WoW! Thoughts! — On the Time Travel Expansion that Isn’t

Thoughts on just how well did Blizzard understand their plans for Draenor when discussing the expansion at Blizzcon.

MILES: What the hell are you doing, Tubby?

HURLEY: Checking to see if I’m disappearing.

MILES: What?

HURLEY: Back to the Future, man. We came back in time to the island and changed stuff. So if little Ben dies, he’ll never grow up to be big Ben, who’s the one who made us come back here in the first place. Which means we can’t be here. And therefore, dude? We don’t exist.

MILES: You’re an idiot.


MILES: Yeah. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t change anything. Your maniac Iraqi buddy shot Linus. That is what always happened. It’s just…we never experienced how it all turns out.

HURLEY: This is really confusing.

MILES: Yeah, well, get used to it.

Lost, 5×11 “Whatever Happened, Happened”

With the Warlords of Draenor beta underway, spoilers are being revealed that are challenging the common understanding of the metaphysics behind our journey to Draenor.  Time travel is a heady subject, and many players are confused because their concept of time travel involves stories like Back to the Future, where a person can alter the past and then return to the present to deal with those changes.  War Crimes made it clear that the Draenor we will visit is not the same Draenor that birthed our orcs and becomes our Outland – it is a Draenor from an alternate timeline.  The problem is that much of the confusion comes from Blizzard’s introduction of the expansion back at Blizzcon.

Putting aside the ambiguity of phrases used in the intro cinematic and on presentation slides to introduce the expansion, such as “When past and present collide” and “What if… Garrosh Hellscream… made one little change?”,  Blizzard’s best opportunity to explicitly address any and all time travel confusion was at the Lore Panel.  The panel features an exchange between Dave Kosak, Chris Metzen, and Alex Afrasiabi regarding just how we get there.  On my first re-watching, I was dismayed by how wrong they are.  While Kosak defuses Back to the Future comparisons by joking about Thrall playing guitar at his parents’ high school dance, Metzen reignites them with an explanation of his own.

Metzen: Like with the time thing, I mean, I mean you know, we’ve got a number of stories kinda set in the past. I mean War of the Ancients and things like that and there have been issues over time where there’s little potholes or little, you know, little breaks in the line.  You know, as that factored into this expansion set in – in really chasing this story, we certainly thought a lot about that.  And time travel stuff’s, it can be, it can be pretty rough.  Just as as writers and making, editorially making sure everything lines up and everything’s hip.  Sometimes, you know, things don’t go to plan so with this one we just want to say very clearly that, ‘Yes, at some point – oh my god some point soon – Garrosh will go back in the past, but the point at which he arrives, which is slightly before the events of Rise of the Horde

Afrasiabi: You can stop now.

Metzen: Doh! I’d lost my train of thought. See how complicated it is!  But at the point at which he arrives, its all norm – you know, normal kinda continuity at that point, and the point at which he arrives, effectively, its like, its its own gig.  Our world’s fine.  History’s fine.  The threat ultimately is it, maybe it makes like a quantum s- I’m not gonna go there.

On first viewing, it appears that Metzen is describing exactly the Back to the Future scenario – that Garrosh goes back and changes the past and creates a new branch of the timeline and Kosak’s comments imply that Blizzard will define the rules so that we do not have to worry about Thrall fading into oblivion.  Which, if that is what Metzen meant, suggests that the mechanics of time travel had not been decided upon at that point, which is disappointing.

On subsequent viewings, however, the point at which Metzen cuts himself off gains importance.  Metzen could have stopped when Afrasiabi interrupts, but Metzen specifically continues and then ceases only after dropping the word “quantum.”

The Draenor we are going to, as indicated in War Crimes and through events and characters encountered in the beta, is not the Draenor that becomes our Outland; it is an alternate Draenor.  The Back to the Future metaphor does not apply, because rather than Garrosh splitting the timeline in two at the point of his arrival, the timelines were always separate.  But Metzen’s ‘quantum’ suggests that this timeline is still created by Garrosh.  When Garrosh changes the future for the orcs of Draenor by preventing them from drinking the blood of Mannoroth, that action has effects that ripple through time, forwards and backwards.  The result is that Garrosh’s actions affect events that occurred even before his arrival on Draenor.

To the casual observer, those events would make it appear as if this Draenor is different, even though it is in fact the same.  The flimsy nature of timelines means that Kairoz can say, “You are home, Garrosh Hellscream.  But no . . . This is not the sky you grew up with,” when discussing the sky over Nagrand.  Rather than searching an infinite number of Draenor’s and selecting this one to send Garrosh to, Kairoz brought him to Draenor, and the way events play out is the way they must play out, for this strand of time.

As much as Kosak and Metzen did not want Warlords of Draenor to be known as the time travel expansion, that will be its fate.  Even though dimensional travel is just a plot device to get us to this savage, epic world, it is too complicated a story point to be easily dismissed.  Burying the explanation in War Crimes is a shame because while it is a great book, not enough players read the novels, and this lore is too important to leave ambiguous.  Given that this expansion will lead into the next, it will be interesting to see just how this alternate Draenor winds up affecting the World of Warcraft.

WoW! Blurbs!

New Artcraft on the Male Draenai.  SO VEINY!

Bottom’s Up continues where the Mists of Pandaria cinematic left off.

The Gaze of the Black Prince buff is back this week.  Where’s the buff that weakens Wrathion so I can beat him to move onto the final part of the questline?

Molten Corgi pet announced!  I don’t think it was unleashed so much as the leash burned off…

New corehound mount datamined!  Worried about losing your job?  Now you can literally sit in the hot seat!

The Undermine Journal looks to be closing at the end of the month.  Thanks for the years of auction house info!  You will be missed! :(



Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

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