Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lore: The Dwarves' Wasted Opportunities

After witnessing so much story and political turmoil being added into the majority of the Horde races in the Cataclysm expansion, I take a look at the wasted opportunities that the Alliance races could've been developed by Blizzard.
"In the power vacuum that followed, his estranged daughter, Moira, who had married into the much despised Dark Iron clan, briefly claimed Ironforge’s throne and effectively locked down the city. If not for the intervention of King Varian Wrynn of Stormwind and his son, Prince Anduin, her brash actions might have sparked another civil war. With Varian’s guidance, control of Ironforge has since been divided equally among the Bronzebeard, Wildhammer, and Dark Iron clans through the Council of Three Hammers. Yet as bitterness and prejudice fester among the clans, the council’s ability to govern as one remains uncertain."

- excerpt of Blizzard's description of the Dwarf race.
Oh really?

Take a trip to Ironforge.
Look around.

Oh yeah, that looks like civil unrest.
The place and characters really feel like they were on the brink of a civil war.
I mean with all of those Dark Iron dwarves walking around like they own the place or at least show their presence...

/end sarcasm

The Shattering... of NOTHING
Ironforge in-game should not be like it currently is.
You should have dialogue between the NPCs.
They should be worried, mistrusting, shushing when patrols are about to walk by them.
You should see bunches of different clans of dwarves gathered in all different corners of the city.
Certain corners and walls and bridges should be showing signs of the Cataclysm.
But if that's asking for too much, then at least Ironforge should shows the signs that the Dark Irons have stepped in the place.
That The Shattering novel happened.
That their short story happened.
The Dark Irons held the city under siege.
They kidnapped and beat up other dwarves, killed gryphons, started fires.
People were being paranoid and scared during that time and don't you think for a second that the founding of the Council of Three Hammers totally makes all of that okay in people's minds.
They don't trust the Dark Irons - with reason.

Divide and Conquer
Moira Bronzebeard is a wonderful character to work with, from a writer's perspective.
She's shown that she's a schemer, a skilled politician, and a backstabber.
After her failed coup in trying to crown herself Queen/Empress of the Dwarves, she tried a different tactic, trying to gather the dwarves and sway them in her favor.
Instead of denying the rumors concerning the Dark Irons, she spread false rumors about the Bronzebeards and the Wildhammers, quite successfully.
And although the objective of her plan was literally shattered by Kurdran Wildhammer, the side effects of her maneuvering the dwarven clans still remain.
"The city of Kurdran’s ancestors was a simmering cauldron of old prejudice. It churned endlessly, its toxic fumes dissolving whatever logic and reason remained within the Bronzebeard, Wildhammer, and Dark Iron dwarves living together in Ironforge for the first time in over two centuries. And Kurdran was standing at the edge of it all, gazing into its fiery heart with confusion as it grew closer and closer to erupting."
"By the following week, the tension among the clans had become a smoldering coal; it was still present, but the threat of violence seemed distant."

- excerpts of The Council of Three Hammers: Fire and Iron
So the rumors and mistrust should still somewhat be there.
The atmosphere of Ironforge should be slightly less grim than at the time of that event, but it should still be there.
The fate of the dwarves is clouded by uncertainty.
If it's not by rumors concerning each other, their crystallized leader should be enough of a reminder of their current situation.

Moira still has some explaining to do
She says with full honesty that the Dark Irons have changed and will now work alongside the Alliance.
The ones that have followed her, of course, not the other ones that are still out there.
Then how can anyone tell if ANY Dark Iron they encounter is a "bad" Dark Iron or one of Moira's "good" Dark Irons doing something bad?
It's clearly shown in a low-level quest that the other dwarves can only take her on her own word, for what that's worth.
Which really means, given the pile of negatives that she's accumulated so far, that it's better not to trust her at all.

Which brings me to a point I want to briefly mention...

Bulls**t in the Snow
Ok so you've all ran the Blood in the Snow scenario, right?
You've listened to the prologue from Lorewalker Cho.

So now if you've read The Shattering and the dwarves' short story, you should be aware - as I've stated just a minute ago, that you cannot trust the political maneuverings of Moira Bronzebeard.
In other words, the Bronzebeards and the Wildhammers know in their right minds that the Dark Irons should not be left alone without supervision, and whoever is doing the supervision needs a good backup.
Of course, this gives Moira the perfect opportunity to show that the Dark Irons are the goody-two-shoes she's always claimed they were, while Varian, completely blind to the whole situation, scolds the other dwarves for not wanting to help.
And because the operation is successful, Varian's all happy with the Dark Irons and now trusts them entirely. (Or at least, the scenario is showing that to be the case, whatever his previous thoughts on the matter of the Dark Irons and Moira were.)
King Varian Wrynn says: Well fought. I see the Dark Irons are as formidable as ever.
Moira Thaurissan says: That they are, King Varian. And at the service of the Alliance, I might add.
King Varian Wrynn says: Hah! For that, I'm glad. The Bronzebeards and Wildhammers will regret not having been here to share in your glory.
Moira Thaurissan says: Better they're grateful for the clansmen spared death on this miserable hilllock. We sought to protect and impress, not to shame.
King Varian Wrynn says: Well, you've done just that. Come: let us return to Ironforge, and announce your victory to the Council.

Either this is a clever move on the story department at Blizzard, or they nullified what they had been previously building.
Also, Varian going from "almost assassinating Moira Bronzebeard in cold blood and telling her right to her face that her doesn't trust her and will be sure to keep a watch on her each and every mood" to "hey you killed a bunch of trolls - we sure could use good people like you in the Alliance" seems like some kind of oversight - or maybe we'll learn later that he was just playacting for the sake of appearances and also to see the Dark Irons in action.

Bring back Ironforge and move it forward
Again, after all I've explained here.
Take a trip to Ironforge.
Look around.
Nothing transpires into the game.
But hey the Horde got changes on their end due to political turmoil...

Ironforge is still a heck of a city.
It still looks great after all these years and I could understand on the developers' end why they wouldn't fix something that's not broken.
But a few updates would be nice.
Just enough to bring some attention back to the place, other than during the World Events, where people are reminded that there are other capital cities for their factions.

I've mentioned in my Gnomes article that they could help with the Explorer's League.
It should be something that lore-wise would also be something to bring forward even more.
The Hall of Explorers (Library and Museum) should have grown bigger and bigger and should be comprising more and more of elements they've discovered and studied in every new continent that's being "revealed".
Just remodel that whole section.
Show that their exploring has been progressing.
They've discovered so much about themselves and their origins.
You could even have sections for the main Titan facilities, just to get players interested to figure out what all this Titan business is all about.
Because they've started to put their efforts on all this fairly recently at the behest of Magni Bronzebeard, you could even show some of the other clans approve or not of this activity.

Another thing.
You know how a ton of players really loved the Lorewalkers and Lorewalker Cho's reenactments and Blizzard agreed they would move forward with that?
Put it there!
The question with implementing good ideas from a continent back into the staples of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms is where are you going to add them.
Have another big space in between some bookshelves or tables and you can have some of the Explorers do their in-game cinematic storytelling there!

It all works together, guys.

The Frost Who?
Might as well throw another tidbit in there while I have the chance to do it.

What's happening with the Frostborn?
...remember them?

Should they be accepted as a part of the Ironforge dwarves?
Should they have a seat in the Council?
What happens if they don't?
Muradin would be representing 2 dwarf clans, now.
What about the Bronzebeards that are happy/not happy with the decision (whichever sides it goes)?
Surely, with Muradin's help and return to his brothers, and him being a part of the Council of Three Hammers, their existence should be of great interest and also a source of contention.

We need to dig deeper
We're not done with Dwarves.
There's plenty left to do with them.
But there's a lot of the internal tension that's missing.
There's this drama inside the faction and the city that could bring Ironforge and the Dwarves back into the spotlight if it could only be reflected in the game.
And that would make it wonderful for the player who discovers that even after all the feuding and the mistrust and the clashes of the three (four?) types of dwarves, that even through all of this, the Alliance still manages to pull through whatever the universe has to throw at them.
And that is what makes your character truly heroic.

One of the effects of the Cataclysm has been to bring insecurity to all characters, to know that the world is changing and people are changing with it.
And also that the place we call home is not safe from harm, be it from a rising of the elements or the inner turmoil of a society that is trying to keep their cauldron of emotions from tipping over.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lore: The Gnomes' Wasted Opportunities

After witnessing so much story and political turmoil being added into the majority of the Horde races in the Cataclysm expansion, I take a look at the wasted opportunities that the Alliance races could've been developed by Blizzard.

"This was hard. Hard returning to his study. His nook. This was the place he'd pictured whenever he'd heard the word home, even after so many years away. Years living under the charity and forbearance of allies who, for all their noble sentiment, still looked upon him with pity.

The pity—ah, that was the hardest part. For a race of ambitious folk whose lives were validated by a masterful command of the scientific laws of the universe, to be pitied was unbearable. To be pitied was to be insulted. Gelbin chafed under the sympathy, and he knew that his people did too: as a leader, he had learned that it was wise to spare some thought for his own emotions since they often reflected what the rest of the Gnomes felt, to some degree."

- excerpt from Gelbin Mekkatorque: Cut Short by Cameron Dayton

"Gnomes are so incredibly underused" is a statement that will go around in the Alliance.
And despite actually seeing them more and more used for questing and as general NPCs that walk around or act as vendors, that statement still holds true.
Now don't get me wrong - Blizzard has been doing a fantastic job with representing all the members of the Alliance in Pandaria.
They're all there helping out and there's a good number of each race very equally spread around and it's been great to see the Alliance acting like an alliance.

And yet...
And yet you get the feeling that the Gnomes, despite being the comic relief characters of the Alliance, are just... there...
They're stuck in the mud and not moving much and they're without the prospect of moving further anytime soon.
Yes, they've had Operation: Gnomeregan to finally give them a new starting zone and a bit more lore to boost up and refresh their current situation and existence in-game.
But that was it.
Nothing since.

And it's a shame because there were many possibilities to expand the Gnomes and get them on the path of actually advancing and evolving along with the World of Warcraft.

Currently their situation as a race is: they're still trying to reclaim Gnomeregan.
You know that storyline isn't going to advance because Blizzard isn't going to reboot the Gnomes' starting experience yet again for quite some time.

Outside of that situation, the other Gnomes are merely sent to join the Dwarves and then join the Alliance in whatever cause they might be helpful to further their support.

Short and sweet - like a Gnome dipped in chocolate
Compare them with the Horde counterpart : the Goblins.
They have flavor and a good angle to give some body to their existence - they're in it for the profit.
Every venture they take part in for the Horde, it's to make money.
It makes them take on a more active role in almost all situations.
They've learned that nothing happens if they don't make things happen by themselves.
They're out in the world, exploring and pocketing every thing they can get their hands on that could be of value.

In contrast, the Gnomes are kooky and have these crazy experiments, and overall they're not forgotten and that's cool.
However, they're falling into the lab scientist category - mousy, anti-social, locked in their own heads, and just usually keep to themselves.
Except for the few times when they ask you to test out their experiments and gadgets, they don't really have a motive for existing.
They're insular characters that just make gadgets and they're nuttier than squirrel poo, but that's all they do.

But, but, but...
They've learned SO MUCH about themselves in Northrend, you'd expect some of them doing research on that.
You'd expect them to be fascinated by what the encounter with Mechazod has taught them about their origins.
He left a book behind - shouldn't you have scholars arguing about the meaning of the revelations that are inside that book?
You'd imagine them maybe getting more and more Gnomes into the Explorer's League, suddenly getting as invested as their Dwarven cousins in digging up as many artifacts as possible.
What if Blizzard decides to revamp Uldaman and some previously locked doors reveal more things about the Titans, Dwarves and Gnomes?

You'd expect them to consult with Mimiron (who's suspected of being the "father" of them).
You'd expect them to bring back a few mechagnomes from Storm Peaks to watch them walk around and study them.
You'd expect them to capture and study the heck out of some databanks. (And they would make cool pets!)
You'd expect them trying to figure out - and they're the most qualified race to do this - what are the technical or magical aspects of the Curse of Flesh.
They should be studying it, figuring out how it works, what different aspects it could take.
Hey some of them had it purged from them!
They could also probably build more Gnomes out in Northrend and replicate the Curse of Flesh onto them, and build themselves an army of Gnomes!
With an army, they could easily retake Gnomeregan AND provide much more help on the various fronts that the Alliance is engaged.

And if they could do that, maybe there's the possibility that they could reverse the spell that Magni Bronzebeard put upon himself!
Or, at least, the promise of a cure could be the main reason to get the Dwarves to respect the Gnomes much more than they currently do and you'd have the Dwarves supply the Gnomes with everything they could want, including access to special digsites and expeditions.
And then suddenly the Gnomes are advancing their own story and are getting a bit more relevancy in the Alliance by having an actual stake that they can be actively evolve around.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
This is just working from story lines that were already in the game, and not the other stories that the Blizzard team could've come up and tie into the development of tensions rising in the Alliance.

You could have all this good stuff about the Gnomes trying to help the Dwarves, but those efforts could be constantly halted by the heated politics of the Council of Three Hammers.

Blizzard has a handle on the original kit of the Gnomes and they're using that kit well.
However it seems like they can't find a way to look beyond that kit or to find ways to expand it in order to give the Gnomes a little bit more of relevancy in the game, give that race some weight and the possibility that they could be useful allies beyond their crazy gadgets.
They could be active members of the Alliance that help make it stronger.
But the way they are currently, it seems they're stuck being what they were designed to be: just a joke that's getting old.