Putting the World back in Warcraft: World

Chromie a character from world of warcraft sitting on a large hour glass


The final subject I want to talk about is the world itself. Blizzard often talk about the world being one of the primary characters in WoW. Of course they are referring Azeroth primarily but I guess they are talking about the larger world as well. Considering it’s one of primary characters it has had some serious injustice in the previous few expansions.


Phasing was introduced some time around the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and was a huge step forward for Blizzard because it allowed them to fix one of the more annoying things about vanilla and The Burning Crusade (having to queue up to kill mobs or worse a single mob). But it also gave them a much better story telling tool. They could isolate a player or players and show them what was pretty much an in game cutscene which is far more immersive.

While this was a pretty big technical leap and allowed for a more immersive story telling experience it was the start of a slow process that started to isolate players. Over coming expansions and even Battle for Azeroth this has been used more aggressively. Arathi, Darkshore and Silithus are perfect examples of this. All of these zones are no longer a single zone but two zones that can be accessed via an NPC (probably bloody Chromie) and a nice loading screen.

The issue with this is it start to make it feel like less of a world shared by people and instead an instance much like a dungeon.

Garrisons are probably the pinnacle of this design are the primary reason I stopped playing WoW completely in Warlords of Draenor. The idea was a good one, a place where you could become a commander in this new world Draenor, recruit people to carry out missions on your behalf so you always felt like you were progressing. Displaying trophies from raids to highlight your prestige was a really nice touch.

This all sounds amazing the key problem with this being that for someone to see your garrison they’d have to be in your group and agree to visit your garrison at which point they couldn’t do anything apart from look around. So they quickly left and returned to their own garrison. It was the equivalent of having your own personal Dalaran. Which is great but it doesn’t feel like a shared world anymore. What’s the point in having a load of cool items and gear if you can’t show them off?


Sharding in WoW was another pretty large technical achievement and it allowed players to avoid massive lag in areas that were going to be very popular, cough cough Gates of Ahn’qiraj cough. I distinctly remember waiting for the mad rush to begin when legion launched and there wasn’t. It just kinda released and we could start storming the broken shores which was very very cool. It was the complete opposite experience when phase 5 was released for Classic, the game was for the most part unplayable which kinda sucked.

So sharding has its very clear advantages but what about its disadvantages. Well when this is overused like it is in Retail we end up not feeling like we’re in a shared world again. Sure there are other people around me jumping up and down or sitting AFK in Boralus, but if I logged out and logged back in they’d disappear and be replaced with a completely different set of people that don’t even share my server. Worse still if a friend walks over and stands in front of me there’s a very good chance he won’t be able to see me because we are on different shards. Even if we are on the same server, I mean what the fuck is that. This adds to the destruction of a shared world. In Classic if I see my friend or a guild member out in the world it makes that world feel like somewhere my character actually lives. A living breathing world is only living and breathing because of the people that inhabit it. I mean is it really an MMO anymore if you can only see 10 other people at any one time?

So what can be done?

This use of tech should be dialled back as much as possible. Only use phasing in story telling where it’s absolutely necessary, the end of the quest line to get attuned for Onyxiya’s lair springs to mind. Remove sharding wherever possible and only use it for launch events where there’s no practical way to have that many people on a single server in one place without servers melting.