When you were watching a cutscene, cinematic or trailer in World of Warcraft, did you ever feel like something was off? Something like, perhaps, every character hanging on to every syllable? You are not alone. World of Warcraft has had a cadence problem for a long time, but we're not talking about how frequently they drop content patches. Today, we're talking about the eons it takes for characters to say their voice lines in cutscenes.
To demonstrate, let's take a look at a recent cutscene. Watch the video below, then watch it again after setting the speed to 1.25x. Which sounds closer to how real people would speak?
A Short History of Cutscenes
When did all of this start? When did characters in WoW decide that taking their sweet time to utter even the least epic of words? For make no mistake, 'trying to be epic' is most assuredly a cause. Now, it wasn't always like this. Back in Warcraft III, our favorite heroes didn't say their piece as if it were the first time they were using their words. "Slow-speak" was reserved for very few characters, such as The Lich King, the disembodied voice of a genuinely epic character / set of armor, projecting his will straight into Arthas' skull. He gets a pass for both being different than the rest of the cast and for actually talking through telepathy. Even Ogres talked faster in WC3 than main characters in WoW do today.
Now, let's fast-forward. Until the Wrathgate cinematic, the only flavor of visual, non-player moments we got were the expansion trailers. I'd like to define these type of moments more clearly going forward:
- Cutscene: An in-game "film" that isn't pre-rendered, to the point the player character can even appear in it. The first video embedded in this article is a cutscene.
- Cinematic: An in-game "film" that is pre-rendered, meaning it looks a lil' better and the player character can't be in it. An example is the Wrathgate cinematic.
- CGI / Trailer: The big bucks. A "film" rendered outside the game. An example is the trailer for The Burning Crusade, or one of Saurfang's several pity parties.
They've also got 2D animated shorts, but those work a little better with a slower cadence. Right. Every WoW expansion gets at least 1-2 CGI trailers. Since WOTLK, they also get a handful of cinematics, and since Cataclysm a whole bunch of cutscenes. Over time, we can clearly see that characters in any of these films have been slowing down their deliveries. I could do a whole dissertation on this, considering there's hours of cutscenes, cinematics and trailers, but I'll keep this short to better drive the point across by doing a few comparisons. Click on the hyperlinks to see for yourself!
While there's quite a few "slow" films in older expansions, I'll draw the line in 2020. Shadowlands and subsequent expansions have a much slower overall dialogue cadence than Battle for Azeroth and the expansions before it.
|EXPANSION / YEAR||GOOD CADENCE||BAD CADENCE||EXPANSION / YEAR|
|Mists of Pandaria / 2012||Mists of Pandaria Trailer||Shadowlands Trailer||Shadowlands / 2019|
|Warlords of Draenor / 2014||Nagrand Finale||Secrets of the Forbidden Reach||Dragonflight / 2023|
|Battle for Azeroth / 2018||Stormsong Cutscene (20:45)||Amirdrassil Raid Finale||Dragonflight / 2023|
It's important to note that while I've cherry-picked a few egregious examples, not all films from Shadowlands onwards are just as mind-numbingly slow, only that on average, they pop up more often.
There's many reasons we could come up with to explain the slowing down of World of Warcraft's most important characters. One argument I've seen come up quite a bit is that the dialogue is slowed down to provide more room for localized versions of each film. Some languages could take double the time to convey the same sentence that may be only five words in English. To that, I ask: How do all the other games do it? World of Warcraft's scripts don't use a crazy amount of fancy, long words, and if other companies can localize their games' cutscenes without compromising cadence, so can WoW.
The likelier cause is, well, "artistic license". Whether that be a sound designer, an audio lead, or a creative director, someone, somewhere in the company keeps telling the voice actors "no, no, slower, more gravitas, make it sound more epic" and "pronounce 'world' as 'weould' please". Simple as that, someone in the chain of command has a warped idea of what makes a conversation cooler, and it's apparently adding weight to every word and preposition until the heat death of the universe.
Hopefully, with the next expansion, we'll get some conversations that sound like actual normal people talking. Just because some lady is actually a big dragon doesn't mean she has to speak like a Mountain Giant.
I haven't even touched on the power rangers in the first embedded video finishing each other's sentences! Regardless, I've said my piece. How do you find the recent dialogue cadence? Is it not that big of a deal? Is it just as grating to you? Let me know in the comments below.