Blizzard hasn't officially said much about the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth. But just because information isn't being blasted in PR form or hype trailers doesn't mean it isn't there. As it turns out, if you want to know what's next for the longrunning MMORPG, you need to be keeping an eye on datamines of the BfA alpha.
Dedicated fans have already uncovered tons of new assets, lore, and class changes by combing through code, and the more that's unearthed, the more it looks like Blizzard is playing coy by taking its hands off the wheel and letting fans steer pre-release hype themselves. Let me show you what I mean:
Foxy ladies coming your way
Since the alpha launched in January, loads of datamining has been related to the new fox-like race, the Vulpera. It was obvious from the start that the Vulpera used the same skeleton as Goblins, but then more and more evidence came piling on. They have a reputation tracker (one of the things needed to unlock an allied race). They have male and female customization options. They have unique animations.
Are Vulpera going to be playable in the future? Nobody knows for sure, because Blizzard won't say. But all the data gets those wheels of imagination turning in fans' heads. "What if Vulpera are going to be an allied race?" we ask, as we start to picture it in our minds: Vulpera Rogues, Vulpera Hunters, Vulpera mounts. Look at this cute little bastard! It's a fox riding a fox - two foxes for the price of one! Who could resist?
Blizzard first showed off Vulpera as background characters in the trailers for Battle for Azeroth. They certainly weren't a selling point of the new expansion. But look up almost any poll on what race fans want to see playable and Vulpera usually top the list. Datamining has turned these little critters into an obsession.
Alliance: home of werewolves and werebears
When datamining from February revealed that Zandalari Trolls (a new race joining the Horde) would get new, super cool Druid forms based on dinosaurs, players were in a tizzy. Some were pumped, because um, hello? Who doesn't want to play as a dinosaur? Others were upset and accused Blizzard of bias in favor of the Horde, because the Alliance didn't (yet) have anything revealed that could compete in terms of sheer cool factor. Dedicated miners simply set about digging up more code, this new discovery spurring on more digital paleontology. And some ran wild with speculation.
Fan site and database Wowhead produced a particularly comprehensive argument regarding the possibility of an Alliance counterpoint to the Zandalari. They started paying more attention to the lore and NPCs, eventually coming across Kul Tiran humans who seemed to have a particularly strong connection to nature and druidic magic. Perhaps the Alliance's answer to the Zandalari Druids and their sweet dinosaur forms would be Kul Tiran human Druids and forms inspired by the wicker beasts that roamed the land.
And wouldn't you know it, just this week datamining uncovered a Kul Tiran bear form for Druids. And it looks sweet.
Again, it's important to note that none of the above has been confirmed by Blizzard or commented on in an official capacity - players started discovering things organically, led by curiosity and passion. The studio could have just as easily put out a press release saying "And here are the new Druid forms you'll get in Battle for Azeroth" - but it didn't. It left breadcrumbs and let players follow the trail, leading to more discussion, more excitement, more engagement.
A possible betrayal for <REDACTED>
And lastly, there are the lines spoken by NPCs, what's referred to as "broadcast text." These snippets of dialogue have also been datamined or otherwise uncovered by alpha players, and the lines hint at some pretty significant revelations. I'm not sure how many out there play WoW for the story (it hasn't been a major focus until recent years) but consider this a SPOILER warning. Skip ahead if you don't want to know anything about Battle for Azeroth's story.
In the most recent datamine, broadcast text suggests that Saurfang (the de facto leader of the Orcs) is leaving the Horde. Considering the faction was started by the Orcs, that's pretty dang big. "I have stopped counting the days I have sat in this cell. It has, however, given me a great deal of time to reflect," he tells players when they attempt to rescue him from an Alliance prison. "You think you are here to take me back to Orgrimmar. Back to the Warchief. You are mistaken. After all she has done, I will never return to her Horde. … Make sure you know the difference between loyalty and honor. And pray you never have to choose."
Even as incomplete as this peek into the new lore is, it has fans running wild with speculation. Does it mean the Alliance will get Orcs on their side? Does it mean Sylvanas (the current leader of the Horde) is going to go full villain? Again, we just don't know, but new theories are popping up every day.
I have a hard time believing all these tasty tidbits have been inserted into the alpha on accident. I think it's far more likely that Blizzard is sprinkling these morsels around and letting fans take it from there.
Speculation is one of the most fun parts of WoW, as players wonder what new races will be playable, what new classes will be available to choose, what new lands we'll explore, what new dungeons and raids will challenge us. You can't speculate when everything's laid out on the table, and so far, Blizzard hasn't done that. They've just made suspiciously well-animated fox people, inserted one very peculiar bear, and written some gasp-worthy dialogue, all with no official comment on any of it.
But speaking of official comments: a Q&A session with game director Ion Hazzikostas will be livestreamed on Twitch today, March 15, at 11am Pacific (you can watch the embed below) - it feels strange to say, but personally I hope I come away with more Q than A.
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