Sunday, April 28, 2013

You Only Live Twice

This is something we struggle with, because after Cataclysm we seriously question the time-investment of re-doing old zones. Presumably, from a lore standpoint, the Horde is going to have to back down from areas on the edge of conquest (particularly Ashenvale.) But we don't want to re-do that zone - it's an important Horde level-up area. And even if we DID re-do it, we'd still have to have quests - it couldn't just be night elves /dancing. On a related note, would you guys be willing to sacrifice a new zone in the next expansion for us to re-do Gilneas? As an Alliance only zone? What gameplay would we get out of it?

I think Blizzard and I need to have a serious talk about exactly why people keep playing their game.

This might, I realise, be an age thing, but the concept of the reboot has always been something I've struggled with. If I take a very personal example to demonstrate: when Eon Productions rebooted The James Bond 'franchise' in 2006, I was concerned. After all, taking such an iconic character back to where they began could end up creating far more questions than it answered, might completely destroy the ethos and idea that Ian Fleming had initially created in the 1950's. However, it was patently obvious, even in the eyes of this amateur Bond aficionado, that some of the Bond 'legacy' needed to be left where it had been created. Picking and choosing your moments is a hard task, knowing what to leave out and what to include... and I found myself thinking that there were some parts of the 'old' Bond that I missed.

Fortunately, when Sam Mendes came along and made Skyfall, he realised that there was a way to combine the old and the new in a way that didn't break everything, but somehow just made the entire experience that little bit more complete.

Daniel Craig AND Ben Whishaw. IN THE SAME CLIP11!1!11!!

I sense that Blizzard feel that because Cataclysm is considered a failure in most people's eyes, that means that everything within it did not have merit. I have to disagree, and say that I think the work done to create the Sundering was enormously satisfying not simply from a lore standpoint but also from that of a quester. Re-running those old zones was a revelation, and hugely enjoyable. However, levelling has stopped being what people play the game to do, it is simply a means to reach End Game, and that is where I suspect the reticence to 'reinvent' old things becomes most acute: Ghostcrawler is right. What would be the point of Gilneas as an Alliance capitol if all the player base wants to do is run endgame...?

So then, Blizzard, why not put end-game content in Gilneas?

What is wrong with a full top-down reboot? With almost ten years on the clock, it would be a fabulous way of bringing the game up to date. Is it really necessary to make 'new' the only option when it comes to continuing the stories and conflicts in Azeroth? As Q and Bond can attest, taking the old and flipping it on its head really can work, if you find people to do it who understand their source material and have a real love of what they do. For the second time this week I feel the need to appeal to developers who think the only way to guarantee a return on their hours of work and investment is with the word 'new': considering how much of the game is currently recycled to begin with (and we're not just talking models here) I really don't understand the reticence to go back to basics and try and bring some consistency to a storyline scattered across four expansions and countless continents.

The practicalities I do grasp: I think last time the decision to place so much remodelled content in an area where the majority of people would give it only scant regard is a lesson well learnt. However, and I think this is an important point to make from the viewpoint of continuity, going back is not a bad thing. Someone somewhere is already thinking ahead to 10 Years of Warcraft: don't tell me they're not, there is a team already in place doing just that. If you want to celebrate the true strengths of this game, then the lore is absolutely at the foundation of that, and there is a growing feeling that this means everyone needs to be on the same page. If Blizzard could pull off a consistent storyline from 1-90 AND into endgame for the 10th Anniversary, I suspect that would be a master-stroke no-one else will ever have to opportunity to ever repeat.

The new isn't a bad thing, I know. Neither is the old. The ideal world is somewhere in-between: getting that balance right is no mean feat, and you're never likely to keep everyone happy. The reboot has a lot to lend to Warcraft, if the right people know which moments to pick. Maybe with the movie in production, which I reckon might also make it in time to cinemas for Warcraft's 10th birthday, we might see some of the old and the new together. For now, I can only hope that the people in charge realise that a redo is not a failure, or a waste of energy. If done right, it has the potential to completely redefine what the game can be.


Andrew Sutherland said...

I'd like 1 to 90 to be unchanged but world updates are overlain and phased to a higher level (great if they work how to let someone toggle to the old phase). L91 nelfs go back to Ashenvale and reclaim some land while low level horde still get to level there. All the new content in extra levels, recycled art work (so more content) and world reflects current story line.
Traditionally the story moves on but the old zones don't. Cata changed that to bring the old world up the date but why can't we have a multi-layered world where levelling content and current content sit on top of each other (and yes l1 to 90 Horde is Garrosh's horde forever.

Genly said...

As I play WoW longer, it reminds me more and more of the old chestnut from biology classes, "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." Only in this case, there are times when it feels so utterly bizarre that "geography recapitulates history."

Grimmtooth said...

As I've touched on this before, I'll not blog it again, but use this convenient space as a place to re-rant. :)

Blizz shoot themselves in the foot with regard to the leveling game.

It seems that every other patch introduces something that shortens or otherwise subverts the leveling game. Think I read somewhere that they are reducing the XP requirements for levels 85-90 in patch 5.3, for example.

So, if they added Gilneas as an Alliance zone, say 5-10 leveling, then made it meaningless by any number of techniques, then, sure, it's pointless.

A self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you follow this logic to its conclusion, then the leveling experience becomes a gray room. You walk in one side as level 1, and you walk out as level 90, and proceed direct to endgame activities. Bonus, it'll work for the next expansion, too. I'm sure they won't have trouble finding artists that can keep up with that. Finding ones that WANT to, well ..

I suspect what those of us that care about the leveling game REALLY want is for them to stop treating the leveling game as an inconvenience - to them and the player - and remember that the game is more than the final boss.

This, at least, is my wish.

Anonymous said...

Look. My main went through the quests. He's done them. he did the raids. he downed LK. he did Moltend front crap. He downed DW. He dod Panadaria quests. He downed Shas and the Thunder King. Why would he go back to revist old areas? He's fixed all of that when the time was right. To go back would mean a change. And would expect appropriate level quests not low level ones. I don't care to make a new char, for the investment I want proper quests, not lowbie ones I can mow through.

That was actually the deal with Cataclysm - there was a lot of effort done to redo all areas. But for people with maxed characters, that proved no challenge, just a list of quests to tick off as done. Something to do in your spare time, something that didn't affect your character's progression.

I believe exactly that - offering character progression is far more important than making story coherent for new players. Because tbh only new players wouldn't make sense of the story, the rest of us know why it is the way it is.

The Godmother said...

@ Mr Anonymous: I think you've fundamentally failed to grasp the point of both the posts I've made on this during the week. I'm not a new player and I'm asking for coherence, and I am most certainly not alone.

I am aware of the dichotomy at work here, and that disparate timelines make sense in the particular context of the relevant expansion. This game is in desperate need of a consistency across those expansions it has never possessed. Levelling the field with a cohesive timeline could go a long way towards fixing that. The problem is, most people won't take a reboot, they demand 'new' because they somehow think it's better.

It's really not, it's just different.

Grimmtooth said...

It's hard to serve two masters. By subverting the leveling game, Blizz is telling itself that it is doing just that, by leaving "something" that resembles a leveling game in place, but massively accelerating the rate of leveling.

Thus they fail to serve the interests of either. Fans of the leveling game are faced with an abbreviated series of vaguely associated events, and those that hate it are still faced with going through the EXACT same route because, as GhostCrawler was surprised to find out, players will gravitate towards the most efficient path towards whatever goal.

I'm very much in favor of an option to roll new characters that are already level 90 (or whatever max is) with a reasonable assortment of non-tier gear (being impatient has its rewards, and its penalties). Then the leveling haters will finally stop complaining about "having" to "play" a game, and those that appreciate a coherent lore framework can start to see things tied back together.

Dahakha said...

Couldn't agree more, Godmother. I would love to see a consolidation of questlines to be consistent and form a coherent lore, regardless of level. It is hard to see how the devs could accomplish it without eliminating old tier raids (questing through Cata zones could still emphasize the effect of the Cataclysm on Azeroth's geography and peoples, but Deathwing *has* been defeated, so stopping by to dispose of him would break the immersion IMO) and the quests themselves would need to be revised, removed or added as a part of each new expansion advanced the lore and changed the political and geographical landscape.

That is a lot of work simply to maintain the game, but I think it is worth it in the long run. Even having old zones acquire phased content at higher levels to accommodate storylines would be viable, I think.

Finally, the tying in of storyline quests with rep advancement a la Dominance Offensive/Operation Shieldwall and the IoT factions is a major step forward in balancing the needs of gating content with the needs of providing non-loot (i.e. lore) rewards. The opportunities are amazing for that technique. Can you imagine the kinds of things Blizz could do if each faction, old and new, had their own storylines tied in with their rep grinds? I, for one, would be ALL OVER a Cenarion Circle storyline that gave me insight into what they do, what they value, their short- and long-term goals...

Anyway, I definitely agree that Reboot is not a dirty word, if it is done well.