In the beginning, Azeroth was a very simple place, with a predetermined form. Like all games, there was a basic plan at work, and stuff didn’t change that much going forward. Back in 2007 I remember reading on Allakazam about a planning document on the game that was supposed to be a pretty much direct indicator of what could be expected from Blizzard going forward. That organisation, of course, became Zam (who now own Wowhead) who are in turn owned by Tencent, a massive Chinese company with fingers in many pies, including a stake in Warcraft itself. But I digress, that document still exists because of the wonders of archives and today, I feel the need to bring it up again thanks to a conversation last night and some screenshots this morning live from the Tomb of Sargeras itself.
Because I’m poetic, I’ve decided to name this The Great Sea Scrolls:
This, remember was ‘leaked’ (supposedly from a set of 2003 developer notes before the game existed) and confirmed that Pandaria would become a thing, as well as a lot of nods to everything that came both before and after Wrath. Those of us who think rationally about development because as authors, that’s how you maintain the sanctity of your original idea, grasp how a document such as this would matter to people making the game. It is like it or not, a bible and a roadmap, the means by which your journey continues with a consistency and drive required to move the particular ‘concept’ forward. Except, undoubtedly after Pandaria, something went seriously amiss. Draenor was when the map got ignored, and we went off-road to a past that, it is now apparent in my mind, was manufactured pretty much solely to tie in with the Movie, but thanks to delays in CGI and real life changes in director, never really happened when it should have.
However, as my tin foil hat is now unexpectedly in the ‘On’ position, let’s take this idea for a ride alongside a pet theory that I’ve been coveting ever since Draenor was announced. That expansion re-imagines Outland, down to names and places that would be familiar to anyone who played The Burning Crusade in any seriousness. It WOULD have utilised Karazhan too, but we know that technical issues (that were well documented at the time) caused that instance to be shoved over to Legion. However, this expansion now is the place that re-imagines Dalaran, recycling the concept of epic plots and the significance of TBC’s main villain as a hero. In effect, Mr Stormrage takes Arthas’ place in Legion’s reboot of Wrath of the Lich King. We following all this so far? Good, coz here’s where things get funky.
That means THE UPCOMING EXPANSION would see a redefinition of existing Zones as was the case in Cataclysm, with the destruction of the dock at Auberdine and the Dam at Loch Moden most notable in my mind… except, what if the changes in technology allowed us to rebuild these places, and return them to the way they were BEFORE? Phasing technology gives that opportunity, and the scaling mob capacity is now live and operational in Classic Warcraft zones. What if the plan going forward is to return players to Azeroth as was the case with Hyjal and Uldum and give them a chance to remake their new World of Warcraft in a new and exciting fashion, whilst keeping the original World exactly as it is? Oh but hang on, I hear you cry, people only care for new content and not recycling old!
I direct you now to the pictures from the Tomb of Sargeras.
If Suramar is Ulduar (massive, self contained city with potential outside just raiding) then the Tomb is ICC, chock full of references to the past and hints of what might happen in the future. There’s nods to the stylistic theme of the preceeding instance too, but this is about creating a ‘classic’ feel that evokes everything that has been drawn on to bring the player here. It is, ultimately, the pinnacle of reccyling old instances and situations to make old players think they’re truly delving into the past when this should be the present. What is now abundantly apparent is that the Company could set raiding encounters in nothingness (see last boss Emerald Nightmare) and raiders won’t care as long as the mechanics are a challenge. What is more important for most is the technical difficulty going forward, but for the percentage of us who like plot with our biffing? Well, there’s metric shedtonnes of that here too. However, it doesn’t matter. This is where this portion of our story is due to end.
However, I am well aware that Argus is being trailed as 7.3 by ActiBlizz, which is undoubtedly meant as a means to reassure people that they don’t need to panic about a gear reset just yet. However, I do think that when we leave Azeroth and head to Legion HQ, we won’t return to the same home. The more I think about it, I can see a significant evolution of both systems and locations coming once the Tomb of Sargeras is beaten. That will mean the following, at least in my mind:
- Complete overhaul of the 1-100 levelling experience which will encourage players to do this as part of an Expansion (ergo, NEW RACE is coming)
- Complete overhaul of gear systems which will negate need for Legendary items in their current format
- Phased zones allowing players to rebuild ‘damaged’ areas in Cataclysm AND ELSEWHERE
- Ability to level past 100 IN THE OLD WORLD for players if they desire
- Professions to focus on aesthetics away from functionality (dyes, 3D design elements)
Once the Old World and New Systems all run at the same speed (and presumably with the same code) the ‘original’ content can be left as foundation and phased areas can be built on top. Mobs will, as is now the case, simply scale to the level of the person fighting them.
Of course, all of this is grounded in 100% alternative facts, and therefore is simply presented for your discussion only. I like the synergy, as a writer, because once you’ve got a great idea there’s no reason why you can’t use it again and again if people are prepared to pay for it… I mean, you just have to look at Hollywood as adequate proof that milking the same ideas until they bleed works really rather well. I’m more pleased this morning I could find an article from a decade ago on the Internet at the first time of asking, and that this game isn’t afraid to repeat itself if it means I can live here in perpetuity. I may crave change in the Real World but to be honest? I love Azeroth just the way it is.
Long may this predictable repetition continue.