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Waging the war against "lorelol"


So, as you might guess, knowing my previous background, I read WoW-related forums a lot. Old habits die hard, strapping young talbuks need to read a lot, and given that my career path is in Community at game companies, it pays to know what game communities (all of them) are saying. I obviously tend to gravitate toward games and topics that hold my interest (game design, indie games) or games for which I have a particular fondness (sup Aquaria, luv u baby gurl; yo Cave Story, holla back), but I'll read pretty much anything about a game as long as I can follow it.

And I'm gonna be straight with you, WoW community. You guys are incredibly fickle when it comes to lore, and it breaks my two-sizes-too-big heart to read your ramblings about how Blizzard "doesn't care" about it.

I examined the sitch in detail and I'm ready for you to apologize and mend the error of your ways once you've perused my summary of why you mean well, wrong though you are, when you use the phrase "lorelol". I've made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear--I've prepared a lecture.
There is a hard-and-fast rule, and while you may not specifically fall under this umbrella, it's safe to say that many of the players you play with do and it accurately describes WoW's community on the whole:

WoW players are passionate about lore.

Passion is a really powerful thing. There's a reason why single people say they want passion in their lives, and also a reason that the phrase "crime of passion" exists. Passion is usually the driving force of fandom, and it shows every day in the WoW community--arts and crafts, forum posts, spreadsheets, even complaints are all based on passion for the game, a desire to see it grow and thrive and, most of all, exist. The developers have stated a few times that the reason why they tend not to get upset over angry forum posts or player opinions is that they know that they stem from a desire to make the game better. Even if your action is angry or misguided, the heart of it is likely pure.

There are topics that tend to bring out the most frenzied side of WoW fandom--role-playing, for example, or game mechanics and class balance, but we're here to talk about the L-word.

WoW
is gifted with a rich and expansive lore and it's understandable that people would be eager to embrace or defend it, as even those who complain about its changes are doing. I'm right there with you, in fact! I spend a lot of time reading and discussing it with goons (definitely consider platinum membership, it's worth the cost) and a phrase I read far too much there is "lorelol," or the phrase that really grinds my gears, "Blizzard doesn't care about lore." They're everywhere, too--infecting forum posts and reasonable discussion all the time. Lest you think I'm embellishing, it really is as serious a problem as I say it is. Where did this perspective come from, though?

It turns out that these phrases really only came into existence after information about Burning Crusade started trickling out. The two main culprits?
  • Blood Elf paladins.
  • Draenei, period.
You can argue that Draenei were a sort of left-field choice for the Alliance--Chris Metzen has even said that they're a little out there, and he made 'em up--but they're a good fit for the Alliance and that's what counts. It's not as if they had no lore previous to BC (though the WC3 Draenei were Lost Ones), and anyone who complains about them coming to Azeroth in their own special interdimensional way clearly are forgetting about a certain other race of space shaman that came to Azeroth through a Stargate.

What matters is their fit in their faction. They fill the "exotic" role that's sorely missing in a faction whose most exotic race is another kind of elf, and they're big! Those Alliance players who wanted a large male character who didn't have a hare lip were in luck.

For the paladins, at least, the complaints felt sort of ridiculous, especially (though how could anyone have known at the time of release) given the neatly wrapped-up Blood Knights storyline that played out with the birth of the Shattered Sun Offensive. It's not really as ridiculous, though, once you examine what paladins meant to the game and get into the head of the community. Let's do just that.

Prior to Burning Crusade, the paladin was a shining example of the Alliance, a symbol of what the Horde would never have--purity of heart, a second plate class and, most importantly, the bubble. When it was announced that paladins would be coming to the Horde and shaman would be coming to the Alliance, it was an all-out identity crisis. What would tell the factions apart, people mused? Why don't we all just drop our Arcanite Reapers, hold hands, and go on a man-date with our green-skinned buddies? WORLD OF PEACECRAFT, ANYONE? And what's this business about taking the Light by force? Lorelol?

Of course the point that they were missing amidst the gnashing of teeth and empty threats of recurring subscription cancellation was that this was a necessary change for the game's growth. And that's what the lorelolers either don't know, don't understand, or refuse to accept:

Gameplay dictates lore and not the other way around.

Yes, there are a few exceptions to this rule, but there are also a ton of proofs of it. Gutterspeak is a great example--why don't citizens of Lordaeron, though deceased, speak Common? Because it's important to gameplay that they don't. And the reason for the shaman/paladin change was to prevent parallelism and analogous changes every time a nerf or buff was made to one side or the other.

I try not to blame people for ignorance, purposeful or not, of this fact, because it's really a design thing and not everyone is interested in that. But! It still has to be said.

Post-BC and now, during Wrath, we come upon a whole new series of complaints, of lorelols, of not-caring-about-lores. They cry out to uncaring ears, prostrate, WHY ARE YOU MAKING US KILL THESE LORE CHARACTERS, BLIZZ?!

There was a lot of this when people found out you could kill Kael, or Vashj, or even Zul'Jin. (I need to take a moment to clarify that Zul'Jin was a coward who deserted the Horde at the first sign of trouble and ran away with his tail between his legs, and that Zul'Jin is a title of honor in the Troll language, thus the "For Zul'Jin!" battlecry of the Darkspears, but this is really unrelated to the current discussion.) They were and are upset that former heroes or at the very least honorable characters are being turned into bosses. This is not an unreasonable stance, but one must eventually let go of it or risk wishing the game to stagnate, as I'll describe in a moment.

Here are three truisms about WoW lore and how players relate to it, my final lecture and plea to lorelolers.

1. There is a finite, and ergo limited, number of established characters in pre-WoW Warcraft lore.

This is a pretty basic idea. There are only so many "old" characters that can be used in lore progression before, eventually, new characters start taking up the torch.

2. Misguided lore nerds complain when anything unrelated to or deviating from WC1-3 lore is introduced to the game.

Yes, there are large and vocal segments of the playerbase who hate "new" lore. Burning Crusade is a prime example of this. Any bit of BC that didn't deal with established characters (Illidan, Vashj, Kael) was ill-received by a portion of lore purists because it "had no bearing on the lore as a whole". "WHY ARE WE TAKING A SPACE VACATION?" Who cared about Auchindoun (though this is a valid complaint)? And what was their favorite dungeon? Of course--the one that had us replaying WC3 moments.

Bear in mind that these aren't bad things in themselves--it's great to have respect for established lore, and it's even better to see that lore fleshed out, but sometimes they can't even deal with that. These are the very same people who confuse the term "character progression" for "character remains exactly the same each and every time they appear in the game, in behavior, appearance, and motivation". They have an impossible desire for WoW to expand only within their own ill-conceived constraints, not realizing that they're dooming the game to eventually deforming and collapsing in on itself like a souflée in a bottle.

And that's why they have such an issue with the next truism.

3. Players need bad guys.

A game like WoW cannot progress or provide new content without bigger and bigger bads. However, this creates a conflict with the hardcore lore nerds--players that want new content, players that don't want established characters making a 180 and becoming big bads, players that don't care about newly-introduced big bads. It's impossible to cater to this demographic.

If this demographic is you, the only way to avoid another few years of hemming and hawing about how Blizzard is "ruining the lore" is by realizing that Warcraft, and especially World of Warcraft, is a living, breathing organism that requires progression, expansion, and periodic outright change of existing lore to serve gameplay purposes. This will not change. Don't act as if a fallen hero is a new concept to Warcraft, games, or even literature as a whole. Save yourself from expecting Blizzard to create lore just for you within impossible bounds. Embrace and experience lore expansions or additions, and know that every time something gets added or changes, it's because Blizzard loves its game, loves its lore, and truly loves creating the best experience for you, whether you're fickle and misguided or not.

Goodnight, and good luck.

Knowledge is power, so arm yourself to the teeth by reading up on all the latest lore discussion in Alex Ziebart's Know Your Lore and Ask a Lore Nerd. And read your quest text, dangit!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Lore, RP, Wrath of the Lich King

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