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WoW: Loremaster's Corner #5: A Steampunk Paradise

Posted Tue, Mar 09, 2010 by Xerin

World of Warcraft is almost a steampunk paradise if you look at the various technological advancements the gnomes have made. Most of engines are powered by steam and there are giant airships floating around everywhere. Want to go somewhere? Hop on an airship. Want to run a tank? Just make sure the steam pressure is charged.

There was a really good game that focused on the various differences between steampunk and magic. It was called Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. It was the flagship game of Troika Games which was founded by Interplay employees who quit Interplay to make their own studio. Troika Games also produced the popular (within the Internet crowd) Vampire: The Masqurade: Bloodlines game and employed Leonard Boyarsky who now is the lead world designer on Diablo 3. Arcanum told a very detailed story about a magical fantasy world undergoing industrialization and the inner conflicts between people who believed purely in magic, those who embraced both, and those who relied purely on technology.

It's not everyday that I can break out this image. Missing: Rise of Legends Rant

The reason I mention this game is because we’re soon to march within Gnomeregan and retake the technological capital allowing the gnomes to return to full functionality (their workshops, launch bays, etc.) while the Goblins will be joining up with the Horde and bringing in a much need technological boost as allies and not paid contractors. However, there is kind of a subplot within WoW about magic vs. technology.

It basically comes down to this. The Gnomes, Goblins, and Dwarves are quick to embrace technology. They do not in any shape, form, or fashion mind using technology. They’re quick to build new things for fun, profit, or both. Elves hate technology because they view it as something that’s destructive (a theme shared with Arcanum) and you will not see much of it in either Darnassus or Silvermoon. Humans are neutral to the whole ordeal without much thought into it, but they’re open to it.

The majority of the Horde could care less about it. Orcs steal technology, the Forsaken care a little bit about it, Taurens make elevators, and Trolls like guns. That’s it. There isn’t any major Orcish invention that isn’t focused on blowing people up and there aren’t many original Orcish designs. Of course, like I said earlier, Elves do not like technology at all meaning Blood Elves do not want to look at it. Even their Arcane Guardians are not robots but instead arcane constructs.

Of course, in Cataclysm this may all change. We’re going to see the Gnomes and Goblins working full steam (get it) ahead to mix even more steampunk into our fantasy setting. I have no doubts that more airships, flying machines, and steam engines will be rolling out and that Gnomeregan will be thick in spinning cogs and tons of mechanical contraptions.

Like last I wrote, Blizzard can do a lot more now with the lore and bring in a lot of things that weren’t out when WoW first launched. Some of the bizarre things like the manga characters are pretty eh, there is the RPG game that contains a lot of fun things that didn’t make it into the game. Like steam armor, a suit of armor powered by steam with various weapons and defensive systems. You can even get auto-repair bots that are small steam/clock powered devices to repair the armor as it takes damage. If that isn’t cool then I’m not sure what is.

This logo is so steampunk.

If you look at it though, there is room for a lot of steampunk-ish design to creep into the game and some fun things to do with the lore. Elves traditionally hate technology (in Arcanum the elves did not like you much if you had too much technology rating) and there could be some interesting plots where they deny airships or advanced mechanical defenses in turn for a more druidic or arcane approach. Again, with Goblins and Gnomes becoming primary races with their own capitals, we can only assume that there is going to be a lot of interesting stuff coming from them.

I’m a big fan of the steampunk genre and I’ve loved things like the Deeprun Tram and the airships, but I see Cataclysm as bringing about more rocked powered Jeeves. In that sense, I hope that Engineers finally get a lot of nifty tools and stat bonuses that don’t require Saronite bombs. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could make your own airship and have your friends ride around inside of it? I think that would be amazing!

Well, that’s my little rant on steampunk and technology. Feel free to add your thoughts on our forums!

Lore Theorycrafting

What if your class and professions got you treated better or worse by some cities? What if there were cities that kicked you out because you were an Engineer and others that would only accept you if you were one? I think it would be an interesting lore mechanic and give a bit of depth in the inner cultural aspects of the game. Of course, I also wonder what you’d think as well. 

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