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20 years later, World of Warcraft is getting an arachnophobia mode

Legs hear it for the team!

Bertie's WoW character stands next to a dead giant spider enemy. Or perhaps it's sleeping. Oh god.
Image credit: Eurogamer / Blizzard

World of Warcraft will, in its 20th year of operation, implement an arachnophobia mode. It's been developed for the new War Within expansion, which heavily features the spider-like Nerubian race, but it won't be exclusive to it.

"We made it retroactive so it does everything," associate design director Maria Hamilton told me during a roundtable interview during a War Within event in London earlier this week. That means you'll be able to turn it on and off and spiders all over the World of Warcraft world will be transformed into something else - specifically, crabs.

It works very well; I was able to test it during an alpha playthrough of some early War Within content. The enemy models change seamlessly, and because crabs are not too dissimilar to spiders, the transformation doesn't erase a sense of what you're fighting. They look, if you squint, vaguely the same. More importantly, as Maria Hamilton explained to me, the crabs share the same hitboxes as the spiders, so positioning and reading attack animations is all pretty much the same.

The War Within reveal trailer. Those WoW graphics have certainly come on over the years...Watch on YouTube

Arachnophobia modes are not uncommon and have become increasingly popular in recent years. Lethal Company has one, Grounded has one and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has one, to name but a few. I seem to remember Satisfactory being one of the first games - if not the first game - to add an arachnophobia mode back in 2019, but it's more than possible someone else got there before it. Nevertheless, it all begs the question of why World of Warcraft hasn't done this before. Why, 20 years later, has it only now become a thing?

"I think we didn't realise it was such a big thing for people, honestly," Hamilton told me.

"When we started talking about [the War Within] internally, like, 'Oh we're going to do Nerubians,' a lot of people within our team said, 'Oh, I'm really bad with spiders. Could we not do Nerubians?' We were like, 'Oh hmm. We do want to do Nerubians - that's definitely a thing we want to do - but if there's a lot of people that…’ Then we started doing some research and we realised, wow, this actually is a big thing - for quite a lot of people this is a big thing - and we started looking at what other games had done to deal with this problem as well."

"I think it's really amazing," she added. "But yeah, I don't know that we realised how bad it was going to be for people that spiders are scary."

A World of Warcraft screenshot showing a rocky costal area littered with the corpses of giant spider people. Blame Bertie - he killed them all.
I stupidly misplaced a picture of the spider enemies all turned into pinkish crabs, but this image helps set the scene. See those dead spider-people? Imagine similar-shaped crab-people but a bit chunkier of limb and more pinkish in colour. There, you see, you didn't need a screenshot, did you? This is the starter area of new location the Isle of Dorn, by the way (and I boosted the brightness a bit to be more legible here). | Image credit: Eurogamer / Blizzard

The War Within expansion is scheduled to arrive sometime in the late-summer, early-autumn period, currently. Its headline feature is that it begins a new trilogy of Worldsoul Saga expansions and a three-game story arc running through them, and the message I heard a few times at the WoW event was that it would be ambitious in scale. Beside that, a lot is familiar: The War Within brings a big new zone to explore and some enticing mechanical improvements, including Hero Talents, which are added specialisation trees you get to beyond level 80, and new single-player story dungeons called Delves, which have scalable difficulty levels and at their highest levels can offer competitive endgame loot. I'll dive into all of what I learned about the expansion in an imminent preview.

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