WoW! Thoughts! — On the Legacy of Mists of Pandaria
January 17, 2013
One of Blizzard’s finest accomplishments in Mists of Pandaria has been the explosion of end-game content; in particular the various daily quest hubs that are used as a storytelling device. As a fan of the lore I’ve been enjoying the ability to see each of these tales play out, but there’s a part of me that wonders if this is the best way implementation. The system works fine now, when everyone is tearing through the content at max level as intended, but I can’t help but wonder how that will change once the level cap inevitably increases.
Over the years, Blizzard has come to add additional max level content with each patch. Starting with the Isle of Quel’Danas in Burning Crusade, following into the Argent Tournament of Wrath, and the Firelands patch in Cataclysm, we’ve seen daily quests grow into a tool Blizzard needs to keep the player base busy. And while each hub served its purpose when launched, the end result is that they are only truly relevant during their patch of introduction. Players swarm to the new quest hub, devour all the available content. Then, once a new one is provided, they migrate there; like a swarm of locusts devouring crops with blue exclamation points.
Quest hubs become barren ghost towns as the level cap increases, and the leveling flow causes newer players to avoid those locales entirely. Currently, leveling up through the Cataclysm zones leaves one little reason to finish Twilight Highlands upon reaching 85. The blue item rewards from the storyline quests are now extremely underpowered when compared to anything found in the Jade Forest. The content is left for players to return to as an option once they are max-level. At that point, it is just additional material for them to experience if they choose; another zone to be done just to say it was done.
Some zones and reputations have achievements associated with title and mount rewards that can be incentive for beckoning players (I never did get my Flamebreaker title, and I doubt I’ll earn my Shado-pan title either), which will keep some people coming back. While Cross-Realm Zoning ensures that these ghost towns won’t be quite so empty, seeing one or two other players is nothing like the bustling hub these sites were in their hay-day. Players often look back at Quel’Danas or the Argent Tournament as some of the best content those expansions offered, and it’s a shame to see them reduced to nothing more than a tourist destination for lore-fans or completionists.
Blizzard’s own development philosophies can work against them as well. Each increase of the level cap has been accompanied by Blizzard adjusting the experience requirements for prior level caps; such that players playing through an older expansion will level faster. If only playing to level, players will never see all the zones and quests that Blizzard put in for them. Players can now out-level content for an expansion by only playing through three or four of the usually seven or eight zones available. This helps for players with multiple alts, who can take different paths through the content and minimize the risk of getting burned out from repetition, but the result is a large amount of work that Blizzard does each expansion is really only enjoyed by the people playing the expansion at launch, and then rarely afterwards. With Blizzard giving us so much top-level content in Mists, it’s as if they’ve admitted that more than half of what they’ve spent the last two years developing is going to be useful for a brief time, like sculpting an ornate castle of out of sand with the full awareness of an imminent rising tide.
I understand that older content can feel repetitive, and I also understand that even if you are a new player, you want to get to level 90 and see all the shiny new toys that are promised on the box, and get to the zones where all the cool kids are hanging out. The nature of MMO development is that content is deployed and intended to have a shelf life. Sure, we can go back and do the Netherwing or Ogri’la quests in Burning Crusade, but from Blizzard’s perspective, they got what they needed to out of that content.
It’s that sort of utilitarian, almost mercenary, outlook that can allow them to overhaul the old world in Cataclysm; removing many beloved quest lines and events in the name of streamlining and updating the world. Blizzard is keenly aware that they can only worry about what players are doing now. Old content is just another item for max-level players to have as an option to stave off boredom, but it is low on the list. Only a handful of players will go back to get their old titles or mounts when they could be raiding, if not preparing to raid.
It’s odd to be considering the future of Mists of Pandaria when we are nearly four months into it. Fundamentally, it’ll have the same fate as other expansions: players will hit Jade Forest, level up through Townlong Steppes, and then move on. The subset of players that want to see the stories or earn the achievements will complete some of the quest hubs, but in numbers that won’t matter because the bulk of the players will be doing whatever Blizzard gives us next. The legacy of the Pandaria expansion is that it has a deep history that is there for players to explore and appreciate, or to be casually ignored and conquered in our quest for greater power; just like the Pandaria continent.
Mists‘ greatest accomplishments will live on in Blizzard’s further development, even if that content itself becomes archaic. Outland is celebrating its sixth birthday this week, and as it does so, it becomes older than all the vanilla content that was destroyed in the Cataclysm. Someday Pandaria will be six years old too, and it will age much better. Players may not be running around Kun-Lai or Krasarang Wilds in the same numbers on that day, but they’ll be playing content that was produced from a development process that Mists helped refine. And that will be Mists‘ greatest legacy of all.
…AND DINOSAUR MOUNTS!!!
The Cinder Kitten drive raised $2.3 Million for the Red Cross. Just don’t let the kitties get too close to the pile of money… http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/8376066/
Flying won’t be allowed on the Isle of Giants. Because if you fly enough, even giants look like ants. Especially giant ants. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/7592201587?page=8#142
Blizzard now offering Live Web Chat for your support needs! Now you can just copy and paste your complaints from the forums instead of having to read them over the phone! https://us.battle.net/support/en/blog/8352035
Patch 5.2 Valor gear not tied to dailies! My favorite part of the thread is when Ghostcrawler gives up talking about this in frustration. https://twitter.com/Ghostcrawler/statuses/290183014464512000?tw_i=290183014464512000&tw_e=details&tw_p=tweetembed
Valor upgrades gone in Patch 5.2. Let’s keep pestering Ghostcrawler about this until he gets angry again! https://twitter.com/Ghostcrawler/statuses/289821071555846144?tw_i=289821071555846144&tw_e=details&tw_p=tweetembed