I wanted to expand a little bit on the points Johnnie made in his editorial on the MMO Melting Pot today.
I really hope you’ll read the editorial through that link before continuing on with the post. Johnnie was very eloquent in making his points. I think it’s well worth your time.
I won’t reproduce the entire editorial here, but I think this quote is very representational of his overall point;
…everyone agreed: [the sundering] was going to be awesome. Personally, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. The most tumultuous and (literally and figuratively) world-changing event in Warcraft’s history: I couldn’t wait to experience it.
Unfortunately, I can’t. It’s already happened, and I missed it.
Johnnie puts to words exactly how I’ve been feeling in the pit of my stomach as I experience the new quests on my level 20 human Hunter, and take my mains over hill and expore distant dale to see with eyes wide open firsthand how the world has become transformed.
I love what I’m doing in the game. I enjoy the surprising twists and genuine humor that coexists seamlessly with the poignant sense of change and loss amongst people and places long familiar to me.
What I don’t particularly love is the transition from the old world to the new.
Rather than being part of the story, I go to sleep on a Monday, and on a Tuesday I find out I pulled a Rip Van Winkle act, and years have passed me by. How… jarring the transformation was, it leaves me feeling emotionally detached from any sense of immediacy.
With the movies, the pulse-pounding energy of the prelude, I expected more of a sense of urgency towards the aftermath of Deathwing’s release.
Before I even go on, I’d better make sure I mention that I love the game as it is. I’ve got no complaints here about playing the game. The quest style and flow feels much improved. The content is great. The phasing, the humor and interaction with NPCs, it’s all good. I love where we are now. I really feel I can’t stress that enough in this post, because I know from past experience that many folks will read into any hint of displeasure I may express as being a massive whine fest “oh my god QQ just quit the game if you hate it wah”.
It’s not like that. I damn well love everything I’ve seen and done. I even appreciate how selected areas and quests were left mostly unchanged, just streamlined a bit, leaving the sense of the comfortably familiar waiting just around the next corner, as if to say, “You’ve been exploring the strange and unusual, and may feel nervous… come inside, my friend. Welcome home.”
But how the transition merged the passing of time with missing the Sundering event hurts, damnit.
The event we’ve been expecting to change Azeroth was presented in most media as being Deathwing’s breaking free from his elemental realm into ours. Right?
I was expecting that we would not be part of the actual event as the world was transformed, but instead log into the immediate aftermath.
That’s sort of what happened.
What’s messing things up for me is that not only was the Cataclysm event handled off screen, but they also took the opportunity to advance the entire history of the world of Azeroth many years past where we logged out BEFORE breaking it.
We logged back in not just to the immediacy that is Deathwing’s explosive entrance to the world, but also to a world that experienced years of political and expansionistic change while we were, well, asleep.
In my ideal game experience, I would have loved to be some small part of the event itself. To be able to say afterwards that I was there to witness the sundering of the Barrens, for example. Or that I was part of the bucket brigade that tried to douse the flames left behind from Deathwings’ assault on Stormwind.
But I knew that was unrealistic. I knew I was going to log in and it would all be over. The NPCs would experience the cool and scary events, and us bit players would walk in from off stage and react to it with expressions of dismay, amazement and sorrow.
What I didn’t expect was that the world had also grown several years older while I was, apparently, mining for Saronite.
Perhaps our new characters are supposed to be coming in fresh, and our older, more experienced characters are ALL assumed to have been off in Northrend the entire time without ever having returned to visit during the war, single-mindedly championing the struggle against Arthas in far off distant lands.
Now, I know *I* returned quite frequently to visit, but maybe Blizzard is just deciding for me that I didn’t. It helps them plot the story better that way. :)
Now that Arthas is destroyed and the great war is over, here we are, weary soldiers returing to our homes in Azeroth to find that life moved on without us, new fortresses have been built, encroachments on territory have been made, tensions between factions are running high, war between Horde and Alliance is growing ever more likely, Varian Wrynn has turned into such a massive egomaniac that the prick erected a mighty statue in tribute to himself in front of the steps to Stormwind Castle, and, well, we’re finding out what it’s like to have done two tours overseas while life goes on without us.
Right? That’s a pretty powerful, realistic thing to have written into the flow of the game.
But while we were coming home victorious from the wars, someone else came along and bombed the shit our of our country. We didn’t get the chance to get reunited with our friends and loved ones, to be introduced to all the changes and see how things have grown before it all got blown apart.
That’s one heck of a lot of change to absorb all at once.
The single most jarring note for me wasn’t all the structural changes, either. It was feeling exactly how many years had passed me by.
When I first entered Redridge Mountains, there where Guard Parker used to stand, alone next to a big rock, there was now a massive tower called Three Corners.
At the top of the tower Guard Parker still stands, but now he’s been promoted to Watch Captain Parker.
At the base of the tower, you meet his wife Darcy, and they’re adorable little girl, Libby.
Wow! Why, Darcy, when I last saw you, you were working in the Inn at Redridge, and you were sweet on Parker… I brought thim the lunch you made!
And here you are now, not only married but with a little girl, as well! Congratulations!
Boy, she looks like she’s nearly eight years old!
It’s amazing how the time flies by, isn’t it? I wish your family all the best…
I only wish I could have had a chance to see any of it happen during the last five years I was playing the game.