With the final few months closing in until WoW’s first expansion, this has become a frequent topic with my WoW-playing friends. Many of them are refugees from one game or another, and remember at least one expansion of said game. Those hardened folks who are EQ vets remember the original slow pace of expansions before it became a 6-month marketing gimmick. EQ is the one I’m most familiar with, and I look with great trepidation at the upcoming expansion. (for those who feel it’s needful, feel free to go read the infamous ‘mud wimping’ article and come back. I’ll be at the next paragraph.)
The beta details on WoW’s expansion are being kept tight, much like how EQ’s first one was. Once it appears on the scene, I’m sure we’ll have spoilers, but as of yet, it’s widely undiscovered country, sans a few teasers. No other expansion Sony put out generated the wide variety of responses this one did. Some were widely acclaimed (Velious, for example), many were widely despised (GoD, Luclin, etc), but none had the mix of flavor Kunark got, and I believe this was because it was the first. It raised the level cap, and shook the balance the original creators had spent so much time on. Depending who you ask, this was either a brilliant expansion or the root of all EQ evil. WoW’s will be no different. There’s a lot of similarity involved in the two expansions too. I’m going to break down a few of them, with my hopes and dreads on where WoW will go. Feel free to chime in and tell me how wrong/right I am.
1. Level cap raising. In EQ, this was 50-60. Also known, and parsed, to be longer in experience points than all the other levels previous. It was horrible. It took me 25 hours of solid grinding to hit 60 from 59, killing a blue mob roughly every 90 seconds. I did 17 of those hours in a row. This was, believe it or not, considered mind-numbingly fast. WoW will be raising the level to 70, also 10 levels. In a parse I remember reading, it takes roughly the same amount of time to go from 45-60 as it does from 1-45 in WoW, in estimated time by your average player. For me, 53-60 was screaming fast, mostly because of the massive amount of quests I found. Will Outland be paved in quests, allowing us to race through? It seems likely that quests will be sparse, requiring us to resort to EQ-esque grinding. People leveling too fast, burning (ha!) through your content means they leave, and less revenue. Better to keep them on the hook longer.
2. Expanded power/spells. With more levels comes more spells/weapons. In EQ, this eventually meant the original game’s “bosses”, Nagafen and Vox, would kick out anyone over 53 they got mad at. At 60, you could solo an endgame boss. This wasn’t designed, but the new spells and weapons they picked up facilitated this, and players are ever eager to find out what the bounds of the cage are. Something I always found interesting is the Kunark dragons never got the same protection when the game expanded further. I used to solo the Kunark dragons all the time. Back in WoW, those kobolds that whipped your level 10 newbie butt, now fall like leaves to your level 60 mad skillz and your Sword of MegaOuchies. How many level 70’s will be needed to Onyxia? Will MC become a farming romp for soloers?
3. Trickledown power. In original EQ, very little was not tradeable, or NO DROP (now NO TRADE). In Kunark, much more was, but what was formerly uber gear were now twink toys. A warrior with 2 Yak’s? Prior to Kunark, he was probably the top warrior on the server. Now it was someone’s level 20 alt. WoW’s “bind on equip” (later stolen as “attunable” by EQ) brilliantly avoids this kind of trickledown. However, those same bind on equip toys that were so amazingly great aren’t now that you can get formerly-raid-level gear from level 61 Rabid Snowbunnies in Outland. It’ll end up in the AH and on another character. That midlevel stuff that people kept because it was pretty nice will now end up on lowbies. Think of how much more powerful your twink newbie alt in WoW is when you spend a gold in the AH before sending him out. Probably a dervish of death. Now the mid levels will get a boost as well, allowing you to tear through content that much faster. Trivialization of content leads to less enjoyment. You take away the challenge and it’s just grinding.
4. Lore. I can’t make this all negative. The two expansions are amazingly common in their presentation. Both are lost worlds of a sort, filled with an “ancient enemy”. The rediscovery of both will fill in a major gap in the history and allow for much fuller stories to be told. EQ’s Kunark was dripping in lore. There’s some many people haven’t even seen yet because it’s fairly obscure. Every boss was carefully placed in a logical place, with a massive, easily accessible story explaining why they were where they were. Most everything put in had a plan. WoW’s expansion will likely be the same. The Blood Elves were a logical choice for many reasons, although the Draenai still seem a bit odd for me. Someone else has pointed out the High/Dark elf bit to me however, and I have to admit it does kinda look like that. The Dark Elves have tails though…
5. Time sinks. EQ has become synonymous with time sinks. Furor, formerly of the EQ megaguild FoH, used to complain bitterly about them. I remember his rants about the Emperor’s key and the Luclin shards (part of the Luclin progression). However, level 60 in WoW is the same. Grinding faction on your non-raid night is a common activity for most level 60 players. Additionally, Kunark saw the introduction of true “raid” mobs. WoW already has many of these, and it’s unlikely to be a dying prospect. You can expect to have to get 10-40 of your closest friend and repeatedly smack the Giant Monkey of Evil in hopes that your armor piece drops. A raid is, distilled down, a timesink. It requires coordination of mass resources and repeated attempts to try and get your objective. This isn’t easy, and rarely quick. Considering the two lead developers are former EQ raid leaders, more of the same is likely on the menu. The solo-to-60 crowd is unlikely to find much fun in soloing to 70.
The new expansion has the possibility to take the game a step forward or backwards. With “only” 10 levels added on, one is forced to wonder if there will be enough content that is not of the whack-a-mole type, simply to keep us busy until the next one. I really hope that Blizzard looks carefully at the game they stole the crown from and tries to be more ingenuitive than repetitive.