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BlizzCon 2010: Quests and lore panel highlights

Anne Stickney

The Quests and Lore panel at BlizzCon 2010 answered some old questions, raised a few new ones and featured some information with heavy implications as to what we may see in future Cataclysm content. The panel, hosted by Alex Afrasiabi and Chris Metzen, was a flat-out Q&A geekfest in which the hosts answered as many questions from the audience as possible in the hour they were given to do so. Check out our liveblog for the full coverage of questions asked and answered, and read on for some of the most surprising moments from the panel.

Please note: The rest of this article contains heavy Cataclysm spoilers. If you wish to avoid any content reveals, veer away now!

Turalyon/Alleria/Outland and the Netherwing

Unfortunately, there were no solid answers as to the fate of Turalyon, the Supreme Commander of the Alliance forces after Anduin Lothar's death, and Alleria Windrunner, his wife and the sister to Sylvanas. The two disappeared for parts unknown through a portal during Beyond the Dark Portal and have yet to be seen since, though their son Arator can be found in Honor Hold in Hellfire Peninsula. According to Metzen and Afrasiabi, the two will not be making an appearance any time soon -- however, the story team does have every intention of covering Turalyon's exploits in "a very epic manner" at some point in the future.

As for Outland, people concerned with the disconnect between leveling through post-Cataclysm content and then presumably going back in time to Outland are just going to have to put up with it, for now. Blizzard would like very much to deal with Outland and the time jump at some point; however, the massive undertaking of revamping all of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor as well as creating new zones (resulting in 3,500 new quests as opposed to Wrath's 1,000) didn't leave them with time to address Outland.

It has been inferred that the Netherwing, on the other hand, will play some sort of important part in upcoming content. The Netherwing are the children of Deathwing, twisted and warped into their current incarnation by the energies of the Twisting Nether at the time of Draenor's explosion. We are starting to see some progress in addressing this connection in the Shadow Wing manga series by Richard Knaak, but as of now, it's barely been addressed in game. The Netherwing have also been used to create the Twilight Dragonflight that plays a big part in Cataclysm, so it's to be expected that we'll see something regarding the Netherwing, their father and their "offspring" in the upcoming expansion.

Thrall, Garrosh and the fate of the Horde

There was an astonishing amount of information revealed about the current Warchief of the Horde and his successor. For Garrosh, the current conflict seems to be revolving around whether or not he is his father's son, or whether he can "straighten out" and lead the Horde in an appropriate fashion. While opinion on Garrosh is widely varied, Metzen said that he is a contentious character and that it's completely necessary that he be one -- he's the hothead orc that is there to serve as a counterpoint to the thinking orc that is Thrall. He also said that Garrosh is just one part of a much larger storyline, and while he seems one-dimensional at this point, he is much more than what we are currently presented with, and we should not be fixated on the one side of Garrosh that we've seen.

As for Thrall, Metzen had some really good insight into the Warchief, why he's feeling the way he's feeling and why he's stepped down. Thrall is one of those characters who's always been loved and seen as "fleshed out" by the majority of players, but the fact is that the Warchief jumped from being in an internment camp to leading the Horde in virtually no time at all. Metzen suggested that perhaps Thrall really didn't have a chance to grow at all during all of this -- that he was pushed to Warchief before he could ever really determine who he is. This is absolutely a valid point for the character, and while The Shattering addresses some of this, there is apparently much, much more to come. According to Metzen, Thrall is the key player in all of this -- not Garrosh, not Vol'jin, not Cairne, not anyone else currently in the Horde. It all revolves around the blue-eyed chieftain and his journey to Garadar to find his true, inner shaman.

Thrall is one of the few orcs out there who have blue eyes -- a sign of great destiny, much as golden eyes and antlers signify the same among night elves. It's been assumed all these years that Thrall's destiny lay in leading the Horde ... but what if that's not actually the case at all? What if Thrall is part of something much, much larger than this? In response to a question regarding whether or not we would be taking out some of the other dragon Aspects in the same way we took out Malygos, Metzen responded that future patches would introduce story development in which the dragon family would have to get involved, that there would be a big battle, and that "they [the Aspects] will perform the function for which they were created." The specific question posed was "How will the [dragon] family and Thrall pull this [Deathwing's defeat] off?"

Then Metzen gave us another seriously interesting hook. He asked, "What aspect is missing from the family?" After some silence, he responded with Deathwing, the Earth Aspect. Earth -- and the family of Aspects is broken and has been broken ever since Deathwing's betrayal during the Sundering. The implication here is that someone needs to step up and take the place of the Earth Warder ... and who better to do this than a shaman who is possibly more powerful than any living creature on Azeroth? Or as Metzen put it, "Perhaps that's a way our boy Thrall can distinguish himself, down the line, in helping to bring the family back together for the big win."

What this all boils down to is that Thrall has a very different destiny than anyone had thought. Perhaps the great destiny that Thrall is slated for isn't being Warchief, or even being (as some rumors suggested ages ago) the next Guardian. Perhaps Thrall's destiny is far greater than being a Guardian at all. Some people have voiced concerns over whether or not an orc originating from Draenor could really be an Aspect of Azeroth, but what should be looked at is this: A dragon of Azerothian origin was placed in charge of the earth, and he failed terribly at it. Perhaps part of the reason behind this lies in the fact that Azeroth itself, the planet, has been firmly entwined with the Old Gods. The Tribunal of Ages event in Halls of Stone flat out says that killing the Old Gods would destroy Azeroth, because the two had become so intertwined. Therefore, perhaps the answer to having an Earth Aspect that is unable to be corrupted is to have one whose origins hail from elsewhere but who holds enough love and respect for Azeroth and all creatures on it that he is willing to protect it at all costs. And that makes perfect sense for Thrall.

The Old Gods, the Dragon Aspects and the Emerald Nightmare

The other major reveal was the name of the next Old God. N'zoth/Nezzoth/Ni'zoth -- the pronunciation didn't really give us a clear spelling -- is not only the Old God revealed in the expansion, it is also the Old God responsible for the spark that started the Emerald Nightmare. When asked if we would see any Old Gods in Cataclysm, Metzen replied, "You haven't seen who signs Deathwing's paychecks yet." There was also an implication that we, as players, are somewhat responsible for the things we are seeing in Cataclysm. One of the people asking questions at the panel brought up the Tribunal of Ages event, pointing out that despite us players having "killed" two of the Old Gods, "we're not really seeing much calamity happening." The response from Afrasiabi was a succinct, "Have you played any Cataclysm?" followed by a, "You know, where the world blows up? Because of the Old Gods?" from Metzen.

This suggests that much like several other quest chains in game, in which players discover that in doing the heroic thing, they were inadvertently the cause of something much worse, the genesis for the Cataclysm expansion doesn't lie in Deathwing's claws. It has something to do with the destruction of C'thun and Yogg Saron -- that perhaps as we kill the Old Gods, Azeroth itself is protesting.

The other interesting aspect to this (no pun intended) is the link between this new, mysterious Old God and the Emerald Nightmare. There are various theories floating around out there about the connection between the Old Gods and their quest to eradicate the Aspects, including one I posted at the beginning of this year on Shades of Grey and then updated for Cataclysm content here on WoW Insider. The theory itself suggested that each of the presumably five Old Gods was assigned to take out a particular Aspect. C'thun was likely responsible for Nozdormu and the development of the Infinite Dragonflight that seems to have taken it out of the picture. Yogg Saron was likely responsible for Malygos' sudden return to "sanity" -- a sanity that made it choose to try and destroy any mortal who presumed to use magic and led, ultimately, to its death.

That's right, guys: We may have done exactly what Yogg Saron wanted us to do when we offed Malygos. Enjoy your purples!

As far as the other Aspects, I theorized that there was an unnamed Old God responsible for having the original chat with Deathwing, who was also likely responsible for Queen Azshara and her court's transformation into naga. Then I made an error and suggested the Master's Glaive, the presumed corpse of an Old God, was the one responsible for Alexstraza, who had had no action taken against her due to the Old God's death. This was disproved almost immediately after leaked Cataclysm images showed the creature at the Master's Glaive to be nothing more than a servant of an Old God.

But then we had Ysera and the Emerald Nightmare. I'd suggested that an Old God was responsible for the Emerald Nightmare, but I couldn't fathom how that would work. And after the release of Stormrage, it seemed as though I was entirely wrong and there was no connection; we were dealing with Xavius and the satyr, not an Old God. However, the revelation that an Old God is responsible for the Nightmare's creation brings all that back into play.

Top this off with the revelation that we will see the Infinite dragonflight in some capacity in future Cataclysm content -- as Metzen said, "It's so badass!" and you have the possibility that we won't just see Deathwing dealt with in Cataclysm, but we will see a resolution to whatever it is that has been plaguing each of the Dragonflights separately for centuries. And that alone makes this potentially one of the most lore-rich expansions yet.

Other tidbits from the panel included mostly minor revelations -- but Afrasiabi and Metzen were very clear about keeping some things a secret. In a response to a question regarding whether or not we'd see Kul Tiras, Afrasiabi replied, "Well we've got to save something. There's some things out there that you'll see -- eventually -- but that time isn't now." Or as Metzen put it, "Man, if you eat all your candy Halloween night, you're gonna get a tummy ache!" In other words, revealing everything all at once might sound like a fun idea, but it would leave us little to ponder for the future -- and way fewer questions to ask next year!

BlizzCon 2010 is over! WoW Insider has all the latest news and information. You'll find our liveblogs of the WoW panels, interviews with WoW celebrities and attendees and of course, lots of pictures of people in costumes. It's all here at WoW Insider!

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