Category Archives: Lore
Why so Handsy?
You may have seen the cinematic that deals with “The Fate of Xe’ra”. Here’s a link if you want to watch. Note it contains spoilers for the Argus campaign, which you may wish to experience in pristine purity of the pure. In which case, close this article now and come back when you have been pristinely enlightened purely.
We’ll wait until you leave …
Okay, here we go.
After Kil’jaeden is defeated, Illidan uses a magic crystal to open a portal between the worlds so that they (and, presumably, we) could get back home. But, what’s that saying? A door swings both ways, I blieve? While we could see Azeroth from over Argus … we can see Argus from here!
Initially, only those that brought down KJ in raid could see it, but this Tuesday, they opened the final wing of The Tomb to use LFR-ers (uh, “Raid Finder”, they say over at Blizz). And on that magical day, Argus appeared everywhere. Except for Northrend!Dalaran.
Be warned! Lots of pics and a video below!
The old capitals had a good view.
But, sadly, Exodar missed out again.
Kaz Modan …
… and Kalimdor …
Sometimes it showed in the most unusual and interesting ways …
And while I couldn’t see it from Northrend!Dalaran, other places in Northrend had a good view.
Even Pandaria had a good view, now that the mists have cleared.
And, in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the cinematic that explains this little bit of fel candy in our skies.
Perhaps you’ve seen the skies above the Black Temple and wondered, “why can I see Azeroth up there in the sky?”
Spoiler alert … this is the end cinematic from the Sargeras fight. Don’t watch it if you don’t want spoilers.
Really not sure how many famous Hunters there are out there, but I can count the ones I know on one hand. There’s Sylvanas, who now works for the opposition party, there’s her sister Alleria, missing in action, there’s Rexxar, who we’ve met recently on Draenor, there’s Flintlocke, who’s more associated with the engineering arm of the world these days. I’m sure there are others, but when reading the annals of our history, it’s those priests and paladins and mages that hog all the glory, apparently.
You might say the Lodge of the Hidden Path was well-named.
That being said, we’re tasked with filling our ranks with famous members of our chosen profession, which means a Hunter Road Trip or two.
Well, Rexxar wasn’t actually that far away. Just over the hill from the Lodge, in fact. I’m not saying that he was being obvious or anything, but if your goal is to go Native and live off the land, camping out in you’re parent’s back yard is hardly “roughing it”. I’m sure the Lodge just nodded and smiled so as to humor him.
Hilaire, on the other hand, is one of those outright obscure cases that really did get a bit off the beaten path. I guess someone thinks she’s famous, but that someone is probably from The Broken Isles. Not much about her ever made it down Dun Morough way.
I can’t say I am surprised. You really can’t hold a high standard up to an organization that is putting me in charge of things. It has the tangy scent of desperation about it.
[…] our credo: Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc. ‘We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.” Not just pretty words.
— Morticia Addams
At this time, the upcoming (in Legion) resource for Shadow priests is labelled “Insanity”, which has made role-playing and mogging for my Shadow spec a lot easier.
For the longest time, I’ve had issues locking on to “the fantasy of” my class. Since they, too, seemingly wielded Shadow magic, I often looked to Warlocks as a handle to hold on to, however unrelated in origin they might be (Shadow Priests, for example, predate Warlocks on Azeroth. But they’re a lot easier to get a handle on from an RP perspective.).
But the new resource flipped some switches and caused the class to sprout all sorts of handles. So now, at least mog-wise, I have a bit of a role model.
Basically, I’m going for this.
One of the highlights of Morticia’s outfit is the low-cut slinky dress. To that end, the Warlock Arena Season 11 piece, (by way of Cynwise), would have been perfect. Unfortunately, it can only be purchased by Warlocks, much less worn by or used as mog fodder by. So back to square one.
The good news is that I did find the Thistlefur Robe via MogIt, and it is pretty much everything I want it to be. For the head piece, I’ve elected Circlet of Transcendence, and for my stat stick, Terestian’s Stranglestaff (There’s a similar looking quest reward in Vash’jir, but who has time for that nonsense?). That leaves the shoulder piece.
I was dearly hoping for some sort of raven-feather pauldrons, but to date all I’ve found are Druid (leather) pieces. There are a few spikey variants but I really don’t feel this addresses the Shadow idiom properly. Raven feathers would be ideal, given the one or two raven-oriented spells we have, but something tentacle-y would work as well. Until I find something more appropriate, though, I guess I’ll go with the Pauldrons of Transcendence piece, if for no other reason than it goes with the head piece and we all know Onyxia was a little wobbly in the attic. Her dad certainly was affiliated with the Old Gods, so it’s fitting.
Anyway, her’s the projected trajectory for the two selves of Jasra at the moment.
The RP-breaking part of WoW in this situation is dual-spec. Jasra the Disco priest inhabits the same body as Jasra the Mad. While many will agree that anyone that volunteers for healer duties is absolutely insane, that doesn’t really work well in this particular RP dichotomy. Well, that’s on me, I suppose, especially when you realize that even being able to swap specs at all is kind of RP-breaking.
So I should probably shut up and go back to grinding Apexis dailies.
A lot has been made of the similarities between the current Alt!Draenor versus the previous Main!Draenor, i.e. that the course of events that took place in Main!Draenor is manifesting in Alt!Draenor now. The general tongue-clucking conclusion has been that “you just can’t change history, even in an alternate timeline.”
That is, in a word or two, total felgercarb.
Difference 1: The invasion didn’t happen. You can say what you want about similarities between the two timelines in terms of the Orcs drinking the Blood of Mannoroth, but the fact remains that the invasion failed miserably.
And don’t give me the weak tea reasoning of “Hey, there’s still a chance they might reopen the Portal and pour through!” Two issues with that:
- There is no chance they can reopen the portal as designed since its main power source is at large and in charge and, given his general craven attributes, unlikely to lay it all out for the Team again.
- Pouring through requires something to pour. In case you missed it, we’ve decimated the Iron Horde. The only way that any pouring will take place will be a massive retcon of the most recent two patches’ data.
Now … I will grant that the ultimate disposition of [REDACTED] is up in the air after what Archimonde did to him. And I’m pretty sure that the core Metal Head Blizzard Design Bureau has a massive hard-on at the mere thought of reimplementing the Lich King. But at the current point, there is no prospect for a new Lich King on Azeroth nor is there even a likely prospect.
I will speculate, though, that the two things that give the Metal Head Wannabee Squad the most massive thrills of all are The Lich King and The Burning Legion. The plight of [REDACTED] and the questionable status of Khadgar points primarily at the latter, but I’ll concede that the former is still the most likely candidate for the next expansion’s theme.
A reborn, refactored Lich King getting loose on main!Azeroth would play merry hob with things, give the Blizzard Metal Fanboy Squad something to stroke off to, and revisit the one expansion that most people like the most. And it’d give them an excuse / opportunity to revamp Northrend if they felt so inclined, though I’d prefer to see at least a HINT of originality (not holding my breath).
It is important to remember, though that the Orcs were not the endpoint of the Invasion. They were merely the opening act.
WoW is in a similar position to a lot of high / gothic fantasy and terrestrial MMOs, in that adding new play areas is often a case of the game designers pulling new zones out of their metaphorical asses. WoW is in a lot better position than most in that there are plenty of other canonical worlds out there, though oddly they’d rather go the time traveling grandfather killer route than actually explore those other worlds ((And if you take that to mean that I think that the WoD premise is just plain lazy storytelling, you might be onto something.)).
While I usually look forward to exploring other worlds, the thing I actually am enjoying when I do that is the exploration of new zones, regardless of where they are, and the discovery of fun things. But I’m very sensitive to the harmony of the zone with the established dogma of a fantasy world, and I often feel the “new world” approach is very disharmonious with the established dogma when it comes to my completionist makeup.
What is he going on about?
Let me put it all out there: I think that the three worlds we know now – Azeroth, Outland, and Draenor – are only partially explored, only partially revealed to us.
Draenor and Outland are, at this point, only conjecture on my part, but it’s common sense. Looking at the tiny island that makes up what we know of Draenor, there are only two possibilities. The first is that Draenor as we know it is a speck of land half the size of Khaz Modan and an ocean the size of Azeroth. The other possibility is that Draenor as we know it is just one land mass among many, that the world of Draenor is largely unexplored by ourselves.
This does of course open all sorts of possibilities, including lost tribes of Draenei, Orcses, Ogreses, and other denizens of Draenor that we have either encountered or been hinted to.
And since Draenor as we know it is the bedrock upon which Outland is built, that also means that for every lost continent of Draenor, there is a possibility of the same lost continent of Outland, only with more shatteryness. For lore purposes, it also opens a lot of possibilities since we have 35 years of Azerothian lore on that shattered land mass and its supposed compatriots.
Alleria‘s gotta be hiding somewhere, right?
Closer to Home
But what I’m getting at is this.
Azeroth only makes sense, from a climatic point of view, if you assume that it is only half explored.
Kalimdor and Khaz Modan make excellent sense climatically if you assume that they are northern hemisphere continents. Both continents are arctic to subarctic in the north, and tropical or arid in the south. Khaz Modan’s northern half is very European, while its south is very tropical. Kalimdor’s northern parts are very North American, and its south is very African – arid, dry, desert.
If Kalimdor and Khaz Modan were truly global, you’d expect Tanaris and Stranglethorn and Pandaria to be subarctic at the very least, rather than the tropical – dare I say, equatorial – climates they exhibit.
It only makes sense that the equator of Azeroth passes somewhere in the vicinity, or just south, of Pandaria, rather than in between the Arathi Highlands and Wetlands as depicted on some representations.
You Can’t Prove a Negative
Mea culpa – the possibility that those two continents are northern hemispheric does not in any way prove the existence of one or more southern hemispheric continents. It merely opens up the possibility. It provides an opening into which these land masses could be inserted.
For all we know, the southern hemisphere of Azeroth is an empty ocean, devoid of little more than the occasional island kingdom that would provide a content patch’s worth of exploration at most. But there is one or more expansions’ worth of space in this alleged southern hemisphere, and not exploiting it seems to me, as a certain fictional astronomer’s fictional father said, “a waste of space”.
The Solid Case Against
There is, however, a solid case against the possible existence of these alleged continents. In fact, there is a solid case against Kalimdor and Khaz Modan being northern continents rather than globally spanning. There are three such cases that I am aware of, in fact.
Hard to see detail, admittedly.
The first is revealed either when raiding Black Temple, or doing the Warlock “Green Fire” quests. At one point you can look up, and see, in the sky above you, the planet Azeroth. I have absolutely no explanation as to why this is – you can’t see Draenor from Azeroth, after all – and from any other point on Outland, you can’t see it. But from that particular point, you can. And the planet you see shows the two continents spanning the planet from north to south. This makes no sense whatsoever on many levels, but it is there as established game lore, and that’s that. Azeroth, as seen from The Black Temple, has no missing southern continents.
It also doesn’t appear to have Pandaria or Northrend, either. So the infallibility index of this sighting just took a dive. If you’re gonna use this sighting as an example of why the North is alone, it needs to at least include all of current lore within it. And the weak tea excuse of “But it was made before Northrend was part of the map” also works for “But it was made before the southern continents were part of the map” as well, now doesn’t it?
Moving on, then.
Dungeon delvers in Ulduar are familiar with the room just prior to Loken’s in Halls of Lightning. It bears within it a holographic representation of Azeroth. And, just like the BT sky-orb, this holo-orb shows no indications of there being more to Azeroth. It also doesn’t show Pandaria, so once again we have no evidence that this ancient holo-orb is actually accurate, or if the Titans are trolling us.
Finally, we have the globe that Algalon uses as an instrument of destruction against Azeroth. Not only does it show no more than the other two representations, it also shows one of Azeroth’s moons as a crescent, which is just weird if it’s supposed to be an accurate representation. Clearly it is not, nor intended to be.
These are the facts
The facts are, there is no evidence that there is a southern hemisphere beyond the shores of Tanaris and Uldum. No sign of a missing southern continent. No support for a theory that there is more to Azeroth than we can see right now. But there is also no solid evidence against it, nor against a missing continent (or raft thereof) on Outland and Draenor.
All we have is this.
- in 2007, there was no reason to believe that Northrend or Pandaria were real, and they were not depicted in any available representation.
- The physical climate of this imaginary world of Azeroth makes absolutely no sense without an unexplored southern hemisphere.
- Draenor and Outland are too small to be entire planets. There must be more.
The Possibilities are Endless
We know that Blizz is near the end of its planned story arc for WoW. This arc, so widely known, has proven to be a burden that they’ve fought hard to shake off, coming up with the ridiculous plot of WoD as a way of bucking the system and shaking up our expectations. But even if the next two expansions adhere slavishly to that timeline, there is so much potential left in that prophesied timeline of Azeroth.
But imagine an entire set of southern continents equal in size and scope with Khaz Modan and Kalimdor. What might we find there? Feral Elves that predate the Titans? A whole continent of Trolls? What of Draenor / Outland? Might we find an entire land where the Draenei reverted to Eredar ways? Did Turalyon and Alleria start a new Alliance-based ((Did the Alliance as we know it even exist then? This might be retro-futuristic Alliance, if not.)) trade empire just out of sight? Where might there be dragons? A lost Ogre empire?
There are clues. That anonymous bit of land to the southwest on the Draenor map. The ports on Draenor! Why build massive ports unless you are trading with people that you can’t reach by land?
The stories for these places are completely unwritten. But, like Pern’s “Southern continent”, bursting with potential.
I hope we get to see them.
One of the oldest chestnuts in WoW gameplay discussions is between the various content “factions” – for example, raiders, casuals, PvPers, RPers, and so forth. There are at least four points of tension listed here, and there are probably more than that in reality.
Raiding has always been criticized as taking entirely too much development resources for the number of players that partake of it. Even with LFR now a thing, I suspect we’re looking at a maximum of 20% participation at all levels. Take away LFR and we’re probably closer to 10, or maybe, 5 percent of the entire game’s population.
And that of course is the crux of the critics’ argument – massive resources are being directed at something that only one out of five players actually experiences. While we don’t have head counts here, the critic will point to Blizz’s recent refrain of “that would cost a raid tier” as the reason they didn’t get around to doing the things other “factions” wanted to do.
Blood elf models? Raid tier.
Armor dyes? Raid tier ((Or possibly being saved for the F2P game. Not that that will ever happen if you talk to anyone director level or above.)).
New player class? Raid tier.
New player race? Raid tier.
Revamped professions? Raid tier.
Dance studio? Two raid tiers. Or maybe an expansion. Dancing’s hard, y’all.
At any rate, the thing we come away with is that raiding’s a Big F!cking Deal to the game designers and around 20% of the player base.
But I’m okay with that.
Watch this video. I’ll meet you on the other side.
Okay, ask the average Eve player and they’ll tell you that the images you saw in that video are atypical of the average game experience. Most of the time is spent micromanaging a plethora of skills, bots, build jobs, and other administrivia ((The terms “Spreadsheets in spaaaace” and “Spreadsheet Simulator” are often bandied about with varying levels of humor and pain and pathos.)). But the fact remains, these epic battles between huge fleets exist. They exist so hard that when they happen, the Web usually takes notice. It is not unusual for one of these massive battles – which I emphasize, often include ships worth tens of thousands of real-world dollars – to make the cut on cnn.com or other mainstream news site, even if it’s just to mock us geeks and our pathetic ways.
Here’s the thing. Raid-level encounters in Eve are not scripted or in any way influenced by CCP, the parent company of Eve. These encounters are completely organic, entirely generated by the goals and needs of the players, in the truest sandboxxiness sense.
And yet the parallels between these battles and WoW raiding, especially outside of LFR, are pretty stark ((As my term “Raid-level encounters” probably illustrated.)). And it illustrates why raiding in WoW is a thing that needs to keep happening, even if only one out of a hundred of us does it.
Because epic tales are important. They are part of our DNA as fantasy/scifi RPG players. Even if we can’t be part of the epic battles, even if we don’t make the cut for the realm’s greatest raiding guild, we can hear the stories and dream. This is the essential nature of gaming, in a way.
A new player class or race, updated professions, or even the Dance Studio are nowhere near as, well, “sexy” as an epic raid, even when experienced viscerally via youtube video or forum post or even word of mouth on the guild forums. Tales of great deeds are inspirational. Tales of blown opportunities in the skill-up grind for Engineering … not so much.
I imagine the average Eve player resents the hell out of the big Corps out there and their iron grip on Big Fleet Battles. But I suspect every dedicated Eve player that is NOT in one of those big Corps would probably jump at the chance to play even the smallest part in one of those gigantic space battles. To paraphrase Dave Scott, the commander of Apollo 15, I believe there’s something to be said for grandeur. At the end of the day, regardless of our place in the grand scheme of things, we all need something aspirational to drive us, to inspire us, to provide us with something a little bit out of reach that we might be able to grasp, if we play our cards right.
In game theory terms, it is a huge carrot for us to chase. Eve’s players drive both ends of that equation. If raiding was removed in WoW completely, I suspect something similar would happen here.
The question is, is it worth it for Blizz to sink resources into something like this? I suspect it depends on what the end result is, and I don’t mean boss drops. Just what is it that Blizz gets from raiding?
My main gripe with raiding has always been, it removes something from the average player’s personal experience. It’s not gear, but the story of the raid design itself. More than anything else, each raid provides a distinct tic mark in the lore of Azeroth. MC provided us with a limited understanding of Ragneros; Kara gave us much lore about Medivh; ICC was the capstone on Arthas’ arc; Deathwing was destroyed in one of those raids. Something something Pandaria. Garrosh has a plan. You get the picture. The raid endpoints of a content patch and/or expansion have been rather lore-heavy. Thanks to LFR, these have become potentially accessible to every player in the game willing to achieve a specific gearscore.
That’s not the point.
The point is, the primary lore delivery mechanism for WoW is, has been, and will continue to be, the raid. So as long as that remains the case, raids are extremely important to the health of the game, regardless of whether you participate directly or not. From a lore perspective, this matters. From a, er, spiritual perspective, it also matters.
Basically, the moment that someone decides that raids are no longer relevant to WoW is when WoW begins to die.
Unless an equally valid source of lore and epic content is identified.
But that’s another show.
There is a moment in the Shadowmoon Valley experience that is one of the most supremely heroic and noble and tragic and triumphant of the game so far. Nothing in all the expansions or the original game can match this for emotional punch or impact. It is truly one of the Big Moments of video gaming. This is a genuine “Aeris moment”. The people at Blizz that are responsible for this should take each other out for copious rounds of hard cider and pizza; they’ve achieved a high point in this franchise. I state this without hesitation.
Those of you that have seen the cinematic sneak peeks, or completed this zone, know of that which I speak.
And yet that there is more to the story of Shadowmoon Valley. You still have work to do, and you’re inspired to do so. And that, friends, is the point of a good cinematic. It drags you in and involves you in the story.
There is a scene before this in which you are involved in the final battle to save Karabor. You are participating in a future-vision with alt!Velen, and in the dream you fight beside him and Yrel. Just as things look grimmest, alt!Velen cries out and gives rise to the Holy Light, and the enemy begins to fall back! And then there is evil laughter, and Ner’zhul, and then … well, I won’t spoil it, but if you were there, you probably whispered … “oh, gods, no.” It was that bad.
As I and alt!Velen awoke from this nightmarish dream, I felt a resolve … “Hell, no!” Just that. The thing that we saw. We’ve seen it before. And regardless of the outcome of the previous event that we have seen before, the cost is just so damned high. Never again.
After That Cinematic Moment, the game kicks into high gear. The moment of supreme sacrifice cannot be dwelled upon. The Iron Horde is storming Karabor! You know now that the nightmare of alt!Velen’s vision will not come to pass. But will it be enough?
I hope you have the music playing, because they milk it for all it’s worth as you, Yrel, and Maraad take to the skies as air support for your garrison’s denizens as you all, together, storm the city. Your job is to plow the road so the garrison troops can break through to the docks.
Once accomplished, you link up with Yrel after taking out a mini-boss ((Honestly, I have no idea how Jas or Illume are going to survive that dude without a tanky pet.)) and end up once again in the final defense of Karabor. Will the Aeris moment pay off?
Of course it does, but the final moments of the battle are involving and emotional. If you can imagine a Dwarf riding a giant rooster, his rampaging polar bear at his side, yelling FOR [REDACTED]!!!! at the top of his wee Dwarven lungs, charging into battle as if he’d forgotten that he never quite mastered the art of shooting and moving at the same time, well, you’ve got a good handle on where I was living for five minutes of my life.
At the end, you’re given a ride back to Embaari, where the music swells, speeches are made, and the natives cheer you and your doughty troops for, well, as long as you stick around, it looks like. The moments of tragedy, tension, and triumph all culminate in this final moment, in which you not only get to bask in the glow of your own sense of achievement, but share it with the people that you were fighting for. Again, it was quite an emotional moment.
Here now, in the wee hours of the morning, I hurry to push that emotion out onto virtual page before it’s gone. It’s not enough to feel it; I want to share what it’s like, even though I know that this sense is completely derived from pixels and logical constructs living inside a silicon wafer. And I just don’t care.
A year ago, I was mocking Blizzard for many reasons, and justifiably so. They appeared to be inept, tone-deaf, and downright hostile to the culture they said they were a part of. Boy, a year does make one hell of a difference. Blizzcon 2014 saw a complete about-face, right down to the host of the cosplay event. The Overwatch reveal was a huge success ((I’m not into that kind of game, but by the Light it was one hella reveal, even a jaded old husk like me can admit that.)), the outreach felt genuine, and the tone of the game launch, while marred by a DDoS and subsequent messy mop-up ((Which, despite the bleats of the nonbelievers, was done in cracking good time.)) was aimed squarely at us, the gamers.
I’ll proudly be among the first to step up to the buffet and eat a large plate of crow. If Shadowmoon is any indication at all, this game has received a much needed injection of “Panda? What’s a fucking panda?”
Story matters. It has to be a good story. It has to be a relevant story. I’m sure some poor fellow worked long and hard on the Pandaria lore, but bottom line is, nobody cared.
Draenor, for all the contrivance involved in its invocation, is nevertheless relevant, in spades. And the story of Draenor thus far is, by the Light, GOOD. I know the high spots of what’s coming, but this zone. Guys, this goddamned zone. Tears of anguish. Tears of betrayal. Tears of hopelessness. Tears of loss. Tears of joy. Tears of triumph.
A very moist zone, this Shadowmoon Valley.
I don’t know if I’m emotionally up to coping with what is yet to come. And I damned well don’t know if I’m up to bringing three more alts through this zone over the next month or two. But for some reason, I have the feeling that the giddy feeling that I get coming out of it will make it worth the while.
Game on, nerds.