While draenei history is pretty cut and dry when compared to other Warcraft races, there are still people that either don’t understand the timeline given, or are annoyed, to say the least, with the way the events were presented. Today I’ll be addressing some of those questions and concerns, and attempting to resolve and put to rest the impressions that people have gotten over the past couple of years.
So Draenei are Eredar?
Absolutely. They’re still eredar to this day – they just took the name draenei because it differentiated them from their corrupted kin. That’s why the night elves were so frightened of the draenei at first – because to the night elves, the draenei looked startlingly similar to the demonic eredar that had slaughtered so many of their people during the War of the Ancients. Archimonde was a leader of the eredar right alongside Velen – and Archimonde appeared during the War of the Ancients, so it’s no wonder really that the night elves were as terrified as they were.
How exactly does a spaceship fit into Warcraft Lore?
Spaceship is sort of a relative term, here. The ‘spaceships’ were something introduced to the draenei by the Naaru, who have been alive as a race for an undisclosed period of time. The draenei didn’t make the ships, the naaru did – they just showed the draenei which buttons to push. The ‘spaceship’ isn’t really a spaceship so much as a dimensional ship that can travel between worlds without the use of portals like the Dark Portal in Outland.
Think of it this way – the portals that exist between various worlds, the most notable being the Dark Portal, are portals that people have to run up and walk though, one person at a time. The Dimensional Ships create the portals as they go, capable of taking large amounts of people all at once. They are, in essence, a gigantic portal that one rides around in and manipulates so that you go exactly where you need to go. But – and this is an important clarification – they are also capable of simply traveling through space, as the driver of the ship wouldn’t necessary know where to set down at if he’d never been to a particular location before.
So why did the draenei end up on Azeroth, of all places?
Simple serendipity. Azeroth happened to be the closest habitable planet that the ship could land on at the time of the sabotage. If they’d been closer to another planet, doubtless they would’ve landed there. But that wouldn’t have tied the story together anywhere near as neatly, and wouldn’t have given the Alliance a new playable race to begin with.
What’s up with the draenei being so pretty, when all of the draenei we’ve seen to date are hideously deformed? They just didn’t want to give the Alliance an ugly race to play, right?
Yes and no. While it’s true that draenei existed in game long before the events of the Burning Crusade, these draenei had been warped to the point of being unrecognizable. The Lost Ones of the Swamp of Sorrows and the Broken that wander the Blasted Lands are an extreme view of what happened to the draenei that were corrupted by the fel energy of the orcs.
While it has been suggested that the Alliance should have played these draenei instead of the ones that were introduced, that would’ve been a bad move on Blizzard’s part. The draenei in Azeroth are largely devolved and don’t really possess the mental capabilities or, well, sanity required to be a playable race.
Did Blizzard just throw together the draenei back-story so that the Alliance could have yet another pretty pretty race to play? Well…that’s really up to Blizzard to answer, but in looking at the lore that was presented surrounding their origins it seems like they were being set up as a legitimate race that would have legitimate reasons to join the Alliance. Being attractive is a byproduct of this – and when one takes a step back and looks at thing through unbiased eyes, well…of course the draenei are pretty. If they weren’t attractive in some aspect, nobody would want to play them – and that sort of defeats the purpose of a video game, doesn’t it?
Wait – I thought the Eredar corrupted Sargeras, not the other way around. What gives?
This is the single piece of Burning Crusade’s story that infuriated the largest part of Warcraft’s fan base, and legitimately so. In the original Warcraft storyline, and even in books that are currently able to be read in game, the Eredar are clearly listed as ‘an insidious race of devilish sorcerers’ that used ‘warlock magic’ to corrupt and mutate races into warped, twisted and demonic versions of their former selves.
Yes, that’s right – originally, the Eredar corrupted Sargeras. When the history of the draenei was finally announced and posted on the Burning Crusade website, fans were outraged. How could something as large as this have been overlooked? Didn’t the writing team at Blizzard even know or understand the property they’d been developing stories and games for all this time? Chris Metzen responded directly to the rampaging mobs with the following:
Right. To be totally up-front with you guys, it’s my bad, straight up. The obvious lore contradiction with Sargeras and his encounter with the eredar was clearly documented in the Warcraft III manual. I wrote those bits about four years ago, and to be totally honest, I simply forgot. Genius, right? With my excitement to get the draenei up to speed and root them more firmly in the setting, I forgot to do my homework and go back over my earlier writing. I can assure you, no ones more crushed about this mistake than I am. Ive spent the last few days kicking my own ass over this one. Sucks to fail. It may not always be evident, but we take this story stuff really seriously at Blizzard. It’s been one of my personal missions at this company to maintain a high level of integrity throughout the Warcraft game setting (all of them, actually) and I think weve done a pretty decent job of upholding the continuity over the years.
I think it’s important to note that world building is far bigger than just storytelling, and it requires (in my humble opinion) a certain amount of flexibility. Sometimes you need to expand certain ideas or retcon whole sections of continuity to broaden the scope and accessibility of your setting. There are a good number of these types of situations already (like totally revising our timeline, suggesting trolls were the progenitors of all elven subspecies, etc. there’s a hundred other examples). To make an omelet, ya need to break a few eggs, and WoWs one big omelet.
The trouble is, this has become a pretty big setting. There are literally thousands of characters, hundreds of locations, and all sorts of creatures, items, and plot themes that all define this world. As you can imagine, it’s a lot to police. Sometimes things do fall through the cracks, mistakes get made and were forced to scramble to come up with clever solutions to continuity errors. (Hakkar, anyone? ). You not only have me jamming ideas, but a ninja team of quest designers, an army of freelance RPG writers, and a commando squad of red-hot novelists who are all involved in fleshing out the lore and making it more than just wallpaper on a game.
I’m explaining all this not to excuse this particular mistake, but to give you some understanding of how the mistake was made. I’ve read a fair amount of posts over the past few days and I know theres a lot of confusion and frustration surrounding the whole eredar/draenei train wreck. Believe me, I know exactly how you feel. At the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of geeky fanboys and fangirls, and we all get pretty fired up when people start screwing with the worlds we love. If anything, all of the venting and creative suggestions Ive seen over the past few days have reinforced for me the fact that you guys really do care about this world and its troubled denizens.
While I can’t promise that these types of mistakes will never happen again, I do want to state clearly that we take the responsibility of crafting and maintaining this lore very seriously. You all pay good money to adventure through this world month by month, and you deserve the best we can give.
The full post that addressed other lore-related concerns involving the Burning Crusade is archived here and well worth the read.
Honestly, I think Metzen handled it the best possible way that he could, just by owning up to it, apologizing, and moving on. When you are dealing with a story as large and intricate as Warcraft has gotten over the years, it is difficult to keep track of all the storylines past, present, and yet to be and weave them together into a cohesive unit. There is a difference between being a reader, and being a writer – while it is easy for a reader to simply memorize everything they’ve been presented with, as a writer it is more often than not difficult to remember every last nuance of work that’s been printed, because in a writer’s mind, there’s a million more things that haven’t. When you apply this to Warcraft, a storyline that has been in progress since 1994, you’re looking at over ten years worth of story ideas to keep track of, both those that have been written, and those that haven’t.
But there’s a way to work these misprinted books into existing lore anyway, regardless of Metzen’s goof. History as a whole isn’t static. Historians are constantly discovering things that shed an entirely different light on events that had been though to be set in stone, and the retelling of historical events tends to shift over time, because each person notating that history has a little bit of their own say on what gets said, and what doesn’t. It’s like a giant game of telephone – what happened, or what’s said at the beginning, rarely matches what is said to have happened, or what comes out at the end of the telephone chain.
It’s not a far jump to assume that whoever had written these books sitting around in various Azeroth locations (and just how DID these books come to be, anyway? That’s never quite been explained.) didn’t quite get it right the first time. Whoever was in charge of the second printing fudged it a little, too. And so on and so on, until the books currently read in game bore little to no resemblance to what actually happened. But hey, that was all over twenty thousand years ago, so nobody from that time period really existed to set that record straight, did they?
Enter the draenei. Suddenly Azeroth is confronted not only with a new race – but a new race that disproves the history that had been taught and written down for however many thousands of years. You can’t really tell the survivors of a historical event, people that were present at the time it all happened, that they didn’t get it right. They were there, and they know what happened, and that changes everything about the way history is presented.
The draenei race could be considered an extreme retcon, but they could also be assumed to be from a lore standpoint, and the point of a character in game, a simple unknown. It wasn’t the history that had changed – it was everyone’s perception of that history that changed as a direct result of the draenei’s sudden arrival.
While the draenei have settled in as Azeroth’s most unlikely citizens, they also have the luxury of being the citizens with the clearest lore, timeline, and history. Unfortunately there are still thousands upon thousands of players that simply view them as the space-goats that should never have been, an element to be largely ignored. I hope that this brief exploration into the world of the draenei manages to clear up a few of these misconceptions, and shed some light on a race that has been largely left in the dark.
Next time on Lore History: We’re moving right along through Alliance and Horde, and it’s time to look at the most evil of evil races – The Forsaken!