I’ve always been fascinated by the Pre-Searing Ascalon community of Guild Wars. For those not in the know, the first Guild Wars release (Prophecies) starts you out in a unique little prologue area that consists of five exploration zones and a few hubs of interest. Once you’ve progressed through it and advanced the story enough, you trigger the “Searing”, a huge event that changes the landscape and sends your character forward a couple years to the rest of the game.
I don’t think ArenaNet ever predicted that the Pre-Searing areas would be embraced by a small but dedicated community with a singular purpose: to only play and exist in Pre-Searing Ascalon (PSA from now on for the sake of my fingers) as a matter of choice. They’ve essentially “adopted” this prologue world as their own, and revel in exploring just how much gameplay they can squeeze out of it.
It’s oddly endearing to see how this community has formed, because I really haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere. To me, it reinforces the notion that some players view game worlds as a place to inhabit, not just to level through. We have affinities for certain zones and a positive emotional reaction when we’re there. By making their home in PSA, these players are effectively refusing to allow their favorite world to be destroyed (and they are effectively crazy-in-a-good-way as well).
This would be like people in WoW refusing to leave the starter areas, or the folks in LOTRO choosing to remain in the instanced newbie zone indefinitely, farming gear and seeing how much they can push themselves within a small limit.
Happily, ArenaNet hasn’t looked down on the PSA folks, and instead offered them a few rewards to work toward if they so wished. The biggest of them all is a rare title, “Defender of Ascalon”, which is achieved only if you hit level 20 (the level cap of Guild Wars) while in PSA. This is tougher than you might think, because you can easily out-level the creatures by 16 or so, which presents a conundrum — no way to get XP from mobs, and only a finite amount of quests.
Interestingly enough, there’s a little loophole built into the game that allows mobs to level up if they (the mobs) kill a player. So if you throw yourself at a mob and allow it to kill you, it gets to a higher level and thus rewards you with XP once you resurrect and kill it in turn. This technique is called “death leveling”, and there’s a pretty detailed guide on the Guild Wars Wiki on how to do it.