Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 20, 2008
 
The Shattering of Azeroth

My World of Warcraft mage went to UBRS last night, with a pickup group, to get the Leeeeeeeeeeeeeroy! achievement. The pickup group consisted of my mage, who is a blood elf and thus was created post Burning Crusade, one guy who had the UBRS key, and three people who had never ever even been to UBRS, having started playing after TBC came out, and thus missed the period where people were still visiting level 60 dungeons. I had to show them where the door was, and tell them that we needed to extinguish the runes in the first room, and click on the altar in the second room to advance. Killing the 50 rookery whelps in under 15 seconds then was easy, because you just need a level 70 warrior to pick them all up, they don't really hurt him, and then AoE. It was obvious why nobody is going to UBRS any more: Who wants a trivial challenge that rewards you with useless loot drops? Large parts of Azeroth are effectively dead already, and Wrath of the Lich King will further reduce the small number of alts still using that content, because many alts will start as level 55 now.

So on the one side we have old content that isn't used any more. And on the other side we have Blizzard not achieving their promised one expansion per year rhythm, because creating new content takes so much time. So I propose to solve both problems, and do something that every ecologist loves: Recycling.

In practice this would me a new expansion, called something like "The Shattering of Azeroth", to come out in a year, in time for the holiday sales 2009. Besides the expected introduction of new hero classes, and raising the level cap to 90, the expansion would change the starting level of World of Warcraft to 55. So not only new hero classes, but newly created characters of any class would start at level 55. Any existing characters of level lower than 55 would see their level increased to 55.

This would liberate huge parts of the world, all the zones previously used to get from level 1 to 55. So the expansion would tell the story of a terribly cataclysm that transformed these zones. Instead of making a new continent for levels 80 to 90, old Azeroth would be transformed into zones from level 55 to 90. All the old mobs, and quests, and quest hub villages, would disappear, but the basic geography would remain, maybe with some modifications to zone connections. So now all these old zones and dungeons could be populated with new quest hubs, new quests, new mobs, spanning all the range from level 55 to 90.

I think veterans would enjoy revisiting old dungeons with new mobs and bosses. And for new players they wouldn't be any different from a completely new dungeon. For the devs it would take only half the time to repopulate the old dungeons and zones with new mobs and quests than it would take to create a new continent from scratch. And we would elegantly get rid of the depressing sight of deserted zones.

Of course clever people will realize that a game having only levels 55 to 90 isn't any different from a game having only level 1 to 34. But it is exactly this shortening of the level span that would be the big advantage of "The Shattering of Azeroth": The less levels there are in a game, the likelier it is to find somebody of the same level to play with. Instead of doing a rush job on new players to get them ever faster to the level where the rest of the players hang out, they would start at the same level as veterans doing hero classes. And while in WotLK 5 Death Knights make a lousy group, in the new expansion there could be functioning level 55 groups between hero classes and regular classes, because they all start at the same level.

The Shattering of Azeroth would remove a lot of content from World of Warcraft. But would that really be such a big loss? Isn't it better to reuse a zone like Westfall and the Deadmines instead of leaving it as a near-empty playground for a few solo players? Getting "boosted" through some old dungeon is a much less rich experience than going through that dungeon with players of your level. And of the quests that would be removed, only very few were memorable anyway. Who would miss some "kill 10 foozles" quest, as long as there is a new quest instead for killing the new mobs of now higher level in that zone?

So I think recycling the old world of Azeroth would be a great opportunity for the next World of Warcraft expansion. Because the old way of adding 10 more levels with a new continent at the end has its limits. It is better to recycle old content than to let it die a slow death of becoming insignificant.
Comments:
The total destruction of Azeroth. It's an interesting idea. It would be a great way to bring the game to a close at the end of it's life cycle, before the inevitable WoW 2. Go out with a bang and clear the stage for the sequel.

All the high level players who've been in the game for years would have to go back and save the old world they "grew up" in. Sort of like the end of The Lord of the Rings. The book, not the movie.

You'd have to have a few "classic" servers open for people who wanted to do the 1-60 thing. Though I doubt there would be that many new players, people would still want to see what the old game was about.

Come to think of it, WOW is such a modern classic of gaming that I hope they always have one "classic" server open somewhere, so 10 or 20 years from now people can experience one of the best games ever made. The original Azeroth that Blizzard created is so amazing that it would be a shame to destroy it forever.
 
So.. to solve the problem of Blizzard not being able to keep up with their schedule of making new content.. you want them to make even more content in the same time?

Sure, they would have the terrain, the doodads and the mob models ready. But that's not necessarily the most vital part of designing content. You'd still have to write backstories, design quests, place mobs, set loot, balance it all and actually make all of it fun.
 
what if blizzard gave players the option when the create a new lvl one to describe their self. You can check the box for brand new, the box for rolling an alt but leveling at casual pace, or rolling alt and powerleveling to the cap. Each server could then display statistics on the types of new players. Like you said, the content is great if you are actually enjoying it with other people. Well, if there is a server that has 30 "casual" players starting up new alts, chances are you will be able to team up with quite a few with them and work your way through all of the fun, old content
 
A brilliant idea. It would actually get me to consider reactivating my account, which has been dormant for almost three years.

= # # =
 
You are on fire at the moment Tobold - another excellent post. The problem of redundant content that you have highlighted in recent posts is a huge one not just for players but for developers too. Sara Pickle is very vocal on the unsustainable cost issue of developing new content development. Being able to re-use old content is probably essential if this genre is to survive for much longer.

I can't help thinking that Guild Wars comes close to solving most of the issues you discuss - episodic content all at a fixed level cap. I can vouch that Guild Wars earlier chapters have had a much longer lifespan than most level based mmos plus Arena net did their own recycling program by introducing "hard mode" which enticed folks to go back and repeat content at a more challenging (and rewarding ) level. If only Guild Wars wasn't so heavily instanced it might be the perfect mmo.
 
You'd have a hard time recycling the old dungeons, especially places like Wailing Caverns and Sunken Temple, as they are structurally quite different from the "modern" dungeons. The modern dungeons are very one-track corridor-crawls, while the older ones are more meandering and confusing in their layouts.

I like the old sprawling dungeons of course, but would the modern gamer?
 
Caverns of Time.

1-60 = Azeroth
60-70 = Outlands
70-80 = Northrend
80-90 = Draenor (more chunks of outland) + The Shattering of Azeroth.

Shattered Azeroth could be instanced in CoT, a future echo of the victory of "big boss x". A whole world could be added reusing the old one, heck you could go back to the first or second war...
 
I Smell a Freezing Jihad moment from you Tobold. Predicting the future by going somewhere similar, but different.

WoW could go out with a bang instead of a whimper. Make the whole actual game relevant again and perhaps even fun!

Your idea sounds pretty awesome, actually. Make the best designed part of the game relevant instead of some sort of "old school" achievement. WoW is on life support as is. Blizzard already knows WoW is on the DNR plan and is just pushing it along at the moment. It would be awesome if WoW could go out with a bang and heaven-forbid a "game over" screen.
 
I don't understand all this moaning about unused old content. I am on a server with moderate population (Earthen ring EU) and with some persistence, you can get as an alliance player a group every time even for Stratholme or Scholomance, and those are the dungeons which should suffer from the competition of outland. Not to mention that in Western plaguelands, you get all the time the yells of people who need help with Araj the summoner.
I started playing WoW some five months ago and visited almost all old world dungeons. You can get groups for deadmines or gnomeregan all the time here, though Maraudon and Uldaman are not very frequented.
I imagine on PvP servers it might be different, because leveling alts is not probably very healthy there.
 
I dont think this idea flies.

The initial "carrot" to the game is that the first 10 levels fly by, with Dings, new spells and then your first talent points to play with.

Coming into the game as brand new with 40+ talent point and a whole lot of spells (many of which aren't useful to you at 55) would be ridiculous.
 
I've been saying since the announcement of how DK's are going to be handled that just to allow players with full level characters to purchase lvl 55's at a modest price.

Allot of things can be done to current content to make it worthwhile for max level guys.

Molten core : Rag takes his lair back but breaks out into blackrock spire as well, elementals and stuff everywhere ... new bosses in MC itself but making UBRS/LBRS revamped with newer tougher mobs, all it would need would be repopulated.

BWL : In the struggle between Ragnaros and Nefarian for control of blackrock mountain you get to try and kill various mobs, or help one path over another for different types of loot. Say you can help Nefarian defeat rag's forces for different (maybe more difficult encounters) or you can side with ragnaros for and easier path to slightly less loot.

I would turn silithus into an optional raid zone (get rid of Aq20/40) where Cthun has launched an all our assault and his various minions taken over the hives and areas of Silithus, make it so that he would spawn and rise out of the ground and still be a retuned same fight (as it was excellent fight imo), but only after killing his minions.

"Sure, they would have the terrain, the doodads and the mob models ready. But that's not necessarily the most vital part of designing content. You'd still have to write backstories, design quests, place mobs, set loot, balance it all and actually make all of it fun."

Getting the zone correct, unbuggy (collisions ect) is the longest development time for a zone, repopulating is quite easy but bosses can take some tuning. It could be boss drops with badge like drops so no conflicts with current content.
 
I agree with the idea to recycle old content and to give the option of starting from level 55. However I disagree with removing the old content - and I think I have an addition to your recommendation that would solve that issue - phasing.

Your "The Shattering of Azeroth" could only be visible to those over level 55 - leaving the original content intact.

That way, those who chose to start from level 1 get the richness they deserve. Those who choose to forgo that experience to group with friends would be resuing older content.

I like it - make it happen :)
 
This sounds kind of familiar (Which command do you use ot make this a link? "url" isn't working, which I thought was the command.):

http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2008/02/eliminating-levels-1-to-60.html

(not exactly the same, but has a lot of similar arguments and points.)

I do think it would be an interesting idea if they could pull off a good plot explanation for it. Going back to old zones and seeing how they have changed after a disaster is always interesting.
 
I think the closest we will see to any of this is heroic versions of old world content being released gradually over time. For nostalgic purposes I would love to see a heroic Deadmines and Gnomeragan.


There are many ways to reuse old content besides bumping all characters up to 55 and redoing everything under 55 for higher levels. Hell the new achievements alone should keep people busy in old world dungeons for a few weeks.
 
Why so many comments about WoW going out with a bang? Last I checked it is the the most populated MMOG by a longshot. I think this game has many more years to go before it becomes like Dark Age of Camelot.

Okay, on to Tobolds idea. I think it's a great idea to have all new character start at level 55. It would encourage old players to make alts, and allow new players to come into the game and be able to find groups and population to play with. Playing in a dead world is not fun.

However, your solution does not solve the problem of long development cycles between expansions. In my opinion, it would take at least as much if not even more time to redo the whole old world (well, at least the part that caters to levels 1-55) to make it suitable for level 55+ players than to make a typical expansion.
 
While the “Shattering of Azeroth” idea would rock for me as a veteran player, I really don’t think it would work for new players. Especially players new to the MMO genre.

Blizzard does such a nice job of slowly introducing class complexity as you level, and I think it is a good teaching tool for the 1st character. I recently tricked a friend of mine into starting WoW, and while he is a little overwhelmed, he’s actually picking up the basics and learning how to play his class. Throw a level 55 at him where you have 90% of the final abilities available and I think he would have turned away.

~ Jason, DPS Liberation Front
 
This is a fair bit of fun to explore. A lot of the Emerald Dream lore (mirror image of Kalimdor with no intelligent species which means no sundering so it's all one continent) could be used as a wrapper for the concept, too. The Dream breaks out and takes over the real world.
 
While I like the basic idea, I have to agree with Jason -- newbies would have no idea what to do with the 30+ skills they have as a level 55. That's why DK's are limited to those who have already played to 55 on another character. I tried out a DK on beta recently, and it's quite hard to get used to, even though I have 5 level 60+ toons.

On my 68 shaman, I use maybe 30% of abilities and totems. And I consider myself a veteran power player, since I raid on my main. I just know which 30% are important. A new player would be lost.

The gap between newbie and veteran is not just levels and gear, but understanding game mechanics too. Maybe your idea would work if new 55's started with only a new abilities, and then quests would train them on how to use their abilities. But it would take quite a long time to design those quests.

I like the phasing idea. But I also like being able to go back to low-level areas and 1-shot things once in a while. :)
 
I disagree that the lower level regions are ghost towns.

I've recently leveled 2 pairs of toons from 1 - 60 (Refer-A-Friend with my wife). There are people everywhere - we're constantly teaming up with others to do similar quests/dungeons.

I don't think that revamping content is going to motivate the people who boost through content to change their approach. All it will do is remove a portion of the game that some veterans still enjoy playing (even with 4 70s and a slew of 60+ across several servers).
 
This has already been tried with mixed success --- it was called EQ2
 
Tobold, I have a better idea than Shattering completely Azeroth, in fact a much easier one. Instead of destroying all this interesting content, just make them appealing again.

How?

Easy, as the group enter the instance the instance automatically adjust for the average level of the group. If one 70 one to rush a level 10, this instance will be like level 40 (not as easy as DM).

If a bunch of 5 level 70 go to UBRS for the Leeeroy title, the mobs automatically adjust for the level of the players, making the instance as challenging as it was at level 60.

In fact the adjustement could be as minimum as a multiplicative factor for health, mana, armor, as could be something more complex like the heroic modes, including new spells.
 
Very nice idea but I suspect that they are more likely to go on as they have been and simply offer pre-levelled as a optional paid extra like character name changes and server transfers.
 
Interesting concept, but I would hate for the low level content to disappear... sometime they are the best levels, and I would like the option.

However, I can think of no reason using the new "phasing" technology, based on level, that new content, or modified content couldn't be included in the Old World.

Thus level 90s could still be able to help out the ganked level 30's while enjoying appropriate level content, yet the level 30's wouldn't be ganked by the level 90 slime.

Better idea than everything just via caverns of time... see the new "old world"
 
I think this recycling would work for a lot of reasons. Of course it would be fun, but hey Wow is not really only about fun.

It's also about money for Blizzard and about motivating players to keep playing as much as possible.

One of the most important reasons why people keep playing when they feel like quitting or taking a break is that they have invested a lot of time in their toon. That would partially go away if they started at 55.

One of the reasons why people feel their investment is so valuable is because other have to spend a lot of time to do achieve the same. So a lot of people who leveled through 80 levels would feel screwed royally if everybody could take a shortcut to the same level of supreme achievement.

Also, having a lots of people in the same zone is not exactly technically a good thing. Right now all the solo wanderers who level in Azeroth may be far in between, but they could be numerous since Azeroth is much bigger than Outland. If they started at 55 they would be much more mobile (with mounts and all) and would simply go the the zone that offers the highest rewards, giving rise to player concentration, not diffusion or zone balancing.

Anyway, the main point is that people would much rather pay to have an opportunity to become greater than before (i.e. another ten levels, "new" content, higher "power" etc.) despite all this being somewhat fake than "have fun" with "reworked" areas. The effort it would require to re-tool the old world sells for more money in the form of new content.


That being said I agree it would be fun to recycle Azeroth, but I don't think it's ever going to happen, except maybe in WoW2.
 
What Shalkis said. This would require almost as much effort as an entire expansion. You might as well build the new zones for the expansion, since the folks who do that would have a ton of time to sit around idle while the systems designers, item designers, quest designers, etc. were all working on the 55 content.
 
Now inactive, I'll certainly play again to see the new extension... I started WoW 6 months-1 year after it came out... While this is already a long time ago year, I still had a lot of fun going through the journey in the low level zones, and new players should have the same experience of visiting the "old" world. But already at that time I had issues grouping during my journey to level 60...

Of course, the major part of the population of WoW is now level 70 (and 80 in a few weeks), so it's very difficult to find low level players to group with...
However, WoW has still so many servers available, which means so many other players of your level on other servers... So it should be possible to create servers dedicated to lower level characters...
That could solve the issue of under-population of the lower levels, and therefore ability to group for lower level characters.
That will also prevent power leveling, but you talk to someone not in favor of power-leveling...

We can imagine that when the character reaches an arbitrary level (lvl 55 for example) certain level, he will be automatically transferred to a new server....
Ideally, that could be when the player sees "the shattering of azzeroth" that you call, or complete a major quest, so that there's a certain story line followed. That's very close to what 2ndNin is thinking!
To go deeper in the thoughts, you could imagine dedicated servers for players 1 to 9, then 10 to 19...

I would also add a comment on EQ2 new extension... They have re-designed all their instances , so that old instances can be also re-run (and challenging) at level 70... That's an easy way and cheap way to recycle old content. WoW is generally observing what other MMORPG are doing, so let's check if this idea from EQ2 works.

Pascal
 
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