Thoughts on the Shattering Part 2: Themes and Story

Entire post is spoiler ridden. Do not read if you care. You’ve been warned.

While for the most part The Shattering was lighter on the action than other novels, it was still enticing because of the political drama and feeling of impending doom we get throughout the book. We know the Cataclysm is coming. We know the shifts in power that are happening. We know who dies and who takes their place. Shattering takes us on the journey to these ends and keeps us hooked because it builds up to what we already know is inevitable but aren’t sure why and how.

Part of that drama is the almost-but-not-quite butterfly effect of the major events. Almost all of them could have been avoided and it’s very clear at what points in the story  certain characters made the decisions that would seal their fate and that of others. That’s part of what makes this book one of the best in all of Warcraft’s lore. It was expertly written to reflect how this group of individuals, some powerful and some not, had lasting impacts on the entire world of Azeroth, and beyond.

Thrall at the Maelstrom

It starts early. Drek’Thar’s visions of the cataclysm and desperation to talk to Thrall, and his attendant’s choice to ignore it was the first turning point in the story. Had Polkar done as Drek asked, Thrall would have taken the visions very seriously, gone to Nagrand much earlier and could have possibly stopped the cataclysm, or at least better prepare for it.
Had Cairne taken more time to think about his challenge, perhaps he would have never died. If Garrosh hadn’t been so absorbed in his reputation, he may have noticed his weapon was laced with poison. What if Thrall had listened to Cairne and never made Garrosh acting warchief in the first place? What if Jaina had never given Anduin that hearthstone?

It brings a level a frustration, but each decision and the series of consequences after have all attributed to setting the entire stage for what we get in Cataclysm.

The only thing that I wish could have been avoided was the coup of Thunder Bluff because of its brutality. Dozens of innocents  were slaughtered helplessly in their sleep, and the Tauren being one of the most peaceful races makes it all the more difficult to bare. But even in it’s ill-fated conclusion, this event has a clear place in the theme of this next chapter of Azeroth’s lore.

Likewise, Moira’s claim of the throne in Ironforge is an important lesson. Despite her morally questionable tactics, she and her son are the future of the Dwarven people. Her claim is her right, and her marital situation makes her child the unifying element of the separated clans. It feels unfair, sudden, and selfish, and in many ways it is. But that’s exactly the point. It’s a difficult catch-22 for the Iron Forge dwarves.

I think the tragedy of Thunder Bluff, the coup at IF, the slaughtering at the Druid peace meeting, and the loss of Cairne and Magni are symbolic to the death of innocence, peace, and stability in Azeroth. It all lends itself to the chaos of this new world. The Tauren have always exemplified the ideals of peace and respect in it’s most basic forms, holding everything the world offers to the highest regard and as a blessing.  And the dwarves have been the pillar of perseverance, honor, and overcoming odds without losing sight of humor and celebration. Both cultures celebrate life to the fullest in different ways. Both leaders were deeply loved by their people, and highly respected by their allies and even some of their enemies. I think it’s no coincidence that this is why they were the ones who suffered the most while the impulsive and arrogant races and leaders were left to continue their participation.

The shifting of power within the factions is one of the most important changes to take into account, largely because the three new leaders and one future king all stepped up to the plate. As Thrall said, the wars have left the orcs, and likely all races, with large numbers of the old and young but missing many of those in-between who have died in battle. Thus, the contrast between old and new, age and youth, experience and novelty is a powerful influence.

Each situation was different: Thrall and Garrosh, Cairne and Baine, Varian and Anduin, and Magni and Moira, but they all result in the young trumping the old in one way or another. Not all were hostile. Some were tragic. But the younger generation have finally taken their places in the world. They are the future and the future is theirs; as such they have made it clear that they, not the elders, will be the ones to choose what that future will hold. Which leads me to the last part.

The final of the three big themes was accepting who we are and what we are meant to be despite what the world expects or demands of us. This was the journey that Thrall, Anduin, and Stormsong among others took personally, and one that Jaina, Baine, and the Dwarves took politically.
• Thrall accepted his role as a humble shaman and formally stepped down from being warchief. It was both what was best for him and what was best for the world.
• Anduin discovered his true desire to heal, not harm. Tended by Mangi’s warmth and support, he was able to bestow that wisdom to Baine and hopefully set himself up to follow his own path even if it’s against Varian’s wishes.
• Stormsong, despite his loyalty to Magatha, was able to realize what the loss of Cairne meant and chose to side with the Bloodhoof, both saving the Tauren people and securing a place for the Grimtotem among them.
• Jaina and Baine’s pact to do what they could to uphold peace is significant. While Thrall’s efforts with Jaina were important, Baine’s could possibly be even more so  because the Tauren, as a people, are more willing and desiring of peace than the orcs ever were.
• The Dwarves willingness to accept Moira and try to unify their race even in light of their loss and the circumstances was a brave and honorable decision.
• Even Gazent, the goblin who helped supply Baine’s troops with bombs, surprised us all when he only took the money he needed to provide them because he supported their goal.

The book was somber, dark, bloody, and depressing. There is a lot of loss, and a lot more frustration. But the events are there to help us realize and toughen up for what’s to come. Once Deathwing’s dark reign comes to fruition, there will be chaos all over. Innocents will die. The world will crumble.
But at the same time, hope refuses to be shut out. The political and personal stories all end with hope. Anduin and his father are reconciled. Baine has taken back his home and forged a quiet alliance with Jaina. Thrall has set the stage for a new future with Aggra and to fully realize his potential. Among the chaos, many positive seeds have been planted.

Magatha’s words, brutal as they were, could be applied to all the world: “Like  a child, Thunder Bluff would be reborn in blood.”

So will Azeroth; but the key word to all of this, of course, is rebirth.


Thoughts on The Shattering Part 1: Characters (Spoiler Heavy)

I have to admit, I hated the way Arthas was written. All the characters seemed weak and the style and language was distracting for me. When I saw that Christie Golden was going to be the author for The Shattering, I was a bit worried it was going to be another toiling read.

In my cynicism, I was very critical for the first few paragraphs and dwelled on her habit of overusing the same word in short periods of time (mountain was said 7 times in the first 2 pages…). But almost as quickly as I assumed this was going to be terrible, I got lost in the story.

The best part about The Shattering is the characterization, in which Golden wrote with a depth and complexity I don’t think I’ve seen in a Warcraft Novel since the War of the Ancients Trilogy. With so many authors covering the same people, sometimes it’s a little jarring to read about, say, Richard Knaak’s Jaina vs. Golden’s Jaina. But other than the hard to pin Varian, everybody seemed to translate well. So I’ll start with reflection on how the characters personalities and relationships evolved both throughout the book and in the overall Warcraft Universe.
Heavy spoilers behind jump. you’ve been Warned. 🙂

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Blizzard: “Lore? What’s that?” More ret-cons and confusion in Cata

Oh, dear WoW, how I’ve ignored you of late. Well here we go with a little Warcraft love. 😀

One of my absolute favorite Warcraft lore sites is Loregy. This guy really knows his stuff, and always has great insights to the underappreciated history of Azeroth.  Between him and my fellow players Xero and Kaae, I was inspired to learn more about the characters and background, read books and comics, and actually give a crap about the story behind the game.

I will definitely attest to the fact that the more you know about the story, the better the game experience becomes. You start to recognize places and people like you never had before. I would honestly recommend it to anyone who plays an MMO.

So one source of frustration for anybody who’s been a long-term fan of the Warcraft universe and cares about lore is how much of it gets retconned or ignored completely in the games. “Retcon” is basically when something that was previously established as truth in the world is changed in a way that contradicts it’s former existence. A basic example: Character A was female in a novel but male in the game. That’s the idea of a retcon.


What lore-fans do when Blizz retcons itself.


Blizzard is well known for retconning their own lore. It’s one thing if certain aspects of the story would really interfere with the game but the fact of the matter is most times it doesn’t. Some of their changes are bizarre and unwarranted, or just plain lazy. And when it happens often and recklessly, it becomes a source of aggravation for people who take the lore seriously.

Their favorite over-used change is bad guys gone good. No, seriously. For whatever reason, characters that were just plain evil once upon a time are turned around to be fallen heroes. Apparently we’re supposed to feel a little bad about that boss we’re killing every week, twice a week.

He was just mis-understood once. He just went crazy. Etc. Etc.

Take the Draenei, for instance. The old story was that they were originally Eredar that ate worlds and corrupted Sargeras who in turn went apeshit and started ruining everything. Now, in order to make them appeal to Alliance players, the Dreanei were a small faction of uncorrupted Eredar that are all about Jesus. As so lovingly put by good friend Lizzie:

“… not that WoW had the most awesome story to begin with, but ever since the Draheyhey got retconned to be holy rolling space goats lead by evangelical wind chimes, it has gone steeply downhill.  Someone  needs to stop letting Chris Metzen write lore.”

Well said (though I might not agree in the Metzen issue.) Other famous ret-cons? How the hell did Uther end up in Frostmourne? Varian Wrynn’s entire existence. Marudin Bronzebeard’s “death” (lol amnesia!). Onyxia’s death the first time. And second time. And apparently, 3rd time??
The list goes on.

The big lore failure in Cataclysm, as adeptly written by Cocles over at Loregy, is that Malfurion, great Archdruid of legend basically appears in Hyjal without any sort of proper entrance. The same with Jarod Shadowsong, the one responsible for uniting the races in the War of the Ancients. Even though Stormrage, the novel, effectively concludes the issues with the Emerald Dream, apparently none of that has happened yet. But Mal is still there….what?

As doubtlessly aggravating this is, the only good thing is that we might end up having the Emerald Dream as in-game content after-all. It still bothers me about the book, but at this point, I think everybody just gives up.

Another small bit on Cataclysm lore that saddens me is the fact that Med’an isn’t going to be a part of it as I originally predicted in my Future Heroes of Azeroth post, which is absolutely stupid and disappointing. According to this official thread in which lore questions get answered:

Q: What role, if any, will Med’an play in Cataclysm?
A: Med’an will not be visible in Cataclysm; something else is keeping him occupied.

WTF is so important that it’s keeping him from doing his divine appointed job? He’s the  Guardian of Tirisfal for frak’s sake! His existence is prophesied. He’s the damned chosen one. Deathwing is about to destroy the world he’s meant to protect, and it’s not like he’s a kid who doesn’t know better. He’s got to be close to 30 by now and has the ability to use arcane, shamanistic, and Light-infused magic. If Cocles’ predictions on future expansions is correct, we can expect that this is the last time we fight on Azeroth for a long time. Sargeras needs to be beat down, and there’s a good chance we need to go to his house to do so. Med’an has direct ties with Sargie, so one way or another, this kid has -got- to make some sort of appearance in-game.

Sometime between now and the end of WoW, Blizz is releasing another novel: The Shattering. As a prelude to the Cataclysm, it follows Thrall’s story as he struggles between his roles as Warchief and as the world’s most uber shaman. With elementals going haywire, he feels the need to do something about it, but political issues are tugging at him, too.

Likewise, Varian’s psycho orc-obsession and the tensions within the Alliance are causing more rifts at the dawn of the most violent and significant era in Azeroth. Of all the wild accusations I’ve made in my posts about lore, I finally got something right.  Anduin is going to start playing a major role that could very well result in him opposing his own father.

Well, Cataclysm. In one way or another, this expansion is shaking everyone up, so I guess we can say it’s doing it right.

WoW Mod Spotlight: Altoholic

Hi. My name is Izzie…and I’m an Altoholic.

This add-on was tipped off by good friend and fellow alt-leveling fiend Xero. We both have four 80’s and countless other alts ranging from 4 to 64, each one with professions and likely doubly used as a mule of some sort. On top of that, I have 2 guild banks used as extra storage.

Once you get to the 3+ range of alts and guild bank storage, things start getting messy as far as organization. I was pretty convinced I would -never- be able to keep track of everything, although with much effort I managed to get things sorted somewhat. Still, though, it was usually a mess and trying to figure out who has how many of what item is just a daunting situation that left my bags ignored for months.

If only I had known about Altoholic ages ago!

What the mod does is keep solid track of everything you can possibly think of. Gold, gear, professions, experience, rep, achievements, and yes, entire inventories are available for you via their Auction-House-like interface no matter what character you’re on (assuming the mod is enabled!). It gives you warning and announcments on events and cooldowns: for instance, while farming strat on my pally the mod told me my alchemy cooldown for my shaman was up in five minutes.

Set up is easy: install from curse and take a few minutes to log on to each character you want to keep track of. Disable the mod for toons you want to ignore. Make sure to open up the UI for everything you want registered: your bags, bank, guild bank (if it’s storage or you want to keep track of the items in there), and professions. Rinse and repeat, and it will store all the data for you.

Once you’ve done that, you’re pretty much good to go. The add-on has an icon on the compass and tons of sorting and searching options.

Here’s a quick look at major features:

The opening UI offers an account  overview, showing how much gold is on which characters, how far into their level they are, and how much rest XP they have gathered. The top options allow you to choose how broadly you want your info: it can be one server, one faction or cover every toon you own across all servers and factions, so long as you have them archived with the mod. The tabs on the bottom delve into more specific areas and shows just how much you can do. The character tab lets you view information on a specific toon that’s not the one you’re already using. Search is an AH-style UI that lets you look up any item and find it if one of your guys has it. Guild Bank, pretty self-explainitory, and the Achievement tab lets you compare progress. On the side, the skills tab shows you professions, levels, and recipes on whoever you choose. Guild Skills allows you to see guildie’s professions if they have also used the mod (They sync!). Calendar lets you see events from whichever toon you’re using, so you can double check your main’s raid times. It’ll also send an announcment for calendar events on other characters.

The search box lets you look up any item and see if you have it and on whom. Here I looked up armor > all and chose rarity > artifact, and it gives me an overview of all my heirloom items and where they are (very handy as I switch them around – a lot- depending on who I’m leveling.

With the mod installed, information is added to my tooltips. Here I look up a cooking recipe on the AH and it shows me who has cooking, their levels, and who can learn it. If one of my characters already has it, or if their skill level is too low, it’ll let me know. This works for all professions, too. Hovering over any item, such as cloth, will give me an overview on how much I have accross my account, on which characters or in which guild banks, where they have it (bags or bank) and the total available accross the entire account.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, too. I highly recommend this to anybody who uses a lot of characters, whether they are alts or storage. Give it a go!

Download from curse.

WoW Site Spotlight: Warcraft Over Achiever!

So we all love to be achievement whores, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. Lets face it: if there’s a number, and it can go higher, we stop at nothing to raise it.

That’s why this site, Warcraft Over Achiever, is freaking awesome.

What it does is tally your current progress and based on some miraculous algorithm, decides how close you are to finishing some achievements.

Plug in your toon / server on the left. Let it load, and then click the “Suggested” tab on top. The site will list them in order of the stuff you’re closest to getting, helping you finish up what you’re almost done with first.

It’s pretty savvy and worth a look for everyone, achievement whores or not. There’s a good chance you’d be surprised at how close you are to getting some finished!

It also includes guides and a forum, and a general achievement overview.
There is one thing about it that sucks, though: Explorer usually dominates the suggestion page. If you already have explorer,  or manage to finish it up, this site works like a charm!

Check it out!

Since we’re on the discussion of obsessiveness, three other sites achievement whores might also enjoy: Warcraft Mounts, Warcraft Pets, and WoW-Tabbards.

The point of these simple single-serving sites is to keep tabs on your mount/pet/tabbard collections. What use they have in the scheme of things other than “showing off”, I’ve no clue, but it’s fun and I guess you can get an idea of what you’re missing.

Achievement Goals

• 4 pets for 50
• 213 ilevel Ranged for epic
• 7 azerothian foods
• 10 quests for 2000!!
• 19 Vehicle Destructions via Turret!

The Next Generation of Azeroth: Who Dey Be?

Cataclysm is pretty revolutionary for lore because, for the first time in 15 years of Warcraft story, we’re starting with a fresh beginning (sort of).

It started mid-Wrath, technically, but up until then WoW was essentially overlapping the previous storyline from the original RTS games. Even as we moved forward in the timeline of the events in Warcraft, we were dealing with a very familiar set of characters, heroes, and villains; ones that the world had know for, in some cases, thousands of years.

A lot has happened in BC and Wrath, and the comics and books that have supplemented those stories. Many big names have died or found their peace in one way or another. As they recede from the limelight, naturally we ponder who / what will step up in their place as time moves on. The possibilities are endless: there’s a huge pool to choose from, but where do we start?

Here’s my take.

People: They have names for a reason!

Totally 15!

15 going on 25.

It’s been argued whether Cataclysm is an affective time-jump or not. It’s hard to gauge exactly how much time HAS passed over the course of the Warcraft games in relation to the story. For instance, 5 1/2 years of wow have essentially been 2 years of Azeroth. The time jumps between Warcraft to Warcraft III and their expansions have been sporatic… It’s generally accepted, though, that a time jump is unlikely: Cataclysm is just going to catch the world up to what has technically been happening all along.

The biggest indication of time passed, though, has come with some data-mining that produced an updated model of Anduin Wrynn, King Varian’s 10 year old son. Going by the model, he looks to be at least 17. While we can’t confirm his age, we can speculate that he should be about 14-15…then again he’s always been awkwardly ripped for a 10-year-old.

Continue reading

Day 3 of the Hurricane RealID, Damage is Begining to Surface

Brief recaps:

Day one, the official announcement is made during regular sever maintainence. The initial shock and repulsion by fans is unprecedented. Blues are overwhelmed by the response and attempt to keep the massive response under control. Blizz Employee reveals his true name and the backlash is intense, he is forced to take down his facebook.

Day two, the scope of the reaction reaches new heights. Blizzard officially announces that RealID -will- happen, and that they were aware it would turn away many current posters and were ok with this consequence. Activision’s announcement that RealID will be integrated with Facebook and their partnership begins to raise eyebrows. Enraged gamers start to make a connection between Activision’s increased involvement in Blizzard’s marketing to their decreasing integrity.

So it goes on

Here we are at day three of what is easily one of the most impacting events in the history of gaming and the gaming industry. The world-wide attention of this is much more far-reaching than we expected. I said this was history in the making in my first post, but even I didn’t realize just how big this was going to be.

Fellow blogger Zaldinar has been keeping rigorous track of as much information as he can. His lists are much more organized and comprehensive than mine, and I feel his posts are beyond a must-read:

What is stunning is the list of mainstream news sites that have covered this since it’s fruition on Tuesday, including the BBC. With all this publicity going around, it’s amazing at how inappropriate the developer’s reaction has been, which leads me to this interesting new factoid:

Rumor Mill
A moderator from the Guild Wars 2 Guru forums, Neo Nugget, pointed us in the direction of this posted rumor on the Starcraft Inc-Gamers forum:

Although the validity of the comments is here-say at best right now, it may suggest that Blizzard creative team are just as miffed at this system as we are, have little control over it, and even possibly left a little in the dark. Whether this is directed at the RealID forum change or the Facebook partnership I’m still unsure of. The post was quoted from the 40,000+ thread on the forums, so it’s hard to say. While it’s definitely a case of he-said, she-said there are a few things that anybody who’s seen this sort of corporate push and pull will recognize:

• The creative team (artists, programmer, designers) having little to no say in the business aspect of any company is nothing new. It’s unfortunate, but a reality.
• Corporate hush-hush is a huge problem when it comes to big business and PR. Just look at BP and their Gulf fiasco. Press are being forcefully turned away and anybody working with them in the clean-up efforts are forced to sign non-disclosure contracts.
Needless to say, I have little doubt that Blizzard employees are under similar pressure from the higher-ups. They are remaining rather cold and neutral on the subject: the only blue that has been saying anything of note has been Wryxian of the EU forums.
Both this scenario’s are common in big corporate decisions like this, and thus lend themselves to some validity. The poster on Inc-Gamers is trying to dig up more info / confirmation on the subject, so I will keep an eye out for any updates.

US vs EU
That brings me to another interesting and final thought for now: why is it that Europe has been much more open about it than the US? Albeit, it’s just one poster, but I do find it interesting that all we’ve gotten State-side has been a whole lotta copy-pasta “please post in the main thread” spam. A lot of posters are assuming we’re being ignored, but Wryxian insists that all feedback is being looked at and considered and is urging gamers to continue providing suggestions and comments on the matter:

I can only reiterate what we’ve already said, that is that we are listening and compiling your feedback for review and consideration. We cannot foresee what will be the outcome of that and thus we cannot make predictive statements about future events and decisions. However, when there is further information to share, as is always the case we will endeavour to share it here.

At the same time he says that RealID is going live in it’s current form … basically regretting the loss of constructive posters like Flanks:

Privacy is very important and if you’re not even slightly comfortable with revealing your real name in the forums, then I think it is perfectly understandable that you err on the side of caution and just don’t post. It’s a shame that some perfectly constructive and decent folk predict they will no longer be posting in our forums when we make this change.

Lots of mixed information in that regard. It’s hard to believe they are seriously considering what we’ve all said when it seems pretty clear that this is happening in it’s current iteration. Maybe there’s something to be said that Blizz has little to no say in the future marketing of their products. And I can’t help but wonder if the silence from the US suggests they are under stricter non-disclosure rules than the EU reps.
More to come!

Special Links / Updates Section

Factoids: • 22% of all cyberstalking involve online acquaintances. • Over 4,000 posts have been deleted from the RealID Megathread

• A pro-RealID poster challenges the masses to find him. A fellow WoWer takes up the challenge and within 20 minutes is talking to him on his work phone. Read the tale here, it’s extremely interesting, and kudos to both parties for going about the entire thing in a mature, classy manner. Despite the fun-ness of the story, though, it still sends a huge warning about how easy it can be to find someone / be found with just a name.
As plans to move forward with the facebook partnership continue, little is said about consumer reaction.
Somewhat of a self plug: posted a thread to try and extend my thanks to Wryxian, and some discussion on the state of US Employees has started. I’m not the only one who feels they are in a pickle dealing with parent company policies.

• Treesdiel continues to provide us with more content: coverage from reputable news sources
Wall Street Journal –

Washington Post –

• In a twist of savage but warranted irony, someone posts a slew of information about Robert Kotick, the soul-drained CEO over at Activision, including but not limited to political donations. This gets more and more interesting: