One of the biggest changes to WoW's quest system in Wrath of the Lich King was the introduction of phasing. Phasing is supposed to be a way to let your actions in the game have a permanent impact. You burn the village; it stays burnt. It sounded good but I have now decided that it is the worst thing about Wrath. You aren't really changing the world at all. You are just stepping through parallel dimensions, according to your progress in the quest chain.
There are 11 million of us playing the same game, but we don't live in the same world. We've always been divided into server populations of a few thousand each of course, and it's rare for any of the geographic zones on each server to have more than a hundred players at a time in them. But now those players are spread across several phases as well.
You can still see each other, but you're not looking at the same world. It's an isolating sensation that is somewhat reminiscent of those nude mods that certain pervy types use to patch the game textures so they can see elf nipples. What they see is not what everyone else sees and the sense of immersion and shared experience is broken. Um, I imagine.
So I hate phasing. But is there anything better that could be used instead? The old world of 'vanilla' WoW does feel a bit artificial and stale. (How many times do we have to fetch Bernice Stonefield's goddamned necklace before she learns to take better care of it?) I think that Blizzard should just treat WoW as a semi-interactive soap opera. Instead of lurching the story forward just once per expansion or major content patch, it should continually evolve, a little at a time, based on the collective actions of the player base.
We saw this happen with the opening of the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj. Armies mass, battle lines are drawn, key events are played out at specific times. Then the world changes a little and the story moves forward. Moves forward for everyone at once. At this point, the landscape can change, new quests become available and we all join in with the next chapter in the epic saga.
Each of us has our own personal journey to make through World of Warcraft as we level and advance, but at its heart it is a multiplayer game. That means we all have to be on the same page of the story or it doesn't make sense. In Stormwind keep, King Varian Wrynn is back but Highlord Bolvar Fordragon has gone. One is part of the global storyline, the fate of the other is tied to your progress through a phased quest chain. The very fact that I don't want to tell you any more than that, on the off-chance that you haven't got there yet, is part of what is wrong with phasing. Phasing creates spoilers. Plot spoilers for major world events in an MMORPG shouldn't be possible, because we should all occupy the same world and enjoy seeing the events unfold together.
I would rather be a foot soldier in a glorious shared army, than a legendary hero in a world of my own.
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