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Shadowlands Lore Interview with The Lost Codex
05.11.2019 um 21:00
We've got another Shadowlands interview with
World of Warcraft
Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser and Technical Director Frank Kowalkowski, this one courtesy of
The Lost Codex
. Many of these questions are more focused on the lore of Shadowlands, who and what we might experience there from a story perspective, as well as the inspiration behind some of the zones, but there are a few good systems questions as well.
In particular, we've got hints about a continuation of several plot threads from Legion, including Odyn's lost eye, Helya's lantern, and what happens to demons when they die.
As usual, you can watch the full Youtube interview, or check out our summary below.
Aside from the already mentioned Uther, Draka, Cenarius, and Kael'thas, will other dead characters have a frequent major or minor role in the expansion?
One of the themes while developing Shadowlands is to make the story more than just a collection of random stories. Many important characters have fallen throughout the history of Warcraft, but they're trying to focus on major storylines which are still relevant today (e.g. Uther, Draka), while also peppering in some lesser characters tragedy and interaction. For example, a certain Classic WoW character's wife which has become something of a cult classic might be one of those minor, easter egg-like things they might pursue. Not spoiling any of the big stuff though!
What's the biggest challenge out of the level squish? How big of a problem has it been?
Both technical and design changes, such as making each of the various sized expansions cover leveling from 10-50. They've already done some work to make sure expansions fall within certain level bands and scaling tech, but they want to try to make sure each one has about the same pacing and take about the same amount of time.
What are some inspirations drawn upon for the new Shadowlands zones?
It's a new place, somewhere we haven't seen before, and the first foray into one of the realms on the cosmology chart. They want a mix of brand new stuff rooted in familiar concepts. Death's influence has been felt on Azeroth for some time, but Shadowlands shows the more primal origins of it. For example, the Val'kyr were an integral part of both the Lich King's power and Odyn's in the Halls of Valor, and they want to show the origins of that in a much grander way. Similarly, the Scourge and Maldraxas - we get to see where the power of the Scourge comes from, but there are differences in the way that power is used in the Shadowlands. Classic images of death from films and books helped them to create the gothic horror vibe of Revendreth. The whole team gets together to talk about things they want to express, and then boil them down to cool distinctive ideas which they can use to add to the universe of World of Warcraft.
The advanced AI of Island Expeditions made it really cool to see an enemy team that acted differently from a group of regular NPCs; will we see that AI in Shadowlands, and what kind of situations might we see them in?
Nothing specific to mention, but any kind of technology created for the game becomes a tool for them to use later, and whenever the opportunity arises in which makes sense, they can add it in.
Islands had two interesting bits of tech, both the advanced AI and also procedurally generated spawning, the latter of which has been used heavily in Torghast to create areas that you might have seen before but are filled with completely different creatures and treasures.
Going back to the Halls of Valor, Odyn gave his eye to some unknown entity in the Shadowlands; will that entity play a role in the expansion?
That is a story that comes into play in Shadowlands. As we explore the Shadowlands, we'll find out more about the Jailer and discover he had a group of likeminded allies who have worked with him at various points throughout our timeline, with some of their schemes only now coming to fruition - that bargain with Odyn was made on behalf of the Jailer, specifically to get that Keeper's eye and because of what it could do for them. Hopefully fans will be excited to see how that plays out, but they're not going to spoil it all right now! It's a good example of the story threads planted much earlier in the game's history, which finally get to pay off in this expansion.
Click here to read about Odyn, Helya, and the Val'kyr in
The Keeper's Eye
, from the Legend of Odyn found in the Halls of Valor in
The Keeper's Eye
There are more stories about Odyn's lost eye than there are stars in the sky. Some say the great serpent Ysildar tore it out. Others say the treacherous Helya stole it. But this is the end of it, the truth of it, from the keeper himself.
The Halls of Valor stood glorious above the world, and great Odyn saw they were empty. "These halls shall be the final resting place of my finest warriors," he said. "I must see the world of death, for only then can I raise the spirits of the fiercest, bravest vrykul to their proper place in the heavens. They shall be called Valarjar, and they shall honor these halls for eons to come."
Helya the sorceress was doubtful of the keeper's plan. "Beings of death are ancient and powerful, great Odyn," she said. "To meddle in their realm is dangerous, even for one such as you." But Odyn would not be swayed, and so they began a ritual to see into the Shadowlands.
Deep within the Halls of Valor, Helya traced a magic circle around Odyn with the arcane threads of the universe. From the world's energies she pulled strands of light of the purest green, and strands of darkness deeper than the purest shadow. And the sorceress wove them together around Odyn until the veil over the Shadowlands began to lift.
A great spirit appeared to Odyn from this circle, billowing up from ethereal mists, shapeless, to surround the keeper in shadow. "What will you give," the spirit asked, "to peer beyond the veil of this world?"
Wise Odyn considered the wraith's question. "I have two eyes," he replied. "One to see in this world of mortals, and one to see into the realm of spirits." And with that, Odyn plucked his own eye from his head and presented it to the spirit. The spirit clasped his eye and swallowed it whole, and great Odyn saw.
Seeing through this given eye, great Odyn saw the Shadowlands. He saw life, saw it even in the land of death, and he was satisfied that his Valarjar would live beyond the mortal realm.
And yet still he saw death. He saw souls in torment, and souls in anguish, and the husks of the dead lay all around him. He saw ghostly wraiths with no face, and others with no form, and all were made of death itself. And as he saw, even the great Odyn, master of the Halls of Valor, chosen of Aman'Thul, was afraid.
Odyn looked back into his world with his other eye.
"What did you see, great Odyn?" Helya asked.
"I saw the answer," wise Odyn said. "For in life, there exists death, and in death, there can be life. But there are only beings of life and beings of death. My messengers must span both realms."
And so great Odyn conceived the Val'kyr, beings between life and death who would ferry the vrykul to the Halls of Valor. "They will be formed from the vrykul," Odyn proclaimed, "and their bravery shall preserve their brethren as Valarjar for all time. Like life, they shall be powerful. Like death, they shall be eternal."
-Recorded by Rysa Hjafmir
With Odyn mentioned, Helya also comes to mind - that plotline was continued through Islands, and so we know she's still active. Is or was Helya a part of a Covenant and will she have a role in the expansion?
While venturing through the Shadowlands, we'll learn about the deal between her and Sylvanas, as well as the purpose of the lantern... but it might not be what fans think!
Allied race unlock requirements are specifically expansion-rep locked. Will that be incorporated into the new level/expansion squish or made any easier at all?
Nothing specific to say, but it's under review. When running into situations where content is required to unlock something, but not as relevant anymore in the current game, they want to look at whether it still makes sense.
Will we see races/species from planets other than Azeroth in the Shadowlands?
Yes and no. From a narrative standpoint, when you come to the Shadowlands and encounter a mortal soul of an unknown race, it will take on a kind of generic amorphous shape to relate that as an Azerothian with no frame of reference for the creatures of other unvisited worlds, you don't really know or understand what they'd look like. Through the storyline, we'll find that the Shadowlands is an ecosystem of different afterlifes; the point of souls coming to the Shadowlands isn't just to hang out, but to take a part in those different processes. In Bastion, a soul judged worthy of the afterlife will over the course of a very long process evolve into a Kyrian. For Bastion, it's a monastic process of purification and evolution, but each part of the Shadowlands has a different concept of afterlife and process which the souls that inhabit it go through.
From a development standpoint, one of the interesting challenges of the Shadowlands is that it's the afterlife for
the realms of WoW's cosmology; some of which players have visited, some have only been hinted at, and others might not have even been heard of at this point. Obviously when dealing with worlds the game has never been to to, the developers can't just envision an infinite number of models and ideas, but they are trying to work the concept into the story.
The Wild Gods are said to regenerate in Ardenweald. Will we see some familiar Wild Gods/Loa from
Battle for Azeroth
, such as Rezan or Shadra?
We'll see some of them again. Unfortunately they can't do everyone, so they're picking and choosing which stories to tell, but there are some cool hooks there. Players already know of a figure involved in the spirits of Loa and trolls, and will learn more about his afterlife process as well.
What's one of the most anticipated features of Torgast?
The boons found within Torgast give players choices between different powers such as increased health, damage, or becoming invisible to certain types of creatures. There are several hundred of these effects, which will change each time you go through Torgast and influence their adventure through it.
Torgast is an example of how all the disciplines on WoW's team come together to tell a story. Early on they realized they wanted engineering, art, and design working very closely with one another to make a handcrafted Warcraft experience, rather than just a procedurally generated series of tiles, to let players have a different experience between area, spawns, and boons each time. It's been a very collaborative effort which has come together as a fun example of everyone being committed to telling cool stories and adventures.
The Maw itself is an unfriendly place the likes of which we've never seen in WoW before. Over the last 15 years, the typical dungeon experience is a really cool and unfamiliar location the first few times you go through, but time we become pretty familiar and safe as we learn the different mobs and routes. Torgast has a creepier vibe, as you won't be seeing the exact same thing twice.
Are there any limits to Torgast, between time limits for people who want them or limited attempts per day?
Right now, far you get will be until it gets too tough and you lose. They're trying to find the right cadence, perhaps some kind of weekly lockout.
Are there any native species to Shadowlands?
Many people think of as the end of life, but it's really more of a cosmic force. A place like the Firelands has several creatures that are made of Fire, born of Fire magic; the Shadowlands is the realm of Death, and so there are creatures born of that power as well.
The creatures within all the zones we'll be visiting are there to facilitate the goals of that zone - for example, the owl-like Stewards of Bastion are creatures of Death manifested by the Shadowlands to care for the area - they maintain everything in Bastion and keep the place running. In Revendreth, there are little dredgers rising out of the primordial muck to serve the place; if a tree collapses and crushes a hundred of those dredgers, at some point the Shadowlands will manifest more to continue the job they're supposed to be doing.
Argus the Unmaker was called the Death Titan, will he have any influence on the Shadowlands and do Demons go to the Shadowlands or are they on a different cosmic level?
Demons are born of the Twisting Nether; normally, a demon killed on Azeroth or otherwise outside of its home realm will go back to the Twisting Nether, eventually coalesce, and come back. Sargeras tried to shortcut that process by using Argus as a resurrection engine to speed up that process. That same principle applies to other creatures of various realms (Shadow, Light, Fire, etc). The Shadowlands is specifically for mortal beings to go through the process of Death.
So the Burning Legion still goes back to the Twisting Nether, unless they're killed there, at which point they experience kind of a "true death". Even then however, the energy that makes up those creatures remains. For example, if a Steward named Joe running around Bastion is crushed to death, Joe is gone, because he died within his home realm, but that energy remains - eventually a new Steward, Jane, will pop up to take Joe's place.
Along with Allied Race Death Knights, will we see more class-race combinations?
Nothing specific at the moment. Many of those decisions are based on the lore perspective; obviously it can be done, but it's more of whether it's the right time and it makes sense. Legion and the Class Halls introduced Gnome Hunters and Mechanical pets because both the supporting fiction and mechanics like new creatures being made supported the idea. Certainly there may be new combinations in the future, but they also like the idea of some restrictions, so it really just depends on what they think makes sense at the time.
There's been fantastic community feedback on the interaction and dialogue between characters both major and minor in Battle for Azeroth (particularly before and after Saurfang's Mak'gora). Any lessons learned from that, and will there be more "stay awhile and listen" opportunities popping up in the future?
They want to have these interactions and dialogue, but gameplay isn't always the best place to do it. It kind of started in Argus, with so many characters coming together, such as Alleria coming back and running into Varessa who was also used in the Hunter artifact questline. You really want to see how these characters will interact with one another, and that doesn't necessarily have to be a quest like "go collect 10 bear asses and we'll talk along the way". Instead they decided to just make an impromptu interaction, which felt more natural and fun. That made its way into BfA, and the Mak'gora was a perfect time for it, and it'll come up again as characters comment on the defeat of N'Zoth.
Any allied races planned for later in the Shadowlands?
Allied races should feel thematically appropriate. A lot of the races encountered at the end of Legion and BFA fit, as people we discovered become embroiled in the wars we're fighting and both sides are looking for reinforcements, but Shadowlands doesn't really have that feeling at the start. It's something they'll look at and see how players react to certain races, but nothing is planned for the launch of Shadowlands.
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This Article is Part of our BlizzCon 2019 Coverage
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Legendaries Return in Shadowlands
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Anima Power and Soulbinding
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Talent Level Unlocks After Squish
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Kyrian Class-Specific Covenant Abilities in Shadowlands
Covenant Armor and Cloaks
Utility Abilities for All Covenants
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Cosmetics and Customizations
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Sylvanas/Saurfang Narrative Wrap Up Interview
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Sylvanas in Shadowlands - Edge of Night, Jailer of the Damned, and Vol'jin's Mystery
Heroes of the Storm
Deathwing, Toys II - Mephisto's Revenge
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