Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Incorrect Convention Predictions for Summer/Fall 2011

My track record for incorrect Blizzcon predictions is so epically bad - last year all my calls were proven wrong before the show even started - that I've decided to get a head start and expand my coverage to be sure that I can be totally wrong about even more 'con's.   Without further ado...

Inaccurate Predictions for SOE Fan Faire (to be disproved by 7-9 July)
The new EQ2 class will be the fabled Beast Lord, and the new expansion will have something to do with the destroyed moon of Luclin.  The new expansion will come out sometime later than previously (perhaps May 2012) and will NOT increase the game's level cap.  Given that EQ Next was no more than concept art last year, it won't be playable this year. 

There really isn't another choice of class that I've ever heard anyone suggest serious interest in.  Of course, I didn't hear much call for a premium vampire race either, but finding a home for a new class in a game that already has more classes than it knows what to do with is a bit more work than a mostly cosmetic new race.  It really wouldn't make sense to spend the time on something that no one would care about, the melee pet class is the only option I can think of that isn't covered by the game's two dozen existing classes, and the Beast Lord was tied to the lore of Luclin in the original EQ.

My guess on Luclin arises partially from similar reasoning - this game isn't getting any younger, so it doesn't make sense to save its most recognizable expansion ideas for some future rainy day.  There is the minor issue that Luclin doesn't exist anymore, but my guess is that this expansion will be very light on new content.  Smokejumper came out and said that he'd like expansions to be more about new features than new content, and I would guess that the additional content that is being added in the content patches of Velious is coming out of the dev time that would have been available for the next expansion.  In that context, a Cataclysm-like plot in which chunks of the old moon fall on underutilized zones may fit Smokejumper's plan.

Finally, the level cap.  I have not heard a single complaint that DOV did not increase the level cap this year, or a single desire for it to be increased next year.  Quite the contrary, the only thing we absolutely know is coming next year is the Qeynos revamp (following this year's Freeport revamp), and there was the whole kerflaffle about giving away max level characters, which only gets worse as the game accumulates more than its current 90 levels.  Meanwhile, last year's TSF expansion was a mess in large part because they raised the level cap far more than the limited new adventuring content could support, and nothing suggests a different scenario this year.  I guess they could go for 1-3 levels as Ferrel has suggested from time to time, but I don't see a real reason why there need to be any this year, and thus I'm predicting zero.

Inaccurate Predictions For Pax Prime (to be disproved 26-28 August)
I don't even know who is exhibiting this year.  I'm guessing that Trion and Turbine are in, since they were in last year, and that Blizzard and SOE are out, because they have their own events.

The Turbine booth will assuredly be busy hyping the new LOTRO expansion, but I don't expect major news to drop a mere month out from the expansion launch.  The real news here will.be the mystery non-druid class to be added to DDO.  My guess here is a modified version of the pen and paper Mystic Theurge, which can cast both arcane and divine spells at the cost of reduced progression in both schools.  I predict that the DDO version will be a stand-alone class (i.e. does not stack with other classes) with a single set of spell slots for both schools (since DDO uses a more MMO-like SP system instead of DND spell slots).  Someone will find some creative use for it, and it will be easy for Turbine to make because it doesn't require large amounts of new mechanics; it's basically a Sorcerer with slower spell acquisition and a wider spell list. 

The Trion side of things is harder to predict - to my knowledge, they've said next to nothing about patch 1.4, other than the assumption that it will contain the guild banks that were not ready for 1.3.  At their current pace, patch 1.4 will be in final testing or live and they'll be hinting at the contents of 1.5.  Six months post-launch is too soon to be talking paid expansions, so it would surprise me if anything of the sort came up.

Incorrect Blizzcon Predictions (to be disproved 21-22 October)
Having been told last year that Diablo III will not launch in 2011 and Titan, the Mystery Fourth Project, will not be announced until 2012, takes much of the guesswork out of this year.  DIII will take center stage, accompanied by the SCII expansion (which finally got some face time this year). 

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Blizzard will opt NOT to announce the next World of Warcraft expansion at this event.  This would break past precedent - all three past WoW expansions were announced at Blizzcon, and you would ordinarily expect the new expansion to roll out at this con - 10 months post-Cataclysm - to start building hype for its launch at the 18-24 month post-Cataclysm launch.  The problem is timing. 

Blizzard planned 2-3 patches for Cataclysm before they ended up breaking 4.1 in half and spending seven months to get both parts out the door.  At their customary 6-month patch cycle, we'd expect to see the patch that was previously the second patch of the Cataclysm era hitting the test servers around this time, with the third patch and the final battle with Deathwing presumably at least six months beyond that (i.e. June 2012).  If that's the timetable, October seems a bit soon to be looking beyond the Deathwing era.  Maybe they can hold Blizzcon 2012 earlier, or announce the WoW expansion at some other event in early 2012?

Whenever they do get around to announcing the expansion, I predict that Nozdormu and the Infinite Dragonflight will be the stars of the show.  I do not expect any significant changes to the now out-of-date lore of Outland and Northrend, but we could see a slight tie-in where players heading to those unchanged continents are specifically told that they're being sent into the past to prevent the Infinite Flight from changing (relatively recent) history.  I'm also going to predict neither a new class nor new races.  Blizzard has said that they like to alternate because of art demands of a new race, but I just don't see a niche for a new class in a game that is already struggling to deal with the 30 subclasses of its 10 classes.  I predict that there will be five new levels - unlike EQ2, I think there is a demand for more dings, but I don't think they want the talent point inflation that comes with 10 levels.

And that's what I've got for the year's three big cons.  Have fun pointing and laughing over the next four months.  :)  



Ardwulf said...

I think you're right about the SOE predictions except for the level cap increase. EQ2 has historically offered cap increases with every other expansion, which would mean the next one is where it's due, even if they do plan to push a majority of content out in updates.

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Suicidal Zebra said...

If they don't announce *anything* at this years Blizzcon, after the ridiculousness of last years' Geek Is debacle, there are going to be a lot of annoyed guys and gals who've spent $175 on tickets and even more on Accommodation and Travel for a pretty un-interesting event.

I think that the Expansion #4 announcement for WoW is almost certain, more details on HotS for SC2 and maybe a teaser out of left-field. D3 is so close to being in Beta that it almost makes discussing it at the Con worthless.