This Is the Way the World Ends

Steve Butts | 17 Aug 2010 13:12
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In keeping with Blizzard's even-handed approach, Cataclysm isn't reducing the story down to a simple "good vs. evil" format. Street embraces the ambiguity, saying "Horde players, in particular, are going to start out thinking, 'Garrosh Hellscream is such an asshole; we want Thrall back.'" But the quest designers tell the story in such a way that you really begin to feel some respect, if not sympathy, for Garrosh. "Orgrimmar has never looked better," says Street, and after the lean years in the Barrens and Durotar, "the Orcs are riding a wave here and they're pretty excited about it."


The opportunity for splits within the Horde is even more intriguing. Sylvanas, the charismatic leader of the Forsaken, is experiencing tension from Garrosh's Orcs. Though both groups are working towards larger common goals, it's a sure bet that Sylvanas is working against Garrosh behind the scenes and is just waiting for the right moment to betray him. Beyond that, Garrosh himself has decided to redefine his own alliances. He thinks the Tauren are good for muscle, but has little use for the Trolls or the Goblins, who he has moved to a ghetto on the side of Orgrimmar. These faction splits, says Street, "may lead to something more exciting in the future."

To calm fears that the game is trending away from Blizzard's trademark humor, Street reassured us that the expansion does have its funny moments. "Being dark makes a great story," he says, "but it can get really old, particularly in a videogame." Blizzard is fond of injecting humor into its game just to break the tension. "The Goblins," says Street, "are exceptional at doing that. There are dark elements to the story, but the Goblins themselves are hysterical."

Blizzard is walking a fine line with Cataclysm. The decision to rework the entire world is ambitious, but the designer's attempts to build a new world based on the lessons learned since the original game's launch in November 2004 have to be measured against the danger that those changes will alienate current players. Street welcomes the challenge, saying, "Our strategy is going to be to constantly evolve the game. As long as we have 11 million people playing, there's not a huge demand to blow everything up and start over - I mean, we are blowing some things up for the purposes of this expansion - but overall what we have is working."

Greg Street gave us a comprehensive view of the changes Cataclysm will bring to World of Warcraft, but we're still waiting to be surprised by the way it all goes down. A few weeks or months before the expansion is released, Blizzard will begin rolling out the pre-events of the Cataclysm. On one day, the entire world will change. Whether the team can advance the game in such a drastic way without compromising what players love about World of Warcraft is yet to be seen. One thing is sure: the devastation of an entire world has never looked quite so appealing.

Steve Butts is still not convinced that Mr. T and William Shatner play World of Warcraft.

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