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.