Sunday, June 29, 2008

WWI Speculation Scorecard

Just before the WWI kicked off, I posted my baseless speculation on what would happen. I actually did better than I expected, which is kinda sad since my predictions were very unambitious. The rundown:

Mystery Splash Screen Announcement: Diablo III
True (+1)

- Will not be playable on the show floor.
True (+1)

- They may or may not announce the total number of classes, but they won't announce all of them. (I.e. if the number is 9, expect something more like 2-4.) The announced classes will include at least one new class and one class from DII.
They did indeed announce one new class and one old class (+1). When you're only releasing one game a year at best, you can't afford to announce all your classes at once; you need to save some for your next press event and/or competitor's game launch.
There is also confusion on whether or not they announced how many classes there will be. (?!) The FAQ says five, but one of the devs said it wasn't finalized. Then again, supposedly all seven DII classes were designed at the beginning, with two getting delayed to the expansion, so that may be the cause for confusion here. I would award myself a second point, but I idiotically pondered that there might be as many as 9 classes in the game and as many as four at the WWI.

- The actual game will be set up like Guild Wars. Money for the game, but no subscription fee, online only, with everything instanced.
Not announced, -1 for expecting more information out of Blizzard

Starcraft II and Wrath (Both previously announced to be playable on the show floor)

- Betas to start soon (tm), possibly this summer, but no hard dates set.
No such "soon" assurances was given, and, in fact, they confirmed that SC II would NOT launch in 2008, while level 70 content for Brewfest was up on the the PTR's this week (effectively confirming that the expansion, with increased level cap, would not be making its debut any sooner than late October after Brewfest ends). (-1)

- SC II will see new units unveiled, and details on the single player campaign.
I honestly haven't seen much in the way of SCII coverage. Incgamers' SCII site claimed that there was a new "mutated larva" that can spawn units quicker, but I'm not sure whether to count that as a unit or not. AFAIK, there were no new details on the single player campaign, which Blizz says they're only 1/3 done with. (-1)

- Wrath will see new info on inscription, the barber shop, vehicle combat, and possibly achievements. There will be info on Death Knights, but it won't be news to people who have read the alpha leaks.
The barber shop and achievements were a no-show, but there was a fair chunk of completely new information on siege vehicles, a brief mention of inscription, and some DK info that wasn't really news to people who read the alpha leaks. In fact, the new info in general was largely leaked from the alpha, which explains why Blizz gets so angry about these leaks. Not only did a friend of an employee betray them by breaking an NDA, but they don't have enough new information to produce new stuff at these press events IN ADDITION to the leaked info. (I'm ruling this a +0 since it was part right and part wrong.)

- Announcement of WoW's Patch 2.5 to build things up for the expansion, possibly with an updated version of the Scourge Invasion.
Officially shot down with a "2.4 was the last content patch before the expansion" line. I will believe this when I see it; like I said above, the Brewfest content strongly implies that Wrath will not launch before late October at the EARLIEST, putting it at least seven months after the launch of patch 2.4. A more realistic predictiion calls for November, December, or maybe even January (for an 8-10 month stretch without a single content patch). There's nothing EA Mythic and Funcom would like more for Christmas, and thus I'm pretty sure we're going to see another patch. With Naxx playing a role in the expansion anyway, a recycled Scourge invasion would be the most obvious choice, and I maintain we'll see it before the end of the year. But my prediction was whether it would be announced, and it was not, so -1 for me.

- No big ticket bombshell announcements for either game. (I.e. major features like new races/classes, or big changes like 10-man versions of every raid.)
The major news that came out of the WWI on the WoW front were:
- The hunter pet skill system will be revamped into a talent-like interface (this was not leaked from the alpha yet because it does not exist, it only affects a single class, and frankly we have no way of knowing whether the net effect of the change will be any different from the current system)
- Blizzard is "considering" ways to allow access to two talent specs. If this actually made it in, it would be a significant change, and they've previously been adamant that they thought the current respec costs were fine. That said, I still don't think this is as big a deal as, say, the Pally/Shaman swap in TBC, or the various changes to the way raid sizes work.
- Misc tidbits that I didn't know: Deathknight voices will be altered to sound more deathknight like (hi, gnome voiceover!). Several stat types relevant to hybrid characters are being consolidated. Healing gear will now have normal spell damage, with the spell itself having a higher coefficient to keep the final level of heals constant. Spell and melee hit ratings will be consolidated (Panzerkin, Enhancement Shammies, and some Pallies/DK's, rejoice!), as will the respective crit ratings. These changes were hinted at by leaks, but obviously the alpha leakers didn't do much digging on the exact mechanics. This won't alter the whole face of the game, but it will make for some interesting gear analysis (and fights over class priority ;)).

Overall, I'll claim victory on this point, though it would have been a close debate of it had the "two talent specs" thing actually been announced and confirmed. There are some changes here, but nothing on the game-altering level of changing the raid group cap or the Pally/Shaman swap. (+1)

In summary, I got as many of my predictions right as wrong, which is a huge improvement from previous Blizzard press events. (The Blizzcon '07 Wrath announcement FAQ leaked the day before, and I thought the thing was faked because I didn't think they would actually launch an expansion with only one new class, for fear of everyone playing it.) I guess I've been following enough of these things to lower my expectations down to levels that Blizzard can actually meet. :( We'll see how I do at Blizzcon'08....

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