I have been a fan of Blizzard for a long time. World of Warcraft will turn ten years old this year, and Blizzard will have likely released the fifth expansion for the game, Warlords of Draenor, by that point. Each expansion brings with it some graphical upgrades, and Warlords will bring the long awaited character model revamps. The game is starting to show its age though, and while it is still the king of the online games, some of the newcomers are arriving with interesting features that Warcraft just does not have the tech to support currently.
It is not all bad though. Warlords will get rid of ‘useless’ pieces of gear by only putting only secondary stats (like haste or critical strike) on gear. Primary stats will be determined by the characters current specialisation. For example, a feral druid would have agility on all their gear, but swapping to restoration would change all the gear to intelligence. It is small changes like this that keep Warcraft competitive as an MMO, but let us look at some features that could be employed from other games.
Rift had good ideas about grouping players up for content. Whenever an event occurred within the world, any nearby players that decided to take part would automatically be put into a group with each other. Loot is awarded to any character taking part rather than whoever can loot the body first. Warcraft added something similar with timeless isle, allowing characters to work together to take down large enemies without needing to group. This idea needs to be spread throughout the whole game, as many named enemies needed to be killed for achievements, yet kills are only awarded to the groups that initiated them.
Guild Wars 2 was released in 2012, but has a lot of interesting ideas. Crafting is the first thing I check out in MMOs, and GW2 has put a different spin on learning new recipes. There is a discovery panel where all materials that can be used in the profession will appear. Choosing one material will let you know how many patterns are left to discover using that material. Adding a second narrows down the number of patterns, and once a complete set of materials have been found, they can be crafted into an item. And recipes discovered are added to the crafting menu.
Not only is crafting in GW2 interesting, it is also incredibly quick and easy. All crafting materials carried on a player can be deposited in a materials bank from anywhere in the world. Those materials can then be accessed by any character on the players account. By comparison, Warcraft has only just allowed players to send heirlooms across servers after years of trying to work out their technology. Bank alts are common place, but so much effort is required moving materials between characters. Having a shared storage, even if it is only between characters on a server, would be a massive improvement over mailing everything.
Looking at another of Blizzard’s properties, ideas could be taken from Diablo 3 and its expansion. The paragon system could be implemented into Warcraft to reward people who spend extra time in the game. Obviously, increasing stats through the system would be a bad idea, but it could be used to increase the reputation gains for all characters, or maybe even increase gold drops. The system could even be used to increase the amount of experience gained by all characters, cutting down on the amount of grinding required for people who put in a lot of effort on their main characters. New players to the game have a lot of content to catch up on, and anything to help cut out a lot of the grinding will help keep them interested on exploring older content as well.
There are likely to be idea in other upcoming MMOs as well, but from what I have seen so far, Elder Scrolls Online seems pretty generic in the way it works. It is unlikely the game will have anything to offer Warcraft, but I hold out hope the final game will have something to make it interesting to people coming from Skyrim.
What do you think Warcraft could learn from other MMOs? How much longer do you think the game will run for? Is there anything on the horizon that can dethrone it as the king of MMOs? Let me know in the comments!