For those of you who were expecting this post today, I greet you.
To those who didn't, enjoy the read. And the many images ^_^
Keep in mind a large part of today's post is Speculation based off a single image, mixed with an inch or to of some half truths, three cups of anticipation, a teaspoon of good guessing, a few pinches of wishful thinking, and a touch of common sense topped off with some relatively accurate background information. As you can guess, I'm not sure either, but if you put all the little dots together the story seems more and more likely than not to be something we can expect to see at some point in the future.
If you didn't know yet (What rock have you been sleeping under the last few weeks?) Blizzard has registered the name "Cataclysm" as a trademark. Now, the last time they did something like this was obviously before the burning crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. "The Cataclysm" in WoW lore refers to the Great Sundering, which resulted in the creation of the Maelstrom. This is a giant swirling mass between World of Warcraft's two main continents. The only reason that makes any kind of sense as to why they would register this name "now" (A short while before the next BlizzCon) would be because they intend to use it in the next expansion. World of Warcraft 4.0 coming to a local store near you, somewhere early 2010!
So, what is the Maelstrom? How big is it, where is it, why is it there?
Well, WoWWiki has some info about that.
The Maelstrom is the gigantic rift that was created when the Well of Eternity collapsed into itself during the Great Sundering.
As the aftershocks from the Well of Eternity's implosion rattled the bones of the world, the seas rushed in to fill the gaping wound left in the earth. Nearly eighty percent of Kalimdor's landmass had been blasted apart, leaving only a handful of separate continents surrounding the new, raging sea. At the center of the new sea, where the Well of Eternity once stood, was a tumultuous storm of tidal fury and chaotic energies. This terrible scar, known as the Maelstrom, would never cease its furious spinning. It would remain a constant reminder of the terrible catastrophe... and the Utopian era that had been lost forever.
It's right there on your map, you can't miss it.
It's the last large place of Azerothian landscape that hasn't really been disclosed to us yet. Queen Azshara is believed to reside there. Ugh yeah, more nagas. Don't fret however because "under" that giant swirly mass of clouds are islands! Lots and lots of tiny islands, as well as a few large ones.
Islands, that means water, lots of water.
Perhaps a very good reason why out mounts have recently gained the ability to swim. Something which, this far into the current expansion is completely useless. But in a water based expansion would be very welcome indeed.
No doubt you've seen these images before, but here they are again.
Directly under the Maelstrom are a series of small islands and land masses:
* The Eye, where below it's waters reside the two opposing empires of Naga and Makrura (Crab people).
* Nazjatar, the capital cith of the Naga in the Maelstrom, build in the walls of the rift.
* The Boiling Terrace, an area southeast in the Maelstrom.
* The Rift, all that remains of the original Well of Eternity.
* Scintal Reef, a vast reach of coral on the eastern side of the Maelstrom.
* The Drowned Reaches, a ship graveyard.
* Gishan Caverns, generally avoided by the Naga. Giant sea creatures are expected to dwell within.
* Mak'aru, capital city of the Makrura.
* Pillar Deep, home of tube worms.
Aside the Maelstrom itself we'd be looking at a few more islands and connecting land areas near and to the south:
* Kezan. The Island which is host to the underground city of Undermine.
* Plunder Isle. An island directly east of Kezan.
* Gilneas. A human capital directly south of Silverpine forest. Currently inaccessible due to the Greymane Wall.
* The Broken Isles. A series of islands south of the Maelstrom.
* Zandalar. A troll island, also south of the Maelstrom. (ugh more trolls...)
* Tel'Abim. Another island southwest of the Maelstrom.
Wait, wait, wait! Why are we talking about the Maelstrom so far?
OK, so, if you recall patch 2.4.0 - Fury of the Sunwell, perhaps you also recall that someone datamined the files in that patch and encountered some plants never before seen in Azeroth or Outland. Some other unknown items as well iirc. These 3D objects and plants were later removed from the data files a patch later, 2.4.1 or so. A lot of speculation had taken place as to the origins or intended use of those plants. The Sunwell was to be the last patch before WotLK, and thus the suspicion was made that the plants might be for the next expansion. In the end, we were informed by a Blizzard poster that the items were "unintentionally" added into the game's data files and thus removed.
Now, Patch 3.2 is currently on the PTR, and it turns out there are some unexpected treats in there for us to see.
A poster by the name of HandClaw encountered some Halloween masks with previously unseen models. Goblin male, Goblin female, and what appears to be Worgen. The files are named "Wo" for the first two letters of the race, thus hinting in that direction.
Maybe just Wolf-people, or Wolvar or something. However, if you consider that Gilneas, which has been sitting just south of Silverpine, a place infested with worgen for years, might be added in the Cataclysm expansion as well. Suddenly things start to connect.
Goblins, Undermine, Worgen, Gilneas. Hmmmmmm...
As a result of that one picture, there's a growing thread on the MMOC forums speculating all manner of things regarding how Worgen and Goblins might, or might not become playable factions. So far the connecting pieces seem strongly in favor, but one can never be a hundred percent sure until Blizzard actually says so.
Goblins and Worgen as faction
Goblins have always had strong ties with the horde, were part of the faction during Warcraft I and II. But, in WoW they've always been a neutral presence. Steamweedle Cartel is neutral / friendly for both the horde and the alliance, Ventore.Co however, is hostile with both factions. While the zeppelin crews are friendly only with the horde.
Goblins are after your money first and foremost, explosives second.
If there's a faction of goblins specifically friendly with the Horde, and hostile with the alliance, there's no reason for the other (neutral) factions to suddenly hate the alliance as well. After all, there's also certain mostly human (argent crusade / argent dawn) factions which are neutral to the horde as well.
Starting zone? Kezan seems the most obvious location, though they might as well "start" on one of the many small islands near Kezan. That way Kezan and Undermine itself can still be neutral territory available to both factions.
How about worgen though? Never before have we seen a specifically engineered female worgen. Yet here we are, a female worgen mask. Why, other than for a playable faction would Blizzard "accidentally" add in worgen masks. There's no masks for other npcs or monsters. But, here you go a worgen mask, male and female. High quality as well.
So, would Worgen be an alliance faction then? Historical / lore blabla would indicate they strongly favor the alliance. The first Worgen were "summoned" to Azeroth by Velinde Starsong and her magical Scythe of Elune. A night elf who was able to command the worgen into battle.
Quote from the wiki:
Holding the scythe in her hands, she received a vision of chaos. Wolf-men, the worgen, battled an incredible enemy. The worgen fought savagely, as fit their primitive race, but they faced an unflinching enemy: Lords of the Emerald Flame.
It was then that Velinde realized the true power of the scythe. By focusing on it, she was able to communicate with the worgen. However, it was not speech she used to contact them. The worgen heard and understood her. By further channeling the energy of the scythe, the barriers weakened more, and she was able to draw the worgen to Azeroth. She summoned a score and a half. The worgen followed her into battle and, with their brutish strength at her command, they tore into the demons of Felwood.
In the beginning, all was well. She summoned larger numbers of the worgen to fight at her side and she marveled. Though they were of simple mind, they exhibited impressive ability to coordinate their attacks and function as a group.
She identified the leaders in their packs and gave them command of small groups. She then organized her rescued warriors into multiple attack parties, sending them out into the tainted forest to fight the demons.
She waited as her attack parties rampaged through the Felwood, slaughtering the demons in their path. Velinde waited until the appointed time for her soldiers to return came and went; only a few did. She called and searched for the people Elune had entrusted to her. She found not a trace of those missing packs. She returned to her camp, her half-man servants enjoying the freedom Velinde had given them. She lifted her scythe to contact the worgen’s violent home world. There she could bring more to her cause.
But though she had not summoned additional worgen, their numbers continued to increase. It was as though the scythe no longer required her intervention for the summoning process. She gathered as many of the packs as she could find, and ordered them to remain at the Shrine of Mel'Thandris. Velinde hurried to search the libraries in Darnassus and consulted with Onu in Darkshore, but not one scrap of information about these worgen could she find. She heard whispers of a Kirin Tor wizard named Arugal, who was said to have also summoned worgen. Velinde decided to venture to the Eastern Kingdoms and find this wizard in hopes of learning from him.
As the worgen were intelligent, and some groups of them had disappeared there are a lot of open options as to their current state. Arugal has "created" hybrid worgen who are human by day, and worgen by night. A good example of these hybrids can be seen in Silverpine forest.
The inhabitants of a small town beneath Shadowfang Keep display these characteristics. Though they are hostile to both factions, it wouldn't be impossible for a separate faction to exist, or to even have fully taken over Gilneas. Perhaps the worgen there are simply the inhabitants of Gilneas, further affected by Arugal's curse.
There have been some earlier ideas made by other users as to how a worgen faction could come into existence. The author of that article has debunked it to be a spin of his own imagination, but Blizzard might have taken some hints off it. There's also an area just north of Silverpine, and just south of the undead starting area which is inaccessible. You can't even click it, but it "is" there. Two fairly decent sized zones would allow a new race for a good starting zone.
The below pictures are fan-made, unofficial.
Mage / Rogue geared worgen.
As you can see, the worgen (And goblins) are among the few "non default NPCs" that are able to wear armor and even weapons. Perhaps an intentional foresight by Blizzard.
Next, you might have learned of a recent "bug" that was found out by hunters. This bug, or oversight allowed a hunter to tame the Worgen named Garwal during a quest in the Howling Fyord. Blizzard was very quick to give a response to this bug, and less than a day later it was hotfixed. Unlike the Ghost Wolf pet which was hotfixed much later (2 months instead of 2 days) or the tameable CrocoSlime pet which to my knowledge "still" isn't fixed after more than half a year.
Why would blizzard's reaction to these different pets be so different? Surely having a pet worgen couldn't harm anyone? Even if it's a humanoid by default, there's no real reason for them to hotfix it this fast. That is, "unless" they had plans for worgen in the near future. Such as, for example, making them a playable race.
Obviously the models for feral worgen would be different from the player worgen. Much as high elves and blood elves have gotten a complete re-modelling done to their appearance when The Burning Crusade was released. We can probably expect the same to happen for goblins if they become playable. The fact that a female worgen is coming, is in itself already a huge hint, as all the feral worgen that we know and have seen so far are quite simply all non-sexual, or male.
Blizzard has done some balancing things in the past, giving the horde a "pretty" race in TBC as the blood elves was intended to draw more players from the alliance to the horde so they could play as an attractive looking elf. The alliance still doesn't have an ugly race however, and the horde still doesn't have a short race. Indeed goblins and worgen would fit those two roles perfectly.
The WotLK worgen in Grizzly hills are markedly different from those in Silverpine in two basic aspects. Although the worgen in silverpine are able to wear a cloak, the new worgen seem to have been adapted with the ability to wear helmets and wield weapons. Something crucial for players.
And then, there's the book called Torment of the Worgen, found in Karazhan. The book gives you a buff which has a chance to transform you into a worgen for ten seconds. This allows you to see and control a "lot" of animations which the npcs never use otherwise. Laughing, working, looting, shooting bows, swinging a 2h weapon, sleeping, waving and yes even mounting. (Something most other temporary shapeshifts and costumes - other than pirates and ninjas - are unable to do.)
If you've ever been turned into a skeleton / worm / bat / cat during Halloween, you'll recall those models have "very" limited animations. Worgen however, are already nearly perfectly animated. As one poster on MMOC comments, that's an awful lot of effort to put into an NPC whose animation you'd rarely use to begin with.
Wow.com refers us to a quote from Kalgan, he mentions how Blizzard plans to "pre-seed" future playable races in the game before they actually become available. Something you can agree on, has been done with both Worgen and Goblins, plenty of lore and presence. It's quite a different approach from the way they threw Draenei into game.
So, worgen as a playable race?
While not confirmed, I'd say it is most certainly plausible.
I don't see why not.
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