Blizzard Talks About The Future Of Warcraft

Blizzard Talks About The Future Of Warcraft

World of Warcraft's latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, is only a couple days away. It's a momentous occasion for sure, but more WoW is, well, more WoW. We're used to it. What about after that? Will we ever see Warcraft IV? Or even a World of Warcraft 2? I asked Blizzard.

First things first: World of Warcraft isn't going anywhere, even after Warlords of Draenor wraps up its post-release plot, which will come (as per usual) in a series of patches in the coming months. However, Blizzard wants to drop another bouncing baby expansion into this orc-infested world much more quickly this time. If all goes well, the expansion after Warlords will be out in a year.

"Our goal is certainly to release expansions a little faster than we have been," said lead game designer Ion Hazzikostas during an interview at BlizzCon. "I know we've been saying that for years. You can go back and find quotes from 2008 about how we're gonna release one expansion per year. Ultimately that always got hung up on, 'Well, we're not gonna release before we feel it's actually done to a Blizzard level of quality. That tended to take closer to two years. But we've increased the size of our team, and we feel like we're in a place where we should be able to move faster than before. So our goal is to get expansions into players' hands faster."

The next expansion is, naturally, in the works already, as is the one after that, to a much smaller degree. Blizzard hopes to fill the gaps between expansions better, too. Shorter waits between major patches, more ways for cow people to wallop wolf-people and whatever-draenei-are people, and so on. For better or worse, Blizzard seemingly wants WoW to live and die keep living, but probably with a slow exodus of people, on content. That means there will always be a cycle of ebb and flow, boom and bust.

That also means a focus on the new, not the old, Hazzikostas told me. So while fans have been clamoring for things like a revamp to Outland (WoW's current level 60-70 zone, which many feel is kind of a slog) and legacy time machine servers that would play like WoW did pre-any-number-of-expansions, you probably shouldn't get your hopes up. The latter, especially, comes with a wheezing, head-barely-above-water boatload of technical issues. WoW has changed a lot over the years, both in terms of gameplay and under the hood. "It's not even remotely as simple as, 'OK load up an old build off some old drives, throw it up on the servers. That wouldn't work," he explained.

What about the world of Warcraft beyond the World of Warcraft, though? Here at Kotaku we all secretly work to give Yannick whatever he wants because he has such a good, pure heart, and I'm sure things are no different at Blizzard. So is another Warcraft strategy game — a Warcraft IV, presumably — in the cards? Warcraft III, after all, pushed RTSes forward in a few interesting ways and created many cherished memories in the process. WoW, meanwhile, has given orcs, humans, and everything in between a more personal battleground, a place where everybody gets to be a hero (or jerky ganker, or collector of exotic herbs) to some extent. Sounds like a pretty interesting foundation for a new RTS, right? While Blizzard has "nothing to announce right now," they seem interested too.

"There's definitely a lot of cool potential [in tying World of Warcraft and Warcraft IV together in some way]," Hazzikostas said. "Everyone on the WoW team is hugely inspired by the Warcraft RTSes. I'd love to see something like that happen, but it's up to a different team in a different time and place."

So I took my question to Blizzard's real-time strategy team, who are currently polishing off the final expansion in the StarCraft II trilogy, Legacy of the Void. Given that they have been tinkering away in the StarCraft factory since 2003 according to some reports, you'd figure they might be ready to trade Protoss pylons for Orc peons. And certainly — while there will still be work to be done on Legacy of the Void post-release — it's an appealing proposition, lead game producer Tim Morten told me.

"[Warcraft IV] comes up, especially as the community gets excited about the Warcraft universe," he explained. "We're focused on getting Legacy of the Void done right now, so I don't think we've had the mindshare to say, 'Absolutely, we're gonna be doing X, Y, or Z next.' Going back to the Warcraft universe would be awesome. I'd love to see that happen."

Blizzard Talks About The Future Of Warcraft

He added that the development team is about to add a bunch of official Warcraft assets to StarCraft II's mod tools so players can create their own Warcraft scenarios in-engine. They're based on Warcraft III — not a hypothetical Warcraft IV, sadly — and they're coming out early next year.

So Warcraft's present is WoW, and one possible (though not announced) future is a new strategy game, but what about the third option: another MMO, a World of Warcraft 2? I decided to ask on a lark, kind of for giggles, given that Blizzard seems to be moving away from being Your Friendly Neighbourhood MMO Empire. Titan got supplanted by Overwatch, smaller games like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm now rule the roost, etc. Doubtless WoW is still a major factor at the Blizzard dinner table, but another MMO? It's not the most likely thing in this day and age, but Hazzikostas told me it is still possible.

"We could reinvent [something major like combat with patches to WoW], but we wouldn't want to," he said. "And that's definitely one of the constraints of an existing ten-year-old game: you can't fundamentally reinvent the rule set. You can't pull that out from under people without harsh consequences."

Blizzard Talks About The Future Of Warcraft

"If there came a time where a large group of people at Blizzard, we felt like we had a vision for a new MMO with a different vision and some new core mechanics that lets us try things we couldn't do because of the nature of WoW, that's certainly an option we could explore."

For now, though, WoW's sticking around for the long haul. Its 12-million subscriber heyday might be in the rear-view mirror, but Blizzard's realm of endless war still has some fight left in it. Let us hope, then, for a bright future — or at least a decently interesting one.


Comments

    I wish they would just update all their old content visually. The new character models look nice but a lot of the rest of the game still looks like balls. Hairy, old man, wrinkly balls.

      They did an old world overhaul in Cataclysm.. Are you referring to something specifically? Personally I think the game has come leaps and bounds from what it used to be

        I specifically mean the models for near everything in the old world being very low poly. Good example is on the char create screen choose hunter and look at your player model and then look at the starting pet. You can see one is new and the other is very clearly 10 years old. Yes the revamp with Cata was nice and made the game feel fresh with new content in the old zones but the landscape that was not touched still looks very old.

          I know what you mean. The art is so spread out over the 10 years that we have amazing looking new models together with others that just hurt to look at.
          A funny thing is to revisit Molten Core to see this. When the Firelands raid was released, Blizz updated the molten giant, which retroactively replaced every instance of them. Go into MC and they stand out like a sore thumb against all the old models.
          Blizz states they want to try pumping out expansions sooner, but to me the current 2 years between each is fine. Instead they should be focused on making the world consistant. Start with updates to druid forms & warlock pets, then start on all creatures tameable by hunters, then old mounts and pets. Etc.

          Last edited 13/11/14 1:15 pm

            You nailed it. At the moment it feels to me like walking into a room with a mish mash of 70s, 80s, 90,s and modern furniture and design. It's all over the shop.

              And you yourself nailed it. If you just had a quick glance around the room everything may seem to meld, but if you look any longer you begin to notice all the clashing of styles.

    I would dearly love a Warcraft IV. Perhaps they could tie the two together by, for example. letting the RTS players unlock zones through battle for the MMO players to explore, or vice versa.

      OK, now that would be sweet, a persistent MMORTS style game where victories for any of the races changes the alignment of the zone where the battle was fought opening up flight paths and giving players on WoW an opportunity to explore.

    If people can run private vanilla wow servers blizzard sure can too, it would require a separate client from the current game, but so?

      So the reason blizzard doesn't just make a vanilla server is that the current game client does not hold a lot of the old world models and content files (Read: Cataclysm fucked the old world map and the old world map is deleted from the current clients files). So as to your statement of having another client, yes you'd need to have one unless they inject old client files into the current (Which would mean the client size would jump from the current 25GB to 40 odd GB). I don't think people would be too keen having a seperate wow installation just to play vanilla (even though myself I have a vanilla, BC and retail client as I play private every now and again).

      The issue as well is that Blizzard would need to secure new servers, work on a new database with all of the correct values for old world monsters/creatures/quests/talents/etc, then push out a patch to all clients for the old world content to be added into it....Yeah it's just a huge headache (and will probably cost Blactivision a bunch) just to serve a niche market.

      I'd love to see it, buuuuut a bit hard to do.

        I really don't think 15gb of HDD real estate is a huge hurdle for people, and nobody said patch it into the current client, it would be separate and optional, it would have to be.
        New servers are easy, they add them fairly regularly and they would have complete back ups of old server info for each version, every development team bar none does it. Like I said people run vanilla servers all over the place if for some bizarre reason Blizz didn't have the files procuring them would be simple.
        Dont buy into the "too hard basket" story it's a complete load of crap.

        Last edited 13/11/14 12:07 pm

          You know it's not just 'an old backup', because all stats, loot tables etc are database records. I find it highly unlikely that they would maintain copies of dated database entries for creatures and other tables that are now defunct. Regardless of having the information, say they had all of the database entries, and client files, etc. It's still servers they have to set up, and information they have to write to the website or battle.net launcher. It's still time, effort and resources to serve what is a niche market. Unfortunately, there are very few people who actually want vanilla servers. It is the minority, not the majority.

          It's more difficult that simple implementing another server and being done with it. It's more along the lines of server farms for each realm in each country taking up additional resources and requiring additional maintenance which means more staff for all aspects of the service ultimately costing an abundant amount of finances to provide (as solv3ig said) a niche market an out-of-date technology. The costs would simply be too great to support such a solution.

          The other factor to consider is from a marketing perspective. I don't have insight into the statistical data here, but I'm willing to bet there are a lot (and I do mean a lot) of current retail players out there who would love to relive the old content. There would have to either be a separate (perhaps cheaper) subscription for these features, or an increase to the cost of the overall retail subscription for all players regardless of their interest in old content.

          I too would love to see Blizzard implement realms for old content so that I could experience this without the horrid bugs and glitches you get with private servers, but from the view of a business organisation, it's just not feasible. I truly do believe that these are the reasons they have not done this to date, and do not hold out hope that this will ever happen in the future.

    I've love to see a Warcraft IV as well but more for the mods that will follow it. To be honest, I never really got into core WarIII game but played a lot of TowerD and Battleships.

    As nice as it would be, I don't think there is a place for Warcraft IV anymore.
    A new rts would create too much change in the lore and world to mesh with WoW for one.
    And the rts genre is not as popular as it once was - not enough demand nowadays with Starcraft still filling that niche.

    But Blizzard made, Warcraft themed mods and/or mini expansions in the Starcraft 2 engine?
    Could definitely work, especially with their smaller scale development focus.

    "World of Warcraft‘s latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, is only a couple days away."

    Pretty sure it's today.

      They had an article yesterday saying it was only a couple of hours away, think they're a bit mixed up >_

    I can remember the unrelenting excitement I had when walking out of EB with W3 in my little hands.. it was like Christmas and every birthday I had ever had rolled into one. I would take a month off work to play a new Warcrafts custom games & story.

    I honestly won't mind that Warcraft may never return to its RTS roots. It's grown so much on lore over the last decade that it would be difficult to imagine large armies doing battle on lands that I've visited personally.

    I think Warcraft has fully moved into the RPG world and its lore kind of reflects that. Even in Warcraft 3 we saw that shift and in terms of story, it wasn't so much about the army you lead and more about the Hero.

    I could see however, Blizzard revisiting Warcraft 1,2,3 in the future as a high quality HD remake in way of retelling the lore before World of Warcraft (I understand that is also what the movie will aim to do) which personally, I would be far more happy with.

    Last edited 13/11/14 12:13 pm

    Everyone raves about WoW and i'm just here wanting a Warcraft 4.

    Why Warcraft 4?

    Is StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void not filling the RTS itch? If War4 was made it'd totally be the same as that.

    If Blizzard was going to introduce another game it won't compete with any of their existing properties. So while StarCraft 2 exists, Warcraft 4 will never happen.

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