It has become a tradition of sorts for my Significant Other and I, when making the trek down to the parents’ house for birthdays, holidays, or other celebrations, to use the time on the road to talk game design/philosophy. Oftentimes, the conversations start out about WoW (since that’s something that we’ve shared for 5+ years now) and drift off on tangents outside of Blizzard’s universe to debate the value of crafting systems, whether there’s viable alternate end-game progression outside of PVE and PVP, or if large-scale vanity items (eg: player housing) have a place in a world where player density is important. Our drive down south this past holiday was no exception to our typical brainstorming practice, as a conversation about our MMO adventures set our imaginations to work dreaming about what we’d like to see in the next year in WoW.
So today I wanted to share some of my wishlist items—big and small, simple and slightly absurd, silly and serious. Because who knows what nugget of an idea might work its way over to Blizzard and into 5.0. (Hey, I can dream, right? ^_^)
Wish #1: Gear “color” related to method of acquisition
I talked about this briefly during the Rawrcast discussion I participated in over the summer, but it’s a concept that’s stuck with me for quite a while as a way to address the prevalence of “welfare epics” in the WoW community. Much to its credit, Cataclysm did an excellent job of making sure the gearing process in T11 was one in which epics were slow to come by; in fact, I raided with a number of people who actually did their first HM end boss kills (Al’Akir, Nef, Sinestra) in some dungeon blues. I thought it was an amazing paradigm shift, but unfortunately it wasn’t one that endured.
After T11, with the introduction of Trollics, the Molten Front, and later the DS dungeons, the loot pool became diluted, and the idea that Cataclysm pounded home in T11—raiding in blues is okay!—was lost in a sea of purple. And so Wish #1 for 5.0 is to see that paradigm shift return, but instead of it just being a one-time, beginning-of-the-expansion affair, making it the norm for progression. So, in order to drive home the distinction between “pre-raid”, “raider” and “progression raider”, I’d propose that loot color finally become a function of the method of acquisition, instead of ilvl. All dungeon and heroic dungeon gear would be blue (no matter the patch it accompanies), LFR and normal modes would be purple, and as a point of distinction for those heroic pieces, there would be a new color (yellow maybe?) to accompany the higher ilvl. By making epics truly epic again (and not simply commonplace), the gearing process becomes as meaningful at the end of the expansion as it was at the start, and players see a greater reward for participating in the more demanding raid environments.
Wish #2: Vanity effects for Specialty Achievements/Kills
Although we’ve seen a move away from Sever First titles and one-tier-only mounts and rewards, there’s no debating the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies downing challenging content in the current tier, whether you’re the first guild that does it or the one thousandth. (In fact one of my most prized possessions on Vixsin is my Black Proto Drake, no longer available in game, which stands as a testament to my former US#500+ guild’s spunk and perseverance). Likewise, gear used to be a very recognized representation of accomplishments in game, but with transmogging taking over and old content farming runs taking place almost every day, that’s no longer the case. So, the question becomes, how do you introduce customization options that would a) not be obnoxious, and b) encourage players to stick with end-game progression? One solution: a pure Vanity slot. Similar to a title (but one that other players couldn’t disable, natch), the Vanity slot would function like any other gear slot only that its items would only be attainable from specialty events or kills, and would only be available for the current tier (meaning you couldn’t go back and farm it).
For example, what if being “Light of Dawn” meant that you glowed slightly (due to a Vanity item dropped by HM Lich King)? Or what if being Blackwing’s Bane meant that you occasionally had a lightning bolt shoot off from you (the result no doubt of being zapped with all that electricity, wipe after wipe after wipe)? Transmogging took us part of the way towards player customization, but for this second wish for 5.0, I’d like a customization that not only transcends the look of my gear, but also transfigures it in a potentially subtle way. Like the dust and dirt falling off a weapon enchanted with Landslide, the Vanity Slot would allow players to further distinguish themselves and show off their in-game accomplishments.
Wish #3: Caster/Healer trinkets like Deathbringer’s Will
… because it’s just plain cool. I admit, since the first time I saw one of my teammates morph into a raging Vykrul, I’ve been jealous of melee for having access to such a funtastic trinket. As someone who only tracks trinket procs because of their effect on mana regen or throughput, the idea of morphing into something cool because of a healing proc just delights me to no end. (Yes, I love Tree Form for this exact reason—my hots are more epic because I’m a monster Treebeard). So, in Mists, wish #3 is having my paladin become a literal beacon of light when [Illumination of the Divine] procs, or maybe turn into a Shivarra when [The Deva’s Lament] activated. It would make my day each and every time. (It’s worth noting that this was actually discussed in one of the Dev Q&A’s back in October/November, so it may become a reality soon!)
Wish #4: Encounter decisions that matter
Ulduar gets a plethora of points in my book for the million ways in which it was a great raid instance, but the one place where I felt like its potential went untapped was in the Yogg Saron encounter, where we were offered a raid decision that wound up not being a decision at all. When I first discovered that we could gain the assistance of the 4 Keepers during the fight, I thought “Awesome, variation!” but the reality was that after a couple weeks, my enthusiasm was dulled by the fact that your choice of assistance wasn’t really a choice at all, but required for you to do 3, 2, 1 or no Lights in the Darkness. (The same choice was present on Iron Council, where it was a little more meaningful but still had a decided order of selection, and with Freya + Keepers). Cataclysm brought back the “kill order” concept in T11 with Halfus and in T13 with the Madness of Deathwing, but I still don’t think the true weight of the decision is felt by any player during either of the encounters. With specific regards to Deathwing, a commonly-accepted platform kill order means that most players don’t even realize what buffs they’re losing when they jump between platforms (seriously, do you know what Alexstraza’s buff gives you? How about Kalecgos?)
So, another one of my wishes for 5.0 becomes a wish for encounter decisions that matter and which can vary based on your raid comp. What if you could not only choose help from Thrall or Jaina or … um …. another lore figure (sorry, I stink at Lore), but could also determine the level of help needed, a la the starting quests in Twilight Highlands? Honestly, I think that would be a better solution to LFR than simply nerfing every fight into oblivion and actually provide a valuable choice to raiders. Or, what if sparing a specific mob in a multi-boss encounter meant that you eliminated part of the loot table but gained more loot from the remaining list? I know that this option would be appreciated by a number of guilds tired of seeing the same healing plate or Agi gear drop week after week.
Wish #5: The Desperate Mana Potion
Although I only knew a few people who used them–hunters, mostly–I always loved the concept that the Fel Mana Potion introduced back in BC. It was a goblinish deal if ever there was one, and it asked, “How much is that additional mana worth to you?” Arguably, in the BC world of endless pots, it was simply a matter of choosing the cheapest option, but in today’s raiding environment, where a healer can oftentimes spend the last 10% of a progression attempt gasping for mana, I think it’s a deal that might get some takers.
And so, in 5.0, I’d love to see something similar to those old Fel Mana Potions aimed at healers who are so desperate for mana, that they’re willing to take a pretty big risk to get it. Think Potion of Nightmares only when you’re under the effects of the channel, you take 200% increased damage from all sources. The challenge would be finding the right time in an encounter to use it, knowing that a twist of RNG or a bad decision could mean your demise. Because if you’re looking for “meaningful” and “valuable” decisions, potential death versus delicious mana is as tough a decision as you can get for a healer with an empty blue bar.
Wish #6: Random and/or Small Groups
Although it’s oftentimes the source of complaint among players and raiders, I tend to appreciate encounters which incorporate a little bit of RNG and/or require players to work in smaller teams. Like the dual teams required in the Gothik and Thaddius encounters, the Spectral Blast mechanic in Kalecgos, the tunnel and arena teams in Thorim, or the up/down teams in Hallion, breaking the raid into smaller bits reduces the margin for error on a fight while also making each team feel more important to the success of the encounter. (It can also lead to us-versus-them divisions and sweeping generalizations, but then what raid team is complete without those?)
We saw some of this in T11 and T12, with fights like Double Dragon (Valiona & Theralion), Nefarian, Conclave of Wind, HM Al’akir (to some extent in Phase 1), and Beth’tilac, but I’d love to see those small teams taken a bit further in 5.0, and incorporate some pure RNG, EG: a random group of players being teleported to a locked antechamber that they have to break free of while the rest of the raid team fights the boss. Not only would this keep players on their toes, it would also require players to respond appropriately during the encounter instead of simply going through the same motions with the same group comps that they’ve had before.
Wish #7: Good NOT Mechanics
Unlike bad NOT mechanics, or more specifically the NOT mechanics aimed at healer which maintain “it’s fun to not have mana and be asked to heal! YIPEE!”, good NOT mechanics are the type that push you to venture outside your raid role’s comfort zone. Asking healers to not heal, or dps not to dps, can not only create a delightful inner turmoil in raiders but it can also shake you out of the raiding rut, you know the one we all get in after doing the same thing, fight after fight, night after night.
I know I’ll be in the slight majority when I say … Flame Leviathan, especially 4 towers, was a great NOT fight for all the right reasons—gear mattered slightly, class balance didn’t matter at all, and everyone had to work with new roles and new abilities. In comparison, HM Yor’shaj is a NOT fight that I think will go down as one of my least favorite in my raiding career for the simple fact that bad RNG can leave you mana starved with lots to heal (again, see bad NOT mechanics). HM Sindragosa and Rhyolith were NOT fights to some extent, in that they both asked dps to rein in their raging desire to go balls-to-the-wall in favor of NOT causing a wipe (whether or not your dps actually complied with that request is another story). Likewise, one of my favorite fights in Black Temple was Gurtogg Bloodboil, not because of the dance but because during his Fel Rage the focus was on NOT dying, through any means necessary (which is something I think we could all stand a refresher course in).
So, another one of my wishes for 5.0 is to see some more NOT mechanics that shake things up a bit. I’d love to see a fight where 5 random players are affected with “alternate universe” debuff which will make damaging spells heal and healing spells damage. Likewise I’d love to see the resurgence of the clothie ranged tank (Gruul, Illidari Council and Illidan come to mind), or a fight where the raid’s goal is to NOT stay alive through any means necessary. Imagine an entry-boss where a misguided Brann Bronzebeard and his team are fighting valiantly to keep you alive when all you need to do is die—where your job is to interrupt their healers, activate raid-decimating AOE, and get everyone to chain the lightning. Because, come on, after having 6 years of learning how to stay out of fire, wouldn’t you like one where you were penalized if you didn’t stand in it? (I can hear the taunting now, “WAY TO NOT STAND IN THE FIRE, NOOOOOOB!”)
Wish #8: Legendaries that Don’t Tip the Scales
As much as I’m loathe to dismiss an entire tier as being marginalized, there is no disputing the impact that Wrath of Tarecgosa has had on the final instance of Cataclysm. When world first kills feature class stacking heretofor unseen since … well, HM Nefarian and the Druid-Rip kerfluffle, and a speed at which those guilds cleared the tier is completely attributable to the release of a powerful dps legendary mid-expansion, it’s incredibly frustrating for two reasons. First of which is that for guilds working at the edge of progression, attempts, skill and strategy are marginalized by farming. Second, it means that the tuning of an encounter has to accommodate a much wider range of damage output; thus dps checks which are challenging to a guild with 1-2 legendaries become a cake-walk to those with 6-7 in raid.
So, my last major wish for 5.0 is for a world where expansion progression isn’t about who farmed the most legendaries or recruited the most Orange players. (Exodus and Blood Legion, ahem, I’m looking at you). The most elegant solution that I’ve heard to date to counter this effect was proposed by one of our rogues—make legendaries grant a raid-wide unstackable buff, so that no matter if you have one legendary or twenty, the effect is still the same. The player gets their amazing epeen item, and raid progress goes back to being limited by the skill and dedication of your team.
Bonus Wish: Bosses that Fled Instead of Bravely Facing Their Death
I’m rarely an RP person, but there are times where I do delight in a little tongue-in-cheek RP fun, so my bonus wish for 5.0 is to finally have a boss flee in terror upon seeing 10 or 25 players walk into his domain. I mean, we stand there every week, buffing, sharpening our blades, sometimes even /taunting them, and those bosses never bat an eyelash until we start something. Maybe it’s someone who wasn’t quite ready to be a big bad end boss or who wasn’t told in the Instance Boss Interview that he’d have to be adventurers’ punching bag week after week. Wouldn’t it be fun to just see a boss dip out the moment he caught a glimpse of your team? (Just think of the potential “[raid instance] … was merely a setback” jokes!)
So, those are just a few of my current wishes for 5.0 and beyond, although I’m sure I’ll have even more once we start getting more info about Mists. What about you guys? Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the coming expansion or would like to see in game?