This week, Waging WAR is going to take a deeper look at the Producer's Letter for this month of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. There are lots of new promises coming down the pipeline, and plenty of speculation to follow. Let's sift through some of the hubbub and get into the nitty-gritty of it all.

First of all, there's a serious cliffhanger in the notes suggesting that we'll be given a reason to wear all the sovereign gear that's being won in the new city sieges. Currently, there is good reason to wear (or at least acquire) warlord gear if for nothing other than the wards they provide -- and thus the significant advantage they give in the new city sieges. However, there is nothing in the game that requires the wards that the sovereign gear provides. If we insert tab-A into slot-B, the only real conclusion we can come to, speculatively, is that a new expansion is just beyond the horizon, and close to being revealed. Such an expansion could very well add a new tier (and new wards and warded content), in addition to buckets of other new content, such as a new pairing (as has been speculated many times in the past -- Skaven vs. Lizardmen, anyone?) On this point, I suppose we'll have to apply the "wait-and-see" motif, and just wait and see. Also, E3 is also coming up very soon (June 14-17). Could the EA/Mythic booth have some big news secretly tucked up their collective sleeves? As a disclaimer, this is only wild speculation by this particular columnist and nothing above should be taken as official suggestion of anything mentioned at all. But we can hope, can't we?
Next up are the new gear sets (and here, and here). Admittedly, they look completely awesome. Currently, the gear sets really only feature re-tinted versions of the same base models capped by slightly different helmets and shoulders. The new sets seem to include several different chests, belts, legs, and boots, along with entirely new shoulders and helmets. This is a great step in the right direction. What we don't see there are some new warlord and sovereign set options. Hopefully, those sets have had some work done on them as well, or are at least on-deck for some re-design. Now hold this thought for a moment...

The other thing suggested about gear is the new option to customize the model of the gear without affecting the attached stats. We can only begin to wonder how exactly this might work, but if it ends up being anything like the model-swap vendors in Aion, this new feature can only mean good things for WAR. Remember that thought we were supposed to hold on to from the last paragraph? Let's take a deeper step into speculation here, and consider what all those new sets and set pieces might mean to character customization when we apply this new model-swapping idea. The first thing that comes to mind is that the options for character customization will be boundless (i.e. "I'll take the invader belt and chest, and I really like those sentinel shoulders, but I'll go with the dark promise helm for effect, and top it all off with the warlord pants and sovereign boots -- now I look great, and I haven't sacrificed any stats from what I was wearing before -- huzzah!). We could even take this a step further and take into consideration that patch 1.3.5 removed the class restrictions on certain types of armor. The sheer number of possible new combinations and variations is becoming a mind-boggling effort to imagine. The only game that comes close to this level of customization in recent memory is Chronicles of Spellborn (R.I.P?).

Moving on, there was some hinting toward a new mechanism that would allow Zealots and Runepriests to toggle between a damage mode and a healing mode. For a long time, Archmages have borne the real brunt of community-induced strife insofar as the criticism and pigeon-holing of the "healer vs. DPS" question is concerned. For example, with such obvious distinction between the function of the Isha mastery path (the pew-pew healer) compared to the Asuryan path (the pew-pew face-melter), Archmages have already seen what the community has to say about healers who spec for DPS (usually not good, or nice at all -- often resulting in Archmages who do damage being humiliated, blacklisted and generally lynched). If Zealots and Runepriests are given access to the same capability as healer/damage hybrids, the typical response might change to something more forgiving or even acceptant. Again, we'll have to wait and see, but this can only mean good things for the community and individual character customization. It also might mean that Archmages can spec their mastery paths as they see fit, without fearing what the rest of the realm might have to say about them joining warbands or scenarios.

Finally, this columnist is fortunate to not have been tied up and/or thrown into a dark room without access to cheesies and mountain dew. However, for the sake of those who have, we should express our support by submitting our ideas for load-screen tips! Fame and fortune could be yours and all you need to do is send your ideas to the Load Screen Tip Contest at EA/Mythic and get those bloggers freed! Here's one to get you started: "If someone approaches you claiming to be from Mythic and asks you if you are a WAR blogger: the answer is invariably 'No!'" or "Never admit to being a blogger for WAR... unless you like dark rooms." The bottom line is, well ... the bottom line! Get those ideas submitted! If we all give one suggestion for the tips each, we might have a chance at getting our beloved bloggers back from the evil, malevolent clutches of Carrie Gouskos and Mythic.

So there it is: the Producer's Letter in a tidy, suggestive little nut-shell that winks and nods an affirmative "yes" as if it were standing at a bar with ruby red lipstick on. To sum it all up: healers with damage stances; eleventy-billion new armor customization options; a contest for those who seek fame and fortune in the form of load-screen tips; and the mother-lode of all hints toward a major expansion and a "reason to use all that gear we're winning." Leave a comment and tell us how you really feel about these suggestions for patch 1.3.6 and beyond. As for your load-screen tips, don't post them in a comment; instead, here's another link and shameless plug for the contest!

This article was originally published on Massively.
WRUP: Oh no, an owl edition