Gaming Philosophy and Warlords of Draenor

Or: Staying in Pandaria and Avoiding Queuecraft

It’s been a few days – less than a week – since Warlords of Draenor’s launch across all servers, and I suppose I feel validated in my decision to hold off – at least, initially, until Christmastime – by the severe lag and server issues that are plaguing American and European realms.

I’m not exactly averse to ever getting Warlords of Draenor. WoW is still a game I love and it’s provided me with some wonderful memories. But I still can’t shake the hesitancy, the feeling that this isn’t what we should be focusing on that has plagued me since Blizzcon ’13. The graphics are pretty. The dynamics of the game look engaging. But the story feels inherently flawed, just as much as it felt flawed when it was announced.

That’s why I’m reluctant. I’ve always had apprehensions when expansions have been announced – Cataclysm in particular I initially thought would be horrible – but those thoughts are usually abated by the beta’s trickle of information.

Draenor still feels wrong to me. I don’t know if that’s intentional or if I’m in a minority here. It feels like a distraction. It feels inexplicable, like the only way to distract from the military and economic issues that would inevitably follow the wars of the past few years is to throw our characters into a universe where they have to work with an army entirely separate to the one in Azeroth’s, because we’re cut off from our homeworld entirely.

It intensely aggravates me. It reeks even more of Blizzard’s consistent avoidance of consequences. I can still tell that, when the threat of the Iron Horde is over, we are probably going to re-open the portal, head home, and forget it all happened. The contained issue of a Draenor that we were never meant to encounter is solved by the fact that we will cut it off from our own reality once we’re done with it.

That’s why I have found it so hard to invest in the story of Warlords of Draenor, as pretty as Shadowmoon Valley and Talador and Tanaan Jungle are, and as cool and innovative as the bosses may be. It’s not our story.

I… want to know what happens after Mists of Pandaria. I want to help out with the rebuilding, to see the effects we’ve had on the ecosystem of the Valley of Four Winds. To show Orgrimmar being slowly turned back into the multicultural hub of the Horde it was meant to be. The ramifications of changing the orcish position of Warchief into a trollish one. The political effects of Dalaran’s shift from neutral to Alliance – and possibly now back to  neutral. Whether Theramore will be rebuilt, whether the Mana Bomb affected the wildlife like it did in Terokkar Forest.

These are not stories that will be told. They are never told. Blizzard cannot maintain coherence between the old worlds of expansions past and the modern changes of the new worlds. We see them go back to old continents once or twice per expansion – 4.1, 5.3, the occasional quest chain – if we are lucky. Blizzard is great at a contained story – but at tying their stories together, they have so far fallen short. I don’t want to make a blanket statement that they won’t succeed in Warlords. But I cannot build the optimism. So I’ll wait until the verdicts on 6.0’s story come in.

Otherwise, I’m now at university. My time for World of Warcraft usually stretches to maybe 1 hour per day. I’m holding off on Warlords of Draenor – for better or worse – until Christmas, l have the time and resources to play and enjoy Warlords of Draenor, if I do buy it. I hope that I’ll be proven wrong when I do eventually join in. And that the servers will look a bit better. Until then, I’ll be doing whatever takes my fancy in-game and wishing the best of luck to those trying to access Draenor.

Shattered Heart: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Unity

Sabellian

“Other dragons.” Sabellian murmured. They were here, beyond the Dark Portal. No dragons had ever crossed it before, not since Deathwing. Emotion flooded his senses and he could feel the beat of the earth beneath him. “Real dragons. They’re real. They’re real!”

Instinctively, he roared in greeting, the powerful boom of his deep voice amplified by the magic of the Nether. Cimmeria joined in, her own roar an octave higher, then another, and another and another until all the assembled dragons joined in, a chorus of yells of excitement and disbelief. Sabellian watched as the dragons from beyond leapt, one after the other, into the darkness of space, the magic of the Nether bringing them closer and closer.

“I can’t believe it. Azerothian dragons. Here.” Cimmeria laughed again, tears flitting down her blue skin. “This is all so much to take in.”

Sabellian thought back over the tumultuous day, from the uninspiring dawn to the tremendous change of the last hour. The earth continued to beat beneath him, the spirits more apparent than ever. “Something has changed within us. I can feel it. Maybe they feel it too.”

Cimmeria nodded, then paused. “Keep your guard up, still. They might be with the Twilight.”

“If they are, then they’ve gone through what we have too. Look.” Sabellian pointed through the portal, where the other dragons drifted through on half-mortal forms. “This… hybrid form isn’t natural. They must have felt the pain too. Heard the earth.”

“Then.. Maybe they’re on our side for once.”

~~~

Obessia

The vastness of space beckoned them all, and before she knew it the earth had pushed her out. Go. Seek your brethren. Your friends. This is why you came here.

This is why we came here. “Other dragons! Real black dragons! Quickly!”

“Obessia, wait!” Serinar’s voice clung to her through the Great Dark. “What if they’re hostile?”

“What if they’re friendly? We have no choice now, Serinar! There is no going back! They’re what we came here hoping to find. New brothers and sisters. New friends.” Obessia pushed forth, her wings guiding her through towards the other end of the portal. She had no idea why it was there in the first place. But she knew it was right.

She wasn’t the only one. Either side of her came the wingbeats of many, her flock joining her, the hope in their eyes beaming like it shone out of hers. Hope for peace. Recovery. Redemption. Here. This was where they belonged. She knew it in her heart.

The stars glittered around her, planets beyond measure, untouched by the Legion, by the Old Ones. The hope of the universe. The hope for a new dawn and a new day. Maybe they could no longer live in Azeroth, but in Outland… hope remained.

The portal beckoned, ever closer.

~~~

Cimmeria

All eyes were transfixed upon the portal. Adrenaline rushed through Cimmeria. She had scarcely believed this would, could ever happen. In the time after the world had been destroyed, the clutches of the Black Flight had been lost to the Beyond. The majority of the drakes had been hunted down by the gronn, and the eggs that remained were… different. They pulsated with energy and glowed bright blue. The new hatchlings were independent of thought, bound by no rules. They were the Netherwing, and like Cimmeria, the children of Deathwing…

But they were different to us.

These dragons… they were hope. Hope that Cimmeria wouldn’t see her brothers and sisters hunted down to extinction. Hope that the Black dragons would become stronger than ever. Her own words of caution floated away as she saw each dragon, pushing harder and harder to reach the end of the portal, their eyes beaming, power streaming from the leader, a small drake with the human form of a pallid human girl. Even separated by the Great Dark Beyond, Cimmeria felt the potential. The earth seemed to beat stronger and stronger as they approached.

They are the answer. They are like us. Outcasts, exiles. But together we can become all we need.

~~~

Serinar

Serinar left last, his caution overwhelmed by the happiness that he felt upon seeing other dragons. The rumours had all been true. Black dragons survived in Outland even as they fell in Azeroth.

Azeroth. The word was tainted in his head now. All it had ever been was death and destruction and fire. But everything had changed now. Outland was a home he had never known, but here was a whole family of dragons waiting, cheering as they approached. Outland was his home.

It’s all our homes. It is everything Azeroth never was, that our flight never had.

“Last one there’s a green dragon!” Serinar yelled, his wings pushing him past the rest of the flock. Obessia laughed and gave chase, snapping at his heels.

Bolstered by his support of the endeavour, the flock tightened, each dragon striving to reach the end of the portal. They raced together, becoming one.

One family. One flock. One hope.

Shattered Heart: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Rage

Cimmeria

Her whole body was flooded with pain on a level she had scarcely thought to be real. It stabbed at every joint, feeling like a thousand claws prying off her scales. A sickly screech followed the pain, and in the blistering heat Cimmeria realised it was her own mangled cry as she was shunted midway between her mortal and draconic forms. Scales erupted across her smooth skin and mortal-sized wings burst from her sides. She felt fangs push into a mortal mouth, making her neither dragon nor draenei.

What is happening?

Through blurred vision she saw the twilight cultists scattering, some cackling, dancing around the ogres.

They did this to me. They’re making this happen.

Cimmeria became aware of the earth’s surface cracking under her feet, her consciousness expanding with each crack. She could feel the tremors of a far-off earthquake beginning.

I have to stop them.

Blinded by pain, she leapt, snarling, at the sound of the laughter.

~~~

Serinar

A low rumble signified a sudden earthquake, and Serinar’s surroundings were filled with yelps and screeching as the flock was struck down by some terror.

“What’s going on?” He yelled, frantic, glancing around for the source. A second rumble hit, closer this time, and pain flooded his skull, forcing tears out of his green eyes. He stumbled and collapsed upon the floor as the pain shoved him roughly into a mangled half-dragon form, torn wings fluttering helplessly.

You are ours now. No one runs from the Hammer.

From out of the earth rose a twisted creature, elemental material bound to humanoid form, slightly reptilian in stature. He’d seen them before. The Ascended, the upper echelons of the Hammer’s shaman, bound with an elemental in a terrifyingly powerful combination. Serinar clutched at the ground but the earth continued to reverberate, screaming pain at him louder than anything he had ever encountered. He could feel the earth pulsating, energy flowing like blood out of the cracks the Ascendant had caused.

Eventually, it became too much, and he gave in, head laid upon the ground, waiting for oblivion.

“No. You’re hurting the spirits. You must stop.”

Serinar saw the young drake push herself from the floor. Like the rest, she was caught in a half-dragon form, her violet eyes burning against her onyx scales and porcelain human skin. Somehow, she remained standing, pushing back against the power of the Ascendant. Serinar could feel energy racing out of the earth to meet her in a way he had only ever seen shamans master. It was as though they were acting in harmony.

The Ascendant let out a croaky snarl. Strong one. I shall enjoy breaking you.

~~~

Sabellian

Time seemed to slow as the flock fell to their knees, pulled into mismatched shapes of humanoids and draconids. Power rained upon his skull, making him suffer similarly. His claws shrank back into soft human hands, his heavy wings pulling his mortal form down.

What is happening? Why is the earth screaming?

You belong to us now, son of Deathwing.

In the middle of the ridge, Sabellian could see them. Twilight cultists, flanked by enslaved elementals. He had no idea how they had accessed the ridge. On hands and knees, he growled a warning, but the other dragons laid immobile, paralysed by pain.

“No.. We are free..” Sabellian drew upon every ounce of will he could, the same will he had once used to combat the voices, and pushed upwards, shakily coming to his feet. Unused to the half-mortal form, he swayed slightly, unbalanced.

They told us you would be strong of will. Those born of the Destroyer’s blood are the strongest. You shall serve us well.

“I serve.. no one.. but my flock.” Sabellian focused his gaze on the closest shaman, a tall elven figure. The shaman met his gaze head on, and more pain flooded his senses. The earth expanded around him. He could feel every inch, every speck of dust, every crack in the dry ground, and it screamed at him.

Sabellian took a step forward as his lucid blue eyes began to glow bright orange with fire, the scales on his face flickering.

“You will… stop. I will protect them.” Glaring at the shaman, Sabellian launched off the ground, propelling himself with his rough wings towards the shaman, claws outstretched.

~~~

Obessia

The earth raced up to meet her, intertwining with her fingers. I’ll protect you. I’ll stop them. They’re hurting both of us.

Obessia lifted up off the floor with a few wingbeats, swinging the earth at the Ascendant like a whip. It bounced off, shattering into pieces.

You’ll have to try harder, little drake. Elementium spikes ripped through the ground and the screams intensified. Obessia weaved, the wings barely working with her mortal form.

“Then I will.”

Obessia mirrored the spikes, curving a trap around the Ascendant’s leg. It snapped the earth off and fired it at her. She blocked with a shield of earth.

Voices flooded her consciousness as she became one with the earth. Save us. Free us. Protect us. You were guardians once. Be a guardian.

Obessia hovered in mid-air, letting the voices wash over her. She weaved through the sky, dodging the elementium attacks of the Ascendant. She dropped onto the Ascendant and the earth rippled following her attack. The Ascendant hissed as she leapt back, the earth moving and obeying her thoughts. The Ascendant fired a beam of dark energy at her and she deflected it. At her request, the earth beneath the Ascendant became like quicksand, dragging it in.

I am their guardian. They are mine. You will not harm the earth any longer.

Obessia landed on the ground, approaching the trapped Ascendant, and snapped its head off with a claw.

~~~

Cimmeria

It took four decapitated cultists before Cimmeria regained her sight. By then the cultists had reformed in a defensive position, protecting the ogres.

Her senses continued to expand. The rage of the earth flooded her mind. They hurt us. Destroy them. Free us.

She snarled, leaping from a rock and impaling two cultists on her claws, tossing them to their deaths on the bladed canyon edge. Her red eyes burned with fury.

“How dare you.” Cimmeria leapt once more, slamming down upon the ground. Spikes of earth came up, erupting through the bodies of three more cultists. Cimmeria took a step back in shock, staring at her claws, scales mixing with dark blue skin.

“Did I-” Cimmeria’s ponderance was interrupted by a stream of pain, as more of the earth cracked around her.

Never mind. I have to stop them. The cultists scattered, fleeing the spikes, and Cimmeria saw her opening. The ogres were focused on the grimoire between them, casting more spells to harm the earth. She braced for launch, leaning back on one leg, and springing up into the air.

She knocked one ogre clean over with a kick to the head, incinerating the other with her fire breath as she flew over. Landing on bent knee before them, she turned.

Both ogres smiled at her like possessed corpses as they toppled over, completely intact yet totally dead. Cimmeria turned to the book. Dark, sickly runes swirled over the tome, amplifying the pain she felt yet she crawled closer. As she was about to end the book, however, it blinked out of existence.

The pain disappeared. Cimmeria struggled to her feet, her sight sharpening. The cultists were nowhere to be seen.

I have to let Sabellian know.

Sabellian. She cursed. It could have been an hour. She raced up the canyon wall, springing from spire to spire, her form refusing to return to normal.

~~~

Sabellian

The dead cultist fell to the floor behind him as Sabellian turned, strong, to face the remainder. Elementium sprung out of nowhere, and though he had never seen it before he could feel its taint, taste the corruption it spread through the earth. Gritting his teeth, he clamped on to the metal with one claw, willing it to return to the underbelly of the shattered earth.

It complied, slithering back as the earth swallowed it. The cultists advanced.

You’ll regret that. The shaman muttered to themselves and the earth cracked more, the pain intensifying. Save us, son of Neltharion. Protect your domain. Your duty. Sabellian felt his knuckles crack as the pain continued to shove him into a half-mortal, half-dragon form. His wings beat stronger, lifting him up into the air with ease.

“You underestimate us. We are black dragons. We are free from you and your masters, and we will always be free. This is our home. We know the earth better than you ever will.”

The words sprang out of nowhere, but Sabellian knew them to be true. The earth rippled below his feet, working with him against the Hammer. He pulled the earth around him into a shield, barrelling into a second cultist.

You have made a grave mistake-

“No, you have! You and your masters will burn in the Nether!” Cimmeria leapt over the edge of the ridge, blocking out the sun as she flew overhead. Sabellian felt pride well up as he saw her glow with power, slamming into another cultist and kicking over a fourth.

“I was wondering when you’d turn up.” Sabellian smirked at her. Cimmeria bowed mockingly. “It’s good to see you, too.”

Between them, they quickly dispatched the cultists. Cimmeria began tending to the other members of the flock as the pain receded, the earth repairing itself. Sabellian glanced out into the Beyond – and found himself staring into the eyes of a dragon.

~~~

Serinar

Struggling to his feet, Serinar felt relief as the earth’s pain washed away. Obessia glowed with power.

“I- I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Obessia remained in her half-dragon form, as did the rest. Something remained amiss, but she smiled. “I understand them. I can feel them in the earth. The spirits.”

Serinar was at a loss for words.

“It’s our old powers, isn’t it? I can control them.”

“Well, yes, but… Deathwing gave those up long ago.”

Obessia shrugged it off. “This isn’t the world Deathwing swore to protect. This is our world now.”

Serinar paused to dwell on her words. He, like the others, had felt the earth in a way he never had before in that fight. It was as though the Ascendant had unlocked something inside them – a hidden capability to understand the earth, long since hidden by older members of the flight. Even now he could feel the spirits of the earth as they moved, pulsating like heartbeats.

“Even so, we still have a lot to learn-” Serinar went quiet as he looked up, following Obessia’s gaze into the Beyond – right into the eyes of a dragon.

Alternate Universe Azeroth 2: Lor’themar

There’s public outrage after Theramore comes to light in Silvermoon. Because it will, of course. The sentries haven’t been updated since Kael’thas’ betrayal, so they’re not monitoring conversations on human kingdoms – there are no people to update them, which is another cause for anger. Hundreds of families haven’t seen their relatives in years because of wars the Sin’dorei shouldn’t be involved in. Almost all of the Ghostlands are relying on the Forsaken to keep the Scourge at bay even after the Lich King’s defeat, and the Horde is forcing the Sin’dorei to keep fighting.

There are protests beyond anything seen before, about the military, the Ghostlands, the lack of food, the lack of transparency, the fact that the palace was rebuilt but there are still refugees in Quel’danas and the ruined western quarter. Lor’themar is forced to hold emergency meetings with the military brass because of the risk of riots. Protests devolve angrily into pro- and anti-Horde camps, and the Sunreavers become public enemy number one for allowing the blood elves to be complicit in one of the worst war crimes in recent history. During all of this, Thalen Songweaver and Fanlyr Silverthorn… disappear.

Aethas is held accountable, of course, but even he has no idea where the pro-Garroshians have fled to. The Sunreavers are hastily disbanded and re-absorbed into the Magisters, and Lor’themar forced to allow a people’s assembly to be elected to negotiate with a power-sharing council to avoid such heinous misdemeanours being repeated again. Relations with the Horde tremble, even if briefly.

Eventually, to sate the public, Lor’themar begins negotiations with Vereesa to allow the Quel’dorei an embassy. Lady Liadrin is sent to aid Horde forces, with more golems than guards, because the guards need a face more than ever, and the golems weren’t helping the case. In public, the reason is to aid the war effort and the draenei whom the elves owe a debt to. In private, Lor’themar is desperate to recapture Songweaver and Silverthorn before their escape turns into another public scandal.

Goodbyes

Keliera took one last glance across the bay as the golden strands of Quel’thalas drifted further and further out of reach. Her hands fiddled absentmindedly with the sheaf of papers she had with her.

“Havin’ second thoughts?” One of the goblin crewmembers stood next to her. “Don’t blame ya. Pretty sweet view you elves got.”

Keliera smirked. “Aye, but it’s just a front, really. The core’s not changed. I’m not sure it ever will. Better to go somewhere else, change things where they can be changed. If Silvermoon wants to stay rotten, I don’t want to be dragged down with it.”

“Well, there’s good folks in Pandaria. Best I’ve known. I’m sure you’ll find some friends.”

Keliera nodded. “Gonna miss it though. Met some good folks outside of it.” Memories flooded through her head – time-travelling in Netherstorm, drinks in Dalaran, blowing up Gallywix’s outhouse – as the coastline faded from view.

“Better to leave now, I think. I’ve got a lot more to do.” Keliera’s fingers rubbed over the surge ring she’d got in Northrend. She could feel it. Change. It felt good.

Well, I guess that’s a wrap. I said to myself that if there was no beta and no sign of Blizzard changing things by the time my subscription ended on June 3rd, I’d bow out. That’s a week away, and I feel like things have regressed, given the Rob Pardo comments we’ve heard about.

I can’t be sure whether I’ll ever return to WoW, but the continued lack of inclusivity and the poor jokes and comments seem to have learned little from the Cannibal Corpse fiasco three years ago. Blizzard as a whole is relying on the industry to back it up – but the industry is changing. Blizzard is the dinosaur in gaming right now, and somehow it thinks that by pretending it was twenty years ago, it’s going to coast by just fine. Change is hard, but inevitable, and it’s not going to wait.

Of Warlords, all I can say is that it looks pretty. The changes to LFR, the over-emphasis on Garrisons, the shoddy story ideas – none of them make me want to play it. I have said before, but Warlords is the only expansion I’ve seen announced where the information trickle after Blizzcon has made me like the expansion less and less.

I start Uni later this year. I doubt I’ll have time to play WoW. I doubt I’d be playing even if I wanted to right now. I can hope that Blizzard changes, but right now I feel like it’s best to move on and be thankful for the friends I made and the awesome times I had. It’s been great.

Alternate Universe Azeroth 1: Saurfang

I’m bored. Alternate Universes are fun.

Warcraft AU 1: Dranosh Lives

Context: Dranosh is not actually killed by Frostmourne at the Wrathgate. The Forsaken attack before he charges, and both he and Bolvar are kept barely alive by the Red Dragonfire until they are taken to Icecrown Citadel. Instead of Deathbringer Saurfang, the Horde and Alliance gunships encounter Orbaz Bloodbane, given renewed power by the Val’kyr.

Following his defeat, Muradin, Varian, Garrosh and Varok storm the citadel only to stumble upon the Lich King attempting to convert Dranosh into an even more powerful death knight.

LK: Dranosh… Heart of Draenor in the old tongue. How quaint. But I remember you. The shaman remembers you. Proud old Varok, who would not let the warlocks take his child… But I shall.

Dranosh: You’re… pathetic… I bow to no warlock magic… I am Saurfang… I am the blood of Draenor…

Varok breaks rank and charges towards the Lich King.

Varok: I made a promise to my wife before she died that I would hide my son, and keep him untainted! I will fulfill that promise. LOK’TAR OGAR!

Varok knocks the Lich King back with a cleave of immense power, and is then flung back against the wall by the Lich King slamming Frostmourne into the floor. Hordes of Val’kyr surround the Lich King as he disappears. The two Saurfangs embrace briefly, before Varok sags into his scarred son’s arms.

Dranosh: Father… Father, stay with me…

Varok: My task… is done. You are the Horde now, Dranosh… Lok’tar Ogar…

Varok passes away, cradled by Dranosh.

 ((To be continued))

Theramore, Tides of War, and Missed Opportunities

(For those of you following me on twitter, this is going to sound a lot like a rant you may have heard.)

Warlords of Draenor is approaching. Slowly. Very slowly. Despite its lack of visible speed,t here is a notable release soon, and that’s the upcoming War Crimes novel, written by Christie Golden (responsible for Twilight of the Aspects, Arthas, Rise of the Horde, Tides of War, etcetera). This is a novel around Garrosh, though it purports to deal with a lot of the main faction leaders and the actions of the Horde in recent years.

This is an incredible opportunity to get a lot of story into the game before the expansion, and it mirrors an opportunity missed entirely two years ago when Mists of Pandaria was approaching. At that time, Tides of War was released, centring around Jaina Proudmoore in the build-up to an all-out war between the Horde and Alliance characterised by the brutal destruction of her home city, Theramore.

This missed opportunity played a massive role in the misrepresentation of Jaina in following patches and the misunderstanding of her by a lot of the player base as ‘evil’, ‘crazy’ and all those other tags which just get added onto characters in order to shove them onto the formerly-good-boss-character assembly line. It’s a worrying prospect that one of the most influential female characters in Warcraft and one of the characters with the most potential could accidentally be endbossed because of this.

Had the campaign leading up to and including the Battle for Theramore been properly included as a pre-launch quest chain, it would be much, much easier to understand Jaina’s sudden characterisation shift from an in-game perspective without having to rely on external lore.

There was so much missed out of Jaina’s in-game characterisation as a result of omitting the key aspects of this campaign. Horde players (unless they detour into the tower) do not see any of the relevant characters in the Battle for Theramore scenario, and it stands to reason that a large section of Horde-only players would not know who was there and who died at all. Similarly, Alliance players do not see any of the Horde leadership or minor characters involved in the campaign – in fact, neither faction sees more than Jaina, Kalec, Rhonin and Thalen Songweaver. You’d be surprised to learn that Garrosh was involved at all.

But an incredible amount of characterisation goes on during the battle. No players get to see the intrigue between Malkorok, Garrosh, Baine and Vol’jin. No one sees Jaina literally break down after the event (in fact, she’s fighting with steely determination in the scenario) because everyone in Theramore that she knew is dead.

Pained, her bodyguard, advisor, friend. Dead.
Tervosh, her right-hand Mage. Dead.
Kinndy, the apprentice that Jaina had had for a week. Dead.
And it goes on. Rhonin, dead, Marcus Johnathon, dead, warriors donated to Jaina by the Kirin Tor and Sha’tar, also dead.

Can you even imagine how devastating that would be to have one one person’s conscience? Jaina has to go for the rest of her life (and mages are longer-lived than most) knowing that everything she did for peace was in vain, that all of those lives were lost because she was the one person to think positively of the Horde. She had to tell Kinndy’s father that she had died under Jaina’s protection, she had to see Kinndy and Pained and Tervosh’s corpses shatter into dust because of the effects of the mana bomb.

All of her closest friends died and she didn’t get to say goodbye, she didn’t get a funeral, and quite likely she thought that it was all her fault for being too trusting. I defy anyone to think that, in that context, Jaina’s change of direction in Mists was a surprise.

And therein lies the problem. It’s not a surprise at all, but none of what I just said happened in game. A vast amount of the playerbase will know little to nothing about these events. And so, really, Jaina gets short shrift. She and Kalec are the only ones to survive that bombing, and the Alliance remains reluctant to stop the Horde being able to do it again. And it is not only understandable, but agreeable, that Jaina is so angry at the Horde and the Alliance.

There is, of course, an easy way to resolve this. All that needs to happen is a monologue, a speech, a couple of flashback quests where it is actually said what happened in full. This brings me onto War Crimes and its relevance in light of Warlords’ eventual launch.

Garrosh Hellscream is put on trial, a trial in which his and others’ past deeds are shown via the Bronze Dragonflight and the Timewalkers. This is a way to literally show any and every piece of relevant lore to the factional conflict in one place, and it oh so desperately needs to be used especially to show what happened at Theramore.

It wouldn’t be the launch that Theramore deserved to be a part of. There should have definitely been a 4.4 with players sent between the capital cities, seeing the molten giants crush the alliance keeps in the Barrens, seeing the intrigue, participating in the whole battle for Theramore, seeing every detail and all of the events that happened afterwards (there’s little reason that it couldn’t have incorporated several scenarios a la thunder isle) That would have been better, and it would have gone some way to silencing the ‘nothing but cute pandas’ naysayers with a dramatic bang to start off Mists.

Consider the opening cinematics of the Jade Forest that you see on either faction. They set the tone for the rest of the expansion, but with a successful pre-launch and a more detailed Battle for Theramore, they would have been appropriate, stoked the tension and integrated Pandaria into a theme which already was geared for factional conflict. In fact, I’d argue that the destruction of Theramore should have been a selling point of Mists at Blizzcon way more than it ended up being, as it would have tied the story in.

A missed opportunity, but as I will stress again, one that doesn’t need to be repeated with War Crimes and Warlords. There is still a a chance to use the Warlords pre-launch event to incorporate the important and wide-reaching plot of War Crimes in a way that the Theramore scenario and the Mists pre-launch failed entirely to, especially as Blizzard is more skilled now at integrating scenarios, questing and unique events into one experience.

We don’t yet know what happens in War Crimes. But Blizzard do, and they should definitely be using it in-game. They cannot create an engaging story if they keep the best story moments outside the game, and with Warlords taking longer than expected to hit beta, they need to be keeping players engaged by integrating the upcoming story into the game rather than waiting until Warlords hits and just having Anduin send us a letter saying ‘oops, Garrosh escaped when he was on trial, sorry you weren’t invited!’ Because, really, it would be a public trial.

This is Blizzard’s opportunity to stop wasting story by restricting it to novels and it is a method by which they can ease the criticism of Warlords so far – by showing that the story is worth it. And it’s going to be their only opportunity to do so. They can’t launch Warlords twice.