On a lark, I loaded up the beta client and the current game at the same time, and decided to simultaneously tour the Draenor and Outland versions of Shadowmoon Valley. Those who played through Frostfire had claimed that certain geological features from Blades Edge were evident, and I was curious if Shadowmoon offered the same phenomenon. Very quickly, two facts became clear. First, Gul’dan and the Shattering had utterly destroyed Shadowmoon’s topography, and second, that Blizzard’s zone development skills have grown immensely in eight years.
I tried to begin by comparing the maps of the two zones, but even from there, some key differences emerged. The Black Temple is the Temple of Karabor, but even that was greatly altered. The series of steps that ascended from the Path of Light to the Temple Doors had been replaced with a beaten, slightly uphill path. The gardens on either side replaced with fortifications of their own. At some point, as the Temple shifted from orcish occupation to a Legion fortress and finally Illidan’s residence, the structure itself warped. The sheer magnitude of these changes is staggering.
Another familiar location in both zones is the Altar of Sha’tar. In Outland, it is a small destroyed outpost Northwest of the Temple. On Draenor, it is part of a village named Elodor. There seems to be a tower in both locations, but the appearance of the towers is so different, it is not clear if they are intended to be the same. It appears that mountains rose up behind the tower (or perhaps, the Altar in Outland is part of Draenor’s Elodor proper, with the earlier Altar having been consumed by the mountains or dropped from the continent). Leaving the Altar is when the geography begins to get confusing, as slightly southweset from the Altar are the Ruins of Baa’ri.
On Draenor, Embaari Village is further West of Elodor than Baa’ri appears to be from the Altar. The road that comes around Embaari is also offset from the Elodor settlement. On Outland, the two locations are effectively across the street. You can see the Temple and Baa’ri from the Altar, while you can’t even see the entirety of Elodor at any one point on Draenor. The canonical explanation for this would be that after Gul’dan summoned the volcano and then shattered the planet, let alone thirty years of war and domination by the Legion, the locations of these structures shifted to where they are today. The real explanation is that Blizzard has gotten exponentially better at zone design.
When watching the Star Wars movies in episode order, a peculiarity occurs. The first three installments feature plenty of hovering technology and thin droids — all state of the art technology that one would expect in a future society. Then, for the final three chapters, the robots and vehicles become bulky, and there are less flying objects. Anyone familiar with the series’ production knows that the first three movies were made twenty years after the latter three, and the changes in effects allowed George Lucas to present a world that was much more vibrant than he could two decades earlier.
Computer graphics allowed for much more elegant creations that did not require physical puppetry (and the bulk to mask such puppetry), and as a result, it almost seems that the rise of the Empire leads to a technological step backwards. With Blizzard revisiting old Draenor nearly a decade after introducing us to Outland, a similar effect is created amongst the architecture and even the wildlife. Elekk, for example, look completely different, even though they are the same creature. The sheer number of polygons available have allowed Blizzard to flesh them out beyond a simple space-pachyderm and into something much more menacing. The same thing has happened to Shadowmoon Valley on a greater scale.
The old Shadowmoon Valley in Outland feels small. Perhaps its a result of being able to fly up and look down upon the zone, but each location feels small and packed in with the rest of the content. The Ruins of Baa’ri look to be a collectoin of a few buildings, while Embaari Village is a sprawling settlement. (On a side note, to see the Ashtongue Deathsworn patrolling their former city as mutated servants to Illidan is heartbreaking, now that we can meet these very same citizens before disaster befell them.)
Blizzard was able to implement rolling fields for the Talbuk and Elekk to roam, whereas previously Shadowmoon was mostly home to the Legion, with a few chimera and flayers as the only remaining wildlife. Of the zones in Outland that we are returning to, the Shadowmoon that we experienced had been so vastly transformed that Blizzard was free to represent it however they saw fit. They even added marshy areas to the exterior with mushrooms and sporebats to recall Zangarmarsh, since that zone is completely underwater at this point.
The original Shadowmoon Valley was intended to be a max level zone for players to prepare for their assault on Illidan in the Black Temple. To that end, the zone featured plenty of high level Legion minions with ruins of the Draenai civilization around to underscore the devastation. In Warlords, Shadowmoon Valley will be the starting zone for the Alliance. It is their introduction to Draenai culture as it was, before the orcs and the Legion decimated their race. Blizzard was able to massage the geography so that ruins became fully realized towns, with a populace that emphasizes just how much the Draenai of our timeline have lost. Children can be found throughout all the villages in Shadowmoon, some sitting with teachers, while others are playing with pets.
We do not the fate of those children in our timeline. While some NPC’s bear familiar names, many do not, and its presumable that their dimensional-counterparts fell in the orc’s rampage long ago. The Shadowmoon Valley of Draenor is idyllic, and amongst the most beautiful zones Blizzard has produced. To know that it can become the bleak grey and green hellscape of Outland is depressing, but at least we are given the opportunity to protect this version of it. Karabor may no longer be a capital city, but Shadowmoon Valley will still be a place that plenty of Alliance players will want to call home.
NowGamer made their own Shadowmoon Valley comparison video. Check it out for more side-by-side comparisons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PhFlJUSy9k
DARK APOTHEOSIS IS BEING REMOVED AND REPLACED WITH A GLYPH THAT CHANGES YOUR METAMORPHOSIS TO GIVE YOU WINGS! BLIZZARD!!!! NOW YOU HAVE AWOKEN MY WRATH!!!!!! https://twitter.com/AlarStormbringe/status/492397667549343744
Blizzard previewed a bit of the Warcraft movie at Comic-Con. Its got orcs AND humans!!! http://wow.joystiq.com/2014/07/26/sdcc-warcraft-movie-details-from-legendary-pictures-panel/
Log in to WoW by 9/30 to flag your account for the Horde bike that won Azeroth Choppers so you can receive it at expansion’s launch. So not only do Alliance players not get a mount with treads, they can also save $45 by staying unsubscribed for the Summer! Thanks, Blizz!!! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/14833866/get-to-your-choppa-7-24-2014
New artcraft showing the female Tauren! Wow, she looks good! I’d tip that. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/14905496/artcraft-body-moovin-7-24-2014