The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities
April 24, 2014 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Travels in the empty cities of World of Warcraft.
posted by Chrysostom (40 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Reminiscent of Myst's Uru.

Also, way to screw with Delany fans. My heart skipped a beat reading the title of the FPP hoping what it might be about.
posted by aught at 1:30 PM on April 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, it just seemed a resonant title for the linked piece. Sorry about that.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:32 PM on April 24, 2014

Exodar is mostly abandoned on every server, but Silvermoon is a bustling metropolis on RP servers and a good place for random conversations or impromptu performances. I'm rather fond of the place.
posted by honestcoyote at 1:36 PM on April 24, 2014

And before Exodar and Silvermoon, there was Silithus. Back before they rejiggered 1-60, it was worth hitting it for a few quests especially if you hated plague zones, and you would often be the only person in the entire zone. Just you, and the endless buzzing of giant insects.
posted by tavella at 1:42 PM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I often find myself in Silvermoon because it's so beautiful and peaceful. The music is calming too.
posted by MsVader at 1:42 PM on April 24, 2014

Beautiful, peaceful and just the right whiff of military dictatorship.
posted by dobie at 1:48 PM on April 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

The first article in the series, on emptiness in Myst and Riven, is also worth a read.
posted by echo target at 1:50 PM on April 24, 2014

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Hyrule field.
posted by bleep-blop at 2:20 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I guess I'll stop thinking "Who the fuck would care about this?" next time I have a similar idea to write about *grumble grumble*
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 2:24 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is also a little unnerving to see Shat so empty. That place use to be THE SPOT.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 2:26 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I quit WoW more than 5 years ago. In fact, it will be 6 years this May.

Now I want to reinstall it, just to see the dead cities.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:29 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Now I want to reinstall it, just to see the dead cities.

I’ve never played it, and now I want to just to see the dead cities.
posted by bongo_x at 3:05 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Dead cities are all well and good, but my fondest memories of WoW are all about swimming around the entire continents (or leaping up entire mountain ranges) looks for caves and stuff with nothing in the them. There was some really cool stuff you could find (for certain values of cool) just by poking around.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:15 PM on April 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

The misery of ursus_comiter being reminded that Delany will never finish The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities.
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:26 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always used to hang out in Darnassus, back when I played Alliance, because I had this laptop from 2005 and it was 2008. I, uh, was that guy who always wants to be summoned instead of running to the dungeon.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:07 PM on April 24, 2014

Talk about timing:

So I downloaded WoW and the client. If I don't log in until tomorrow, it will be 6 years on the dot from the day I quit, back in 2008. I even created a new account - new beginnings, after all.

Time to wander through the ghostlands of former virtual metropolises.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:00 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I quit right before the Pandas arrived. I miss my mage...

Silver moon was pretty, but hard to navigate. Shat was the new Ironforge...

Exodar was always pretty, but very useful. Had to go there to level up jewel crafting though IIRC.
posted by Windopaene at 5:35 PM on April 24, 2014

Reminiscent of Myst's Uru.

Uru, and the (now, really) deserted city is available (free!), still online, still beautiful and haunting... after a long and strange history, Cyan Worlds just started hosting the servers and letting people donate to support it if they wanted to.
posted by emmet at 5:54 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

The problem with expansions is every new zone is forced to adhere to an overarching theme with questing content in every corner. Blizzard is aware of this with the secret spots added in pandaland and in many of the projected changes for WoD, but I'm not sure anything will match the unintended beauty of my favorite remote vanilla zones like Felwood, Winterspring, and Stonetalon Mountains.

This post explains the appeal - good timing!
posted by gorbweaver at 7:47 PM on April 24, 2014

For a long time I kept my auctioneer in Silvermoon because the bank and auction house were right next to each other. I eventually switched to The Undercity, but I can't remember why.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:15 PM on April 24, 2014

It's 30 years ago that I first heard and hoped for the resolution, or at least the continuation, of the story that began in Stars in My Pockets like Grains of Sand.

Oh well. Dead cities, then.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:16 PM on April 24, 2014

Dead Cities.
posted by homunculus at 10:41 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really liked this article because it gets the appeal that the game had had for me for some time (I've played off and on, and coincidentally re-upped a few weeks ago): just exploring, and especially finding the hidden spots that represented places that the developers had started but left unfinished, and had closed off but were still accessible by certain tricks==places like Old Ironforge and the Ironforge Airfield, which now are open to anyone. There wasn't much there, of course, but it scratched that urban exploration itch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:03 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Odd. I've found that it's really quite hard to find solitude in WoW these days, what with them bringing in players from other servers to fill the empty space. When they started doing that is about when I stopped subscribing - I enjoy the game, but I detest the other players.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:45 PM on April 24, 2014

Are dead cities on active MMORPGs just a natural part of progress? Or might it indicate something fundamentally wrong with a game?

The only MMORPG I've played is Minecraft: adult servers only, Aporkalypse and now Wooden Axe, both of which have very large worlds with actual cities and towns. I've noticed on both servers that they flourish for perhaps weeks to a few months and then they die out. I guess there must be a finite limit to the amount of satisfaction and activities a single spot can provide, and when that's drained and nobody's hanging around town, players move on to find new experiences. I'm not sure if this has to be the natural order of things. Working on city/locale dynamics would help different areas develop their own history and traditions rather than being just another cookie cutter project that goes dormant.

Maybe what works for Minecraft wouldn't work with WoW, I don't know, but I do find virtual cities interesting in their own way and likewise there is something kind of awesome about exploring the lost alleys and tunnels in a city that was thriving once in 2011 but has faded away as a footnote in the server's history. It always brings back "memories of the old days". As MMORPGs mature in the 2020s and 2030s and get linked up to Oculus Rifts and other immersive technologies, I wonder if we'll have communities in much more permanent virtual cities (or city starships) that essentially replace the real-life neighborhood outside. Maybe that will be the new Facebook and LinkedIn.
posted by crapmatic at 11:50 PM on April 24, 2014

The thing about cities in Minecraft is that there's really nothing to do in a city in Minecraft. If you're in a city in an MMO, you might be hanging around the Auction House, or trying to put together a group, or showing off your phat lewts, or working on your crafting, or trying to find a buyer or seller for an item or items. In Minecraft, though, there's not really a reason to be doing anything other than mining or building, and number one, once you finish a project you tend to move on, and number two, MeFighters at least tend to like isolated locations far away from other build sites. So while Aporkalypticans might come together to build a city, they'll generally move on elsewhere once it's built.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:54 AM on April 25, 2014

Isn't this costing the people who own the WoW and its servers money? All that cpu power and memory for a beautiful yet dead city? Or am I missing something?
posted by marienbad at 3:30 AM on April 25, 2014

marienbad, the rationale the developers use is that it costs them significant resources to update zones. It comes at the expense of their ability to add new content that players want to see. Unless updates engage their player base developers feel their time is better spent adding new content. The expansion that was largely focused on updating the world to improve the flow and rework areas (Cataclysm) is widely seen as the least satisfying one, and as a step back.

There are new technologies that combines realms in real-time so that zones that have lower populations are balanced across multiple servers. This results in having the world seem more full. Before this technology is was possible to make the game economy work in your favour because there was less competition for rare items and resources.
posted by dobie at 3:50 AM on April 25, 2014

"Are dead cities on active MMORPGs just a natural part of progress? Or might it indicate something fundamentally wrong with a game?"

I think the genre is so young that we don't know. WoW has been the king for a long time, and redefined and refined so many aspects of genre, that it's sui generis. Nothing else has the arc of success, or life cycle, or history.

I haven't played at all for over a year now, and hadn't played regularly in years when I finally cancelled my account last July. (I'd been paying them $14.95 a month since the game launched!)

I'd held on to play in the new expansion with the Pandaren, but found it less immersive and fun than I'd remembered. When I leveled my first characters, the process felt organic and almost real. Exploring Teldrassil was a sublime experience!

But in their haste to rush everyone to the endgame, the quests turned to rote tasks. You need much less help to level now, which means there's much less of a need for cooperation and ad hoc grouping. I guess it's more fun this way for some players -- and certainly helps fuel the endgame progressions that the hardcore players love, and on which Blizz has traditionally worked very hard -- but for a casual like me it made the whole world less attractive.

The abandonment of some cities is just one aspect of this.

If I'm honest, I admit I miss it. I doubt I'll have the kind of experience with a game again that I had with WoW from 2004 until probably 2010. To call it merely fun is to understate by orders of magnitude.
posted by uberchet at 8:42 AM on April 25, 2014

Kind of an interesting related concept for some of us. Especially those of us who like games, like this little universe, like the type of dungeon crawling MMORPGs offer... and still subscribe to the "hell is other people" philosophy.

"Blizzard silenced Hearthstone players, and it made the game amazing"
posted by jph at 12:06 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

crapmatic: “Are dead cities on active MMORPGs just a natural part of progress? Or might it indicate something fundamentally wrong with a game?”
In WoW and similar games, I think it's just part of the natural ebb and flow.

Players are going to select the city that is most convenient for them. In most cases that means they're going to chose as a home base whichever city has the shortest trip between bank, auction house, and crafting areas. Secondary to that is going to be transportation options. There was a time when access to adventuring areas played a part, but with the rise of the Looking for Group tool, that doesn't matter as much as it used to.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:26 PM on April 25, 2014

Ironforge stayed decently popular up until the time I quit mainly because of the extremely easy paths to everything useful.
posted by tavella at 1:56 PM on April 25, 2014

There was a time in the middle period of my WoW career when I avoided cities entirely; the high populations there made visits pretty unpleasant on the hardware I had at the time.

This got better as the hardware got better -- which is itself a weird thing to say, and a testament to WoW's longevity; what other games hang out long enough to benefit from multiple sets of consumer hardware? -- but also because Blizz put auction houses in places other than Ironforge and Orgrimmar.
posted by uberchet at 2:01 PM on April 25, 2014

Well, back in 2004, I could install and play WoW with no problems on my 2002 12" Macbook.

Today, the install is freaking out that my 2013 13" MacBook Air running Mavericks only has a 1.8 CPU, instead of the 2.2 CPU recommended for minimum play quality. It gave me a warning, and needed me to authorize it to go ahead and install anyways.

My, this is going to be fun! FOR THE HORDE.
posted by spinifex23 at 7:08 PM on April 25, 2014

I doubt I'll ever spend too much time or money on an MMO in any serious way but I love reading about the weird little narratives and unexpected situations that arise from them. It makes me wonder what a game would be like that thought of this in advance because high fantasy urban decay will hook me ten times out of ten. I might think about subscribing to a WoW that allowed its cities to compete, stagnate and crumble. What a great setup for tons of tense scenarios!

A war between nations of fantasy creatures has raged for centuries and the scope of the conflict changes every time a new plane of reality becomes involved. The war moves, trade moves, new magic and technology enter the mix, populations shift and cities that used to be important become meaningless. You think missing out on a big railroad line stunts a city's growth; what happens when the town up the road gets the Hall of Teleporting Mirrors What happens to the potioner when the tourists stop coming round to explore the local ruins? If man and orc make peace, how many blacksmiths does that put out of business? What kind of quests do hungry, angry, increasingly hopeless NPCs need done?

The fantasy RPG I dream about acknowledges the effect of routine dragon attacks on property value and consequences to the surrounding area if some wayward adventurer floods the local market with dozens of gently used steel swords.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:19 PM on April 25, 2014

Not for nothing, but if MeFites wanted to create a crowd playing on some given server, I'd be in for sure.

My WoW history is defined by "start, play, advance, get bored, slow down, start over because $friend wants to play".
posted by uberchet at 7:56 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

To tell you the truth, I'll probably just use my account for roaming around, and to practice non-intrusive botting. Which - sure. That can get me banned, but it is a throwaway account, and I just want to see what it's like.

I'm totally willing to join a server/side (Horde please!) as long as there's no expectation of me doing anything actually useful.

The 'dead cities', BTW, seem to be on the Blood Elf and the Draenei (?) sides. I really REALLY love the Blood Elves....
posted by spinifex23 at 8:29 PM on April 25, 2014

If anyone wants to actually get together and do this, I have a Level 2 Blood Elf Warlock on the nearly dead PVP server Alterac Mountains.

His name is Issaquah.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:10 AM on April 26, 2014

So, I've been playing on the PVP server Alterac Mountains for a week now, both Horde (Blood Elf) and Alliance (Gnome). Maybe it's because I picked a low pop server to begin with, or that I'm playing on a free trial account, or both - but everywhere I've went, it's desolate. The chat channels, even General, are just empty. I don't even see other players around; I can spend 20-30 minutes questing in some random section before I see another player. There's a few more people in Ironforge, but still - no talk at all.

It's sort of like playing a single player game. Or wandering through a ghost town.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:53 AM on May 1, 2014

Right now the rush from Mists of Pandaria is over. The last patch of the expansion has come and gone, and now WoW is in the long doldrum between the boost that comes with every patch and the boost that comes with every new expansion. It was like this in mid-2008 before Wrath came out, it was like this in mid-2010 after Wrath had wound down and before Cataclysm came out, and it was like this for a good chunk of 2012 before Pandaria. Come back at the end of December and WoW will be hopping again, since Warlords of Draenor comes out December 20th.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:30 AM on May 1, 2014

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