If you’ve ever rolled a Goblin in the World of Warcraft and played through their starting area where Deathwing descends to erupt Mount Kezan after getting hit with a football (Or at least that is my interpretation of events) you’ll get a cutscene after boarding the ship to get the heck off the island where the goblin ship stumbles upon a fierce naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance. Strangely enough its the Alliance who turns cannons on you first and blows the goblin shipped pack with you in the prison hold below due to being tricked into being sold as a slave. Now of course this is a good reason for the goblins to want to join the Horde right? That the Alliance are a bunch of jerks and the Gobbies were just sooooo innocent. Of course the goblins had no way of knowing that it was the Alliance that shot them from below deck and even more interesting to me is the comment that the Alliance commander makes before they fire on you – No witnesses. They want no witnesses to what they’re doing.
It’s no strange concept to anyone on Azeroth that the Horde and the Alliance have been at each others throats since the Wrathgate broke whatever hope there was for the vulnerable peace that was forged in the wake of the Third War and the Legion’s attack on the World Tree Nordrassil. So what were the Alliance doing that was so suspicious that they didn’t want any witnesses to their actions? Well, we do get a few clues as we continue our quest to find a new home on the Lost Isles. One is that the ship that attacked us was carrying a very important prisoner: Goel the World Shaman, Former Warchief Thrall or Green Jesus depending on how you want to view him. Thrall was on his way to the Maelstrom to help the rest of the Earthen Circle protect the churning hole in the center of the ocean from imploding the planet after Deathwing, that Old God driven mad dragon aspect of being a nuisance, destroyed the World Pillar in the Plane of Earth that held things together. And wow wee does this sound like Chris Metzen’s D&D campaign notes when I write it all out like that. I should steal some of this for my own campaign.
Back on topic, we also learn that the ship is being crewed and overseen by the SI:7, the Alliance’s black ops secret forces. Which would make sense if you wanted someone to go on a secret mission to capture the former warchief of the Horde and the current holder of the title ‘World Shaman’ that was made up just for him. The real question comes in the form of WHY the SI:7 and in turn the Alliance would want to capture Thrall. The Alliance leadership KNOWS he has stepped down from his position with the Horde and left Garrosh Hellscream to lead to rabble. They KNOW that Thrall is on a diplomatic mission to aid the Earthen Circle to help stop the world – that place that they too live – from shaking itself apart. So why try and stop him?
I think the answer strangely enough comes 80 levels or so later on the opposite faction. When doing the quest chain for the Alliance to head into the Twilight Highlands, you find yourself investigate some strange activity around Stormwind with the young Prince Anduin who has begun to take a more active interest in his people’s welfare. Throughout the questline you make something of a disturbing discovery that the current head of SI:7, the man standing to the right hand side of the King himself, is a member of the Twilight’s Hammer – a cult devoted to the Elementals and Old Gods that seeks to bring about the End of the World. You ultimate stop him and prevent an assassination plot on King Wrynn but this plot element may in fact be the missing piece to solving the question of the Goblin starter zone all the way back at the start of the game.
Allow me to speculate. The SI:7, a powerful organization with little oversight that carries out secret missions for the safety of the Alliance and headed by a man who is secretly in a cult that wants to bring about the apocalypse, attacks and kidnaps the former leader of the Orcs who just so happens to be on a mission of peace to help stop the apocalypse. They attack the Horde ships hoping to sink them and chock the whole thing up to inter-faction conflict while they secure their prisoner and inadvertently aid Deathwing in bringing about the Hour of Twilight (ie said apocalypse.) However, a group of goblins accidentally happens on the scene and knowing if the word got out that this was more than just two groups that hated each other attacking each other got out – especially by the hands of goblins who are by nature greedy, not above blackmail, and have had dealings with both factions previously – well, you’d probably want to make sure that your secret activities of abusing your authority to help further the goals of an insane dragon would remain hush hush and thus give a simple order: No witnesses.
I submit for your approval that the leader of the SI:7 ordered those ships to destroy any witnesses because they actively sought out Thrall’s ship and Thrall himself to stop him from ever reaching the Maelstrom. Does my idea seem far fetched? Perhaps, but remember this is the same expansion that required you to play an Undead to level 20 to find out what happened to the rest of the Worgen starting zone story as well. Or the truth behind the Tragedy of Camp Taurajo that required playing both the Alliance and Horde side of the story AND had additional information in the Jaina novel about what happened. The Cataclysm expansion is full of weird intersects in the story. So is it that hard to believe that they planned this? I would argue that no, it’s not. In fact all the pieces fit together a bit too well for this to just be a coincidence in story telling.
Because I will say this: I don’t have a ton of love for the content of the Catalcysm expansion, but damn did it have some great story moments in there.
Back when The Shattering was just beginning to peek in the door, and people who never got a beta invite (Curse you, Blizz. CUUURSEEE YOOOUUU!) were getting their first look at what changes were about to hit the world, a very interesting discussion arose. Amidst the chaos of “Fix this bug Blizz, U lAzy!” and “OMG my class is horrible nao!” many of the lore orientated players (and it never ceases to amaze me exactly how many are out there) took to the task of figuring out exactly how many years had passed since Wrath of the Lich King, or just from the original vanilla WoW (as opposed to Cataclysm Vanilla WoW… Catanilla?)
Oh there were discussions upon discussions about it. Anduin was this age and now he looks this age, how can Van Cleef have died five years ago instead of the three we thought had passed? I simply chopped it up to represent that each expansion was about one year and the original Vanilla WoW was probably 2-3 years from level 1-60. Van Cleef died at level 18 or so, so he would have died as part of the earlier years of Vanilla, where as the assault on Ahn’Qiraj or the beheading of Nefarian would be later on. That’s just me, and I don’t think there’s any official word on exactly how much time passed and in which expansion that extra time fell in. Heck, maybe the Northrend campaign took a couple of years. It’s not like the Lich King’s forces just let the Alliance and Horde walk in.
But after the Shattering and questing around some in the lower level zones I quickly forgot the question of how many years had passed leading up to the Shattering and became more interested in the time span of how much time had passed SINCE the Shattering. There a number of instances that suggested that some manner of time had passed from the Shattering to start of the player experience at level 1. I’m sure you’ll see me bring it up in my Adventures of Vrykerion series as I look at each of the zones but the two most immediate examples of this I can point to are the Goblin starter experience and the Tauren start zone at Camp Narache.
After the Shattering, Camp Narache has gone from a training ground for young tauren to the frontline defense against a potential quillboar invasion. So when did the quillboar decide to hop out of their little valley and began a full assault on Mulgore? Why after the Shattering, of course! But this isn’t a mere “The Shattering happened and now here comes an invasion” oh no. The invasion is over. Most of Red Cloud Mesa is now under quillboar control and they’ve already raised several of their giant razorthorn plants and converted the region into their charred, grey territory. They also killed the elder of Camp Narache, Unaya Hawkwind. So when exactly did all this happen? How fast do the razorthorn plants grow? Has it been weeks or months since the Shattering?
The Goblins probably would have put a nail into this entire mystery if it wasn’t for the fact that we don’t know how long it takes a raptor to reach adulthood. Yes, I’m talking about Subject Nine. She is really the heart of this entire thing. We know that Subject Nine was a baby when the Shattering occurred, Deathwing appeared and Kezan was destroyed. We know that she is a full-grown adult with children by the time we meet her in Azshara. So how much time is that? However long it was, it was also when the goblins were able to establish the Bilgewater Harbor and all the other buildings and structures in the region.
We also know that the Lost Isles takes place at some point after Thrall has returned from Outland but just before he has reached the Maelstrom. So the goblins couldn’t have spent that much time on Gallywix’s slave ship/yacht (or the Earthen Ring took their sweet time in getting to the Maelstrom), so the time jump had to have either been on their way to Orgrimmar or after they arrived there. Honestly, I don’t have a clue on this one. If I had to take guess on the time span between the Shattering and the majority of the game play experience, I’d say it would be at least a couple of months if not more. Maybe it ties in to how long it has been from the original vanilla to catanilla. (Vanillysm?)
Unless somehow time has been shaken loose and not operating in the sense of minutes or hours now that the world has moved on, this is probably going to a reoccurring WTF moment for me going forward from here. Because until I figure this out, I’m going to be trying to piece it together with every little bit of information I can scrounge up while leveling. So as I said, don’t be surprised if you hear me mention this again while writing, because honestly – this is driving me nuts.
Location: The Secret Lab, Azshara
Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown… the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you, the full story of what happened on that fateful day in Azshara and the creature only known as… Subject Nine.
For those who are not familiar with Subject Nine, here’s the low down. Subject Nine is a raptor that was given a hat and made into a super genius by the goblin scientist Hobart Grapplehammer (Who belongs to the ‘Oh Why the Hell Not’ school of scientific thinking). You encounter her in the secret lab and assist her in rounding up some of her younglings and shooting them off into space on Nine’s spaceship that she designed: The Velocistar. It’s a quick chain of quests that gives its share of nods, in the usual tone of goblin quirkiness, to pop culture references (Nine’s Plan to Outer Space.)
So what exactly is so odd about this? Well, first of all, I’m fairly curious where the heck Subject Nine came from originally. There’s one point in Kezan where we see her, which means she originally comes from the South Seas. Were raptors a normal thing on pre-volcano’d Kezan? Did they roam the alleys of the Undermine? I know we get to see raptors on the Lost Isles, but there’s no way of telling how close or far the Lost Isles are to Kezan (Okay, there is an in game map that shows them being fairly close together, but that map also puts them within spitting distance of the Maelstrom, so I’m not exactly inclined to believe that it’s a very realistic map). Further more the raptors on the Lost Isles look like Outland Raptors (Well… that kills any theory of them being two species that developed on separate worlds. Now Blizz, explain to me why there FRICKIN’ RAPTORS IN OUTLAND?! Cause you’ve killed my last theory now.) and Subject Nine has the appearance of a Barrens raptor (More notable, a Sunscale raptor).
I’m not opposed to thinking that goblins, the top dogs when it comes to intercontinental travel in Azeroth, would have shipped in some raptors for experimentation. In fact they mention it in one of the quests at the Secret Lab that they DID get them from the Barrens (Her mate – Subject Four – appears to be a Bloodtalon raptor from Durotar). So apparently they got a bunch of raptor eggs and dragged them all the way back to Kezan and then amidst their island being blown up, being sold off to slavery and then crash landing on another island before coming to Kalimdor, Hobart Grapplehammer dragged around a baby raptor (That we NEVER see on the Lost Isles). I’m sorry but this whole thing just reeks of ‘plot hole’. Maybe I shouldn’t be taking anything the goblins do this seriously, but Subject Nine creates some of the most blaring plot holes while leveling from 1-20 as a goblin than any other sole character in Warcraft (with the possible exception of Ronin).
The other issue I had with this whole thing is why choose a raptor to make into a super genius? Raptors are the smartest beasts in WoW already! Don’t believe me? Do some questing in the Northern Barrens – They systematically attack and rob a caravan! They steal the silver from it and run off into the wild. So not only can they outwit and tactically best an armed horde wagon, but also know that silver is apparently worth something as it’s the only thing they took, and then hauled it back off to their encampment. Yes, I said encampment. The raptors in the barrens have set up their own little camps and have started to forge their own little societies. Why are we now deciding to give them the means to build and construct super weapons and send themselves to other worlds? This is just so unethical… so terrifying… and as sad as I am to say it, so very, very goblin.
Still wouldn’t scientific curiosity insist on more of a challenge of taking something smart and making it smarter? How about more of a challenge? Like maybe a crab or a tauren? When you give a species that prides itself of cunning, tactical murder and then give it the means to out think its creator (As Subject Nine actually fixes several errors with the original goblin design for the space craft), one can only hope that it sees us as worthy to be kept as pet. Just perhaps, on your way to the Crossroads, something will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it… for it may be a raptor from outer space.
Location: Ratchet, The Barrens
Now this isn’t the first time I’ve spoken about the wonderful Goblins. I’ve spoken about their efficient use of amazing machines with the Venture Company in comparison to say Orcs. But despite what the Goblins have in technical abilities, I often have to wonder about their choices in aesthetics. Gnomish technology is functional, less likely to blow you up, and definately has a unique design aesthetic that when you look at a Gnome machine you KNOW it’s a gnome machine. Other than the fact that they are usually cobbled togehter machines that seem to be rusty and a hazard to your health, I’ve never seen any intent on the Goblins part to make things look good. They seem to pride themselves on getting the job done and under budget. This probably explains why things like the Sludge Fen rig in the Northern Barrens looks like it’s about to collapse when you climb it. So when I start to see things like the giant anchor in the middle of Ratchet, I have to wonder.
I don’t think it was placed there intentionally. I couldn’t imagine a bunch of goblins taking the time to drag a huge anchor onto land and prop it up for no real reason. It would be a waste of time, money and manpower for a simple visual piece in the center of town. But then again in Booty Bay there is a huge statue of a goblin standing there in robes. I’m extremely curious about these because Goblins don’t seem to take a break long enough to even build decent homes. Most goblin towns are either domes or barely standing shacks. So why would they go to such lengths to decorate?