I’m old, so I have a collection of sayings, tired old sayings worn so thin they’re nearly transparent. Aphorisms. Amorphisms? No, they have shape, they just don’t have life. Anubisms?
One of my favorites is, “When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s easy to forget you’re there to drain the swamp.”
That was the main theme behind most of my old pen and paper role playing campaigns. I’d give the players a big over-arching questline to pursue, something big and grand and important, and then toss little annoying alligators at their asses to see if they could retain focus.
I loved having groups that were formed mostly of easily distracted players, with that one person that would keep trying to drag them back on target.
“Yes, I know the farmer has lost sheep to something lurking in the woods, but do we really have time to woolgather when the Queen’s virgin son is slated to be sacrificed and his soul consumed at the next full moon? How’s about we tell the local sheriff about the mutton-muncher*, and get our butts on the road. We don’t have time for Larry the Lamb** games.”
Alligators and swamps.
Let’s apply that to World of Warcraft right now, shall we?
We’re right in the middle of a wonderful expansion, killing dinosaurs, tearing it up in the Throne of Thunder, smacking down Lei Shen and destroying or uncovering the secrets of his power. We are pursuing the Sha, ALL of the Sha, wherever they may lead.
We’re farming, raising dragons, battling pets and looking pretty.
The war between Alliance and Horde is at the breaking point, but instead of resulting in a free-for-all, the Horde is fracturing over the actions of the ‘chosen one’ Thrall placed over them, and the Alliance is holding that same despotic overlord responsible for all the bad shit that has happened lately. So far. Well, except for Jaina. Who knows what that lady be thinkin’.
We can foresee a grand ending, with the current Horde Warchief overthrown, and the entire faction in turmoil. Will the Alliance swoop in to take advantage during the confusion?
Where do we go next when the Horde Warchief is taken down?
What major story will the next expansion bring us?
Taking one lesson from past expansions such as Cataclysm, we’ll probably just log in to find out it’s already been a few years since Garrosh was destroyed and a new Warchief was chosen, and things will be what they will be. We can then go and read a good book to find out what our characters missed.
Sorry, that was probably a bit snarky. Accurate, but snarky.
What if we were to try and imagine what our next expansion would be?
Right now we’re all occupied with the day to day playing of the game and the digestion of each content patch. We lament the ongoing delays of Pierre and the Skyclaw mount, we rejoice over reduced Lesser Charms fees for our Mogu Runes, and generally have fun in the now.
What about the big picture? What about the NEXT big picture? We don’t really know what’s going to happen, for all we know the last Sha will signal the resurrection of the Old Gods and the coming of Sargeras to destroy them, and us.
But we think we know we’re gonna take down Garrosh.
Let’s work from there, and think about where it would be really fun to go if we didn’t have to worry about the consequences to players.
Someday soon there will be a grand battle and Garrosh will be taken down. Right?
What, exactly, happens next is anyone’s guess. Will Vol’jin become the next Warchief, as datamining seems to indicate? Will Thrall (called in some circles the big green Jesus) come back to save the day?
Will something (Sargeras) come out of left field, something totally unexpected?
I truly welcome you to share your thoughts and daydreams on what our next expansion could be, where the big story could take us next, what would be big enough for a whole new expansion.
For myself, here is what I would love to see, the expansion I can’t stop thinking about, the game I would love to play in, so maybe by writing it down I’ll purge it.
With the fall of Garrosh, and possibly the revelation and overthrow of the final Sha, the Horde will be in disarray.
The aftermath would be a sensible time for all within the Horde to re-examine their reasons for being together, what they each as a race had brought to the Horde, and what each had lost through their loyalty and commitment to their oaths.
A time perhaps to decide whether what was gained was worth the cost, and also to ask the question; was the Horde as a group as faithful to all of the races that were part of it as those races were to the Horde?
A lot could happen from there, but what I’d love to see happen next would focus on the actions of one prime mover; Sylvanas Windrunner.
There is much that has not yet been resolved with Sylvanas.
She is powerful, independent, intelligent, she is an outstanding character that I would love to see stand on her own as the focus of her own story, setting all of the past behind and working towards brand new goals defined by her alone.
At the same time, she has her own motives that ultimately put her against everything that lives.
Sylvanas Windrunner and the Forsaken have long been a part of the Horde, but it’s been for convenience, strength in numbers against the might of the Alliance. They share little in common with the long term interests of the other living Horde races.
What use to the Forsaken, secure fields to plant crops and domestic animals? Expanded land rights and defended territories? The Forsaken don’t need fields, they need fortresses. They don’t expand, they isolate.
What have we seen from Sylvanas since the Cataclysm?
She does not rule a distinct natural race, but she does control a united cultural group that has grown from the perspectives of intelligent and free-willed undead working together to form a new type of civilization.
She has, despite saying that there is nothing more horrible than suffering the torment of being a soul trapped in an undead body, sought to increase the numbers of the Forsaken to expand her power base.
She has used weapons of mass destruction against the direct orders of her faction Warchief when it suited her purposes and furthered her own aims, with asides to her commanders that made it clear the culture within the Forsaken is to let the living fools believe that they can give orders to the Forsaken, but we know better.
Does Sylvanas strike anyone as being the kind of person to leave questions concerning the undead unanswered? Does she seem the sort to be satisfied with being told by some patriarchal living overlord, “The war is over, and that is all you need to know.”
No, Sylvanas took the power of the last of the Valkyr to make more Forsaken, and if she had access to it she would presumably seize any other legacy of power over the undead she could get her hands on.
And all that aside, after the history Sylvanas and Arthas share, does it even make sense that she would not want to know exactly what had happened to Arthas, in loving detail?
And along the way, oh yes, what became of the power he wielded over the undead?
I would love the next expansion to begin with the existing factions of Warcraft shattered.
I would want to see people log in and find three factions to choose from: Horde, Alliance and Forsaken.
That’s right. THREE.
And right there on the character select screen, you could choose which faction your existing characters were now going to be a part of.
We could use the expansion “and some time has passed” thing to our benefit. So time has passed since Garrosh fell, the Forsaken split off and formed their own faction, and we live in troubled times? Good, in the time that has passed I can decide what my character did, and create an entirely new backstory.
Stay with your existing faction and maintain all of your guild relations and history? Or take a free faction change, with ALL that goes with it, to switch factions, keeping your race if going from Horde to Alliance or back, but choosing to be an undead version OF YOUR CURRENT RACE if you choose Forsaken.
I would love it if the new expansion started with Sylvanas having already overcome Bolvar Fordragon, seized the helm and the Frozen Throne, and taken her Forsaken out of the shadows into open war against the rest of the living, ALL the living.
With her new power, Sylvanas could raise any fallen race as a new undead, and so the Forsaken faction would consist of undead of EVERY race, not just humans.
As for the Horde and Alliance, there has been adequate groundwork lain to support either entire races breaking off and changing faction, or giving individuals the choice of which faction they would choose to be a part of.
I mentioned I’d prefer the individual choice, since entire races changing factions takes the choice out of the player hands, especially where guild participation is concerned. For many of us, the friendships we have within a guild is more important than faction.
But screw it, I’m not even remotely thinking any of this could really happen, so why not entertain the idea of the Tauren joining the Alliance, and the Gnomes allying with the Goblins to join the Horde? Come on, if the Goblins were to succeeed in making the biggest boomer ever that blew all the radiation out of Gnomeregan, finally returning the city to the Gnomes, and if the Dwarves run by the Moira dominated triune were openly hostile to Gnomes, wouldn’t that make a plausible start?
We could have a Horde where the fall of Garrosh led to Bane and Vol’jin seizing power from the Orcs, breaking the chains of Orc hegemony and establishing a new Horde governed once again by a shamanistic/druidic council that looked to working with the natural order rather than the steel fortress stuff of Garrosh.
In other words, a hippy cult Horde dedicated to working together as true partners, a Horde open to establishing peace through strength. And I’m okay with a hippy cult Horde.
The Alliance has been set up to try and assist the Trolls to overthrown the rule of Garrosh, but with all Jaina has done so far, especially in Dalaran, and us handing her a powerful staff imbued with the powers of Lei Shen, am I the only one wondering what atrocity may yet spring from her irrational actions?
I say irrational, and I mean it. I still feel that, for a leader of the Kirin-Tor, and from the talks we saw during Operation: Shieldwall, Jaina is on very unstable emotional footing and is still capable of anything.
Will she be able to keep all of her still-existing rage focused on Garrosh? Or will she use that staff to unleash hell on innocents among the Horde?
Can you imagine a three front war? Horde and Alliance having to work with each other, join together to truly face the enemy of all that lives, Sylvanas Windrunner and the Forsaken.
And perhaps, just perhaps, the big story in that expansion could be Sylvanas Windrunner and the Forsaken seizing and repurposing all of the power of Icecrown Citadel. And maybe adding to it the power of the Titan devices in Ulduar…
In response to losing terribly in battle against this energized Forsaken, would the Alliance and Horde be able to work together to take the terrible Titan weapons and devices they have just seized from Lei Shen and the Mogu, and learn how to control them to defend their own peoples and pit them against Sylvanas?
Legendary items are one thing, but when both sides unleash Titanic weapons upon each other, will even the world survive?
What would happen next? With such devices, such power… the power to create new bodies, of stone and flesh and other things, to transform matter from one state to another..
Would it be possible for the Forsaken to be out to convert all that lives to undeath, while the Alliance and Horde seek to master the Titanic forces of Pandaria to convert all undead once more to the living, or at least the permanently dead?
Could the tools of the Titans be used to create a final cure for the Curse of Unlife?
Remember, I said leave behind what Blizzard might or might not really do. Blizzard could go to a three faction system and explode story possibilities, but I’m sure they wouldn’t then have an expansion war that resulted in player-controlled undead characters being forcibly changed to living characters at the end.
Well, I think they wouldn’t. I know I would, but hey. I’ll take risks because I don’t have millions on the line from a commercial enterprise.
I can imagine playing that expansion. Of looking at the character select screen, and wondering… do I stay as part of the Alliance, after everything that Jaina did, with Varian watching and doing nothing to really stop it?
Do I join the Horde, and do my part to try and help rebuild in the aftermath?
Or… do I decide that my character is one of the many to fall in the final battles, and is reborn as part of the new, expanded Forsaken?
I know we’re only halfway through Mists of Pandaria, screwing around with Mogu and on the Isle of Thunder, but I can’t help thinking about the Forsaken, how ill a fit they are in any living faction, and how they truly do deserve to be treated with respect and given their own place to shine in the dark of night.
How awesome it would be to expand the Forsaken by allowing undead of every race, and not just human? I mean real undead, not reskinned colors on existing races as they did with Death Knights. Broken jawed, stitched together Gnomes is what I’m saying.
If you could imagine anything for the story of our next expansion, the cost and time of art resources and technology no object or concern, what would it be? Where would you want to drive this bus?
*Formerly muttonguzzler. I changed it just ’cause I thought mutton-muncher sounded funny. Er. Funnier.
**Like Mickey Mouse games, but fluffier. Because the story would be a piece of flu… oh, you get it.