How WoW has changed in one year
WoW has changed a bit, but nothing that makes the game unrecognizable. The major changes focus around Patch 2.4, Wrath of the Lich King, and the Blizzard conventions
Patch 2.4 and the Sunwell Plateau
Patch 2.4 was on the Public Test Realm (PTR) servers and brought with it a whole new raiding experience in the Sunwell Plateau. The Sunwell (or SWP) was to many the hardest content in the game up to that point. While most guilds could get through Black Temple and Mount Hyjal in a few months of consistent effort, many found that it took a month and some change just down one boss. This is important because it reflected a true hard-core raiding environment. Blizzard later came out at BlizzCon in October of 2008 and said that they don't want to have another raid instance as hard as Sunwell. Many hard core players today are lamenting at the easiness of current raiding content, and want something along the difficulties of SWP back.
Wrath of the Lich King
In March of last year we began to hear the rumblings that the Wrath alpha testing was underway, and we finally got solid confirmation of this on April 10th, 2008. The news was quite big on the internet, and Wrath news would continue to be a big thing for the remainder of 2008. You can check out our Wrath of the Lich King information page for everything that we've written (and it's a lot – I'd estimate around 400,000 words or so overall). But since no one probably has the time to read through all that, the major points are that the level cap has been raised to 80, there is a new continent in Northrend where all the leveling will take place, and Naxxramas has moved up north and is now an introductory level 80 raiding dungeon. There are also significant changes to all the classes – some changed a ton (Protection Warriors) and some changed not so much (Rogues). The Wrath story is still developing, and I'll cover it more later. Oh, and Wrath introduced these little things called the Death Knight and Achievements.
I wish that I could say things have improved here from a year ago, unfortunately I can't. The servers are pretty bad at point, and much worse than they were a year ago. Where queues were virtually unheard of for most of 2008, they are now common place. Sever lag is such that on some nights raiding becomes more or less impossible, and many players feel that Blizzard isn't living up their end of the deal here. We've had some recent improvements in this area, but there still is a lot left to be desired.
World Wide Invitational and BlizzCon
Blizzard threw two big bashes again last year. The World Wide Invitational (WWI) happened in Paris, France in June; while BlizzCon was held in LA in early October. Both of these two conventions were huge successes in terms of what they delivered for the fans, but both sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale. The BlizzCon ticket debacle was quite a PR problem for Blizzard, and they're going to have to work hard to make sure it doesn't happen again. We covered both extensively, if you're interested in going back and reading what went on during them.
Where WoW will be in a year from now
It's hard to predict exactly what will happen. I think the changes to the game will happen in a few areas:
We're most likely going to hear about this before the year's end. I know that Blizzard is already working hard on it, and they'll start releasing details when they're ready. And while there are a lot of rumors about these details – they are just rumors. You probably don't want to believe any of them. Anyone that knows the truth isn't going to be talking about it.
Nonetheless, when the news of the new expansion hits, it'll be big and control the news cycle for quite a while. I guarantee you won't miss it.
Content Patches 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3
Patch 3.1 is going to be hitting the PTR soon, and be released in a couple months or so. It'll bring a new raid to the table, along with some significant changes to the classes and the ever popular dual specs. Patch 3.2 will likely be released towards the end of the summer or early fall and have another new raid (no one knows what it is, and anyone who says they do is probably lying). Patch 3.3 will release the Ice crown Citadel, the final raid of Wrath of the Lich King where players get to face Arthas. I could see Patch 3.3 coming out this year, but I could also see it coming out next year.
Class tweaks, but no mind blowing changes
I wouldn't expect there to be any major mind blowing changes to any of the classes. We're not going to see Paladins get an iWin button or any crazy stuff like that. We will see a few classes get nerfed, a few buffed, and then some random and odd changes like removing consumable ammunition. But overall Blizzard set the path for the classes with the release of Wrath and they're not going to deviate much from that until the next expansion (and even then, I doubt we'll see the level of class changes we saw in Wrath).
Will you recognize the game?
Hands down, yes. World of Warcraft has the same look and feel it did as when it was released. The mechanics of group play and raiding have changed a bunch, but you'd still be able to sit down and pickup the game without any problem. This will hold true a year from now as well. Blizzard has created a golden ticket they're not going to let go of – a game that's easy to begin and difficult to master.
If you have further questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll answer them in future versions of The Queue. You can also submit questions via our tip line. I know there are a lot of folks in your shoes, and I'm more than happy to take some time out of my day and answer as much and I can.
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