World of Warcraft

We can hear the screams now, "Silence, heretic! Perfection cannot be improved upon!" Over ten million players, thousands of quests, squintillions in WoW gold, and you speak of improvement? Begone!

Hold up, we're not suggesting in any way, shape or form, that Blizzard's magnum opus is anything but an astounding achievement, and a hugely funtastic massively multiplayer online game. All we're saying is that, you know, there are areas that could be improved upon.

1 - Better Graphics: World of Warcraft is a pretty game, but it's a pretty game in spite of the technology driving it, not because of it.

Even when it launched in 2005, WoW didn't exactly set the world alight with its realistic or detailed visuals, that honor went to EverQuest II, which subsequently tanked. Maybe Blizzard were on to something? Of course they were, World of Warcraft fighting games was intentionally designed to be a less graphically intensive game than its peers, relying primarily on a bold art style, beautiful color palette, and a wonderfully realised world.

Why the simple graphical presentation? Easy, the more computers the game could run on, the more folks could subscribe. To play games like EverQuest II and Age of Conan, especially at anywhere near the highest graphical settings, you've got to have a fairly beefy rig, but you can play WoW on an iPad... think about that.

So why do we want better graphics for WoW again? Well... it's been nearly half a decade, and graphically speaking, WoW's starting to get a little long in the tooth. Sure, there have been miniscule improvements in things like texture quality over the course of Burning Crusade and Lich King, and the upcoming World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, but we're hoping for more dramatic changes. Perhaps a more impressive dynamic lighting system and some more advanced shaders. We're not asking that the game be made unplayable for those with low end systems, these features could be switched off via toggle.

Is it likely to happen though? No, at least, not unless fans clamour for these sorts of changes and improvements en masse.

2 - Full Voice Acting: Once again, it's important to point to WoW's age and consider the fact that at the time it launched, voice acting in massively multiplayer games was, to put it lightly, a rarity. EverQuest II sported partial voice acting, but then EQII was big on flash, and a considerable amount of eqII plat must have been spent on that game's bells and whistles.

Even now, the number of MMO's that boast a decent amount of voice acting can probably be counted on one hand, the aforementioned EverQuest II, and Age of Conan notable for their efforts.

However, it's 2010, in under a year (we hope) EA and Bioware will launch probably the most significant assault on WoW's throne as king of the MMO's that we've ever seen with Star Wars: The Old Republic. In many ways TOR is looked upon as what might be the next evolution of the MMO genre, ranking high among its many interesting features is the promise of full voice acting to immerse the player.

It's a massive undertaking, and one we can't really expect Blizzard to copy in its entirety, but would it hurt to sprinkle some voice acting here and there for really important quests?

3 - A Free to Play Option: Free to Play is big right now, and the stigma it once carried, that it was the domain of dodgy and obscure Korean efforts, or MMO's at last chance saloon, is rapidly disappearing.

Recent efforts in the F2P space, including SOE's Free Realms, Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online, and upcoming projects like EverQuest II Extended, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures, and Lord of The Rings Online, have helped to convince folks that shooting games operating on a free to play, or freemium model can be quality, and worth their time.

If you've been paying attention, you get the sense that Blizzard's been testing the market for some sort of freemium or real money trade model lately. They've offered items, pets and more in exchange for real cash. It's one step short of offering things like quest packs, but the ground work is being laid.

World of Warcraft switching to a freemium model would likely open the flood gates as a deluge of new players who can't afford the or can't rationalise the $14.99 a month investment give the game a try.

Is it likely to happen though? At some point, probably, but not right now - and not for the foreseeable future. WoW still enjoys huge success and generates massive income from players willing to pay a monthly fee, there's simply no need for them to switch models. However, in the future, should subscriber numbers start to dip, either as a result of competition from something like The Old Republic, or perhaps even Blizzard's own next MMO, then it's a definite possibility that the company might look to inject some new blood into the old gal by exploring such an option.