What features would I add to WoW? I'm glad answering that question isn't part of my day job. So much to balance in the struggle of nice-to-have vs. objectively beneficial. One might think that, after having spent over seven years in Azeroth, I'd have more to offer in this department. Sure, I could suggest Blizzard never ties daily quests to progression rewards as long as there's activity on those sturdy 'ol servers, entertain the idea of placing cooldowns on flying mounts, or draft a list of ideas for improving the LFR experience.
But each of those ideas affect a rather small portion of the overall game. I look at my own experience: I'm a long-time player who enjoys nearly every aspect of the game, including progression raids, pet battles, achievement hunting, alt-leveling, gold making, and PvP. I'm also currently guildless and, for the moment, cut off from folks I've played with for the last few years. Consequently, I spend a lot of time doing random activities and right-clicking names in /Trade.
So I settled on features that would, in theory, facilitate a more positive player experience for me. Right now. Me me me me me. It's all about me.
While I'm tempted to argue for doing away with player levels altogether, I get lost too easily---maybe that won't work in WoW, after all, like it can in games like the Secret World. But there must be something Blizzard can incorporate into the game that would allow players of disparate levels to not only play together, but have an experience that offers rewards beyond the companionship of a friend or guildie. Let's be honest: most of the time we don't mind running lowbies through dungeons or zones. Still, it would be nice were there something more in it for us---see, told you it was all about me.
What it would look like: Say I'm level 90, and I have a friend who is leveling a toon that currently sits at 46. I could alter my effective player level to match hers. Since I'm max level, I don't need XP or gear. Quest rewards can always contain gold, and perhaps scaled-down players would also earn the currency of the day, or be able to champion faction rep
I don't feel low-level characters would really benefit from being able to scale up, especially since they're still probably learning their class. Really, the possibilities are endless here, but I do admit it would cause a pretty large systems overall...I think.
See, I don't really know, just assuming it'd be a huge deal to make a change like this.
Tool for facilitating cross-server raids
One of my favorite aspects of the game is raiding. Coincidentally, it's one part of the game I'm currently doing little of. Being without an established guild has put me at the mercy of unfilled groups shouting in trade chat, or looking to external resources to coordinate a raid. That's why Blizzard should create an in-game tool along the lines of OpenRaid. The fact that the tool exists and appears to be quite popular only serves to underscore the need for it.
If you're not familiar with OpenRaid, it's kind of like a giant LFG channel. The existence of this tool can be credited to Blizzard's lifting the restriction on forming cross-server groups. Essentially, it's a landing place for lone rangers and short-handed groups to meet up with other players and run content.
What it would look like: Instead of leaving the game to use a 3rd-party tool to join or organize a raid, players would be able to open a window, join a group chat and browse a schedule for all upcoming scheduled/planned raids. The system could include the same peer-to-peer feedback mechanism OpenRaid currently has. What's more, I suggest lifting the cross-server restrictions on current tier raids. In other words, players would be able to group cross-server for Throne of Thunder now instead of having to wait until the next raid tier.
Take it one step further: if we had the level scaling from my first suggestion, this system could theoretically include every single raid in WoW's history.
How rad would that be?
Side note: If you haven't watched this video of Riot Games' Jeffrey Lin talking about what their researchers and statisticians are learning about player behavior in-game from studying League of Legends, you really should. Their findings are absolutely fascinating, and I'm eagerly awaiting more results once they have an even larger pool of data to comb through. Plus, some of what I'm about to posit will make more sense if you're familiar with the League of Legends Tribunal and this study.
To me, the current system for reporting player abuse feels flat, despite repeated encouragement from Blizzard to right-click and report every time. Yes, I could just flip on the chat filter, but it's not fun when 10% of trade chat is random symbols. Not to mention we can't assume these people can spell their racial/homophobic slurs correctly to begin with.
League of Legends' Tribunal, like in WoW, is a system where players essentially police each other. Players have the option of reporting other players for language, harassment and abuse (among other things). If the offense warrants it, Riot will respond accordingly (via punishment) and create a "case," which is sent to a Tribunal made of up League of Legends players. Those players review the case, share their thoughts, weigh in on punishments, etc. This is the glaring difference between this system and WoW's: players know their reporting is actually making a difference, whether or not they are seeing a marked change in-game.
What it would look like: The Tribunal, like in League of Legends, would be made up of veteran players whose accounts are in good standing---what good standing means exactly, I'm not sure. The Tribunal doesn't dish out the punishments themselves, but like League of Legends, simply weigh in with their opinions as to whether or not the action taken by Blizzard was appropriate. The identity of the player and those on the Tribunal can remain anonymous, but there can be a line of communication between the two parties.
This fosters a community of players who want to focus on facilitating a positive environment in-game. On the surface, it also holds players a bit more accountable for their actions. With the Tribunal process being transparent, players are more aware of the consequences they can incur when behaving in a toxic manner.
ConclusionDo I think any of these suggestions will turn out to be Ghostcrawler's super-sexy-but-currently-unannounced major feature come 5.4? Nah, not really. Well, maybe some aspect of the level scaling bit. But the truth of the matter is, WoW has seen a bit of a dip in subscription numbers---a fact that really doesn't say much by itself---and anecdotally I've seen a lot of guild break-ups, disbanding raids, server transfers, and players saying farewell to the game.
What this game needs more of, if anything, are ways for players to more easily play with one another in a positive, supportive environment.