WoW: Kul Tiras Ahoy?

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time when wild rumours, rampant speculation, leaks, and “leaks” about the next World of Warcraft expansion are flying wildly. And boy, we’ve got a doozy to lead things off.

Datamining for 7.3 has revealed a partial armour set labelled “Kul Tiras quest.”

Well then.

The Tides of Darkness rise again?Kul Tiras has always been one of the great oversights of WoW. As a pillar of the Alliance, a naval superpower, one of the last surviving human nations, and the homeland of Jaina Proudmoore, it’s something that very much should be in the game but inexplicably isn’t. Honestly, a very strong argument could be made that it should have been the Alliance capitol instead of Stormwind.

And yet it’s nowhere to be found. It’s barely even mentioned. If Kul Tiras is finally making its way into the game, and that now seems almost certain, it’s long overdue.

I had initially assumed we’d be visiting it for a story scenario or something, but it has been pointed out that this “[place name] quest” file name nomenclature has in the past always been used for leveling gear in a new expansion.

This raises the very real possibility that Kul Tiras will be the setting of the next expansion.

Kul Tiras is very significant politically, but not very big geographically, which could make for a very cramped expansion, but Legion has proven that Blizzard is willing to set expansions in smaller locales. And it’s also possible that the expansion might include other islands, such as Zandalar or Tel Abim.

Of course, Kul Tiras indicates an aquatic expansion, and that raises the possibility of Azshara.

Art of Queen Azshara from the Warcraft trading card gameMan, I’ve wanted an Azshara/Naga/N’Zoth expansion for so long now. I refuse to get my hopes up again. There have been too many false alarms: The Dark Below, Eye of Azshara…

I also have to wonder if, after all this time, Blizzard could deliver on my expectations for such a thing.

Azshara is, I think, the last great Warcraft villain. We can’t bring Gul’dan back from the dead again. The Lich King’s story is finished. Murozond and Deathwing are defeated. The mid-level Legion leadership has been pretty defanged in WoW, and Sargeras is too powerful for players to ever face directly. Sylvanas is too beloved by the fans to be made a direct antagonist.

There are still the Old Gods and Void Lords, but Azshara has a human (for lack of a better term) face that they lack. For all her godlike power and legendary influence on the Warcraft universe, she’s still ultimately just a person. A profoundly twisted, chillingly selfish person, but a person nonetheless.

Azshara is unique among Warcraft villains, and not just because she’s one of the few prominent female villains in the universe. Most Warcraft villains are literal monsters: mutant dragons who bleed liquid hate, undead monstrosities, grotesque demon lords, eldritch beings from a realm of pure entropy.

Queen Azshara at her height of powerEven Gul’dan, arguably her closest analogue, is nakedly monstrous, his appearance hideous and his cruelty clear.

Azshara isn’t like that. Azshara is charming, personable, and charismatic. Her darkness is well hidden. To the untrained eye, she is a beacon of grace and beauty, truly the Light of Lights.

Azshara is a slow poison, a subtle killer. Her people continued to love and worship her even as she burned everything they ever loved. She already shattered the world once, and she’s had ten thousand years to perfect her plan to finish the job.

But can WoW do justice to all that? Historically it’s done a very poor job of making its antagonists into credible threats, with the Lich King and to a much lesser extent Garrosh being the only notable exceptions.

Kul Tiras probably also means more Jaina, and that could also be a problem. Every time I think Blizzard can’t ruin Jaina’s character more, they find a way. I so want to have the old Jaina back, but I think it’s now far too late for that.

So while the news of a Kul Tiras expansion would have once filled me with joy, right now I’m trying to keep my expectations carefully managed. It could be great, but it could also be a terrible disappointment.

I won’t lie, though. If Gamescom/BlizzCon rolls around and they show a trailer for “World of Warcraft: Light of Lights,” I may nerdgasm a bit.

So What’s Christie Golden Doing?

/equip_tinfoil_hat

So I’m possibly reading too much into something small, but I stumbled across a rather intriguing story last night. It seems Christie Golden has suddenly moved to California so that she can work at Blizzard’s main offices for a secret project that will last until October.

The Emerald Dream in World of WarcraftI’ve been a pretty big fan of Christie Golden’s for a while now, as both an author and a person. She’s written a number of excellent tie-in novels for Blizzard’s various games, and I have had enough sporadic contact with her over the years to determine she is a pretty excellent person. Therefore, the news of her doing more work with Blizzard excites me.

But what’s really intriguing is the question of just what she’s doing there. While I’m not an expert, I have done some research on the process for how authors produce tie-in novels for Blizzard, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t normally require actually working at the Blizzard offices for months. Why would it?

Again, I might be jumping the gun, but my mind has turned to the possibility that she may be writing an entire game. It would explain why she needs to be in close proximity to the development team(s).

But what game?

Christie Golden has the most history with the Warcraft universe, but I’m not sure things quite add up for her to be working on WoW. It seems a bit early for them to be designing the plot of the next expansion in detail, and the continuous nature of WoW’s story doesn’t mesh with the temporary nature of her job at Blizzard.

Given she is in theory only there for a few months, I would think she’d be working on something with a clear beginning, middle, and end. A game that can be finished.

The Spear of Adun's Solar Core in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidThe only other Blizzard franchise she’s worked on in the past is StarCraft, so perhaps she could be writing a new mission pack. Blizzard’s said they were moving on from story content for StarCraft II, but they could always change their minds.

However, I see no reason she must be limited to franchises she’s already worked on.

We do know something is in the works regarding Diablo, though whether it’s an expansion, Diablo IV, or some kind of spin-off is anyone’s guess. I have a little bit of trouble picturing someone as sweet as Christie Golden working on a series that’s basically all torture and brimstone, but then I remember how dark some of her past writing has gotten, and it doesn’t seem quite as far-fetched.

The possibility that really intrigues me, though, is that she could be working on Overwatch, either a story mode within the current game or entirely new title in the same universe that focuses on story instead of PvP. There’s clearly a strong desire for such, and the Overwatch universe seems the perfect fit for her emotive, character-driven style of writing.

Regardless, I hope it is a new game she’s working on, because any game written by Christie Golden is a game I want to play.