The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're
playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do
you know the why?
One of the major things that vanilla World of Warcraft
struggled with was a compelling story. Yes, we had a particularly epic
tale spun with the release of Ahn'Qiraj and an even greater tale with
Naxxramas. But while Onyxia, Molten Core and Blackwing Lair had stories
that were interesting enough, it was difficult for players to pick up on
those stories and follow them in a coherent fashion. Ragnaros in
particular had a story that was entrenched in several different leveling
zones as well as a few instances.
Meanwhile, the zones that you encountered from level 1 to 60 by and
large didn't have a coherent story to tell. Each zone had little tidbits
of story here and there, but nothing seemed really dire or important
beyond a few epic, sweeping quests. As for faction leaders -- well, they
did very little beyond sit in their capital cities and occasionally
send players on errands. This is something that has continually changed
and improved with every expansion that has been released. The story in WoW has never been as accessible as it is now.
But Mists of Pandaria has the potential to completely blow everything before it away.
The blank slate of Mists
Mists of Pandaria
includes a brand new continent we know
nothing about, several new races of creatures we know nothing about, and
a rich, developed history that, well, we know nothing about. This is
the first time we've ever had an expansion that contains a completely
blank slate from a lore perspective. The Burning Crusade
the continued adventures of Illidan, Kael'thas and Vash'j, as well as
Maiev and Akama. While there were a multitude of new zones to explore, Sell wow gold
lot of the lore from The Burning Crusade
referenced earlier Warcraft
games. So players with a handle on the lore were incredibly excited to
see these characters come back again and interested in seeing what they
had been doing all this time.
In Wrath of the Lich King
, the titular character was the star of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
a game that ended with Arthas' ascension to the Frozen Throne and the
acquisition of a shiny new hat. We never knew what happened to Arthas
after that point. Wrath
showed us what happened, as well as expanding upon events in Warcraft III
whether it was the moment Arthas found Frostmourne or the ghostly tales
of Matthias Lehner. In addition, it introduced a return to the Old God
tales from Ahn'Quiraj and plenty of Titan lore, while finally answering
the question of just what happened to Dalaran and the Kirin Tor.
brought back Deathwing, the corrupted former Aspect
of Earth, and brought to light the continued struggles between Horde and
Alliance. It answered the question of what happened to Gilneas and its
citizens, shut behind a wall since vanilla WoW
. It brought about the return of Malfurion Stormrage, who had spent all of vanilla, The Burning Crusade
trapped within the Emerald Dream. And it revamped the 1-to-60
experience into a streamlined, concentrated burst of lore that tied
directly into the Cataclysm
expansion itself. Faction leaders were now an active part of leveling and endgame.
we have no idea what's coming. Nothing in Mists
so far references any earlier games, save for an appearance by the
Zandalar that hails back to the events in patch 4.1. Chen Stormstout is
present, but there's no reference to his travels with Rexxar or the
events at Theramore in Warcraft III
. What we are dealing with here is a wholly new, blank landscape that has nothing in the prior foundation of Warcraft
lore to support it. That makes players a little uneasy -- but it also
means that lore fans have nothing to look at and try to figure out what
will happen next. It means that there is no sense of history.
Blizzard's done a wonderful job of addressing this by integrating lore
and exploration. Hidden throughout Pandaria are dozens of shrines that
explain the various stories of this mysterious land. Finding the pieces
is half the fun; the other half is in reading the pieces and pulling the
story of Pandaria together. It's an interactive experience that
combines gameplay and lore, rather than setting the lore in a book
separate from the game that must be purchased and read.
It's a fantastic development, one that is sure to be a big hit with lore
fans. But there are a few other things that Blizzard could easily take
advantage of to knock this expansion and its story completely out of the
1. Cinematics and patch trailers
Some of the best stuff we've seen has been in the form of cinematics and
patch trailers. Expansion trailers have always been a hit with fans;
the over-the-top graphics and gorgeous details are something that
players look forward to seeing with every new expansion that's released.
At the moment, expansion trailers play through in full the first time
you install and play the new expansion. After this, they are available
for viewing from the login screen, which is great -- players can always
go back and watch their favorite expansion cinematic again if they want
to, with no issues.
Patch trailers are also a fan favorite, provided they're done correctly. Every patch trailer for The Burning Crusade
remains firmly on my favorites list. Blizzard introduced a little bit
about the back story behind the patch, then expanded into a tasty hint
of what players could expect in the patch itself. Wrath of the Lich King
continued this, with patch trailers that were by and large incredibly
interesting and advanced the lore. The Ulduar trailer was the pinnacle
's trailer cinematics. The introduction of Ulduar was
artfully tucked into a confrontation that would not be forgotten. The
events of that patch led directly to Cataclysm
and possibly beyond.
In addition, Wrath
introduced event cinematics and large-scale,
multiplayer events. The Wrathgate, followed by Battle for the
Undercity, was a perfect example of a multiplayer event. The first few
days of the event were swamped with players, but since the event
contained powerful NPCs with powerful buffs, even players later in the
expansion could successfully play through the event in a solo capacity.
The launch of Ahn'Qiraj in vanilla WoW
was a huge, server-wide
event, but because it was concentrated in one area, server lag
continually booted players offline. With Battle for the Undercity,
players were shunted into the event in shifts, and it worked incredibly
seems to have implemented a combination of event
cinematics and gameplay, and it's effective in some ways, as long as it
isn't overly used. The end of Vash'jir was the culmination of the zone.
The cinematics and the events that played out finished the tale of
Vash'jir perfectly and led to the instance for the next bit of lore.
However, the event in which players assist Aggra in reuniting the
scattered spirits of her beloved didn't quite play so well. This wasn't
because the event was planned poorly. It was largely because Aggra is by
and large an unknown figure to those that haven't purchased the novel The Shattering
, in which Aggra is introduced.
Regardless, the events in Wrath
worked. Both the death knight
starting zone experience and the Battle for the Undercity were
tremendous, and I'd love to see more large-scale events along those
lines in Mists
. More importantly, however, is the subject of
patch trailers. These patch trailers do an excellent job of presenting
the next patch of an expansion as well as tying in lore -- yet the
trailers are only available outside of the game. I'd love to see patch
trailers introduced as part of the game experience. Think about it:
Wouldn't downloading a patch on patch day and being presented with a
trailer when you logged in be pretty cool?
2. Keep the mystery alive
In an article earlier this week, I noted the unspoken bonus of the Raid Finder.
With the Raid Finder, anyone can access endgame content. This means
that the problem with villain exposure in an expansion is effectively a
moot point. Issues like Illidan's being sequestered in the Black Temple
and not visible to those who don't raid just aren't issues worth
considering anymore. I think this is a fantastic thing -- largely
because the situation with Illidan was a moment of mystery as far as the
story was concerned. We didn't know what he was up to. We had to raid
the Black Temple to find out.
In Mists of Pandaria
, the Raid Finder is going to be there
right from the moment we begin the expansion. That's fantastic, because
it means virtually anyone that wishes to can see the story of the
expansion and the raids as it plays out. Since the complaint of villain
exposure is no longer a sticking point, since the lore of raid zones has
become so readily available -- why not play up the mystery?
Keep the bosses a secret. Keep the stories a secret. Keep those major
events secret, and hold them close until they're ready to be released.
Patch trailers? Implement them in the game rather than releasing them on
YouTube, and don't patch in those trailers until the patch is released.
Keep PTR servers focused on development, not story -- keep the story
out of it entirely. Don't let people see all of this stuff in advance.
Don't let the dataminers have an opportunity to nab the information
before it's ready to be released.
What this does is create an air of excitement and buzz about upcoming
story changes. Currently, what we typically see is important story
elements released by various datamining resources. While datamining
isn't a bad thing -- it can certainly build excitement and create a lot
of buzz about new abilities and encounters -- having story information
before it's actually in the game is like reading the summary of a movie
before you watch it. When you have that information beforehand, it
trivializes the experience of actually playing through it.
Think about it: How often do you enjoy reading a new book when you
already know how it's going to end? While we carefully place spoiler
warnings on everything we report regarding the beta, that information is
still out there for people to see. On top of this, there's the added
problem of players getting upset by leaked story information. The
problem is that players aren't seeing the story as a whole. They're
seeing bits and pieces of it -- and the pieces they do
see cause them to automatically leap to the worst conclusion possible.
It would be far more entertaining if story elements were simply left to
the last possible minute before being patched into the live game. That
element of mystery is an integral part of what makes a story riveting --
removing that mystery just makes the story fall flat.
3. Open the floodgates on lore accessibility
really raised the bar on the lore accessibility
front. The revamped 1-to-60 leveling zones all have overarching themes
that play off of and intertwine with the Cataclysm
itself. Some raise questions that have yet to be answered; others touch
on themes that players will see once they hit level 80 and begin
leveling through the Cataclysm
zones. But they all have one
thing in common: They're absolutely riveting. The new zones, while
admittedly linear, all have a thematic element to them that leads
players through the zone and culminates in an ending that may or may not
be satisfying but is certainly fascinating.
But one of the biggest standing issues for those who follow the lore is
that there's no real way for them to actually gather all of the pieces
of a story in the game and keep it for reference purposes. Sure, sites
out there like igcoin let you look up the various bits of information,
but for things like in-game books or quest items with important letters
or documents, you have to resort to copious screenshots or addons like
Gryphonheart Items to copy and store the texts in-game for future
In-game books are something that have been around since vanilla WoW
and there is absolutely no reason a player should have to use an
outside addon to keep track of them. There's no reason a player should
have to alt-tab out of the game to look them up. wow
gold for sale
and it's certainly a
drag to have to go find the book in game to give it another read. Mists of Pandaria
has dozens of shrines with interesting text to read through -- but
again, there's no way to store that information. At the present time,
players will still have to revisit these shrines to read them again or
use an outside addon.
So why not open that accessibility to the lore even further and give
players some sort of UI element that will store the books they read and
allow them to be re-read? As for patch trailers, why not make them
available for repeat viewing via the login screen, like the cinematic
trailers? They're bits of lore and history, they should by all rights be
easily accessible to view repeatedly, without the need of YouTube or a
search on Google.
The way that lore and story was presented in Cataclysm
was revolutionary for World of Warcraft
For those who like to follow the lore, it's never been more readily
available -- and there's never been quite this much story development in
a single expansion. From completed storylines to intriguing story
threads that have been left dangling, Cataclysm
reshaped the way Warcraft
tells a story, and it did so remarkably well. Mists
is shaping up to be an incredible expansion rich in story as well. I'm
really hoping it continues to advance lore development and using the
game as a medium for storytelling purposes, while giving those of us
interested in the lore some new innovations to look forward to.