WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?
It all began in 2003, when Blizzard announced pandaren as a playable race -- for Warcraft III. This never happened, of course. The announcement was an April Fool's joke. But you know that someone at Blizzard back then really wanted to play as a panda. Nine years later, with the Mists of Pandaria expansion, we can all be pandaren now.
When Mists was first revealed, the outcry from some in the community was fierce. Much of it centered around how "pandaren were just an April Fool's joke." Most of us, I would hazard to guess, have been won over by them in this expansion. With their incredibly deep history, love of life/beer, and gorgeous architecture, not to mention the amazing voice acting and animations that bring them to life, the pandaren have been a bigger hit for WoW than many ever imagined they could be.
In 2004, a playable goblin tinker for Warcraft III was another April Fool's joke. An overwhelmingly enthused response for playable tinkers led to Blizzard adding them to the game.
Given the origins of the pandaren and goblin tinkers, it's safe to say that any April Fool's joke that Blizzard has done over the years could one day spawn a tangible addition to the game, or perhaps a spinoff under the WoW brand. Let's look back at Blizzard's WoW-related April Fool's jokes to see which ones could be the next to become real -- and which ones already have.
Not really better than one
The first April Fool's related to WoW debuted another "playable race": the two-headed ogre. Blizzard claimed that these characters would actually be piloted by two different players. In their words,
While you have full and absolute control of your head and its associated arm, both players will have simultaneous control of equipment and inventory management, both legs, and character locomotion. This can make it somewhat difficult to travel anywhere in particular if that particular destination at all differs in the mind of either player. Thus, good communication and well-defined roles are essential to the successful Two-headed Ogre. To facilitate this communication, each Two-headed Ogre will get its own [/body] channel so that both heads can better make personal decisions and confer privately about things like what quest to do next, what monster to target, and what direction to move in.
The idea is a novel one, if not very practical. In addition, Blizzard said that each head could choose its own class and have access to its own rage, energy, or mana. If one head's controller was online, that head would sleep and that half of the body would be limp and unresponsive.
Players would love to be ogres. They even have their own dance animation already. The dual-player concept is not likely to see the light of day, but ogres could be a playable race in a future expansion. They are probably too large at present, but a scaled down "subspecies" would be entirely possible.
In 2005, players were anxiously awaiting the release of the game's first battlegrounds. Blizzard had some fun with this by announcing the "New World of Warcraft Player vs. Player Combat Improvements." Blizzard wrote,
Many players noted that the Battlegrounds resemble some aspects of Warcraft 3. Then it hit us; Why reinvent the wheel? Why waste resources on a project we've already developed and perfected?
They then went on to show screenshots of WoW characters playing Warcraft III in-game.
Blizzard has been keen on adding minigames to WoW of late, with both Sunsong Ranch and pet battles giving us new ways to enjoy our time in Azeroth. With PCs constantly gaining more firepower, it wouldn't shock me if we could someday play a game of Warcraft III inside WoW. And yes, we should be able to earn conquest points when we win.
In 2005, Everquest II announced a partnership with Pizza Hut. Typing /pizza actually brought up the Pizza Hut website, so you could order food without ever leaving the game -- the ultimate in immersion-shattering deliciousness. Not to be outdone, Blizzard announced their own partnership with "Pandaren Xpress," allowing you to order Asian food directly from the game's UI by typing /panda.
In less time than it takes your party's casters to regain mana (even less if you don't have a mage), you can order Chinese take-out from the comfort of your chair! No more tedious walking over to the telephone! No more arduous pushing of unfamiliar phone numbers!
Whoever the CEO of Panda Express is, they missed the boat here. Mists of Pandaria was the perfect opportunity for you to partner with Blizzard. Well, it's probably for the best. We can all use more exercise.
Caydiem gets evil
The following year, CM Caydiem had fun releasing what she dubbed the "Patch 1.11 Evil Patch Notes." The notes included such changes as and night elves losing experience every time they jump.
It's quite a testament to how much WoW has evolved over the years that many of these changes have actually made it into the game. Here's a brief rundown:
The "New Dungeon Visitation Limitation System," which restricts how many times you can run a dungeon per day, currently applies to Heroic dungeons.
The "check mechanic" that prevents hunters from rolling on gear meant for other classes and specs is basically how the roll system really works in dungeons today.
One note stated that paladins could no longer target themselves with Lay on Hands. The Forbearance mechanic limits how many major defensive cooldowns paladins can cast on themselves today.
Caydiem wrote that Reincarnation would have a cooldown of 30 minutes -- its current cooldown.
Alliance did eventually receive quests for Ragefire Chasm.
Many new flight points were indeed added to the Barrens, though not quite 26 of them.
The Michael Bay of racials
Another new race had even WoW Insider's own Elizabeth Harper wondering whether it was a joke or a real announcement, thanks to Drysc and Eyonix sticking to Blizzard's story. The Wisp race from April Fool's 2006 had a striking racial ability called Detonate:
The introduction of Wisps allows a new and exciting game mechanic: permanent death. The ability that destroyed Archimonde is available to all Wisps as a racial ability. This power, Detonate, destroys the Wisp in an explosion of energy, sapping the mana of all surrounding adventurers, friend and foe alike. This should provide an extremely interesting addition to the many adventures of Warcraft, particularly when pitted against other players!
Blizzard went on to note that using the Detonate ability resulted in the permanent death of your character.
If Diablo III can have a "Hardcore" mode with permanent death, why can't WoW? I doubt it would be tied to a racial ability in this way, but Blizzard could offer us the option of characters who can't be resurrected.
The tin is out there
Blizzard has used April Fool's not just to have a bit of fun at their own expense, but the fandom as well. When they announced the Armory in 2007, some players wanted to "opt out" and remain anonymous. They feared that other players would steal their specs or gear setup, or use the Armory to stalk them. Blizzard's answer to this concern was the Tinfoil Hat:
Every engineer knows that in order to achieve true greatness, it is imperative to always keep a clear, unclouded mind and to protect one's secrets from those who would seek to steal or plagiarize the radical new designs of a hard-working genius. The [Tinfoil Hat] is the logical result of this profound insight, combining tinfoil's powerful mental shielding properties with the excellent counter-hexing effect of troll tears and the outstanding mind-focus powers of one of Azeroth's most precious gems.
Blizzard claimed that the hat would make you invisible to /who commands and uninspectable. It would also remove your profile from the Armory. The schematic could be learned from "Sculder and Mully" at Area 52.
The Armory has not proved to be as nefarious as some had claimed. Though I'm sure some players would prefer to hide their Armory, I doubt that Blizzard would ever give us such an item. If they did someday, however, this is definitely how it would work, right down to those NPCs.
A prequel to WoW?
That same year, Blizzard also announced a "prequel" to WoW called Warcraft: Heroes of Azeroth. It was, in fact, simply Warcraft III, and the joke was a dig at players who had no idea that Blizzard's bestselling MMO was in fact preceded by a bestselling RTS series.
Warcraft III obviously exists, and "Heroes of Azeroth" is actually the name of the first WoW TCG set.
Blizzard announced another new game the following year, titled World of Warcraft: The Molten Core. A press release heralded Blizzard's return to console gaming:
"Blizzard got its start in console gaming, and we've always been excited about returning to this arena," stated Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "Additionally, we've wanted to reintroduce the 40-player raid dungeon experience for some time. With World of Warcraft: The Molten Core, we're able to do both."
World of Warcraft: The Molten Core will include single-player and multiplayer versions, fully loaded with nine different shapes (and possibly colors) representing the current World of Warcraft character classes.
The April Fool's page set elaborate artwork of the Molten Core bosses next to outrageously low-tech Atari 2600-era graphics of the game. A trailer touted the game's features, including "10 bosses with 6 unique models," "glorious 192i resolution," and "has sound."
As much as players would love this, I doubt we will ever face off against a ten-pixel Ragnaros. It would be fun to play through once, but it doesn't seem worth the development time (even if that time would be like six hours).
Guitar hero class
In 2008, much of the excitement over the upcoming expansion was the death knight class, the first new class added to WoW and also the game's one and only "hero class." That year, Blizzard announced that the expansion would ship with not one but two hero classes. The other would be the bard.
Screenshots of the class in action showed a Guitar Hero-esque combat system, and playing the class required a guitar peripheral. Abilities included Mosh Pit, Starstruck, Axe Specialization, and I Am Murloc (a song-based transformation).
We can presume that Blizzard is not done adding classes to the game. Fantasy worlds have only so many tropes to build classes around, and bard is the one glaring omission in WoW's class lineup. It wouldn't be outlandish to imagine a class system that used abilities as "notes." Playing the notes in the correct order would produce different "song" effects as finishing moves. It's not dissimilar to how some DPS rotations work now. Tanking could be more like drumming rather than guitar, and healing could be . . . freestyle jazz?
Also, let's not forget that Arcanite Ripper is a thing.
Kael got served
There are more ways to perform that playing music, as 2009's Dance Battle System announcement proved.
From the interdimensional fortress known as Tempest Keep, Kael'thas Sunstrider has issued a challenge far and wide to dance crews throughout Kalimdor, the Eastern Kingdoms, and Northrend -- in order to find out who is Azeroth's best dance crew!
The controls resembled a vehicle UI. Players could participate in both 1v1 dance duels anywhere and 5v5 ranked matches. The feature also had its own trailer.
As players constantly remind them, Blizzard never delivered on their Dance Studio concept for Wrath of the Lich King. If that feature ever materialized, perhaps dance battles will be part of it, but I doubt we'll see either one ... and that's probably for the best.
Yo dawg, I heard you like murlocs
2009's P1mp My Mount! joke showed us just how epic our epic mounts could become:
Tired of your mount looking like every other raptor, wolf, horse, kodo, or nightsaber out there? Want to spice it up with some armor plating, a few spikes or chains, or maybe even some flaming decals? Then Z to the A to the zzber (whew, that's a mouthful!) will be glad to welcome you to his shop where you can epic-ize your mount with some phat total pimpage!
The system also offered umbrellas, hats, murloc lookouts, cup holders, nitro boosters, "extra wings," and front-mounted artillery.
Players love to customize and they love mounts. This system is practically inevitable. The "Garage" UI already looks like it would fit right in to the game. Make it happen, Blizz!
It grows when you get loot
Ah, 2009, the golden age of GearScore... During the final year of Wrath of the Lich King, you could not get an invite to a PUG raid on most realms if your GearScore didn't measure up. Blizzard poked fun at the concept by introducing their own version of the popular addon, known as the Equipment Potency EquivalencE Number or "EPEEN":
With this new system, you'll no longer have to wonder about your perceived or actual worth as a player. Your Equipment Potency EquivalencE Number, automatically derived from the quality of the gear you currently possess, will be placed on your character sheet and in the Armory, and also displayed over your character's head in-game as an easy-to-read bar-like object that steadily grows as you acquire loot. Thanks to this new system, no one will be able to ignore the fruits of your long, hard journey toward gear perfection.
The accompanying screenshots made clear that we were all supposed to interpret this as phalically as possible. The system also used phasing to segregate players with similar EPEENs into Player Potency Tiers. Players with the highest scores received perks such as larger ignore lists and shorter Dungeon Deserter debuffs.
It surprised no one when someone actually designed an addon to mimic the joke. However, the entire concept has now been adopted by Blizzard as part of their dungeon/raid finder system. You need a certain average ilevel to queue, so the system is essentially measuring your EPEEN every time you use the finder. Whether it's a number or a ... pole, the basic idea is the same.
Darkness can't die
The Tomb of Immortal Darkness featured a dungeon so dark that players literally couldn't see anything:
Deep beneath the crumbling tombstones of Duskwood's Raven Hill Cemetery, a dark and mysterious power is emerging. Drawing strength from the blackest night and fiercely jealous of the sighted, a once-devoted follower of Leotheras the Blind is spreading his shadowy tendrils across the land. Heroes of Azeroth must delve into his pitch black lair to face Omgsogoth, Dark Lord of Twilight, before the world is plunged into eternal night.
Players had to rely on a "companion bat" to find enemies via echolocation. Blizzard claimed to have spent "over 9000 hours" on a new tab targeting system to make the dungeon possible.
Maybe Blizzard could pull off a dungeon like this, but I imagine it would be fun once and ultra-annoying every time thereafter, much like The Oculus. However, this is probably what Atramedes experienced every time we killed him. Poor guy.
In 2011, Blizzard introduced us to Crabby, the Dungeon Helper:
Crabby is everywhere. At all times. He is omnipresent and omniscient. This lets him find the perfect players for you to group with! ...
Crabby may possess an advanced level of artificial intelligence, but we're reasonably sure he doesn't have any feelings you could hurt. Reasonably sure. But just in case, the ability to remove Crabby has been disabled for now.
As a parody of Microsoft's universally detested Clippy, the Office Assistant, Crabby was just as useless but far more amusing. In addition to smoothing out our dungeon runs, he has invaded the official forums the past two years running, offering not-so-helpful advice and even less helpful non sequiturs. Last year, he sported an assortment of stylish hats. Here are some of Crabby's best quotes:
I noticed you're reading about Crabby. Would you like help learning about Crabby?
Having one little claw and one big claw means you're a boy crab!
Put items on your body to prevent swords from going through it!
I like big blogs and I cannot lie.
Click my lustrous carapace to change my hat. Kids are still into hats, right?
The internet is 90% cats. I'm not really a cat person myself. Apparently, I'm delicious to them.
Crabby is indeed everywhere. You may disagree with me, but the Deadly Boss Mods-style popups that Blizzard added to the game starting with Cataclysm are essentially Crabby in a less patronizing form. As a DBM user, however, I approve of this implementation.
CM no evil
2011's April Fool's gave us another round of evil patch notes, this time by Bashiok. The Patch 4.1.11 Evil Patch Notes announced the Random Guild Finder, the long-awaited appearance tab (for companion pets), and the removal of jumping due to complaints about elf and worgen animations.
Once again the evil patch notes prove prophetic. We did kind of get an "appearance tab" in the form of transmogrification. Most striking is this tidbit: "Talents are now automatically chosen for a player based on the main specialization chosen." That is actually how all spec-specific talents now work -- they are assigned to you when you choose your spec. We also got ridable druids and portable totems (buff totems became auras), and they are both awesome.
This Monday is April Fool's Day. We don't know what Blizzard is up to yet, but I'm sure it will be entertaining. Will they give us mere jokes, or a preview of future content? These days the line between the two does not always run straight.
After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.