When we heard that World of Warcraft's newest expansion would be called Heroes of Draenor, we took some wild guesses at what it might bring. And, perhaps surprisingly, we weren't too far off.
The expansion, revealed today at BlizzCon in front of 25,000 screaming fans at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California, looks to bring big changes to the game--and not just in the usual ways.
Blizzard wasn't shy on dishing the details of WoW's next expansion, due out sometime in 2014. We picked up a lot of info from the big reveal, the follow-up panel, and some hands-on time on the show floor. Here's everything that matters.
1. It really is called Warlords of Draenor The rumors were right--this time, at least.
2. All player models are getting updated Textures, polygons, animations, effects--everything has received an upgrade. We only got to play with the gnomes, orcs, and dwarves, but they look significantly better. The core animations have all been upgraded as well, but still retain the general movements of the old models.
3. Emotes have been completely updated as well All models have tongues, teeth, etc. to play with in the new emote animations, like /rude, /wave, or /salute.
4. Underpants also got a big upgrade Those new models are sporting underthings with stripes, small belts, and all sorts of stylish accessories.
5. Draenor is a whole new planet It's not a new zone on Azeroth, like most of the new expansions. This is a full new planet we'll travel too via a portal.
6. It takes place after the Siege of Orgrimmar raid players just beat Garrosh was enslaved and will be put on trial, but he escapes before the judgment. He travels back in time to Draenor before it explodes, and stops the orcs from drinking the demon blood. Kind of a weird premise, but we can give it a shot.
7. They heard you like Dr. Who Garrosh's actions create an alternate reality, where a new powerful Iron Horde is born that was never tainted by demon blood. But then Garrosh somehow manages to create a portal to our reality, and he invades it, of course. So players will invade him right back.
8. Garrosh is not the big bad boss The boss isn't even "an orc dude," according to Metzen, who thinks smart players could guess who it is right now. Apparently I am not a smart player.
9. Draenor is Outland, but this is not Outland This is back before Draenor exploded and became Outland. It was described as "primordial," "brutal," and a "land of giants." Sounds like the perfect place for hardy adventurers like us.
10. There are 7 orc warlords The opening cinematic revealed a lot of the different warlords of different races, each with a unique theme or style of fighting. We don't know all of their details yet, but we did get a look at the 7 orc warlords.
11. Orc Warlord #1 is Durotan Chieftain of the Frostwolf clan and Thrall's dad. Thrall will "deal with family business," and sees how "badass" his parents are alongside players.
12. Orc Warlord #2 is Ner'Zul Chieftain of the Shadowmoon Clan, which the devs describe as the "shaman of the shaman," who can see a lot of the future and do weird spirit stuff.
13. Orc Warlord #3 is Kargath Bladefist Chieftain of Shattered Hand Clan, a collection of orc outcasts that have risen up against the ogres. They all cut off one hand and attach a weapon in its place, which is a bit extreme, if you ask me.
14. Orc Warlord #4 is Blackhand Chieftain of Blackrock Clan, which is filled with hardy blacksmiths obsessed with building awesome weapons and technology. You can bet your butt Garrosh is going to be recruiting these guys.
15. Orc Warlord #5 is Grommash Hellscream Chieftain of the Warsong Clan, and Garrosh's father. They were described as "wolf-riding badasses" that roll through and smash faces, like Mongols.
16. Orc Warlord #6 is Kilrogg Deadeye Chieftain of the Bleeding Hollow Clan, a deeply shamanistic and crazy-psycho tribe. Their leader gouges out their own eyeball to receive a vision of their own death, which tells them how to lead their people.
17. Orc Warlord #7 is a mystery! The initial art shown at the expansion panel showed 7 orc warlords, but they only talked about six of them. Metzen also teased that Gul'dan (the orc warlock that creates the Dark Portal) is present and there was a wicked looking warlock orc in the art, so it seems likely that he'll be the 7th.
18. We're finally getting housing! Garrisons are private player-owned bases on Draenor, phased like the farm in Pandaria. You can see it in the real-world, and build it like an RTS. You should be excited.
19. Your garrison can be placed and moved to in "most zones" in Draenor The style will change based on where it's placed, but there seemed to be nothing but cosmetic consequences for placing in it different areas.
20. Your Garrison starts small, but expand it over 3 tiers Each expansion adds more building slots to fill with buildings, and you have to choose which buildings to place (each offer you different perks).
21. You can get free crafting materials at the Garrison One optional building is the Mine, which will spawn mining nodes periodically that either you can mine, or assign followers to mine.
22. Garrisons looks like this:
22. Players will get a free level 90 character You can boost an existing character, or make a brand new one. Inventories, quest logs, and all that good stuff will get a nice clean up automatically. This is meant to help players returning catch up with friends.
23. Lazy players can probably buy more Blizzard never said they'd be selling more, but they said that the first one will be free, which certainly implies that they won't refuse money from players who want more.
24. There is a mysterious ogre continent The ogres are at the height of their empire in Draenor. They will have massive cities all over the continent, but a mystery island floating on the bottom left of the map shown at the panel will house some cool content with them, at some point.
25. There will be a guided experience to launch the expansion The developers compared it to the Death Knight starting experience: very polished, very linear, very story-driven. It's a suicide mission through the Dark Portal to try and gain a foothold on the other side, and will be the first thing new level 90 players do.
26. Horde start in Frostfire Ridge Frostfire Ridge is a frozen tundra zone with tons of active volcanoes. The Frostwolf clan will battle the Thunderlord Clan and the ogres at the Bladespire Fortress here. The first objective is to recapture the fortress, then it becomes your capital city for the continent.
27. Alliance start in Shadowmoon Valley It's called the same, but this Shadowmoon Valley is completely different from the Outland version. It is only nighttime here, and has "rolling, moonlit hills" in a pristine, lush environ. You help the Draenei save Karabor, the Draenei temple before it became the Black Temple, from an Iron Horde attack. Then it's your capital city. The Shadowmoon Orc clan is the major threat.
28. Gorgrond is an industrial center This zone features the Blackrock Clan trying to cap the steam vents all over the area, to use that power to fuel war machines for the Iron Horde. The in-game footage looked like Durotar/Barrens.
29. Shattrath is way bigger In the zone of Talador, which is the home of the Draenei civilization, Shattrath sits as a massive city that houses tons of Draenei.
30. Auchindoun is a dungeon still, but different In this universe, Auchindoun is still preserved and is the Draenei's holy temple near Shattrath "like Valhalla for the Draenei." It's designed to encase and protect the souls of dead Draenei.
31. The Garrison gives you a lot of cool rewards Surprise! We're not even close to done with the awesomeness that is Garrisons. The rewards you can earn from Garrisons range from epic gear for your character to unique passive benefits or active abilities to limited access to professions that you don't have on your character.
32. Garrison buildings give perks that you can choose between For example, having an Infirmary can give you a once-a-day ability to resurrect your hero, or a passive boost to the recovery time of your followers. I hope there's real depth to this system, without obvious best-choices.
33. Garrison will have a ton of monuments and trophies Kill a big boss, get a trophy of its head to mount on your keep wall. Awesome!
34. They're adding a companion system too! Once you have a Garrison, you can collect Followers, which are NPC pet-likes that will populate your Garrison and can actually be useful.
35. Followers are unique and can be named They'll walk around your garrison, and you'll be able to interact with them and give them instructions face-to-face.
36. Followers can go on missions! Similar to SWTOR's companion mission system. But here you usually send them in groups. You can send 10 guys on a raid and it'll take them a week to accomplish it. Send some guys on a dungeon run, and they'll get back the next day. Send one on a quest and you'll get a report in an hour. Followers can get injured on quests and need recovery time (reduced by having the Infirmary building in your Garrison).
37. Followers gain XP from missions They'll level from 90 - 100, just like you. Then you can earn gear to equip them and boost their item-level to increase their power after max cap. We're not joking--the progression is exactly like your main character's progress. It seems a little excessive, and has me a bit concerned for my OCD friends' sanity.
38. Followers have abilities + traits This is what the gear and levels willl increase, and will be the main determinant of their success chance on quests or raids.
39. Followers vary on quality, like battle pets You may have acquired a fisherman Follower, but is it the rare-quality version of that Follower? If not, toss him back and try again. Really, our OCD friends are just doomed at this point.
40. There are specialized missions Special Follower missions will be unlocked from all over the place. An example given was that having the Infimary building will unlock a set of rescue missions that can only be run by people with Infirmaries in their Garrison.
41. Followers are everywhere You can find them in the world and convince them to join you by bribing them, or grinding up faction with them, or unlocking them through other accomplishments.
42. The Inn is awesome This is a Garrison buiilding that lets you find new followers at the bar. You have a chance to find one unique follower at the bar every day. A cooking NPC in the kitchen will also do some Cooking for you. Specializations on the building let you choose a DPS, Tank, or Healing follower, which gives you better chance to find that kind of Follower the next day.
43. Nagrand is back And it's just as boring. Oops, I mean "it's the least different of the zones."
44. Draenor is roughly the same size as Outland Which makes sense, since it's the same place.
45. Arakkoa can fly! And you're going to have to battle them in their rooftop homes.
46. Gron return as massive siege weapons enslaved by the Iron Horde They look just as awesome as they did when we had to kill them as a raid boss in Outland.
47. Ogres are bigger, more brutal, and uglier And hopefully a little smarter. They are ruling an empire afterall.
48. Sabaeron are weird werewolves This humanoid wolf was shown and said to be an expected enemy. Worgen everywhere were disappointed.
49. The dragonfly mounts look awesome. And will likely be the first flying mount players earn in Draenor.
50. Chimeras will fly around and have full animations to be used as a boss mob Because we didn't have enough fire and frost spell mechanics.
51. Heirlooms, Toys, and tabards are now account-wide and cross-realm You access them all via a UI page, like the spell book. You can see the ones you don’t have yet, and it tells you where to get them. OCD friends, just run for the hills! Don't look back!
52. The inventory got some nice upgrades You can auto-sort some items into specific bags, and new items added are highlighted. It's okay, OCD friends, come back. This will help!
53. Quest items are not stored in inventories They'll just be in the quest UI, where you don't need to manage them. Thank God.
54. You can craft directly from your bank No need to move them into your bags before you craft. Life is good.
55. The Adventure Guide shows you the best path for gear upgrades It customizes its recommendations based on your achievements, professions, and gear level. Like PvP? It'll recommend the new PvP content and maybe a raid that drops a decent upgrade for you. I like this idea, but I'm wary of trusting an algorithm to tell me what to do. I suspect this ends with me lying drunk on my floor shouting "You're not the boss of me" at my monitor.
56. There will be 7 new dungeons at launch Four are available as you level, with three at max-level. Five shared are the Arakkoa Spires, Draenei Mausoleum, Shadowmoon Burial Grounds, Iron Barracks, and Auchinduon.
57. UBRS will be a new heroic remake It's filled with Blackrock orcs, which we'll encounter on draenor, so it makes sense we'll want to kill them here too.
58. the Bloodmaul Slag Mines dungeon is a bruta ogre slave camp You can work you way through one of two routes to tackle the first 3 bosses, but the 4th final boss is always last. This happens inside a swelling volcano and has some very cool visuals.
59. There will be two raids at launch And more dedicated players than me will endure sleepless nights to beat it first and brag on the forums. Pre-emptive congratulations, guild X.
60. Highmaul is going to be the first raid It's an ogre fortress in Nagrand with 6 bosses.
61. Blackrock Foundry is the second raid This one's a giant war machine factory for the Iron Horde. Warlord Blackhand is in there. 10 bosses.
62. There will be more world bosses So expect to see the Trade Chat spam for "LFM tanks/healers for Boss X."
63. All raids will be "Flexible" The Flexible Raids feature was added in Pandaria, to let raids scale to the number of players in a group. This will replace traditional 10- and 25- person raiding. It will work in LFR-groups too, and bosses will scale down if people drop out before the fight.
64. Cutting-edge raids will remain fixed size, at 20 players needed 10- and 25- player sizes are condensed into 20-players only,and will be labeled as "Mythic Difficulty."
65. They're trying another open-world PvP zone Ashran is an island near the Dark Portal, and is a complete sandbox with no resets. Players can complete objectives and make changes that will persist, at least until other players change it. It's "like the old Alterac Valley," according to Ghostcrawler.
66. Ashran will let you build and drive siege vehicles Some may take days to construct, and will be able to actually destroy buildings in the other side's base.
67. Objectives in PvP areas will get some nice UI upgrades A small circle timer around objectives like Flags in a battleground will fill in to let you know how close you are to capturing it.
68. Battlegrounds are getting an overall "Score" ranking This will factor in everything you're doing and tell you how well you're contributing to the team, and get a good idea of what you're actually doing. It'll also help identify and kick AFKers out.
69. You have a chance to earn extra loot at the end of every battleground Gear, honor, BoE gear, consumables, etc. were all mentioned as potential options.
70. You can upgrade a PvP item once a week via a weekly quest No firm details, but it'll be a welcome change for players trying to keep up with the gear treadmill.
71. Trial of the Gladiator is the new arena ladder where gear doesn’t matter The goal is to force people to queue at certain times of day, so it'll only be available during certain windows. When you zone in, you can pick from any gear and items available--PVE gear won't work in the zone.
72. You should be excited about this expansion Blizzard has perfected the art of giving more than expected in their recent expansions to WoW. There are a ton of new, full-featured systems that will keep collectors happily busy for months, if not years. Alongside that is a ton of new content, new visuals, and a ton of quality-of-life improvements.
We may be a bit skeptical of the storyline at this point, but remember what everyone said about Pandas when the last expansion was announced at BlizzCon? And the dev team managed to tell some of the most mature and complex stories in all of WoW there. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt this time around--there's a lot of potential in this scenario, if they can make it feel natural. I can't wait to see.
Josh Augustine is a connoisseur of online games in the MMO, MOBA, and RPG style. He currently works as a game designer at Sony Online Entertainment on EverQuest. He’d love to talk with you on Twitter.