Have you ever wondered what happens to the Olympic villages after the Olympics leave town? After only a month of use all those glitzy venues shut down – many for good, and are quickly forgotten. The Athens 2004 Olympic Village was considered to be in disrepair by 2008. The idyllic Beijing facilities are going the same way. These “ruins” around the world serve as a memory of something that was all too brief. You may be wondering how this Olympic mumbo-jumbo has anything to do with WoW. Well, after six years of gameplay WoW has its own relics of half implemented oft forgotten ideas strewn around the world as well.
Just last week Blizzard announced that the long anticipated Path of the Titans and guild talent trees had both been chopped from the list of features to be included in Cataclysm. Path of the Titans was going to be a new leveling mechanic at 85 – a sort of novel glyph system that allowed you to personalize your character by imbuing it with special abilities based on which Titan’s path your character had decided to follow. Think of it as a cult that hands out glyphs to all its members. Well like a lot of cults this one didn’t quite work out. Blizzard axed the feature saying that they were afraid that it would simply add another min/max feature to character building at a time when they are trying to remove many. The second canceled feature of Cataclysm is the guild talent tree. Guild leveling is here to stay – just the tree is being pruned. As it was originally described guild talent trees would function much like character talent trees; every level a guild attained it would receive a point to be placed in a single tree that contained a variety of special features the guild could utilize. That tree is dead; instead Blizzard has replaced the tree with passive rewards that guilds will obtain upon leveling. Let us observe a moment of silence for the guild drama about talent points that will never be.
These were features that never went active; they will be quickly forgotten and will vanish without a trace in game – kind of like Brittany Spears from pop culture. There are, however, many other things that remain unfinished in WoW that will never be forgotten – like Michael Jackson’s career in pop culture. These remnants of partially implemented zones and dungeons hang around in game like ruins of developer ideas and are interesting to speculate on what they might have been. Perhaps the most noticeable is the Stormwind Vault – no not the stockades, the Vault. In addition to the shortest easiest instance in the game, Stormwind was supposed to have featured a raid instance! It’s true – you can still see the entrance to where it would have opened up in the canals across from the Stockades. It even had a loading screen and floor plan included in the game’s files. Unfortunately it seems like we will never see the inside of Stormwind Vault. I think it eventually was scrapped and the idea used to create Violet Hold in Dalaran.
Next up on our tour of the forgotten realms of WoW is Azjol-Nerub. And yes, I am aware that it’s actually an instance and does exist in the game. But if you have ever fought through Azjol-Nerub or the Old Kingdom you have probably gotten the sense that there should be more. Our paths through those instances seem oddly constrained in comparison to the massive scope of the underground caverns. That was not by design, at least not initially. During the development of WotLK, they actually planned on fleshing out the massive underground kingdom of the spider-people as a whole zone. Unfortunately it never came to pass, the spider-people were relegated to a paltry two instances, and many players were left wondering what rent must be like in Northrend if a whole civilization had to live in the equivalent of a studio apartment.
Lastly there are actually a lot of ruins strewn around Azeroth that are finally set to see life for the first time with the new expansion. Do you really think that Blizzard planned on leaving Mount Hyjal empty this long? Mount Hyjal was the equivalent of that one line on your tax form that you really don’t know how to fill in so you just leave it blank until you absolutely need to do something with it. When they decided that Cataclysm was going to revamp the Old World they realized that they had to incorporate Hyjal – it couldn’t continue to sit empty. I would hate to be the designer that got asked to find the folder with the ideas on Hyjal from 2003. Ugh. Uldum is another example of a relic that is getting some life – how long ago did we get the quests to go to the gates? That was like 2004 – even the dwarves have lost interest. (Actually I think that quest might still be in my log – I saved it.) These abandoned, sometimes refurbished, easter eggs of past developer ideas are all over Azeroth and Outlands. Whether intended or not these relics add a little charm to the game, something accidental, but cool nonetheless. Something that you can’t plan into a game: a bit of nostalgia perhaps for what might have been. So next time you are strolling through Stormwind take a peek at the Vault with its two lonely guards outside – they will appreciate it.