Matthew Rossi wrote a great post on why we need to have a pre-launch event (in-game) for Warlords of Draenor. As you might guess, I couldn’t agree more. Quite frankly, that Mists of Pandaria didn’t have one was incredibly disappointing and not just to me. In a game where (in theory) the world is slowly evolving it seems wrong for something major to just suddenly be there. I’m not talking an invasion or anything, because that I can buy into. But there was nothing for Pandaland. I guess in the context of the story there shouldn’t have been, but it still felt like something was missing when the expansion went live.
I wasn’t around for the Burning Crusade one, but I heard many folks enjoyed it and there was mass chaos and death from the Legion invasion. Heck, once in a while I go to YouTube to see Doom Lord Kazzak when he was drawn all the way to Ironforge. Indeed there is no question I would’ve died a lot trying to join that battle, but that is sometimes the fun of it. If and when you do succeed, it’s a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie.
Which brings me to the pre-event for Wrath of the Lich King. There is a portion of the community that will tell you it was one of the worst things Blizzard ever did. They’ll lament how you couldn’t do anything in Stormwind because the city was overcome by a plague. No auction housing, no banking, no vendors. All zombied or dead. There was nothing you could do, but eventually become overwhelmed yourself.
And I will tell you it was awesome.
It started out as an innocent little event, and then the plague hit. Everything and everyone that took a breath was turned into a zombie. Sure, heroes could fight it off and healers could dispel and save things before you succumbed…at first. Eventually it became too much. I took Tumunzahar in every chance I had and a group of people would set up on the fountain and try to stave things off. Sure, we would fail every time but it was fun to try. Blizzard did something the players couldn’t just ignore or overcome. You could keep the plague to a minimum by not spreading it (particularly if you were infected), but that wasn’t as easy as you might think. And people were up in arms over it. In fact, regardless of the “oh, that was the planned duration” line that we were given, it was pretty much a given that this phase was cut short because the forums turned into one giant whining session about it.
After that we had the Scourge invasion with many Necropolis showing up on Azeroth and that was great as well. There was no way you could take them out by yourself and so we were banded together yet again. Heck, I remember days where Claws members would group up and get to work on taking them out. We all got the vendor rewards we wanted from the event but that was secondary to the sheer amount of fun we had working together. Same with when the Lich King eventually attacked Stormwind/Orgrimmar and we had to defend that as well.
The point is, we worked together and were drawn into the story of what was going to take us through the next stage of World of Warcraft. Mists didn’t do that and perhaps that was part of the reason I never felt connected to it out of the gate. Over time we found ourselves intertwined with what was happening, but it took time and a fair bit of questing. There was no big pull or event that people are still talking about 18 months later. The pre-expansion events are the only thing close to an Ahn-Qiraj that modern players are going to have the chance to experience. One of those amazing or epic world events that are but grains in the hourglass of the game.
Call it an entitlement, but I think Blizzard owes it’s millions of players these opportunities when they have the chance. Partly because their track record on said events is that they deliver in spades. They tie into the story well, they draw in the players, and they’re memorable. The developers have already said there will be something prior to the launch, but what will it be? Something little like Cataclysm (which was better than nothing), or the grand scale that players scramble to take part in? Time will tell but I am most selfishly hoping we get something we’ll be talking about years later.