Previewing Blizzard's Coming Cataclysm

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On December 7, Blizzard will launch the next expansion pack for World of Warcraft, dubbed World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. We've already discussed some of the expansion's new features; this article will focus on the game's larger goals and focus. Whereas both The Burning Crusade and  Wrath of the Lich King were more traditional expansions that focused on new adventures and quests for upper-level players, Cataclysm's ambitions are much higher.

You Can Go Home Again, Provided Home Isn't Suddenly Underwater, Subterranean, And/Or Part of An Active Volcano

Instead of inventing a new land mass with its own set of quests, objectives, and Big Bads, Blizzard opted to send its playerbase back to the original continents of Azeroth and Kalimdor immediately after the dragon Deathwing beats the snot out of them. The changes are significant enough to give long-established players a reason to re-roll while offering potential new players a chance to jump into the game at a time when even the first launch servers are going to feel relatively new.

Players who don't like leveling alts (and I'm one of them) may find reason to do so in Cataclysm. The twin pulls of nostalgia and curiosity are powerful, particularly when the expansion opens areas of the game that we've literally been closed off since WoW's launch in 2004. Even in zones that weren't particularly damaged, there's a sense that time has passed. Projects have been finished, old conflicts resolved (often thanks to pyroclastic lava flows) and new battles have erupted.


Stormwind has seen better days

Now that we've addressed the lore, let's clear the usual topics off the table. Cataclysm includes: new quests, storylines, zones, spells, two additional races, artwork, achievements, recipes, items, mounts, jokes, bosses, and events. If we neglected to mention something that falls under the category of "Things One Normally Finds In An MMO Expansion," you can assume it's also present.


After six years of fighting between Southshore and Taure...err, Tarren Mill, the Horde won this one. On the plus side, the real estate deals here are even better than you'd find in Florida.

The problem with this list of goodies is that its inherent value diminishes with every expansion pack. This is partly caused by item reward fatigue and partly by continuing improvements to the game's fundamentals. Before The Burning Crusade launched, virtually every class had one sub-standard talent tree and was unable to practically perform what class descriptions declared was an in-game role. Four years and two expansion packs later, such glaring problems have vanished. That's great for players, but it makes further expansions tougher to sell. Secret marketing documents obtained by Hot Hardware indicate that this caused a crisis at Blizzard HQ after the tentative title: World of Warcraft: More of The Same With New Pixels And Stuff proved unpopular with fans. 

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rapid1 3 years ago

"If Cata's changes work, it could entice new players that were previously put off by the game's complexity." I love this quote. As a long time rpg/mmorpg player ( I started playing on day 18 of EQ1, and was also a GM as well as a Guild leader of one of the first big guilds on Prexus server "The Rangers of Tunare"), I must say Warcraft has never been looked at as a complex MMO. It has in fact for most of it's existence been ridiculed as a child's/easy version of an MMO skipping all the long term Goals/extensive quests/character development for an easy fix.I have actually heard that this expansion is supposed to bring more of that to Warcraft.

Joel H 3 years ago

Rapid1,

Ah, the ancient argument over what does and doesn't constitute "a good time."  I played EQ1 back in the day and was completely put off with how long it took to travel from Point A to Point B, the lack of solo content, kill-stealing, non-instanced content, and the fact that standing in one place killing the same monster time after time was considered fun.

I'm a number cruncher and a theory crafter; I was originally very dubious that I'd like the Cata changes. The game, however, is still fun. Most of my experience is with Paladins and Warlocks, both of which are now a bit *more* complex than they used to be. The difference is that the complexity is no longer mathematical (i.e, reach 580 defense,  X Stamina, Y% Parry, Z% Block). Instead, attacks and abilities must be more carefully timed / synchronized for maximum effect.

There's a huge range of MMO designs between EQ and WoW, but insomuch as WoW is concerned, I know I'd rather be playing the current version than even the one that debuted 6 years ago.

rapid1 3 years ago

True and not so true really. I played EQ for years, and even though I was usually in a guild I generally played solo. So EQ having no solo content was basically up to the player as well as both the class the plaid, and of course there ability with said class. I played a Monk, a Druid, a Ranger, and a SK as well as an Enchanter, but never had the no solo content problem although I only actively played half the classes in the game (each for roughly a year) I may be wrong.

Either way I played WOW for my month free, and leveled my char to max then I quit, and never looked back. So I never saw much difficulty in the game at all as far as it goes I have more difficulty in some of the quests in Dragon Age:origins realistically. Either way I am not you, and neither are you me so to each his own right. Also as far as it goes EQ1 is so outdated it is not even a joke, even though they are still upgrading it, and from what they say it has an active player community.

I am not going back to EQ1 that is for sure. I may check out the new WOW for a bit as I still have until April or May waiting on SWtor to be released, not to mention that is if they actually get it completed on time which of course may or may not happen.

 

Joel H 3 years ago

I'm also curious about the upcoming SW MMO and I've long eyed EVE as a potentially interesting title. In a way, even though I wrote this article from a positive perspective, I'm concerned that WoW has actually been harmful to the MMO industry. It seems that every MMO is inevitably compared to WoW from launch day to subscriber base. 

WoW's sheer size make it a statistically unreliable predictor for the popularity and profitability of any MMO. 

rapid1 3 years ago

I think the thing about WOW's size that scares me on top of that is that it has become so large that there is no escape for it's customers. While that is great from a companies perspective the customer has nowhere to turn. Of course one of my statements on Microsoft in another article would seem to be at odds with this. The thing with that is that the reason we have the digital culture we have today is greatly because of the acceptance ratio of or rate of Windows in general. This made computers general devices as well as making the parts common enough to drop the usage price as a whole. This therefore led to computers being cheap enough for a very large number to own.

In the case of WOW it means the customers may not like something or several things, but they have nowhere else to go, so Blizzard can ignore them readily. I would say one of the largest differences is the scope. Whereas WOW being as large of a player in a single are not specific only to software, but then to gaming, and then on top of that to an MMO makes it singular.

Also as I said earlier I may re-open my WOW account for a short time to check it out when this next installment goes live for a bit, but before the Star Wars MMO goes live, and or I get in on BETA if I do. As far as it goes I have Beta tested the large amount of successful MMO's on the market including every Beta for EQ1 from the first expansion on to Dragons I think was the last, and many other studios besides SONY as well.

fat78 3 years ago

I used to enjoy this game alot, but now it doesnt seem as special as i remember when i first played it. I think the fighting system needs some major overhaul to get the game interesting again. Although that is my opinion and some players might not like having to learn a new fighting system. I havnt played this game in little over a year, but some times i see friends still playing it and seems like the same game.

A fun mmo i have tried recently was DC universe. At first i thought the game would suck, but turned out to be pretty good. It has alot of bugs to work out still, like how people can glitch npcs in walls, and problems to fix , like the easy lvling system, but it is pretty fun to travel though a highly detailed city with super powers.

Ps: I never played the game city of heroes so i cant say if it is like it or  not.

Joel H 3 years ago

Fat78,

When's the last time you played WoW? The PvP system has been entirely overhauled compared to what it was prior to the launch of Burning Crusade and it evolved through Wrath of the Lich King and this pre-Cataclysm patch. Without knowing what you disliked I can't say it's 'better', but depending on when you last played it may be considerably different.

 

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