This probably isn’t the best time to be doing this discussion since MoP is 3 DAYS AWAY! Almost 2 weeks ago (I really do keep up with my blog list… honest) Matthew Rossi discussed whether a sequel is really necessary for World of Warcraft. After all, Everquest did it, and it look what happened: World of Warcraft took a big ‘ol bite out of the MMO market during the transition phase.
I’m not a guru when it comes to subscriber numbers and what makes an MMO sink or swim. Things that many people usually cite such as graphics, character models, new races, and the like have been and continue to successfully be updated with the expansion / patch model. However, at this stage of the game, with the number of years not only myself, but countless others have spent in the game, I can see at least two advantages to having a sequel instead of an expansion.
The Journey Begins
When’s the last time you started a brand new character with the intention of reaching max level? Contemplating doing that for MoP are you? Me too. You know how excited I am about it?
Oh, I’m excited about having a new race to play. I’m excited about the new zones. What fills my heart with dread is those 70+ levels where I’m slogging through the same ol’ quests, scenes, and annoying slow-downs that I have for the last several years. Add the horrific balancing issues as a leveling character and you’ve got a very unenthusiastic player–one who actually likes to level.
Now you might be thinking:
Expansions can fix that! Just look at Cataclysm!
I call bullshit. Were there new quests? Yes. Were there “structural” map changes? Sure. Was there a deep fundamental change to the vanilla quests and scenes? I can’t make myself say yes.
I leveled a few characters through the new vanilla. You know how many times I went to a hub expecting a wonderful new set of quests only to discover everyone I talked to had me doing the same shit, just in their now destroyed crib? A few too many for me.
Although there was enough “shiny” to get me through the zone, we’re not talking about complete transformation. Add onto that BC, Wrath, and now Cataclysm, and that’s a lot of zones that I’ve seen the backside of a few too many times to get really excited about.
I want a sequel so I can not only reset my level, but so that the entire leveling experience gets a reboot too.
A Time Machine You Say
If Cavern of Times taught us anything, it’s that time travel is… complicated. Blizzard has made some pretty valiant attempts to allow players to mingle with their past and future selves in an effort to flesh out the Warcraft universe. The longer the World of Warcraft franchise moves along, continuing to pop out those expansions, the more cumbersome and confusing all these converging story and timelines become.
Although you can successfully show the progress of time through events like the one for Theramore, or the new digs going up out in Westfall, it simply isn’t as effective as wiping the slate clean.How would you like to be a new player trying to fit the Argent Tournament into any meaningful context? You wouldn’t, because it only makes sense in the context of the expansion itself. As more expansions get tacked on, so to do we get more of these weird events that are isolated in time and space and pretty damn irrelevant to the next “story.”
And how do these time changes affect us? Time *is* moving forward, yet Jaina still looks like she’s 16, and I sure don’t look any older. How does this view of progressive time affect our ability to connect to the gameworld, the figures who inhabit them, and our own characters if time stands still for the *actors* but not the land itself?
I really enjoy and want to see Warcraft be a vibrant and successful universe for years to come. However, I also think that Blizzard is backing this Universe into a corner with the way they have handled their expansion model. By creating new lore every expansion complete with “current” events, they are continually causing cracks in the cohesiveness of their universe from level 1 – level xx. Add to that the increasing level cap, the lack of sufficient and meaningful revamps of the earlier expansion zones, and the game is encouraging players to only experience end-game content. Players are leveling their 10 85’s through the new content, or make a single new character for the novelty, but fail to remain engaged in the content from 10-80 (soon to be 85).
A hard-reboot, a sequel, might not be the answer from a business standpoint (good luck getting a few million people to wave goodbye to their virtual selves in order to set up shop in a new locale) but I think it does have benefits for the title long-term.