Warcraft Retrospective: A Blog Post Series (latest issue: #30, 2024-06-23)

Hello Argent Dawn!

As I long planned, today I’m launching what I intend to become a long-running blog post series, looking at the entire Warcraft franchise since its inception from the storytelling angle – like the late Shamus Young did for Mass Effect. I’m going to focus particularly on things that I consider of interest to roleplayers and that are commonly discussed here on the Argent Dawn forum.


The index page, containing links to all entries posted so far, is here. (Latest update: #30, 2024-06-23)

https://lintian.eu/warcraft-retrospective/

You can subscribe in an RSS reader with this feed link:

https://lintian.eu/feed/Warcraft%20Retrospective.xml


I’m starting with an overview post:

Warcraft Retrospective 1: The Evolution of Blizzard

https://lintian.eu/2023/11/02/warcraft-retrospective-1/

Excerpt:

Warcraft, by now, means wildly different things to different people, and the writing team is put in the unenviable position of trying not to step on too many toes.

Each of these people probably has favorite and unfavorite Warcraft games or expansions. And the problem with having a favorite expansion is that if clicks with you, you don’t particularly mind the inevitable bending of the world that is needed for that expansion’s story to happen. But if you don’t like an expansion, then the compromises made by the writers to tell its story cause you nothing but annoyance, and you start picking it apart at every possible opportunity. And if you’re feeling particularly spiteful, you might be genuinely puzzled how someone can actually like that garbage expansion, and start calling its fans names.

Comments for this post, and for future ones, are welcome in this thread! I can also set up a standalone comments system if you think that’s for the best.

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Love this!! <3

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What a delight, been waiting for ages! I will read through it tomorrow day!

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It’s an interesting read so far and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

One suggestion that I have to make is that you should pay particular attention to the RPG and the WoW books/comics released before the “Activision era,” since they play an extremely important part in developing the setting.

They’re so significant that a lot of the franchise’s lore is built on the foundation that this third-party material laid, to the point where the story of the final raid of the Burning Crusade revolves around the Sunwell Trilogy, from the official World of Warcraft manga. The importance of third-party stuff during this period is also why there was so much existential dread surrounding Medan, as a lot of people feared that he would eventually end up playing a pivotal role in World of Warcraft.

I think that by Cataclysm, WoW tries to stand on its own two feet with external books providing supporting lore for the game rather than being used as the building blocks. However, by that point, some aspects of the books, comics and RPG (which was basically D&D lore repackaged and given a Warcraft coat of paint) were baked into the setting forever - such as the idea of everything having its own plane of existence and that an entity needs to be killed on its home plane in order to permanently die.

I’m looking forward to your opinion on the matter, I just thought I would offer my own, that the third-party stuff is particularly important to the story and setting of that era.

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Love me Warcraft. Love me blogs.

Easy win.

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Thank you for the feedback!

You’re right. It makes sense to review those early books because of how foundational for the lore they became. Day of the Dragon introduced the Dragon Aspects and the five dragonflights as we know them now. The War of the Ancients trilogy fleshed out Kaldorei Empire lore that later appeared in-game in Legion.

Then during Cataclysm, the books were essential to understanding the in-game story (Why is Garrosh suddenly Warchief? Where did Nozdormu come from after going missing?) to the players’ vocal displeasure. Later the books became optional, but a different problem appeared: book characterization was often overridden by game characterization (see Christie Golden trying to return post-MoP Jaina to her WC3 characterization, only to be overruled by game story), and it completely unraveled in BfA where characters’ internal monologues in the books contradicted later in-game revelations. It’s difficult to ponder what the writers were trying to say with their messy storytelling when even the writers themselves disagree. I’ll be going into that as well.

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Feedback time!

I very much appreciate how you have laid out this first opening, describing very well what you intend to cover. I also very much enjoy how you managed to split up the eras going forward and accurately gave them titles.

I think it’s very interesting to see that you already did a little dive into(waiting for the deeper end of it) how people have very different thoughts on what is and isn’t good Warcraft as well as bringing up that Shadowlands itself wasn’t a stand-alone issue, but it’s been a thing steadily growing towards.

All in all, very much enjoyed the read, excited for more!

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Okay, question.

It will take me a while to get to WC3, but once I do, I face a problem. The WC3 that is available in the Battle.net app has, of course, long been overwritten with Reforged, which I do have. What kind of screenshots would you people rather see?

  1. From Reforged
  2. From Reforged, but with classic graphics
  3. From the original version, which I’ll have to dig up and install separately

(And to be clear, I will be absolutely going into the differences between the two campaigns, small as they are. I haven’t yet checked whether Reforged with classic graphics uses the old campaign maps or the new ones.)

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I think if you want to put in the effort and work, it would be nice to have screenshots of the original version, especially so if you intend to cover the full series, as a comparison between the two would be neat.

The original models and design had some very distinct features that I think played and plays a vital part in Warcraft’s history, especially as so much of it was changed.

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I forgot to add!

There are also some straight up balance changes in Reforged’s campaign, even if you use Classic. Especially for the RoC missions as they use the most up to date game rules and units from Reforged TfT rather than the original RoC. Everything from just as simple as unit stats, but to AI, skills, spells and research and units.

Okay, I just checked, and Reforged in classic mode uses completely unmodified maps and UI from the original version, just made compatible with modern display resolutions. For example, the Fall of Silvermoon mission is the vanilla map, not the Reforged map with vanilla models.

I think I’ll use that for most screenshots, though I might include some screenshots from the original just to show the graphic difference.

Also, a patch made the Reforged campaign noticeably harder on normal difficulty, most notably by having the AI rebuild lost buildings and start with more upgraded buildings. These changes seem to be absent from the classic version of the campaign, even in a Reforged installation.

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I actually have a question in regards to the campaign of WC3 when you get to it, as it could be neat but also understandable if you do not include it.

Will you be covering the included WC3 Custom Campaign(Not Founding of Durotar as that one is official), which bridges the story between the Orcs sailing to Kalimdor and arriving on the original darkspear Isle?

In WC3:TfT it was simply lumped in as a fully functional custom campaign and as an example on how you can make one yourself, yet it was also the actual campaign for the demo release of WC3:RoC, only the demo had some different models and full voice acting. (The voice files are in the world editor if you open the custom campaign, its just not added onto the cutscenes).

Yes, I’ll be covering the entire prologue campaign, including the bonus missions. They’re included in Reforged and the free WC3 demo, so I have access to them!

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Great! Very much looking forward to seeing the next part of this! :smiley:

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Concerning the bit about the books, if you ever need a hand sifting through their core themes and what they ended up meaning for the games at large, I’m happy to help!

i own literally every single one of them

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Noted, thanks!

My discord is @Dodger._ if you need a way to be in touch

edit: i wrote it wrong

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Warcraft Retrospective 2: Warcraft 1, the Manual

https://lintian.eu/2023/11/18/warcraft-retrospective-2/

Excerpt:

The TV Tropes article on Early-Installment Weirdness acknowledges that the first installment of a franchise is like a prototype, a rough draft for a book. I don’t think it’s correct to call it “weirdness”, though; continuity drift is a matter of perspective. The world of Warcraft 1 isn’t “weird”. It’s internally consistent and has a clear tone to it, it’s just very different from what we’re used to now. It’s the current Warcraft setting that would feel very weird for people who only knew about the first game before being exposed to it.

We’re also presented with a few mysteries here. On the human side, there’s the strange dark power puppeteering Medivh. On the orc side, there’s Garona’s backstory, as well as the Shadow Council. Who are they? What is their role? What were the travels Garona speaks of and how did she join the Shadow Council? How can she even exist when the orcs only discovered the human world fifteen years ago? Different continuities have given different answers to some of these questions, and some answers necessitated really messy retcons.

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I’ve got another question, not necessarily for Lintian but for anyone in general.

Is there anyone here who has used this early Warcraft 1 lore as inspiration for their roleplaying, or who made use of this old lore in any shape or form? Has anyone encountered ever somebody who has used this old lore?

I think I’ve only seen it used to point out the Christian influences of Warcraft, or the existence of Hell as a concept in Warcraft, and other such lore debates, but never for the purpose of roleplaying.

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Personally, I’ve never seen anyone use WC1 lore that has been retconned, but as a night elf roleplayer, I don’t often participate in RP where WC1 lore would even come up.