One of the things that Mists of Pandaria
has really brought home for me is how time progresses in a persistent world. World of Warcraft
is now 8 years old, and certain locations like Stratholme, Molten Core, and Darnassus have existed for the entirety of that eight years. Still other places introduced at the time of the game's launch have changed dramatically, or even been removed entirely. A great deal of the world itself has been remodeled as time has progressed - The Burning Crusade
added new islands off the coast of Kalimdor, Wrath of the Lich King
changed the plaguelands by adding a whole new coastline to the area, and Cataclysm
reshaped both continents. This doesn't even take into account adding whole swaths of explorable content like Outland, Northrend, Deepholm or now Pandaria itself. And Mists of Pandaria
has advanced the story of World of Warcraft
in ways that changed everything, from the removal of Theramore to the coming war of patch 5.1 between Alliance and Horde.
Interestingly, the persistent world of the setting persists through
these changes, or more accurately, it persists because
of them. Not only do they provide impetus for our adventures, they also contrast what we've come to know with what is new and unknown to us. Pandaria's secrets draw us deeper into exploring what was, to us, a forgotten land, and in so doing make the world we've already known continue. Anyone who leveled before Cataclysm
and then leveled a character after
it can attest to the wide variety of changes to the world, and anyone exploring that world on a new pandaren or monk is benefiting from those changes. But those changes work entirely because they're changes to
the world we've already come to know. We care about Pandaria because it's a new place, yes, but we also care about it because it's a mirror through which we can see ourselves, our characters, our factions. We bring the World of Warcraft
we've known for years to its shores.