Saturday, February 5

Watch out for the next world of warcraft

With the release of Cataclysm on Dec. 7, 2010, the dragon Deathwing decimated the World of Warcraft, introducing an onslaught of new features. Players have enjoyed a whole new leveling experience, an increased level cap, a new profession in Archaeology, and all-new dungeons and raids.

But that’s old news. Barely two months into the game’s latest, greatest expansion, Warcraft players are already champing at the bit for something new and exciting. Some players have barely scratched the surface of its heroic dungeons, and a few hardcore raiders have killed every raid boss there is, but they all have one question in mind: Whatcha got for us next, Blizzard?

During the life cycle of each Warcraft expansion, Blizzard releases a bazillion patches. Most of them just fix game bugs and other issues, but a glorious few provide real additions to the game. Patch 4.1, as it’s called, will be Cataclysm’s first major content patch.

For starters, the end-game will expand to welcome the new Firelands raid. In Mount Hyjal, one of the new Cataclysm zones, players pushed back an invasion by the enormous fire elemental known as Ragnaros.

A new area for daily quests is expected to pop up in Mount Hyjal, too. Just as the new raid will continue parts of the zone’s storyline, the new quest area will continue others, as players continue to heal the damage done by Ragnaros and Deathwing.

Patch 4.1 also will introduce a new five-man dungeon in Vashj’ir, Cataclysm’s underwater zone. The dungeon itself is set to be completely submerged, which should create some never-before-seen boss mechanics. The all-underwater nature of Vashj’ir rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, so we can probably expect Blizzard to pull out all the stops in designing this place.

The folks at Blizzard are cooking up a few quality-of-life improvements that should see the light of day in the relatively near future. First up will be a new system for storing tabards, those shirt-like things that players wear over their armor and display various emblems. Collecting dozens of tabards can be a pain when you don’t have anywhere to keep them, so Blizzard is working on a sort of virtual coat-rack so they stop taking up a bunch of bags in your bank.

Players can also look forward to enhanced maps, which should make dungeons a little easier. Currently, Warcraft’s default maps just show the locations of players and bosses, but the new maps will add such helpful features as loot lists and basic information on boss abilities.

You just know the final fight against Cataclysm’s big baddie will pack a punch a giant, flaming punch. I mean, Deathwing tore Azeroth apart and calls himself the Aspect of Death. The dude’s no pushover, unlike that ridiculous Lich King fellow.

Years ago, Blizzard promised players a dance studio, which would allow them to customize the way their characters dance. Sounds awesome, right? Well, after years of “it’s coming, we promise,” the dance studio remains the most famous unfulfilled promise in Warcraft’s history

All we know about Warcraft’s next expansion is that it will arrive…someday. Even the end of the world in 2012 probably wouldn’t slow down Blizzard for long. So what sort of new features can we expect in the fourth expansion? Level 100? Playable Pandaren? A new character class? I’m still holding out hope for the bard Blizzard teased us all with a few years ago.

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