I have seen the Warcraft future, people.
Travelling has become a big deal in this MMO. Take away the means for people to be autonomous and… you know how things worked out. I’m still getting hate mail, an expansion on, about that particular debacle. However, the fact remains that getting from A to B is a fundamental part of game play. If it’s not location that’s at issue it’ll be unlocking ‘the correct phase’ of a particular zone to allow access to whatever it is you are after. My frustration at having to push Suramar quests to a certain point in order to unlock a reward is only the beginning, I suspect, of a design process that will force me into treading a more linear path than I ever have before in Azeroth. The key to this next part of the journey however can’t be people simply getting themselves to Argus. I can’t believe we’ll be allowed to fly from the get go.
I have seen your Warcraft future, and it is Portals.
As the Scenario again rises in significance, we return to a state of play where in order to gather two or more people in one place to take part, one has to enter an instance. Remember that your Garrison was instanced in Draenor, with all the issues that would create. This time, on the Broken Isles, the same is true of your Class Order hall except instead of multiple instances of the same instance, everybody shares the same space. Presumably this is to reduce load and lag times on the servers, and it also allows other classes not to enter your Hall and mess up the whole thing. Even when you are rubbing shoulders with your fellow classmates, those numbers are regulated by the new tech that sets a limit on the number of people in a particular instance of your Instance, and when that number is exceeded it duplicates your surroundings and starts afresh.
That caused some interesting bugs back at the start of the Expansion: being alone in the Dalaran sewers for 45 minutes thanks to a pet battle (solo instance) throwing me into the same version of the larger area, and giving me pretty much limitless access to PvP chests was empowering at the time, but fundamentally wrong. What it does do however is show exactly how flexible the environmental backdrops have become, and how it is possible to change one place to fit several differing players’ viewpoints. The ultimate demonstration of this will come, of course, once you complete the Tomb of Sargeras on any difficulty. The environmental shift that happens there however might have a larger resonance, especially if Argus continues to feature heavily in the NEXT expansion, but we will see. For now, there needs to be a way to get from Azeroth to Argus that’s believable and quick to implement, and this time time travel isn’t the issue. For this, the Portal is about to become centre of our Universe.
Instantaneous travel is a big deal for a lot of people in Azeroth. Giving the illusion of efficiency isn’t enough: being able to plan A to B travel with real speed once your dailies are complete really matters to other players. I say that because I’m one of the exceptions whose dependence on scheduled flights has become a part of individual game play: I don’t want to get there straight away. Flight paths allow me a chance to go make a cuppa, hang out a load of washing, do the next bowl of washing up… and simply take time away from the Computer so life is not a long, unbroken time at a PC. Younger me would have had no problem with this, but older me knows the downfall of eight hours straight without a break. I distrust the instant travel methods. I really enjoyed having all that time without flight, but you know that.
Portals however serve another, more significant purpose: they are you, entering Instanced World content. That means that, as is the case travelling to Outland, Northrend or Pandaria, a loading screen has to happen before you get there. That then dictates what version of the ‘world’ you see, and how different it is to everybody else. World content, such as it is, is truly no longer static, but multi-layered and specifically attuned to your needs. It already allows, at the Broken Shore, your class to dictate the backdrop. This is only the beginning, and I suspect Argus will be where this particular tech takes an important step forward.
I have seen the future, and it is specifically tailored to you.