Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Simple Observation

"Org is where it's at."

"The Exodar is so freaking dead, just a couple of bank alts and some noobs."

"Dal has gone the way of Shattrath."

"Everybody's in Stormwind."

Heard those lately?  I sure have, whether by fellow WoW bloggers, guildies, or random instance/BG puggers, people know the emphasis of this latest expansion is on the capital cities.  For some cities, their day in the sun is over; for others, they never had one in the first place.

Blizz has stated several times that with Cataclysm, they wanted to return the emphasis to each faction's capital city.  In that respect, they succeeded brilliantly.  Instead of having one Sanctuary where both factions congregate and overwhelm players' frame rates, they divided the crowd between Orgrimmar and Stormwind.

However, every time I pass through another faction city, something just feels missing.

Do I miss the throng in Dalaran on a Tuesday night?  Hell no.  After a major patch bundle, my framerate would drop to 6 fps and stay there until I got out of dodge.  By comparison, Org is a walk in the park.  Same with Stormwind, where your flying mount can perch on dozens of buildings and get out of the heavy traffic.

I think what bothers me about Dalaran and the other leftovers is that they are cities, and they didn't stop existing when the Cataclysm redesign happened.  But nobody goes there --especially the BC faction cities-- unless there's an occasional World Event or something monumental happens like 4.0.1 drops and everyone tests out new attack rotations.  They're like a downtown street the morning after Oktoberfest.

Now, I'm sure that to most people the response is a shrug and a "So what?  Change is the nature of things, and as each expansion has come and gone, the center of the WoW-verse has moved on.  Get used to it."

Maybe so, but I think that Blizzard can do something here to make the other cities feel more organic:  more NPCs.

I've watched the Shattered Sun train, and I've watch the kids play and run through the Lower City, and I think more of that is what all of these empty cities need.  With the dawn of the quest marker system built into WoW, you don't really need to hover over each NPC to find the one you're supposed to talk to anyway, so why not add extraneous NPCs to each neglected city to give it a lot more flavor?  That way the apple vendor in Ironforge isn't hawking fruit to an empty room. And why on earth is there one single delegation wandering about the streets of Silvermoon City --and Champion Vranesh-- when there could be more crowds moving back and forth?

A lot of these NPCs could have a set route and a series of pauses through the city that don't interfere with any player doing legit business --like at an AH or a bank-- while making an empty AH seem a bit fuller.  They don't even need to say anything out loud, just be there and make the cities feel, well, lived in.

And should a future redesign of WoW send players back to another of these cities, Blizzard could simply remove the NPCs.  Their presence would no longer be needed.

This obviously isn't the highest priority on Blizzard's drawing board right now, with 4.1's release fast approaching and 4.2 and 4.3 already well under way in the design/build stages.  However, at first blush it seems like a relatively easy thing to implement, if only for a couple of NPCs a week.

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