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If this is the new expansion, what can we expect from it?
The KYL articles continue to fascinate me, so I'll post Anne Stickney's reaction first:
The pandaren could easily be disturbed by the Cataclysm and seek out ties with the other races. With the world in ruins, a civilization that practices geomancy and shamanism would notice.
I'm in agreement that this would seem to be a "South Seas" kind of expansion. You can find good reasons for the major races/factions to visit a bunch of marine territories, and most of these were mentioned in the Stickney post.
For the Alliance, we have some good hooks:
Kul Tiras - Obvious interest by Stormwind and even Gilneas to cement old ties; Jaina could help re-establish it as a power. If they get the old fleets back, the Alliance would see an increased interest in all kinds of naval activities.
Crestfall - Hey, doesn't Kul Tiras own this?
Zul'dare - May have something to do with trolls, and Gilneas supposedly owns it.
For the Horde:
Zandalar - If they're resurgent, the Darkspear might take the fight here. I'm a strong Alliance player, but Vol'jin has turned awesome since the Cataclysm, and we've already seen him convince Horde and Alliance to help him out. If Zul'dare has a troll connection, the worgen might find themselves wanting to come here. Because I'm trying to think of a good Forsaken hook, I'll put it here: the trolls have been magic users forever, and necromancers definitely aren't unknown. (I'd argue that the trolls seem more associated with death than any non-Forsaken faction.) What if they know a way to cure undeath through their rituals and potions? What if Sylvanas sees that as a threat?
Undermine - Yep, the goblins wouldn't mind going back, if for no other reason than profit. Surely there are a bunch of useful resources down there. In fact, there might be another opportunity for that old gnome/goblin rivalry, if some of the gnomes could get a foothold there.
Farther afield for both factions:
Pandaria - The dwarves supposedly get along famously with pandaren; it'd make a lot of sense for dwarven explorers/shaman to seek out ties with this group. They may have allied with the Alliance under Garithos against the blood elves, too. On the other side, Chen sided with the Horde, and they seem a lot like the tauren in personality.
The Broken Isles - The night elves might like to seek these out. With Azshara falling to the goblins, it'd be one of a handful of places with ancient artifacts and ruins that aren't contested. The draenei, too, might wish to see the Tomb of Sargeras (they need more to do). The blood elves could want the ruins for similar reasons, and should the Horde's warlocks see a resurgence this might be a plot point. Or warlocks of either faction, for that matter.
Tel Abim - You never know what would come up. Maybe it has connections to the Titans (gnome/dwarf hooks), ancient kaldorei/troll ruins, or a banana empire.
Plunder Isle - Pirates! Again, you could find reasons for just about anyone to come here.
What would make sense for new races/classes? Most of them are already in discussion out there, but I'll go over a few.
First, why would Blizzard include new races? The pattern so far has been races, class, races, so the fourth expansion is due for a new class, right? Well, unique classes are hard to develop, especially with only three roles (tank, DPS, and healer), and it might be easier to include new faces to fight than a whole new character paradigm. Also, people apparently think Blizzard is getting desperate over their subscriber losses, so two new races might pull people in. Especially if they're long-awaited fan-favorites. Right?
Pandaren - Obviously, with a title like that, they'd be in the running. I'm sad because the lore doesn't seem to provide a good reason for them to fight the Alliance or Horde, but I hate that the blood and high elves are so violently at odds, too, so there you go. As a "nature" society, they'd get along with either the orc/tauren/troll Horde or the night elf/draenei/wildhammer dwarf axis of the Alliance. Death knights...oh, man, that's going to be a problem. The other classes they'd bring would be shaman, possibly druids, and warriors and hunters. Racial abilities..? Well, drunken brawling, a meditative stance (better regen rates), one-handed weapon expertise. I dunno, just throwing stuff out there.
Furbolgs - I'm not sure how much I've posted about them, but I'm a huge furbolg fan and strongly believe they need to join the Alliance. Cataclysm Ashenvale quests have been setting this up, too--I'm sure of it. I'm pretty sure this would get me to resubscribe, and they bring more druids and shaman to the Alliance. Death knights aren't a huge problem for them, considering furbolg are native to Northrend. Including them in an expansion with pandaren would be odd, however--two new bear races? At least you couldn't say that one side was favored more over another. I'm not sure how well they'd fit in with the storyline, however, so I think adding some ancient furbolg ruins on an island or tying in the Emerald Dream to the furbolg druids would be a good idea. Or maybe they're related to pandaren? With the addition of phased starting zones for the goblin and worgen races, you could have a phased underground furbolg city.
Ogres - Well, if the pandaren need to remain neutral, these seem like the best choice for a new Horde playable race (considering some are already part of the Horde). Phasing could have them begin in Dustwallow Marsh or even in the Eastern Kingdoms. You could even pull something like what the Zandalar are trying to do but with the Stonemaul clan, calling for remaining ogres to join the Horde and build a better society.
This is a bit harder, as we need to figure out things that A) fit with the expansion and B) are unique. Let's look at our contenders:
Necromancer: Other than Forsaken and some renegade humans, I have trouble figuring out how they'd fit in the greater society of Alliance and Horde. They're also gonna be similar to warlocks. This is also a base class and probably not a contender for hero class, especially with death knights already around. Next.
Demon Hunter: A rogue-mage hybrid, this is something I could see possible--if they can fit it into the story. A phased starting zone in Outland would be a neat way to revisit that continent. Incorporating an evasion system could even let them be a leather-wearing tank. Storyline issues as well as which races can take it are the biggest problems with this. Would people be okay with a hero class that only elves can join? How do they fit with the seas? Some lore twinking is in order.
Runemaster: Monk-like! Pandaren have them! They're already in the lore! Runemasters could fit as a hero class, though I think I'd rather them be a base class. Even better, almost any race could take it. Humans, dwarves, and gnomes have their titanic heritage going, night elves, furbolgs, pandaren, and tauren occasionally practice this older form of the arcane, and orcs and trolls might presumably be interested in learning it from their allies (it's kinda nature-y). Handwave in blood elves, Forsaken, goblins, and draenei and we've got something for everyone. This class could, with the right runes, tank, DPS, or heal, so that's another thing going for it. It's also different enough from other classes and would probably be a melee unarmed cloth-wearer (wouldn't that be something?).
So who's gonna headline these threats? Azshara would be a good choice if she doesn't show up before Cataclysm ends. The corpse of Sargeras would bring demons back to Azeroth and give the draenei more to do. One final thought: if the infinite dragonflight is trying to keep the Burning Legion away, what if Nozdormu ends up being involved somehow? What if he knew he would die at the Tomb of Sargeras and fights against his destiny?
Okay, that's pretty tinfoil-hatty, but I'm just trying to examine the possibilities for the new expansion. What's everyone else think?[/i]