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Know Your Lore: Story analysis and "lolore," page 2

Anne Stickney

The other way an author can address an error in continuity is by simply reworking the story so that the error doesn't exist. Let's look at the draenei slip-up again. What happened is that in the original story, the Titan Sargeras encountered the Eredar, and they corrupted him into becoming the evil monstrosity we know of today. In the Burning Crusade story, it was stated that Sargeras was already evil when he encountered them, and it was in fact Sargeras that corrupted the Eredar, not the other way around. Metzen apologized, but another method could have been applied here -- the simple notation that Azeroth's history was misinterpreted or transcribed incorrectly at some point in time and nobody knew of the mistake until the draenei came knocking on the Alliance's door.

Is the latter option a stretch? Not really. There have been countless moments in real-life history that were documented from one side's opinion, and the other side tells a very, very different story. How do we know which is correct? We don't -- that's history. The only people who know what really happened are the individuals who were there at the time. When you look at the Sargeras story -- well, the draenei would certainly know the truth, or a closer version of it. They were present when the events occurred, after all.

Now we have a foundation for story analysis, putting together the pieces that the author has left behind and coming up with a meaningful solution to whatever plot hole we've encountered. The author can do this, and in books authors often will do this, but when you're dealing with an MMO, it's often up to the player to discover the solution. Why? Because the stories involved in an MMORPG the size of WoW are almost impossible to update on an ongoing basis. Sometimes, things fall by the wayside, and there are not enough hours in the day to keep a story as complex and evolving as WoW's updated every single minute of every single day.

It requires a little suspension of disbelief, and it requires being aware of those hidden clues that were left behind. Almost any event in this game can be rationalized within the context of what Blizzard has written so far -- some things are easier to puzzle out than others, and some take a little more digging. In the case of tauren paladins and priests, the tale of An'she and Mu'sha has been available to read in Thunder Bluff since the original launch of vanilla -- but nobody thought to ask about An'she, or if they did, the question was soon forgotten as other more interesting storylines developed.

In the case of Tahu and Aponi, that old, long forgotten story element was brought back to everyone's minds due to the conversation between the two, in order to remind us of these elements of lore that we'd simply forgotten about. And it doesn't take much imagination to realize An'she is the sun, where Mu'sha is the moon; therefore, the Sunwalkers are now following the path of An'she. Yes, they have the same mechanics as paladins who follow the light. The Sunwalkers aren't a new class; they're paladins. They're just a different kind of paladin, much like the Blood Knights of Silvermoon were originally very, very different from the paladins of the draenei or even the paladins of the Silver Hand.

Most of the new class combinations introduced can be explained in much the same way. For those who argue the night elves would never, ever accept the introduction of mages to their society, keep this in mind: the Shen'dralar are very much aware that they are outcasts from night elf society. This is why in the thousands of years that Eldre'Thalas existed in one form or another, they never sought out the night elves to the north, nor did they try to fabricate their own moonwells. Instead, they stayed hidden, secluded and completely on their own, because between the psychotic antics of their Prince and the general conclusion that the rest of the world hated them, it was for the best. By staying remote and secluded, they guaranteed that they wouldn't be starting any wars or unnecessary violence and could continue practicing the arcane arts in relative peace.

However, the Shen'dralar have gotten wind that something big is coming -- something major that will affect the existence of Azeroth itself. This is why they've traveled to Dalaran and the Kirin Tor, and why they are now in Darnassus trying to get an audience with Tyrande. Now think about that for a moment: a race that has been living largely in seclusion, no contact with the outside world for 10,000 years, has suddenly seen something so terrible, so dire, that they feel it is necessary that they leave that seclusion and offer help. Even more than that, they are offering help to a society that has branded them as outcasts, a society that at one point threatened to kill anyone that they caught doing what the Shen'dralar have been doing all this time.

Now put yourself in Tyrande's shoes for a moment. Out of nowhere, the guys who you've proclaimed as evil and pretty much despised for the past 10,000 years show up on your doorstep -- only they aren't here to fight you. They tell you that there's something really, really horrible on the horizon. They aren't sure what it is, but they are here to offer their help, because from what they can gather, you're going to need it. Now, when is the last time the night elves ever bothered allying with an enemy? Oh, that's right -- the orcs, in this silly little thing called the Third War when Archimonde was threatening to destroy Azeroth itself.

When you think about it that way, is it really that far-fetched to think of Tyrande's possibly considering some kind of alliance? Not really -- and with what happens in Cataclysm, the night elves need absolutely all the help they can get. Why not ally with the Shen'dralar and simply keep a very close eye on their comings and goings, and their dealings with the impressionable night elf recruits as they are teaching them how to do what the Shen'dralar do? Better still, this could be an opportunity for redemption, and Tyrande's pretty good at the redemption business; she did pretty good with Eranikus, anyway.

The issue with the race/class combinations isn't that they don't fit in with existing lore, it's that it is up to the players to find that connection. Some combinations have been given clues, like the Shen'dralar and the night elves, and An'she and the tauren. Others haven't been laid out as clearly, so we have to draw our own conclusions -- and that's where I come in. Keep in mind my theories are not set in stone and are by no means hand of god from Blizzard, but instead they are an attempt to solve the puzzles we find, as well as shedding some light on existing lore that people may not have been aware of. Not everyone knows what the Shen'dralar are all about; not everyone knows who An'she is.

The balance between creating a good game and keeping the story fresh is a tricky one. There are always elements that readers simply aren't going to agree with. And that's perfectly OK -- nobody is saying that anyone has to like every element of every story Blizzard introduces. If they did, it would make for a terribly boring story. Speaking of boring stories, let's talk a little bit about options in storytelling and what an author has to work with.

World of Warcraft isn't an RTS like the previous versions; it's an ongoing story with no real definitive "end." This gives the writer even more challenges to work around. Not only is the author constantly dealing with the challenge of keeping the lore enough of a surprise that people are on the edge of their seats and entertained, but he is also having to consistently introduce new plot elements and devices to keep people hooked. Game mechanics and phasing only go so far -- and when you keep killing off major characters, others have to be created to take their place.

I'm speaking, of course, about Garrosh Hellscream and Varian Wrynn, both major players who didn't really come into play until the release of Wrath. People love to hate these characters -- and that is exactly where Blizzard wants the player base to be. Think about it: You may loathe Garrosh with all your heart, but there is something fun about hating him, and coming up with a list of more suitable alternatives for Warchief is a hoot. You may loathe Varian, but that makes that moment of compassion shown in Icecrown Citadel, when he lets a grief-stricken Saurfang retrieve the body of his son, stand out even more.

If Varian were immediately likeable, the golden child who could do no wrong, that scene in Icecrown Citadel never would have had the impact that it did. If Garrosh were a likeable Thrall clone, then none of the tension between the faction leaders of the Horde in Cataclysm would exist. You know what happens when all the faction leaders get along and don't really do anything substantial? We saw it already back in vanilla WoW. We saw it again in The Burning Crusade. Presenting the same situation over and over in every expansion would quickly lead to a boring game that nobody is talking about. But by introducing new characters and advancing the old, the game and the story behind it remain consistently fresh.

And that's what it's all about, in the end -- keeping the story fresh and captivating, something that people will be talking about. It doesn't matter if the reaction is positive or negative. In the end, what a writer is looking for with a story is to make the audience react. If there were no passion in the combined voices of the millions of people playing the game, World of Warcraft would have nowhere near the audience or impact that it does currently -- and for a gaming company, keeping your subscribers is priority No. 1.

Next week, I'll be looking at the Wildhammer clan and the dwarven shaman. Until then, keep in mind that the mechanics behind a story like Warcraft are often a lot more complicated than you would think. And by all means, if you have a suggestion for a story on KYL or would like to see a discussion on particular points in lore that have been overlooked or misinterpreted, leave a comment and get the discussion started!

While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in's Guide to Warcraft Lore.

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