|This is a WoWWiki essay. It is not a policy or guideline.
Whenever you engage in designing a new race or speculating as to what races may be added in the future, there are a number of means that can be used to make an educated guess. When evaluating a race's likelihood of being implemented, you should consider each point in turn - though Blizzard does not always (see "Order of Official Importance" below).
The Historical Method
This lore-centered method relies upon long-term historical trends in the Warcraft storyline and the general worldview and beliefs of existing and potential player races in order to discern the likelihood of a race being implemented in a specific faction.
This method generally follows the cliche that birds of a feather flock together - races ally with races that share their ideals. Also, it looks back on the history of Warcraft, and judges if any of the races in question fought or had disputes with one another, and how long ago such conflicts were (and how vehemous the animosity between the two races might be.)
This method is favoured by roleplayers and lore-experts, and it was the (apparent) failure of the Forsaken-Horde pact to adhere to this model that caused considerable controversy when World of Warcraft was first released.
The Balance Method
This technique takes a more practical approach - taking into account important game-mechanics such as faction balance, server stability and so on. It is widely believed to be the most pressing method for Blizzard, for good reason.
It can manifest itself in many ways:
Many have suggested that Blizzard desires to maintain an equal choice and number of classes in both the Alliance and the Horde. Currently, there are currently 20 class-race combinations in each faction (25-6 in the Horde when the Burning Crusade is released), and so it stands to reason that Blizzard will maintain this pattern by making the new, Alliance race also have five or six class options. Some people have taken this theory further, guessing that Blizzard seeks there to be the same number of races that can play each class in each faction, and so suggesting that the new Alliance race will have hunters, paladins/druids (since there are very few races that worship the light that have settled or could settle in kalimdor), mages and warlocks which the Alliance will, come the expansion, have fewer of than the Horde (in the case of paladins, the Alliance has fewer race options for this class than the Horde does for it's unique class - the shaman).
A slight variant of the above is to suggest that Blizzard seeks to balance the number of races that excel in a particular status value across the factions. Character stats are important in many areas, specifically PvP, increasing the likelihood of Blizzard desiring to keep status levels fair. Currently, the Horde has a deficiency of intellect based races, while the Alliance has a defecit of stamina and strength based races. As Blizzard has added an intellect based race (Blood Elves) to the Horde, it stands to reason that they will add a race with high stamina and strength to the Alliance.
The addition of new race's city is a useful way of improving transport links and facilities for players questing on the continent on which the city is built. Similarly, the addition of a new race is likely to cause an influx of new players, trying out that race, on the continent in question, which could lead to server lag and crashes. In order to make the most out of the addition of new races and not to cause significant problems to server stability, it seems likely that Blizzard will place any new races on different continents and in places where their cities improve current facilities and flightpaths. This has lead some to speculate that, mirroring the central location of the Undercity in Lordaeron, the new Alliance race will be based in the Hyjal zone.
As it has a massive implications in PvP, high end PvE and player economy, the population of a faction is of massive importance. Thus, it appears likely that Blizzard will go to great lengths to avoid causing imbalance or to redress existing imbalances. Currently, the high population of the Alliance on most servers is believed to be due to the "prettyness" of two of the most populous Alliance races - Night Elves and Humans. As Blizzard has implemented Blood Elves as a "pretty" race on the Horde side, it seems likely that Blizzard intends to redress this in the manner we expect.
Body Model Balance
Various candidate races may have overly large or complex 3D body models or are missing key generic body parts that make them difficult for wearable item balance issues or collision issues. So far all the current known playable races are standard upright walking bipeds with 2 arms and 2 legs no taller than about 2.5 meters (estimate). While Blizzard is not obliged to continue this trend, for logistical and item design issues, it would be hard for them to diverge from this design without adding an inordinate amount of modeling work.
Examples of body model issues:
- Too large to fit through most standard doors or implying unfairly great strength, such as large ogres or giants.
- Too many appendages or limbs, such as with centaur (4 legs, 2 arms), demons (2 arms, 2 legs, 2 wings and maybe tail), dragons (4 limbs, 2 wings, and tail), dragonkin (4 limbs, maybe 2 wings, and tail), dryads (4 legs, 2 arms), keepers of the grove (4 legs, 2 arms), or nerubians (6 or more limbs, insect-based body structure).
- Not enough appendages or limbs, such as with the naga (2 or 4 arms and no legs).
The Situation Method
This is another lore method. It incorporates the immediate environment and needs of a faction and race, and uses this to judge whether or not an allegiance between a specific race and another is viable. It allows speculators to take into account ideas such as alliances of convenience and temporary pacts - in contrast to the deep commitments and pledges that the Historical Method highlights. It allowed fans to comprehend the Forsaken - Horde pact.
Some other factors used in the situation method:
- Closed Zones as potential starting areas for new races.
- Quests that involve a race with existing factions.
- Mobs seen working together including a candidate race.
The Pattern Method
This method assumes that Blizzard, particularly it's major developers such as Metzen, enjoy producing storyline developments that create patterns or compliment or contrast other races in a symbolic or socially (within our society) relevant way. From Metzen's previous plot developments (Night Elves being the noblest and oldest of elven cultures instead of an evil race of traitors as "dark" elves normally are, Orcs and Tauren being shamanic and honourable instead of monsters etc.), Metzen shows a fondness for overturning fantasy stereotypes.
Not only this, by the fact that Metzen and his people have confirmed that they have already planned the Warcraft storyline into chapters - it appears quite likely that the developments in the plot will go some way towards "painting a picture" - in some way making a unified storyline or pleasant commentary on life or a fantasy principle. In WoW, this pattern seems to be and offering of contrasts - northern Kalimdor represents Nature, and Lordaeron represents Corruption. Southern Azeroth represents Civilization, Southern Kalimdor represents Barbarity. The north represents stasis against chaos, the south represents advancement against tribalism.
Order of Official Importance
When using these methods in conjunction in order to guess the identity of a player race, it is helpful to know what order of importance Blizzard usually places the factors taken into account in each method. It seems likely, from previous experience and simple logic, that Blizzard should place them in this order:
- The Balancing Method.
- The Pattern Method.
- The History Method.
- The Situation Method.
The reason for this is that, from a game design and playability point of view, OOC factors such as balance and storyline are the most important. After all, by far the majority of Blizzard's customers care little for the reasons based on lore, and instead will be far more inclined to place game issues as having higher importance. Generally, of the lore motivations, history should be more important - a direct contradiction in the lore is decidedly unlikely - but the History and Situation methods are very close to one another in importance. Situational factors can be incredibly powerful, but if they are not highly pressing, historical grudges and trends take priority.
A recent quote from Gamespot is also relevant for the order in which these factors are valued for this expansion:
Tigole Says: (Jeff Kaplan)
- "With the Alliance race, our goal wasn't to make an "ugly" race. Our goal was to make a "cool" race. We thought of races that fit into the Warcraft lore and complemented the Alliance. We also thought of races that fit this particular expansion, Burning Crusade, and the Outland and started from there. But from the beginning, we wanted to pick something cool. At the end of the day, we needed to approach it as a player and ask ourselves, "Would I want to play that race?" Personally, I am very excited about our choice."
This seems to indicate that, as Tigole states that "coolness" (a balance issue) is of the most importance, that the developers started from the current situation (the Burning Crusade), then taking into account the history (lore) and pattern (complementing the Alliance), that the order for the Alliance race in the Burning Crusade could be seen as:
- The Balance Method.
- The Situation Method.
- The History and Pattern Methods.
In short, we must first consider factors such as (particularly) faction balance, then consider the importance of the Burning Crusade and what effects this might have on the Alliance, and only then consider the importance of patterns and/or the history.