World of Warcraft - What's to Come in Patch 3.0
MMORPG.com World of Warcraft Correspondent Alex Howells writes this story about Patch 3.0, the lead-in update for the newest expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.
With Wrath of the Lich King (also known as WotLK) seemingly a few months away from release, it would have surprised many World of Warcraft players to hear that another major content patch is to be released prior to the expansion. The details of patch 3.0 were recently outlined; its aim being to ensure a seamless transition between the current game and the content of WotLK (well, that's the aim). Such was the case shortly before the release of The Burning Crusade, but it is interesting to note that patch 3.0 does in fact offer a couple of the features advertised as part of Wrath of the Lich King.
The most notable of these is the introduction of Inscription. Inscription, as some of you may already be aware, is a profession that appeared to be an integral part of WotLK. It was flashed up alongside the main aspects of the expansion, which include the raising of the level cap to 80, the introduction of the continent of Northrend and the debut of siege warfare in player-versus-player combat. Inscription is designed to 'give players even more specialization options beyond the talent trees', according to Lead Game Designer Jeff Kaplan. Players who take up the profession will be able to increase the power of skills and spells. This could come in several forms, for example the ability to add components to already-existing spells. This alone would open up a whole world of new possibilities, with Inscribers able to do dazzling things ranging from adding knockback to Mind Blast to adding a damage-over-time component to Frostbolt. These finer details are predominantly speculation at this stage, but it has already been confirmed that any player will be able to use items created by an Inscriber. Mixed messages have been relayed regarding the form that Inscription-created items will take, though it is rumored that the form will be that of scrolls, which an Inscriber could then place on the Auction House if they so wish. Something that has definitely been confirmed is the sub-skill that will accompany Inscription: Milling. Milling will act in the same way that Prospecting does for Jewelcrafting, and is designed to allow the Inscriber to break herbs into reagents, which can then be used for Inscription recipes.
I'm sure you will agree that a lot of thought and ingenuity appears to have gone into the profession of Inscription, making it all-the-more surprising that it will be an aspect of patch 3.0 rather than WotLK. However, it is not the only feature to see a pre-expansion introduction. Many were excited by the prospect of customizable hair when it was first outlined. It was recently confirmed that this will also be a part of the patch. As a result, patch 3.0 will see the arrival of barbershops in all capital cities. However, this is not quite as surprising as the inclusion of Inscription. Not that long ago a Blizzard employee on the official forums stated that there are 'no plans at this time to exclude people from using a cosmetic feature like this', indicating that it would be available to all players, regardless of whether they have purchased any expansion packs. This will go a long way to counter claims that World of Warcraft lacks character customization, and should offer players the chance to browse a number of different hairstyles before deciding on one. Of course Blizzard doesn't miss a chance to include a bit of humor - the Stormwind Barber Shop was apparently owned at one time by Sween Neetod. Rest assured that a friendly Goblin named Naznik Sharpshear has since taken his place.
These two features alone make patch 3.0 an enthralling prospect, but there's more still. Quite incredibly the free patch will feature TWO new arenas which will apparently include moving obstacles. Zeppelin stations will also pop up in various new locations, hunters will receive a 'revamp' skill for their pets, and Stormwind Harbor (the point of travel from Azeroth to Northrend in WotLK) will become accessible. Guild calendars will also arrive, and it has been confirmed that new class spells and abilities are to be introduced, though details of them have not yet been revealed.
So then, on to the important question - when will the patch be applied? It has already been effectively confirmed that Blizzard is aiming for a release date of October, November or December of this year for the expansion. This leaves little time for the deployment of the patch without WotLK seeing a postponement to 2009. It is therefore encouraging that that 3.0 should be on the Player Test Realms (PTRs) 'soon', according to Tigole (Jeff Kaplan's forum-based alter ego). However, there is also an indication that there is a lot of testing to be done on the patch and as a result, it might not find its way onto public servers for around another two months. However, it is a promising sign that all posts in the European PTR forums have been wiped in preparation for the period of testing.
The introduction of so many apparently key features may leave you asking why Blizzard isn't saving them for Wrath of the Lich King. I certainly do not know the answer, and I'm not sure that any non-Blizzard employee does, but we can make some educated guesses. Perhaps the features are intended to entice players and further encourage them to purchase the expansion. Patch 3.0 would therefore be a case of 'if you like this new content, just wait until you see what we're offering in WotLK'. Conversely, it may be intended to demonstrate that Blizzard is not solely interested in making as much profit as feasibly possible, and does in fact care about the World of Warcraft player-base. If this is reality, the patch should serve to let players know that they don't HAVE to purchase expansion packs to enjoy new content (although there is no doubting that Blizzard would prefer it if they did). Alternatively, patch 3.0 could in fact be a device utilized to soften the blow of a yet-to-be-announced Wrath of the Lich King delay. All speculation aside, World of Warcraft players are sure to get a big chunk of exciting, free content coming their way sometime soon.