Remixing Draenor’s History Part 3

Wanted to call out Cho’gall in particular here. Enjoy.

Cho’gall and the Twilight’s Hammer

The Forgers shaped a great ball of fire and made it into the world. From the clay of that world, they made the ogres, and gave them power over stone and earth. All of the strength and authority of the ogre dynasties throughout the world’s history stem from this single idea: they were crafted in order to rule. It’s something that draws power from the creation of the world itself.

It makes perfect sense that you’d see a counter-culture movement arise that draws power from the end of the world that ogres were intended to rule. It also makes sense that one of the primary tools involved with creation, a hammer, is also closely associated with destruction since it can be employed as a weapon. So to a great extent, the concept of the Twilight’s Hammer existing as a nihilistic fringe group within the great culture of Gorian society makes sense.

(As a side note, it’s notable to point out that the influence of ogre society on the orcs can be easily identified by looking at the Doomhammer. Even if the prophecy around the weapon never turned out to be true, or gets constantly reinterpreted whenever the Doomhammer changes hands, the fact that the apocalypse legends of Draenor center around a hammer, and that orcs would create a legend about a hammer that brings doom, is no coincidence.)

Of course, the Twilight’s Hammer would naturally have to be something that the the ogre dynasties would attempt to quash. Cells would rise up, convinced that they had found access to whatever trigger would bring about the end of the world, and the empire would destroy it. Cho’gall, then, is the latest in a long line of ogre magisters who delved too deep into the maddening secrets of the cult and came out the other side convinced that it was all true. Cho’gall, as a result, turned out to be much more cunning and capable than many of his predecessors, which you can see from his long career.

The key is this: Cho’gall predicted correctly that whatever Gul’dan was doing with his campaign to butcher the draenei, it had something to do with destroying the world. It’s part of why Mar’gok and the rest of “proper” ogre society considered Cho’gall a traitor: he willingly aligned himself with the orcs and essentially advertised that they were going to merrily destroy the world that the Gorians claimed ownership over.

Now the problem is that it’s hard to tell exactly how Cho’gall was working for the Old Gods on Draenor, since he clearly transitioned into working for them on Azeroth after the Second War. Aside from the “ancient and powerful evil” that the Sketh’lon were trying to summon in SMV during BC, and the part where the Pale are speaking something that sounds similar to Shath’yar, we don’t really have overt evidence of the Old Gods on Draenor itself. Volume One of Chronicles helps to explain the diaspora of the Old Gods across the Great Dark Beyond as agents of the Void Lords, but the repeated notions that Draenor is younger than Azeroth and that it hadn’t been struck by any living asteroids of meat make one question how close they got to the planet.

That leaves us in a weird position where yeah, we expect that Cho’gall is working for the Old Gods because that’s what he did all through Cataclysm and the WoW comic series, and because working for Gul’dan’s Horde in the First/Second Wars serves the objective of destroying at least one world… but without any direct evidence to indicate that the Old Gods are actually on Draenor, it’s hard to tell exactly how Cho’gall ends up getting these marching orders in the first place.

The bottom line? Cho’gall was only willing to work for Gul’dan so long as a) it let Cho’gall remain alive to fulfill his goal of destroying everything and b) it granted access to a feasible scenario where Cho’gall got to be at least partly responsible for destroying everything. His cooperation with Deathwing during Cataclysm echoes this sentiment. The fact that he was willing to betray Gul’dan once Cho’gall had gained control of K’ure and the Pale drives the point home that the Shadow Council was always only a stepping stone for him. But what makes Cho’gall wily is the part where he was able to convince Gul’dan that he was loyal and dedicated to Gul’dan and Gul’dan’s goals for years.

Yeah, I know Warlords is old hat at this point but I’m holding out hope that it’s something we go back to someday. And there are a lot of ways to do that, which is why I’m writing all this down. So let me know what you think in the comments.

Remixing Draenor’s History Part 2

I know it’s been a bit since Part 1 but stay with me on this journey.

More of this will be a bit more freeform rather than the earlier delineation I made between in-universe accounts and external analysis.

The Long Decline of the Gorian Empire

Let’s be honest, the Gorian patricians were spanked by the draenei. And between everything they spent trying to conquer the draenei, and the part where they lost their entire enslaved population of orcs as a result, it meant that the empire could no longer sustain itself. The empire fractured, everyone trying to use whatever resources they could to subjugate some other clan in order to claim resources and get their working class back. The War of the Exiles ends when the draenei withdraw and the orcs claim their freedom on the northern continent, but the fighting across the empire doesn’t stop for decades.

Highmaul’s existence in Nagrand stems from the collapse of the empire, in fact. It’s been centuries since the war, and some imperator gets it in his skull to restore the ancient metropolis of Highmaul, making it his seat of power, and striking up a trade with the remnants of the empire on the southern continent with goods crafted in the north. There’s also an underground slave trade, fed by ogre privateers who prey on orcish coastal villages. (This details also feeds into the orcs’ resentment of the draenei, since the draenei navy was supposed to be strong enough to combat the ogres’, and yet everyone suffers for it.) It’s nothing like the subjugation of an entire race, but the Highmaul elites are able to profit off selling orcs for drudge work, outcast arakkoa for craftsmanship, the occasional draenei as an exotic trophy piece, and all of the above including saberon for bloodsports. (Hence, this is where Kargath’s origin story as a gladiator comes into play in the MU canon.)

This is also where the Warsong campaigns against the ogres in Nagrand come from, and part of why the Warsong are among the fiercest warrior clans among the orcs: they had the greatest amount of combat against organized, military opposition (as opposed to the Thunderlords hunting the gronn, or the Bleeding Hollow battling outcast arakkoa and saberon in Tanaan). This is also the part where Grom Hellscream gets his initial glory from tearing an imperator’s throat out with his bare teeth. The Blackrock Clan’s battles against ogres in Gorgrond have similar echoes.

For their part, the draenei don’t turn a blind eye to this; part of the reason they were blind-sided by the orcish uprising is because they were preparing a military reprisal against Highmaul. More of the rangari were monitoring ogre shipping lanes and troop concentrations and simply didn’t see the Horde coming until it was too late.

The imperator (let’s just assume it’s Mar’gok), witnessing the Horde’s massacre of the draenei, decides that he’s interested in a piece of the action, or simply that he wants to claim the ancient magic of the draenei that his predecessors in the War of the Exiles failed to get. But this is where the true ferocity of the fel-powered Horde comes into play: the ogres don’t stand a chance. Highmaul is obliterated. Rogue bands of ogres (remember Turok from Warcraft: Orcs and Humans or the ogres who aided in the assault on Shattrath?) even end up being recruited into the Horde as shock troops to be used against imperial centuries and draenei holdouts, because ogres respect strength and the Empire simply no longer had it. Once the fragments of the empire on the southern continent heard about what happened, the ogres were galvanized and united against the Horde, for all the good it ended up doing them.

In turn, this helps to explain why those orcs with a strong history of battling ogres, like Grom and Kargath, aren’t involved in the First War. They’re busy protecting the Horde’s flanks from the reconstituted Gorian forces who are trying to sweep in and claim the Dark Portal for themselves. This is also why you end up seeing more ogres deployed in the Second War: the Gorians have been defeated so soundly that more ogres are joining the Horde in order to stay on the winning team.

Ultimately, the Gorian Empire dies with the rest of Draenor, and principally because they failed to react well to any of the paradigm shifts that were introduced into their domain: they couldn’t deal with the draenei without trying to subjugate them, and they couldn’t deal with the orcs once they’d been empowered by the Legion. And with no arsenal to call on against these forces and no one to broker a deal with a higher power of some kind (as we’ll see with Cho’gall), all that was left of them were the dregs that were either dominated by Gruul and his sons or discovered the Apexis monuments and founded Ogri’la.

Clearly, another one the blades of grass that differentiates the timeline of Warlords of Draenor from the MU is that Mar’gok doesn’t have any luck discovering Titan relics that he can use against the Horde’s fel magic. Because hot-diggity would some of that come in handy.

More to come. 

The Lost Drafts: Scions of the Black Empire

Look, I really want to see the nerubians, mantid, and qiraji team up again. And that’s really where this came from.

To himself, Arix’anub silently repeated the final warning of his mentor: You must not fail. You must not fail. In you resides our last hope of freedom. 

As the great spiderlord emerged from his burrow into the great crystal-lit cavern, he took in the sight before him and suppressed a shiver. Silithid drones swarmed so thickly in three great pits that the piles of them looked like singular, pulsating masses. Such behavior was not unfamiliar to him given spiderling young, but these drones were the size of boulders.

The swarms were so thick that Arix’anub couldn’t tell what the drones were at work on. He imagined, however, given the nature of the summons, that this was something that would be revealed to him. Indeed, his mentor has sensed that such a revelation was the reason that someone from the tattered remnants of Azjol-Nerub was summoned in the first place.

At the center of the cavern, an obelisk of elementium hovered over the ground, with great black chains trailing off of it to moor at different points on the walls of the cavern. It was not unlike a spider’s web, only made of something far colder, far crueler, and far more permanent; a fitting place for the servants of the Old Gods to congregate.

A flight of swarmguards approached, the buzz of their gossamer wings sounding alien to Arix’anub. The scholars of his people had spoken often of ancient times, during the height of the Black Empire, when there was no distinction between qiraji, or nerubian, or mantid. They were as one race, enthralled to the Old Gods and their faceless enforcers, but nonetheless kindred.

Arix’anub could find nothing of his kindred in the veiled faces of the swarmguards as they chittered at him to follow. He accepted the escort begrudgingly but wordlessly. It would not serve to be a rude guest, even to such as these.

Beneath the hum of the great floating obelisk awaited those whom the spiderlord has been summoned to meet. To one side, a mantid war master stood, twin blades of hardened amber strapped to the back of his thorax, two massive upper arms resting atop the lower pincer arms, which were blackened by something Arix’anub couldn’t identify without closer inspection. The war master’s triangular head dipped in mild respect as his compound eyes took in the spiderlord, and Arix’anub bowed his own horn in response.

At the center of everything, before the obelisk, a great qiraji prophet stood, suspended on eight great hairy legs banded in gold and silver, silk robes flowing like new, yellow eyes in a shadowy band on the upper half of his head. Those eyes settled on Arix’anub as he approached, and the great sleeves of the robe rose to join together before the towering thorax while revealing nothing of their contents.

“So Ixit is a coward, then,” intoned the prophet.

Arix’anub measured his outrage carefully, though he did not completely conceal it. “The Seer is no coward. Our kingdom needs his guidance if we are to rebuild our strength. I am Prince Arix’anub, and the Seer has empowered me to speak for Azjol-Nerub in this congress.”

“‘Congress,'” chuckled the prophet bitterly. “How droll. Our masters do not believe in congress, spider-prince. Our masters direct, and we obey. Such is the way of the aqir.”

“Such was the way,” Arix’anub replied, his wings fluttering in irritation.

“With respect, Prophet Skall’iz,” came the mantid’s higher-pitched chitter, “let us not bicker. Prince Arix’anub represents his people, just as I represent the Klaxxi and the nascent Empress. He is not wrong; we are a congress of equals, even if we wait upon the will of the Ancient Ones.”

“A will that will never come,” said Arix’anub. “Yogg-Saron’s influence is a fading memory. C’Thun is a lifeless husk. The final breaths of Y’shaarj have been scattered to nothingness by the usurpers’ children. Only N’Zoth remains, and all of N’Zoth’s gambles with the children and the Earthwarder’s brood have come to nothing.”

“Heresy,” Skall’iz breathed wispily. Arix’anub didn’t know if it was shock or amusement on the qiraji prophet’s inscrutable face, but he refused to back down.

“The usurpers defeated the Ancient Ones, and imprisoned them. In Nerub, my ancestors recognized this was an opportunity for freedom. A chance to make our own destiny rather than being fodder for the chaos of their unknowable will. Ever since have my people fought for that freedom, against the trolls, against the Scourge, and against the Faceless.”

“A drone lacks purpose without the command of his empress,” said the war master, his tone even, “and are we scions of the Aqir not merely drones before the Old Ones?”

“We are not drones,” said Arix’anub, “because we possess our individual will. Is it not the way of the mantid that the strongest drones of the swarm return from battle while the weak are culled by their enemies? Is that strength born merely from brawn, or is it a matter of will as well?”

“Is this why Ixit send you, spider-prince?” said Skall’iz, chortling as he cut off the mantid’s response. “To argue heretic philosophy with us instead of offering servitude to our masters?”

“Ixit sent me to speak for Nerub, prophet, and so I speak. I answered the summons to hear and see and know what takes place here.”

“If you stop speaking, then you will hear, see, and know all that you wish.”

Arix’anub bit back a retort, but bowed his horn to the prophet in submission.

“The ‘games’ of N’zoth, as you call them, are not yet done, spider-prince. The Emerald Dream succumbs to the master’s control as we speak. The children are distracted with the Legion’s latest advance. And most importantly, we have finally uncovered the key that we need to truly turn the tide of this war in our favor.” The prophet paused dramatically, his sleeves parting in a grand gesture. “Xal’atath.”

Arix’anub did not contain his laughter, listening to it echo weirdly off the distant walls of the cavern around them. “You called this meeting over that accursed trinket? The very least of the tools of the Ancient Ones? Even as a servant of chaos, to think that there is any power in that castoff fragment is a delusion!”

“You see, Xan’tik?” said Skall’iz said to the war master, irritation filtered behind a cloying air of superiority: “For all their vaunted reputation as scholars and historians, even the Nerubians are ignorant to the truth.”

Arix’anub looked to the war master for confirmation. “What is this truth, then? Xal’atath is a toy, nothing more. Something to dupe the children into believing they had uncovered power when it was intended only to make them destroy themselves.”

“The whispers of the Heart of Y’shaarj confirmed this truth when the Klaxxi doubted it, as you do,” said the war master softly. “The Black Blade was never so simple an object as you describe, prince.”

The prophet chortled, but said nothing.

Moments later, after Xan’tik the Igniter had laid bare the truth of Xal’atath, Arix’anub’s hulking body sagged under the weight of it.

“Do you see now, spider-prince?” Skall’iz opened his sleeves again, and in response the drones in the three great pits below halted their work, withdrawing to reveal what they labored upon. Nestled in each pit was a hulking mass of flesh, shot through in places with glimmering black elementium. The shape of the three beings was immediately evident to Arix’anub: all where c’thraxxi, the great Faceless generals who had been the terrifying taskmasters set upon the aqir of old by the Ancient Ones. The Nerubians believed they had accounted for all of the c’thraxxi, and Ixit had personally rejoiced upon hearing of the deaths of Vezax, Erudax, and Zon’ozz, each in their turn.

And yet in these pits, Arix’anub saw three more of the creatures of nightmare, empowered with the primal elementium, and awaiting only one critical ingredient before they would live again to menace all of Azeroth.

An ingredient that would be provided by the Black Blade, should Skall’iz ever get hold of it.

Master, Arix’anub thought, I have failed, and we are all truly doomed. There can be no freedom, even in death, from the will of the Ancient Ones.


Had to say one thing on voting third party and it’s this

There’s a couple different ways to look at this.

First and foremost, your vote is your right, and it’s an expression that is protected by the First Amendment as readily as it’s defended by the Constitution itself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t vote for Gary Johnson. That includes anyone saying “I could vote for myself or a potato” yeah you could, but that would be stupid, because no one else is voting for you or a potato. Voting for a third party candidate because you believe that person is the best for the job is 100% valid as a choice.

Another way to look at it (which doesn’t invalidate the part where your vote is your right) is recognizing all of the other players in the game of the election process. Folks disregard Johnson and Jill Stein as candidates because they aren’t buying up gobs of ad time, and when the media DOES give them free publicity by covering them, it’s usually to ridicule them in some manner that deflates their candidacy (Johnson’s ignorance re: Aleppo and Stein’s desire to make Trump president in order to teach the electorate a lesson are singular examples). And the chief reason that the media at large (on both left and right) seems interested in doing this is because the electorate wants a Red vs. Blue race. By and large, third party candidates lack support and lack an installed base to draw from because of how entrenched the Democrats and the GOP have been for the last 40+ years.

The two-party system is a self-perpetuating engine, because rising politicians entrench themselves within the coalition that stands the greater chance of getting them elected, and the media continues to prop up Red vs. Blue because it’s a story that reads far easier to an audience that really isn’t interested in nuance. Most candidates who claim they want to upend that system get written off by the media (unless they’re able to seduce the media like Trump and Ross Perot were able to do) and consequently don’t get elected because they never find their base (because the media obscures it), so the system perpetuates itself.

So after saying all this, I’m not going to say that voting for Johnson is useless. It’s not useless. You think he’s the right guy for the job, or you think he’s a better option vs Trump or Clinton, or you’re protesting the two-party system that you feel isn’t representing you as a citizen. Your empowerment to do that is important, and you should always vote and always vote your conscience.

The media, however, is only going to pay attention to votes for Clinton and Trump, because they want the World Series of politics for an audience that’s hungry for an entertaining show, not an audience that’s actively engaged in the nation’s actual political character. And that’s something that’s ultimately solved only by a real revolution of thought, where the media recognizes that the game can be made more complex because the audience is in fact capable of understanding more than two opposing teams.

Takeaways: vote with a clear conscience. It’s a right that people lived and died to provide to us as citizens of this country, so it’s our responsibility to follow that spirit properly. But to affect change in the oligarchical structures that have perverted that spirit into a sideshow in the name of ad revenue and engagement numbers instead of actual engagement, it’s going to take a lot more than a vote. It’s going to take a movement.

The Lost Drafts: Garrosh in UBRS

So if I’m remembering things properly, this is something I came up with back when I was trying to imagine a more traditional heroic narrative for Garrosh. This coincided with an idea about trying to come up with stories that would try to nail down a canon “victor” in the various dungeon and raid narratives, much as Blizzard themselves did when they “gave” the Onyxia kill to Varian in the WoW comic.

Those two elements together resulted in me re-writing the dialogue from the Rend fight in UBRS, for the sake of setting up the idea that Garrosh is the one who ultimately takes Nefarian down for the Horde.

Not sure if I’m going to do anything with this, but the chief thing I liked was a) Nefarius being snarky and b) Rend playing a role in Garrosh’ eventual heel turn.

Rend Blackhand: Well, what do we have here? Grom Hellscream, back from the dead?

Garrosh Hellscream: Have you gone blind in your other eye, Dal’rend? I am Garrosh, son of Grommash.

Lord Victor Nefarius: And my name’s Victor, son of WHO GIVES A DAMN.

Garrosh Hellscream: You serve the humans now, Dal’rend?

Lord Victor Nefarius: No, you brown buffoon, he serves ME. And so will your corpse. Release the whelps!

[Chromatic whelps rush into the arena, Team Garrosh kills them.]

Lord Victor Nefarius: Not bad! What did you say his name was, Rend?

Rend Blackhand: Hellscream, my lord. His father was a great hero of the Horde, until Thrall stabbed him in the back.

Garrosh Hellscream: That’s not what happened, Blackhand!

Lord Victor Nefarius: Look, I’m sure this drama is very serious for you both, but I don’t care. More whelps!

[More whelps. Go Team Garrosh!]

Lord Victor Nefarius: This is trying my patience. Get down there and turn these interlopers into mincemeat, Rend…

Lord Victor Nefarius: … or else it’s YOU on the menu.

Rend Blackhand: At once, my lord! I’ll tear out their spines with my bare hands!

Garrosh Hellscream: Ha! Come down here and die, Rend!

[Rend shows up riding Gyth. Nefarius buffs Gyth.]

Lord Victor Nefarius: Taste in my power!

[When Gyth dies…]

Lord Victor Nefarius: Well, back to the drawing board. Farewell, Rend!

[Nefarius poofs.]

Rend Blackhand: Master! No!

[When Rend dies…]

Rend Blackhand: Hellscream… listen to me…

Rend Blackhand: Thrall is… a traitor to our kind!

[Garrosh chunks Rend! FATALITY]

Garrosh Hellscream: It was you who was always the traitor, Rend.

Garrosh Hellscream: We’re not done here yet. I want to find out what that human is up to…


Like I said, might pick this up, might leave it be. But it was a nice gem to dig up while going through my old drafts.



So right now, Overwatch has two heroes classified as “builders” which are Torbjorn and Symmetra.

Now, why these two are builders should be pretty obvious: both of them are centered around constructing objects on the maps. Torbjorn drops his automated turret while Symmetra can place her array of small point defense turrets as well as her teleporter pad.

Of course, there are other characters who’ve got some deployables that need to be considered:

  • Junkrat places his steel traps, concussion mines, and his ultimate Rip-Tire fits the bill as well.
  • Mei’s Ice Wall and the drone she throws for her Blizzard ultimate arguably count.
  • Soldier: 76’s biotic field emitter is a short-term deployable.
  • Widowmaker’s Venom Mine definitely counts.
  • Winston’s Barrier Projector definitely counts.

So, it might help to define the rules that narrow down abilities that might help to qualify a builder hero.

  • All of Junkrat’s deployables have a critical difference in that they are temporary. The steel trap doesn’t reset, and everything else he does literally explodes. So it’s easy to disqualify Junkrat as a builder (esp. given how his whole kit is oriented around wanton destruction).
  • With the exception of the Venom Mine, all of the other deployables are also temporary in nature, but centered on their duration rather than on being explosives.
  • The Venom Mine is also temporary in the same manner as Junkrat’s steel trap: it’s permanent until it does its job.

Contrast this with our two builder heroes:

  • Torbjorn’s turret does its job (shooting at stuff in line-of-sight) until it is either actively destroyed from taking damage or destroyed by Torb deciding to deploy another turret elsewhere.
  • Symmetra’s turrets do their job (spraying close-range targets with laser goodness) until they’re destroyed. Her teleporter pad does it’s job until it runs out of charges or it’s blown up.

In both cases, the stuff that builders drop are more permanent than even the semi-permanent deployables that Junkrat and Widowmaker use because they repeatedly perform their function instead of only functioning ONCE.

Hence, we can establish a rule that builder heroes deploy materiel that repeatedly performs a function until destroyed (or until an arbitrary number of charges greater than one are depleted).

One could also argue that because Torb/Symm both drop devices that then stay fixed in the world, that means that all builders should have that as a rule. I’m not certain that’s as critical, especially since it constrains the design space a bit.

With that in mind, let’s brainstorm:

  • Feedback Drones: A friendly player gains a drone that hovers alongside them. The drone will fire at enemies who hit the player, but has a limited number of shots before the drone is depleted. The drone itself is indestructible.
  • Aid Station: An automated Caduceus device that targets the nearest hero within a short range and delivers a consistent healing stream. Destructible, maybe 50-100HP.
  • Gel Slick: A slick of friction-negating fluid. Enemy heroes that step into the slick maintain their momentum but can’t change direction. Great for tricking people off cliffs or platforms.
  • Spy Drone: Provides vision and notification when an enemy passes within range.

Of course, all of this is moot since that recent patch that deleted the “builder” tag from the team build tips, but hey, it’d be nice to see more heroes dropping deployables.

Azeroth Warriors: Romance of the Seven Kingdoms

Man, what does a mash-up of Dynasty Warriors and World of Warcraft even look like?

Probably the biggest thing to keep in mind is this: the whole point of Dynasty Warriors, by and large, is to showcase these heroes from about a 90-year period in 2nd-3rd century China. And these heroes are, to a great extent, fantastical versions from a story that’s already a romanticized version of actual history, which is why they can wield ridiculous weapons and wear impractical armor. It is, however, also an opportunity to showcase characters who normally wouldn’t have been forces on the battlefield, especially in the form of women characters, as well as playing with other elements like sexuality, fashion, and demeanor. And it’s all wrapped up in this overarching spectacle of over-the-top combat where a girl with an oversized yo-yo and an exuberant personality goes around smacking faceless enemy footmen away like a petite version of Sauron from the opener to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.

Azeroth Warriors: Romance of the Eastern Kingdoms

Two factions (and Other because, y’know Other):


  • 4 First War: Llane Wrynn, Lothar, Mara Fordragon, Khadgar
  • 6 Second War: Uther the Lightbringer, Magni Bronzebeard, Alleria Windrunner, Terenas Menethil, Genn Greymane, Gelbin Mekkatorque
  • 6 Beyond the Dark Portal: Turalyon, Kurdran Wildhammer, Falstad Wildhammer, Danath Trollbane, Vereesa Windrunner, Rhonin Redhair
  • 5 Third War: Kael’thas Sunstrider, Jaina Proudmoore, Othmar Garithos, Muradin Bronzebeard, Gavinrad the Dire
  • 9 Post-Third War: Varian Wrynn, Bolvar Fordragon, Anduin Wrynn, Maraad, Brann Bronzebeard, Yrel, Aysa Cloudsinger, Moira Bronzebeard, Tyrande Whisperwind
  • Total: 30


  • 7 First War: Gul’dan, Blackhand, Kilrogg Deadeye, Azuka Bladefury, Orgrim Doomhammer, Durotan, Draka,
  • 7 Second War: Rend Blackhand, Maim Blackhand, Kargath Bladefist, Grom Hellscream, Teron Gorefiend, Zul’jin, Gazlowe
  • 2 Beyond the Dark Portal: Ner’zhul, Dentarg,
  • 10 Third War: Thrall, Eitrigg, Cairne Bloodhoof, Rexxar, Rokhan, Sen’jin, Vol’jin, Nazgrel, Drek’thar, Broxigar Saurfang
  • 10 Post-Third War: Garrosh Hellscream, Varok Saurfang, Zaela, Lor’themar Theron, Sylvanas Windrunner, Ji Firepaw, Nathanos Marris, Jastor Gallywix, Liadrin, Cairne Bloodhoof
  • Total: 36


  • 3 First War: Medivh, Garona, Cho’gall
  • 3 Second War: Aiden Perenolde, Daval Prestor, Tirion Fordring
  • 1 Beyond the Dark Portal: Mo’gor
  • 6 Third War: Arthas Menethil, Illidan Stormrage, Maiev Shadowsong, Kel’thuzad, Darion Mograine, Renault Mograine
  • 6 Post-Third War: Magatha Grimtotem, Akama, Inquisitor Whitemane, Katrana Prestor, Victor Nefarius, Lilian Voss
  • Total: 19

Look I’m not saying I’d pay money to try and recreate the character select screen from Dynasty Warriors 9 with all of these characters and the main reason I’m not saying that is because this is a LOT OF ART.

Classic Servers and the Flavor Matrix

I’ve always disliked using the term “vanilla” to describe pre-expansion WoW servers. There are a number of reasons for this.

Just to get this out of the way first, I don’t prescribe to the ideas that “Classic WoW was Better” or “Modern WoW is Better.” They are different, just as every expansion has been different, and my perception of their quality isn’t the point here. I’m saying that calling Classic “Vanilla” ends up framing the discussion in a bad way, because people carry how they think about ice cream into how they think about Classic WoW, and that fails for a number of reasons.

1. Classic WoW was not “vanilla”

It does a disservice to the experience of Classic WoW. That game was a remarkable microcosm of MMO iteration and content delivery done at what feels even now like a breakneck pace. “Vanilla” frames it as being plain and lacking in more than the most basic, default flavor, and that doesn’t accurately describe how rich the world was, from the diversity of the zones up to the wild dynamism of the raids.

Yes, you can have high-quality top-shelf vanilla ice cream, but no one is talking about that when they say “vanilla.” You can talk about Classic forming the basis for the game just as vanilla forms the basis for ice cream flavors, but there are so many ice creams flavors that straight up don’t use vanilla as an ingredient that it falls apart. “Ice cream” is the format, and “vanilla” is a flavor. “Classic WoW” describes a series of iterations of a game, while each successive expansion title describes THOSE iterations of the game, because even looking at the differences between 2.0 and 2.4 are striking, even if they aren’t as momentous as the differences betweeen 1.12 and 2.0.

Which one of these is the vanilla Iron Man armor? Think about it.

Which one of these is the vanilla Iron Man armor? Think about it.

2. That’s not how flavors work

It frames the discussion of classic servers as a spread of ice cream flavors. In the modern, developed world, you can go to the grocery store and find rows of vanilla next to rows of chocolate chip, pistachio, rocky road, peanut butter cup, low-fat and sugar-free iterations of all the above, and that’s barely scratching the surface of the flavor spread. The key thing is that unless you’re looking for something really esoteric, you’ll ALWAYS find vanilla. It’s always there, along with plenty of stock of the other accepted standards.

That doesn’t accurately describe MMO iteration and it fails as a metaphor, because the whole point of WoW’s iterative cycle and the imposition of expansions is that the old model gets replaced with the new model. For the flavor metaphor to work, you’d have to imagine a world where one year, you’ve got vanilla and THAT’S IT. The next year, you’ve got mint chocolate chip and THAT’S IT. Vanilla stops existing completely, and mint is where it’s at, and if you want vanilla, you’re just living in the past, maaaaaan.

3. You can’t get that flavor anymore

By framing Classic WoW as vanilla, it creates this illusion that people just want something that you can easily get again, and that’s not the case. Getting to walk into Molten Core at level 60 stopped being the same as Classic once Patch 2.0.3 hit the live servers and introduced all of the expansion’s class mechanical changes. That experience couldn’t be replicated without using an emulated server and an old client. (PS, that’s how pirate servers work.)

For the ice cream metaphor to work, it’s like saying that handmade vanilla ice cream and mass-produced vanilla ice cream taste exactly the same. Anyone who’s sampled both knows there’s a difference, and whether that difference is meaningful enough to declare one or the other as being higher quality is purely a matter of opinion. But the bottom line is that calling Classic WoW vanilla gives the impression that it’s still accessible when it really isn’t. You change the ingredients or the process and the end result is different.

So by saying “you can just lock yourself at 60 and play Molten Core forever if you want” it’s disingenuous, because so many other aspects of the game have changed that your engagement with the game content in 1.12 vs. your engagement with the content in 6.2 are hardly able to be reconciled with each other.

4. Vanilla implies a choice of flavors when there is no choice

The experience of eating a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a plain cone is going to be different from eating a banana split that has scoops of vanilla with cherry syrup all over it. Yeah, both things have vanilla in them, but when you can’t isolate the vanilla component from the rest, it’s no longer a fair comparison. The imposition of expansions is Blizzard’s mandate that the only way you can get vanilla is in a banana split, and not in just a cone.

At the end of the day, using “Vanilla” to describe Classic WoW fails. The particular experience that a player has interacting with a game, or their memories of how they interacted with a past version of the game, should not be compared with a dessert you can buy in a store for a few dollars. Calling it ice cream removes its meaning, its importance, its significance.

You don’t remember the free vanilla soft serve you had after lunch at Jason’s Deli because it’s ice cream. You probably remember the chocolate fondue you had after dinner at the Melting Pot, but not because it’s ice cream.

… yeah I just wrote 900 words on ice cream and Warcraft. Come at me, bro.

Remix the Factions (REDUX)

In the process of doing some clean-up, came across this thing that I don’t think I ever posted here.

Even if I did, I feel like there’s still discussion to be had about the merits/flaws of a four-faction system vs. the two-faction system we ended up with.

Look, I just really like the idea of the Forsaken being “undead EVERYTHING” and high elves being able to join any faction. And Frostwolf worgen because tell me that ain’t perfect.


Something I consider to be a fundamental flaw in the design of World of Warcraft was the sentiment that “orcs vs. humans” needed to be preserved as a core value of the game. It’s handily demonstrated in Warcraft 3’s opening cinematic that the conflict between the orcs and the humans (and consequently the larger gathered factions of the Horde and the Alliance) is small potatoes when a dangerous third party enters the fray; quite frankly, I think WoW should have run with that ball instead of dropping it for the sake of Red vs Blue.

With that in mind, I think that WoW should have had a four-faction structure, to mirror the four different campaigns we saw in WC3:

  • Thrall’s Horde, consisting of the orcs, trolls, and tauren,
  • The Grand Alliance, made up of humans, dwarves, and gnomes,
  • The Forsaken, made up of free-willed undead of all races,
  • and the Night Elves, basically going alone because their druids can shapeshift into anything.

Critical differences? You can defect. If you want to be a night elf that fights for the Alliance, there’s a method to do that. If you want to be a Forsaken Tauren who goes to bat for the Horde, you can do that. Hell, if you want to reject the four players factions altogether and go to work for the Twilight’s Hammer, you can do that.

This also means that when you introduce new races into the game, there’s a great deal more fluidity in their narratives. Blood Elves/High Elves make sense joining pretty much any faction after the destruction of Quel’thalas, but they also make sense as an NPC faction dedicated to rebuilding Silvermoon and reclaiming their former glory. For races like ogres and goblins, you’ve always got different clans/cartels willing to align with any faction if the price is right. For the draenei, they’d have a different reason for every faction; joining the Horde is about helping the orcs reconnect with their noble history on Draenor, joining the Alliance would be about connecting with other adherents of the Light, joining the Night Elves would be about protecting their new world, and joining the Forsaken… well, undead draenei being all grumbly about being rejected by the Light in undeath would be perfect, no?

Even the worgen would make sense on any of these factions; for the night elves it’s the Druids of the Scythe; for the Horde it’s Frostwolf orcs who are taking their natural lupine connection a step further, for the Alliance you can stick with Gilneans and for the forsaken it’s a) dead Gilnears who had the curse and/or b) the Sons of Arugal.

A Response to Janet McNulty re: TPM

Some context, as in the original post, wherein the audience is asked to just get over how awful The Phantom Menace was in preparation for The Force Awakens.

I’m posting this response here because for whatever reason, I can’t post it as a response on the author’s blog, and it’s too long for an FB comment, so here goes. You are STRONGLY advised to read the original post for context.

Here goes:


I want to offer some responses, with the full disclosure that a) I’m not expecting to change your opinion on the film and b) I’m not really asking you to suddenly forgive all the people who didn’t give this movie a fair shake.

1) Jar-Jar: To a great extent, it’s a combination of factors that makes Jar-Jar so hated. First, he’s easily the most ridiculous character introduced in a Star Wars film to date; no character in the original trilogy was as prone to pratfalls, nor had as nonsensical a manner of speaking. Jar-Jar caught a lot of people off guard because they had no context for him from the original trilogy. Ultimately he made a very poor first impression and never recovered from it, if you were coming to TPM from having watched the original trilogy.

On the other side, if you’re watching the film without that prior context, Jar-Jar might still come across as infantile in his humour, but even then, he’s there for comedy relief in a film that was largely dealing with a fairly complicated plot. If you’re George Lucas and you want the film to excite a young audience, someone like Jar-Jar is almost necessary so the kids don’t have their eyes glaze over at all the politics. And that was the reaction for Lucas and his crew while making the film: Jar-Jar was testing well with kids (especially Lucas’ own kids) and no one found him too distracting from the rest of the flm. The problem ultimately comes from fans of the original trilogy getting whiplash from how unexpected Jar-Jar was.

2) Lack of emotional attachment: I feel like this is a more nebulous issue, but again it has to do with how expectations of people coming from the original films conflicted with what Lucas ended up putting on screen. In the original trilogy, our model for a Jedi is old Obi-wan Kenobi, replaced later by Yoda. A lot of the dogma around the Jedi Order, and how they straight-up abstain from emotion to avoid the Dark Side, was never expressed by those two characters: Obi-wan, as played by Alec Guinness, was warm and amiable when it served him and manipulative when it served him, and Yoda was an old trickster first, and a wise warrior second. Qui-gon Jinn, and later the rest of the Jedi Order, came across as cold and unfeeling, and especially as the trilogy continued, there was a lot of work done to tarnish the idea of the Jedi that had been set-up in the original trilogy so effectively.

I say all of this to indicate that I don’t think the negativity is necessarily about the audience not feeling attached to Qui-gon, or the audience being upset that Qui-gon doesn’t seem to have an emotional interest in Anakin, but more that with Qui-gon being presented as the iconic Jedi Master of this film, he leaves people feeling cold, which is not at all the sense we got from old Obi-wan or Yoda in the original trilogy. Additionally, the midichlorians concept came completely out of left field, and similar to Jar-Jar, it felt like it upended a lot of preconceived notions about the Jedi that had never really been challenged prior to that point.

So it’s not really about Qui-gon, but about the portrayal of the Jedi as a whole, and Qui-gon gets most of the bad rap for that because he’s the iconic Jedi who is on the screen for most of the film.

3) Anakin: I think when it comes down to it, no one bought Jake Lloyd’s character. He’s eight years old, he’s a mechanical genius, speaks multiple languages fluently, is the only human who can pilot a podracer, came about through immaculate conception, charms a queen who’s twice his age, and all of the scenes demonstrating his anger issues were edited out of the film. Anakin came across as unfailingly perfect, and that was just too saccharine for anyone to take seriously.

When Luke pilots an X-wing against the Death Star at the end of A New Hope, we feel like we’ve been on a journey where he’s built up to that moment pretty well. By contrast, Anakin gives a poor first impression and, by the time he stumbles into a setpiece space dogfight at the climax of the film, he doesn’t feel like he’s earned that moment. Making him older would have helped with some of that sweetness, but a lot of what Anakin did was act as an avatar for the setpieces in the film that gave Lucas the opportunity to showcase his special effects innovations. Anakin ultimately didn’t feel like a person.

4) Plot holes: I’ll try to take these one at a time.

  • a) Midichlorians: As I said earlier, I don’t think the issue is as much that people didn’t understand the concept of midichlorians, but instead that it didn’t fit with how the Jedi had been characterized at any point in the entirety of the Star Wars universe up to TPM. To an extent, it’s the way that it dispels part of the magic of the Force that’s more aggravating than the concept of space bacteria.
  • b) Palpatine as a manipulator: You’re right that Palpatine manipulating people really shouldn’t be that unbelievable. I wonder if people were upset about it because it again deflates the effectiveness of the Jedi when they couldn’t sense the great disturbance in the Force that Palpatine himself would be at the center of.
  • c) Anakin’s mechanical hobby: This feels like another expression of how much of a Mary Sue character Anakin comes across as, in addition to shoe-horning C-3PO into the film. Put another way, I don’t think the complaint is as much that Anakin, being a slave, wouldn’t have had time for his hobbies, but instead that no one bought the idea that 3PO started as a garage-built protocol droid that we saw identical mass-production models of multiple times in the original trilogy AND earlier in TPM. Part of 3PO’s entire character was predicated on him being an assembly-line constructed interpreter, but it seems dissonant that Anakin would be able to construct a perfect replica of that from junk on a backwater planet.
  • d) Lack of continuity: This seems like an odd complaint. There would have been no dramatic reason to reveal Vader being from Tatooine in Episode 4. It’s not something that fit into Luke’s arc, and Luke was really the star of that show.

5) Darth Maul: There’s two responses when it comes to Maul. First is that he encapsulates a ton of surprises about the Dark Side of the Force (“an evil ALIEN dark Jedi?”) but he’s also incredibly cool, because martial arts and double-bladed lightsaber. I imagine a lot of the people who are upset with the lack of Maul’s character are coming from the position of “we wanted more Maul in the movie and it sucked that he ended up dying to Obi-wan.” Which helps to explain why Maul ends up coming back in the Clone Wars TV series.

The other response is more behind-the-scenes. Ray Park was hired because his skill with wushu allowed for a very cinematic and crowd-pleasing performance, and because adding this dimension to the lightsaber duels would dramatically up the ante from where they’d been in the original trilogy. The difficulty was that Park’s accent made him difficult to take seriously (and from seeing his speaking roles in later works, he’s really not a particularly good actor when it comes to drama) so it was much more effective to make him this nearly-mute antagonist who was just something of an evil force of nature. Again, because Maul popped off the screen so wonderfully, people were disappointed to see him come to an end so readily, especially when it was a bit of a big deal when Vader was able to just fly away from the destruction of the Death Star in Episode 4. Maul appeared poised to be the new Vader for the prequel trilogy and that just didn’t happen.

6) Too much CGI: To an extent, yes, there are people who just get taken out of their immersion when the film just looks completely unreal. And you’re right that getting bent out of shape because a director went for digital effects over practical ones in the modern era is basically shouting at the waves at this point.

That being said, Lucas was always a special effects innovator first and foremost. The special effects in the original trilogy were part of what really rocketed that part of the film industry to the forefront in the late 70s/80s, and Lucas and ILM were always a huge part of that. The part where I feel like the “too much CGI” argument holds some water is that there are certainly moments in the prequel trilogy where it doesn’t feel like we’re looking at something that’s real anymore: everything from the actors to the sets to the props is digital, AND LOOKS LIKE IT, so the artificiality of everything becomes too much to bear. And if we’re not hooked into the film because of an emotional bond to the characters (and we’re not, because so few of the characters in this film give us anything to connect to) then it feels like we got all hyped up for an ILM tech demo, and not the rolicking space epic we were expecting.

7) Lucas did it his way: I’ve never heard of the notion that Lucas didn’t like giving up creative control for Eps 5/6. My understanding (and sadly I don’t have a direct source to link on this) was that both writing and directing Episode 4 was too exhausting and he simply didn’t believe he could pull off doing it on another film at the time. Overall, though, you’re right that Lucas basically had no one telling him “no” while he was making the prequels, and the results are what they are.

Closing Remarks

All that being said, the purpose of film critique (or any kind of critique, really) is generally centered on whether a film contributes something beneficial and/or new to the world. The fact that an entire generation had been groomed on the original trilogy meant that there was no way that the films could have lived up the expectations of the audience, but I think there were a lot of critiques that came from a honest craft standpoint, asserting that there were functional problems with how the films were structured, cast, and written. Lucas is in his element when it comes to shot composition and special effects, and he knows who to trust when it comes to music, sound design, costuming, make-up, and editing, but the performances and the script are where the soul of the film comes from, and those ended up coming across so poorly that the films felt soulless.

It’s from that soullnessness that a lot of the amateur critique and fan outrage comes from, and that tends to drown out all of the other more reasonable critiques of the films. People are trying to find anything they can to express why these films left them feeling so empty, and they’ll latch onto continuity problems or Jar-Jar’s awkwardness or an immersion-breaking amount of CGI as vehicles for doing that.

I guess the best way to wrap this all up is to say this: you’re not wrong for liking TPM or the prequels as a while. If they worked for you and fed your creativity, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

By the same token, I don’t think people are wrong for disliking the films either. There’s a lot of reasons to be disappointed with them, and while some of those reasons are ill-informed, some aren’t. Ultimately, if the film fails to entertain when you watch it, that first impression is never going to leave you, even if you come to appreciate elements of the film later. There’s value in coming out of a film feeling like you could have done better; maybe that feeds your creativity to write an original work, or it feeds your desire to write your opinions for the benefit of others (because as the film critic industry demonstrates, people listen to critics, for better or worse).

That said, there’s value in coming out of a film and feeling like you went on a fun ride.

Thank you very much for writing this critique, and I appreciate the opportunity to offer a response, which I hope did not come across as condescending or ignorant of your sensibilities as a creator or consumer of content. I look forward to the Force Awakens and will be interested in your thoughts on Abrams’ interpretation of the story. Take care. ^_^