I’m not the fastest on the uptake at present. That’s what happens when you don’t eat, live, sleep and breathe this game, and I think I’ll live with the issue. However, last night’s major revelation (there were others) was as follows:
That meant Xavius in Emerald Nightmare, and when I got there? Three people asked if there was a graphical glitch, straight off the bat. At least one person was heard to utter ‘well, this is shit’ and if all you do in this game is look at how pretty something is as an instant reaction to good/bad? Yeah, I can see why that would be the response. I don’t know how long it took to kill him but I was in the queue longer than I was in the Instance, and now I have my quest item? No need for longevity, that’s me done. Then, it hit me. This is how Actiblizz are going to do Instanced content going forward, isn’t it?
They’ll pretend it’s new, but it will have been in front of our eyes all along.
By far the biggest time-sink we have established in this game is the artwork, far and away the longest aspect to get right and then place. Once upon a time Instanced content was pretty much separate from the gaming world too: Naxx in Vanilla was a floating palace for a reason, AQ40 was underground so they didn’t need to worry about providing space to accommodate it, but I’m pretty certain (and someone nerdier than me will be along shortly to refute/confirm this) it was not until Cataclysm that AQ20 was actually placed in geographical context with a map to mesh with the instance site. Then we started to see proper external representations of instances that had previously only been suggested: Zul’Gurub springs to mind as a place that now existed in two places simultaneously. This set a precedent I’m only now beginning to fully grasp.
The Nightmare is, I now realise, incredibly clever design, because I’m fairly certain pretty much everything in this instance is built on content that existed somewhere else.
Only now do I grasp that the fight before Xavius (Cenarius) is a corrupted version of an existing zone. I wanted to check I was right, and so went searching on the Interwebs and was then quietly staggered at what I found:
Because I haven’t immersed myself 24/7 in Raiding minutiae I’d never put the pieces together, that the future is telling stories in constantly redefined versions of the Old World. That in essence is all Timewalking is about, when all is said and done, you’re playing the EXACT same content, just with a twist. I’m betting therefore when the Nighthold opens in January, that’s basically just Suramar City, with other bits bolted on if required. There I was wondering why so much effort had been put into the details, and it is because you’re going to be raiding IN THE EXACT SAME PLACES. I’d also like to hazard a guess and think that the twisted, corrupted stump of the World Tree in Val’Sharah is the site now of an uncorrupted Emerald Dream, but I can’t go there. All those messages I get when get too close to that location on the Broken Isles and then am ported out is to maintain that illusion. Assuming these deductions are correct? THIS IS BRILLIANT.
Why did I not grasp this earlier?
There’s one TINY problem here. I’m with the player up top who zoned into that fight and stated ‘well, this is shit.’ Xavius is possibly the most underwhelming end instance fight I have ever encountered in twelve years. I don’t give a flying fuck about your clever mechanics, if I spend the entire fight with nothing but mist as distraction, your reveal is utterly flat, dull and quite depressing, if truth be told. A cinematic at Xavius death, honestly, would have made the absolute WORLD of difference and yet I’ll guess you ran out of time, or deemed it unnecessary, or possibly decided that because they can be datamined, you’d forgo it. We seem now to have forgone the element of depth and care in raiding, and all that matters is getting a kill shot with the boss and moving onto the next tier of difficulty. The ONLY REASON I would have to go back to this boss ever again would be for loot, and as we’ve established I don’t give a flying fuck about that anyway?
This is what game launch raiding could be in the future, I suspect. When everyone is distracted by the shiny of an awesome new zone, there is really no need to then spend extra months artworking and designing Instanced content when your data shows you no-one will be running it as soon as you give them something better to do. You just recycle the new stuff at origin, and everyone’s perfectly prepared to accept this as ‘new’ anyway. Those of us who still do Legacy Instances not just for the loot but to lose ourselves in the amazement and wonder of the unique worlds that were created will make that face above at the Legion stuff and then decide whether it’s worth farming anything when the time comes.
There’s another key point to make here about the Nightmare, and it is to do with the reaction content gets from players as much as the importance of a ‘unique’ experience. This version of the concept is not one person’s unique vision, it uses well-established and much loved parts of the existing game world in a way that allows not simply a link with the past, but relevance to the present. You could call it brilliant design, but in effect it’s the safe route because it relies on what is currently available, and what people already know. It’s the equivalent of rebottling your Coke with a name on it. The contents are exactly the same, it’s just different labelling. It’s what Nintendo have done for decades with Mario, and what Hollywood does with well-established themes.
Really, there is nothing to see here.
Except, when you’ve been around long enough to remember what it was like when you saw Onyxia for the first time (less is more on the instance design there) or the sheer blind terror of Karazhan’s hugeness when you needed 10 people to complete it, there are two schools of thought. If, like my husband, you don’t care about the backdrop and all that matters is how the boss gets to 0 HP with everyone alive, you could fight in the equivalent of the Holodeck forever and it wouldn’t matter one iota. It is only people like me who consider Azeroth as a living, breathing novel who have a problem, and as less and less of those people play the game? Does it really matter you don’t have a sweeping backdrop everywhere? Absolutely not. If you wanted a way to speed up development times, make more money and produce more of the stuff people actually want?
That’s the last paragraph here, not the one before. We have more content than many massagers can be vibrated at, more immersion in places that we never had before, and if the casualty of that is your background? I’m betting I will be a very, VERY small minority who stares at the king and points and then laughs because he’s completely naked. Having a long memory is often a disadvantage, but sometimes I’d like to think that remembering how things were before revisionist history got its hands on it is a good thing. If ActiBlizz couldn’t get me into raiding with the big production numbers of Warlords, they’re sure as fuck not pulling me there with Suramar. It may look beautiful, but it’s a poisoned chalice of hate for someone with latency and nowhere near a top of the range rig. No matter, I got my quest item, so I can continue the bit of Legion I’m here for.
This revelation gives me much to think about, so that’s no bad thing either.