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New Mechanics for an aging game?
Over the years, World of Warcraft has been continuously evolving. For a game that has been out over 4 years, this means the developers have had to invest a lot of time into finding new ways to make things seem "new" still, and not just "oh good, time to go kill 100 more monsters so nothing happens around us and we get a few levels", or "Time to go into a dungeon to grind reputation".
With Wrath of the Lich King around the corner, Blizzard has added more new mechanics to keep the game fresh. Some were being experimented on during The Burning Crusade, and some are all-new for Wrath of the Lich King. We will focus on three of the major changes occurring in a month: Phasing, Championing, and Vehicular Combat.
The Lich King will "phase" out once some storyline happens, in the Death Knight starter area.
Phasing has been around in World of Warcraft for a long while. The most recent example of it would be the occupation of the Island of Quel'Danas, and how it went through phases. Each phase would add more NPCs and change the buildings to be friendly instead of enemy-controlled, by adding some scripts server-side, players transitioned from one phase to the next quickly and would see immediate results in their world without going through the process of going into any instanced zones.
Phasing plays a major role in many of Wrath of the Lich King's environments. The first example of a better implemented phasing technique is in the Death Knight starter zone. You begin with the scourge building overlooking a Scarlet camp, and your superiors ordering you to go and attack the town. As soon as you complete several quests, especially those that take you into Acherus for further instructions, your entire world around you begins to change, letting you see more advanced scenery as soon as you set foot back outside Acherus.
As soon as you exit, you see the scourge gaining ground and more NPCs having different quests for you. This is just one example of Phasing. The others mentioned are the occupation of Icecrown, and how little by little you will be able to help your faction claim more and more terrain in the Lich King's grounds. This will be done in the Island of Quel'danas style.
Phasing can also be used in dungeons, and is already part of some of Wrath's contents - with this technology, storytelling and feeling like you're an agent of change for once in the World, something players have complained for the longest time and now is finally possible with this technology.
No more grinding rep the old way!
Championing is another new addition to the Wrath of the Lich King experience - it will allow you to earn reputation with the major Northrend factions without ever needing to grind certain types of monsters like in The Burning Crusade!
Vehicles that destroy buildings are introduced
During the Burning Crusade, we had to visit Hellfire Citadel for Thrallmar/Honor Hold reputation, Coilfang Reservoir for Cenarion Expedition reputation, Auchindoun for Lower City reputation, Tempest Keep for Sha'tar reputation, among others like Caverns of Time for their own reputation.
Noticing this, Blizzard added a new system called Championing to help the players earn their reputations faster than usual - going into any dungeon, you will gain reputation with those whose tabard you're fighting on. Yes, Tabards are actually useful now!
You may obtain reputation for 4 major factions while championing their Tabards - The Argent Crusade, the Kirin Tor, the Knights of the Ebon Blade, and the Wyrmrest Accord.
Naturally, for you to obtain their tabards, you will need to be Friendly with these factions. You won't be earning any sort of reputation for any run in Northrend if you don't wear a Tabard, so this is a big deal for those who wanted their reputation grinds to be more manageable.
Reputation Gains are as follows:
Normal Trash: 0 rep
Heroic Trash: 1-2 rep
Normal Elite Trash: 5 rep
Heroic Elite Trash: 15 rep
Super Monster Trash: 10 rep (think Arcane Sentries in Magisters' Terrace)
Heroic Super Monster Trash: 30 rep
Boss kill: 50 rep
Heroic Boss kill: 250 rep.
In the PvP side of things, vehicles that do damage are the newest additions to the game. You may jump into some of these easily without any cast bars, and you can do damage to enemy buildings while inside of one. Not only that, someone else can drive while you fight from ontop your vehicle if it's got capabilities for more than 1 person!
As a sidenote, you may also ferry friends around with certain special mounts added in Wrath. For the small cost of 15,000 gold, you can carry up to 3 people on a ground mount. If you're going alone, these spots are filled by vendor NPC's. Sweet deal, eh?