Patch 3.3 is looking to be casualeriffic, which of course means it will be raideriffic and everybody-else-eriffic, too. But with the new features available to us, we should be able to pack more actual playing into our limited play-sessions and even attempt things we didn't used to have time for. It will probably hit any Tuesday now, though if we don't have it before December 22nd, don't expect it again before January 5th. They don't like dropping patches just before holidays.
Here are some of my favorite casual-friendly features coming to our next big patch:
More help for noobs
This doesn't help most of us. Casual does not equal noob. And those of us who are altoholics can get a character from 1 to 10 in no time. How it does help us is in getting significant others, friends and/or family members to play with us. Sharing hobbies is great for relationships, but non-gamers (no matter how enthusiastic) need a lot of extra hand-holding when we introduce them to our WoW activities. New tutorials, better descriptions, restrictions on getting Dazed, mana and health regeneration increases will all make it easier for us when we introduce our loved ones to Azeroth.
Better quest tracking... finally
After being promised this for a few patches, we will finally get a quest tracking system that should make those memory intensive addons obsolete. The world map has been updated to allow for different kinds of info and different sizes. You will be able to see where to hunt for your quest items as well as where to turn them in. The quests will list their appropriate levels so it will be easier for determining which to do next. And you will be able to see what quests you have completed -- which is great for those characters you go back to after long absences as well as trying to figure out where to pick up questlines.
Massive grouping improvements
One of the problems that many of us with limited playtime have is the time it takes to find a group for any instance. It's great that instances are much shorter these days, but is irrelevant if it takes most of your playsession to find a decent PuG. Blizzard is making so many changes to PuGging that everyone is going to be doing it and long waits will be a thing of the past.
- The LFG channel is coming back: People will automatically be logged into it when entering big cities, just like Trade Chat. This might mean that the Trade/Barrens Chat will move over to LFG chat, but that is probably too much to hope. It definitely means, however, that your LFG requests will be more likely to be seen.
- Cross-server PuGs: The LFG tool will pull from a pool of wannabe PuGgers across your Battlegroup. Captain Obvious says more people looking for groups = less time spent filling up your groups.
- Random PuGs: You will be able to sign up for random level-appropriate instances that give random level-appropriate rewards. The rewards are certain to bring more people looking for groups at all levels. Captain Obvious refers you to the previous item.
- LFG as you quest: Just like the current Battleground system, you can queue for instances from anywhere and when you are done, you will be dropped back to where you were questing. So there is no need to hang out doing nothing while waiting for a group.
- Daily Random PuG rewards: Doing a random PuG daily will give emblems as well as gold over and above what you get from the instance. This will mean that your time spent in the instance will be more rewarding and will again mean more people participating. Captain Obvious points up.
There is also a new Looking for Raid tool in patch 3.3. This coupled with the new weekly raid quests should make finding PuG raids easier, if your playtime allows for raiding.
Arena Points without Arenas
The level 71 to 80 Daily Battleground Quests will give out 25 Arena Points as well as honor, XP and gold. Cataclysm will bring even more ways to earn Arena points while doing BGs. Our gear options will open up greatly with these changes.
Friends will return
As always happens just before big content patches, people lose interest in Azeroth and spend their time in other worlds or even "outside". But with all these changes and the addition of Icecrown, people will be coming back in droves to play. And did I mention that more people makes it easier to find groups? Captain Obvious winks.
There are, of course, many more changes. Here is a link to our guide to Patch 3.3 and make sure to check your class columns for in-depth analysis of upcoming changes. If you want to really examine the details yourself, here is a link to the official PTR patch notes. As usual, what's on the PTR doesn't necessarily make it onto the live servers. But hopefully everything we've covered here will be there when the patch drops... this time.