The ultimate vertical expansion
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 November 2013, 2:24 am
Bigeyez mailed me to hear my opinion of the new World of Warcraft expansion announced this weekend at Blizzcon: Warlords of Draenor. I would like to reserve a more general judgement to the point where I actually play it, if I decide to do so. This is actually the first WoW expansion where I am not already sure that I will buy it, although that has more to do with the game up to now than with the quality of the expansion. So I do not want at this point to talk about most of the announced features, from player housing to changes to raiding. I only want to talk about one tiny feature: The ability to boost at least one of your characters to level 90 with level-appropriate gear, even if that character was level 1.

To me that single feature defines Warlords of Draenor as expansion. It tells me which direction this expansion takes: Vertically up. The expansion is all about new stuff from level 90 to 100, and the devs would very much like us to forget about the level 1 to 90 game. Apparently somebody asked the devs whether it wasn't problematic to let new players start at level 90 without ever having learned their class, and was told that the proving grounds would make playing through level 1 to 90 unnecessary. Basically the devs and many players see levels 1 to 90 just as a training exercise for the "real game", and now that has been replaced by a better training mode.

So we are being told that when the expansion comes out, World of Warcraft will be all about levels 90 to 100. You will play nearly exclusively on the new continent, maybe sometimes visit the capital cities for some features, but will have no reason whatsoever to enter over 90% of the zones of World of Warcraft. If by some server glitch the old zones ceased to exist, most players wouldn't even notice. I find that rather sad, so much wasted space and potential. I had hoped for more Cataclysm-like renovation of old zones, with Warlords of Draenor not just offering new zones but also redoing the Burning Crusade zones. Instead we are told just to skip all that old stuff.

A decade ago we used to talk about MMORPGs in terms of "world" versus "game". Warlords of Draenor cements Blizzard's position that they want WoW to be all about the game, and more specifically all about the end-game at the level cap (level 90 to 99 will be done with quickly). This isn't about leading a virtual life in a virtual world, this is about playing a game and "winning" it. Which is something I never was interested in to start with, and then find MMORPGs to be particularly bad at.

There is no "world" in World of Warcraft, which is somewhat ironic given the name. But well, Everquest wasn't a game about quests either, so people in this business appear to have problems expressing their concept for their game in the name.
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