So, the world of Warcraft is coming to an end… Wait, I am not a doomsayer and no, I am not talking about the “World of Warcraft” game itself, but about the current state of the virtual world inside it. In Azeroth the year 2012 will come sooner than expected. On December the 7th, 2010 to be more precisely. That sounds more accurate than the Mayan predictions, doesn’t it?
And, apparently we are not talking about any meteor, nor an asteroid, nor aliens but… a mighty dragon. Yes, the end of all will be… Deathwing, a bad-ass dragon.
Say what? A dragon? But wait, we’ve been killing dragons in WOW since 2005, how could a dragon put an end to the… world?
I do remember that back in the “vanilla days” (this is the way they used to call the times of the original game, before the first expansion was released) we fought some very mean dragon bosses, like Onyxia and Nefarian. And those battles were really… epic. Both in scale and duration, and they both demanded some ridiculous time consuming prequisites. But in the end it made you feel like you… saved the day. I mean, you did get to kill dragons.
And to be honest, those were not even the toughest “bosses” back then. C’Thun, an Old God which looked like a… bug represented an even more grandiose fight. And if an Old God cannot become the bane of everyone’s existence… then who can?
Apparently a “bug” god is not “cataclysmic” enough, though. Today the expectations are even far greater, especially for the people who got to kill the formidable Lich King, a most ferocious foe to all living creatures. So, there was a need for an even more powerful godlike entity to come and ruin the feng-shui of the game that we’ve grown used to for the last 6 years. However… just a dragon? I would have expected at least a legion of them…
Well, at least he is… huge.
So, everyone bow before Deathwing the Destroyer, the new dragon overlord, the hero of the Cataclysm expansion’s cinematic, the bane of… ahem. Well, I don’t remember the lore details right now, however wowiki is rather helpful in this matter.
What I think is important at this point would be why the developing team behind WOW decided it is time to deliver a Doomsday to its MMO crowd.
World of Warcraft, as we all know it started as a rather casual upgrade to your no-so-friendly-but-very-immersive-and-complex Everquest, being an instant hit and dragging lots of gamers and (in a paradoxical way) lots of non-gamers to the MMORPG market segment that back then was tinier than many of you may think. It somehow managed to be intuitive enough for everyone, challenging enough for the hardcore niche and most of all… fun. Oh, and addictive as hell. You could quit smoking before you would quit WOW.
So, the game was a huge success, its subscription numbers increased and Blizzard become an even greater player in the gaming industry.
Until now, there were only 2 expansions to the original WOW game, one every 2 years, which is rather scarce if you consider that other very similar games update almost yearly, if not more often (Everquest for example has had its 17th expansion by now).
Keeping the parallel to the legendary Everquest, WOW has followed the classical MMORPG’s evolution, each expansion meaning new content added to the old one, a new class, new races, new dungeons, gear upgrades etc. The pattern here would consist in the words “new” or “added” or “enhanced”, which makes sense when we are talking about an expansion or “add-on”, as they are usually called.
Very little of the old stuff is usually modified. Why? Because the game is already there, it works just fine, so why try to “fix” something that is not broken? Besides that, there is a lot of work to be done anyway, and not only the new content must seem to keep things smooth and add other shiny features (like flying, for example) but it must also take care not to destroy what formed the initial foundation of the game.
But what happens when instead of just adding stuff… you do something else.
This time, for their next expansion Blizzard decided to approach things… differently. They changed the pattern. The content is not “added”, but rather… “modified”.
They are basically remaking the original game. A bold move, I may say and an interesting marketing decision. There will no longer be available any content from before 2006, and any new player who starts in December will actually play a “game” made in the last… 2 years. Sure, here we could go into a debate regarding the fact that WOW sill has its skeleton based on the initial design made back in 1999, and that it took Blizzard some years to make the actual engine, and that maybe some of the original models/content will be reused one way or another. But… this is happening in many other games on the market. And the publishers are not feeling ashamed to release those pieces of software labeled under the brand of a “new game”.
So, assuming you are a new player, that is buying WOW after December the 7th and starts playing… you will NOT be playing the same game I used to play back in 2005. Yes, it will be looking similar, yes, it will be moving similar, yes it will have similar stats… but it’s not the same game. It has different story, a changed/rather different setting, improved mechanics, new art assets, new music etc. Starting from the “log in” screen and ending with what is actually happening in the game… it will be a totally different experience.
There is no other way to put this but… in a way this is the equivalent of WOW 2.0.
Is this the right call?
For the new players… perhaps not. No new player will ever know how it was like “in the beginning”. That game will be completely lost… It’s not exactly fair, since WOW is an online experience and unless Blizzard allows some “legacy” servers no one will ever experience the old game anywhere but on YouTube.
For the old veterans however… this may be the right move. After 6 years they are tired of the old content. We also must take into consideration that any new content added can only be experienced AFTER going again through the old Azeroth, if you wish to start fresh with a new character.
I find this a very strange evolution, and yet a refreshing one, because I know I am curious how it will all turn out in the end. One thing I know for sure… Some fan-made/private WOW servers containing the old content will come up at some point, the way it happened to Everquest (the so called Everquest 1999 restoration project). And those folks who are nostalgic or curious will probably migrate there for some time to remember or just see how it was like in the old Azeroth.
(Illustration by chux81; CC-BY)