Making the case for a WoW 2.0
I don’t know about you, but I’m hype for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. Everything from the level squish to the story has me raring to go. In fact, I wrote a whole article about why I am in the engineer’s room on the hype train.
Still, I can’t help but shake the feeling that the end of this expansion is going to leave us in a pretty weird spot. I mean, by the time we’re done with this expansion, we’ll have faced down Old Gods, the enigmatic Jailer, various Cosmic forces, and a ton of other challenges as our main characters.
Where do we go from there? More importantly, how do you top going into the afterlife? Those questions, along with a host of others, have made me believe that this should be the last expansion of the World of Warcraft as we know it today. That way, Blizzard can work on the second iteration of this MMO, a WoW 2.0, and we can go forth as a happier, larger, and less world-weary fanbase.
Here are a bunch of reasons that I think we could benefit from a new World of Warcraft.
We’re Running Out of Relevant and “Realistic” Threats
I’ve posed this question about World of Warcraft before: how do you keep escalating the threat relative to the power obtained by the heroes?
We started in vanilla World of Warcraft as humble heroes. We’re stronger than the average person at the end of the game, but there are still hero NPCs that would wipe the floor with us. We fought some elemental entities, dragons, and pretty standard story villains throughout the expansions.
Now, though? We’re fighting corrupted titans and Old Gods that are so powerful that it no longer makes sense for the heroes to kill the enemies on their own. We’re completely outclassed.
For example, the heroes didn’t kill N’Zoth last expansion. We had to borrow power from the Forge of Origination, run it through the Heart of Azeroth, and essentially use a Kamehameha to finish the boss.
Now we’re going up against the forces of the afterlife, and I have to ask: where are we going from here? How can we put our hero in a position where they’re more than a grunt in the army but less powerful than the gods?
Moreover, what kind of threats can Blizzard’s dubious writing staff come up with after Shadowlands? I know the real answers to that question would be Void Lords or something, but we’re getting outclassed.
Folks, we’re at a tipping point. How can we, as players, continue to meaningfully impact the story and feel like we can keep up with the fights that are taking place?
Unless something crazy happens, we’re all about to become the Yamchas of Azeroth. Sure, Yamcha could punch a hole through a regular person, but what the hell is he supposed to do against Majin Buu? We just had a dude stab the frickin’ planet at the end of Legion.
I can’t entirely agree with my colleague in that we’re simply outmatched and that needing divine help is a bad thing. At the same time, I think it’s important for our characters to feel relevant to the story.
We can do that by going into a new world or even a past version of this world, but I don’t see how our characters will be needed moving forward in this particular era.
Horde Vs. Alliance Doesn’t Make Sense Anymore
One of the greatest pleasures of WoW has been in the faction conflict of the Horde against the Alliance. We’ve fought over and over in multi-day Alterac Valley matches, swooped in on lowbies, and supported our leaders in an array of difficult decisions. We’ve been there for the cookout at Teldrassil, Theramore getting a makeover, Undercity becoming even more uninhabitable, and a lot of NPC murders.
Now, though, the faction conflict doesn’t really make sense. In fact, the more the writers switch between peace and war, the more annoying it is.
You know that couple that gets together, breaks up, “learns from their mistakes”, makes peace at a friend’s wedding, dates again, and then breaks up? That’s the Horde vs. Alliance conflict. They’ve alternated between fighting and being at peace with each other so often that it feels so stupid and forced both when we fight and when we settle!
It no longer matters if the two factions are fighting one another because I know that, in the end, we’ll be singing kumbaya so we can focus on the “real problems.” I get it; we go into video games with a suspension of disbelief and people fight and make peace all the time.
BUT when you consider the fact that the entire World of Warcraft takes place in less than a decade, it’s even clearer that this whole part of the story is worn through. We’ve broken up and cobbled together a flimsy alliance so often that half the people on either side are probably still confused.
Now, some people might say: dude, the reason we’re fighting doesn’t matter. We just wanna fight. Okay, I respect that, but for once I’m thinking of the OG WoW players. These people have been Horde or Alliance for longer than some readers have been alive. The less important we make that conflict or sweep it under the rug when it’s not convenient to the story, the less sense it makes for this aspect game to go on.
A WoW 2.0 would give us a fresh start. We could have a new conflict between groups that would give us a renewed sense of animosity. I’d love to see a future where all our old love is forgotten and we start killing each other again with new allies. Maybe, instead of a two-party system, we could have three or four groups fighting it out, making alliances, and betraying each other. Just saying, it’s been done in lesser games.
The World Map Is Crowded; The World is Empty
Look at the map. We’re just about out of places to conveniently find islands, right? The map has been pretty thoroughly filled in and that is a problem from a story standpoint. We need a change of scenery to keep the game interesting and to allow the story to grow.
I asked the question figuratively, but now I have to ask it literally- where do we go from here? Do you want to go into space? Do you want to go to a different planet? How about an alternate frickin’ timeline. Wait, we already did all of that.
Okay, enough of the sarcasm, but you probably have a sense of the issue that we’re facing, right? The bigger the world gets, the less often we fight for home. Yet, if the game isn’t growing and changing, it’s no longer interesting.
Another major problem is that when we’re done with the old zones, we quickly leave them and they’re empty. Go check out Northrend, most of Pandaria, the Broken Isles, and Zuldazar in December. The world is big, but there’s not a lot of substance in these places, and most of the time it’s impossible to bring those areas back into the fold in a meaningful way.
In my mind, there are two scenarios that we can explore and fix this problem in a WoW 2.0. First, we can go to a different period of time. No, not a time jump using Chromie or something. I mean we go forward in the timeline and we leave this period behind for good. Your old character might have to go through reincarnation or finally die for realsies.
This time, though, the Spirit Healer isn’t home and Bwonsamdi stops caring , so you just get slam-dunked into the Maw. So, R.I.P. to your druid named HairyPawter.
Or not, I haven’t come up with an exact idea. Anyway, you start over as a new person or reincarnate in a new era.
The other idea I had, and I’m not a high-paid video game journalist or Blizzard employee (sorry), is to ask yet another question: what’s west of W̶e̶s̶t̶e̶r̶o̶s̶ Kalimdor? Some people much more well-versed in the lore of WoW than me (nerds) have asked what other bodies of land exist on Azeroth?
The Red Shirt guy in 2013 asked some developers at Blizzcon and they left open the possibility that there is a whole southern hemisphere. Or, they could just retcon a whole new land as they’ve done before.
Why don’t we take a break from this absolute mess in Kalimdor, Eastern Kingdoms, Pandaria, etc, and go see what’s up over there? Going to the “other side” of the planet could completely transform our understanding of the world, help refresh the lore, and even impact some of the more technical aspects of the game.
We Could Use Some New Faces and New Lore
The story leading to and in World of Warcraft has been around for a long time now. We have to get some new characters and lore. Otherwise, we’re going to be stuck reusing the same cast of leaders and characters that are presented as being integral to the story and then being unceremoniously shoved to the side as time goes on.
Go ahead and look at the remaining group leaders for everyone in BFA. They’ve either been around so long that they’re comfortable chilling on the sidelines, like Lor’Themar, or they’re completely unimportant to the story now, like Chen Stormstout.
Of course, there is always the possibility that they’ll just be killed off for shock value or to make room for new leaders for future conflicts. R.I.P. Vol’Jin and Varian, the only person to be disenchanted.
At the end of Battle for Azeroth, Jaina and Thrall talk about the mistakes they made in the past with a tone of utter world-weariness, specifically the bombing of Theramore. The crazy thing is that in real life, those events took place 8 years ago.
While I love the fact that we’ve seen characters grow and change in their positions, we have to collectively realize that staying in this period of time with these characters limits the game’s potential from a story standpoint.
As I’ve already said, the connections between these leaders make it impossible to have a realistic faction-based conflict, especially by the end of BFA. So, our conflicts have to come from new lands, outer space, and the void. This is the mechanism that is driving the game towards threats that are too great for our heroes to handle.
What could a Wow 2.0 bring to the table to change all of this? Again, I think there are a few solutions. While going to a different part of the world would be interesting, I believe that going to a different time would be most beneficial. Yet, going to a different place on Azeroth would also let us get away from these ongoing story lines and back to more grounded content.
The Graphics Need Some Improvement
Don’t get me wrong. I value gameplay over graphics 100% of the time. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a WoW expansion and said, “Man, those graphics are so bad, I’m sitting this one out.”
At the same time, I’ve never said “Oh, dang. Those WoW graphics are incredible.” The exception being the pre-expansion cut scenes, of course.
Getting a new iteration of WoW would allow the graphics of the series to catch up with the rest of the MMOs out there, give us a fresh look, and not kill the art team at Blizzard because they don’t have to overhaul Azeroth as we know it. Also, it could benefit the game as a whole by attracting a new player base to the WoW 2.0.
Each of those benefits is something that the game needs, especially more players. Yet, I can’t imagine the art team updating all the graphics of WoW simply because of how large the world has gotten. It would take them a long time and cost a lot of money that Blizz doesn’t want to spend.
I’ve been around the block in Azeroth, and if there is one part of the team at Blizzard I trust, it’s the art. New graphics would allow for greater character customization, cooler spell effects, and a sense of wonder at the new locations that we’re sorely lacking.
I’m not going to harangue you to death with why good graphics are a positive thing. Also, I understand that some people aren’t playing on great PCs and that can be an issue. In fact, that brings me to my next point.
Retail WoW Is Losing Players; Changes Can Help
I was going to walk you all through my line of thinking about this like a school counselor or something. I know that WoW players are a very passionate fanbase, feel a sense of ownership about the game, and might not want to open up the gate to new people or hear it disparaged.
Instead, I’ve decided to rip the bandage off. WoW is not posting great numbers of players even though it seems that the number of gamers in the world is increasing.
Not only would a new version of the game make more people interested in coming to the game as a whole, but putting it on consoles would help people without PCs finally get in the game.
Let’s start with one big problem. Fewer people are becoming new players at the start of expansions. Why? Because people want to get in on the ground level of the game, not when they have 16 years of lore and content to go through. It’s intimidating, time-consuming, and it makes you feel like a moron when the whole chat is spammed with “Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker,” and you have no idea what is happening.
A WoW 2.0 would bring in new players, make Azeroth accessible to a new generation, and the developers could make it playable on a console as well. I mean, if FFXIV can do it, so can WoW.
That would open up Azeroth to a whole new group of people who don’t have a PC, don’t really want a PC, and still want to try playing the game. I firmly believe that a new WoW game could muster similar numbers to the console version of FFXIV, which is sitting pretty at 1.66 million people or so.
I know some people are going to say that they’d never play WoW 2.0 for a whole variety of reasons. That’s understandable, I guess; people hate change. So, we would inevitably lose players or they would simply not try out a new version of the game.
I still believe that it would result in a net gain of players from people that want new, familiar, console-and-PC content.
Wouldn’t the potential losses prevent Blizz from even trying to make such a risky and expensive move, especially to release the game on consoles?
As someone pretending to be optimistic about the WoW population, I feel as though we’ve already seen this in action, sort of, and got positive results. As I mentioned earlier, WoW has so many players that have been around for so long that they grew nostalgic about the initial game release. So, we have real WoW Classic servers, and they’re going to re-release a whole expansion on them in about six months.
Blizzard and the WoW community do seem to have a tolerance for trying something new as long as they have a fallback if things go wrong. Like how WoW Classic is currently inundated with bots while people wait for BC to drop before going back.
From my circle of WoW friends who have played this game for, well, a long time, several of them seemed open to the idea of a console version. Blizz has some experience in doing console versions of famous games, like Diablo III. So, some long-time fans will support the idea.
Even if Blizzard didn’t capture all of their old audience, they could just keep the servers on the original WoW running and maintain all those sweet, sweet monthly payments. It could work.
World of Warcraft 2.0 Could Make Better, Fairer Classes
I believe that a WoW has a major issue with the character classes. Not only is re-balancing them for fairness a constant battle that leaves nobody happy, but it feels reactive instead of proactive. We’ve had many of these classes for a decade or more, and Blizz is in a real bind with it.
If they change too much, they risk making a super-powered class and breaking others. If they change too little, the class gets stale. I believe we’ve seen both extremes happen. We’ve gotten to the point where the balance doesn’t seem to come from the classes themselves but is instead cobbled together from corruption, Azerite powers, and frantic tuning during weekly patches.
Okay, that’s not entirely fair, but I have a hard time thinking of the classes in WoW as being cohesive and well-planned. I know that it is impossible to have a perfectly balanced game, but that’s not the only issue that WoW has with its class system.
A lot of classes are blending together and making it so they’re a complete utility class no matter what. Every class and spec seems to have a stun, silence, self-heal, and movement ability. Does it make sense to add them? It would if the individual specializations were designed and balanced better.
With all classes having the aforementioned abilities and some individual specs being left to rot on the vine instead of having uniquely useful abilities, we have meta-obsessed gameplay where entire classes and specs can be shelved for an entire expansion. They simply don’t have the power or versatility to make them necessary or desired.
That’s been an ongoing problem and I recognize that Blizz is trying to juggle a lot of things, but they could tap into 16 years of experience and give the fans classes designed from the bottom up to be useful and good.
They could finally stop blurring the lines between class specs and deliver cohesive and unique characters. At least, that is what my most optimistic view of WoW 2.0 could be.
To Sum Up My Vision for WoW 2.0 Following Shadowlands
Anyone that wanted to skim the article and get right to the point, here is a basic breakdown.
Why Shadowlands should end World of Warcraft and pave the way for a new iteration of the game:
- We’re running out of monsters to fight. What are we gonna do? Fight a whole planet next?
- It no longer makes sense to fight each other and that’s a very important part of gameplay and faction identity that people have built up over 16 years
- The story is starting to trip over itself. We have a huge band of leaders and heroes that are just sitting out entire expansions or getting killed because there’s no place for them
- The graphics are impossible to update for the whole game right now. Updating it piece by piece is goofy and does nothing to entice new players
- A new WoW 2.0 could bring in new players that want to start at the ground level and bring console players into the fold. More players will lead to more fun
- Blizzard could take the opportunity to give us better, more sensible classes
How can they do it?
- Do a time jump. Take us into the future or way the heck into the past or take us to the “other side” of Azeroth or a completely new place on the planet that has somehow never been found before. How about RIGHT BEFORE THE SUNDERING
- We’ll have new factions, new fights, and no “dead” lore characters
- Set the art team to work creating a new world or recreating parts of the old one.
- Include console players in the mix
- Put the Blizzard class creators in a room and let them live out their fantasy of creating classes without having to worry about how letting Demonology be good for 5 minutes will break the whole game.
I think we’re heading towards the end of WoW, one way or another. Waning player interest, the potential inability to develop the story to include our heroes, and other factors are going to catch up with the game at some point. Unless Blizzard can keep milking this cash cow, well, who knows?
If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t think Blizzard will ever go for a WoW 2.0, and I expect a good amount of players to feel the same way. Some of the ideas are too controversial, the project would involve too much work, and there is no guarantee of success. If there’s one thing Blizz has been doing lately, it’s been pruning all but the most successful games and franchises and going for reboots to max out those profits.
Still, I hope that we can at least look at some of the potential benefits of moving into a new era with or without our current heroes. It’d be nice to take them through one last expansion before getting the option to have them die grandly. But, as I’ve always said, I’m a sucker for a good ending to a story, and I’d hate to see this one end badly.
I believe that it’s best to end a story on a high note rather than drag it out to a messy, inevitable demise. Why? Because people still miss TV shows like Breaking Bad and games like the original Mass Effect Trilogy. Those stories made an impact and left people wanting more.
I want World of Warcraft to be remembered as one of those, a game that knew when it had run its course and left with a bang. In my mind, it’s better to put out a WoW 2.0 when people want more rather than trying to sell a spinoff after choking the game to death to put it out of its misery.