I'm not a Biologist, but my understanding of evolution is that things change and grow. Certain species die off, to be replaced by newer ones better suited to the environment of the time.
With one expansion under its belt, bucketloads of content patches behind it and another expansion on the horizon, WoW certainly hasn't stood still as time has passed. While WoW had hardly become sterile, is adding new content the same thing as evolving the game?A perennial problem of MMOs has been that, despite a player's actions in the game, things never really change. Despite both the Alliance and Horde having the resources to launch an armed expedition to Outland, they seem unable to tidy their own back yard. The Druids of the Fang still inhabit the Wailing Caverns, the Stormwind Stockades are still overrun by criminals and all the heroes in Orgrimmar seem unable to clear out Ragefire Chasm.
I propose a few changes to the game to combat this state of affairs. Namely, the closing off or re-imagining of old content. Update the lore to show that 'brave bands of heroes' have finally managed to put an end to some of the potential threats dotted around Azeroth. By all means keep lower-level instances in the game for new players to learn the basics of group tactics, but is there really a need to keep all of the high-end instances lying around empty and unused? Should they not be retired gracefully, maybe used one last time to move the game forward a little?
Blizzard could bring in more world events, creating short-term quest hubs which update the game lore and move it forward, even it that means doing so at the expense of older content. Give access to limited edition gear and rewards, items only available during the course of those event. Make the items Bind on Pickup to prevent it appearing on the Auction House. I think the Headless Horseman event recently is a good example – while that event is hardly going to make it into the lorebooks of WoW, I don't see anything wrong with the idea that a certain boss, dropping certain loot, is only available for a short period of time. Yes, a lot of people complained about 'free epics', not getting there in time, or having to struggle through Pickup Group Hell, but how is that such a terrible price to pay for feeling like you're playing in a living, breathing world.
Yes, closing off old-world content may mean that time spent by developers is being wasted, and while there's certainly logic in that argument, I don't see the logic in holding onto instances that are rarely (if ever) used these days. Surely a better use of them would be to go back, re-imagine them and update them to better suit the current state of the game lore? It sounds glib, but the simple fact is that fewer and fewer players take the time now to visit previously high-end instances. Just when do you think was the last time anyone put serious, concerted effort into downing Ragnaros or clearing Blackwing Lair? I'm not suggesting that entire zones be cleared of mobs and made safe, just that some of the unused instances could be removed or re-imagined to help move the game forward.
Blizzard have already announced that Naxxramas will be getting moved up to Northrend and updated as new high-end content. If they can do it for a full blown 40-man instance, then why not for some of the 5-man instances? Imagine; bolstered from their successes in Outland, and prompted by the ever-increasing power of the dread necropolis Naxxramas, the Horde and the Alliance make an effort to re-take some of the lands lost to the Scourge. The Alliance might push simply to take back some of their homelands, while the Blood Elves may push to Horde to do the same for Quel'Thalas. Launch a major world event, the 'Storming of Stratholme' or 'The Purging of the Scholomance'.
Re-imagine the instances as high-end, keeping the layout the same to save development time. Changing the enemies, or dropping new ones in would be a fun addition, but simply buffing them to suitable levels might be enough. Make the whole event a race, keeping of track of how many times each instance has been cleared or how many times a boss has been killed by each faction, and update the lore to show that it was a group of Alliance or Horde adventurers that turned the tide at the Stratholme, or who led the fight into the deepest levels of the Scholomance, so that players have another reason to get stuck in.
No doubt there'll be WoW players out there screaming at the thought of any content whatsoever being removed from the game, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the greater good. Being a Romero nut, I love Scholomance and Stratholme, and I'd miss them terribly if they were gone, but I'd give them up in a heartbeat if it meant we'd get an awesome, unforgettable world event in return.
Just think about it – would you give up your favourite old-world instance if it meant WoW was actually evolving for once?