The problem with writing these year end posts for WoW is the tendency for Blizzard to make huge changes at the end of the year, altering everything. Whether it's a new expansion like Wrath of the Lich King or Patch 3.3, it's hard to remember what the game was like the previous 3/4 of the year. It's not that we didn't have a good time before the big year end events, but the game becomes so different, what we did before is irrelevant.
This year, hopefully by or during the summer, we'll be getting another expansion -- only this will literally change everything. It's like we'll be getting WoW II, only without having to give up our stuff/contacts/accounts and start fresh in a new game. So let's take a look backward and forward at some of the main aspects of the game as it affects those of us with limited playtime, like we were the two-faced god this month is named after.
2009: Before Wrath of the Lich King, the time it took to find a group and then complete an instance was too much for people with busy schedules. But the expansion brought shorter instances that could be completed so quickly that finding a group was the real time consuming part. Sure, Wrath came in 2008, but it was late enough in the year that many of us weren't able to fully take advantage of many of its goodies until 2009. And then, at the end of 2009 came the Dungeon Finder Tool and cross-server PUGging. Wow. Groups are now instantaneous if you're a healer or tank and a reasonable wait otherwise. Also, you can be questing or doing dailies while you are in queue without having to worry about getting to the instance. Just a click of your mouse and you are transported, hopefully with enough food, drink and reagents to get you through. Hint hint.
2010: The Dungeon Finder Tool will continue to be awesome, particularly as we all iron out some of the more drama-laden issues. In Cataclysm, we'll get revamped and heroic old school instances along with some new ones. I love that we low-playtime-players will be able to experience the new dungeons along with everyone else because of the random cross-realm grouping.
Wishful Thinking: I'd like to see Blizzard harness the new features of Battle.net in a way so that it allows for cross realm grouping beyond battlegroups. This way, we could do instances/battlegrounds with friends on servers all over a region, as long as they are the same faction.
2009: Many of us with shorter playsessions enjoy leveling different characters, sometimes to the point of becoming altoholics. We saw two new opportunities for leveling our characters last year. PvP leveling is now possible -- though not extremely efficient until you hit Alterac Valley levels. And now that grouping is more easily fit into our schedules, instance leveling is blindingly fast.
2010: Total change of zones. New races and class/race combos. Leveling will be brand new and everyone will be doing it.
Wishful Thinking: I'd love to see a mentoring system such as the sidekick one in City of Heroes. I know that Recruit A Friend is supposed to substitute for that, but I'd like to actually group with newer characters of friends and family and work on objectives together even though our characters are many levels apart.
2009: Northrend did not bring the ridiculous upgrades that Outland did. There was no replacing of purples with greens in the first couple levels of questing, like we were used to in the previous expansion. However, the options for blue and better gear were expanded last year in many ways. Faster instances meant dungeon drops were more available to us. Speedy faction questing allowed us to purchase nice leveling and intro to end-game goodies. PvP gear continued to be easily accessible and also expanded to more options. And of course, the Dungeon Finder tool with the random benefits for completing the instances completely upped the ante through all levels. Though I completely disagree with the Gearscore elitists, I do think there is no reason for a player to enter an 80 dungeon with a single green piece of armor and/or without basic enchants and gems. Lack of playtime has not been an excuse for at least a year with all these options.
2010: Rated Battlegrounds will allow PvPers who don't like Arena to earn the highest level of PvP gear. We can also assume that Blizzard will continue to make all but the best PvE gear available to those of us who don't have time to keep up with raid progression.
Wishful Thinking: Blizzard should raise the requirements for admittance in heroics so that lesser geared/skilled players are forced to gear up before entering them. I really think that will reduce a lot of the drama going on in the random heroics.
2009: The class changes over the course of the year have allowed many different talent combinations to be viable in solo, PvP and PvE play. The Endgame Elitists certainly still have favorite specs, but they are not so cookie cutter as they used to be. There are also a lot more gear choices available that may not be best in slot, but are still uber enough to be useful in most situations.
2010: Cataclysm brings us Paths of the Titans and new class/race combos to give us more customization to our characters.
Wishful Thinking: Let me color my armor! I want my goblin mage's signature color to be hot pink and all of her leet gear be colored accordingly. Why can't I? Why?
World of Warcraft keeps getting more enjoyable, which is why I'm still playing it years after swearing I wouldn't even try another fantasy MMO after EQ. I had more fun playing last year than I did the previous years and expect to enjoy myself even more in 2010. Of course, I plan to be completely unfaithful with Diablo III when that comes out, but that will probably only last a month or two. And then I'm sure to be back to Azeroth with flowers, chocolates and promises I don't intend to keep.