Thursday, July 17, 2014

One Whelp... Handle It

I like the story behind Wrathion, or should I say the story behind the story.  The words unsaid are sometimes so much more powerful in the fantasy genre than those that are said, even more so in the medium of gaming.  Telling us everything, while it might seem nice, is really something only a bad writer does.

As an aspiring writer (published but nothing that would even show as a blip on anyones radar) who has been working on fantasy the last few years I have my own character that I can say is a Wrathion type of character.  Perhaps that is why I like him, I see something in him that is very familiar.  My character however stays in the background and to most people he would just seem like a vehicle to move the story along, nothing more.  He comes in, says a few lines, sends people off in a direction and then goes back to his, seemingly, inconsequential life.

To the eagle eyed fantasy reader they will notice that he often appears in scenes in the background.  I make enough of an effort to mention someone is there but never mention it is him directly even if I might leave some clues for someone to deduce that.  He remains a background player only with the intention to use him much further down the road.  Blizzards writers are doing the exact same thing with Wrathion but with an admittedly much heavier hand.  They are not exactly hiding the fact that he is an important character and will play a much bigger role later on.  For some, the ones that like that mystery, this really takes away a lot from the character because he is basically shoved in your face and screams at you "I am really important, look at me".

Each time I go and talk to him I wonder why we just do not kill him.  He is just a whelp and while he is an extremely powerful whelp he is still only a two year old whelp.  Dragons mature much faster than us humanoids but you can tell some things even dragons share in common with humanoids and that is the fact that he throws a temper tantrum when things do not go the way he wants.  I must say I really enjoyed that part and give credit where credit is due and it is due there.  It was a nice touch for the writers to make sure to add something in there to remind the player that we are talking to a child.  A child more intelligent than any of us, but a child none the less.

The biggest part of the Wrathion storyline that I enjoy however is the part that remains unwritten.  The part you never hear mentioned.  The part I made up in my own mind, and maybe you did as well.  And that is the beauty of fantasy and even more so the beauty of a good hook in fantasy.

Lets change topics for just a moment before I head back to Wrathion.  Lets talk about one of my favorite villains in the game, Gul'dan.  I've been writing about him on and off for years now.  Even if his name is on the tongues of many now because he has been brought to the forefront of the story line I have been pushing for more on him since wrath before cataclysm was announced.  I was hoping that cataclysm would have been something to do with Gul'dan.  Sure there was that pesky little problem with him being dead and all but that has never stopped any fantasy writer from using a character or finding some way to bring him back.  The beauty of fantasy is that you know there is always a suspension of belief that people are willing to hold back and because of such you can get away with a lot of stuff you could not like with a crime drama or something else of that sort.

What it was about Gul'dan that I liked the most was that he was a pure villain.  He did things for himself because he wanted to.  He wanted power, more power than he could handle, more power than he could imagine.  But he did not want it for any other reason than for wanting power.  He would make a deal with the devil if need be to get it.  He would kill anyone that got in his way to get it.  He would parade around and bask in the glow of his own power for no other reason than to be in awe of himself.  He has no ulterior motives for wanting it, he just wanted it because it was there and he could have it and that is what makes him a great villain in my eyes.  Pure evil for no reason other than the desire to be powerful.

Now back to Wrathion and that background story I was talking about that was never written.  We all know Wrathion is going to be a big part of the story later, most likely the boss of his own expansion.  As I mentioned blizzard is really heavy handed with this character so that is not something that will ever come as a surprise to anyone.

They are not looking to play the long game of development and then twist it.  They almost come right out and tell us he is going to be the bad guy even as they mask it in the idea that he wants to save Azeroth from the Burning Legion.  Arthas was just trying to save his people too and I doubt you would find many people that would say what he did at the end of that quest was not something a bad guy would do.  Sometimes even the most noble of intentions can lead to evil and that is what they are developing our little whelp to turn into.

The part of the story that has never been said and the part of the story that really intrigues me is the fact that Wrathion is not just on his own quest to turning evil.  He is taking every single one of us with him and we are walking that path with him willingly in an effort to gain power.  For the for sake of power, power to kill everyone in our way, power so that we can bask in the glow of our own power.  Notice that cape proc?  That is us basking.

What is the difference between my hunter and Gul'dan?  There is very little difference.

Gul'dan does things because he wants to do things.  There is no reason behind it.  And he grabs for power wherever he can get it and no matter who he needs to make a deal with to attain it or who he needs to kill to get it.  Stepping on or over people on his way does not matter as long as there is power at the end of the tunnel.

We are in the exact same position that Gul'dan was in and we have made the exact same decisions that Gul'dan has made.  We are willing to make a deal with the devil to get power and we keep returning to the well to drain more power from it.

As I mentioned Wrathion is not fooling anyone, blizzard and their writers have made sure of that.  We all know that he is the bad guy of the future but in our effort to gain power we go back to him and do tasks for him in exchange for power, no different than Gul'dan would do.

Once we get a taste of that power, the sha touched gem, one we know is evil as it is sha touched, It does not stop us on our quest for power.  We keep going back for more power.  We go back for a weapon enhancement, then for a meta gem and then for a powerful cloak and then for a cloak that has the power of the black drake himself.  We keep offering up our service to Wrathion in exchange for what he has to offer us in return, power.  We do so knowing that he is the bad guy but none of that matters to us, we want power.  We did not need that power.  We could have just as easily vanquished our foes without it but we could not resist that taste for power.

That is the part of the story, the untold part of the story, that really grabs me.  Sometimes fantasy is so much better when you think of those words not spoken, the words not written, the knowledge not known.  In this case, Wrathion has turned us all into exactly what we have been fighting against.

We are Arthas, someone who sought the power to do something he could not do on his own without it.  We are Garrosh, someone who wanted power so he could carry out an agenda.  And worse, we are Gul'dan, someone that seeks power just for the sake of having it even if he did not need it because the desire for power never stops once you have a taste of it.

Wrathion turned my characters and your characters into the power hungry, weapon wielding, messengers of death by giving us a little bit of power.  He did it not because he thought we needed it to get the task done, not because he wanted us to be that powerful, but he did it because he knew that if he gave us just a little taste of power we would keep coming back and we would be serving his purpose.  He controlled us by giving us little tastes of power and getting us addicted to it so we would keep coming back for more power.

Each time we returned to Wrathion after completing one of his quests we fell deeper into the realm of becoming everything we have ever fought against.

The unwritten story, the fact we have become Gul'dan, a person that thirsts for power for no other reason than to have it, now that is a story worth telling and the best part is that blizzard did not tell it, but if you are one of those eagle eyed fantasy fans, you can see it as clear as a motion picture running in your mind.

Knowing what he will become, seeing what is is doing to us, maybe we need some raid leader to yell out.  One whelp... handle it.

We really should have killed him.  But that would just complete our turn to evil now if we did it wouldn't it?  Catch 22?  If we kill him and take his power in the process then we are the evil he was turning us into with our greed for power to begin with and if we don't he will no longer be a whelp we can easily take out as I am sure he will never give us enough power to compare to him later on but just enough power to keep us coming back.

He is pretty damn smart of a two year old don't you think?  He played us like a fiddle.

So how does it feel to know that you are the bad guy?  No denying it.  We are everything we have ever fought against now.


  1. Well if you look at the design of the game, our characters aren't heroes. We're mercenaries, and hired guns.

    We go from town to town and get paid and rewarded for doing things others can't or won't do.

    We kill for money and armor. We don't question our actions or the people we work for. We dispense the justice we're paid to administer. Bring me this man's head. I want this one alive. Kill these animals. Please help me rescue this animals.

    Our bosses say thank you and hand us some gold or armor and we move on.

    But, yeah we should have just taken Wrathion, and probably a few others out.

    1. I've always seen it that way, but we are doing it for petty coins usually. Maybe a piece of gear or something. We are also doing it, even if maybe wrongly so, for the greater good.

      I see our relations with Warthion to be more... evil, so to speak. We are doing it seeking power. Pure power. We did not need the power he offered to beat the foes for the "greater good" but we keep going back to him and helping him because we became addicted to the power. Not because we wanted to do good.

      I think our interaction with him are us playing the role of pure evil, evil for the sake of evil. Not killing 10 boars for some coins so we can feed fluffy and ourselves, which is what most other quests seem like.

  2. I don't think wrathion is evil.

    He's a manipulative deceiving conspirating guy, that will stop at nothing to make sure his ultimate goal is met, but he is not evil.

    He doesn't seek power or destruction, he try to make sure azeroth have a future, same as the titan for example. they're not evil, but if they were to come to azeroth now I'm pretty sure they would wipe out the planet.

    That doesn't make them evil, it make them pure logical being.

    1. I agree Wrathion is not pure evil, I actually even said that. He is like Arthas where some times people do wrong things for the right reasons. His reasons might be to save Azeroth, but that does not means he is not the bad guy or to some extent is not evil in a sense that he will use and manipulate anyone and everyone he needs to so he can meet his ends.

      It was Gul'dan that I called evil and he is. Evil for the sake of being evil and that is what makes him such a great bad guy in my opinion. He does it in the pursuit of power. Just like we are doing working for Wrathion. We are the evil ones.

      I wonder a lot about the titans for them to have left us behind like this and never even though to check in on us. It does not make sense that they would just abandon one of their creations like this. But perhaps, just perhaps, in the tens of thousands of years it has been for us it has been only a blink of an eye for them. So we see it as them being gone for such a long time, but to them they have only been gone for 3 minutes.

  3. Nice blog!
    The whole time I was doing this quest line, I was thinking, "should I really be doing this"?

    1. Same here, it just felt off. We always work as hired guns so to speak but sometimes it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth and this was one of them for me.

  4. actually, I haven't even given him the satisfaction of drinking his dirnk that he orders. Nope,have not done his quests at all. And so, that should mean he doesn't become a bad guy in my world as I have not helped him. But noooo, you and all the others who so greedily want that cape, you guys help him. Tis a sad place to say.

    1. He will still become the bad guy and so will we. Soon it will be your job as one of the few that did not succumb to his offers of power and become a power junkie to take us all out.

      You are one of the untainted, you are one of the pure. You are the next generation of hero. One day you will be forced to strike me down on the field of battle.

      I will not hold it against you, you will remain my friend. It is my own fault and weakness that made me fall into the pit of darkness in a quest for power.

      The question is, can you defeat us before we all take over.

  5. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    I have to say upfront that this topic strays very dangerously near the truth of our times, that moral clarity has been disfavored in comparison to moral ambiguity.

    The man who shot Liberty Valence was in truth a flawed immoral at best individual though the fraud who claimed to have shot him was basing his subsequent rise to power and fame on a lie. That was John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart portraying those roles respectively, about as iconic as you can get All-American actors. Yet those roles were not thought beyond the pale because popular culture recognizes that folk have feet of clay. If a movie that far back with such stalwarts of American film as those two actors can portray the moral ambiguity of real life, then I think it would be remarkable indeed if a popular game in 2014 had the ability to portray life any other way.

    There have been a lot of quests that I have done and yet thought about it and did not really want to do the quest because of the morality involved. What business is it of a paladin to be involved in torture or even deception for that matter?

    This is a flaw in blizzard quest design. Such moral choices should lead to a fork in the quests available and not simply a cut off or go on choice. Perhaps such decisions should be tied to reputation gains or losses, depending upon the class choice.

    No, what Blizzard presents as at best a moral ambiguity should have options to also take a moral stance or an immoral stance with consequences beyond merely obtaining a material item. That it doesn't shows weakness in the overall story as well as the game mechanics. As it stands no one is really allowed to take a course that is truly good or truly evil in the game, instead you can follow the course laid out or you can wander in the wilderness so to speak.

    Even after 10 years of game play, it is still this way or no way when it comes to the Blizzard quest lines. That failure to improve is yet another indication that while many bright folks work at Blizzard, they do not have a good vision of what could be done with the talent available.

    1. There will always be a morally grey area in everything. Some more than others like when we need to torture the one person while doing a quest in the amber ledge in the borean tundra. I have heard many people say they had issue with that.

      I just do them and move on, it is only a game and I play it as such. If zapping him a few times gets me experience, so be it.

      The only time that becomes an issue is when people can not tell the difference between fantasy and reality like we sometimes see in the news. There was a news story with a woman ran over her husband with a car and then backed up over him all because they had a fight. She had no intention of killing him, even if she did, she was just mad at him. Her defense was that runs over people in grand theft auto all the time and they are fine.

      That is an individual issue however. Someone with serious mental issues. I don't think I would ever blame a game for something like that.

      Another little thing I'd like to mention that I heard a long time ago. Things, as we see them, often depend on where we are standing. To England George Washington was a terrorist, to the Americans he was a hero. Who is right?

      Even if life that grey area is pretty darn large.

    2. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

      Ah, the extreme lunatic fringe who have some vague association with reality, and who happen to be a gamer also. The hysteria can be quite overwhelming at times, twisting reason and truth into shadowy representations of reality. I have seen it first hand myself in a local case called the D & D murders, one that found itself sprawled across national headlines and turned into two different movies, neither of which bore the slightest resemblance to reality. At the end, the local prosecuting District Attorney said it best (paraphrased) when he called the case simply one of greed and murder most cold blooded but not of some gamer induced insanity.

      But no, that is not the subject on which I or you originally spoke. Instead, the subject of what exactly Wraithion support by a player character entailed and implied, expanded upon to include the overall lack of choice in quest lines is a much more interesting topic to me.

      As it stands now, reputation is of a financial/commercial value only, allowing for a discount price and or the purchase of particular items. It could be used for a lot more. Killing Goblins to gain Bloodsail reputation when it has no real practical usage in the game and in fact has practical disadvantages, such as eliminating all the goblin flight paths and vendors is an example of Blizzard being willing to play with Reputation. Aldor vs Scryers is another example of Reputation choice and effect. More effective use of Reputation opening different quest lines could have been a choice all along in the game. The hints of such are there, but that style of game play was never truly developed to any real extent. I think that is a shame.

    3. There are other options they could add for reputation but I think the reason they stay away from it now is too many people complained that they and their friend could not hang out in the same place now because of reputation or something lame like that.

      In the end we will always be called on to kill massive amounts of people to "please" another person so that we can get a discount. Makes you wonder what horrible people we really are. It is not like they are asking us to cook food for their homeless, build homes for them, provide clothing, or fish for them. They are asking us to kill for them. Maybe one day they will have a faction where we need to do "good" things for them to get reputation.

  6. There was a game years ago that used your choices to affect the outcome of the game. A bards tale.

    1. I played that. I actually have a collectors edition they came out with some years back for the modern PCs. When I played it they had those big floppy disks and computers did not even have memory of its own, everything was saved on disk.

      It is one of the reasons I loved wasteland and am looking forward to wasteland 2 which is coming out. I liked those sorts of game from that time era.

      But you really are making me feel old now. Thanks. lol