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WoW Insider's BlizzCon 2011 predictions

It's quiet around the WoW Insider offices today -- many of us are on our way to Anaheim as you read this. After all, it's BlizzCon 2011 Eve ... uh, Eve. And we can't stop thinking about all the exciting news that we're 48 hours away from learning. Floodgates, people -- they're going to open.

Since our brains won't let us consider anything but BlizzCon right now anyway, we thought it might be a good idea for all us staffers to write down our predictions for 5.0 and the convention in general. The bosses think it's a good idea because you want to read about BlizzCon so you'll give us precious, precious page views. I think it's a good idea because we get to have a lot of people on the record who are going to look ridiculous in 48 hours on account of how wrong they are. That, my friends, is what we call a win-win.

So, if you'll allow me to get things started: BlizzCon 2011 prediction involves Tyler sneaking past WoW Insider security at our Reader Meetup and getting so close to Fox Van Allen that he needs to be tazered by a security guard to keep him from touching the talent. Also, um, probably something with pandas or whatever.

Alex Ziebart (@AlexZiebart) In addition to the obvious "new expansion" answer, I'm expecting some substantial tweaks to the talent system Cataclysm implemented. It's a great system, but take a minute and look at it -- it only functions properly with 85 levels and the current number of talent points available to us. Throw two to three more points in there between levels 86-90, and the whole thing starts to fall apart. Either Blizzard needs to lock you into one tree longer than it did before to force you into grabbing whatever the new end talents are (and do an across-the-board talent reset to enforce this), or it'll need to reshuffle the whole talent spread to keep the builds that would become crazy-OP out of player hands. That's if it chooses to keep the current system at all, and it might not do that. Considering BlizzCon '11 has an entire panel dedicated to the talent system, we're going to see a substantial shift somewhere. I'm pretty sure Blizzard wouldn't hold a systems panel to say, "More of the same!"

Allison Robert (@allisonrobert) I'm guessing this BlizzCon will be largely concerned with Diablo 3, but on the WoW end of things, probably an announcement of the next expansion. Like others, I don't think Blizzard will introduce a new race or a new class, but an entire panel dedicated to talents does suggest that something's afoot with the system, and the weight of evidence argues that Blizzard will go back to focusing on the endgame experience after essentially rebooting the game in Cataclysm. I also think Dan's right re: overhauling tank mechanics, and we might extend that to Blizzard's overhauling problematic stuff elsewhere. I'm not sure Blizzard's happy with how healing turned out in this expansion, not necessarily because it was wrong in the beginning (i.e., mana efficiency was too good) but because a lot of consistent issues have refused to go away.

Anne Stickney (@Shadesogrey) I already did all that predicting stuff! I don't know if I'm right or not on the expansion predictions -- I do know that some aspects of what I called are absolutely not going to be correct due to some other info, but since that info is book spoilers, I'm not gonna go into it. As for the rest...oh man, I have no idea. I'm guessing we'll see at least one cinematic (Diablo 3), if not two.

I also predict I'm gonna be completely exhausted by the time it's all over!
Chase Hasbrouck Something similar to LOTRO's Skirmish system -- small instances that you can run solo with NPC backup.

Daniel Whitcomb (@DanielWhitcomb) I predict we will see the first signs of the extensive tanking overhaul for the next expansion that's been hinted at in Dev Watercoolers. I'm also expecting another revamp of the talent system and possibly a further loosening of transmogrification rules to come in patch 4.4 or 5.0. Finally, we'll get a taste of the new lore for Warcraft, which will include not only the first hints of the new Pandaria storyline, but a preview of patch 4.4's story elements, which will include the return of Thrall as Warchief and focused world changes in Gilneas, Ashenvale, and Stromgarde that will focus on the Horde/Alliance conflicts in those areas. I am also expecting to see a Heart of the Swarm demo playable at BlizzCon, likely with a new cinematic, at least one new unit, and possibly the first few missions of the story mode playable, which will play more like an RPG (think Orc mission from the WC3 expansion) or a DoTA type thing than an RTS.

Fox Van Allen (@foxvanallen) (gplus.to/foxvanallen) I predict that we'll be pretty busy at BlizzCon. Blizzard will announce the new expansion, of course, and we'll finally figure out what the deal is with pandas. (I say pandas will be present, not playable.) We should get a lot of information, I feel. Blizzard has been itching to be able to do a powerful, unspoiled reveal. Fewer third-party leaks, more first-party leaks, in a more controlled way. So long as everything doesn't go to hell in the next 24 hours ... aren't you surprised that no one has ruined that new expansion for you yet?
The new expansion will likely contain a few updates to the stories of existing zones. The bulk of the focus, though, will be on exploring a new, vast, forgotten land with its own existing problems. It'd be a great storyline to parallel a new story focus on Horde vs. Alliance conflicts. If Blizzard is serious about pushing expansions more frequently, it can afford to give us something short of "big bad threatens to destroy all Azeroth." More notable, though, will be how the focus isn't just on World of Warcraft. Sure, the expansion is huge news, but I think a lot of the spotlight is going to D3.

Joe Perez (@lodurzj) Talent system tweaks, and I'm guessing that healing is going to be a hot topic at this years BlizzCon.

Josh Myers (@Elamqt) I'm predicting a couple of "slips" about Titan, enough to titillate the audience without giving anything real away. Also, Blizzard will be previewing one of the new features of next expansion: the dance factory. Beyond that, there will definitely be expansion news, both on the World of Warcraft and StarCraft fronts. I'm thinking Lisa is right, though, in saying that they WoW news will be significantly less than what we're used to from previous BlizzCons, as Blizzard has two freshly revitalized series and a super-secret project in the works.
Kelly Aarons (@Cadistra) I say Diablo, Diablo, and more Diablo. I'm not a high-end raider, so I can't give any real educated opinions on what Blizzard should change, but I'm really putting Diablo to be this year's BlizzCon baby.

Lisa Poisso (@lisapoisso) I think hardcore WoW fans are going to be surprised if they're not expecting the publicity and excitement pendulum to begin swinging from World of Warcraft to Diablo and the entire Blizzard spectrum as a whole. That's not to say there won't be some interesting reveals and discussions about our favorite game, but this BlizzCon's going to be an appetizer for the broader direction Blizzard's headed in the longer term.

Mat McCurley
(@gomatgo)
(gplus.to/gomatgo) My BlizzCon predictions are that there will be a new expansion announced, and it will hopefully be more substantial than the "light" scenario of no new classes and no new races. The talent system is going to get another major overhaul, either in systems design or a bombshell announcement (like no new talents). I am bad at predictions most of the time, but Pandaren, Azshara, and all that are good guesses, I'd say. I think we might get our first look at an update to the player models or at least a graphical overhaul of some new system in game, like when water got changed for Cataclysm.

Robin Torres (@cosmiclaurel) I'm going to be bold and say they are going to announce a kind of hero healing class in the next expansion. It will be hero in that Blizzard will attempt to make healing fun to play while also having the character start late, like the death knight. But it won't be a true, overpowered hero class. I also think that Blizzard will attempt to bring back the Path of the Titans in some form. Other than that, I agree with most everyone else that Diablo 3 will be the main focus, as well it should.

Scott Andrews We won't get new races or classes in the next WoW expansion. Instead of giving us reasons to play alts, this time around Blizzard will focus on new ways to invest in our existing characters. This could take the form of a fourth talent tree per class that uses a different kind of currency or even adds new roles to each class, such as shockadins, tanking rogues, or healing mages. Or it could be a redesigned Path of the Titans-style interface that allows each class to improve specific spells and learn new spells -- including new racial abilities -- gradually over time at the level cap. Part of this system could allow you to combine two spells into one. For example, when you cast Hand of Freedom on a player, you also cast Cleanse on that player for no additional mana. Or when you cast Chain Lightning, it also places a Flame Shock DOT on each target. Some, but not all, of these combos will be intended to reduce "spell clutter" in our UI so Blizzard can continue to add new spells to the game without completely overloading our bars.

Blizzard could also allow us to earn "flex points" -- talent points that can be swapped around at any time (out of combat, of course). Another way we could invest more into our characters would be to add new primary professions and the ability to learn a third primary at level 90. Some form of housing or customizable mounts/combat vehicles are other possibilities.

Turn to WoW Insider for all your BlizzCon 2011 news and information. Get ready to kick off the weekend with the WoW Insider Reader Meetup, cohosted by Wowhead and Gamebreaker.tv, and look for our liveblogs of the convention panels, interviews with WoW celebrities -- and of course, lots of pictures of people in costumes. It's all here at WoW Insider!

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