I noticed a column on WoWinsider – where I find many interesting ideas that get my imagination going – about whether there will ever be a World of Warcraft 2. http://wow.joystiq.com/2012/09/10/do-we-need-a-world-of-warcraft-ii/

We’ve just had Guild Wars 2, and there was once an Everquest 2. Is a bona fide sequel likely or even needed for WoW?

One thing that people tend to bang on about concerning WoW is the game engine and the quality of the graphics. I don’t think it’s relevant to compare WoW’s unique ‘look’ to any other game. There are plenty that go for a more realistic appearance, the new Guild Wars among them, but WoW has never pretended to be anything other than what it is; quite stylised with a ‘look’ of its own and, well frankly a bit cartoony. The game has professed to be friendly to those with less than top of the range computers, although as time goes on, that statement is starting to look a bit wobbly. There are at least two people in our guild who will face problems with running Mists on their machines. So if WoW is going to go that way – and no one who’s visited the Beta can deny the new graphics for Mists are gorgeous – why not go the whole hog?

My take on it is that Blizzard has lots of mileage yet in the lore of Azeroth. (This is not about raiding, before anyone calls me on that; it’s about the world of Warcraft.) It gets ever more complicated with a cast of thousands, and people into fantasy love that kind of complexity and depth. You only have to look at the success of fantasy series like A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin to see that. There are heaps of lengthy fantasy series, (some of better quality than others), but sometimes an author gets it right and ends up with ‘fans for life’; people who are really into their created world. WoW shares this feature. There are novels and comics as spin offs. There is also the much discussed possibility of a movie. The lore continues in the stories that are ‘off stage’ and sometimes those stories are brought into the game also. That is a living, dynamic fantasy world.

WoW has been a victim of its own success in many ways. As one commentator mentioned on WoWinsider, it might be that even Blizzard themselves are astonished at, or were at least unprepared for, the longevity of the game. Is it possible they envisaged at least a slight tailing off by now? And yet the game is still going strong, and I’m quite sure that come Mists it will be even stronger.

As a Blue Poster (or Blizzard employee) said in response to a question about the possibility of a WoW 2, it would be more likely the world of Azeroth would simply continue to be explored through content patches, with updates to the technical aspects as part of that. That to me would make sense. Yes, there are areas that blatantly need attention (characters models, anyone?), but these could be attended to within the game we have now. I don’t see a need for a WoW 2; just an update on certain technical aspects of the game.

 I never played Everquest, so am not in the position to discuss what Everquest 2 must have felt like to its players. All I can say, once being a devotee of Guild Wars 1, is that Guild Wars 2 is a strange animal in some respects, but not in a bad way. It’s set on the same planet. I’ve found myself looking for landmarks in the world, such as the city of Ascalon. I found its ruins, and the race now fighting to reclaim it from its swarming and aggressive ghosts are the Charr, who were once its sworn foes. GW2 is almost like a post-holocaust story. The world is very much changed. It seems a long way in the future of the lore I remember. Humans have lost their hold, and other races, such as the Charr, are now staking claim to territory.  There are familiar markers – an outpost with the same name, a field, a river – but then nothing is the same as well. I’ve been walking through the Shiverpeaks, where I once spent a lot of time, but the winds and snows have scoured everything away. It’s a new landscape now, and new people live within it. Just here and there is a remnant of the past. This in itself demonstrates the emotional impact of a game world, a virtual world. I once spent a lot of time in Tyria. Now, I feel like a visitor, when once I was a resident. Perhaps, with time, I will feel at home there again.

These aspects and experiences for the player work well in the new Tyria, simply because the story (and change) feels credible, but I don’t think such a future would work as well for Azeroth. We already have a host of races in WoW with a huge history. It wasn’t like there were ever only just humans, as there was in Tyria. The Charr have come a long way from the primitive creatures they were in GW1. Arriving in Tyria now, with a memory of its original, you get a sense of much time having passed and cultures evolving. There were no Asura on Tyria before – the equivalent of Gnomes with their bizarre technology – and no Silvari, that we knew of. This world you tumble into now is a new place, but with a history. Azeroth already has that history. What exists is more than enough to build upon and evolve. Unless Blizzard really wanted to overturn the cart, and do rather more than just a cataclysm. A Complete Undoing. A new world arising from that, with new races, new mutations, new alliances and so on. But really, is that needed?  There are so many directions the current story could take. There could be a shifting in alliances, new factions arising, different politics. Cold Wars, espionage, fragile connections, betrayals and dooms. And whatever naysayers might claim, the reappearance of old lore figures would be greeted rather than deplored. If it went to a vote, how many would want Illidan back as a major player, and not just a memory from the past?

Again, I can’t speak for Everquest, but what I’ve seen in GW2 is an epic reimagining that brings Tyria up to the standards of other MMO virtual worlds. It had its limitations before, but I love the way the developers have kept a ghost of that past in the new world. I’m sure as I explore, like an archaeologist, I will find many other familiar, if time-eroded, sites. I think WoW is doing fine as it is, and I feel confident its deficiencies will be addressed for as long as it continues to be popular. Eventually, something else will come along, whether Blizzard’s new MMO Titan, or something that zaps like a meteor out of left field. For now I think we have a lot to be pleased about on the MMO scene; more than a few good games around, some of which will survive longer than others. But you can bet for sure that WoW will be one of the survivors.