I've always been a bit of a powerleveler. I enjoy fighting my way to the level cap, I enjoy the process of gathering xp and gearing yourself to work towards the so called end-game where you are happily sitting at level 70 with no more levelling worries on your mind and the ability to consider a new character.
But the second I hit the level cap in most of any game I did a complete 180 turn looking back at all the content I passed up in favor of levelling faster. I then actively proceed to re-visit that content. Why?
It's hard to pin down sometimes but I suppose I like having the edge, the ability to do things alone or with a small group of buddies what was initially designed for 10 or more players. Trying things on the spot without having to pre-plan 4+ hour raids, finding things that people haven't seen in who knows how long because they are hell bent to get to the end-game.
And still the general sense of wow is that people live for the end-game. They claw their way to the level cap only to jump through flaming hoops to get to see the newest of the new (even if this new is no longer really new).
People willingly spend hours, days, weeks and months in the same instance doing it over and over again for the sake of progress... for the sake of the end-game. A chance to see sunwell maybe... a shot at that legendary item?
But my question is what makes the end-game so different from the 'not end-game' (mid-game?). Is it less of a game than the end game? Are the story lines, the art, the creativity that was put into this game less than what is now the end-game?
What is so much more appealing about Outland and Sunwell in comparison to places like Molten Core, Onyxia's lair and the dozens of others azerothian instances?
Storylines, design and overal immersion aren't any better in outland than they are in azeroth, equal maybe but certainly not better. The challenge of molten core is the same as running sunwell if you're trying it with a lot less people than it was designed for back in the day.
Nothing prevents you from taking your 10 main raid to Molten Core or somewhere other than Karazhan and yet day after day, week after week the same 10 people go into Karazhan (just using kara as an example... because everyone knows and 'loves' Kara).
So what is the difference between the end-game and the rest of the game?
What makes a sunwell raid so much more than a molten core one?
The game can be challenging on any level; So is the end-game nothing more than a clever treadmill for endless gear upgrades to experience more of the endless gear upgrades?
Is the end-game a hype-game?