The Constant Escalation is not Sustainable

I should probably first of all make a note of how everything I say is my opinion and I am in no way saying that this is all objective fact. It is just how I look at things.

The World of Warcraft writers seem to be deathly afraid of scaling things back. Not, incapable, we know they can do smaller, more personalized stories, but rather they seem to be unwilling.

They’ve proven that they can do small scale conflicts well. If you ask around, many people will claim stories such as Darrowshire, Fiona’s Caravan, or even more recently Exile’s Reach as their favourite plotlines in the game. On the flipside very few people will claim recent expansion plotlines as their favourite. So why is this?

For me it is a problem of being able to relate.

Think about the overarching plot of the Shadowlands expansion. What are we truly doing? We’re saving the mechanism of death itself, the very afterlife of not just our world but all existence. That is epic, yeah. But, I can’t get emotionally invested in it. It is too big. It is a ’concept’, more than anything else.

On the opposite end of the scale my favourite story in WoW is Fiona’s Caravan. It’s an excellent vehicle for getting you around the world and meeting characters. You pick up noteworthy ones and get to build relations with and grow their characters naturally through dialogue and actions. It has a good beginning, middle, and end. The overarching plot of helping your new paladin pals to fulfill their dream of joining the Argents and then dealing with the reality of this. And it’s climax, saving one of your new friends from an evil necromancer alongside your new ragtag little family is much more epic to me than saving a thousand worlds and killing a million old gods. It is a story I can relate to. Saving my friend actually means something to me on a personal level.

Saving Stormwind from the Defias. Delving into mountain canyons to fight a quillboar threat. Even fighting a dragon in her lair. These mundane base game adventures are all more meaningful to me than anything we’ve done since Mists of Pandaria.

So, what do I mean when I say the escalation of the story isn’t sustainable? I mean that eventually we will experience, and many already have experienced, ’story collapse’.

In ’On Fairy Stories’, J. R. R. Tolkien says:

Inside [the story], what [the author] relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside.

This is ’story collapse’, it is when you’re thrown out of the story and stuck being un-immersed looking in. Rather than taking a part of the story. We’ve long since reached a point where the writers need to constantly invent new things for the Warcraft universe for us to take part in and interact with. Even 9.1 already introduces new concepts grander in scope to the Pantheon of Death. Where does it end? When can we stop discovering a new force behind the force? When can we stop escalating?

The real problem with this isn’t even plot holes, it is that it is a thematic and emotional failure. How can we get invested in a universe in which we never know something? How can we have any sort of emotional connection to ’concepts’ that will always be eclipsed by the next ’concept’? When does it just start being arbitrary, if it has not already? Your world building cannot be based on a child saying ”Yeah but the monster was controlled by an even more powerful evil-er monster!” At least it should not.

Now I am not saying that we should scale back all stories and not have any world saving adventures. But I think that with the way they are currently going with no end in sight, we will eventually forget about our world. Because it will no longer hold any sort of significance for us. We will have ’outgrown’ Azeroth. And on that day, for me, the story will collapse.


Warcraft was always very themepark-y and not that interested in making their different areas fit together. We have tribal savages who think putting spikes on wheels is a great idea, facing up to mediveal knights, facing up to demons from space hell, facing up to gnomish sci-fi tech, facing up to mages, facing up to aliens with spaceships, facing up to literal gods. And they were always very, very vague on how those things actually are supposed to be compatible.

As much as I hate what is happening, this really isn’t that different. We might be facing gods and supergods now, but WoW has no qualms about going back to let us chase witch-stories and kill boars afterwards. Remember that we went from facing Gul’dan, Kil’Jaeden and titans as end bosses straight to some random titan experiment thingy and Jaina Proudmoore. And with the time it takes to develop the addons, it isn’t really that jarring to most players. We seperate the settings of the addons just like we do with the different peoples with very different levels of tech and magic.

And while I totally agree that they are really pushing it right now, I do think WoW would have the ability to just ignore all that supergod stuff and go on a quest about dragons, if they wanted to, and we’d be mostly happy with it. Didn’t we essentially do it with AU Draenor? Yeah, in theory it’s part of the story, but all the challenges of a multiverse story were just pushed aside until they decide to do or not do something with it. They are addong more different areas to the themepark, and might or might not extend upon them in the future, but they don’t much care if the areas fit into a coherent world. Neither do the players, most of the time.

This is not Tolkien. This is not even the MCU. This is just WoW. I certainly hope they stop their journey into cosmic nonsense and come back to domestic nonsense at some point, but I find it hard to imagine it ever being too late to go back, if they care to.

I think one of the biggest problems here is actually that they have tried to give us an overarching plot and character cast that is the focal point of everything. When they do zone stories and side quests, they are still doing fine. And even more importantly, where they miss the mark with a zone or questline, it’s not that important. But the more they highlight their main plot with their pretty little cinemetics, the more they highlight how stupid that continuing story is. I just wish they would let it die and go back to letting us be the protagonists of our own adventures, instead of making us the sidekick of NPCs…


Hmm saw the same thing on reddit today in the lore subreddit


I often post both on forums and on related Reddits. I find it gives me a bit of a wider net of reactions since the ‘mood’ of official forums and Reddit will often be a bit different. : )


I can’t tell if this is a widely shared opinion or if the people who come up with this analysis are just very vocal within the lore community. I completely agree with the entirety of your post so I really hope the first option is the right one. Writers don’t seem to care much though…

I guess you’re right, but they really pushed the concept quite far this time… I can see how you can dip into cosmic-scale stuff in order to prevent the world from devastation and then go back to your everyday life once it’s settled. Because I mean, the objective behind saving the world is still most likely to be able to go back to living that everyday life, so yeah, makes sense. But here they basically explained death. And it happens to be pretty much the same experience for every single race and faith in the universe. Can world building even recover from this ? That’s… that’s so bad

Now to go back to what OP said about sustainability, this is so true imo. If you focus on smaller aspects of the universe (tensions between nations, local struggles, historical resent between peoples, culture clash…) you potentially have an infinity of plots ahead. But if you base your story on gigantic stuff (the origins of Azeroth/the universe/life itself, the cosmic fabric of existence…) you’re gonna hit a glass ceiling sooner or later. More sooner than later at this rate btw. Which I mean is fine (unavoidable ?) for a fictional story that is to follow a linear narrative development with a beginning, a middle and an end, but that’s hardly what Warcraft is supposed to be, isn’t it ?..


Possibly because the devs have people who can work with the “short format” (single quest line, cinematics, single interactions between characters, specific areas, etc.) which is more or less about nailing down one idea or emotion.

The further the devs go away from it, the worse the result it. Story lines that go throughout a single full expansion already usually disliked. Things that last even longer most of the time are underwhelming in execution and pay off.

Of course you can’t. It’s poorly executed. Example would be the whole night elf story. Supposedly the players should care about “saving Ardenweald” more than about what happened with the tree™.

But Teldrassil and other nearby locations had over a decade of stories told, experiences shared with the other people, be it players’ rp-stories, or just sitting on a small island looking at the sunset.

And suddenly the devs go like “this place you never knew existed and which contradicts a bunch of formerly known lore - you must care about it. Now!”

No, it does not work like that. It needs time to set up, to get familiarity, to new stories take root. And then, maybe in 2-3 expansions of its presence people would care about what might happen to Shadowlands in general.

As is - it’s nonsensical. The devs having emotional connection to characters / themes / ideas have little to no value to what is important to the user base.

That is another thing lacking in the storytelling. The players do like stories with clear narrative structure, with proper finale, even if open ended, and climax that can be recognized as such in the story, overshadowing with its scope and impact the other parts. At least on the surface.

I do not think there is any need. The devs are not even true to the stories, themes and methods of world building that made the game popular to begin with (w3-WotLK-ish which already was a departure but still with some original bits)

They make a choice to act the way they act.

IMO when people are fed up with misleading advertisement and retcons of what they like and cancel the subscription.

At any moment. [conceptually. If there is no limitation to the current dev team] It’s not something necessary. Just the current devs made a choice to lift the veil of mystery from the things made before them, and then go like “oh, what do we do now?”

The flip side of “soft world building” and retcons rears its ugly head. It’s not just “freedom of creativity”, or “to tell a better story”. It’s also a way to devalue the emotional investment and ruin suspence of disbelief.

gl hf


I’m torn between upvoting the final paragraph, and not upvoting the 1st.

What to do, what to do. © some dreadlord related thing I do not care about with the sword I would like to get

Really? I found a lot of ideas and preferences to overlapping between youtube, forums, reddit, twitter, and some other discord stuff I visit from time to time.

gl hf

I really can’t imagine how can anyone be emotionally invested in the WoW story (I mean the overarching story, not the mini-stories in each zone and expansion, those are usually solid), because the writers literally make up the rules on the go and everything makes zero sense.

For example, WoW never had time travel as a major mechanic in the universe. But then the writers suddenly decided that time travel does exist and it will be the biggest plot driver for exactly one expansion… and then completely forgot about it and removed it.

Another example, we literally go to space on spaceships with lasers and weapons and stuff to kill a defeat a literal god…and then we suddenly need ships (!!! REGULAR 18th CENTURY SHIPS!!!) to win a war with the other faction.

Now I get why this is happening, I honestly do - because $$$. It’s much easier to say “Hey look, we are opening our freezers to bring back the characters you all loved years ago, that you will be able to raid this expansion!” rather than to write a new interesting cast or a coherent universe. And Blizzard is purely about making money now, so things are (and will likely be in the future) this way.


Well, their time-tested method for that would be just to ignore it. Why does it matter that players know how the afterlife looks, if everyone you interact with acts like they don’t? It certainly would work better if they don’t decide to use the same character cast for those upcoming stories, though…

You could argue what you didn’t like in the first, to leave no doubt about your position :wink:


IMO the original stuff (not totally original, but the foundation of WoW was layed out in early 2000s it seems, so that would be W3-TBC time with some leftovers for WotLK) was rather simplistic and had flaws in execution, but it worked together well enough with rather few inconsistencies / contradictions.

It was more of laying down the world building elements and perspectives of different races and even (unheard nowadays) different opinions within a single race. And did this job well enough to not ruin the immersion. Not to mention the stories were actually not completely black and white, although some unfortunate things, like dialogues of Onyxia, dragged the overall mood down a bit.

So, I’d argue that if now the story is not so much of a story, but an attempt to reuse whatever was there before to push certain ideas as unquestionably correct, it started without much stuff sticking out in a way that would make it obviously not fit together IMO.

gl hf

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Did it, though? I mean, I can do the work of trying to explain why swords and shields might still be a weapon of choice in a world that already introduced bomb-throwing flying machines and even submarines with torpedoes, but Blizzard never really did. They always left that stuff mostly to the consumer to puzzle out.

I agree, but that’s a bit beside the point. The races were mostly consistent within themselves, but they didn’t exactly fit together into a cohesive whole, when looked in context. That’s why I was saying that WoW was always themepark-y. They weren’t made to create a whole, they were made to be cool, every single one of them. And that’s not necessarily bad, especially for an MMO.

I agree with that as well. That’s why I think pushing any main plot is a bad thing for WoW. It just highlights the fact that the world makes no sense as a whole, when we were quite happy to overlook that and play within the mostly coherent subsections, one after another.


Yeah no you’re right. After all it’s pretty set now that they can and will do wharever they want so they could straight up ignore it. And in that case I kinda hope they will, however sad that is


To me another team, arena net, once upon a time expanded upon “armour bikini” in the game rather well.

It’s cool to talk about realism and full chainmail / plated armour, but if there is a molten meteor about to hit someone, would it do more good, or just add extra crisp?

WoW does not quite go in details explicitly, but it’s possible to take a look at what actually protects people: disenchant a weapon / armour, and only magical dust is left. Not explicit, but might be good enough, maybe?

Throwing bombs in some catacombs is a dangerous idea IMO.

I would say the fact that the night elves joining the alliance was never explained, does work as example of things that fall apart when they are analyzed. Or Onyxia being obviously evil and not like someone who could subtly manipulate the events as the story tries to tell.

gl hf

Personally for me Fiona’s caravan and the entire Cataclysm aswell with Exile’s reach was a downgrade from the Worlld of Warcraft.

I hate these quests where you accompany NPC’s. I would rather read about it in the quest text and do my exploration on my own within the zone, or with friends.


I have said it before and i will say it again.

The pc character has gotten to strong there is nobody out there left that is a legitimate threat to the pc character

Scourge ? Beaten

Deathwing ? Beaten

Burning legion ? Beaten

Old Gods ? we whipped them all

Shadowlands is an as.spull as it is

WoW has maybe one expansion left after shadowlands there is nobody other then the Titans themselves that is a legitimate threat to the pc who is a demigod at this point

What Blizzard should do is retire WoW and creat WoW 2 with a significant time skip of at least a century into the future and the pc dealing with local threats gain

What is the point of making WoW 2 by the same people who drove the game into it’s current team (with Danuser being aboard since Legion)?

There are some serious changes in the company that have to happen first, so that people who caused it all, in both gameplay and story, would not be able to influence the stuff anymore IMO.

gl hf


Even with a different team, I really don’t see what they are supposed to do. Retcon or ignore what came before? Well, you don’t really need a new game to do that, and putting it in a new game wouldn’t exactly make it more elegant. And there is no team, no matter how great, that could salvage something coherent out of the tangled mess we have without retconning or just straight out throwing everything we had out and soft resetting the world through time travel/dimensional travel/space travel crap.

This is beautifully put. Plot holes and retcons can be forgiven, but how do you recover from when you rupture the very setting that made the fantasy so immersive in the first place?

Overall your post is excellent, although I agree with Asjon in regards to Fiona’s Caravan.

Fiona’s Caravan strikes me as more of a single player-esque type of questline. That doesn’t mean that the narrative is bad; Star Wars: The Old Republic was mocked for being a “single player MMORPG”, but the original class stories of that game are pretty good, but they’re misplaced. It’s hard to fit an Aristotelian dramatic curve in the overarching narrative of an MMORPG, and I don’t think you should. You can judge the narrative on its own merits and conclude whether it is a good or bad narrative, but I don’t think it’s right to separate the gameplay from the narrative.

Is it not one of the main appeals of MMORPGs to not only immerse yourself in another world, but actually set foot in it? If the world is to be believeable there can’t be a beginning, middle and end wherever you go. That isn’t the case in real life, and if the world is to be believable it has to feel real. The world in an MMORPG ought to be a cradle for emergent narratives. But instead the “player character” gets a much more central role in Blizzard’s own narrative, where the story now assumes that the player has done everything there is to do, which makes it even harder to immerse oneself in the story. It doesn’t feel like you’re playing an individual character anymore. You are playing “the hero”, as are the thousands of other people you will see as you journey through the game.

The narrative of World of Warcraft has many problems. As you say, there’s a certain narrative power creep that has become so outlandish that it’s hard to relate to, but I also think that Blizzard has adopted a narrative model over the years that isn’t all that well-suited for MMORPGs.


I just find Fiona’s caravan a bit childish. I also find playable Worgen a horrible race. Although I am a fan of the Gilneas starting zone, it goes downhill fast when you’re a worgen.

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I’ve always been an advocate for WoW to revisit it’s roots on Azeroth and show progress in what should be a living, breathing and immersive world.

It’s not a bad thing that the writers are trying to inject new plot lines and build upon the existing lore as it can be interesting. However, it’s the pace of their introduction and how frequently we seem to be getting carted off to a completely new setting and story, xpac upon xpac that is causing most of these problems with the lore itself.

These new places we visit and major plotlines we play through are very much detached from the previous expansion for the most part. Too frequently they’re the hot topic of the current expansion to then be mostly discarded and forgotten about in the next.

This includes the zones they build up and new races the introduce there. It gives a sense of inconsistency and acts against the worldbuilding nature of what an RPG should be.
There is a feeling of disregard for older content in favour of what’s flashy and completely new. A balance needs to be struck where the setting of the story should be taking place in existing zones too alongside newer regions introduced.

As many people are already saying, their current focus on a few superhero like NPCs and us as a sort of “chosen one” is actively dehumanising the player character from the rest of the setting and environment. It is destroying the players connection to the more mundane but, equally important nuances of everyday life in WoW and the culture behind the races that we play. A symptom of this is increasing disinterest by many within the community who can no longer relate to the current events within the game world.

There is definitely a yearning from the player base to return to that sense of wonder you initially had when fist starting out as a simple adventurer in the World of Warcraft. If the interest in Classic is anything to go by, then the more grounded storylines which connected you as a player to the world, faction and race (even class) on a more nuanced and bespoke scale are a good indicator of this.

Although it will be hard, the writers should refocus their efforts on returning a sense of innocence when it comes to the overall questing and storyline experience. Resetting the player back to being just a regular adventurer in the wider world.

There are hints of us returning in the near future to the Eastern Kingdoms and continent of Lordaeron. Some zones have still yet to be revisited and revamped since their initial induction in Vanilla. Other zones introduced in Cata such as Gilneas have so far been wasted and left vacant. Quel’thalas is still instanced and time locked in TBC events.

There is a big opportunity here to ground the story once again and provided a momentary pause before we’re shipped off again to deal with the next cosmic scale conflict.

Although, I’m optimistic the narrative team at WoW possibly recognise they are bleeding players to competitors partially due a disinterest in the continuing story, WoW can ill afford another expansion that will be flatly received by the majority. It’s an old game with an already expansive world. It’s time they looked at revisiting, recycling and updating older zones to reflect changes since we were last there in any meaningful way.