I’m not the fastest on the uptake at present. That’s what happens when you don’t eat, live, sleep and breathe this game, and I think I’ll live with the issue. However, last night’s major revelation (there were others) was as follows:

That meant Xavius in Emerald Nightmare, and when I got there? Three people asked if there was a graphical glitch, straight off the bat. At least one person was heard to utter ‘well, this is shit’ and if all you do in this game is look at how pretty something is as an instant reaction to good/bad? Yeah, I can see why that would be the response. I don’t know how long it took to kill him but I was in the queue longer than I was in the Instance, and now I have my quest item? No need for longevity, that’s me done. Then, it hit me. This is how Actiblizz are going to do Instanced content going forward, isn’t it?

They’ll pretend it’s new, but it will have been in front of our eyes all along.


By far the biggest time-sink we have established in this game is the artwork, far and away the longest aspect to get right and then place. Once upon a time Instanced content was pretty much separate from the gaming world too: Naxx in Vanilla was a floating palace for a reason, AQ40 was underground so they didn’t need to worry about providing space to accommodate it, but I’m pretty certain (and someone nerdier than me will be along shortly to refute/confirm this) it was not until Cataclysm that AQ20 was actually placed in geographical context with a map to mesh with the instance site. Then we started to see proper external representations of instances that had previously only been suggested: Zul’Gurub springs to mind as a place that now existed in two places simultaneously. This set a precedent I’m only now beginning to fully grasp.

The Nightmare is, I now realise, incredibly clever design, because I’m fairly certain pretty much everything in this instance is built on content that existed somewhere else.


Only now do I grasp that the fight before Xavius (Cenarius) is a corrupted version of an existing zone. I wanted to check I was right, and so went searching on the Interwebs and was then quietly staggered at what I found:


From Wowpedia

Because I haven’t immersed myself 24/7 in Raiding minutiae I’d never put the pieces together, that the future is telling stories in constantly redefined versions of the Old World. That in essence is all Timewalking is about, when all is said and done, you’re playing the EXACT same content, just with a twist. I’m betting therefore when the Nighthold opens in January, that’s basically just Suramar City, with other bits bolted on if required. There I was wondering why so much effort had been put into the details, and it is because you’re going to be raiding IN THE EXACT SAME PLACES. I’d also like to hazard a guess and think that the twisted, corrupted stump of the World Tree in Val’Sharah is the site now of an uncorrupted Emerald Dream, but I can’t go there. All those messages I get when get too close to that location on the Broken Isles and then am ported out is to maintain that illusion. Assuming these deductions are correct? THIS IS BRILLIANT.

Why did I not grasp this earlier?


There’s one TINY problem here. I’m with the player up top who zoned into that fight and stated ‘well, this is shit.’ Xavius is possibly the most underwhelming end instance fight I have ever encountered in twelve years. I don’t give a flying fuck about your clever mechanics, if I spend the entire fight with nothing but mist as distraction, your reveal is utterly flat, dull and quite depressing, if truth be told. A cinematic at Xavius death, honestly, would have made the absolute WORLD of difference and yet I’ll guess you ran out of time, or deemed it unnecessary, or possibly decided that because they can be datamined, you’d forgo it. We seem now to have forgone the element of depth and care in raiding, and all that matters is getting a kill shot with the boss and moving onto the next tier of difficulty. The ONLY REASON I would have to go back to this boss ever again would be for loot, and as we’ve established I don’t give a flying fuck about that anyway?


This is what game launch raiding could be in the future, I suspect. When everyone is distracted by the shiny of an awesome new zone, there is really no need to then spend extra months artworking and designing Instanced content when your data shows you no-one will be running it as soon as you give them something better to do. You just recycle the new stuff at origin, and everyone’s perfectly prepared to accept this as ‘new’ anyway. Those of us who still do Legacy Instances not just for the loot but to lose ourselves in the amazement and wonder of the unique worlds that were created will make that face above at the Legion stuff and then decide whether it’s worth farming anything when the time comes.

There’s another key point to make here about the Nightmare, and it is to do with the reaction content gets from players as much as the importance of a ‘unique’ experience. This version of the concept is not one person’s unique vision, it uses well-established and much loved parts of the existing game world in a way that allows not simply a link with the past, but relevance to the present. You could call it brilliant design, but in effect it’s the safe route because it relies on what is currently available, and what people already know. It’s the equivalent of rebottling your Coke with a name on it. The contents are exactly the same, it’s just different labelling. It’s what Nintendo have done for decades with Mario, and what Hollywood does with well-established themes.

Really, there is nothing to see here.


Except, when you’ve been around long enough to remember what it was like when you saw Onyxia for the first time (less is more on the instance design there) or the sheer blind terror of Karazhan’s hugeness when you needed 10 people to complete it, there are two schools of thought. If, like my husband, you don’t care about the backdrop and all that matters is how the boss gets to 0 HP with everyone alive, you could fight in the equivalent of the Holodeck forever and it wouldn’t matter one iota. It is only people like me who consider Azeroth as a living, breathing novel who have a problem, and as less and less of those people play the game? Does it really matter you don’t have a sweeping backdrop everywhere? Absolutely not. If you wanted a way to speed up development times, make more money and produce more of the stuff people actually want?


That’s the last paragraph here, not the one before. We have more content than many massagers can be vibrated at, more immersion in places that we never had before, and if the casualty of that is your background? I’m betting I will be a very, VERY small minority who stares at the king and points and then laughs because he’s completely naked. Having a long memory is often a disadvantage, but sometimes I’d like to think that remembering how things were before revisionist history got its hands on it is a good thing. If ActiBlizz couldn’t get me into raiding with the big production numbers of Warlords, they’re sure as fuck not pulling me there with Suramar. It may look beautiful, but it’s a poisoned chalice of hate for someone with latency and nowhere near a top of the range rig. No matter, I got my quest item, so I can continue the bit of Legion I’m here for.

This revelation gives me much to think about, so that’s no bad thing either.

10 thoughts on “The Reflex

  1. If that’s correct, then we had precedent for it in patch 4.3. A total of three instances used the Wyrmrest Temple and its surroundings, the Old God maws had previously been established in quest zones, the Skyfire had been the Skybreaker before and the Eye of Eternity is what it is. Similarly, Firelands and Throne of Thunder were used for additional non-raid content during their respective patches.

    As for Nighthold, I expect it to be similar to the Hellfire Citadel raid, Mogu’shan Vaults or Tomb of Sargeras. (Think, I read statements implying such.) We’ll start in familiar territory (in front of the Tomb, in the outer zone of HFC, in the centre of Suramar – that thing there pointing to the sea) and then advance into true dungeon stuff.

    And absolutely in opposition to many other people I think that’s a great thing. I don’t have a far-reaching desire to see new worlds again and again, but am more interested in seeing existing things evolve and move on. Of course, I was fascinated by Middle Earth but the novel left me wondering what the Fourth Era would be like. For me, fiction is a lot about dealing with progress, and cause and effect. Discovering new worlds is great, but it would be much better to also see the discovery’s effect on the already existing part afterwards.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I absolutely agree. That’s what I was always saying in the debate about “rehashed” content. Okay, it allows designers to “lazily” re-use their graphical assets, but tell me, how can you show evolution of existing world without being able to re-use said assets. It’s like sampling and remixes in the world of music – it is its own type of art, not laziness. Plus it makes sense, if Emerald Dream is a blueprint of our world, then the nightmare is the corrupt version of that world. It’s basically three layers of the same thing.

      Personally I was really impressed when in corrupted Mulgore you look up and see a twisted version of Thunder Bluff – that took some effort to create! BUT you have to take the effort to point your camera upwards and look into the distance, otherwise you’ll never see it!


  2. Ahh the city. And I did say that in my Eddie Izzard voice the way he reference San Francisco.

    My PC is less than a year old. It is only set up to play WoW. I am one notch below Ultra, and in most places run about 90 FPS. And for me that has played on out of the box machines since I started always at rock bottom low settings, seeing blades of grass still amazes me.

    The city has a few things I’ve noticed that may contribute to problems.

    There are guards. Guards every where. Yo Dawg, we heard you like guards, so we gave you guards on your guards. They all follow assigned routes, all have built in detection that is constantly scanning. And every NPC has two modes, neutral and enemy.

    The city is built on the city is built on the city is built on the city of rock and roll. When you are there every day, follow set routes to get from here to there, you pick up on the fact it’s changing as your point in the story develops. I see more Withered attacking on the perimeter, and fewer guards or citizens, someone else beside me at a different point sees what I did 3 weeks ago.

    And there is phasing afoot. There are entire sections that could be phased depending on completing a few quests. Where I can drive through an area and suddenly everything is gone if I am grouped with someone further behind, but turn a corner and bam, you are on top of a patrol and fighting for your life.

    Add into all that and your theory about the raid? There is a metric butt ton of data going on in there.

    I remember the bad times in Dalaran. The 2FPS run across town. I can sympathize if you are even remotely experiencing that.


  3. I agree with you that Xavius is a pure 100% letdown when it comes down to both the fight as the graphics.
    And even the top 5 myhic guilds say the same, EN simply based on difficulty should have ended at Cenarius. Xavius is in my personal opinion worse then even Ra-Den back in ToT.

    As a beta tester I can say that Nighthold is indeed a continuation of Suramar however it is so much more you start in an area more or less the same as you do your city quests, court of stars, arcway in and progress to what lies beyond.


  4. My thought on Xavius’ hovel:

    It’s the Emerald Nightmare, where life has become corrupted, decaying and dying. It has infested the Emerald Dream and has seeped into the real world below Shaladrassil.

    By the time we get to the Rift of Aln, the heart of the corruption itself, the Rift is so dead, so barren, so void of any and all life that it is just that: a rift in the dream.

    It’s (IMO) like that, so barren and void of anything resembling life on Azeroth, that when we do kill Xavius and cleanse the corruption, it juxtapositions thematically and perfectly with the cleansed Emerald Dream itself. And when we do cleanse it we see the vibrant, lush, life filled Dream as it had been and will forever be once more.

    My 2c :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also really liked the Xavius fight area. I think, if you take the effort (again) to immerse yourself in it, it can be a truly frightening experience (which is hard to do, in a game like WoW IMO). The madness inducing endlessness of it, the dark infinite emptiness…. and ouf that emptiness you see forms emerge. Now, how the waves upon waves of mobs emerge from the mist is in itself really interesting, as it’s not just models suddenly appearing (like, say, Tribunal of Ages in Halls of Stone), but you first see dark vague shapes in the distance that get clearer as they get closer and closer, it’s absolutely intense! But again, you don’t really see it if you don’t pay attention and point your camera on the ground, like raiders tend to do.


  5. They did some of this back in Mists of Pandaria too – I think the majority of the Pandaria-sited dungeons were explorable while not in the instance, and there were even quest lines that sent you into the Temple of the Jade Serpent and (I think) Stormstout Brewery, which I thought was nice.

    I don’t think “Suramar City but a raid” will be the Nighthold – both because (as you’ve probably seen), the ongoing Suramar story is identifying the promontory as the Nighthold, and because Suramar is already instanced content – the Court of Stars seems to re-use the eastern Elite-filled part of that zone of the same name.


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