This post is just a little bit of musing about then and now.
Tuesday will see the dawn of a new era in WoW.
Or will it?
The Cataclysm will come to the world of Azeroth, surprising our characters, but not us.
That’s not what I’ve been thinking of.
Maybe it’s Tesh’s fault, but I do spend quite some time trying to analyze the intentions of the Blizzard developers NOT from anything they say, but rather from what they actually DO.
You’re not what you say you are, no matter how loudly you proclaim it. You are what you do.
Tomorrow, for the first time since the release of the Burning Crusade expansion, the portal hubs will go dark.
For the very first time since the end of the Vanilla WoW era, there will not be a single place you can set your Hearth that gives you ready access to… anywhere you want to go.
There is much in the patch and the expansion that will move the game forward.
Is the removal of the portal hubs a move forward… or a move back?
In my opinion, trying to get into the heads of the developers to figure out how they hope this will work out, it’s an interesting move.
People bitch about ‘slippery slopes’ a lot, but one thing is usually true; once you’ve removed an action that used to cause long periods of grinding, grunt work or downtime, if you put it back in, people resent it.
One of the things that was true in Vanilla WoW was that moving from place to place took a lot of time. Time waiting for boats, time waiting for zeppelins, time on flights across the continents, time running across deadly zones to get flight points hoping you wouldn’t get eaten, but having to do it because there WERE no boat or zeppelin routes that would give you a convenient short cut around them.
‘Fed Ex’ style quests took no skill at playing your character to complete… but they compensated for that by taking up a lot of time in transit.
There was good cause for rejoicing when Burning Crusade brought us Shattrath; a city with Innkeepers to set your Hearth, and filled with magical portals that could transport you in the blink of an eye to any of the major cities on another world.
Suddenly, just by finding a friendly Mage or Warlock of the right level to help you get there, maybe a 10 gold tip, your character could easily pop in and out wherever they might need to go.
The consequence of this convenience was that one of the most powerful benefits of being a Mage or Warlock, or having one for a friend, was marginalized.
Even the Shaman’s ability to reduce the cooldown of the Hearth was slightly reduced in equivalent power.
The LFD tool brought even more convenience to the party, didn’t it? Instant ports, and all that sort of thing.
No question that having portal hubs saves a lot of time… time that once was spent traveling from place to place could now be spent getting it stuck into the fight faster.
The developers chose to include those portal hub cities. First with one in the heart of Outlands… then again in the heart of Northrend.
The developers have chosen to remove all of those portal hubs.
What can we glean from this decision?
I think, despite some of the conspiracy theories I’ve seen in Trade chat the last few weeks, that this is not an attempt to make us waste more time so the content lasts longer before we get bored.
I’ve seen some comments that it is being done, in part, to cut down the ‘Laglaran’ effect of having 80% of a server’s population in the same zone or city. That sounds like a very plausible reason.
I know that it’s been said by developers that a key point is to force players to be out and about running around the world, so it seems populated and full of life.
Well, if I wanted to be a picturesque local to add color for the enjoyment of the new tourists, I’d prefer to be issued a grass-roofed hut, banana leaves and a spear to shake. And a table to sell my hand crafted goods at ridiculous prices. And a bottle of rum. And some bacon.
I’m not here for the tourists. Screw the tourists! I’m here for my own paid playtime. This particular argument you make for why I should now have to spend tons of my own personal time traveling around not having fun when I used to be able to ‘blip’ effortlessly about is not compelling. Stop making it.
It costs a set amount of money to play per month. Time = money. Your change is costing me playtime I used to spend having fun, and that means you’re costing me money.
Or, as Henry Rollins once put it, you’re killing me… you’re stealing my life. Just a teeny, tiny bit at a time.
So, no, that rationale doesn’t quite float my boat, honey.
But there is another good reason they could be trying it. I say trying, because they can always change their mind back later. It’s not like they’re bulldozing, and can’t afford the zoning permits to rebuild.
By reverting us once again to the days of Vanilla WoW… we are returning to a time when having a Mage, a Warlock, or a friend who is a Mage or a Warlock was a damn good thing.
The abilities those classes learn, and especially those Portal spells the Mages work so hard to acquire over the levels, suddenly go from being handy once in a while to being freaking awesome.
Which is how they were before the Burning Crusade.
We’ll still have LFD. We’ll still have the new, vastly improved summoning stones as well. Well, maybe. We will even have new perks from Guild Leveling letting us summon guildies directly to the raid (unless they changed that when I wsn’t looking). And of course, the boats and zeppelins.
We’re not turning back the clock all the way back to Vanilla.
But we won’t have Dalaran or Shattrath to set our hearth to be able to pop wherever we want.
I find thinking of it as a planned change to bring Mages and Warlocks more love for their class skills far more satisfying than thinking of it as a way for Blizzard to feel that they’re running a populated world.
Unless we ever see player or guild housing, set up in seperate communities where we have a reason for hanging out there, housing that other people can peer into to see us hanging out but they can’t enter because they don’t have the friend or guild key… any attempt to make us populate world areas is purely superficial.
Oh, and Blizzard… I know you don’t read my blog, it’s cool, I’m an idiot. But seriously, from me to you. I love you, and what you do is awesome, but could you please consider player or guild housing? Think about it. If you seriously set aside areas where a guild could buy, say, a small townhouse with outdoor area in a city park, and only guild members were allowed in the area… but people could walk by and see what was going on in the outside area of the ‘lawn’?
You would likely have a real, living breathing community on your hands in that neighborhood. Instead of doing laps while chatting, people would lounge on an easy chair in the sun catching a few rays, or stand around the BBQ drinking beer while they chatted.
Oh yes we would.
Back to the point, in my opinion changes attempted to bring a classes’ unique abilities back into prominance is a good thing. Unless the class ability was poorly thought out in the first place or no longer fits the intent, and needs a revamp.
It will be interesting to see how people adjust to the changes. Will there be tons of QQ? Will people be so thrilled by all the rest of the changes they don’t even notice?
Will the number of Mages and Warlocks rolled suddenly increase?
I can’t wait to find out.