In the real world, neighborhoods and cities grow and change. As the years go on, progress or decay take over, affecting change in one form or another.
However, when it comes to World of Warcraft, not so much. Entire cities live in WoW but, aside from the NPC’s, can be entirely empty. Cities that were once the hub of player activity are now abandoned, but all of the inns stay open, all the trainers keep waiting to train and the flightmasters stay at their posts.
Welcome to the ghost lands of the World of Warcraft (not to be confused with the Ghostlands which is, however, often empty these days as well.)
The AV Club’s Samantha Nelson wrote a very cool take on this phenomenon and how it sometimes feels as a player:
These are perfectly preserved digital spaces, so unlike Detroit, they show no physical symptoms of their abandonment. But they are spaces designed for hundreds where it’s possible to wander the streets without seeing a single other player. Computer-controlled characters will still cheerily train you in a new skill or peruse your wares, but the cities still feel desolate.
I go anyway. The emptiness feels appropriate in a place like Silvermoon. I imagine that the haughty Blood Elves discourage the other races from coming to their home. On the rare occasions when another player can be seen wandering the city’s streets, it’s almost always another elf. Maybe they’re drawn back by an appreciation for the space’s beauty. Without other players to distract you by dancing naked or generally bustling around the screen, a visitor can admire details like self-sweeping brooms and golems on patrol. These are the sights that make the place beautiful and magical—and slightly ominous.
I like how Samantha explains it. There’s something really cool and somehow strange about being in cities like Shattrath these days. Even Dalaran is almost entirely devoid of people. Not that I mind that. The lag there used to be stupid when it was the main city for level 70 players. But it’s still strange to be there. Wandering around, realizing that this place you used to frequent daily has been passed by and pretty much forgotten.
Maybe the Warcraft devs will update these cities some day. For now, they remain a place stuck in the past, frozen in time.