The Lore of World of Warcraft

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A panel of Blizzard storytellers and quest designers talk about the future of the Warcraft franchise at BlizzCon.
By Dave 'Fargo' Kosak | Oct. 28, 2005

Not everyone who plays World of Warcraft cares about the backstory, but there's always someone in every group who stops to read the quests or open up those old tomes scattered around the levels. For those who care to investigate, Warcraft has a rich history of characters and conflicts strecthing across several games and even a few novels. The story is tight: a whole team of people works to keep the fiction in line from one game to the next. Heading up this group of modern storytellers is Chris Metzen, who's been in charge of the Warcraft and StarCraft fiction from the very beginnings of the franchises.

At BlizzCon, Metzen and his team held a panel discussion for fans, spilling details about what's to come in the upcoming expansion pack, and dropping more than a few hints about the future of the franchise.

Metzen kicked things off by recapping 'the story so far...' If you haven't read the extensive backstory on the World of Warcraft website, here's a quick one-paragraph summary: At the dawn of time, the whole universe was Chaos, controlled by unchecked elemental forces. Then the Titans came along, bringing order to world after world. They dredged the oceans and formed the land, creating each as a cradle of life. In their travels they also came across opposing forces, forces who worshipped chaos and destruction. The greatest of the Titans rounded them up and imprisoned them. But his grim duty eventually got to him and corrupted him. He decided that the Titans had wasted their time, that creation was a folly, and he became bent on destroying it. He unleashed all of the demons that he'd imprisioned, and they became his army: The Burning Legion. "The Burning Crusade," the title of the expansion pack, is the name for his campaign to destroy all of creation. Tens of thousands of worlds have been undone by the Legion, but only Azeroth has fought back and won. Twice, in fact (once chronicled in the novels, and later as depicted in the Warcraft games.) That's where World of Warcraft picks up.

The expansion pack picks up the trail of this universal conflict. Why go with this theme? Metzen wanted to go big, to kick off a huge story arc that would span years. He wanted to take the conflict to cosmic porportions.

Thus, Burning Crusade allows players to go to The Outland, the remains of the Orc homeworld Draenor. Draenor was ripped apart in Warcraft II because too many portals were opened between it and other worlds, and only the self-sacrificing actions of a few heroes (those characters you see immortalized as giant statues outside of Stormwind) saved Azeroth from being torn apart as well. In Warcraft III, the fallen Night Elf (and half-demon) Illidan discovered The Outland and made it his home, closing all of the other portals. Follow all of this so far?

Good, because in the expansion, heroes can open up portals and take the fight to The Outland. Yes, you'll come toe to toe with Illidan and his minions, and you'll try to take him down. More importantly, from The Outland, characters will be able to open portals to other worlds that need help fighting the Burning Legion.

Possible Spoiler: Those heroes who sacrificed themselves to save Azeroth by closing the dark portal from the other side ... aren't dead. Yep, players will eventually be able to hook up with them. And Metzen promises that they'll be badass.

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