Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Revitalizing an Old World
In the beginning, there was Azeroth. Then came The Burning Crusade, with the addition of the entirely separate planet of Draenor, which is now the shattered Outlands. With TBC came four new zones in Azeroth, for both of the new races: Eversong Woods, Azuremyst Isle, Ghostlands, and Bloodmyst Isle. And now, we have Wrath of the Lich King and its addition of the frozen continent of Northrend and Acherus: the Ebon Hold in Eastern Plaguelands.
In each expansion, and in many patches, Blizzard adds new content by introducing new areas; they did this for the Sunwell patch of 2.4, adding the Isle of Quel'Danas which offered a plethora of new dailies and a new normal, heroic, and raid instance. Currently we are in patch 3.2, which many say is the "Sunwell of Wrath." 3.2 offers a new gaggle of dailies and a new normal, heroic, and raid instance. Many of these changes were implented through the addition of new areas (Hrothgar's Landing) or by modifying existing content (the construction of the Crusader's Coliseum).
If the next expansion is what everyone expects it to be, then Cataclysm will be set around the Maelstrom, the swirling vortex of water created by The Sundering, which split the continents apart. This expansion would require new areas to be created, possibly beneath the sea, in the form of the sunken city of Zin-Azshari (now called Nazjatar), possibly above it, in the form of the Isle of Kezan, the Broken Isles, and Zandalar.
The entire focus of this new expansion would shift every high-level player to the South Seas and away from everything else. New players, more than likely facing a new leveling cap at 90, would rush through the content of Azeroth, Outlands, and Northrend, eager to start the "end-game" that the new expansion introduced.
Do you see something wrong with this picture? When I started playing WoW back in TBC, I hadn't even heard of Onyxia or AQ or ZG. My raiding experience began with Karazhan, moved to Gruul, and pretty much ended with Magtheridon. Then came Wrath, and I tacked Naxxramas, Eye of Eternity, Vault of Archavon, Obsidian Sanctum, Ulduar, and the Crusader's Coliseum onto my resumé. While that's a lot of raiding content, imagine how much I've missed.
Now imagine someone that starts playing when the new expansion hits. All of the content that we are playing through right now would be rendered obsolete. While some may argue that this is simply the evolution of the game, it's still a rather unfortunate consequence that all of this gets left in the dust.
90 LEVELS OF PAIN
If the level cap is indeed raised, whether it be to 90 or 100, reaching that number is a rather daunting task for a new player. Given Blizzard's stance on end-game accessibility, it would seem reasonable to conclude that they could raise the level at which players begin the game. For those that think otherwise, consider this: my paladin took 9 days played to level to 80, and I already knew all of the quests and zones. Now take someone who is just starting the game, and you can easily push the playtime required for level 80 to something like 12 days. Now add another 10 levels, all 10 of which the new player would have no idea what quests were where and what the names of the zones even were.
After all is said and done, you're looking at 15+ days played for 1-90. Depending on that individual's schedule (let's assume 8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep, and 3 hours for eating on weekdays), that leaves 5 hours a day to play during the week; weekends, perhaps 12 hours of playtime per day. Together, that comes out to 49 hours of playtime a week. 15 days played equates to 360 hours of gameplay, which would take this individual approximately 7.35 weeks, or just under 2 months.
Note that this is not taking into account other activites, like those related to family or friends or any extensive sort of personal hygiene or fitness. So perhaps this individual isn't a 'noob' at all, but rather intense in their gaming. Casual players could easily have their required playtime doubled to reach 90.
Does Blizzard really want players spending months to just reach the level cap? Maybe. The more time people spend in their game, the more money Blizzard makes. However, the longer grind could result in discouraging many from even playing, resulting in a loss of revenue. The latter is what makes me think that Blizzard plans on either raising the minimum level or make it easier to attain max level.
FOR IN THAT CATACLYSM OF DEATH, WHAT DUNGEONS MAY COME
Whichever option Blizzard goes with (to be accurate, they've already opted into easier leveling, from decreasing the XP needed for levels to increasing XP from quests to heirloom items granting 20% bonus XP when both chest and shoulders are equipped), a ton of old content will be left behind. What's to become of these relics?
Blow 'em up. Make 'em reach for the sky and gun them down GTA-style. The only point of these vestiges of past expansions is to allow max-level characters a chance to experience old content with their uber gear and snazzy weapons. I soloed Onyxia about a month ago; go ahead, check my Armory.
Do you get to experience the content this way? Sure.
Is it fun? When you get past the novelty of soloing a raid boss, no, it isn't very fun.
Are people going to level to 60 (or 70, or 80), turn off XP gains, and raid these dungeons like they were meant to be raided? No. Many thought that this would indeed happen, but think about it for a minute. New expansion, new talents. While, yes, you might be able to reach the top tier of talents by 60, it certainly wouldn't be the same experience as if you were playing in Vanilla; too much has changed since then.
As such, I return to my previous statement: get rid of the older content. How? Why, a Cataclysm of course. Make these old dungeons unplayable by having a world event render them inaccessible or utterly destroyed. The death of the Lich King could set in motion a chain of events that destroys Northrend, or at least Icecrown and Naxxramas. With the Lich King and Malygos defeated, the Dragonflights could take their Chamber of Aspects elsewhere (not just pulling this out of my hat). The Eye of Eternity could collapse in on itself due to the loss of its keeper, Malygos. Yogg-Saron's defeat would break the control he had over the minds of the Keepers, who could close Ulduar to outsiders. Let Azshara raise Nazjatar from the ocean depths and have the tsunami-esque waves decimate some coastal areas in both Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms.
... You get the picture. Blizzard, stop taking up so much of my hard drive space.
Will this happen? Probably not.
Should it happen? Here's one person who thinks so.
Apparently Blizzard heard me, because according to WoW.com, in celebration of WoW's 5 year anniversary, Onyxia is returning as a level 80 raid boss, with new loot and (somewhat) new mechanics. Apparently the level 60 version will no longer be available, so at least Blizzard is heading in the right direction in refreshing their older content.