Sunday, May 29, 2011

Revamp of the Old World

There is a contradiction at the heart of the old world revamp in Cataclysm. On one hand, the mechanics are more newbie-friendly, to the point where even a lot of experienced casual players are saying that it is too easy.

But on the other hand, the stories being told are not particularly newbie-friendly.

Take Westfall for example. The new Westfall is a tour de force. It is gorgeously done, and a joy to play through. And yet, would it work at all if you hadn't played the old Westfall? If you didn't really know who Edwin Van Cleef and the Defias are?

There's lots of zones like this. The reclamation of Western Plaguelands is also a great storyline. But can it work if you didn't see the original Western Plaguelands?

Darkshore is heart-breaking for an older player. But again, not experiencing the original Darkshore causes that zone to lose a ton of impact.

The same thing is going to happen with a lot of NPCs. Their "origin story" disappears, but the NPC is still in the world. For example, take Chromie and Tirion Fordring. Fan favorites, both of them. But the original quests which introduced you to them have been removed.

To me, the level 1-60 zones in Cataclysm now feel like Book IV in a series. But Book I is no longer available to read. And Books II and III now come after Book IV, for some reason.

But then again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe new players won't be hampered by this fact. Or maybe it will feel to them like the world has history. I mean, I never played Warcraft III, and I never felt that I greatly missed anything.

(Except for Illidan. I never really understood what the fuss about Illidan was all about.)

Of course, one significant difference is that Warcraft III is still available for play, while the original zones are gone for good.

I am not sure that--if I was in charge of an MMO--I would ever green-light a revamp like Cataclysm. I actually agree with pretty much all the mechanical changes, and even the easier difficulty. But I would balk at rewriting the original stories of the game. Even though the new stories are extremely good, I think the loss of the old stories was a greater harm.

Of course, going through the older stories and tightening them up is another matter. In some respects, my ideal change is something like what happened to the quest [Princess Must Die]. The pig, Princess, used to be on the other side of the map, in the Brackwell Pumpkin patch. It was moved to the Stonefield farm. This made it easier to complete the quest, and strengthened the original story. Before, you were sent to assassinate a pig on a different farm, which was somewhat questionable. Was the pig really causing damage, or was Ma Stonefield using you to hurt an innocent competitor?

While now the pig is clearly causing damage to the Stonefield farm. The story is tightened up, and mechanically life is easier as you don't have to run to one end of the map and back.

In a lot of respects, I think Blizzard should have kept changes to the original zones to that level. Edit Book I rigorously, but not replace it entirely with Book IV.


  1. I think that an evolving world is better than a static one. As long as you tell good stories I don't think having a cataclysm-type revamp is a problem. You can always include background either in-game books or npc dialogue. I think that a changing world really helps players who want to go back and make alts.

  2. The remade world would be nice for alts, except that the leveling is so fast that it's hard to really enjoy it.

    A changing world sounds interesting, but when it isn't driven by the players, it just feels forced. This doesn't mean it has to be entirely player-driven like EVE, but something like Quel'Danas at least makes players feel like active participants rather than bystanders. It's not a lot of fun to constantly have stuff happening to us, rather than causing it.

  3. A flash of insight struck me as I was reading through this. It's obvious what should have happened ... revamp the old zones for the 1 - 60 crowd, as you suggested, but have those zones phase to "new" content as you level up. So Westfall's old Defias story is great for 13 - 20, and "old" Deadmines with Edwin and crew would stay as it was. But then, when you hit 78, suddenly "new" Westfall, with the advanced storyline, phases in, and new heroic Deadmines reflects that change.

    Of course, that wouldn't work with all the zones. The Barrens, in particular, comes to mind, what with the bloody great split down its midsection.

  4. What new players?

    There are people who have never played WoW before and now shell out about 150 Euro for all 4 boxes to play a game which looses subscribers?

  5. @Kring - don't forget 90% of all people who tried WoW didn't make it past level 10. With 12 million subscribers, that means that roughly 90 million people have tried WoW before.

    There are 300 million people in the US. I'm sure there are people who have yet to play WoW. Especially since out of the 90 million people who didn't make it past level 10, only a small percentage is from the US.

  6. @Klepsacovic

    True I think Blizzard could have made the expansion better by making the Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms areas level you from 1-85 instead forcing everyone to do Outland and Northrend again. That way you have fast leveling but enough time to finish story arcs and the overall story makes more coherent sense. Plus the outland and northrend content is still there if you wanted to do them.

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  8. Let us not also forget, of course, that the Cataclysm revamp of the first 60 levels is free for anyone who buys just vanilla WoW.

  9. My only real problem is how disjointed the world feels now. Some things were clearly updated to reflect the passage of time, westfall as you say and deadmines are a perfect example. But many dungeons are the exact same, with the exact same story, and the exact same bosses we killed 6 years ago. Moira and Thuarassian in BRD are a PRIME example of how not everything got the real treatment a updated storyline deserves.

  10. I think the old world Classic zones may have been what put a lot of new players off joining WoW in the last few years... while Wrath or BC were exciting when they were current, you still had to slog through 60 levels of almost pure boringness to get there, and that's a lot of time to have to hold the attention of a new player.

    Having those first 60 levels updated to take into account a lot of the cool things that were introduced in BC, Wrath and Cata (vehicles, etc) makes it a lot more interesting for players who are new to WoW... it's no longer only the last few levels that are exciting.

  11. @Hairymuppet- I agree completely. I nearly quit the game because I hated the 1-60 experience so much. Friendly intervention encouraged me to continue and I love the game now, but I could write a 5 page essay on why vanilla WoW was fine for its time but aged poorley and needed to be put to sleep. The fact that I started playing in mid Wrath my color my opinion of WoW's "good old days" negatively.