Blizzcon: Thoughts on the annual WoW pass and challenge dungeons

mmo-champion has a roundup of the various panels and announcements from the first day of Blizzcon. Highlights include

  • some new units for SC2 (can’t really comment on that since I don’t play it)
  • a new trailer for Diablo 3 (in which the protagonist looks very Final Fantasy – I think it’s the hair)
  • announcement of the next WoW expansion which will indeed be the ‘oriental’ themed Mists of Pandaria
  • New expansion will include pokemon style pet fighting, and a high score table for speed of completion of the new ‘challenge’ dungeons (which are actually regular 5 man instances)
  • a new incentive to pay for a year of WoW.

(Apparently the female mage in the Diablo 3 trailer is Decard Cain’s niece. Poor girl.)

After the flailing around of Cataclysm, it sounds as though the WoW team have come up with genuine direction for the next expansion and decided who they want to try to appease. I think there’s plenty of evidence that many players enjoy collecting pets and loads more enjoy dungeon speed runs so there’s good logic behind designing extra mechanics around both of those playstyles.

The new annual pass

The way I /think/ this works is that you sign up for the pass and continue paying your sub as usual. You get some bennies for being signed up, including a shiny flying mount, entry to the beta of the next expansion, and a free copy of Diablo 3. If your sub terminates at any point before the year is up, you lose access to all of those things. But if it doesn’t (ie. you pay for 12 months worth of subscriptions) then they become yours to keep.

Or maybe if your sub terminates before the end of the year, they bill your card anyway. I’m honestly not sure.

In many ways this is sheer genius. Anyone who was vaguely planning to play WoW for the majority of the year anyway is now getting some extra stuff to play during the slow periods (ie. Diablo 3 and the expansion beta, whenever that may be). And that extra stuff is of course Blizzard based and may discourage people from straying to other games – after all, they’ve already committed to paying for the whole year anyway so might as well get their money’s worth.

If you were considering dipping back into WoW occasionally, but definitely planned to buy Diablo 3, this might be worth a look too. Just for comparison, D3 is likely to cost the rough equivalent of 4 months subs if you buy it from

If you’re meh on WoW, think there is likely to be a stretch of time longer than 4 months next year with no new content, or had sourced a cheaper version of D3, then it’s a wash.

The other reason this is genius is that unless there are plans to release the new expansion unusually early, it’s practically guaranteed that there will be a long stretch of time with no new content after 4.3 drops. This annual pass locks players in now to paying for that long break.

I think it’s likely that the expansion won’t turn up before Q4; they wouldn’t release against D3 even if they could, there will need to be a decent length of beta testing, and I don’t think they’d want to release in the Summer as it’s traditionally the MMO low season.

You pays your money and you takes your choice. I already have D3 on pre-order and I’m not currently seeing anything that would draw me back to WoW. I imagine I’ll check out the new expansion when it goes live because I enjoy their levelling content, but that could be a long way away.

Challenge Dungeons

I’m not that fond of speed runs, but I think having a high score table for dungeon speed runs is likely to be a popular move. Especially with repositioning Pandaria heroics to be more similar to Wrath ones, which were emminently speedrunnable.

A red flag for me though with my tanking hat on is how much timed speed runs can favour tanking and healing specs which produce more damage whilst they tank/ heal. The difference between the amount of damage that a tanking death knight puts out and a tanking warrior puts out in Cataclysm, for example, can be quite significant. In 5 mans where speed is of the essence, that will be more noticeable. Also expect the bloodlust classes (shamans and mages) to be in high demand for speedruns, especially mages.

I’d expect the new monk class to be well designed for this type of environment, and imagine both tanking and healing specs will involve a fair amount of damage on the side.

This could leave traditionally low dps specs like protection warriors and resto druids feeling sidelined. (Yes you can gear and spec your prot warrior for dps but that’s never really felt satisfying to me, YMMV.)

I predict this is going to have a huge impact on balance if it takes off.  But who knows, maybe the new redesigned talent system will even things out.

17 thoughts on “Blizzcon: Thoughts on the annual WoW pass and challenge dungeons

  1. I am full of meh about this expansion. Pandaren? Meh. Pokemon pet combat? Meh. Challenge dungeons? Everything I hated about about instances since Wrath.

    The only thing I dig so far is the monk class, a melee healing style sounds fantastic.

    The one year pass is such a smart move for them. So many of my American guildies are going for it, just to get access to the mount and D3. Me, I am not. The WoW I loved might truly be dead now.

    • @Kadomi: “The only thing I dig so far is the monk class, a melee healing style sounds fantastic.”

      Yes! Finally somebody who agrees with me not only that most announcements are pretty lackluster, but that a melee healer would be awesome fun. If they can get it right. Oh, this will need mcuh more reengineering to work. Ghostcrawler will have wet dreams about this. 😉

      Anyway *ahem* I digress. So far, I’ve tried to sort my thoughts on the points that I like about their announcements, and stuff I’m worried about. But the thing I like the least at the moment (and that means it’s even beating Wowkemon) is the idea of speed runs everywhere. I’m not a fan of that. And the reward? Transmogrification armor. That’s just wrong. But, as I said, I need to think more about why this disgusts me so much. Maybe by tomorrow…

  2. There is also the group that didn’t plan to buy D3 which might now get it together with a 1 year pass. If Steam taught me one thing it’s that I can’t resist sales… 😦

    > Yes you can gear and spec your prot warrior for dps

    Not if they normalize gear for challenge mode.

  3. “> Yes you can gear and spec your prot warrior for dps

    Not if they normalize gear for challenge mode.”

    That isn’t true, if they normalize gear you can still gear for dps. What you seem to be referring to is what I would refer to as ‘equalizing’ gear, so that everyone has exactly same stats, whereas normalizing gear would most naturally refer to resetting everyone’s stats to the same ilvl, but with the ratios of the stats as you have them.

    • That depends a lot on how they are going to implement it.

      The easiest solution would be to just assign some stats to each character regardless of its gear. That would have the added advantage that they could balance the different classes for challenge mode. e.g. a protection paladin might have more or less AP then a warrior to equalize the damage done. Same for DD.

      And if they would really make it skill and not gear dependant it’s the only solution. Because otherwise your raid trinket might still be a huge advantage.

      And the player in quest greends would have a huge disadvantage to the player in tier set. They said that should not be the case.

      Lats but not least the capped rating light hit would be a nightmare. You would have to collect a special challenge mode set and use an add-on which would show you which items to wear to reach exactly the hit cap in challenge mode. And reforge and gem specific for it.


      And they said they would like to make the heroics “wrath easy”. But if you run a heroic without raid or badge gear when Wrath was released, heroics weren’t easy. They were hard. Not TBC hard, but they were hard. Now if challenge mode scales your gear back to the intended level it might as well be that “wrath easy” means rather hard.

      And it wasn’t possible to gear for damage back in 3.0 to tank a heroic. 🙂

    • And you have no doubts, because you know from experience that time tables that extend several years into the future always turn out to be correct? 🙂

      • He was stating two things, which are matter of fact. Leaked slate projects out to next summer, and the slate has been accurate thus far. He never mentioned any opinions, just stated facts.

    • The famous leaked product slate had:

      – a Starcraft 2 map market for Q2 2011 ( actual release date: unknown, no announcements),

      – Diablo 3 for Q4 2011 (actual release date: hopefully sometime in 2012. Maybe Q1, maybe Q2.),

      – Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm also for Q4 2011 (actual date: they haven’t even announced a target year yet),

      – and the Brazillian WoW launch in Q3 2011 (actual date:not yet announced, probably before the end of 2011, maybe).

      • Yeah it sure does seem that the leaked slate has been extremely accurate so far. – end sarcasm.

        Q4 of 2012 bank it. Just think of all the rebalancing in PvP and PvE that needs to be done especially with the talent changes and a new class.

      • If MoP is delayed to Q4 2012 the consequences for WoW will be extraordinarily dire. For that reason, I expect it to be released earlier, even if it isn’t ready.

        Since I have no intention of coming back to Wow before MoP, and since I wasn’t planning to get D3, I will of course not get the annual pass.

  4. One thing that’s been missed is that one of the racials for the Pandaren is double the XP while at rest.

    Imagine how that works out when you throw Heirlooms, Guild Perks, and the Racial together with loitering around a city waiting for your instance or BG to proc, and you’re talking about leveling at lightning speed.

    • I think it only said the bonus would last twice as long, i. e. the leveling speed would be still the same as other races had if they were rested.

  5. Pingback: Blizzcon 2011 Blogosphere Reactions: Annual Pass Offer — MMO Melting Pot

  6. I think the last thing Blizzard needs to do is make leveling go faster. I’ve already lost interest in leveling any new alts from 1-60 or beyond, just because the quests turn gray before I have even finished the chains or the zone and I feel rushed to the next one. And that’s without guild perks, heirlooms, etc. This seems especially counter-productive, given how much time they put into destroying the world and you can’t even enjoy it at a reasonable pace.

    I really do like the idea of the Challenges and the way it will hopefully place a focus on skill and not simply outgearing an instance. What I worry about is them releasing a more difficult format and then backpedalling on it and making it easier over time. If it’s going to be promoted as a “challenge,” I hope they stand their ground and leave it that way.

    • Leveling alts in Cata was ruined for me not because leveling was fast, but because at the end of leveling you had the meatgrinder of point farming to get competitive for anything, followed by a lack of pug raids. So what was the point?

  7. Resto druids do very respectable damage when they can use their wild mushrooms to full effect. A wrath-era speedrun fits that perfectly.

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