|The First Indication of our Next Destination?|
For the last two Expansions, we've only had five levels to negotiate in our headlong charge to cap. Is that about to change?
Certainly the requirement on the BoA weapons from Garrosh would appear to suggest we get to level to three figures this time around. After all, I doubt we'd be gifted an effective Heirloom item that lasted beyond the NEXT end game. This therefore allows us to think ahead to what ten levels of XP gain might grant us in terms of area and content. Pandaria mysteriously appeared as one large (and usefully self-contained) continent, as Outland and Northrend were, but not on nearly the same scale. There were obvious and often crippling issues with clogged starting areas at game launch, which I'm betting Blizzard will be consciously going out to avoid this time around. Therefore I am thinking we may see the staggered approach that Wrath gave us, with a choice of entrances for our journey. The follow-up question then becomes whether we will see existing content being re-purposed for questing, or if everything we're presented with is effectively unexplored country.
Then there is the issue of redrawing the map, which has become something of an in-joke, even for Blizzard.
|Two continents, no waiting.|
There was a pro ported leak of content a while back (my good friend Mr B.B. Butt has details) which suggested that The Dark Below (yeah, remember that?) would utilise a lot of existing zones with transport via underground tunnels. The current map would most definitely support the addition of new areas, as was the case in Cataclysm, but that would in itself cause additional issues, especially if the world 'changed' before the Expansion went live. I remember precisely manoeuvring myself before fishing from Tanaris into Uldum back in the weeks before Cataclysm, and I know I wasn't alone [*]. If you give people new things they can see, they're going to try and get there before you want them to to get a jump on everyone else, and that's bad. A self-contained new zone keeps everything under wraps, and stops the sneaky trying to make an early unscheduled entry. Take it from someone who knows ^^
So where would we put a new zone?
With phasing, Blizzard can kill many birds with one stone. Old areas can continue to exist before the transition happens, but without new items or areas actually showing up. This would allow any continent, every zone to potentially be part of the new experience... but we know that's unlikely to happen because traditionally expansion equals new art AND areas. Therefore I'd put some money on us going off-world again, because that means no additional space required on the map. A lot of the reason why the 'underground' aspect of The Dark Below were immediately so appealing was because it effectively circumnavigated the cartography issue: if we can spend an Expansion in space, below ground wouldn't have been a massive stretch either. The reality is probably getting a bit of everything, especially as that would tie in with the 10th Anniversary aspect of proceedings. Keeping everyone happy is, after all, what Blizzard is planning to do, and there is a distinct movement who are looking for an integration of the old and new into whatever is produced.
There is a feeling from what I've read in the last few months via Twitter that there is some resistance to redrawing the existing map, but when we see a patch like Escalation where an entire zone is taken and in part repurposed for current content, there is some hope. Pandaria really raised the bar for new and beautiful landscapes, and I'm not sure how Blizzard will better that if they stay confined within the auspices of the existing world. There are a lot of problems to address in what the game looks like, and that new must equal not recycled, but I'd have to argue at this point that the number of models we see reused has never seemed to be a problem for people over the years. There's almost a de-facto acceptance that SOMETHING needs to remain the feeling of familiarity. What Blizzard have never successfully managed to pull off is blending the old back in with the new to create something seamless, which doesn't look or feel deserted when the content expires.
Maybe that could finally represent their finest hour.
[*] I also skinned the sharks in Menethil for AGES before they nerfed them. It's a fair kop, guv.