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WoW Archivist: Hoaxes, imaginary content, and the unrealized

The WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Remember Grom'ogh, the legendary axe once wielded by Grom Hellscream? No, of course you don't. Because it never existed. Some enterprising WoW player in The Burning Crusade beta made it up, doctored up some images of Gorehowl from Karazhan and made merry sport of those of us who weren't in the beta and had no idea what kind of awesome drops were out there. (You can tell Grom'ogh is the Gorehowl model and not the Warsong Howling Axe because it has the same spikes on the back of the head that Gorehowl does.)

Amusingly, for those of us who actually got to play The Burning Crusade eventually, there was a two-handed legendary axee, Devastation, which is only useable during the Kael'Thas fight in Tempest Keep. Devastation's stats aren't all that far off from Grom'ogh's proposed stats, except of course for Grom'ogh's ludicrous total fear immunity. Grom'ogh is hardly the only way people have gummed up the works with fake news, though. It's still going on, in fact: fake patch notes, fake expansions (Vengeance of the Void, anyway), made-up new races and classes ... Everyone likes to have a hand in fake game development, it seems. It's so common, people even write guides telling other people how to do it.

Constantly resurrected fake expansion zones

This one has been around forever and ever. It purports to be a list of every WoW zone from level 1 to 100 and argues that WoW has been designed out to level 100 already, with each expansion set up and each zone ready to go. The problem is, this listing was first published in 2007 or so, and it's been changed and updated every single time a new expansion comes out.

If you look over the list, you can see that much of it is common sense. Still more is information from Warcraft I through III, and even more is information from various betas that the creators of the list would have had access to. (The version I've linked to here is from October 2007, when the Wrath expansion was first announced BlizzCon of that year.) It's also wrong in pretty substantial ways if one is arguing that the Maelstrom set is intended to be Cataclysm, with places that don't even exist in game and leveling to 90. You can see a slightly different form of this post as well. You'll notice if you read further a post by the originator of the ZAM network post explaining that he made the whole thing up.

He did a fairly good job taking what we know about the Warcraft setting and extrapolating it out, but what really kept this list alive is the nature of the WoW fanbase. People take these rumors and run with them, sometimes accidentally coming fairly close to the mark (we now know, thanks to BlizzCon 2011, that Pandaren were a potential Burning Crusade race) and sometimes just making wild, flailing guesses.

Fake patch notes? Yes, please!

Fake patch notes are so common that even Blizzard has done it from time to time. Players often do this for a variety of reasons: to be funny, to indulge their own wish fulfillment or air their class or game design grievances, to try and get their fellow players interested or excited in an idea they themselves love, or to fool people -- because let's face it, our fellow players like messing with our heads.

Fake patch notes
don't often catch us players off guard anymore. They're somewhat like rumors in that they proliferate based on the viral nature of the game community, infesting forums, rushing through fan sites and even being linked between players in game. Ironically, the rise of sites like this one has helped both spread and debunk fake patch notes.

One of the fun things about these notes are the lively debates I've had with my fellow writers here at WoW Insider over them, actually. And that's one of the reasons people do them, to get people to talk about their ideas. We're not all game designers (of course), but we all feel like we know what the game needs and will often argue our favorite ideas, loudly and with great frequency. Fake patch notes are a way to do that and get me to fight with Daniel Whitcomb. (I kid -- Dan and I don't need your help.)

As an example, here's a post discussing the creation of fake patch notes for patch 2.1.0 and why they were created.

In The Burning Crusade, roll a Pandaren and fight Worgen

Expansions and rumors about said expansions are as old as The Burning Crusade, such as the Vengeance of the Void leak we mentioned before. It's important to point out that no one who gins one of these things up thinks Blizzard will be fooled. Blizzard knows what its internal memos look like, and it knows what it's talking about doing in the future.

Just as with the fake patches, these kinds of hoaxes are aimed at us and only indirectly at Blizzard. Certainly if the players had all gone ape and squealed with glee about how much they wanted to go back to Outland, Blizzard would notice. Would it scrap what it was doing? No, of course not. But it certainly pays attention to what the players are talking about. Fakes like this are aimed at getting the players to influence Blizzard because for one reason or another the hoaxer doesn't feel like Blizzard will take notice of their ideas if they use the typical methods. You can see the bias of the creator in phrases like "neglected Shadow Priest class" (to my knowledge, Fox Van Allen did not write this proposed expansion hoax) and the wish fulfillment races proposed.

Everyone who played WoW before The Burning Crusade was officially announced remembers the old standby races that were rumored to be playable, including Ogres, Pandaren, Worgen and Naga. We even know now that Pandaren were considered for The Burning Crusade, confirming the old saw about stopped clocks and twice-a-day rightness. Much like the Grom'ogh hoax, these hoaxes exist because someone wants to either fool other players into thinking they are or to convince Blizzard that these ideas are cool enough to incorporate -- and often Blizzard already knows that.

Between fake legendaries, fake patches, fake expansion zones and whole fake expansions, there have been quite a few hoaxes over the course of WoW's lifespan. They illustrate how involved the players can become in the game, how often they want to try and change things in slightly unconventional ways, and how much some of us enjoy pulling the wool over the eyes of others of us.

The WoW Archivist examines the WoW of old. Follow along while we discuss beta patch 0.8, beta patch 0.9, and hidden locations such as the crypts of Karazhan.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, WoW Archivist

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