World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
Blizzard drops by to drop some bombs.
by Dan Adams �
August 11, 2006 - World of Warcraft is a phenomenon. It'll be studied for years as a shining example of how much freaking cash one can make if one has a good idea, tons of feeder money, and excellent design sense. Of course, having an incredibly popular license to ride on and historically popular name among gamers doesn't hurt. Either way, the phenomenon is going to be given a fiery rebirth with the Burning Crusade expansion pack. Blizzard came by the offices today to give us a glimpse at some more of the things to come including some big changes to both the PvP and raid systems that are sure to cause quite a stir.
Raids are a big part of high level gameplay. They become necessary when players find themselves challenged to complete quests full of monstrously powerful baddies incapable of being taken on without the strong support and love of a few friends. In days past, raiders would need around 40 of these chummy fighters to stand a chance. The days of needing to pump up guild recruitment pressure to gain the bodies necessary to take on the biggest challenges are about to change. With the Burning Crusade addition, players will now only need to gather about 25 others to run screaming into danger's fat face.
The move is undoubtedly going to be a controversial one with many of the hardcore raiding guilds but Blizzard is quick to point out the positives as they see them. Smaller raiding parties will mean that guilds struggling to find enough people to send into the high end raids should be a bit easier. The need to heavily recruit on a regular basis should be a thing of the past. Blizzard is also hoping this allows guilds of smaller groups of friends to focus on the fun of playing a game together rather than wrangle large amounts of people without having to give up the class diversity that makes raids fun.
New raid instances introduced in the expansion and after will all follow this rule though players still interested in the larger group activities will still have the option to play through legacy raid zones in their classic modes.
Player vs. player is also getting a rather large makeover in the expansion. The honor system is being changed around so that honor gained is used like a currency to purchase goods. There will be no more ranks in the honor system but those that have been participating will be able to keep anything they've earned to date including titles and equipment. Otherwise it's effectively being reset. The hope is also to encourage players to move between battlegrounds by having some equipment cost basic honor along with specific honor won in different locations.
Competitive PvP will include an arena system. Arena will be a competitive ladder where teams of players will be able to fight amongst themselves in a sporting environment. At this point, Blizzard is planning to include 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 matches. Characters will be able to compete on one team from each division. Each team will also allow for double the number of players on the roster of each team to serve as substitutes if someone is gone for a while or doesn't feel like participating because he or she is a big chicken. One of the particularly cool things about this system is that players will actually be able to fight against other teams in their own faction. Alliance and Horde players can finally find out who the best players are on each side of the conflict. Individual teams will still have to consist of players in the same faction but competitions should be more interesting with some inter-faction rivalries.
Teams will be ranked depending on their fights. Blizzard is going to use a ranking system to set up appropriate fights between equals. The system of scoring will be much like that used in chess. Teams that compete with those higher in rank will get a more significant increase in rank with a win while those fighting teams significantly lower will only get a small increase with a win. The opposite is true for losing teams.
Awards for the competition will be more lucrative than those available in the honor PvP system. The best rewards for the best teams will be along the lines of the highest end rewards on raids. Awards will include items like armor though some equipment will still have to be searched out in on raids.
Outdoor world PvP will still be available as well and will be enhanced as it's started to be with recent patches. All of the zones in Burning Crusade will include objective PvP areas. One of those was in a lush green zone we had our first chance to get a look at today called Nagrand. Smack in the middle of the zone is a neutral town that can be captured for the Horde or Alliance. The owner of the town will have access to merchants that have items unavailable anywhere else along with some other bonuses.
More interestingly, the gameplay surrounding the zone will involve stations set up on the four bridge entrances into the town. For instance, if the Horde holds the town, the Alliance will be able to set up griffon towers that players can use to fly across the town (on a rail) and drop bombs onto the NPC guards and enemy players. Attackers will have to aim and blast what they can quickly because defenders can run across the bridge (without dying of course) and click on the towers to knock them down. Once the NPC guards have been killed the town can be captured in the same way that flags are captured in Battlefield games.
Along with Nagrand we also had the chance to get a look at the crisp and colorful Sunstrider Island and Blood Elf capital Silvermoon City and chat a bit about the move to push Paladins into the Horde. In an attempt to keep the fiction consistent, the Blood Elves have access to Paladins not through prayer but through force. Instead of asking the Naaru for their blessing, the Blood Elves simply captured one of the energy beings and suck the energy for their powers right out of it. Having an affinity for magic has its perks.
From there we had a nice look at the wonderfully detailed capital city of the Dranei called Exodar and the elephant/ox mount of that race known as the Elekk. While this new race may not have been players' favorite choice for a new addition, they certainly have a pretty awesome design to their architecture and detailing.
Outland was foreboding as always as we got a look at the path of glory that the orcs walked in the original invasion of Azeroth and that the Alliance assaulted in the Beyond the Dark Portal expansion. This zone called Hellfire also conveniently holds both Horde and Alliance strongholds on either side of the ravine in which the path lies. Hellfire citadel serves as one of the big instance dungeons in the area and is split into different wings. While the military wing will be set for level 70 players, the others will be a bit more reasonable for those in their mid-60s.
After completing a quest to open up the option, those other wings can also be played through on hard mode where enemies will be higher level for a better challenge. Many new instance zones (not legacy instances) will have this new unlockable hard mode feature as well for high level players who suddenly have a stab of nostalgia but still want a challenge.
Callfang, a Naga stronghold, was also a stop on the tour. As with pretty much every other location in World of Warcraft, it is also being given a great attention to detail visually. It's a lovely zone where players will eventually come face to face with Lady Nasj in the raid wing of the area. Two other five player instances will also be available.
We got a quick look at the biggest instance in the expansion pack as well. Kharazan is one of those that players will probably need to experience over a couple of sittings. It's high level and wanders up several stories full of spirits that are happy to harm.
Finally, Tempest Keep was given a quick run through. This is a high-level dungeon and one of the first that players will need to own a flying mount to find. Once again, very bright and colorful and full of plenty of challenges. It's a very other-wordly design including some transparent flooring that looks down into a bright chasm of crystals. There are three non-raid dungeon and one raid here.
Buying the flying mount to reach the Tempest Keep doesn't sound like it'll be too difficult for high level players. Basic mounts for each of the factions will be available to purchase through regular means for a reasonable price. Those that are looking for more speed and prestige can search out other special mounts such as the nether drake, which will be much harder to find and may even serve as rare drops.
The last bit that was demonstrated was the new jewel system. Items that have slots for jewels can be upgraded with some serious power. Special items will have gem sockets where different colored gems can be slotted to increase the value and power of an item. Effects can be previewed before permanently socketing the gems in place. Different colored gems can be slotted in place of others but the original gem will be lost in the process. Items will be able to be slotted with certain colors in order to gain an extra bonus as well. The correct colors will be coded on the socketing screen so that there's little confusion about the right colors.
Jewel crafting is also a big new skill. Players will be able to take gems and other base items to create powerful new necklaces and rings as well as some other objects.
The more we learn about Burning Crusade, the more World of Warcraft seems to evolve. The expansion is still a ways off from release at this point but it's pretty apparent that there's a lot of big changes along the way. We'll be sure to let you know how those changes look once we get a chance to sink into the beta a bit whenever Blizzard is ready to give us a chance at it. Until then, enjoy some new screens and look forward to more info as it becomes available.