WoW Archivist: Paths not taken

Scott Andrews
S. Andrews|06.20.13

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WoW Archivist: Paths not taken
Path of the Titans at Blizzcon
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?

Recently, Blizzard addressed rumors that their ultra-secret next MMO, codenamed Titan, had been "reset." Developers were indeed reassigned to other projects as the slimmed-down team made "some large design and technology changes to the game." Since we don't know anything about Titan for sure, despite some compelling leaks, we'll never know what features the game would have had as part of its original design.

The WoW team, on the other hand, has backed away from many different announced features and content additions that didn't work out. This week's WoW Archivist will look at some of the more interesting and infamous canceled or delayed features.


Believe it or not, player housing was briefly tested in alpha. Model viewers showed files going back to alpha in a folder called "playerhousing" (as shown below). Only human houses were ever designed. Blizzard also added a portal in Stormwind as an entrance to an instanced player housing area. An alpha blue poster named Katricia wrote, "Our current idea (which could change) is to extend the cities to have player housing neighborhoods. For example, in the canal area of Stormwind players can see a blue instance portal behind a large portcullis; this is the entrance to the player housing neighborhood in Stormwind."

Why it was scrapped: Blizzard CMs and execs have commented on housing many times over the years. In 2004, Caydiem said housing is "a huge feature with a lot of dedicated time needed." Blizzard "definitely wants to do" housing, but it is not a "soon after release" feature, but rather an "on the horizon" feature. Two years later, Nethaera said housing had "no ETA." In 2008, Tom Chilton said, "It's incredibly complex to do right and we're not sure yet if it's going to be the right thing for WoW in the long run. It has major implications for the game itself and again I wouldn't go out of my way and say never but it's not on the immediately of things to do." More recently, Chilton did go out of his way and said "sometime after never."

What happened to it: Nothing yet. Players continue to ask and to wait.
Player housing in model viewer
It didn't survive

WoW's classic beta included a minor profession called "survival skills." The profession included the ability to create campfires and torches. The original purpose of campfires was twofold: to allow cooking anywhere and to allow faster recovery after combat. The developers envisioned longer recovery times after each fight, with a campfire reducing the time required. The "Basic Campfire" was called that because you could learn to make better versions by leveling the profession.

The Dim Torch was a mobile version of the Basic Campfire. They could be equipped in a player's offhand slot in lieu of a weapon, and they lasted for up to one hour.

Why it was scrapped: We don't really know, but we can speculate. Perhaps Blizzard thought the profession lacked depth and they didn't have enough good ideas to flesh it out. It's hard to guess at what else the profession could have allowed players to do or make.

What happened to it: The campfire ability became part of cooking instead. Torch models are used for some items.
Azshara Crater
AV kills AC

Azshara Crater was a battleground planned for release during vanilla. It was intended to be similar to the original Alterac Valley. Entrances had been set up in the Forlorn Valley area of the zone, but portals never appeared.

Why it was scrapped: Alterac Valley, as WoW Archivist previously covered, had a long evolution. For years, Blizzard tried to figure out how to balance the zone and how a large battleground like that should work. They acknowledged that AV's problems led to AC's delay.

What happened to it: Goblins strip-mined this area of Azshara after the Shattering, but Blizzard still considered releasing an Azshara Crater battleground as recently as Mists. During BlizzCon 2011, Blizzard said that AC was one of three BGs in the works for Mists, and that it would have DOTA-style gameplay. In 2012, they said they settled on the other two instead, and AC still hasn't seen the light of day. Files for it are in the game, however.
Goblin plane

One of the announced features for Wrath of the Lich King was aerial combat. At BlizzCon 2008, Tom Chilton talked about two types of planes that could be flown in Wintergrasp: a small but fast fighter and a slow bomber. The counters to these planes were pilotable goblin shredders with anti-air guns. Videos have been released showing fighter plane-style vehicles that could fire guns to take out flying enemies. The Wrath of the Lich King box even proclaimed, "Engage in aerial dogfights with flying mounts and new, gnome-engineered planes." The feature never appeared, however, and Wintergrasp remained a land war.

Why it was scrapped: In BlizzCast Episode 8, Tom Chilton said that the feature lacked polish. He said they wanted to implement real flying physics: "If you look at a lot of games that have done flight simulation, there is a lot of care that goes into giving you that sensation of flying by having the world tilt and stuff like that so it feels a little less mechanical, feels a little bit more alive or more natural. So one of the things that we have kind of tasked ourselves with doing is figuring out how to polish that, how to improve on our vehicle physics..."

What happened to it: It's likely that the Dragonblight blightbeasts quest used some of the coding from air combat, among others. The Harrison Jones quest line in Cataclysm's Uldum zone and the goblin starting area also involved plane combat sequences that could have reused assets from this work.
New dances announcement at Blizzcon
Stomp the studio

It's been discussed to death, but no discussion of canceled content would be complete without mentioning the ill-fated dance studio. When Wrath of the Lich King debuted at BlizzCon 2007, the announcement trailer told us "new dances" were on the way. In later interviews, Blizzard used the words "dance studio." The studio was a new system that could teach your character dances beyond your original race- and gender-based move-busting.

Why it was scrapped: Before Wrath even launched, Jeff Kaplan and Tom Chilton told Curse that the dance studio had been pushed back beyond the upcoming expansion. Zarhym told us that animators were "hacking away" at new dances in 2009, and that the studio would "come when it comes" -- without dropping a single Soon™. Nethaera posted, "Creating additional dances takes a significant amount of animation work and we want to make sure that when we do put them out, that they meet our standards. We still intend to put them in, but we have no current ETA on their addition."

What happened to it: In early 2010, as Wrath wrapped up, Blizzard said in a Twitter chat that "It's still on the list!" We can speculate that perhaps Blizzard wants to implement new models for the original races before giving them new dance animations. Garrosh's new orc model certainly shows that it might be worth the wait.

Several zones and raids have either been developed or announced and then canceled. The Emerald Dream has been part of the game files for a long time, and you could even access it if you knew how. Tigole described it in 2003: "The Emerald Dream is shaping up to be extremely cool. We don't want to preview any of that content yet as it is endgame and we want some surprises for players. The zone is massive and beautiful." Azjol-Nerub in Wrath of the Lich King was originally planned as an entire zone with the possibility of a raid.

In Cataclysm, Abyssal Maw was planned as a counterpart to Firelands. It's not clear whether it would have been a dungeon or a raid, but Ghostcrawler described it as "three bosses inside Nespirah." Blizzard also announced a Caverns of Time raid for the War of the Ancients.

Why they were scrapped: In many cases, we don't know for sure, but we can guess that Blizzard either ran out of time or the design didn't live up to their standards. Ghostcrawler commented on Abyssal Maw's cancellation: "The reason it was originally appealing to us was because we had so many Vashj'ir assets that we could use ... Firelands received a lot of new art, from bosses to environments, and we just didn't feel like Abyssal Maw was going to compete." In the same comment, GC said that Abyssal Maw is not what he's saddest about canceling, but the Azjol-Nerub zone. Me too, GC.

What happened to them: The Emerald Dream has been part of WoW's ongoing story and players have briefly visited it -- during the Valithria encounter in Icecrown Citadel, for example. However, the area as designed in pre-alpha has never been released as a zone or a raid. The Azjol-Nerub assets were used in two dungeons: Azjol-Nerub and Ahn-Kahet: The Old Kingdom. Players expressed disappointment that Anub'arak was "only" a 5-man boss, so Blizzard brought him back as a raid boss in the Crusader's Coliseum. Abyssal Maw never materialized in any form, and the War of the Ancients raid became a 5-man dungeon, leaving Cataclysm rather light on raid content beyond its first tier.
Path of the Titans in Dragonblight
Path closed for renovation

Finally, we come to what could have been a truly game-changing feature for WoW. Announced at BlizzCon 2009, the Path of the Titans was Blizzard's ambitious plan to give our characters new ways to advance at the endgame beyond gear or reputation.

Choosing your path meant committing yourself to a given Titan, although respecs and dual specializations were planned. Named for the road that runs through Dragonblight, the path allowed players to earn new abilities and bonuses. Blizzard estimated that completing all ten ranks of your chosen path would result in a 20% power increase over the course of the expansion. Any class or race could choose any path, though Ghostcrawler expected that players would min/max which path was optimal for a given spec.

The system proved to be quite complex. Your progress would be earned through the new archaeology profession, as you located and turned in titan artifacts. The actual abilities and bonuses came in the form of a new type of glyph called an "ancient glyph."

Examples of these bonuses included damage reduction, resistance against debuffs, and better first-aid bandaging (no, really). The abilities shown were a 10% DPS cooldown and a 10% group damage reduction cooldown.

Why it was scrapped: It seems that everything Blizzard names "Titan" is doomed to go back to the drawing board. Path of the Titans was officially canceled at the June 2010 Cataclysm press event. Blizzard said the system didn't feel different enough from glyphs. Ghostcrawler told GamePlanet, "We sat down and really tried to simplify the Path system and we realized we were taking out almost everything except for this idea of making glyphs cooler because glyphs really didn't live up to what they could've been. So we wanted to revamp the glyph system and realized, why are we spending all this time on the Path system when what we really want to do is fix glyphs up?"

What happened to it: Archaeology became a minor profession, as promised. It suffered without the Path as context, though. Most players found it grindy and disappointing. Glyphs got the overhaul they needed and are much improved, but the Path itself never made a reappearance. As a result, Cataclysm had very little to offer at endgame besides raiding and PvP. Ghostcrawler said that Blizzard might revisit the feature someday: "We still like the idea of having some kind of endgame progression, more character customization, we really like the way it ties into the lore and the history of the world -- so we might do it someday."

Could the next expansion see the Path reborn? We are likely to find out one way or another later this year.
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.
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