Sometimes, you write a column more or less as a mental exercise, and then World of Warcraft drops an expansion pre-purchase that makes it all feel highly relevant.
The world of Azeroth is a world of astonishing variety. On Earth, we have exactly one form of intelligent bipedal life, but when it comes to species native to Azeroth that are gifted with speech and cognition, the plethora of playable races available barely even scratches the surface. And that’s without even getting into the various races available on Draenor and Argus, although at least the latter seems to be mostly limited to various flavors of demons and more subraces of Draenei.
The point is that even with a grand total of 19 different playable races, it’s easy to come up with other playable races that would be a fun time. And now that we’ve got allied races on the docket, that’s pretty viable as an option. So let’s look at a sampling (based on personal preference) of the races we can’t yet play but would still be pretty fun. Blizzard, take notice.
It seems unlikely that we’re ever going to get playable Naga, but they also remain one of the big wishlist items for what seems like every single World of Warcraft player who has even the slightest inclination toward the fishes. They run afoul of the problem wherein they sort of lack legs or feet (which are important when those are some of your gear slots) and are also pretty universally unfriendly to most races on the planet. Then again, that’s part of their appeal.
The thing is, while you could make a variant on the race that is bipedal, I think that’d be a mistake at this point; people want snake people, so playable naga need to be properly serpentine. Odds are low that the issues with armor rigging will be overcome anytime soon. Although if the designers decide to add some tail flair for lower-body armor pieces, I suppose…
By contrast, Vrykul seem like they’re something that might be possible or even plausible. Everyone loves these big Viking giants and their shouts about using various bits of your internal biology for decoration, and they’re always welcome as a splash of flavor even if their inclusion on the Broken Isles felt kind of random. They seem like they’ve got a better-than-even chance of showing up at some point.
Of course, the big downside to them is that they’re a bit one-note, but when has that ever stopped anyone? They’d even be a perfect cross-faction allied race, since they’ve got as much grounding with both factions and fit equally well with Forsaken and Humans.
Really, there are lots of bug people out there that people would probably like to play, but Nerubians are the oldest of the bunch (in terms of player awareness). And they’re also the freakiest options, enormous spiders with sibilant voices and an open contempt of everyone who isn’t a giant bug. Unlike many worshippers of the Old Gods, the Nerubians seem perfectly sane, just also unafraid of the consequences of letting the Old Gods free to corrupt the world.
That does seem to put a damper on their options for allegiance, but they’ve wound up helping people out several times, so they’re complex to say the least. Plus, hey, huge shaggy spider people.
Argus gave us some slightly more spry and lithe versions of the Broken, a sign of what happens when you let too much wild magic loose around too many Draenei for too long. There are lots of questions implied by the nature of the Draenei, the Broken, the Lightforged, and the Eredar, and the best way to answer all of those is to let us tool around with the Broken that have been loosely associated with the Draenei since we first met the uncorrupted versions. We’re nine-tenths there already, after all.
This might seem like it’s completely out of left field, but bear with me. At this point, the Burning Legion is fallen. Its leadership is gutted, its purpose is gone, its direction is nonexistent, and there are a whole lot of demons left waiting for decorations that are never going to come. It would, in fact, be the perfect time for an enclave of Eredar to decide that they’re still going to work toward the ultimate goal of Sargeras to safeguard creation from annihilation; they’re just going to do so through different means.
Plus, they would make sense as a new Horde allied race. Sure, they’d never work with the Alliance and the Draenei they’ve split from, but their extreme do-what-is-necessary attitude fits well with Sylvanas. You could see them justifying everything as extreme measures for extreme problems, and…
I may have spent far too much time thinking about this already.
Weird though it might seem, Quillboar have always felt like a fun race to me that don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve. A lot of enemy races are either explicitly low-level local threats (like kobolds or gnolls) or high-end dangers (like the Aarakoa), but Quillboar have always felt like they straddle the line. They’re a mid-level threat to various groups, but they’re a threat simply because they’ve got limited space to operate within and don’t like that space being violated.
Turning them into a playable race would give us a chance to both look at their culture and also take a look at some of the costs inflicted by the Horde’s expansion, costs that are usually either glossed over or painted as being at the expense of nature or the Alliance. I’d love to see a race of grunting pigs carving out their own identity.
“But Ethereals don’t have faces!” That’s easily rectified. Give them masks for interacting with other species, give them arrangements of bandages instead of hairstyles, there, done. They clearly can cloak themselves in armor just as easily as rags, and they’ve got a whole lot of notable history. Not to mention that there’s a vague hint that the Void Elves are already the larval form of the sort of creatures that can later become Ethereals, so we’ve got points of comparison.
Beyond that… well, do I need to specify? The Ethereals are remarkably alien and weird, with a set of rules and goals that seem almost wholly distinct from everything that you deal with in Azeroth and beyond.
First and foremost, yes, this is partly just because I love lizards. Seriously, I really think lizards are neat, you guys. Guilty as charged, yet I feel no shame for this fact. Lizards are cool. But I also think this would be interesting because as it stands, we know very little about Pandaria from the point of view of non-Pandaren groups. Even the groups we do know about like the Pearlfin and the Hozen are chiefly there as lesser groups related to the Pandaren.
And yes, I like lizards. Playable lizards would be something that I would like very much.
Almost last and arguably least, the Kobolds are one of the most consistent nuisances of the world and one of the ones we know the least about. There’s a culture there, there are goals, there are wants, there are schisms… but on the surface, we know almost nothing about it. And the Kobolds are interesting to me partly because more than any other group, they are a race with specific history and connection to the deep places in the world that we, as players, know almost nothing about.
Goblins, Dwarves, and Gnomes all love mining and tunneling down, but they’re surface races venturing into the dark below. Kobolds exist there, first and foremost. I’d love to see what we get with a race of entities for whom the underground has always been home, perhaps with notes of quiet desperation to these skittering tunnel-runners we don’t know anything about.
How long have people wanted this? I’m not even a huge fan of Murlocs, but lots of people would be happy just to garble their way across the world.