WoW: The War Within's new arachnophobia filter that turns spiders into crabs was mapped out by a lone developer, but 'she had a wonderful time—she likes spiders'

 A crab in World of Warcraft, situated in Deadwind Pass along craggy grey rocks and dense foliage.
A crab in World of Warcraft, situated in Deadwind Pass along craggy grey rocks and dense foliage.

World of Warcraft: The War Within will be taking players deep, deep underground to do battle with the Nerubian empire—which, inevitably, means spiders. A lot of spiders. Dungeons full of 'em. Raids, even.

Which is a nightmare for the arachnophobes among us. Luckily, The War Within will have an arachnophobia filter that's as comprehensive as it is novel—simply ticking an option in the menu will turn every single spider in the game into a crab of equivalent size and colour. Yes, seriously. Here's the spiders of Deadwind Pass getting hit with the crab ray.

During a roundtable interview, WoW director Ion Hazzikostas described the environment that birthed this most adorable of filters:

"When it became known that we were building the centre of the Nerubian empire, there were a lot of concerns … they were a little creepy back in 2008, but in 2024 levels of fidelity, that's much more of a concern. There were some folks on the team that expressed concern about how it was uncomfortable to play, let alone work on."

I also got to speak to associate design director Maria Hamilton, who revealed the astonishing amount of work that went into this new accessibility option: "Before we settled on crabs, we looked at different options … we tried 'what if the legs aren't attached to the bodies'? We tried a bunch of things and did a bunch of testing internally … Fundamentally, the best choice was crabs, it turns out. No-one was scared of crabs."

Hilariously enough, the whole crab thing was basically a hail mary: "We had heard from another research project that was done for another game that crabs were a reasonable replacement. People don't seem to have the same visceral reaction to the shape of a crab's legs that they do with spiders … On a whim we tried it, and everybody was like 'oh, that's fine!'"

Having seen the crab filter myself—and spending an appreciable amount of playtime during the alpha test flying around the old world to seek out crabs to transmogrify—I'd assumed that Blizzard came up with some automated system to turn spiders into crabs. Actually, no. Someone manually mapped every single spider in the game to find its crab soulmate.

"I actually have a quest designer that spent some time looking at every single spider that was spawned in the game, and what the appropriate crab replacement would be based on the colour, to make sure it was consistent," Hamilton explains as my horror grows. "There are Nerubians attacking pretty much everywhere, so it's not like we could avoid it … so yes, we mapped every single spider."

Not to fear, though—Hamilton reassures me that "the designer that did it, she actually had a wonderful time. She likes spiders." Truly, not all heroes wear capes.