’t exactly think out the class roles as well as they should have. Wait a second Nick, what do you mean? The classes fit well and are in a rock-paper-scissors format. That is precisely the problem. Blizzard apparently over-thought the class functions and created a system that could not be added to without stepping on toes as well as disrupting the entire class balance system. Ok, fine, I suppose I can take that if we’re getting the long-promised Hero Classes, but this apparently isn’t happening either. Great. So the Burning Crusade will simply give me two more ways to play characters I’ve already played before? Sure, this could all change by E3, but I doubt it.

Following the theme of restraints in the game, I really have to wonder on any sort of future expansions. Adding Outland is a good idea, but it brings to mind the distinct lack of any future land continents in Azeroth for future expansions. As far as I can tell and barring Blizzard opening up future outer dimensions, the only land mass left in Azeroth is Northrend. That is the problem with a pre-existing world though, you are limited as to what you can create and do. Even then, the track record for Blizzard and its expansions tells us that any future expansion pack to World of Warcraft is at least a year away, if not more. A Northrend expansion would certainly be the last addition to World of Warcraft and provide some sort of continuation to the entire Lich King saga presented in Warcraft III. There is also rumors that the Emerald Dream may become a playable area in the future, but this is in the same category as Hero Classes. They were spoken about and referenced, but nothing has been heard in a while. It still remains uncertain how Blizzard can release any new Warcraft RTS titles while the Warcraft universe is locked up with World of Warcraft. I’m sure the original plan was to run World of Warcraft for a few years and then release Warcraft IV, but this plan would have been obviously delayed because of the rampant success of World of Warcraft.

Simply put, the future of World of Warcraft is muddled. In terms of subscription bases, there simply is no other MMORPG on the horizon that even appears like it could compete with Blizzard. However, how long can Blizzard keep up the content flow for World of Warcraft? I don’t know if World of Warcraft could continue to be successful if a second expansion took two more years for a release. It isn’t that it still wouldn’t look pretty (since low performance specs can only help them), but two more years would cause more people to leave out of boredom. Specifically, the characters that are 60 now will likely fly to the level cap of 70 quickly. Are they supposed to wait around for a future expansion that could take years to develop? Hopefully not, but time will tell.

E3 Rumblings

On top of the certain Burning Crusade information, many are expecting another game announcement from Blizzard. There have been several job postings on Blizzard’s job page over the last few months for various positions specifically with the team that created Diablo and Diablo II. With the recent cancellation of oft-delayed Starcraft: Ghost, Blizzard’s schedule appears to be open. Could we possibly hear or see a non-World of Warcraft game next week? It seems to make sense. After all, we’re six years past the release of Diablo II, and the Diablo following has pretty much quieted down. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see a Diablo title appear next on Blizzard’s release schedule. While many Starcraft fans are still clamoring for a title, I don’t think they’ll revisit it yet. Maybe it’s a testament to Starcraft’s design, but it still retains a strong popularity among strategy gamers and is still the RTS game of choice among serious competitors while Diablo has almost all but fallen to the wayside.

If you were holding your breath for Starcraft: Ghost, you can release now. As noted above, it was indefinitely suspended in late March 2006, which is apparently a codeword for cancelled. It now joins the ranks of Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans as a footnote in the franchise history. While there is an outside chance it may reappear as a title on the Xbox 360, PS3, or Wii, it doesn’t look good at the moment.

Some people took the World of Starcraft April Fools joke at Gamespot and ran with it. There have been many unfounded rumors of possible MMORPGs set in Blizzard’s other universes. I don’t even have to be a fly on Blizzard’s wall to debunk these thoughts. First, why exactly would Blizzard want to compete with itself? By introducing another MMORPG, they’d simply take money out of their own pockets. Even then, how would you have characters in Starcraft? Sci-fi MMORPGs have never really taken off precisely for this reason. How do you make a Zerg playable? Even ignoring a Zerg, you’re going to likely have to make any Starcraft MMORPG more akin to Planetside. It simply does not seem like a good idea. Diablo is more feasible, but you have to look at it this way: not only would it be extremely similar to World of Warcraft and competitor Guild Wars, it would also raise some serious questions of longtime Diablo fans who essentially played Diablo over Battle.net as a quasi-MMORPG. While a future Blizzard MMORPG may not be far off the mark, I don’t see it happening now. They can barely keep up with the growth of World of Warcraft, so how is Blizzard expected to support two MMORPGs?

Regardless of what I think will happen and what you think will happen, we’ll hopefully have a better idea after next week’s E3.

Weekly World of Warcraft will not appear next week due to E3 coverage. Be sure to check out VGGEN.com for E3 updates with the latest news.

Be sure to send any thoughts, comments, opinions, or flames to the World of Warcraft Mailbag: Weeklywow@vggen.com

Posted: 05/02/2006