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Ever since the Pre-Expansion patch hit, there’s been something different about Azeroth. It’s taken a while to work out what it is, but now I’m confident I know what’s changed? It’s time to share. This has nothing to do with lore or graphics, by the way: I’m talking about a fundamental alteration to every Azerothian continent at base level, below the pixels. What galvanised the thought was a conversation earlier today on Twitter that went as follows: a follower linked an idea from Reddit: how about Invasion weekends once Legion launches? Then someone took this a stage further, suggesting that perhaps we could have ‘repair’ events, where you could go to Loch Moden (for instance) and rebuild, eradicating the damage caused by the Cataclysm. That then prompted the following exchange:

Then it hit me: we could already have an extensive phasing system. The Invasions technology might well be evidence of this change, on the back of the concept created by your Garrison. That ‘instancing’ would take place every time you crossed a threshold but was easily detectable, and would be knocked out when instance servers went down. This time however the instancing/phasing is, I believe, far more subtle but is still present, and I think has been added to every zone in Azeroth. The basis of this belief is simple, and has a lot to do with how scheduled flight masters now react for me when I’m playing the game. To prove the point, I even went and recorded video of what I thought at first was my PC showing its age, but I suspect is anything but:

I believe I enter the L100 Stormwind ‘phasing/instance’ at the flight point: you can see that there’s a distinct ‘cut’ to the seamlessness of the game world when I do (that’s the last five seconds.) If you spend all your time on a flying mount the chances are you won’t even have noticed this, but since the Patch I’ve noticed it takes quite a long time to fly into certain zones, especially when there’s heavy server activity (which has been apparent with the Invasions.) What this says to me is that Activision Blizzard’s could well have already implemented technology that we are told will reduce server load and bottlenecks on the Broken Isles to the existing land masses. Effectively, the whole game evolved away from static content and is ready to be phased/unphased as Blizzard see fit.

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What this will signify long term for the game world could be as simple as having more Invasion style events as time goes on, or could become as sophisticated as several versions of the game ‘timeline’ living seamlessly on top of the other, like layers on an onion. It would mean low level players see a starter version of Kharanos and when they return at 110 the world has evolved forward without the original version being affected: in effect, an evolving game environment dependant on level. If the Warcraft Devs have truly cracked that nut? The game’s going to change beyond anyone’s comprehension and for good: you could go back and repair the dam at Loch Moden, restoring the zone to former glory, whilst not affecting the long term sanctity of the timeline at all.

I have to wonder: is this the plan for our NEXT Expansion already set in motion?

4 thoughts on “Feeling Good

  1. I think this is the “shards” technology, that caused so much uproar in RP server community when it came to its application to capital cities.

    I have been thinking about something similar when it comes to the “layers” idea, but there would need to be some switch to look at the other layers if there’s a need for that (akin to Blasted Lands). Ppl won’t react positively to permanent changes (lesson from Cataclysm or Valley of Eternal Blossoms or the Draenor Outpost branching) and having to lvl an alt and lock xp is not a solution.

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    • The shards tech is great for limited events like the invasions and the overcrowded zones we’ll get at launch but less useful for permanent zones. Having layer upon layer just acts to keep players apart. At least the Icecrown situations should be lessened now players can be dragged across phases by other group member. Enabling phase changes on-click or via NPC is an inelegant solution which Blizzard seem to using only in exceptional circumstance.
      Maybe there is a simple “turn off Cataclysm fires option” which removes the burning graphics but leaves everything else intact. The dam might be phasable (it isn’t used much in low level questing) but refilling the lake and sorting out the Wetlands flooding would be affect too wide an area.

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      • In WoW some things are always “current” while others are not. I think such a switch would be there as a history lesson/ flavour thing for those interested (just like the NPCs that let you see the cutscenes) but we’d still have one of the layers as current. Anyway, telling a progressing story and keeping players together are always in conflict that is hard to resolve in a one-size-fits-all fashion (case study: Cata’s Westfall and Valley of Eternal Blossoms). Now we have stuff like instances seamlessly woven into the zone questlines… Whatever Blizz does to create an evolving world, it will always split the playerbase in some fashion. As long as there is some way to cross these barriers when you want it, by grouping for example, I’m okay with that. And grouping is now easier than ever.

        Turning off cata fires doesn’t really do anything, as fires are just a small part of the change story-wise – Twilight camps, Firelands portals, creatures…..

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  2. i think you answer your own question/point Cave – to do certain world holiday events now you turn on and off the new versions of Blasted Lands and Theramore. So the technology is already proven. I see WoD more and more as a test bed for new stuff – hence the lack of effort in making it a sustained story/expansion. It served a purpose to bring in WoW 2.0 without anyone noticing – WoD was one massive beta test.

    I haven’t been this excited in game since I rolled my first toon and set foot in Teldrassil (i joined the game just prior to Cata).

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