Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Game design beats lore in Cataclysm

Blizzard used to run a tight ship, keeping their cards close to their chest, but maybe now they are Activision Blizzard they have become too big to keep a secret. So assures us that they have several sources confirming the next WoW expansion will be called World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, will be announced at Blizzcon, and will have Worgen and Goblins as playable new races. I love playable new races, because they are horizontal expansion, not just the vertical 10 more levels expansion we got last time.

In case you aren't terribly sure what a Worgen is, it is a kind of wolf man. WoWWiki says about them: "These creatures are thoroughly evil, delighting in torturing and devouring intelligent creatures. They enjoy hearing the screams of their victims as they tear them apart piece by piece. Worgen never show mercy or remorse." So of course the Worgen will be the new playable race for the ALLIANCE !!! There goes all pretense of the Alliance being the good guys, and the Horde being the bad guys.

I figure this is still to balance out the problem that casual players often choose the nicer looking races, making the Alliance with their humans and elves more attractive than the Horde with their assorted ugly monsters and rotting undead. The Burning Crusade already went in that direction by adding sexy blood elves to the Horde, now the Horde gets another cute diminuitive race, and the Alliance gets an ugly monster. Logical for balanced game design, and nobody cares about the lore anyway. Lets just put those torture-loving Worgen into the Alliance, and say they were just using waterboarding for terrorist interrogation purposes. There probably will be some phoney fresh lore explaining how the cataclysm caused some alignment of interest between wolf men and the Alliance.

No news on a new hero class, I wonder if we will get the expected healer hero class, or whether it is every odd expansion offering two new races, and every even expansion offering one new class.
The snark is strong with this one. But then again, TotalBiscuit's snarking about achievements and motorcycles was also correct. ;-)

In any case, I think that the Worgen that join the Alliance (probably the residents of Gilneas) are not the tear-your-heart-out type of Worgen that reside in Silverpine, and more like the cute fuzzy Wolvar of Sholazar Basin. At least if the "accidentally" included Goblin and Worgen Halloween masks are of any indication.
Hopefully cataclysm plans to revive old world content. I'd love to get another chance to roll through lowbie areas again. One thing I always disliked was how quickly the lowbie areas fly by, since you level in hours not days.

Either way I'd love to roll a Worgen, but only if their is a new class I can use my Worgen with. A new hero class is seems mandotory at this point, but who knows? If they are going to show a new hero class I'm sure it will be along the lines of arch-mage/arch-druid. A spell caster/healer. It will most likely use a different resource system, and be very over-powered until the first or second patch.

Either way I'm excited to hear the news at the upcoming blizz-con, until then I will believe nothing.
Hopefully cataclysm plans to revive old world content.

Yes, that is still the open question. Cataclysm could be a boring "Burning Crusade 2", with just the two new races with level 1 to 20 content, nothing new from level 21 to 80, and then the new zones from level 8O to 90. Or it could be a much needed complete rework of all the content from level 1 to 60, reviving the low-level game, and making WoW attractive to new players again. But as that would be an immense amount of work, my hopes aren't all that high.
As you point out, by Blizzard's standards this is an embarrassing epic leak that upstages BlizzCon.

I'm not sure that I'm up for leveling 1-90. But it may not be necessary, as a race-change pay service seems to be a no-brainer.
I suppose it will be like the trolls, most of whom are evil cannibals, except the ones who joined the Horde.

Though far worse, these will be a nation of emo Lycans crying about how they only eat bunnies and how misunderstood they are.

I thought I read somewhere they weren't going to add 10 more levels. That seems to go against their practice of trying to get people outof the old world as soon as possible, to the point you can't even get in the instances anymore due to their new code they put in last week that prioritizes Wrath instances.
The Goblin race might bring me back after a four year sabbatical from WoW. Of course, the minute the content starts to repeat itself, I'll be gone again. Now way am I going to level up through Hillsbrad ever again, nope, nope, nope.

= # # =
I don't see much need to rework the 1-60 game. Let players start new characters at level 60 and level them to 90. Or let them do the 1-20 and then jump them to 60. There's no need to do all the low level stuff.

And I suspect there will be a new faction of worgen that are nice rather than vicious killers. There isn't any lore conflict yet. Blizzard can easily work around it.
LOTRO has been re-working lower level content in order to keep the game fresh and on design goals for new players, returning players, and alts.... IMHO, it would be hard for Blizzard not to answer that call.
What bugs me is that, if you've seen the Halloween masks for the Worgen, they actually look pretty cool/noble.

My prediction is that Blizzard will make the Alliance-joining Worgen a cool shamanistic race, thus bringing a lot of people to roll Worgen. Meanwhile nobody really wants to play a Goblin.

In other words, I predict they will have further increased the faction population problem with this - in other words, sacrificing gameplay to lore.

(On a side note, it then seems a natural conclusion to have Worgen Shamans. Considering the recent Druid conversation on Thunder Bluff, would we then have Tauren Paladins?)
I guarantee that the female worgen will look absolutely gorgeous.
I would expect Worgen would be the race most people want to try and Goblin take-up will be comparitively low. (Apologies to Gevlon, no anti-goblinism intended!)

Not sure it makes much sense to bolster Alliance numbers over Horde but maybe server balance no longer matters.
Well, Gevlon will for sure use the premium service to become a Goblin.

I think the Worgen will beat the Goblins in general popularity, even more so than the babe elves topped the blueskins.

I would not rule it out that at least these two races get to make a CHOICE for one or the other side at say level 10/20. If they do not start out higher level already.
Why can't the worgen change? Like a previous commenter said, all of the trolls up to this point were pretty evil but we got a PC race from them. Same thing with the worgen. Why can't there be a nice faction?

One commenter said "Meanwhile nobody really wants to play a Goblin." Really? You've polled all 11 million? All generic statements are bad. (Pun/irony intended.) From personal experience, I know several people who would love to play goblins, so there's a few.

I'm more interested to see how they'll put the worgen into the Alliance. Are they going with Greymane wall in Silverpine? The goblins to the Horde makes sense to me as the goblins were a playable unit in WC2 and WC3. Sappers anyone?

Let's just hope that they don't have to retcon things. Maybe they can get away with just progressing the world some, instead of rewriting history.
There's good and evil versions of every race in WoW. There are evil Defias humans, Dark Iron Dwarves, Highborne elves (now Naga), Lost One Dranei, and those crazy mechagnomes in Borean Tundra. Similarly, on the Horde side, there are Fel Orcs, Felblood elves, Grimtotem Tauren, Amani Trolls, and obviously the Scourge. There are also good and evil Dragons, good and evil Giants, and good and evil Titans. There are no "purely good" races. So it's not surprising that there would be good Wolvar and bad Wolvar, and doesn't really break the lore.
I guarantee that the female worgen will look absolutely gorgeous.

Spinks reveals her hidden furry fandom side. :)

As an afterthought, I wonder if Blizzard will limit their new race-change feature for a period, or whether the first level 80 Worgen will actually be a previous Horde player who paid for a switch.
This isn't any worse than Alliance death knights and warlocks. Both are "evil" and yet they can walk around in daylight in Stormwind without anybody caring. At least with DKs they have some kind of story of redemption. The Warlock trainers are hidden in weird parts of cities, and I can't think of any major "lore figures" in the Alliance that are warlocks, but otherwise nobody cares that they are running around cavorting with demons.
I would be interested in the Worgen or Goblin races if it didn't mean leveling from 1-90. Everything from WoW old world has been done so many times now I just can't bring myself to play it anymore.

If WoW did a huge revamp on the old world I would give it a try. If all they do is add 10 levels and 2 new races I'm going to pass.
One commenter said "Meanwhile nobody really wants to play a Goblin." Really? You've polled all 11 million? All generic statements are bad. (Pun/irony intended.) From personal experience, I know several people who would love to play goblins, so there's a few.

Blanket statements are bad (there's even someone in the comments who wants to play a Goblin!), but I think the basic gist of the point was correct, for much the same reason you'd think most people would rather play an elf than a dwarf.
I disagree with the whole "design beats lore" assumption. The lore of Gilneas does not preclude the possibility that there is a non-evil variant of the Worgen. Review the lore around Shadowfang Keep, which is right outside Gilneas.
For me, what would make a "good" Cataclysm expansion would be to take the Deathknight experience and expand it to all races/classes. Revamp the old world as a new instance of it, to enter the Cataclysm "phase" you have to be level 55, either by leveling up in the old world or by creating a new character who starts at 55. Raise the level cap to 100 and build the entire expansion for 55 to 100.
I still think that any new races introduced at this point, especially goblins, should be part of a third, neutral faction. The framework for such is there as a result of the Zombie Apocalypse.

Horizontal expansion, especially a revitalization of the "old world", would indeed be a good thing.
I really hope for Blizzards sake that they will not introduce a new continent, 10 new levels and some strange gods of the gods of the gods.

Revive the old world(s). Phasing allows you to send lvl 80 players to a different old world.

Then reduce the low lvl content to the most important Queststs lore wise and make people lvl through these quests alone to lvl80.

Produce some background story why the old world is under attack - or at war with each other.

A million things are possible. Making the third expansion like the other two is the risk free way to maintain the status quo as long as possible and then suddenly lose everything to a competitor.
Having levelled my first character from 1 to 50 in the last six weeks, I am at a total loss to understand why the lower level game sis upposed to be underused or need revamping.

I particularly don't get why it wouldn't be attractive to new players as it stands.

Maybe its just my (EU PvE) server, but everywhere I have been hnting is teeming with people. I frequently have to change my plans and go elsewhere because population pressure means I can't get the quest drops or mobs I want.

I get endless invites from new guilds starting up and invites to join groups doing this or that instance, so much so that it's actively annoying. From talking to people in-game, while many are playing up alts, lots like me are on their first character, having never played WoW before.

Not to say that I object to some revamping, because by the time any new expansion appears I will have played through some of the content once and will be going through what I missed on a second or third character. But as a new player, not a jaded 3, 4 or 5 year veteran, the sub-60 game looks in pretty fine shape to me right now.

Oh, and on the races, if Goblins end up being Horde, how does that affect thei current Neutral goblin towns?

The Worgen are not as simple as your WOWWikie quote suggests. There are certainly some like that, but there are also transformed humans (coming from the Wolfcult) and cursed ones, such as those found in pyrewood. There is also a missing group who seemed to be quite intelligent, from the ones Velinde summoned. Nobody knows what happened to them.

On top of that, there is a Dalaran mage called Alphus Wordwill who was seeking a cure for the curse that allowed the victims to retain their minds when transformed. Apart from the first group, any of the others could make a fit for the Alliance - my money would be on those cured by Alphus, but that remains to be seen.

In other words, Worgen could be introduced as a playable race without harming the lore in the way you suggest.

Incidentally, I won't think WOW has ever treated the Alliance as the good guys. There's a case to be made that they were earlier in the Warcraft series, but Thrall changed everything.

As for the comments made by others about Worgen being more popular than Goblins, that's probably true, but not in a bad way. As a horde-side player on an RP server, I long to see the plague of lolling bunny-hopping "lesbian vampires" that have plagued Silvermoon return to their natural habitat of Goldshire. Worgen may just do the trick. Here's hoping.

Me? I'm rolling a Goblin the second Cataclsym hits!
"Oh, and on the races, if Goblins end up being Horde, how does that affect thei current Neutral goblin towns?"
Probably not at all. The Goblins are riven by factions led by different Trade Princes. Only one of them needs to join the Horde.
Has always seemed to me like there is plenty of evil in alliance and plenty of good in Horde if you look at the lore and anyone thinking different hasn't been really reading the lore all that well. I don't think the Horde races seemed very evil in WC3 either and Night Elves have always had a bit more religious zeal in them than what is healthy.

The Good/Evil split seems to have been mostly created by the assumption that Ugly things = Evil and Beautiful things = good which seems terribly superficial.
FYI, Alliance we never supposed to be "good" and Horde "evil". That's a general assumption, but doesn't align with lore at all. The two races are at odds with each other, but neither are the good or evil race. Having Goblins or Worgen doesn't really change that. :)
On the more general topic of Lore vs. Game Balance, it seems to be that they are inherently contradictory. Almost all lore involves a small set of heroes struggling against overwhelming odds (e.g. 2 hobbits sneaking through Mordor). But a good game requires a finely tuned balance between nearly equally-matched opponents, both in PvE and PvP.
Going more from what Sven said, maybe the player Worgen are still under some positive influence from that night elf whose name I forget, the one who found the Scythe of Elune. Besides, race descriptions don't mean that the player race has to match it perfectly, just look at the savage cannibalistic trolls; who renounced cannibalism and became a bit more civilized and much less evil to join the Horde. And with the Worgen there are also the possibilities of being cursed humans who retain some sentience or a slightly nicer race within the species.
I'm interested in knowing how they'll
manage the faction change service in regards to the new races.
They said you'll be ale to switch to a comparable class in the other factions race.
Will I be able to switch my 80 Orc Warlock to an 80 Worgen Warlock right off the bat or will they impose restriction on the new races?
"Spinks reveals her hidden furry fandom side. :)

As an afterthought, I wonder if Blizzard will limit their new race-change feature for a period, or whether the first level 80 Worgen will actually be a previous Horde player who paid for a switch."


Nooo, I'll be there with a goblin engineer chick and a pet mechanical yeti, and macros to randomly yell "WHY ARE YOU CHASING ME YETI? WHY?!" :)

But it would be very easy for Blizz to make the worgen very appealing. The male ones can be butch, the female ones will be gorgeous. The furry fans will be happy.

And that's an interesting point about the faction changes. This was something you hadn't really said about RMT but ... would people pay for achievements? I'm guessing they would, even though that kind of removes the whole achievement part of the equation.
As much as I enjoyed the different substories of the wow-universe, I was never under the impression that the setting as a whole was particularly consistent. Rather:
"You just managed to beat the king of all evil? Well hey, like actually he was just the doorkeeper, lemme present to you the real top guy!" on and on and on...

Good old days when Onyxia was just a rumour and remained yet to be discovered.
Two new races again? Blizzard has ran out of ideas me thinks. I always thought 4 races for each faction would be enough, and I remember Blizzard developers confirming what I just said after the release of Burning Crusade.

That just means two more dead cities like Exodar and Silvermoon City.
I'm honestly very curious to know more detalis of new WoW expansion from Blizzcon.
I really think that 2 more races + 10 more levels (and talents) and the new reps and dungeons to grind aren't enough to justify a re-activation for me.
I really hope Blizzard will surprise us all with something unexpected but I'm afraid that what I said is all we'll got with the new expansion.
I don't understand this myth about the Alliance being the good guys. Anyone who's played Warcraft 3 or knows the backstory between the WC2 expansion and WC3 knows that the Alliance don't have a spotless record. Thrall was raised as a slave for example.

Worgen lore is already in place. The whole Scythe of Elune storyline in Duskwood. Uninformed opinions reflect poorly on the point being made.

That said, I'm considering a faction reroll if this is true. Don't want all the little kids running around as Worgen warriors looking for guild invites.
Perceptions matter a lot more than some lore texts only a few people know about. I'm perfectly aware that the Horde isn't evil, but that is not what people think. Players preferring the Alliance for being "the good guys" and pretty is a rather well established fact, even Blizzard admitted so. That the background lore doesn't completely support this simple black and white view isn't really relevant, as people act on perceptions.
Don't forget that these Worgen were once humans! Try going to Pyrewood Village in southern Silverpine Forest. You will find humans there during the day, but during the night they turn into viscious Worgen! Most likely the Worgen of Gilneas behind the wall, only a few steps to the south, were able to control their form and not turn into blood thirsty monsters. So actually they are not 'evil' characters, they just look that way!
"That the background lore doesn't completely support this simple black and white view isn't really relevant, as people act on perceptions."

It's highly relevant when you are making a post criticising a (potential) expansion for messing with lore. It's not fair to blame Blizzard for making a change that is completely in line with lore, but not in line with people's misunderstanding of it.
Of course it is fair, because it shows how bad Blizzard is at telling their lore. Written text. Books in forgotten corners of dungeons, where you would have to ask your group to wait while you read them, sources external to the game. If, as you say, WoWWiki got the Worgen lore completely wrong, they were only basing themselves on what is easily visible to players in the game.

Blizzard lore is not only badly told, but generally inconsistent, mixing space ships and motorcycles with fantasy, making Haris Pilton references to real world celebrities, and is constantly changed. And every time there is a conflict between game design and lore, the lore just loses out, because it isn't considered important by Blizzard.
Tobold. You are defending the importance of lore (and thus immersion) in WOW (MMOs?).

You surprise me. Is that just the heat of the discussion or do you have a reflected opinion on these matters that I somehow missed over the years ? :)
There wasn't much to miss over the years, because WoW, just like the EQ games, don't really have lore. They just stole bits and pieces of real world culture and lore, and mixed it all together in a blender. So now your WoW character can within a minute switch his mount from a medieval horse, to an Arabian Nights flying carpet, to a motorcycle, a mammoth, and a dragon, and nobody remotely cares about this being incongruous.

Games like Lord of the Rings Online, or Star Wars: The Old Republic, are inherently superior in the field of immersion, because their lore is consistent.

The wowwiki page isn't completely wrong, just an incomplete treatment of the subject.

The wolfcult is linked right off the main worgen page. You'll find Alphus Wordwill mentioned elsewhere in the site, with a link back to the Worgen page, but no link the other way. This isn't Blizzard getting it wrong or Wowwiki not knowing about it because of Blizzard's poor telling of the lore, just a slight incompleteness in the links on what is still, overall, an excellent fan-made site.

I agree with you about the motorcycles, though.
I get immersed in a tub. I play a video game.
Cool, I am a big fan of new races. At the very least it will get people back into the old world for a time regardless if their is new content from 20-80 or not. I sure hope, but doubt, their will be though. If nothing else it would be nice to see some zones get reworked like they did with dustwallow marsh a while back. Add a new quest hub and a bunch of new quests to every other zone on the way up? That would be spectacularly fun.

There was a little piece of expansion rumor that has been running around for a long time, since vanilla wow in fact, that showed a sketch plan of the expansions and zones. It predicted, almost all the zones of BC and WotLK by name and approximate level, even the zones for the new races. I can't find the link now. Blizz did a lot to suppress the information. I am sure I can hunt it down eventually and post a link. It has to be cached somewhere. It did predict this expansion to be about the islands in the great sea. Kezan, zandalar, undermine, nazjatar (sp?), tel'abrim, gilneas, kul'tiras and so on. The next expansion, if this continues, should be the emerald dream finally, but not just the dream itself but also the elemental planes. The expansion will basically be zones that cover all 6 elemental types, fire, water, air, earth, holy/life (the dream) and shadow/death (where warlocks summon their epic steed from). So more demons and worgen coming from the shadow areas, since worgen were "brought" to this world.

The really interesting part of this, and why I bring it up was that it didn't predict new races for this expansion. It did for BC and it didn't for WotLK. It didn't for this new expansion but it did again for the 90-100lvl expansion. Based on the names of the zones that were slated to be lvl 1-10 and 10-20, the emerald dream should have had new races as the Worgen and the Pandaren. So it strikes me as very interesting that they changed this and move the Worgen up an expansion. It might also imply that Blizzard might be looking back on WotLK and seeing the lack of new races as a gap and so wanted to change that for Catylysm. It also makes sense from the perspective of people clamoring so consistently over the years for playable Goblins. I can't wait. So rolling a goblin. Also, Pandaren will probably never happen given China's stance on using pandas but who knows, something could be worked out.

The only problem I have now is how they will have to butcher the lore to make Goblin's a horde race. Sure, I suppose it will be a single group of goblins, the followers of just one trade prince that will join the Horde but still, I fear this will become "Draenei Lore, the Sequel"

I would much prefer to have Goblins be playable on either side, choose at creation kinda thing, or choose through a series of quests. I would personally love to see a neutral third faction and even a way for any race to move between factions, but that will probably never happen.

I don't think Worgen will present much lore difficulty. Worgen are human after all, Gilneas was a part of the Alliance once upon a time. You find a cure and the Gilneans are now free willed worgen, much like the forsaken. Even the villagers of Pyrewood are friendly to allies during the day when they are human. So free willed Worgen in the alliance doesn't bother me too much, as long as they dont skip their 12 step meetings and lapse back into eating their neighbors.

All in all I will be back for the expansion. I enjoy playing new races and seeing new lore and quests. And who knows, maybe they will make a neutral faction.
I wonder how they will handle Worgen shapeshifting? Will people be able to do it at will? will it simply be cosmetic or will it impact gameplay some how? Or will they simply make Worgen transform when ever they enter combat?

As for the whole alliance vs horde who is good and who is evil question. I think the more over played and superficial theme is the whole, humans look like the good guys on the surface but they are really the bad guys after all and the monsterous races are depicted as the noble savages. It is really just the whole western european/american liberal cultural self hatred thing that shows up in virtually every game, novel, and movie produced in the last half century or so.

It wouldn't be against lore for (at least a faction of) the goblins to join the Horde. They were allies once and there's no particular reason why some of them might not prefer things that way.

To quote WOWwiki, which is in turn quoting the warcraft RPG books:

"Old friends, the goblins fought with the Horde in the Second War, but broke off when they realized that it's more profitable to work both sides. However, many goblins remember the fun of the Horde and are willing to lower mercenary prices to Thrall and his people. Goblins offer almost exclusive transport services for the Horde, whether in their steamboats or zeppelins. You’re more likely to find a team of goblin sappers, who take great pleasure in the chaos the Horde creates, meshed into Horde forces than those of the Alliance. Perhaps with enough persuasion, the goblins could be convinced to rejoin the Horde for the first time since the Second War (although that could be just as harmful as helpful, knowing the goblins)."

No lore butchery is required for either Alliance Worgen or Horde Goblins. It's all there in the existing lore and has been since vanilla WOW. In fact they're much better supported by the lore than the previous two expansion races.
Incidentally, for those who are interested, there's a whole bunch of discussion behind the lore of worgen and goblins in scrolls of lore, which is where the original discovery of the masks was first posted, no matter what some other sites may claim.
Interesting point of view. It could be indeed a try to smooth the balance in the game world, in case things are confirmed.

I'm also worried about all the info leaks on Cataclysm. It doesn't seem like Blizzard. Or is it going to be called Cataclysm at all? Hmmm?
New races don't really attract me. Although it might be a reason to finally level a horde character as cute goblin.

But it does not add horizontal content. In fact, it adds nothing. The game wouldn't be all that different if every end game character was a human. Being a human or gnome mage changes almost nothing.

And it's a cheap way to add content. They already have the models, they just have to add some animations for spellcasting etc.
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