Repaving the Road

Nostalgia is great. There is nothing like the rose-colored glasses of memory to make you feel glad. And, if you’re trying to show off your MMORPG cred, to show off how much you, personally, rock. Any time an instance, event, or even crafting gets changed in an online game, you have people that crawl out from the woodwork to explain that while sure, you can do it now, THEY did it when it was really tough, not this carebear version you have. Nope, uphill both ways, carrying their guild master on their back, blindfolded, wearing their newbie tunic and with only a rusty sword. And they liked it. It’s fun to mock those people, but let’s not talk about them anymore. What I do want to talk about is what was done in EQ1 often enough that I think WoW may want to look into: Revamping Zones.

Paw was the first revamp, and it didn’t go completely according to plan. This was a revolutionary idea, however, with no blueprint to go on, at a time in Sony’s development cycle when they were largely copying other newer games’ successes. Level 30 quest mobs were now buried behind level 50 (the current level cap) monsters. The new owners of the place that roamed outside could kill a character around their level in roughly two swings. However, after about a week, they were toned down to be just hard, thinned out a bit, and the rest was history. For several expansions outside paw was a favorite exp grind spot for the mid level kiters, and inside saw infrequent use, but still more than the quest-only visits that had preceded it. Many years later, it would get revamped yet again, to a largely unpopular revamp, and restored to the second version. Still, the developers learned a new skill.

Next up was the legendary Temple of Cazic-Thule. A few months after release, CT was home to the Rubicte armor, which was the best armor around, and thus queues would form to smack the mobs inside for it. This was met with mixed success, due to EQ1’s frequent Z-axis agro issues, in addition to the maze-like layout and heavy population. Your pull could go from one to one dozen fairly quickly. No worries though – should you die, another group would happily step over your still-steaming corpse to take their turn. Eventually, Rubicite was removed and CT became an isolated grinding location. Then one day, it was noticed that the former interior monsters were manning the altars outside. Inside…was a much stronger breed of lizard, and the same trains as before. CT had a massive zone experience bonus (EQ zones gave different experience, thus zones that gave bigger bonuses were wildly popular), and thus high-level players would often come to grind here for experience, or hunt the good for the level drops. I remember after one patch, the zone was accidentally un-revamped, and the players went insane. A hot fix the next day fixed it.

That said, EQ realized this was a good idea and did it again and again: Plane of Hate, Sleeper’s Tomb, and SkyShrine come to mind, and I’m sure there’s more. The benefit of this is you don’t have to design a zone, which is often the hardest part. You have your artwork, you have your pathing, and you generally have a theme. For the most part, all you have to do is jump the monster level up a bit, toss some new items in, create a small event and bang, Bob’s your uncle and you’ve got a New Zone. Now WoW does this, in a sense, with Heroic Dungeons. There’s one difference that is important however – THE WORLD DOES NOT CHANGE. A player wants to see change in their world. The Trolls being chased out of Grobb was epic. I doubt anyone truly thought it was permanent, but it lasted a year+, which is almost forever in game terms. How about if the goblins abandoned Booty Bay? Or better yet, if they formed some sort of odd alliance with some other, more devious faction. After all, they are all about the money. Who leads them? Maybe the trolls in Stragglethorn decided to fix those ruins they stand around in and get better organized. Perhaps they attack the undead that roam the shore. Why don’t the pirates around the corner from Booty Bay attack, making the zone unavailable for a day if the players don’t help stave off the attack? Or these, much higher level pirates, go after that boat-in-the-basement of Deadmines and replace it with their own team.

WoW is chockfull of quests, even more so than my dear old mistress EQ, so changing a zone would be problematic for quests, I’m sure. However, if you ensure no class ones are affected, it’s largely an immaterial issue. There are far more quests in WoW than you would need to level, and coming next patch, more exp from them and less needed to grind. Why not have some dynamic events. Let the GM’s drive a few crazy naga in an invasion of Darnassus – after all, per the lore, the naga were elves. Perhaps they just want to come home! The only events I remember seeing in WoW were the cyclical, npc-driven events, like the undead invasion. We got a new zone after that, but one that 95% at least of the population will never even set foot in. I say 95%, because some, like me, may just zone in for a laugh. If so, be sure to kill Mr. Bigglesworth =)

I’d like to see some of the world altering events happen, or old zones revamped into new and when I saw world altering, I mean it changes it for everyone. The game is not on a success curve right now, with more people talking about WAR than WoLK. I know my reaction of “eh” is fairly common, reading about the expansion. The game needs some spice, and I think this would be some easily delivered flavor to get people talking.

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Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who's been around long enough. Still, he's always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

7 thoughts on “Repaving the Road”

  1. The problem with revamps is that, while cool, they also remove a part of the game… forever. The Cazic Thule revamp was cool, but I look back fondly on leveling in CT groups in my 30s. I couldn’t do that on subsequent characters.

    Same with the even more drastic revamps, like the new Dark Elf newbie forest (drawing a blank on the name). Sure, it looks better… but it’s not the same zone anymore. Fond memories of days past, R.I.P. It’s a little sad.

    Would the Barrens still be the Barrens with a major overhaul to locations and quests? I’m more inclined to have them add new areas instead of redoing old ones (other than with loot tables, maybe), because the old areas are already good, and it’s fun to go replay stuff you look back on fondly.

  2. The Barrens is fun to replay over and over? STV is fun to replay over and over? Please, whatever you’re smoking over there Cam, pass me some! :D

    I see no problem with revamping zones. Especially problem child zones such as STV. Better yet, have cyclic content. Since MMO bosses are never truly killed (they’re rather like soap opera characters) perhaps the Horde could have provided Captain VanKleef with the means to attack Stormwind and while the Alliance is busy defending from the Defias attacks the Horde mount a massive assault on the undefended front. Stormwind is razed. Over the next few months, once the hardcore PvP crowd beat back the Horde, the NPC’s can slowly start rebuilding the city to its former glory. Perhaps the players get to help in its rebuilding with a better, more thought-out version of the War Effort quests. Perhaps the new Stormwind is changed slightly, perhaps not. Either way Blizz still has the original assets, it’s just a patch away from seeing each stage of rebuilding and in the meantime there could be new quests for low, mid, and high level characters that are only available during construction. Afterwards, they’re gone and the old quests reappear.

    Molten Core is… well, let’s be honest: boring. It was Blizz’s first raid, we all have memories of our first trip to MC, the first time our group downed Rags, etc. But MC is goddamn boring. Would it kill them to go back and revamp the whole thing? Don’t nerf down the difficulty, no one’s looking for EZ-Raid, but we are looking for Entertaining Raid.

    Most of the old content could be revisited, and revamped where appropriate and it would drastically improve the game in my opinion.

  3. Amen brother! It has always baffled me as to why developers leave old zones to rot and die. I don’t exactly want world changing alterations, but for once I would like to see old zones on par with new zones.

    I understand that there needs to be incentive for players to head off into new zones, but that does not mean over time the old zones can’t be reworked to match the new zones. WoW and The Burning Crusade expansion are a perfect example of how well done new zones will empty popular old zones in a heartbeat.

    It really aggravates me to see all of Azeorth (old world in WoW) literally turned into a ghost town. It would not have taken that much effort on the part of Blizzard to give reasons for now level 70 characters to go back. But no, they just made a garbage dump that level 70’s now are stuck in, aka, Outlands. It could of been a far better area had it been built as a “theme park” where players show up, level 60-70 with a lot of great solo-small group content, and then return home.

    WotLK is going to be the exact same and as much as I love WoW’s gameplay, I don’t think another 10 levels will hook me.

  4. That’s always a detriment to level-based games though: there is never a reason to go home when you’ve already done it all and all the mobs are grey. But that’s a pet peeve of mine and a different discussion. :D

    Although they could at least add new quests, etc. for all levels in all the towns and zones which would give a reason for players to revisit them if only to accept and complete the new quests.

    There were so many squandered opportunities to have cool content in WoW and they just blew it.

    The gnomish airport above Ironforge? Instead of altering the terrain code so characters couldn’t stand on slopes, why not let us go there? It’s not like there was some game-breaking features up there. For that matter, why not actually *use* it? The gnomes could fly you to a destination faster than the griffons, for a higher fee of course, and given that it’s a gnomish device could run a random chance of crashing somewhere. There’s some risk:reward for ya. Of course if it crashed, it would only crash into a level-appropriate zone, we don’t wanna get too carried away with harshness.

    The racetrack in Shimmering Flats. How boring. Why couldn’t we gradually build up our own racers as part of a quest/faction line? Racing is a non-violent form of PvP and they could have given new racing gear, titles, and other rewards as well as new tracks in other locations and leaderboards to rank in.

    Ironforge and other places had siege engines lying about as decoration. Why weren’t these ever used, even in one-time events? The Alliance could have trade caravans running between Ironforge and Stormwind. Horde players could pick up quests to assault the caravan and weaken Alliance defenses by taking the merchandise. Alliance players and NPC’s could rush to the caravan’s defenses and if the battle gets too close to one of the cities, the dwarven NPC’s break out their siege engines and fire into the Horde.

    Almost every time I found a new zone in WoW I was always struck with so many “oh what a shame” moments of lost opportunities for content. And that, in itself, is a shame…

  5. It would be easier if the game was designed from alpha to take revamps later on. Consumable content.

    In essence, this involves more random-generated invasions. It’s perfect for games like Tabula Rasa, where the whole thing is a battlefield.

    Perhaps the 10 rats you killed were children of the rat King, and he sends his army of ratlings to attack the newbie starting zone? Make an invasion generator, and have a dev write a quick background story for each generation.

    There you go, you make an impact on the world, and the world constantly changes (and you feel all warm and fuzzy for making some of those changes).

  6. On upcoming changes in WoW, where leveling from 20 to 60 is becoming faster, my only regret is that all my 9 characters are already above 60. If only this had come a year earlier…

  7. @Cameron, I did like the old CT a lot, but let’s face it, nobody was there anymore, except for people farming rogue and SK armor. When they upped the level, suddenly people came again. It was great for experience, loot, crafting supplies… it was a good change.

    The second Paw change, I hated. The one with the elementals? Yuk.

    The Nektulos Forest change with the Depths of Darkhollow was universally reviled, so they swapped it back to the old zone layout with new graphics.

    As for WoW — if they changed the zones, I might play again. I just can’t do the same newbie grind even one more time. Been there, done that x 6. I agree that WoW should look into zone revamps. Anything to make leveling a character fun again.

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