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Why South Park's Make Love, Not Warcraft Episode Looks So Authentic

The children in "South Park" sure have gotten into a ton of adventures over the years. At the very beginning of the long-running series, Stan (Trey Parker), Kenny (Matt Stone), Kyle (Stone), and Cartman (Parker) have to interact with aliens after Cartman is abducted and given pink eye from Tom Selleck, and from there, their story has become increasingly bizarre and off-the-wall. So far, audiences have seen the boys pretend to be ninjas, fight giant guinea pigs, make forays into the land of imagination, and even interact with religious figures from time to time, and these are just a fraction of what has occurred after more than two decades worth of "South Park."

"World of Warcraft" is one of the largest multiplayer online role-playing games of all time. Based on the original "Warcraft" strategy games, "World of Warcraft" takes a third-person perspective instead of its predecessors' overhead battle map format. Conflict and rivalry are some of the main aspects of the "Warcraft" franchise as the story generally follows a war between an alliance of humans, dwarfs, and gnomes (among many others) against a horde of orcs, trolls, and undead (among many others) — this leads to the factions known as the "Alliance" and "Horde." 

Although sometimes in direct conflict, most of the time the animosity between Alliance and Horde members manifests via player vs. player battles, which forms one of the most enduring aspects of "World of Warcraft." However, in 2006, both "World of Warcraft" and "South Park" combined in a surreal episode that may have caused some to wonder — how did "South Park" pull off an episode that looks like it was filmed inside of the game? 

The World of Warcraft creators gave their blessing ahead of the episode

Of course, when a game like "World of Warcraft" becomes as popular as it was, it wouldn't be long before the boys in "South Park" lampooned the cultural phenomenon. Released in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment, "World of Warcraft" quickly took the world by storm, and the game still manages to see over one million players per day even in 2023, with estimates putting the subscribing player base at somewhere around 124 million accounts, according to MMO Populations.

Premiering almost two years after the release of "World of Warcraft," "Make Love, Not Warcraft" is Episode 8 of Season 10, and even before the release of this episode, then-Blizzard President Mike Morhaime released a statement that read, "We were excited to hear that the creators of 'South Park' were interested in featuring 'World of Warcraft' in the opening of their new season, and we really enjoyed collaborating with them to make this happen. We're looking forward to sharing the experience with our employees and our players as well when the season debuts this week." In other words, the creators of "South Park" had the blessing of the company that created "World of Warcraft."

The South Park boys gear up for a long journey of empowerment

"Make Love, Not Warcraft" starts off with Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman enjoying the popular game. Unfortunately, they are attacked by a griefer, which is a term in "World of Warcraft" that implies somebody that is simply playing the game to make others miserable. This griefer is immensely powerful and easily dispatches the group of friends. Angered and frustrated, Cartman calls upon their fellow classmates to join them in "World of Warcraft" in order to form a combined force to attack the griefer in player vs. player combat. Again, their efforts are thwarted as the griefer absolutely decimates their ersatz retaliatory force, which causes many "South Park" students to swear off "World of Warcraft."

Again, not to have his efforts stymied, Cartman calculates the time it would take them to reach max level in a completely safe and benign area, free from the predatory actions of the griefer. Cartman figures out that if they all play the game for 21 hours a day for around two months, they will be able powerful enough to fight, and the show engages in a hilarious montage showing Cartman, Kyle, Kenny, and Stan growing long hair, developing acne, and becoming increasingly slovenly in their pursuit of "Warcraft" power.

Make Love, Not Warcraft won a Primetime Emmy

Once they reach the maximum level in "World of Warcraft," Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman decide to engage the griefer in combat, and a marathon of combat lasting over 17 hours commences. Randy Marsh (Trey Parker), Stan's father, decides to aid his son, and is given a magic, game-breaking sword by Blizzard employees on a USB drive. This weapon, named "The Sword of a Thousand Truths," will be able to curtail the griefer's power, and allow the "South Park" boys to win. However, once Randy's in-game avatar reaches epic battle, he is slain by the griefer, but not before he gives the sword to Stan, who uses it to remove the griefer's defenses. This action allows the "South Park" boys to win, and finally get a chance to play the game as they put it.

Speaking to Australia's SBS, Parker himself wasn't so sure as to the quality of "Make Love, Not Warcraft," and begged for it not to be aired. Parker figured that this episode would ruin the legacy of "South Park," and he added that Matt Stone and others had to essentially talk him down, and just air the episode regardless of Parker's complaints. He added, "I just went home and was depressed and couldn't sleep, and I got in the next day and they're like, dude, people really like that show. And it was the show about World of Warcraft." Oddly enough, "Make Love, Not Warcraft" eventually went on to win a Primetime Emmy, as noted by IMDb, which proves that Parker's fears were entirely unfounded.

Blizzard offered tremendous support in the creation of Make Love, Not Warcraft

For both "South Park" and "World of Warcraft" fans, probably the most unique aspect of "Make Love, Not Warcraft" is that most of the episode appears to be filmed inside the game itself, complete with emotes, dialogue, and unique animations. This is an impressive feat, considering that "South Park" typically has a cardboard cut-out style of animation. "South Park" had earned the blessing and collaboration of Blizzard Entertainment themselves, which actually led to the authentic look and feel of "Make Love, Not Warcraft."

Discussing this episode over on YouTube, Matt Stone and Trey Parker explained how they had wanted to do an episode on "World of Warcraft" for a long time, and that many of the "South Park" animators also played the game. Parker continued and said that the first issue to arise from this episode was the question of how to animate — do they adapt the style of "World of Warcraft," or do they try something else? Eventually, the "South Park" creators decided to reach out to Blizzard and were greeted with tremendous support from the company, which Stone said sent some great help over to aid in the creation of the episode.

Blizzard gave South Park its own private server in which to film

In their creator commentary video, Matt Stone and Trey Parker continued speaking about "Make Love, Not Warcraft," with Parker saying that many of the in-game shots were actually created by people in-game and being directed. In addition, Blizzard offered a private server specifically for those working on "Make Love, Not Warcraft," which actually led to one of the major plot points involving the griefer. As the "South Park" crew were filming this episode on a privately provided server, a random player that wasn't affiliated somehow managed to hack their way into the closed digital environment, which caused a great deal of confusion and gave rise to the character of the griefer.

Not only that, but Parker and Stone found that their style of animation could be easily integrated into the animations of the "World of Warcraft" characters, which is why the "South Park" characters have fully voiced mouth movements within the game in "Make Love, Not Warcraft." In conclusion, the reason why this particular episode looks so authentic is because of the full-blooded support and assets provided by Blizzard, which has given its own nods to "Make Love, Not Warcraft."