I’ve heard quite a few people express their opinion that Outland, and the entirety of the Burning Crusade, felt detached from the Warcraft story.
I can understand it feeling detached from the player, as the overreaching story involving Illidan seems to go out of it’s way to avoid having anything to do with the player.
But the story itself?
I may be alone here, but Outland was the first time in WoW when I actually felt like the story from Warcraft III was finally getting under way again. Vanilla WoW was the part of the game that was detached from the Warcraft series, not the expansion.
When you look at it, vanilla WoW had little to do with Warcraft III. The vast majority of it’s quests and raids were simply there to flesh out the world. Not that I’m saying I disliked that, it’s just that a lot of narrative propulsion in WCIII was simply… ignored.
Illidan? Kael? Vashj? Ignored. What about all the blood elves that stayed behind in Azeroth? The elves that attacked Northrend? The Burning Legion? Even the scourge themselves spent most of vanilla WoW on the sidelines.
All of this I can understand, however. The rapid story telling behind WCIII (and while I’m on the subject, Starcraft) was possible because the developers already knew they had an excellent strategy game. It’s all very well and good to have an excellent storyline, but if the gameplay isn’t there… not a lot of people are going to play and actually experience it for themselves.
If they really wanted to know the story behind a mediocre game, they’d all go to youtube and watch the cutscenes there.
By making it a good game, plenty of people play it, and plenty of people watch the story unfold.
And if there’s one thing a writer loves almost as much as writing, it’s an avid audience.
To me, vanilla WoW seems more like an experiment. You take all these guys who spent most of their time on RTS games, and they say “Can we make an MMO?”
The bonus campaign in Frozen Throne (where you play as Rexxar, for those who don’t remember) was where WoW appeared in it’s first iteration. You play as a character or two or three, running around Durotar completing various quests. Like kill X amounts of this type of mob, collect X many herbs, all quests marked with a yellow “!”… sound familiar?
That seems to me to be a test of how a quest propelled RPG would work within the Warcraft world, and from there, it wasn’t too hard to extrapolate that into an MMO.
The main story line is largely placed on hold until the writers know that all these characters they’ve made are going to have their stories told in a good medium.
Sure, it sounds haughty of them, but it’s how writers are. Go try and find a writer who would say “Sure! Put my characters, the epitome of my imagination and story telling ability, into a crappy game!”. And if you can get a writer to say that, see how much you need to pay them to actually go through with it.
A year goes by. The designers over at Blizzard stand around a table made of hundred dollar bills whilst drinking molten gold from diamond chalices forged in the fires of Mordor, and they state “By jove, we can make an MMO!”
Design on an Expansion gets underway, and the plot resumes. What happened to the blood elves? NOW YOU KNOW. What about Illidan, Kael, and Vashj? (SPOILER: they all die.)
To me, vanilla WoW felt like everyone was mostly dicking around while waiting for… somebody to do… something. Chocolate WoW was a return to the original plot line.
And now with Strawberry WoW on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before all these shenanigans WCIII started are wrapped up.
One can only imagine what Neopolitan WoW will bring with it.