Sylvanas, The Afrasiabi Sabotage, and What It Means For The Story Of Warcraft

If you’ve been on WoW Twitter at all lately, a story that has been damn-near impossible to avoid is that of how Alex Afrasiabi might have “sabotaged” the story of Sylvanas. This has been played with in telephone games left and right and turned into a bigger and smaller issue all the same, so rather than playing with the additional aggrandizements, let’s look at the original tweet that started it.

So first, let’s get the speculatory part out of the way and set a framework to evaluate this idea through. I believe Michele Morrow when she says this. She is a second-hand source, yes, but she has worked with Blizzard a lot before, including voiceover on Hearthstone and being one of the hosts for a ton of Blizzcon Virtual Ticket events. She’s not a Blizzard employee, but she’s pretty closely connected to the company and I have no reason to doubt the validity of her claim given that. For this post, I’m proceeding with the understanding that while some might quibble with the claim, I believe it to be true and we’ll work with it as the framework.

So, Sylvanas. One of the biggest problems with the current lore of Warcraft is that Sylvanas’ character has been on an insane evil supervillain speedrun, going from nuanced, edgy chaotic neutral to full on genocidal maniac, and 9.0 through 9.2 story as we know them thus far have been trying to take the edge off of her in a similar reversed speedrun, with predictably bad results. Fans have been struggling to find justification for this, to figure out why she ended up like this, and into that space entered the Morrow tweet. Part of the game of telephone around it has been trying to find further connections to potential story sabotage from Afrasiabi – if he left in summer 2020, did he also write for Sylvanas in Shadowlands? Did he write the rest of BfA past the burning of Teldrassil, and if so, how does that dovetail through to today? We can see how these things become interesting questions in light of this idea.

I think for this post, I want to weave the discussion through a few key topics, as I see the issue in my head. The questions I have are basically this – at what point do the story “rescue” efforts start, what culpability does the current team and rest of the team at the time bear, and what potential leads come from it, knowing that we still have a relatively large pile of encrypted cutscenes in the bank waiting for the live launch of patch 9.2?

The Nature of Sylvanas’ Story and Why I Believe The Sabotage

Firstly, besides the sourcing I mentioned above, something I have danced around since last summer and sometimes directly said is that WoW’s story being written by a dude with a multitude of sexual harassment claims totally fits if we look at the current lore. Sylvanas and Tyrande were interesting characters under Metzen, at least in my view, and since Metzen left, they have been the characters done dirtiest under the new post-Metzen lore that was Afrasiabi’s brain child. Sylvanas was a metaphor for an assault survivor – her finding strength and moving forward after what Arthas did to her is pretty well established to have a lot of connective tissue to the very real ways in which survivors of sexual assault often deal with the things they went through. The vebiage used in the Arthas novel about Sylvanas’ fate at Arthas’ hands leaves no question – the word “violated,” the context of it – it’s fairly clear from even a skeptical reading. There’s no coincidence that her story prior to BfA resonates so deeply with so many, and whatever quibbles one might have with her prior characterization, I do think that is a good thing. Or, well, was a good thing. This Twitter thread has a lot more interesting details on the idea and I would highly suggest reading it:

Sylvanas’ pivot doesn’t really fit her character. It doesn’t really fit the person she was, the things she suffered through. Her burning of Teldrassil felt like an excessive ramp-up, not a natural progression of who she was in Legion.

So being told that this was an intentional sort of “fuck you” to people who vibed with Sylvanas as a character fits to my eyes. If the message of a character whose backstory is grounded in the language of sexual assault survival is that they can live fulfilling lives and overcome their abusers comes under the control of an abuser, well, it feels fairly obvious that the conscious and subconscious biases of that person would affect the story being told. I think this is a big part of why Sylvanas’ story is so disappointing, because there was a pretty big window in which it could have been something more, something better, and the opening of BfA closed that window, made Horde players participate in an in-universe genocide attempt without agency to opt out or choose any other path, and presents multiple framings of this event that are dissonant with each other in an attempt to paper-over the core issues with the sudden shift in Sylvanas. In the lore as presented, we see Sylvanas set apart, ostracized – and for the actions at Teldrassil and Undercity both, she deserves it – but in the broader context of the lore to that point, it is quite offputting.

How Much Did Afrasiabi Write Before Leaving Blizzard?

The big question I have, looking solely at the source from Morrow for the sabotage claim, is this – how long was Afrasiabi writing WoW before being silently ousted from the company? If he just wrote the Burning of Teldrassil, that defines the rest of BfA differently, but at the same time, we have reason to believe he was on-board for longer and writing WoW content. He was on the Q&A panel at Blizzcon 2018, where he infamously stated that Sylvanas was responsible for the Wrathgate, which seemed to upend the established lore from that event, and he was in the press interviews about the BfA story at that point.

The idea is complicated because of things we know about Blizzard and the process for story on WoW. We know that story is often written years in advance, and that Shadowlands was in production at the point he was mouthing off about Wrathgate and the scale of Sylvanas’ villainy, so it is hard to look at Shadowlands’ lackluster plot and not feel that he mucked it up somehow. Yet at the same time, the idea of redeeming Sylvanas has been fairly evident throughout Shadowlands – despite her pivotal villain role to start the expansion, after the Maw start, she kind of disappears from the lore until we get to Torghast, where she makes contemplative faces at Anduin (that alone being very different in character from her BfA writing). If you told me that Afrasiabi’s writing was redone by the story team to head into Shadowlands, and that from the start of the expansion we’ve been pivoting to a Sylvanas redemption, I’d believe it. After all, I’ve been complaining about the redemption arc as told makes no sense given the priors since the start of Shadowlands!

The question only really matters in the context of the larger lore because it can be instructive of what to expect next. A lot of BfA and Shadowlands has felt like narrative whiplash, things teetering back and forth, and Sylvanas has been a huge part of that. If our expectation is that much of the end of BfA and start of Shadowlands was narrative cleanup to break the stuff written by Afrasiabi, that gives some amount of hope that the narrative to emerge, less connected to what came before, might be better, or at the very least different in a new way. Things shifting within the team midway through BfA might explain the slapdash nature of Nazjatar and N’zoth, how these massive forces that could themselves each have anchored an expansion in their own right were instead reduced to patch villains, vanquished with minimal storytelling and a noticeable drop-off in narrative “extras” like prerendered CG cinematics (which BfA prior to that point had been packed to the gills with). It might also explain why Shadowlands has had only the one CG cutscene that was a part of the launch materials – if so much of the storytelling changed in-transit from development to live, it actually makes a lot of the various issues with the game in the last two years make more sense.

How Involved Was The Team As A Whole?

This is where I potentially enter hot take city, although I don’t think these takes are that hot.

To start this section off, I want to be crystal clear – ultimately, Afrasiabi was a story lead on the game, and the majority of the responsibility for these stories would rest on him as a result. Given what we’ve discussed so far, I think it is quite clear that only someone with the mindset to accrue the allegations we’ve heard about him would write the women of Warcraft the way he has. I want to keep him in focus as the core antagonist of this story, because it seems fairly clear that it is the case.

However, what we know about WoW story writing also leads to a follow-up question that is less exculpatory of the WoW team – who else was involved with writing the story, approving it, and setting everything into motion? We’ve been told that the writing of WoW is a team effort, with a team of writers, historians, and the game design team all working in tandem to ensure harmony on these efforts, that the game feeds the story and vice-versa. Without knowing the approval process and how that looks, it seems to me that while Afrasiabi would have had a wide berth to do whatever awful bullshit he wanted with the story, it still feels like it would have had to gone through some sort of approval process with the game director. Did Ion Hazzikostas approve the story, did he agree with it? Did the executive producer on the game at the time, whether J Allen Brack or John Hight, approve the story?

Because as tempting as it is to lay the blame at the feet of a sole ex-employee, one who by all accounts would absolutely have done this, the seeming truth is that he couldn’t have acted alone. There would have been layers of approval, teams keyed in to create cinematics, cutscenes, in-game questing content, and more. Did no one involved with the game stop and think that maybe this was a bad idea, a bridge too far? It would seem that way.

Like with the Microsoft acquisition, I think a lot of people want to distill this down to a basic interpretation that paints Afrasiabi as a sole, now-vanquished evil, that once we move past the remnants of his godawful story, something better will emerge. I’d love nothing more than to believe that myself! On the allegations front, we know that Afrasiabi had institutional support, that Brack refused to discipline him in any meaningful way, and I can’t help but think he had a similar measure of institutional support in his actual core role – that he had been Metzen’s hand-picked successor and that his writing was gospel truth for the game. The uncomfortable reality of the situation with this sabotage is that even as we take the idea at face value, it does mean that there are many more individuals who signed off on this, greenlit it, and produced it – many of whom remain at Blizzard. Maybe Danuser will be better when writing his own story arcs, and I sure hope so. But now is as good a time as any to dive into that…

The Writing Of WoW Post-Afrasiabi Has Been…Questionable

The main premise that a lot of fans have been leaning on is that with Afrasiabi gone and the Sylvanas story salvaged into…this, that we get to have a clean break after Shadowlands and move to a story that was likely not in production until after Afrasiabi left Blizzard in the summer of 2020, one that is better for it. Does that premise hold weight?

Well…we don’t know yet, but I wouldn’t build a house on that foundation right now.

I’ve been fairly harshly critical of Steve Danuser here, I won’t pretend otherwise. In at least one of my Sylvanas posts, I made a point of calling him out by name when critiquing the story. However, through the lens of this information, I have to reconsider that.

So how has writing been on the projects where Danuser has been the principal creative?

Well, they aren’t all awful. Grimoire of the Shadowlands is interesting, at least. Folk and Fairytales was a unique way to frame the Warcraft universe, something I wish we got more of in-game – the idea of how the civilizations of Azeroth discuss their world is fantastic context that adds a lot of life to the story, and while I am critical of that book for introducing the world to the Sylvanas Soul Fragment Theory, the rest of it I have seen is decent and enjoyable enough in its own right.

The next question for Danuser directly then is this – if we consider the Shadowlands great retcons his baby, how has he done? Well…I am less optimistic for the future under his hand with those. Ultimately, so much of Shadowlands has felt like missed opportunities or just strange writing. Having Jaina present to do so little in the story is not great, and the same absolutely applies to Baine! Thrall got a touching and brief moment with his mother in patch 9.1, but it was also so secondary to anything that actually happened in the story that I actually kind of forget it happened most of the time. A lot of the exploratory possibilities with Helya were dumpstered in 9.1, and some of the early interviews about Shadowlands discussed the possibilities of Baine meeting his father in Shadowlands and having a moment, which has not and seemingly will not happen at this point.

All told, I have to say that Shadowlands is fairly mixed, and while I think a fair amount of that lies at the feet of the necessary retconning, leaping away from the Sylvanas disaster left by Afrasiabi, not all of it is down to that. Some of it in-game is the responsibility of the current team, and so I find it hard to have any measure of excitement for what comes next.

In fact, one thing the current team is still responsible for is terrible, poor use of stereotypes mapped 1:1 to fantasy races and characters. Exploring Kalimdor, written primarily by Sean Copeland of the lore team, is a poorly-written, trope-filled journey that gets base details wrong and uses explicitly racist tropes mapped without modification to the races in the book. Blizzard has not made any public statement about this, but instead silently delayed the book and has not changed any of the content (which, realistically, would not have happened due to printing supplies being in short supply anyways). On the front of many elements of the story, both in-game and in supplemental lore materials, we can see failures of different biases at play.

With that context in mind, I find it tough to buy in to the idea that Afrasiabi being gone suddenly fixes everything with the storytelling in WoW. There’s a lot of ground still there to cover, and the current team has not done a great job of covering it, both in the quality of the assumed retcons and in the new and original works of writing that have come out in the time since.

Can The Story of Warcraft Be Salvaged?

This one is tough. I think the great thing about an MMO is that each expansion is a chance to wipe the slate clean, to start a new story and tell a new tale, and 10.0 is such a chance that should be taken.

In terms of the story to date, a big shift going into 10.0 is perfect, because we have spent time in the Shadowlands, away from Azeroth and with uncertain time mechanics in play – the whole board could be reset in one shot and it would generally make sense. We’re also spending 9.2 around a forge of reality, a place where things are literally built for the First Ones, so all kinds of crazy possibilities are on the table.

In many ways, I think what we will see in the raid finale is the end of Sylvanas Windrunner as an active character. Redeeming her and then keeping her around the story is picking at the scab, and I think even Blizzard knows that. To a point, having her speedrun redemption and judgment at Tyrande’s hands in 9.2 creates the opportunity to close that door, lock it away, and never look back. It is a pity, because I think Sylvanas’ character has meant so much to so many over the years in different ways, but the burning of Teldrassil and the story beats that have come since have done a lot of damage to her, to the point where I don’t think you can save her story enough to make everyone comfortable and accepting of her presence, and even her presence in 9.2 feels a bit too much with everything she’s done in the story. Quality be damned, it kind of feels like the best thing to do is wrap her story conclusively and put it away.

My brain wants to write fanfic about how the Sepulcher and Zovaal’s goals could be used to our ends – if we can “unmake reality,” then perhaps there exists a way to undo the burning of Teldrassil. In the lore, this would be an interesting moment, but I also think it feels too cheap to actually do. In many ways, the game has been shaped, both in lore and in reality among the community, by the events of BfA and the War of Thorns, and there’s not really a way to undo all of that. It would be a too-perfect retcon, the literal undoing of a major event, and even if we handwave away what the power of the Sepulcher means or it is written out of the story through that action, it would have a knock-on invalidating effect on piles of lore – is anything truly permanent in WoW going forward if we can go to the reality-unmaking machine and press the do-over button?

The difficulty at the heart of the Sylvanas tale is that she spoke at some point to a lot of different people about a lot of deeply difficult issues in a way that had potential, and so even when I think that writing her off is the best path, is it really? I can’t say with absolute certainty. The process of trauma, of recovery, is a messy one that is so often difficult to get right in media, and even if Sylvanas is flawed in many ways due to a writer who was fundamentally uninterested in telling that story, is that not how it so often goes for so many? I don’t want to say she should disappear from the story either, because I think there’s a chance to tell a powerful story that is mindful of those themes still.

Do I trust that Blizzard will do that story justice? Well…no. Not right now. Ultimately, it isn’t my trust that has to be earned on that front either – but the voices of women and survivors all over the community. For my part, Sylvanas being involved does not make the story inherently bad, and I think that there are ways forward that involve Sylvanas being used more positively, provided that the writing team can be mindful of how she embodies a lot of tropes that can be powerfully positive or negative depending on well they are executed. I have a hard time envisioning that story being told properly, but I think that the Sylvanas novel from Christie Golden and the story still to come in 9.2 will be instructive of how much trust we can (or cannot) have in Blizzard on this front.

There’s a little bit of cynicism in my mind about the whole thing, how just-so and convenient it is for people to pan the PTR datamining of the 9.2 story and for us to then have this tidbit surface, that much of Sylvanas’ current writing is attempting to dig out of a hole from Afrasiabi. Even believing it is true, it does serve the team well for this information to be out there and discussed, especially when giving an official comment seems unlikely. Yet in many ways, my cynicism is drowned out by the very reality of the situation – it fits to a tee, so even if it is exculpatory of the team, I can’t see any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim made.

In many ways, it is a tough spot for everyone. For the team at Blizzard, writing out of this situation without just memory-holing BfA is a no-win situation. For fans, knowing that this happened makes the nature of the Shadowlands story more comprehensible while not excusing the lack of quality in the main, overarching plot and the continued stumbling over bad stereotypes and discriminatory tropes in other media around the game. For those who found solace in Sylvanas as a reflection of some of their lived experiences, I can only imagine how tough it is to see her character dragged through all of this and the almost cartoonish supervillainy of knowing that some insecure manchild had to write a woman in whom survivors saw strength as what she has become, knowing at least partially the impact it would have.

it just feels bad all-around, and that is probably the best ending here (and not a cop-out either!). We all know so much more is there and could be there, but we have what we have, and until the path to what comes next in the lore is clear, all we can really do is speculate and hope for this chapter to resolve, for better things to come.


15 thoughts on “Sylvanas, The Afrasiabi Sabotage, and What It Means For The Story Of Warcraft

  1. “I have no reason to doubt the validity of her claim”

    We also have no reason to believe it.

    I love a good shitpost, but I am always going to lean on this: “Never ascribe to malice what can be attributed to incompetence”.

    Sylvanas’ heel-turn was the most recent (at the time) example of bad story direction at Blizz. And I include Saint Metzen in all that, in many cases his heavy hand was easily detectable and groanworthy.

    I’m not saying Morrow is wrong. But I need more than that very thin rumor to hang my hat on, okay?


  2. In scenarios such as this, it’s frequently about power –who has it and what they can do with it– that determines how things will go. Afrasiabi had a tremendous amount of power within Blizzard because of his long term dev-bro status and his “anointed successor” status. Ion, well…. Ion has pretty much admitted that to him WoW is all about raiding. So if Afrasiabi came to Ion and said “you’ll get some great raids out of this” Ion would be on board. Really, if you told Ion that WoW would have no story but great raids I’m pretty sure he’d be fine with that too.

    For the executive producers, they’ll go along with Afrasiabi says as long as there’s enough of a “the fans will love this” persuasiveness about things. You can’t say that Blizz didn’t generate a lot of discussion with the burning of Teldrassil until you realize that they got even more discussion out of the hair color selections for Night Elves. Maybe they thought they could get away with it, storywise, after they destroyed Theramore. (Makes me wonder if Theramore was Afrasiabi’s baby too, especially after he admitted that the “growth and honor” that Garrosh showed in Stonetalon was “a mistake”.)

    But WoW’s writing, post Afrasiabi, reads like WoW by Committee. And I hate documentation that’s written by committee.


  3. I’ve got a few points – not to argue, but to ponder about.

    First, her turn started way before BfA – ever since Legion intro where she was doing selfless things, then a “sinister voice” ordered Vol’jin to name her warchief, and then she disappeared from radars and fresh Horde leadership only to pop up as a solo player pursuing some sinister goals totally non-related to ongoing full-scale Legion’s invasion and making pacts with Jailer’s minion – Helya. So we must track this face-heel turn not from Teldrassil, but straight from Legion expansion beginning.

    Second, expansion release order. We all know they can and do swap this, they plan ahead for a couple expansions, not just current one, and Legion was an example of that. Due to a WoD’s “disaster”, they needed a strong expansion bomb, and they delivered. But remember how it was presented in August, in some other games con rather than their Blizzcon turf, and they had little more than artist drafts and general idea to present – which also means Legion was pretty rushed storywise and came way earlier than planned. So, shuffling expansions also influences story consistency, how storylines intertwine. Likewise, the order of BfA/Shadowlands release was in question too.

    The third thing, ok, if Afrasiabi (presuming he made that decision on his own, which is frankly a bit hard to believe) decided to make her face-heel, well, it denies what we knew and experienced about Sylvanas before, ever since RTS, true. But in a post-Afrasiabi’s era the current writers team only made it a lot worse. If you eventually get yourself a character with unforgivable crimes on her hands, by any human measure, you do not try to justify her actions, you don’t try to paint her out of this corner because – as we see it – any possible solution would have been unnatural and ugly. If I were given a task to write Sylvanas redemption, being a writer in post-Afrasiabi era, I would refuse to do so and say “guys, this cannot work – not after what happened and what we already have on our hands”. Yes, many people were pissed how Sylvanas turned evil, but everyone is pissed at redemption attempts, loyalists and haters alike.

    And fourth: being a mysoginistic swine as he is IRL, Afrasiabi was quite responsible for BfA too. BfA is the expansion centered on strong women, heroes and villains alike, engines to all the events, totally believable and with strong personal arcs. Surely it’s impossible to say “fuck you” for one character and do such a great job for dozens of other women characters? It looks more like a personal beef with Sylvanas rather than a pattern reflecting his IRL qualities – or simply a bad writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a full set of interesting points that merits some discussion!

      1. I don’t doubt that the roots of it are deeper, and her character in Legion was undoubtedly turning in that direction. I would still contend that the start of BfA was a huge step over the line she had been tip-toeing towards at that point. There was a way to tell the story of Helya and the pact with Zovaal (if that was the direction things were heading originally) in a lot of better ways and without the burning of Teldrassil or plaguing of Undercity. At this point, there’s still not a lot of clarity about what purpose those things *actually* served in Zovaal’s plan, just vague insinuations about the souls in the Maw and how it takes things away from the Covenants, even though we don’t really see that outside of launch questing(and the 9.2 story kind of contradicts the idea that it served the plan of starving the Covenants, since the redirection to the Maw is a separate event).

      2. I’d be curious as to how serious the rumors of expansion reordering were for BfA and Shadowlands. I have definitely heard the Legion and WoD swap, and I don’t doubt it’s possible, but I haven’t seen many claims that this was the case. In either case, I’m genuinely curious how we would have gone from Legion to Shadowlands, and given the 9.2 lore elements, it might actually have been better in some ways (BfA after Legion felt really tonally awkward, IMO). It would definitely have changed the tone, that’s fair, but I wonder how much of the story we got in BfA would have changed for the reordering.

      3. I think this one is tricky. I don’t disagree that Afrasiabi isn’t much worse on a raw, writing skill level – and he had the habit of doing idiotic rule of cool statements at Blizzcon or in interviews that never meant anything (firing the Goblin cannon, Sylvanas’ reasoning, etc). I think the problem with Sylvanas is that regardless of who wrote what, the whole length of her story is inconsistent – she’s a hero to some, villain to others, and she’s had so many weird shifts under each era of the game’s writing team, from RTS all the way to today, that it makes it hard to even envision how you “fix” it. Redeeming her is not something I agree with even still, regardless of who wrote what or the specifics – but I think there are interesting ways you could turn that story away from expectation. I look at her very similarly to Gaius or Emet-Selch in FFXIV – you could change perception of her actions in a way that honors that they were awful but paves a way forward, and I think redemption is not a necessary component of it. That being said, I only vaguely feel there is something there – I couldn’t tell you what the right path forward is, which is perhaps damning in its own right. And to the point on the writers, I can buy the idea that a creative director had leeway to write things in his own way and push for his vision, but as I said in the post, I think that nothing about that idea exonerates anyone else at Blizzard, who would have had other people involved and approving the idea. The writing is still bad, and while knowing it was bad for a specific reason of some sort is kind of helpful, it doesn’t change that this arc has been a dumpster fire for a long time on both sides of the Afrasiabi fence.

      4. I think that there’s room for both things to be true – that Afrasiabi wrote a main story arc that was godawful and centered on his specific baggage with women while the rest was written by other writers on the team or collaboratively. It’s all speculation ultimately – unless Blizzard actually decides to address this directly, we have no direct way of knowing what actually happened or who did what when, and that, coupled with the current story failures, is why I’m loathe to put much weight on the idea of Afrasiabi being accountable for it. If he wrote the Teldrassil arc, that sucks, but it hasn’t meaningfully been fixed and the team has had opportunities to do so. We ended BfA without even so much as revisiting it past Darkshore!


      1. 4. Nah, but we did! We got the Night Warrior arc in a few months since launch, paired with warfront (canonically won by the Alliance), and we got our total revenge. Paired with Leo Kaliski’s music masterpiece, it was one of the most satisfying and strong emotional experiences of the expansion, as we punished the plague of undead/goblins still harassing Darkshore and wiped them clean from the lands, no quarter, just brutal elimination. That much was quite a resolution for the burning arc, the rebuilding though is yet to be addressed.

        On expansion order, they were clearly building this face-heel during Legion, albeit as a side arc, and it would be logical to:
        – make Shadowlands come after Legion, Sylvanas doing all she did, claiming crown from Bolvar and abducting leaders. Needs but a small questline and a couple of machinima cinematics to explain what she’s up to.
        – Put BfA after that as a part of a proper Old God-centered expansion, as N’Zoth (not Sylvanas) would influence the factions in the absense of their most prominent peacekeeper leaders (Jaina, Anduin, Baine, Thrall), pushing them to war and blowing the forges of mutual hatred. The same azerite they started mining could have been corrupted by N’Zoth, and players would not just collect it, but clear it in some way to use against the Old God in the climax finale. Genocides in Teldrassil and Undercity – why, yes, as a war trigger, but ordered by generals and leaders under N’Zoth influence – which opens room for a plot fork: either we beat them to senses or eliminate them.

        Cue Azeroth born in the next expansion: as we also solve the sword problem, powers quelled in Legion finale, but still protruding from the planet today.


      2. I did like Night Warrior, but I would contend that the story there wasn’t a good overall resolution. Sure, you could split the idea into resolving the burning versus resolving the rebuilding of Night Elf (and Worgen) society, but I think the two are closely interlinked – having a rebuilding/resettlement plan is a pivotal part of resolving the burning, because at the end of the day, vengeance doesn’t feed people or house them, no matter how righteous it may be.

        I do like the “what could have been” if the expansion order had flipped, though. In the case we know they did flip things with WoD and Legion, it worked far better as a continuous narrative and I think there’s a lot to the idea of the Shadowlands better feeding BfA than the other way around. I think we both agree that N’zoth could have/should have been more than a patch, and when BfA felt like it was going to be an Old God expansion, I was pretty excited.

        One lore point I am very curious for is what comes next for the Azeroth as a titan story. It feels like the Jailer stuff in the upcoming raid is building towards that, but at the same time, they’ve been teasing that story for a while now with no clear resolution in sight and I’m not sure if we can cleanly wrap the current story arcs in a way that gives that room to breathe in 10.0 (although that doesn’t mean they won’t try, I’m just not convinced it would be *good* right now with everything else going on in the story). It would have been a lot easier, to your point, to get there from an Old God expansion that came after the Shadowlands – we have time away from Azeroth for corruption to fester, come home, uh oh.

        Either way, it feels like we left a lot behind in doing…all of the current story, and regardless of the mechanics of how it got there, it’s hard to see it as anything but a waste.


  4. @gnomecore – a propros of nothing, I’ve always considered the birth of Azeroth as End of the World material, like, not something we want to actually happen. But, sure, maybe it’ll be a metaphysical birth more than physical and she’ll be pissed about that whole sword thing. And maybe she’ll be all edgy like Vi in LoL and have a little sword tatoo’d on her cheek. Or sommit.


    Fine points overall though. Though if you’re saying it’s WoD’s fault we got Legion so early in the game and it was somewhat … disjointed and rushed in places … well, now I have a whole new thing to be pissed about. 😛 I always have felt that Legion came too soon, no build up of any substance. I guess I’m not alone.


    1. Well, a titan birth is not supposed to be like hatching from an egg, cracking the shell 🙂 It effectively wipes out all the fauna and population of the planet, and considering how many titans are born, it cannot be their modus operandi – although an interesting theme to explore, immediately rendering them villains of the cosmic scale, but probably not in WoW, it’s too dark.

      It’s more like a metaphysical thing, she just appears. I actually liked one of the 10.0. “leaks” idea where Azeroth appears in form of dragon (!) and not just goes wandering, but is like a child. The expansion’s goal for players is to educate this baby, teach her how general things and moral operates, and in general defend her from threats while also teaching her to restrain her power, care about life on the planet. Only then she could be released until later notice when we clash with Void Lords some day.


      1. Well, yeah, I’ve re-read what I wrote and I’m immediately reminded about fresh Eternals movie from Marvel. Exactly this situation: Marvel’s titans or whatever they are called create life and maintain the cycle, yet planets chosen as a new titan cradle are destroyed when it hatches. The moral dilemma is: do we even need this cycle if it destroys the current billions of living creatures to create more life and continue?


      2. @gnomecore – yes, after seeing what was left of Argus, I have some reservations about “Azeroth hatches and everybody sings happy songs” at this point, but I’m also willing to believe that Sargeras’ involvement might have lead to a Planetary Cesarean*. Possibly botched.

        But ya know if she appears as a child and we have to teach her, I’ll volunteer for the drinking lessons! She probably could use a good snort, the wee bairn.

        * If Blizz adopts that phrase I want a nickel every time they use it.


  5. That twitter thread was such a good read. I really dislike how much Metzen leaned on the “violated woman” angle in all the Blizzard IPs. Sylvanas (WC), Kerrigan (SC), and Leah (D3) in lead roles, but plenty of secondary too. I always hated how much Odyn was framed as a “good guy” in Legion and beyond given what he did to Helya.

    On this latest Afrasiabi news? Feels like scapegoating. I’m 100% not defending Afrasiabi, and I hope his dick falls off for all the misery he’s caused, but this feels like propaganda. Somebody tweeted something about how “10.0 will be all Danuser’s baby”, and sure, but that implies that’s a good thing. It implies we should all be excited about the storytelling of 10.0 because it’s a fresh start and didn’t you hear that all the bad stuff was Afrasiabi’s fault? No, current WoW story team, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt.

    And finally, I feel like the fuck up of Tyrande’s story doesn’t get enough air time. (I do remember you posting about her previously!) Remember what an arsehole Malfurion was to her in Cata? That “Hush, Tyrande!” line from the Well of Eternity dungeon (I think) is a meme in my house. Remember Tyrande having to “learn” patience and military tactics from Varian in MoP? The guy who’s literally 10,000 years her junior? Ugggh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Odyn story is one of those things that tends to skate under the radar, because he’s so often out of focus that it’s easy to miss, but it’s kinda gross! The Blizzard-level callout is very well-placed too – I often forget about how many of those “violated” tropes end up in use all over the company’s IPs.

      I think the Afrasiabi thing is definitely a scapegoat, but there’s definitely something there (Taliesin and Evitel’s video on the topic has some receipts from developers backing up the idea). After looking at everything, I think there’s a lot of unstated details where having this news out there serves as a deflection – he did this bad thing, but what else…hmm, who knows? It’s vague enough to where it can become a lot larger than I think it actually is and to create a buzz about how 10.0 will be “better.” Maybe it will! I’d like it to be, but I doubt it, and so knowing or even just thinking that Afrasiabi wrote a pretty bad event doesn’t meaningfully change my perception of what came after or what I expect in the future.

      Tyrande is one I am waiting to see how poorly she ends up in 9.2, because she has a cinematic-ready model waiting and it feels like so much of what could be said about her is hanging on that. Totally agree on the dismissal in Well of Eternity – she was such a good character and in one line, she became a meme that wasn’t really meaningfully changed until the Night Warrior stuff, which was good in isolation but leans on a lot of bad storytelling and still painted her as sort of impulsive and crazily vengeful. If I have any hope for the future of the story, a lot of that rides on how they handle her in 9.2. I’m not holding my breath.


      1. Oh yes I absolutely believe Afrasiabi was behind the whole “burning of Teldrassil” clusterfuck and probably a lot more. I just don’t think it matters much given how long he’s been gone and how little the current team have done to improve things. It’s interesting but irrelevant to me. It feels like everyone’s trying to Copium their way (am I using that correctly?) to believing 10.0 is going to be some amazing new thing.

        I thought Tyrande in Val’sharah’s zone story was quite powerful. She had to choose between her duties and her love (arsehole that he is), and had to put down a good friend (more violated (dragon) woman bullshit). It felt like the reasoned perspective of a long-lived woman who made difficult decisions without being an unfeeling robot. She’s like Sylvanas though, in that her characterisation has been such a rollercoaster. I hope but don’t expect the 9.2 cinematics do her justice.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ya know, the whole “we’re really sorry about that Teldrassil thing” act would register a lot better if there were indications of movement in that area. A resettlement effort in Gilneas, a replanting of the Tree (but maybe not THERE this time), efforts to rehome the Forsaken and Nelf populations.

    Two things I dislike bout Blizz: the unwillingness to move the story forward in old places, and the inflexibility they show in that regard.


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