Oscar Wilde: “Do you mind if I smoke?”
Sarah Bernhardt: “I don’t care if you burn.”
The Placeholder Expansion: WoD
I think that Warlords of Draenor was inserted into the expansion sequence between Mists of Pandaria and Legion. I think this is so for some very practical reasons.
Let me build my case!
In Warlords of Draenor, we saw a lot of programming. Huge systems like the mount, pet, toy and heirloom tabs were designed and installed. The wardrobe tab will be built on this programming foundation. The Adventurer’s Journal as well.
More programming like the LFD/LFG/LFR and Custom tool was a huge undertaking, cross realm, etc. Even more programming with scaling for Timewalking (this allowed for scaling zones in Legion). I think that we got the Battle Net Launcher with WoD.
We got total character updates (except worgen, goblin and pandaren). This was such a huge project that it continued into WoD with updates. It continues today with updates, for example, of the warlock demons. Artwork is very time intensive.
Many of the major designers, artists, programmers got moved over to Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. WoD was the transition expansion; which explains excellent questing start play and very little end-game content. I think the intention was to slide right into Legion much sooner but it was too hard to do.
I think a lot of work went into WoD that we don’t see as players or accept as quality of life improvements that represents the volume of Warlords. Most of the programming changes are in place now and can support the next expansion and make it a strong expansion.
As far as the story arc goes, Dreanor doesn’t make much sense nor is it important. We should have had Vanilla, BC, Cata, MoP and Legion. My contention is that WoD was inserted as a catch-up expansion to allow for major upgrades and to rebalance the design team that, likely, got gutted or at least watered down.
The design team was a bit naive for WoD. Their handling of flying: the design choice that it is better on the ground and the defense of that decision — was clumsy and inept because the veteran designers may have been next door on Overwatch. I’m sure they learned a lot!
Warlords of Dreanor was a placeholder inserted into the expansion sequence for some very practical catch-up work needed in the game.