Some Guild Wars players like Pre-Searing Ascalon. So much so, in fact, that there is an entire subculture in the game built around staying in that idyllic time period forever, rather than leaving the digital womb and letting the Charr take over. See, the Cataclysm, er, Searing changes the face of the world, and there’s no going back. For some, that’s perfectly fine, and they stay in the part of the game they like, fully embracing the limitations.
As no surprise to anyone, the WoW Cataclysm has some players logging back in to play the Old Azeroth before it’s gone forever. (Or at least until Blizzard caves in and allows classic servers.) Dusty over at Of Course I’ll Play It is taking a whirlwind tour of the game as a fresh Human Mage. (Thus saving me the trouble, incidentally.) Tobold is off the wagon again, soliciting opinions, and Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires is looking to try a new experience (to him, anyway). Of course, as night follows day, Syncaine upholds his honor and calls everyone “failbears” for embracing nostalgia (or maybe just for playing WoW, since his internet persona is built around hating the game).
Call it what you want, but there are players who want the “good old days” in these games, and are willing to spend their time and money on them. I’m idly curious as to how many players actually have “permapre” Guild Wars characters (permanently in the Pre-Searing world), and how that might track with the number of players who have called for “classic” servers in WoW. Blizzard is certainly loving the attention of tourists, er, former players playing fresh alts (“going, going, gone!” works for hucksters the world over), but it’s a one-time deal for them, as opposed to ArenaNet’s Pre-Searing Ascalon. As Scott noted a while ago, the parallels are significant (and thus underwhelming on Blizzard’s part).
It will be interesting to see what Blizzard does with this. Despite apparent protestations that Blizzard will never make “classic” servers, I suspect it’s only a matter of time. (They never change their policies, right?) We’ll almost certainly see private servers catering to the nostalgia crowd and running a healthy clientele.
As much as I think Blizzard is right to push the world forward with some potentially radical world shifts, I think they may bet making a bad move omitting their own Pre-Searing crowd. They have embraced the static Azeroth for too long to not see some backlash from the Old Azeroth lovers. Time will tell, but I do suspect that Cataclysm isn’t the cure to all that ails Blizzard’s flagship. It’s a good idea, and I think it will wind up being a good move in the balance, but we’ll see what unintended circumstances are afoot.
Modern MMO design is all about static worlds. I’ve lamented that more than once. The Cataclysm is a step toward a more dynamic world (inasmuch as it changes over time, anyway), so I like the idea behind it… but it’s really just swapping one static world for another. It’s almost the worst of both worlds; it’s still too static to be really interesting as a place to keep playing, but the radical changes to the game world may well annoy those who liked the old world. (Remember the fuss over the Zombie event? A lot of people like WoW to stay the way it is, so they can maintain their habitual behaviors. Changes are exit points.)
I don’t want to be a vulture, another shrill harpy calling for the demise of the Blizzard flagship (which I’m not doing, by the way, cynicism aside)… but I will be keeping an interested eye on the fallout of these changes, if only to learn how to make the most of them in one way or another. Of course, I’ll be paying keener attention to Guild Wars 2 and Dust 514. WoW is a big gorilla, but not the only horse in the race, and certainly not the most interesting one.
Edited to add:
What if they did something really weird? Say, make it so the ten day trials, in addition to their other limitations, were stuck in the Old Azeroth? To move time forward, players have to buy in. I could see Blizzard doing that in a hamfisted effort to exclude gold sellers from the New World, and to incentivize upgrading.