Aesthetically, whatkind of World Of Warcraft character do you go for? Do you like the big, no-nonsense, tough-guy orcs and taurens - the kind that could splinter bones with their little fingers and don't get invited to dinner parties? Maybe you don't like straying too far from the norm and prefer humans. Sensible, dependable, no unnecessary horns, lovely little bit of Chaucerian countryside and scones for tea. Perhaps you prefer something a bit nicer to look at, a lithe female night-elf with a chain-mail bikini and a generous nature when it comes to giving out lap-dances?
Whatever you choose, there's usually a bit of you in there somewhere, or perhaps a little bit of fantasising about what you'd like to be, should you ever find yourself raised in a world of swords and sorcery.
During the last year and a half, various posts have sprung up in the WOW forums debating the visual appeal of the Horde and Alliance avatars. One of the theories was that players (with a side-note towards female ones) weren't choosing Horde characters because, well, they're a bit nasty-looking. In the US, Alliance players far outweigh the Horde ones, although we evil-inclined Europeans tend to sway a little more towards the dark side.
It certainly looks like a factor Blizzard have taken onboard when developing the Alliance-based Draenei and the Hordish Blood Elves, their new characters for WOW's expansion, The Burning Crusade. Frank Pearce, senior VP of product development at Blizzard, explains further: "The aesthetic look of our new characters was certainly a consideration and it wasn't just a consideration for female players. In Asia, we've found that players of both genders are more attracted to the Alliance characters, which they find more visually pleasing. But mainly, we just wanted to focus on making the content fun and compelling, which will draw people to it regardless of their gender or culture."
The Blood Elves are very conventionally attractive avatars, very Aryan-looking. They splintered away from the High Elves, you see, after the race almost got wiped out, and now they've developed an insane lust for magic and self-preservation. They're vain, haughty and selfish - everything elves should be. In an average evening out, they'd be the ones at the back on their own, nursing a gin and tonic, while the rest go Alliance-skull bowling and letch at the seemingly un-undead breasts of undead ladies.
Players opting for the Blood Elf race will get the chance to choose from warrior, mage, priest, rogue, hunter or paladin. In hues of rather Christmassy red and gold, these guys are a stark contrast to the rest of the Horde and their architecture is relentlessly cheery and colourful. But, being elves, totally over-the-top and grandiose.
FITS THE SLOT
But the Blood Elf and Draenei experience isn't just slotted into the front of the game. The designers are going back through all the level 20-60 areas and making sure there are appropriate bridging quests, NPCs and lore for the new races. This is being done to ensure, as Pearce puts it, that "everything feels relevant to you and you don't feel like you're an outcast".
In contrast, the Draenei seem to fill the 'slightly-unusual-looking' gap in the current Alliance line-up. Despite being blue-skinned, cloven-hoofed and semi demonic looking, they're still quite handsome beasts. Being an alien lifeform obviously suits them very well.
However, their trans-dimensional spaceship has crash-landed on Kalimdor (specifically on the Azuremyst islands off the coast of Darkshore), which doesn't sit quite so well.