Some time ago, I wrote a lengthy post about how World of Warcraft’s time-line would be affected by the upcoming expansion, Cataclysm, and specifically when the actually shattering of Azeroth would happen. At first, I held tight on the fact that it would take place before the entirety of the MMO’s time-line, but when the pre-event of retaking the surface of Gnomeregan, and the Echo Isles was announced, I realized that I was wrong. Or well, somehow at least…
The concept of timeless events came upon me, which made a slight change in all of it. In the end, it happening before isn’t wrong, it’s just not the whole truth. To clarify, allow me first to explain what I mean by a timeless event. Basically, it’s a live retroactive continuity (mostly known as a retcon); a change in the lore as we know it, but with the player taking part of the action, and witnessing the event first-handed. Players of all levels can participate, and as such it doesn’t make sense speaking of when, as all players are essentially at different points in the time-line.
The harsh way to look at it, isn’t to say that your characters past is wiped completely – it’s modified. Your actions naturally affected the world around you, just in another way than when you experienced it. This is basically what everyone seem to have a problem with getting: time is not linear in an MMO, and it will be changed.
As an example of the linear time, try to imagine that your character goes to a lower level area, where you meet a NPC that speaks of death and destruction, and narrowly escapes his death. However, you remember that you already killed the same NPC, while wondering why you were actually sent to kill him, rewarding you with a small bag of gold, and a big amount of questions.
What can we derive from the above, then? Firstly, that the time-flow follow the level-path. As such, whatever happens at level 75 is based on what content from level 1 to 74 said that happened. Secondly, that since nothing obviously can happen at the same time, these time-less events, in which players of all levels can take place, must have happened at level 1, or prior to it.
The answer to the question “What happens when such a timeless-event has passed in-game?”, leads me to the concluding point: It must have actually happened before the game’s on-going story-line. It doesn’t matter what you did before you participated in the event, as the players individual time-line means, I’m sorry to say it, nothing.