One of the most likely possible races (in the author's mind) as put forward by fans for future expansions is thought to be furbolgs. There has even been a plausible storyline fabricated to show their implementability as a race.
What have they got going for them?
There are several factors that suggest the furbolgs as a likely race; especially for the Alliance due to their close links to the furbolg tribes, the most notable being the Stillpine of the Azuremyst Isles, one of which is even a shaman trainer for the draenei in the Exodar - Gurrag:
Old Alliances and Tribes
Furbolgs used to be the strongest allies of the night elves until the Burning Legion corrupted most of them. Those furbolgs that were corrupted became aggressive and feral. Only a few tribes escaped corruption, such as the Timbermaw who inhabited areas of land around Hyjal. Some uncorrupted furbolgs in game say that the Timbermaw are the only tribe that escaped corruption, but this is obviously untrue - the Stillpine of the Azuremyst Isles and Krolg of Ashenvale are living proof that the Timbermaw furbolgs, trapped in their hold for years, have little knowledge of life beyond the confines of their hold. It is also believed that Barkskin tribe still lives upon the slopes of Hyjal, untouched by the madness below them. Anyway, if there is any need for bending the lore, it would be a minor sacrifice considering there is a plausible excuse and the other positive aspects to furbolgs being a player race. Blizzard have already shown that, if a player race appears particularly suitable for expansion content, they are willing to undertake a retcon to enable the race's joining one faction or another (the draenei being a prime example).
Why would the player furbolgs be uncorrupted? Either they could be on an island far from Kalimdor like the Stillpine, somewhere around Northrend (in which case they would be polar furbolgs) or in an isolated territory like Hyjal - the Timbermaw's purity, for example, could be explained by their inhabiting the lowlands around the mountain. Furthermore, a tribe of furbolgs could theoretically live entirely underground, and thus be protected to a certain extent from the corruption of the surface forest. Note that a small tribe of furbolgs managed to hide in the Barrow Deeps during the Warcraft III night elf campaign.
In addition to this, the generic pro-life ethos of the furbolgs fits in with that of the Alliance and especially the night elves. Also, they may find a friend in the dwarves, another race which has a tendency to live underground. The furbolg relationship with the draenei is likely to be expanded on in the future.
The state of Hyjal
Hyjal has been confirmed as a raid instance. That is, a 'past battleground' in the Caverns of Time in the Expansion. The 'current' Hyjal would be used as the furbolgs starter area. There is, as well as this, a large 'grey' area below Hyjal which could be remodeled or possibly even made into an underground level 10-20 secondary area (the Barrow Deeps springs to mind - possibly even complete with a new instance (Illidan's Prison) complete with a group of rather hostile Wardens). Space for the areas is no problem as expansion content occupies separate space to original WoW content. Thus Hyjal and the Barrow Deeps could be as expansive as the developers wish as long as the zones within reasonable boundaries.
The Barrow Deeps
As mentioned above, the Barrow Deeps, as yet un-utilised in game, have significant potential for being a furbolg dominated zone, perhaps even a starting area, if Hyjal is occupied with a raid instance. Firstly, the Barrow Deeps were colonized by at least one tribe of furbolgs (see above) in order to avoid the corruption. Secondly, furbolgs are well known for constructing their most sizable dwellings underground (a good example is Thistlefur Hold in Ashenvale.) In addition, many underground instances are filled with plant and animal life, so it is perfectly possible that an inhabitable cave could be used by a furbolg tribe without it ever having to visit the surface. Finally, the idea of an entirely underground zone is as-yet unexploited by Blizzard, so using the Barrow Deeps as a starting area would be certainly original, novel and interesting.
"Ugly", cool and furry
The Horde have mostly 'ugly races', and only one 'pretty race'. The Alliance, however, seems to be made up entirely of 'pretty' races with often very human features (the dwarves, draenei and gnomes are debatable in terms of prettiness, however...). Therefore, it would make sense for the Alliance to have an 'ugly race' to balance out the factions. The furbolgs fit perfectly - they are a feasible race that is 'ugly' in the same way as the Horde.
It is worthy of note that Blizzard usually only picks races on a basis of either being 'cool' - in the sense of being similar to a popular fantasy creature or a real life race - or 'pretty'. Furbolgs might fit the bill of providing a 'different' and 'cool' if not 'ugly' race that appeals to that subset of players.
Furbolgs are a race in need of a graphical overhaul - or at least another model. So far, there have only been two furbolg models used to cover the hundreds of different furbolgs in the world, including the several tribes that appear in The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. In addition, they are currently mute as no sound files have been made to cover the friendly furbolgs in-game. They are a common race (possibly more so than even the ogres), but with only two models between them, reality and a loincloth stretches pretty thin. Design issues are no problem in any case - the problems encountered with furbolgs need not be any more difficult than those experienced by tauren in the making of World of Warcraft. They in fact have a rather similar physiology to the tauren - the hump, the fur...
Also, furbolgs would involve the production of a bear-like model file that could be theoretically used to produce pandaren NPCs, a race created by the Blizzard artist Samwise Didier and favoured by many.
In the RPG there is a furbolg made armor called Armor of the Glade.
The bear-men are proven to be a relatively advanced race; maybe even more so than the tauren. Evidence of their abilities include:
- Masonry: See the inhabited Timbermaw Hold, a tunnel carved out of solid rock and lined with wood; and the entrance to Timbermaw Hold in Azshara, which is a large stone fortress (quite possibly constructed by the furbolgs). Also, the three enormous bear-headed wood and stone entrances to Timbermaw Hold in Felwood, Moonglade and Winterspring are further evidence of their strength in this craft. Timbermaw hold is one location that stretches to all three places.
- Linguistic skills: As well has having developed a functional spoken and written language, Ursine, Timbermaw/Stillpine furbolgs and Krolg in Ashenvale are perfect evidence that the furbolgs have the ability to communicate perfectly with other sapient races.
- Craftsmanship and civilised behaviour: The furbolg huts, carvings, mats, dream catchers and miscellanea at all furbolg villages indicate that the furbolgs possess much skill within these disciplines.
- Brann Bronzebeard: Furs cover the floors and furniture, which is large and comfortable, and woven tapestries lend some color to the walls. Weapons and other trophies are mounted above doors and windows, which have thin sheets of skin to keep out the cold. Large fire pits stand at the center of every house, and some large rooms have their own smaller pits down the middle.
- Drinking!: It is quite likely that, like their pandaren relatives, the furbolgs follow on from their demigod patrons Ursol and Ursoc in appreciating fine drink.
- In the RPG there is a furbolg made wine called Amity Wine.
Flexible classes: no more class problems
The furbolg class options are extremely flexible and could redress the lack of hunters, warlocks and shamans in the Alliance, while not making the lack of priests and paladins in the Horde worse.
Furbolgs have had ample time to set up their own city and populate a starting region. After all, no-one has entered Hyjal or the Barrow Deeps in years and other possible furbolg starting areas have probably never even been found by outsiders. Thus they don't need to pull the same lore-bending crash 'n' build trick as the draenei.
The furbolg appearance is rather easy to apply to different scenarios - try and imagine a Keeper as drunken pirate and you can see what I mean.
C'Thun and the furbolgs
There has been speculation about C'Thun being the taint affecting the furbolgs in Feralas (with the taint of the Burning Legion affecting those in North Kalimdor). C'Thun would not need to be the only corrupter, as there is also Yogg-Saron, and of course two other Old Gods rumoured to be imprisoned beneath Azeroth. With C`Thun's death in Ahn'Qiraj the furbolgs could have broken free of the Old God's grip. This would mean a possible boost to the furbolg faction's population.
Other furbolg factions
One of the main arguments against furbolgs is that with their inclusion, the Timbermaw faction would have to be taken out of the game. This would most certainly not be needed. There are Wildhammer dwarves and Ironforge dwarves, as well as the Zandalar Tribe from Zul'Gurub and the Hordish Darkspear troll tribe. We could easily have the Timbermaw and the playable furbolg tribe existing side-by-side.