The Past, Pandaria Present, And Future Of World Of Warcraft

Reactions to World of Warcraft's newest expansion, Mists of Pandaria have been more or less positive, overall -- but the expansion has sold fewer copies, and those more slowly, than WoW's previous expansion, Cataclysm. WoW, while still a popular and beloved juggernaut among MMORPGs, is ageing, and the world of gaming in which it competes has changed.

So now that Blizzard has thrown playable panda-people into the mix, what else lurks in the potential future of Azeroth? In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, World of Warcraft production director J. Allen Brack dove deep into the past, present, and future of the game.

The elephant (dragon? very large panda?) in the room with modern multiplayer online games is, of course, the idea of free-to-play vs the monthly subscription. The classic $US15 subscription model is waning in popularity rather quickly. Might there ever be a free-to-play future for WoW?

Brack reiterated what most players seem intuitively to feel -- that it's not in the cards anytime soon -- but added that of course, the team does have to think about it. "We would be foolish not to at least consider it from time to time, think about what it would mean. I don't necessarily know what the right thing would be for WoW, if we were to consider that model," Brack said. "But we're definitely trying to learn lessons from other people as we watch them do it. It's a huge focus of [GDC Online]. It's been a huge focus in MMOs over the last few years."

Brack also delved into the increase in player sophistication and change in player expectations over the past eight years. He pointed to the raid strategies for the Molten Core, one of the zones included with the original launch of World of Warcraft:"Here's this boss. He's got these two adds. The adds can't be killed. You have to tank those adds. You have to DPS down the boss. That's it. That's an actual boss mechanic in Molten Core," Brack said. He continued, "We don't have dungeon bosses that are that simplistic anymore. Players would see that, understand that, and have no challenge instantly. It's amazing, the player sophistication, in terms of what they're able to consume, what they're able to do, the rise of the kind of player communication and everything that happens along with it."

So if the subscriptions are sticking around, and experienced players need new, different content at all times, what's next for World of Warcraft? "In terms of stories that are unfinished, certainly the Burning Legion story is unfinished. There's Sargeras and his guys who are bent on everything that he wants to do. Taking over the universe. That's maybe one step above Deathwing [in terms of epicness]. I don't necessarily think that's the right next story for WoW, but it's a story that we could tell," Brack mused.

As for the immediate future, Brack explained that the team is larger than it's ever been -- at 165 -- and that a mingled bunch of large and small patches is on the way. From "giant raid tiers" to "little vignettes," World of Warcraft just keeps on growing.

WoW's J. Allen Brack On What Lies Beyond Pandaria [Rock Paper Shotgun]


Comments

    ”Here’s this boss. He’s got these two adds. The adds can’t be killed. You have to tank those adds. You have to DPS down the boss. That’s it. That’s an actual boss mechanic in Molten Core,” Brack said. He continued, “We don’t have dungeon bosses that are that simplistic anymore..."
    I am going to go ahead and disagree with this. MC Bosses (in my opinion) were more difficult to their new counterparts simply because the 40-man team. Ever tried to organise 40 internet strangers to work in unison as a well oiled, killing machine? IMPOSSIBRU!

    Wow needs some real story progression and expanding Sargeras or Kil'jaeden to be the main antagonist would be great to assist Wow in continuing to be an enjoyable high quality mmo. Wow has waned in story quality since Wrath because it had both of it's best antagonists at that point LK and Illidan defeated. Catacylsm attempted the Deathwing story but he was a rather weak villiain and impossible to identify with in the same way players did with LK and Illidan. Pandarias main villian will be the crazy horde leader Garosh in the final Patch which is even weaker then Deathwing.

    The next Wow expansion has to step up the game through story not just gameplay or Wow will start to fall behind other newer mmo's. Don't get me wrong I think Wow has the story potential it has shown this in the past with Illidan/BC and LK/Wrath. I hope that the next expansion leaves azeroth again and explore's the demonic story in an engaging way. I miss old Blizzard and Wow and hope they can reclaim some of that old critical acclaim they had. From a long time fan Pandaria doesn't interest me however I'll keep my mind open and my hopes up for the next expansion.

      anyone I've spoken to who has played Pandaria has agreed that story is it's strongest point. I'm gonna have to completely disagree with you here. It has the strongest story of any of the expansions so far and Garosh looks to be potentially one of the most epic warcraft villains ever.

        That may well be true, but not in the grander sense that Kermit is talking about. There's a huge issue with World of Warcraft in that it's big picture is still Warcraft III centric. Pandaria may be fun storywise, but is it going to be self-contained like Cataclysm where it started and ended with Deathwing?
        There's a reason why Pandaria stopped being an easter egg and started being used for actual content, and that's because all their efforts to advance the plot of the Warcraft universe have fallen flat.

          Do me a favour and don't cite Cataclysm as an example of good storytelling - or good anything where WoW is concerned.

          Pandaria is working overtime to win back the millions of subscribers that Cataclysm lost.

            I never said Cataclysm was an example of good storytelling (if anything I'd say I called Cataclysm out for not going anywhere). Although it did add a ton of mechanics that improved the WoW engines ability to tell a story (phasing was a pain, but only because they didn't think its impact on the non-story stuff through). It was like a badly scripted but expertly animated cartoon.
            Not that other MMOs do a great job of storytelling either.

            Personally I consider Cataclysm to be the tipping point of all the mistakes they'd been making since launch rather than the first time they went seriously wrong. A lot of things they did well ended up ranging from terrible to underwhelming thanks to earlier design decisions.
            Take the dungeon difficulty. They gave the players what they wanted, more challenging/engaging heroic dungeons, without factoring in the fact that LFG makes hard content a soul crushing experience. The first few weeks were great when you were running with guild groups, but eventually everyone wanted to do them casually and suddenly you'd spend an hour doing a single boss because the LFG players don't know how to interrupt. You couldn't form your own group like you would in BC because Wrath killed that part of the community.
            The daily content was ruined by the decision to up the daily quest count from 10 to 25 back when Sunwell was released. They turned a nice little incentive to log on each day into a grind. By the end of Wrath they'd introduced a ton of really good lore that had just failed to take off because they failed to develop a good method of telling the story to a large enough section of the player base (granted, almost every other major MMO is guilty of the same thing).

            So yeah, not saying Cataclysm was great or anything, but the majority of it's flaws can be traced back to decisions made in Burning Crusade and Wrath.

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