The next World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth, is less than two weeks away. As the name of the expansion implies, the Horde and the Alliance are teetering on the brink of a world-consuming war. In the pre-patch leading up to the expansion launch, players saw the Horde make the first major strike by setting fire to Teldrassil, the World Tree where the night elves live, and setting off a chain of retaliatory attacks.
As this war looms closer, though, player reactions are mixed. Some are out for blood, leaping into combat with the game’s new world PvP toggle, while others stand in protest of the aggression. In the community surrounding the game, lines are being drawn within the Horde and within the Alliance, dividing the two factions further into camps that support or denounce their leaders’ actions. The release of a new cinematic short, “Old Soldier,” only solidified the division, showing Horde Overlord Saurfang removing his armor and expressing his distaste in his Warchief’s dishonorable actions before choosing to fight again for the Horde.
One community member, Riizu, has taken his protest a step further. Mere hours after “Old Soldier” debuted, he had organized a new community that branches across Reddit, Discord, and the game itself: Shoulders for Saurfang. The movement encourages honorable Horde players to remove their shoulder armor, much as Saurfang did in the cinematic, and stand together. Curious about his efforts, I reached out to ask him about his new community.
EGM: So, you’ve taken a pretty bold—and visible!—stance as Shoulders for Saurfang. Members of your community are identifying themselves by removing or hiding their shoulder armor in-game. Why that choice? What’s your movement all about?
Riizu: Well, if I’m completely honest, the initial idea started as a joke playing off of the growing hype for the new World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth. Recently there has been a lot of drama/excitement surrounding a major lore character, Sylvanas Windrunner. Given her brief tenure as the leader of the Horde faction and strange decision-making, many players are concerned. This is especially important in Sylvanas’ case as she has had a very long history with a lot of promise.
Eventually, though, I decided that SFS (Shoulders for Saurfang) was a great, positive opportunity to directly bring some attention to that. It’s clear that Blizzard is aware their recent choices with Sylvanas, and the Horde as a whole, aren’t well-received, and that perhaps it’s meant to intentionally incite more faction loyalty. The hope is that Shoulders for Saurfang can be a launch point for that. I hope that SFS can provide players a way to positively share their opinions, draw excitement to the expansion, and hopefully reduce some of the ridiculous hate that’s happened recently towards members of Blizzard Entertainment.
On the literal front, SFS is pretty simple: hide your shoulders using the in-game Transmogrification feature to show your support for the above cause. Eventually, we hope to have some in-game events to also build upon the prior points I mentioned.
EGM: There’s been a ton of hate for Sylvanas over the burning of Teldrassil, that’s for sure. Some players have said that her actions go so far as to betray the ideals of the Horde. With SFS, are you hoping to have players rally back around the Horde as a whole, or around Saurfang and his more honorable actions?
Riizu: I think Saurfang and Zehkan (Shoutouts to Zappy Boi!) are an excellent example of what we are shooting for. As far as Saurfang is concerned, the current Horde stands for very little of what it used to be. Sylvanas has slowly turned it into her own personal vehicle for change, and whether or not that’s right, it’s here to stay. Zehkan, on the other hand, has no other option—the Horde is all he, and many others, have left. They either succeed or they die.
Hopefully SFS provides the same sort of support to players that Saurfang showed Zehkan. While there may be a lot of concern over what direction the story of World of Warcraft is headed, the game itself still stands because of the players and the relationships formed between them. The Horde is ultimately those players and how they support one another. Saurfang is first and foremost a literary device to represent that.
EGM: Speaking of player relationships, SFS has been growing pretty fast. The “Old Soldier” short hasn’t even been out a day yet, and you’ve got over 300 people in your in-game Community. That’s a lot of people! The Community tool is another new feature of BFA, and players are still figuring out how best to use it. Do you think it’s helped grow your movement? How does it help compared to out-of-game communities like Reddit and Discord?
Riizu: The Community feature is pretty fantastic. I work as a Software Engineer for my day job and one of the largest barriers to entry for any piece of software is how much work it takes a user to begin using it. While Reddit and Discord are both applications I use day to day, I am sure that many WoW players have never been interested in either of those tools. While we predominantly plan to use Discord to spread the news about upcoming events, the Community in-game should help to grow hype for those events and introduce people to Discord that may have previously decided to ignore it. Going forward, I would love to see Blizzard flesh the feature out more. Other games that have offered similar features almost exclusively provide basic chat functionality. Communities have limited but admittedly clunky permissions for members. A lot of features like kicking and banning are also missing. Overall, it’s a great first step.
EGM: So, you’re planning some in-game events, right? I’ve seen talk of orc players planning to kneel in front of Darnassus, and other Alliance players promising to duel honorably and spare Horde going without shoulder armor.
Riizu: Yeah! Whatever we decide to do, interested players should keep an eye on August 7th, 2018. Given that it’s patch day, we expect a lot of people to be excited about hopping on. I’d personally love to see a rally in Orgrimmar followed by a mass march to Darkshore to view Teldrassil, but anything is really possible. I hope to announce more solid details about an exact time and realm in the near future. It’s probably safe to assume it will be in the US evening and on an RP server.
As far as the EU and Alliance players go, we don’t want to leave them out either. A new channel for EU organization should be up shortly, and Alliance players are invited in both regions to help discuss and plan ideas. While I don’t want to spoil the new Warcraft novel, Before the Storm, by Christie Golden, cooperation and growth for both factions is a major theme. I’d love to see SFS echo that sentiment.
EGM: That sounds awesome. How do you think other characters would react in-game? Is “no shoulderpads” going to be the hot new fashion in Kalimdor this year?
Riizu: Well, Jastor Gallywix and his goblin cartel would never miss a chance to make a bit of gold. After all, time is money. I’d expect some fabulous new fashion trends from the blood elves, and the Tauren would be sure to show some solidarity with their Orc and Troll brethren. As far as actual player activities go, I think single-shoulder models are going to be extremely popular. A large number of people across Reddit and within SFS are looking up models on WoWHead. I’d recommend taking a look at the Appearances tab in game and looking for any shoulders that point left instead of right. Those are always single-shoulder.
EGM: Some players would probably be glad just to lose the weight. Have you seen how huge some of those blood elf shoulder pads are?
Riizu: I’d take a look at the Nightfallen —I’m not sure the transition to Horde has been too seamless. Our doorways are a tad small, and they really like their extravagant pauldrons.
EGM: Thanks for talking with me today! One more question. If SFS becomes a huge movement and goes all the way up to Blizzard HQ, and they put something in the game to commemorate the community, what would you want that to be?
Riizu: Sure thing, I really appreciate you reaching out and giving SFS some media attention! Deciding how to commemorate the community is tough. After all, we don’t know where the story is going next. I suppose a unique single-shoulder model would be really interesting, perhaps with Saurfang’s necklace dangling from it?
EGM: That would be awesome. Give every player a little visible piece of honor to show. Finally, if more players want to join your community, where can they find you?