1. The in-game group finder is being expanded
No, I'm not talking about random matchmaking with the dungeon finder. I am talking about Blizzard's answer to the oQueue addon. According to Ghostcrawler in the gameplay and systems panel, they recognize this is a feature players really want, so they've decided to add it to to the base game. You'll be able to create and browse for groups of all types and sizes. Want to PUG a cross-realm RBG team? No problem. Want to set up a group to do an achievement run in Icecrown Citadel? You can do that. Maybe your guild raid group is short a healer and you're looking for another? This is all possible since normal mode raids (soon to be heroic mode) will work cross-realm out of the gate.
Blizzard would prefer if you pugged and made new friends rather than use random matchmaking, so they've added a new mechanic called "stacking the deck" which will earn you bonus valor for every member of your group who isn't added via random matchmaking. Random matchmaking via dungeon finder and raid finder will still exist, of course.
At some point before Warlords of Draenor is released (probably in the 6.0 pre-patch), something is going to happen to the Dark Portal in Blasted Lands. It's going to turn red, and the Iron Horde threat will reveal itself. Players will need to venture into the portal on a "suicide mission" to stop the initial invasion and pave the way for the rest of Azeroth's heroes.
I'm guessing this means it is expected to be a one-way trip, but as we heroes always do, we will pull it out of the fire and halt the invasion just long enough to establish a foothold in Draenor before the expansion launches. This event was talked about in the WoW: What's Next panel. The wording was a little unclear if we actually get to go through the portal during the launch event, but there will definitely be something going on at the portal prior to launch.
3. Tons of the sounds you've been used to hearing for the past 9 years are being updated
The World of Warcraft sound panel was easy to miss as it happened early in the morning on day 2, but there was some very interesting stuff revealed here. I'll give you the highlights:
- Player attack vocalizations are being updated to be more awesome.
- Currently, there is only one set of footstep sounds which are shared by player characters and creatures. This is being changed so some races, such as the tauren and draenei, will have unique sounding footsteps. Right now there are footsteps for only a few different surfaces, but that is also being expanded. One example was footsteps for broken glass or swampland.
- Profession sounds for mining and blacksmithing are being updated and will have more variation. Blizzard recorded them at a real blacksmith.
- Hunter weapon sounds are finally being changed! They realized hunters were transmogging their guns into bows purely for the annoying sounds they produced, so they're changing things. Not just guns, but bows and crossbows are getting new sounds as well.
- Spell casting is going to sound "musical." The sound designers like how a player can so easily identify what type of spell is being cast simply by its color, and they want the same subconscious recognition with the sounds.
By now you've probably seen Diablo 3's upcoming transmog system, but if you haven't I will give you the rundown. Once you unlock the appearance of an item, you are free to get rid of the item and you will always have that appearance available for transmog purposes. All of your armor and weapon appearances are stored in an account-wide collection interface.
In the open Q&A panel, one fan asked if WoW would ever see a transmog system like this. Ghostcrawler replied that they almost talked about it in their initial presentation, but they were afraid to make a promise they may have to break. It is unlikely that we will see it at the launch of Warlords of Draenor, but it sounded like it is something they are actively pursuing. Maybe we'll see it in a future content patch? Remember, transmog was originally added in the middle of Cataclysm.
In the meantime, players will still gain some fresh bag space with the new "toy box" feature. This feature alone is going to free up 80 slots in my bags and bank (yes, I counted).
In the fansite Q&A we learned that there is no plans at all for a patch 5.5, and that the entire team is currently focused on finishing Warlords of Draenor. Tom Chilton had a few words to say on the subject in an interview conducted by the DirecTV hosts in between panels:
The WoW team recently saw an infusion of new developers who were moved over when the Titan project was restarted. The team is now larger than it has ever been, so logically they should be able to pump out new content at a faster pace as well. It's also worth noting we're already two full months into the final tier of Mists of Pandaria content. If you look at Cataclysm, the final tier only lasted about 10 months.
Any content we do now will delay the expansion by the same amount of time it took us to make that content. We are completely focused on making the next expansion and will try to deliver that as soon as we can, hopefully on a shorter cycle than players are imagining, but you never know, we will have to see.
Care to place your bets? I'll put 5 gold down on late June.