Speculation about Future Wrath of the Lich King Developments
Let's face it: I'm a fan of the WoW lore. Evil Gemminie even has the "Loremaster" title now. It's a really engaging and intricate story. I like to think about what might happen, and I enjoy playing "Wouldn't it be cool if ...?" So my speculations about future events are all about what would be the coolest thing I can think of -- the most awesome game experiences I can imagine.
Blizzard seems to be going out of its way to make Death Knights easy for players to create and level. Their unbalanced power in PvP is well known. It's almost as if Blizzard wants everyone to have a Death Knight. Why?
One reason, of course, could be the same reason why Blizzard has been trying hard to make its raid content accessible to more players: money. From a bean-counting perspective, it costs millions of dollars to create all the art, 3-D models, textures, music, voices, and programming to make every aspect of WoW come to life, and every expenditure producing content that isn't experienced by players is money wasted. People do pay their monthly fee to play no matter what content they experience during that month, but if they run out of things to do because all that is left is inaccessible to them (perhaps all that is left is raid content, but they're not part of a raiding guild because they don't have time to raid, a common complaint), they will quit playing, and quit paying. This is why there are 10- and 25-player versions of every raid instance, this is why there are heroic difficulty levels to every 5-player instance, and this may be why Death Knights have been made so powerful: to make the new content accessible to more players so they keep playing and paying.
But there may be another reason. "Wouldn't it be cool if ...?" comes into play here. What if Blizzard wants everyone playing a Death Knight because something is going to happen to the Death Knights in a future patch? I don't mean that Blizzard is going to take them away or anything -- I think they're going to turn into something else.
Death Knights were given power by Arthas (power that may ultimately come from Yogg-Saron), and then they escaped his control and started using that power against him. Why would he just sit back and allow them to keep that power? In this speculative future patch, the Lich King will take his power back. Death Knights will log in after the patch to find their powers gone and a letter in their mailboxes, either from one of their primary questgivers or from the leader of the Ebon Blade, directing them into a new and probably short series of quests in which they find a new source of power, regaining many if not all of their former abilities. I don't really see all the Death Knights turning around and embracing the Light, but I also don't see them all becoming demonologists and embracing the Burning Legion either; perhaps they will simply find their new powers within themselves, much as the Blood Knights did when Kael'thas took the captured Naaru M'uru from Silvermoon City. One or two Death Knight abilities may change at that time and become different abilities when their powers are regained ... the class name may even change. It wouldn't radically change the game's balance, but it would be Really Cool.
Future Raid Instances
It's obvious that there's going to be a raid in Icecrown Citadel. It would be absolutely silly if there weren't. The whole Wrath of the Lich King expansion is set up to be a battle against the Lich King, and if there isn't a final showdown against the Lich King at the end of it, everyone's going to feel cheated.
But that's the key to my speculation here -- just as the final major content patch in the previous expansion contained the final showdown against Kael'thas in the Magister's Terrace instance and the final showdown against the Burning Legion in the Sunwell Plateau raid instance, I'm betting that we don't see the final showdown against the Lich King until the last major content patch of WotLK. However, nobody is going to want to wait that long. So, I predict that there will be a raid in which the players confront the Lich King, but it won't be the final showdown -- he escapes, or perhaps is saved from destruction by Yogg-Saron.
After all, Arthas has only been Lich King for about 4 years, in story time. That doesn't seem like enough time to develop such incredible power as he has. Even granted the fact that the soul of Ner'zhul, the original Lich King, is probably sharing his body, even Ner'zhul was only Lich King for some 17 years prior to merging with Arthas. Sure, Kil'jaeden turned Ner'zhul into the Lich King and gave him power, and yes, he gains some power whenever he drains the life out of some poor mortal to create another undead minion of the Scourge, but come on -- Kil'jaeden would never create a minion that he thought could grow more powerful than he himself, especially out of somebody he couldn't trust (Ner'zhul). Also, the previous expansion culminated in a fight against Kil'jaeden himself (although it was a partially-formed, only partially-summoned Kil'jaeden); why would this one end with a fight against Kil'jaeden's disgruntled flunky? No, the Lich King has acquired a great amount of additional power from another source: the Old God Yogg-Saron, which is imprisoned under Northrend. Yes, Arthas has fought against Yogg-Saron in the past, but the Old God may have realized that this upstart could be an excellent tool for destruction.
So I see a series of raids like this:
- Raid in Icecrown: The raid assaults Icecrown Citadel, facing several powerful minions of the Lich King, but in the end cannot defeat the Lich King himself. It is possible that the dark power of Yogg-Saron protects him, or the Lich King by himself is still just too powerful for the raid to take down. But in any case, the coolest thing would be if the raid was nearly destroyed in some awesome way at the end of the final fight, then rescued by someone powerful at the last possible moment (who also finds the Lich King's chest of epic loot, of course). And of course, the adventurers then swear they will take down the Lich King someday ...
- Raid in Ulduar: Yes, Loken dies at the end of the Halls of Lightning instance, but Yogg-Saron obviously has other minions, or perhaps the final boss of this raid could be Yogg-Saron itself ...
- Raid vs. Yogg-Saron: This may be the raid in Ulduar, or it may be a separate raid instance in Icecrown, Azjol-Nerub, or even Vordrassil. After beating several ancient horrors, the players defeat an aspect of Yogg-Saron, much like Ahn'Qiraj involved defeating an aspect of another Old God, C'thun. It seems unlikely that players could defeat an Old God utterly, considering that even the defeated Old God at the Master's Glaive in Darkshore, supposedly killed by the Titans millennia ago, may not actually be completely dead. The Old Gods may be technically unkillable.
- Raid against Deathwing: Deathwing lives, as we learned in the Burning Crusade expansion, and although he may or may not be behind the madness of Malygos, he is almost certainly behind the Obsidian Sanctum beneath the Wyrmrest Temple.
- The Final Showdown: The raid finally assaults Icecrown Citadel. But without Yogg-Saron's support his power is beginning to crumble -- will he fight to the last, or is there some way to redeem him? After a good long fight, the raid might not destroy the Lich King in the end, but instead purify him, cleansing the darkness from the souls of both Ner'zhul and Arthas. In the end Thrall may send Ner'zhul to his final resting place with honor (for the Horde), while Tirion Fordring may restore the humanity of Arthas, who can finally return to Jaina Proudmoore after his long nightmare (for the Alliance). Or, of course, he may just die. There is, of course, a third option: the raid kills the Lich King, only to see him replaced by something even more malevolent.
Speculation about Future Expansions
What has Gone Before: Original WoW
In original WoW, the world of Azeroth faced several threats. I've attempted to list every threat faced in an instance below, grouping some into categories, along with their status by the end of original WoW (i.e. the release of the Burning Crusade expansion).
- The Alliance and the Horde see each other as threats (status: alive)
- The Black Dragonflight
- The Burning Legion
- Kil'jaeden the Deceiver (status: alive, out in the Twisting Nether, and probably actively plotting on how to destroy Azeroth)
- Demon cults of the Shadow Council, such as the Burning Blade and Mannoroc Coven (Ragefire Chasm) (status: alive; some groups have been defeated but others remain at large)
- "Leftover" demon leaders such as Kazzak, Razelikh, Varimathras, Lord Vyletongue, Alzzin the Wildshaper and Lord Banehollow (Maraudon, Dire Maul East) (status: some defeated, others alive)
- The Dark Horde, remnants of the pre-Thrall Horde from the First and Second Wars (Lower Blackrock Spire, Upper Blackrock Spire) (status: defeated, with the death of Rend Blackhand, War Master Voone, etc.)
- The Defias Brotherhood of Elwynn Forest, Westfall and Duskwood (The Deadmines) (status: defeated, after the death of their leader Edwin VanCleef)
- The Lich King, the Plague and the Scourge (Razorfen Downs,Scholomance, Stratholme) (status: alive -- some powerful Scourge leaders were dealt with, but others remained, and the Lich King launched an attack on all major cities and several zones of Azeroth at one point)
- The Naga and their Murloc servants (Blackfathom Deeps) (status: alive)
- The Old Gods and their servants
- C'thun and the Qiraji (Ahn'Qiraj) (status: unknown -- C'thun was defeated, but it might only have been an avatar, although it seems likely that C'thun was at least weakened by the defeat)
- Hakkar the Soulflayer (Sunken Temple, Zul'Gurub) (status: unknown -- with the defeat of Hakkar in Zul'Gurub, he is not an immediate threat, but as with any immortal being, it is difficult to say whether his defeat was final)
- Ragnaros and the Dark Iron Dwarves (Gnomeregan, Blackrock Depths, Molten Core) (status: defeated)
- Ragnaros's counterparts, the other Elemental Lords Al'Akir, Neptulon and Therazane (status: unknown)
- The Twilight's Hammer cult (Blackfathom Deeps) (status: alive; some groups have been defeated, but others remain at large)
- As many as 4 other Old Gods may be unaccounted for: one under Blackfathom Deeps, one under Tirisfal Glades, one under the Maelstrom, and one under Northrend (status: alive)
- The defeated Old God at the Master's Glaive in Darkshore may not be completely dead; the Titans who slew it neither disposed of the corpse nor removed the weapon from it, so it may be that if the weapon were removed it might revive (status: unknown)
- The Serpentine Nightmare within the Emerald Dream (Wailing Caverns, Sunken Temple) is declared by Malfurion Stormrage to be the doing of the Old Gods (status: alive)
- The Scarlet Crusade (Scarlet Monastery) (status: alive, though some of its more extreme leaders were defeated and some elements of the Crusade reluctantly joined forces with the Argent Dawn against the Scourge)
- The Worgen
What has Gone Before: The Burning Crusade
The Burning Crusade expansion dealt with the Burning Legion in a way, but only an avatar of Kil'jaeden was destroyed in the final Sunwell Plateau instance; the real Kil'jaeden is still out there and still seeks to destroy Azeroth. Also, the dark Titan Sargeras may still be alive out in the Twisting Nether, plotting to return and lead the Legion to rain catastrophe across the universe. Also, it was confirmed in that expansion that Deathwing is very much alive and is scheming behind the scenes. Meanwhile, a mysterious force known as the Infinite Dragonflight has besieged time itself, seeking to alter key historical events (Caverns of Time). And as revealed by Harbinger Skyriss in the Arcatraz instance, the beings we know as the Old Gods and their Qiraji servants are not unique to Azeroth but rule multiple worlds, possibly posing a greater threat than the Burning Legion itself.
- The Black Dragonflight
- Deathwing (status: alive)
- Lady Sinestra (status: alive)
- The Burning Legion
- Kil'jaeden (status: alive -- his partially-summoned avatar was defeated, but he's still alive and still in charge of the Legion)
- Sargeras (status: unknown -- still no indication that he is still alive, but it's hard to count him out)
- The Infinite Dragonflight (status: alive)
- The Old Gods
- Other Old Gods on other worlds? (status: unknown)
What has Gone Before: The Wrath of the Lich King
The Wrath of the Lich King expansion is still young; it is difficult to say whether the Lich King and the Scourge will be utterly defeated and cease to exist as a threat by the time the next expansion is released. The name of another of the Old Gods has been revealed (Yogg-Saron, who is imprisoned beneath Northrend but can still stretch forth its power); it remains to be seen whether Yogg-Saron will be defeated/destroyed during this expansion's raids. Also, the Twilight Dragonflight is the result of Deathwing and Sinestra's experiments with magically altering Black Dragonflight eggs with energy from a captured Nether Dragon in order to produce a race of dragons that could rule the world. The events in the Obsidian Sanctum raid seem to put a dent in Deathwing's plans, but it is unclear whether the Twilight Dragonflight or Deathwing are truly defeated.
- The Black Dragonflight
- Deathwing (status: alive)
- Lady Sinestra (status: dead; died in the process of bringing the Twilight Dragons into existence)
- Twilight Dragons (status: alive -- some died in the Obsidian Sanctum, but others are likely still around)
- The Infinite Dragonflight (status: alive -- attacking the Bronze Dragonshrine and involved in Caverns of Time: The Culling of Stratholme)
- The Lich King and the Scourge (status: alive at time of writing this, though possibly will be defeated by the time the next expansion is released)
- The Old Gods
- Yogg-Saron (status: alive at time of writing this, and it is probably not possible to destroy it, but it may be defeated by the time the next expansion it released, greatly weakening its power)
But here are my thoughts for the two remaining expansions:
World of Warcraft: The World Beneath
This expansion would have two main directions:
The Emerald Dream
The Emerald Nightmare has shown no signs of weakening; in fact, it seems to have been having ill effects on Ysera's sanity. This is worrying, considering the madness of Malygos, probably spurred by either Deathwing or Yogg-Saron. Whether the Nightmare is the result of the Old Gods or some other factor (such as perhaps the Burning Legion), it is a threat to all life on Azeroth. My prediction is that corrupted wildlife will begin to appear near the Emerald Dream portals, causing the Cenarion Circle to ask adventurers to journey through the portals into the Emerald Dream in search of their origin. This portion of the expansion will take place in the original zones of Azeroth, but in the same sense that portions of Wrath of the Lich King did -- they will be phased versions of those zones, altered so as to resemble the original but with different creatures and other differences. The Cenarion Circle will have outposts here, and there will be instances where players venture into the Eye of Ysera, trying to defeat the cause of Ysera's madness, and the Serpentine Nightmare itself, trying to pierce the veil protecting it and discover its true nature or identity and defeat it.
The Oceans and the Undersea World
Meanwhile, there will be magical disturbances in the Maelstrom, and the trolls of the Zandalar Tribe come to Dalaran to warn the Kirin Tor about them. They fear that the Naga are doing something significant, and probably bad, in their undersea city of Nazjatar. In the worst-case scenario that the Kirin Tor can imagine, Queen Azshara is trying to recreate the Well of Eternity (possibly with Deathwing's help) and use its power to summon some powerful demon, perhaps even Sargeras, as it's impossible to be certain he's dead. This could mean a reenactment of the War of the Ancients.
This expansion will make it possible to visit the island of Zandalar, in the middle of the Great Sea, where the shamans of the Zandalar Tribe have been engaging in rituals for ten thousand years to prevent their island from sinking beneath the waves due to the Sundering. Beneath their island is the Goblin city of Undermine, and the Goblins are willing to offer their aid, at a substantial discount, because the prospect of the world being destroyed is bad for business.
Many of the world's islands will become visitable zones, and players will be able to purchase and otherwise obtain oceangoing mounts that can safely navigate Fatigue water ... from ships to tamed ocean-dwelling creatures to a buffed aquatic form for Druids. A new profession of Woodworking will be added, which at high levels of mastery allows players to create wooden sailing vessels, but also allows the harvesting of wood for use by enchanters to create wands (and finally the wands they create will be decent ones). Woodworkers will also be able to create staves and bows.
There will be raids on Nazjatar (with Queen Azshara as the final boss) and the Tomb of Sargeras as well as probably other island and undersea locations, featuring Naga forces riding the giant sea creatures that have washed up dead on the beaches of Darkshore.
World of Warcraft: Return of the Titans
As stated at Uldum in part of the Discs of Norgannon quest, the Titans intend to return to Azeroth someday. And, as we discover in the Halls of Stone instance, the Curse of Flesh that transformed the Titans' servants into the Gnomes, Dwarves, Humans (via the Vrykul) and other races of today was not part of the Titans' design but was caused by the Old Gods when they arrived on Azeroth. This final expansion of World of Warcraft is the perfect time for the Titans to return and confront the Old Gods once and for all, but will the Titans also be a threat to the peoples of Azeroth?
Since it is the final expansion, the opportunity exists for Blizzard to change the face of Azeroth forever. Sooner or later another Warcraft game (or perhaps a World of Warcraft II) will follow in WoW's footsteps and pick up the remaining plot threads, but as the end of WoW, this patch's developments will have to be nothing short of cataclysmic.
The Return of the Titans
The Titans return and are of split opinions on what to do with the races that have come to live on Azeroth (including the Orcs and Draenei, which only migrated there recently), but they are suddenly beset on all sides and have no choice but to rely on them for help ...
The Awakening of the Old Gods
The Old Gods have been waiting for the opportunity to get their revenge on the Titans for their long imprisonment at the Titans' hands. Springing an elaborate trap, they prevent the Titans from simply leaving Azeroth the way they came, and they break free from their prisons, causing unimaginable destruction as the forces of the Titans and of Azeroth struggle desperately to stop them. Destructable and rebuildable Horde and Alliance towns in zones like Ashenvale would change the face of WoW in more ways than one, and the zones could be phased so as to allow low-level characters to quest in them as normal, even as massive upheavals occur for the level 91+ characters in the same zone.
The Return of Sargeras
At the same time, the Burning Legion's minions on Azeroth come out of hiding to reveal that Sargeras is very much alive and is coming. In the first content patch after the expansion releases, Burning Legion minions manage to summon him through one of Ner'zhul's old portals to Outland, where he gathers his forces for his next move. In the next content patch, he storms the Dark Portal and stands in the Blasted Lands, marshaling his armies for the next step. And finally, in a subsequent content patch, Sargeras walks the face of Azeroth, summoning hordes of demons with a thought and destroying any opposition he encounters with a wave of his hand. It will truly take the aid of the Titans to stop him, and by this time there are enough level 100 characters to form a raid that might, just possibly, be able to take him down. When he attacks a zone, though, he destroys it -- leaving nothing but flaming ruins in his wake. It does reset, and the zones are phased so that lower-level characters don't see the devastation and can quest as normal, but level 91+ characters see ruins where there were towns, no repair or resupply NPCs, etc., until it resets, unless they can stop Sargeras first.
Attack of the Infinite
The Infinite Dragonflight finally unleashes its most devastating attack ever, attempting to change the course of the War of the Ancients. In response, the Bronze Dragonflight allows a raid group to travel to this time period, ten thousand years in the past, in an attempt to stop them ... and things go horribly wrong, as the Bronze NPCs that were going to assist the adventurers abruptly vanish, stranding the raid in the past. The Infinite Dragonflight's plans are directed against Nozdormu himself, attempting to assist the Old Gods in corrupting him just as they corrupted Neltharion, turning him into Deathwing. As a result the raid has no assistance from the Bronze Dragonflight, and unless they succeed, not only will they be unable to return home, there will be no home to return to.
Transformation of the Battlegrounds
Every Battleground for brackets above level 90 will be changed to include an extra element: while the battle between Horde and Alliance is going on, there is also some form of attack from either the Old Gods or the Burning Legion, bent on simply destroying the players. Simultaneously, the Titans have representatives in the area who will grant advantages of some kind to those who defeat Old Gods or Burning Legion units.