WoW! Thoughts! — On Revamping Outland and Northrend
February 7, 2013
Ever since Cataclysm changed the questing experience for levels 1-60, players have wondered when Blizzard was going to update Outland and Northrend. While Blizzard has stated they are fine with the time jump when crossing the Dark Portal, players are right to want a cohesive leveling experience. Especially since the base game now includes Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard can only hope any new players that make it to level 60 are amenable to following a story that drifts backwards in time. While players expect Blizzard to eventually revamp Outland and Northrend with updated content, there’s a solution that might allow for those stories to remain static while still giving players a chronologically accurate story to play through: Blizzard should move Outland and Northrend to the beginning of the leveling experience
As the system stands now, players roll new characters in a starting zone, and play to roughly level ten or twelve before venturing out into the greater world. Since these zones are designed to introduce characters to their race, class, and general game mechanics, they would need to remain. At level ten, as players make the decision for the spec, they should be given a quest that sends them out of their starting zone and to the Blasted Lands. Once there they would venture to Outland, which would remain as it is now, except the enemies and content would be scaled for characters from levels ten to twenty. At level twenty, players would then get a quest to travel to Northrend, and spend the subsequent ten levels fighting the Scourge and the Lich King. Finally, at level thirty, they can return to Azeroth proper and pick up with any of the current low-level zones, like the Northern Barrens or Westfall, and proceed through all the Cataclysm revamped content before hitting level eighty and entering the new Cataclysm zones; following that with a trek to Pandaria at eighty-five.
As much as it might make sense to redevelop Burning Crusade and Wrath content, there isn’t much purpose. The only people who would benefit from that are people leveling, either for the first time or on an alt, and even then, only for twenty levels in the middle of the questing experience. While Blizzard felt the Cataclysm revamp was required to upgrade the old world quest experience with newer quest design philosophies, changes of this nature would be entirely for the purpose of correcting the overall flow of the game. Quests in Burning Crusade and Wrath are generally engaging enough that they don’t need to be altered. Furthermore, if Blizzard did adjust the level sixty to eighty quest experience, existing players would want to play that, but when doing so they would vastly over-gear the content.
If Outland or Northrend are updated, it needs to be done as max-level content. Either the entire content should be repurposed as a leveling zone, or it should be used as grounds for future scenarios (similar to the role Dragonblight played in the End Time dungeon.) This would have the added benefit of allowing players to experience Outland and Northrend as they are now during their initial leveling experience, and then the opportunity to revisit them at a higher level and compare the changes; an opportunity that was lost to everyone regarding pre- and post-Cataclysm Azeroth, as the world changed and the old world was destroyed in the process.
To compensate for these changes Blizzard would need to redesign the starting areas to reflect that new characters begin in the time before the defeats of Illidan or Arthas and the emergence of Deathwing. New players could be directed to instanced versions of Stormwind or Orgrimmar and see a young Anduin or an armored Thrall welcoming them to their faction, and then be sent off to prepare for their departure for Outland. Not only would instancing give players the option to revisit a time when we had different leadership, but the new content of the starting zones would be accessible to anyone immediately.
One of the nice features that new races or classes provide is that all players can immediately jump in and enjoy the starting zones for that new content. And once they complete it, it is at their discretion if they continue through further, familiar content, or if they stop, having enjoyed a cohesive experience. For example, players now can enjoy Kezan, Gilneas, and the Wandering Isle any time they want by rolling a new character. Blizzard can implement new content in the starting zones in a restricted, similar fashion to the Goblin, Worgen, and Pandaren starting zones, and it will be playable by anyone. Revamping that content won’t go to waste because everyone will check it out due to its accessibility, and they will do so at the appropriate level.
Once advancing to Outland, however, enemies and gear would need to be adjusted for scale, or the current gear for levels ten – twenty would need to be shuffled around amongst various quest rewards and loot tables. Blizzard could implement the quest reward system that only grants items usable by your spec, but those alterations might make this process more intensive than just redesigning the whole continent. Profession resources such as leathers and cloths would need to be reshuffled, though. Raids might need to be adjusted to be five mans, and some fight mechanics may need to be altered since not everyone will have all their spells and skills expected at these levels. Or, Blizzard can use their scaling technology, and rather than scale down the monsters, they can scale the players up. The icon near the player’s head might say they are level seventeen, but Blizzard can set them to hit as hard as a level seventy character, and the game should feel fine. Gold prices for items and monster loot will need to be adjusted. Overall, this should be an easier process than redeveloping the entire continent.
Additionally, as instancing is used, players can experience the pre-expansion content as well. Just because a player discovered Warcraft after 2008 doesn’t mean they should be denied witnessing Thrall and Garrosh about to come to blows when the Lich King interrupts. Blizzard can reimplement this, as well as other removed events like the Battle of Undercity, and this classic content can continue to be enjoyed by everyone going forward.
Its going to be interesting to see how Blizzard addresses the content in Outland and Northrend in the future. Outland is already older than Azeroth was when the Cataclysm reshaped it; Northrend marks the first time a capital city has been relocated. (Where Jaina is taking Dalaran is anyone’s guess, but it sure seems like it would fit nicely in the Theramore Crater.) While general expectations are to just revamp the content, shifting the Burning Crusade and Wrath content to the start of the leveling experience keeps that content relevant without removing the possibility of a higher-level redesign. As Blizzard innovates new questing mechanics, their finest innovation will be when they can re-purpose old content without removing it altogether.
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