Hopes Are High For MoP

Do you remember the anticipation, the palpable tingle of excitement at the sight of Deathwing descending onto Stormwind’s ramparts?

How long did it last?

It would be churlish to label Cataclysm a complete failure, but there were definitely lessons to be learned for Blizzard — particularly with the MMO market suddenly more competitive than ever.

Soon the mists will clear and the realm of Pandaria will be much more visible. The question is: what lessons must Blizzard take into the new World of Warcraft expansion?

Join me as I count down the top seven reasons why Mists of Pandaria will be better than Cataclysm.

Reason One: Looking For Nobody

I think most of the dungeons at Cataclysm’s launch did a good job of using raid-style mechanics to help with a player’s awareness and mobility. However, the heroics were meant to slow down gear progression through providing a challenge that the majority of players would take some time to master.

Unfortunately, many players simply became frustrated and instead of delaying progression, heroics were a brick wall for some.  Blizzard responded by making heroics much easier to ensure the vast majority of players could get into the raid content that they had spent time and effort designing and implementing. This makes perfect sense, but we were then stuck with a monotonous grind through not very interesting encounters, which felt like another form of doing dailies – upon which I’ll speak more of later.

GhostcrawlerGreg Street — said recently that he didn’t think that heroics were actually too difficult when Cataclysm launched, but he did think that there were no alternative methods to experience the content.

This quandary has birthed the Challenge Mode where the competitive PvE spirit will be fostered in dungeons. I’m keen to try them out, though to be honest I’d prefer it if we instead had a three tiered difficulty system along the same lines as raids. That way gear progression could still be handled through dungeons, but there would be enough flexibility to advance at the pace that suits the player.

I do think that Blizzard has realized that we need some variety in our 5-mans, so I’m sure Mists of Pandaria will feature a lot of very interesting dungeons to run through with our guildies – or with anonymous Mage number 3,726. Nerf magi.

Reason Two:  Taking out the trash

We all have chores that we groan at with their very mention. Changing cat litter makes some gnash their teeth, the prospect of cleaning dishes makes others throw their heads back just to get some extra force into their eye-roll. Whatever it is, repetitive and monotonous jobs are no fun at all; so why Blizzard thought the Fireland dailies would be I have no idea.

Dave “Fargo” Kosak has spoken of how happy he was with the way gated dailies answered issues with phasing as well as developing a story over some time. Personally, I thought it took far too long to get anywhere meaningful, and it turned into an absolute bore. For those of you who completed the entire chain of quests I salute you. For those of you who need hypnosis therapy to erase the skull-grinding boredom, I sympathize.

Surely, Mists of Pandaria will have a better design to for large, story-driven quest chains. I understand that Blizzard needs to have repeatable content outside of dungeons. I also understand that Cataclysm’s overhaul of the leveling zones spread resources thin, making it difficult to produce enough higher level content to satisfy players for very long. But using dailies that cured insomnia — mainly to stretch content out for an age — was not the right answer.

Dailies aren’t going away, they make too much sense to the devs in regards to the invested development time and the amount of hours played. However, there is no way that Mists of Pandaria will have the same ridiculously overlong batch of snorefests.

Reason Three: Kills Bugs Fast

Raiding is the key facet of an expansion for the most vocal of WoW’s populace. For various reasons, it took quite some time to get through tier 11 – which was necessary in the sense that it took so bloody long to get the next tier out – but when tier 12 actually did come out, Blizz decided to nerf the knees off Cata’s first set of raids.

This allowed PUG raids to form and attack BWD with fervor to gear up and to see all of the content that they could not before. It did cause an outcry from those who wanted to finish tier 11 without the training wheels, but it quickly made that content so irrelevant it was hard to care for long.

Similar wholesale nerfs were later applied to tier 12 well before tier 13 came out, but it seems Blizzard may have realized the issues they were causing with these nerf-heavy responses.

Looking For Raid gives raiders — particularly those who really needed the nerfs that were applied in previous tiers — an avenue to see the content and enjoy raiding for the fun of it. Those who are more proficient will have raid content that can be tuned to their ability without dropping nerf-nukes later.

Mists of Pandaria’s raids have been designed with this philosophy in mind, which should help greatly with the consistency of experience for raiders across the expansion. I would also expect there to be more raids with more content within them purely because Blizzard isn’t trying to overhaul old content this time.

I think there’s reason to be hopeful for raiders in Mists of Pandaria.

Reason Four: Now I know my ABCs

Some authorities use walking in a straight line as a test of sobriety, does this mean Cata’s quest zones could be used instead?

Fargo admitted that the zones were far too linear in Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria will undoubtedly offer more variety in the style of questing and the zones themselves, thankfully.

Reason Five: My kingdom for an ass

I like Thrall. Let me be clear, I enjoy Thrall’s story and have done for some time. But we get it already, let’s make the other leading characters interesting. The leaders of the two factions need to start being as inspiring as Thrall. Garrosh and Varian have both spent quite a lot of time acting like brain-donors in order to heighten tension between the two factions and get back to a state of war in Warcraft.

I’m all for a better sense of opposition between the Alliance and the Horde, but lets do it due to nuanced reasons rather than our leaders being a pair of planks. MoP should see a resumption of hostility and a development in characterization to help bring the factions together, in order to despise each other.

Fun, fun.

No More Big Bad Boss In MoP

Reason Six: Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Illidan was the cool character that hardly anyone ever saw in The Burning Crusade. You couldn’t walk 10 feet in Wrath of the Lich King without tripping over Arthas’ cloak. And Deathwing was a constant presence, if not just due to his sporadic crop-dusting ventures, but also some cool quests – the Twilight Highlands battle being one I particularly liked — and his kindly appearances to get his backside stomped in raids.

A couple of problems occur with having a main villain who dominates an expansion. Firstly, it ends up making the Alliance and Horde work together. That can make for some interesting tension, but we enjoy the enmity between the factions much more. Secondly, it leads to Dr. Evil moments. By that I mean a silly instance where the villain has you bang to rights but lets you go or puts you in an easily inescapable situation.

Ridiculous Villain Engagements

“Haha, puny mortal! I could kill you now, but I won’t bother as you are too pathetic! Though it’s likely you’ll gang up to kill me later. I mean you have actually already proven you can affect the world which has suddenly changed since I was last here. Hmm, on second thoughts…”

Mists of Pandaria will be much the better for not focusing on one arch-villain, we can get back to the world being the most important supporting character in our journey. Which will be good for everyone.

Reason Seven: Ready when it’s ready.

Blizz, I’m afraid you have a serious problem. You’re too bloody slow. Cataclysm suffered terribly because of the massive gap between ICC and its launch. Without the ravening need for new content, the gaps in Cata’s endgame might not have been quite so pronounced. But it was.

It then took until April for Rise of The Zandalari; which had two rehashed old raids made into 5-mans. It wasn’t until June that Firelands came in. That’s just far too long a wait between raids and other content.

I know Blizzard has said it wants to bring out expansions much more regularly before, but without the gargantuan job they undertook with Cataclysm, I’m thinking they might nail it this time.

They definitely need to, as I think for all the genre-defining things World of Warcraft had achieved, Blizzard looks positively sloth-like compared to others.

Those are my personal reasons why I think Mists of Pandaria will be a large improvement over Cataclysm; if you agree or vehemently disagree let us know below.