Upon release World of Warcraft presented us with eight races with different stories, locations, politics, languages and cultures. It’s amazing …it blows many of us away …so far away that we never quite recover and spend the rest of our gaming days wondering “what if” about the games which have touched our lives.
I chose Orc as my race on that day ….and then immediately remade a toon as Human. My friends insisted.
As I played through the original game I was always imagining what new adventures were next. I was obsessed with the lore and spent hours and hours just travelling throughout Azeroth finding books, exploring ruins, and talking to NPCs to extract meaning from their ambiguous statements. I remembered names and pieced them together with dungeon encounters. WoW was a never-ending tale back then.
Until the Burning Crusade announcement I’d always imagined that the expansions would extend current lore rather than add huge additional pieces. How it’s been done, while exciting, memorable and fun, was not the way I ever thought it would have been done. A universe as vast as Warcraft has so many possibilities and it’s this breadth that allows us to have thousands of different visions of what the game should become. It’s part of it’s charm and excitement.
For example, I always imagined that the first expansion would bring us the chance to play as the High Elves of the Hinterlands. I always knew the Tower of Medivh would need to be re-opened and dreamed of Half-orcs to become a new race, building a bridge between Alliance and Horde, and adding that neutral race we sorta got in Pandaria. Can you imagine what an expansion like that would have been like?
I imagined the Plaguelands would begin to heal with Kelthuzzad taken care of. I fully expected Arthas to return to the throne in full force once his necro-army had been dealt that blow. I expected Nerzhul to manifest as the Lich King, Illidan to ally with us in defeating them, and old demigods like Agamaggan restored as powerful spirits Shaman could call upon with new spells.
Given what happened with Prince Thunderaan, Throne of the Four Winds appeared in the second expansion instead of the fourth. With flying mounts on the horizon, we could finally explore the lore of the Wind plane and possibly defeat even greater threats. Dalaran would come in advance of Arthas’ return to warn us of the pending danger. The great floating city would also be a new place to explore with our new flying abilities.
New lore would explore the legacy of Durnehold. When did Halforcs come to be? What history awaited us beyond the Dark Portal? Were the orcs and Draenei still battling there? Who are those deformed creatures roaming the Swamp of Sorrows and how did they come beyond the Portal? So much of what we know today wasn’t cannon yet and these stories all held great promise for players like me.
The developing stories of Azeroth eventually were different than what I had expected, but not worse (well, not in every way). The expansions we eventually got were just as exciting, but I fear not as deep. The story became wider and shallower, questing became just a means to an end with little effort put into developing small town stories (such as the Redpaths of Hillsbrad or even the threats of Razorfen Downs). The focus shifted to exclusively “epic” content with little thought for how the unfolding of the smaller bits of Azeroth were bigger than the whole. Would you have enjoyed mixed-races more than brand new ones? Can you imagine the great lore opportunities there?
Its’ not even too late and one could argue the time is ripe to introduce mixed-races. Hell, I could argue that this one feature may yet redeem all the awful decisions made with the lore the past few years (in the sense that so many events made the stories inflexible and sealed, leaving no room for developments). Some examples of these wasted opportunities: Grim Batol, Mizrael, Mankrik, Hero of the Horde (Blasted Lands line), Dire Maul, Eranikus, Jaina Proudmore, Garrosh, Caverns of Time, and on and on and on.
That’s why I’m excited about Warlords of Draenor. I see in it an effort by Blizzard to re-explore the possibilities of an alternate Azeroth. This would have been a good opportunity to introduce mixed races (still is, really), but I don’t think we’ll ever get something like that. There’s something about the way the developers view the purity of the races, despite the lore which indicates otherwise.
One thing’s for sure: when World of Warcraft launched it came with an truck-load of loose ends that players were free to pursue and imagine. It would have been impossible to pursue all of them, or even 5 of them in any given expansion. Still, think had they stepped in that direction, we might have a richer Azeroth today, one with many more interesting possibilities than we currently have, one where the story opens up game play instead of moving the player along singular epic storylines. Warlords of Draenor is bringing us their next vision of the game and it’s clear they want to return to something they feel the game has lost over the years, something that’s not easy for any of us to describe, but which we feel nonetheless.