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Another day, another set of expansion pack rumours. You can see them in all their potentially spoilerish glory at MMO Champion, and the BBBBBBBBB has given his take already. 

At first, I was a bit "meh" about the news. Only little globbets of new environments to explore? Half the levelling to do? That last bit rankled particularly, as it was expressed in terms of "it was taking manpower away from making the important stuff: raids" terms, to which you can have a double portion of "meh", with some whipped "meh" and a "meh" on top. I'm no raider, and marginalising levelling content in favour of raiding? It would alienate too many casual players.

That said, there are some intriguing possibilities in theses rumours. If they really did take the time to revamp Azeroth, then the way is opened for a fully progressive, phased world. And that could have all sorts of fascinating implications:

  • Imagine that, after the fall of Arthas, the Plaguelands start to be reclaimed. New Lordaeron arises in the Eastern Plaguelands, while the Western Plaguelands becomes a Wintergrasp-style battle zone as the Forsaken and the humans vie for supremacy. For sub-80s, they're still Plaguelands, for post-80s, they're new content.
  • Invasions could actually occur and make a difference. The Burning Legion invade as we hit level 95? We lose whole zones to invaders once we hit the appropriate levels (or finish the right quests). 

And more than that, if the rumours are right, and the level cap really is going to be 85, then perhaps this is the first sign of Blizz hitting their aspiration for yearly expansions:

  • 5 levels per expansion
  • 2 tiers of raiding per expansion
  • Less time podding around at the level cap
  • Less need for gear levelling late in an expansion or at the start of the next
  • A revamped old world means that an Emerald Dream expansion could be extensive but (relatively) quickly produced, because it traded of existing landscape, phased.

 There are some interesting possibilities in these rumours – but I'm not sold on them due to some details I find hard to believe. (I don't think for one second that Thrall is going to be the next Guardian of Tirisfal, as it doesn't match either his or the Guardian story in any useful way. And what would Malfurion have to do with all of that?)

Ah, well. This time next week we'll know.

The name, and this big change to an existing set-up, suggests that this expansion might well be more narratively-driven than any before it, and might make a big use of phasing. Perhaps we'll even see phasing of some of the neutral Goblin towns to become Horde outposts at higher levels, assuming a later point in the chronology equates with a higher level…

Oh, and the goblin models appeared to receive a retro-fit to allow full clothing use back in one of the last BC patches. Now, why would they have done that…

Their Bark is Nearly as Bad as Their Bite

It's easy to forget that there are two distinct groups of Worgen in WoW. There's the werewolf-style group who you find in Silverpine and Grizzly Hills, and who are derived from the work of Arugal, and then there are the "true" Worgen, in Ashenvale and Duskwood, who were drawn through a rift opened by the Scythe of Elune to Azeroth.

My guess is that we'll see the latter group, rather than the former. It would be cool for Blizz to introduce a race that looks completely different during the server night from the server day, but I can't quite see it happening. My instinct is that Blizz would feel that it makes this one race more attractive than all the others, and that they wouldn't go with it.

The Scythe of Elune has been almost exclusively an Alliance concept. The two major quest chains (the original one starts in Duskwood, a later one was added in Ashenvale) are Alliance quests, and Alliance questers get another big taste of its presence in the Grizzly Hills.  This,  coupled with the fact that users of Torment of the Worgen books in Karazan got a huge range of animations, including emotes, suggest that Blizzard has been doing the groundwork for this for a long time.

And that makes sense: eventually the fight against the Burning Legion will take us off Azeroth again. Draenor / Outland is done, and Argus feels like a big leap yet. How about another world where battle is joined with the Legion? How about the Worgen homeworld? 

There's nothing saying that the playable Worgen can't be quite different from those we've seen so far. After all, if someone opened a portal to Azeroth and only the Defias came through it, that other world would get a rather skewed perspective on humans…

And, of course, Wolves are very lunar-aligned in most mythologies, and they appear to be linked to Elune in the Warcraft lore. Could in be that their appearance in the Alliance be further evidence of a Sun / Moon split between the Horde and the Alliance?

And one interesting little co-incidence – King Varian Wrynn, the new poster boy for Alliance Plot, has another name: Lo'Gosh. And what does that mean?

Ghost Wolf.

Co-incidence?

The Worgen would fit perfectly with the less clean-cut, more aggressive Alliance of the Varian era. In fact, they'd shake the Alliance up so much, I'm really hoping this is true.

A Random Thought

What if these races are, in fact, Hero races? They start at 65, with a narrative starting zone as strong as that for the Death Knights, that leads to the Worgen coming to Azeroth and the Goblins joining with the Horde. Indeed, I'd expect the racial starting zones to be Phased, even is they do start at level 1 – and the latest changes to mounts and the expansion of Heirloom items suggests that Blizz is even now paving the way for making the 1 to 80 run as quick as possible.

Level99 So, I did my fishing daily this morning, like a good little Night Elf, and in Marcia's sack, I got a steamy romance novel.

Rather than just vendoring it and moving on, I sat down to read it, and was quite swept away by the tale of rather, um, violent passion between a gnome warlock and a human paladin. But just as it was getting good…

Level 99?

That's two expansions away. 

I'm just going to have to make up the rest in my own deviant little mind… };-)

Surf'n'turf

Ingredients

  • One fish feast
  • One druid
  • One measure of Baby Spice

Instructions

  1. Enter Naxxaramas 
  2. Wait for a moment of downtime when everyone's a bit bored
  3. Serve Fish Feast
  4. Encourage druid to tank Fish Feast with his butt
  5. Apply Baby Spice

Voilá!

(Please note: results may vary after the application of Patch 3.2)

And now, back to Patch Day:

26mins

Nearly 27 minutes. Not too bad. And now we get to play the best WoW minigame of all: the "what time will the servers be up" sweepstake. Boooyah!