When Sales and Lore collide

There is a gigantic disparity between how lore is presented in WoW, and how it would actually go if the key players were allowed for a moment to make decisions of their own.

Right now, in this period after the downfall of Garrosh Hellscream, is one of those times. 

Look at the situation. The Alliance has gathered the entirety of its military might to crash the gates of Orgrimmar and end the reign of Warchief Hellscream. At their side are the Trolls, the Tauren, the Sindorei, and maybe the Scourge Forsaken ((Not sure, don’t care, hate Sylvanas and that’s that.)).

Would the Horde forces have been able to pull this off without the Alliance’s aid?  Canonically, no. It took the help Alliance to pull this off, "by the book", and that’s what we end up with; the alliance virtually has its boot on the Horde’s neck, and at the last minute – shows mercy.

Now, in any sanely constructed world …

  • The following day would have revealed that there was only one real power in Azeroth, that being Alliance.
  • On Day 2, the Horde would have been pushed out of all the places it invaded during the Cataclysm years, such as Ashenvale.
  • Day Three would see outposts constructed all over the planet where Alliance could keep an eye on the Horde. 
  • Day 4 might possibly see the restoration of Gilneas. 

And so forth. 

Bottom line is, in a relatively short period of time we’d see Alliance supremacy asserted throughout the land. While I doubt Wrynn would invade Horde holdings outright, I’m pretty sure he’d be keeping an eye on them and pushing back in areas that were overtly invaded by the Horde previously.

In this more reasonable world, we’d see long term plans forming to retake Lorderon. The Sindorei might read the writing on the wall and petition to reunite with their Kaledorei bretheren.

This is the kind of world that would be nigh inevitable with the Alliance at this level of superiority over the broken Horde.

But that’s not going to happen.

"War"craft implies that peace or even an uneasy occupation are simply not in the books.  Few want to play a marginalized faction; the overall presentation of WoW is that there are two main factions of nearly equal power.   This is what is being sold and, by gum, it’s what WILL be sold.

The lore designers simply can not drive their characters realistically in this particular case. They have to sell games for people to play them, so the lore stops cold when it comes to permanent change affecting the faction balance.

As much as they make peaceable noises, the Sindorei will never join the Alliance.   As much as Wrynn makes threatening noise, the Alliance will NEVER retake Lorderon. The lore-writers’ hands are simply tied when it comes to this sort of thing.  The only time we will EVER see a change in factions is when new races / factions are added to the mix.

If you’re into "the lore", if you’re into telling of stories, you have to remember this: as the story approaches the boundaries of faction balance, it will cease to make sense. You have to turn off your brain and press the "I Believe" button.  Even for your own internal Head Canon, you will have to build little loops and alleyways around this anomaly in order to make it work.

If Blizzard really wants to impress us, they can try something really bold in this regard.  But it’s obvious that they won’t even kill off flying mounts, as much as they say that they want to, so I doubt they have the metaphorical backbone to do something as breathtakingly bold as to merge Sindorei and Kaledorei factions in-game and substitute something new. Won’t happen. The player upheaval would leave them gibbering.

I think we all understand this, but sometimes you need to remind yourself.  Don’t cross Sales. They’ll cut ya.

This needs to be said, because sometimes we forget that Lore doesn’t HAVE to make sense if it gets in the way of selling games, and when you’re trying to predict where it might be headed – don’t delude yourself into thinking that "reason" and "plot" and "consistency" have any power over the game’s design.

Speculation is running wild in the wind up to WoD, so, have fun with that. But try to keep a level head.

Posted on March 4, 2014, in Factions, Lore, Meta, The future is scary. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. What was the point of this post?

    Pro-tip: realism never wins out in games, movies, books or TV. It’s not interesting for storytelling.

    Has nothing to do with sales, has everything to do with entertainment.


  2. The faction issue has become increasingly annoying to me in both primary aspects.

    In-character (such as it is for one who doesn’t RP), I’m really damned tired of us constantly having to team up with the other faction to beat some big bad.

    Out-of-chracter (ditto), I’m really damned tired of this constant teaming with a faction who are only allowed to team up when the Blizzard lore folks determine that’s what we need to do. I’m tired of not being able to team up my own Horde and Alliance toons. I’m tired of not being able to team up with friends who are only really keeping up with toons of the opposite faction these days.

    I’m tired of Blizzard constantly throwing us together in-game but not allowing us to actually throw ourselves together. Either the factions are AT WAR and should never be combining forces for any reason, or they ARE NOT AT WAR in which case they need to soften the faction lines except as required for gameplay purposes (PvP primarily). Combining as a one-off for a big bad? Mulligan there. Every single expansion? Unacceptable.

    I’m not proposing an alternative… ToC was probably the worst major content tier in WoW history. I’m not a lore nerd and Blizzard doesn’t pay me to come up with ideas. The problem is that Blizzard is trying to have it both ways and neither way is working for me at this point.

    Your speculation that it’s tied to sales is a possible factor but I don’t know how much impact that has. I just think Blizzard have written themselves into a corner (it’s WARCRAFT but big bads need to be big enough for combining forces to be necessary… rinse, repeaet…) and they aren’t gutsy enough to write themselves out of it, they just keep papering over the issue. During the 9 years have Horde and Alliance spent more real-world time at war or working together? I’m honestly not sure what the answer is to that and I find that more than a bit disturbing.


    • I will grant that Blizz not having the storytelling chops to work itself out of its corner is a compelling argument, and it might well be true. One could suppose that “keeping both factions involved in solving this problem” is the overarching concern, and that leads to a Super Friends moment in the storytelling process for them. Still, the question is “why do they care” and that probably leads back to “if we pander to the Horde, Alliance will stop playing.” Part money, part game balance, that.


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