Thoughts On Game Progression From Uncle Wizzbang!

November 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

Many of you may find this hard to believe, but once upon a time areas like Silithus, the Eastern Plaguelands, Winterspring and Burning Steppes were considered “end-game content.” Before the Dark Portal opened again and before the boats/zeppelins started taking us all up to Northrend, we busied ourselves grinding Argent Dawn, Cenarion Circle, Thorium Brotherhood, Timbermaw Hold, and Zandalar Tribe rep, and worked to get those rare Frost Saber mounts. Now all of that content is pretty much ignored – people skim blithely through the “early” levels (which now, amazingly, includes everything in Outland) in their mad quest to get “phat 1ewtz” at the latest raid. This means a lot of people are left largely confused by what they find when they reach the latest “end-game content” – I still remember people in 2007 insisting that Ilidan could easily beat Arthas, or claiming that Ilidan was actually IN CHARGE of the Burning Legion.

Now Shattrath is a ghost-town and people breeze through Outland, ignoring all the once-vital factions and lore-rich quest-lines, even if they’ve never encountered any of them before. But, amusingly enough, Blizzard has not yet seen fit to make the reputation-dependent items there available to a wider audience, and the rep-grinding in Outland remains largely dependent on item turn-ins and single-dungeon grinding. Outland is, at this point, an odd, incongruous, essentially-irrelevant relic. We all sigh heavily as we plow through three or four Outland areas, usually selecting whichever post-62 regions we find most appealing or which we have not fully explored, motivated by a need to get through the shattered world to the newest content. It’s not hard to understand why – Northrend is an improvement on Outland on every conceivable level. You have the choice of two starting areas there, and the Horde and Alliance quests in those regions are very different. Compare that to the endless sameness of Hellfire Peninsula, where everyone is forced to repeat the same quests ad nauseam for Horde or Alliance if they ever want to get their alts above level 60. It was almost fun the first time, when Outland itself was a novelty, but every subsequent time has been a chore at best. Even Thistlefizz, who loves the desert areas of Old World Azeroth (in part because he comes from the desert), cannot stand Hellfire Peninsula. Compare the well-plotted, elegant quest-lines and lore of Northrend to the steaming pile that is Outland – a hunk of rock floating in space where quest-lines are never completed, important characters are introduced and then never mentioned again, and promises are ultimately left unfulfilled (see my previous comments in the Worgen post).

So with the new expansion looming on the horizon, one cannot help but wonder – will this be the fate of Northrend as well? When we’re flying around the transformed “Old World” on our nifty mounts… When we are leveling our new race/class-combination alts in the new starting regions… When we are fighting the revived Ragnaros on Mount Hyjal and the returned Deathwing (aka: Nefarian) wherever he might be… Will any of us really care about Northrend anymore? What will become of Dalaran? What will become of the Argent Crusade and the Ebon Blade?  Will the noble Kalu’ak ever be free to live in peace? Will the Earthen ever be free from the menace of the Dark Iron Dwarves and Runed Giants? What will happen to the continent once we have abandoned it? Will it be just another extra step in the long slog to level 85+? I can already hear the humming of the hard-core as they get ready for that mad-dash to the new level cap so they can be among the first to sneer at Naxx/Ulduar/Icecrown Citadel-geared players among whose ranks they once considered themselves proud to be counted. Well do I remember seeing Level 71 Death Knights only DAYS after Wrath of the Lich King dropped. Will I find myself questing side-by-side with Worgen and Goblins, Gnome Priests and Tauren Paladins, all at level 82 a week or so after Cataclysm hits stores? And will they have the same type of annoying questions grounded in ignorance of the game’s lore that I experienced back in 2007?

Five years after the introduction of “vanilla WoW” Blizzard has finally started addressing the long-since outdated content in the Old World. Ignoring the fact that the game might not even exist anymore by then, one hopes that by 2012 they will decide to update Outland as well. Will we have to wait till 2013 to see a revised/revived Northrend? Or will Northrend and Outland’s updates be saved for World of WarCraft 2: The WarCraftening?

And here’s a final thought for lore-lovers: updates to the game also mean opportunities for revisions and retcons! Even if they somehow manage to handle the considerable Worgen-lore issue, will we find that they have changed/ignored past lore in their enthusiastic quest to revise the world? Will important characters be removed? Will events from the past suddenly never have happened? Will we all find ourselves in situations similar to Prof. Cutter in the series Primeval, trapped in a world we know has changed but which everyone else “knows” has not? Commence shuddering!

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