Skip to content

WoW Quests and a Static World

I had a whole other discussion in mind, but WoW Classic: Cataclysm gave me a free weekend of play, and I refreshed my memory on a few things.

(I unsubbed from WoW during Warlords of Draenor, resubbed for a while when Classic launched, and unsubbed during Wrath Classic when I hit a wall of “I don’t know anyone, the LFG system doesn’t work for me, and I don’t have anything left to do that doesn’t involve other people”. Then spent a few months loving Skyrim, until I realized all I was doing was the same radiant quests over and over. Still like it, wish it was larger/more.)

When World of Warcraft launched, it felt huge. Many zones, much story, quests to keep you pointed to level appropriate stuff, and more quests than you could do. Lots of small/medium stuff, save the village, rescue someone, gather supplies, etc. One cog in a machine.

Thing is, because it was a shared world, the world was static. If you came through after completing quests (and stuff respawned), it was still the same, only you couldn’t do the quest any more. The buildings were still in whatever state, the monsters had still overrun the same stuff. Mankrik’s wife’s body was still in the same hut.

Even when the quest stories felt more “save the world” in nature, other than some dialog, nothing changed. Same in Burning Crusade. The world felt stuck.

This didn’t bother me in the 80s playing Ultima, but by the 90s, even Ultima VII let you affect the world. Stuff you dropped would be in the new location, and other than monster spawns, if you killed NPCs, they stayed dead. If you broke the blackrock generators, they stayed broken. (Heck, V and VI let you kill NPCs, and they stayed dead.)

So it was fun playing through, but at some point, you realized you were the cel-shaded cartoons in front of a very, very static backdrop painting.

Wrath introduced phasing for spawned things, letting NPCs move or appear (or disappear) as questlines progressed, and that was pretty awesome. Static geometry, but at least the world reacted (in a limited way) to stories you completed.

Obviously, in a shared world, that’s always going to be the case. The content has to be there for everyone going through it. Players consume content WAY faster than it can be produced. (Thus grinds and daily/repeatable quests, or variations like the radiant quests of Elder Scrolls.) And you can’t have player A come along and destroy the castle, so when player B gets there, all the quests are gone.

Cataclysm, ah, Cataclysm. That introduced phased geometry, which was amazing. Again, limited stages, but it let the effects of the Cataclysm play out in natural disasters in a couple places. Specifically, the goblin and worgen starting areas. You’d quest in an area, and as the cataclysm struck, the places you had just been ended up under water or lava or whatever. Very fun, actually.

Also, it was neat going through the world looking for all the various changes.

They even used that for things like Molten Front, which was endgame content, so that both the quests and questgivers and the available areas changed as you progressed through the dailies.

It was more immersive than WoW had been, for the solo player, up to that point.

But, after a while, it resulted in the same effect. “Ah, it’s phase A, the same as the other five times I played it.” Better than it was, but still minimal in overall effect.

In the end, no matter how heroic one’s deeds were expressed to be, the instances respawn, the raids are done every lockout, the world is the same, over and over.

As much as parts of the grind appealed to me, and there was satisfying character progression, games like SMAC felt more reactive. You could raise/lower terrain, and it permanently affected things. Cities grew or shrank, you could clear fungus, plant forests (or even clear forests, plant fungus, late game). Even Railroad Tycoon 2 had cities shrink if they were neglected, or grow if they were well serviced.

…which feeds into this idea that’s still lurking in the back of my mind. It’s a game idea I had in the 80s, and has periodically popped back in my thoughts. I’ve never really had the ability to create what I imagined (though I brainstorm on it from time to time).

But that’s a discussion for another day.

Published inVideo GamesWorld of Warcraft

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *