The World of Warcraft: Shadowlands phase at BlizzCon 2021 was disappointing. Do not get me mistaken: The replace itself, referred to as Chains of Domination, sounds amazing. Throughout the Shadowlands Update panel, recreation director Ion Hazzikostas and principal recreation designer Jeremy Feasel laid out their imaginative and prescient for a brand new raid, mega-dungeon, and the brand new chapter within the story. However apart from a cool cinematic trailer, Blizzard had little or no to indicate as an example the replace, and there was nearly zero precise element in regards to the new development programs, boss fights, or new actions. The very best we received had been screenshots so bland they might’ve been from anyplace within the Shadowlands. And it made one factor clear: The brand new replace is probably going months away.
It has been 92 days since Shadowlands launched. That is simply sufficient time that almost all gamers are knee-deep in its endgame mixture of dungeons, raids, and PvP. Shadowlands’ new Covenant system, which helps you to improve an undead faction hideout, at the moment has a complete of 40 Renown ranges, and devoted gamers ought to be round Renown degree 36. What I am saying is that, for lots of us, the brand new automotive scent on Shadowlands is gone. And whereas there’s nonetheless loads to do in Shadowlands proper now, lots of us can see the end line and are keen to leap into one thing new.
That is the truth that settled on me as I watched Hazzikostas Feasel reveal Chains of Domination on Friday. After that panel was over, I spent a while going again to rewatch BlizzCons of yesteryear—particularly these which occurred following the launch of a brand new growth the place Blizzard could be outlining the subsequent replace. The distinction was stark.
BlizzCon 2018, for instance, occurred simply two months after the Battle for Azeroth growth had launched on August 30. That panel was a whopping 50 minutes the place Blizzard not solely unveiled replace 8.1, Tides of Vengeance, but additionally confirmed replace 8.1.5, 8.2, and eight.2.5—nearly a whole yr’s price of stuff crammed into one extremely detailed panel. Practically each speaking level was accompanied by slides with screenshots of the brand new zones, enemies, bosses, and even nitty-gritty particulars like potential descriptions. In hindsight, it is just a little nuts. Going again even additional to BlizzCon 2016, Hazzikostas could not discuss in regards to the first replace to the Legion growth, which had launched 4 months earlier, as a result of its first replace was already out.
Examine that to this most up-to-date panel from Shadowlands, and it is onerous to not really feel upset—particularly as a result of a very good chunk of its measly 25-minute runtime was spent summarizing the story up to now and replaying the Chains of Domination trailer. I do not carry this as much as criticize Blizzard or suggest that it is being lazy or unprepared. However it’s apparent that Chains of Domination remains to be very early in growth and there was little to say and even much less to indicate.
I am not the one one who feels this fashion. “Blizzard lined zero programs particulars—legit zero, to the purpose the place we do not even know what we’ll be doing within the new world content material,” mentioned WoW YouTuber BellularGaming in his video breaking down the announcement. BellularGaming goes on to counsel that one attainable cause for the barebones reveal is as a result of Blizzard does not wish to decide to something with out first getting participant suggestions on Chains of Domination from the check servers.
“Was it simply me or was there nothing of any substance proven or talked about relating to the way forward for Shadowlands?” Asked another player in the WoW forums. Spend just a little time on the WoW subreddit and different communities, and a theme emerges: Persons are excited for 9.1 however frightened about its timing.
The existence of patch 9.0.5, slated for March, additionally means that Chains of Domination won’t arrive till Could or June. WoW’s 0.5 patches are sometimes for smaller tweaks and fixes that Blizzard needs to implement straight away. They have a tendency to occur about three months earlier than the discharge of a much bigger replace.
Patch 9.0.5, for instance, will address one of the biggest complaints with Shadowlands by making it attainable to improve gear earned from Mythic+ dungeons. It is improbable that Blizzard is responding to suggestions so shortly and is pushing out this repair, however this patch would not must exist if Chains of Domination had been nearer to being completed. I can not think about a world the place 9.0.5 comes out and is adopted a number of weeks later by 9.1. World of Warcraft has by no means labored like that.
Since we’re already 92 days into Shadowlands, which means we’re headed into one of many longest gaps between the launch of an growth and its x.1 replace. I did the mathematics on what number of days separated the launch of every growth and the primary main replace. Assuming a finest case state of affairs the place Chains of Domination launches on April 25 (it will not, however let’s play faux), that might be 152 days—equal to the present longest hole which was throughout Wrath of the Lich King in 2008. However that is a particularly optimistic guess.
The reply to why that is taking place is fairly apparent: coronavirus. Final summer season the Sport Builders Convention discovered that of two,500 recreation builders surveyed, nearly one third had to delay a game due to the pandemic. Blizzard, like everybody, is having to reckon with a scenario that has required the majority of its employees to do business from home, lots of them alongside youngsters who have not been capable of attend college in individual. If I needed to speculate, my guess could be that Blizzard needed to dedicate the whole lot of the Warcraft group’s sources to complete Shadowlands on time as an alternative of engaged on the growth and its future updates concurrently. However we do not know for positive as a result of Blizzard is not telling anybody (and, sure, I requested throughout an interview previous to BlizzCon).
I am by no means suggesting that WoW’s builders must crunch to be able to get issues finished quicker. I would slightly Blizzard take its time, however I additionally want it could be extra clear and acknowledge that issues are going to take lots longer than we anticipated and clarify why. Based mostly on what Blizzard has mentioned up to now, Chains of Domination sounds improbable and unusually massive for a x.1 replace. Since Shadowlands is already such a terrific growth, I am absolutely anticipating it to make it that a lot better. However be ready for issues to get just a little boring whereas we wait.