Thursday, November 18, 2010

Surprise! Cataclysm!

The other evening, I got a tell consisting of a single question mark.  I shift clicked the name to see if it was a guild-mate or something, but it was a random level 40 character I'd never heard of before.  I sent back my customary reply, a lone exclamation mark.

A few seconds later, the lowbie restated their question.  "Why should I abandon my home, possessions, and cares?"

I was working on the pre-Cataclysm world event, and there's a stage where the player runs around saying Twilight Hammer doomsday cult slogans in an attempt to infiltrate the organization.  Though these slogans are automatically generated by the quest, they are otherwise indistinguishable from regular player speech.

I considered how to respond; I'm not much of a role player, but it's so rare that my characters are ever doing something that makes in-game sense (as distinct from "re-killing the guy I killed yesterday for more loot") that it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity. 

"The Twilight Hammer made me say that," I replied, carefully choosing words that make sense both in and out of character.

"I don't know who that is," the lowbie replied.  At this point, I was starting to get the impression that they were legitimately confused, rather than playing along with the in-game storyline, so I decided to break character.

"It's for a new quest," I said.  "Oh," came the reply.  Then it was time to go kill an invasion boss, and I'd forgotten the encounter by the time I was done with that.

Cataclysm for the unaware?
Looking back, there are more questions I might have asked.  Was this person new to the game?  Were they aware that we're just over two weeks out from a game-altering expansion?  If they do ever find the quest they asked me about, will they know that their characters efforts are pre-destined to fall short, with the world shattered just as the players' seemingly ineffectual adversaries would like?

The alternative is that this player legitimately had no idea what was going on.  That someday, possibly as soon as next week, they're going to log in and find that the zone they logged off in got blown up overnight, wiping out half of the questgivers and even entire towns.  What happens if that player logs off for the night in the doomed city of Auberdine?  Or if they were advised by a veteran to buy a mage portal to Shattrath or Dalaran for easy hearthstone/portal access and log in to find that the portals leaving these high level areas have been removed? 

These types of issues have probably happened to players in every MMO that has ever launched an expansion.  Based on sheer size, though, Cataclysm will almost certainly take the title for total number of players who are caught unaware by a major expansion revamp to content they were just working on.  I wonder how many people will be asking how they "go back" to the old world when December 7th rolls around.  


Pangoria Fallstar said...

I'm glad you made this post.

I still remember when I was level 40. I had no idea what was happening in the game.

It wasn't until I started seeking information that I knew things about other classes and expansions.

For people like that player, who experience only the game, they may miss so much of Cataclysm, that one day they will log in to find their world forever changed.

Yeebo said...

It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. I honestly can't think of an MMO I'm familiar with that has revamped their entire world so radically a few years in.

One thing that occurs to me is that Blizzard could double their leveling content by offering players the ability to port back to pre-revamp zones. I know I'll miss pre-flooded thousand needles, I would go back there for the old quests if i could.

Anonymous said...

Surprise indeed... the Cataclysm could be sooner than we think. The WoW game is currently running "Patch 4.0.3". Many expect that we will soon see "Patch 4.0.3a" which is the patch that will redo the old zones and introduce new zones and new quests.

Some interesting evidence is in this transcript of a Cataclysm Dev Chat with BestBuy, which implies that "revamped 1-60 zones" will not happen at the same time as "level to 85 in Cataclysm zones":

Patch 4.0.3a

Can you clarify and confirm what will be available to players when 4.0.3a hits and what will be unavailable until 7th Dec?

4.0.3a will be the patch that actually causes the world to shatter and change forever. At that point you will be able to experience the new 1-60 leveling experience, as well as the new race/class combinations.

Tesh said...

I maintain that they should split off the old world as a separate "buy once play forever" game and let subscribers proceed into the Cataclysm. Make it a conscious decision to move into the Brave New World.

...since they won't do that, I'm sure we'll see a lot of confused players. I hope that doesn't bite Blizzard in the butt, since I do think the Cataclysm is a good idea.