The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

BlizzCon: Chris Metzen explores the lore of Warcraft

Saturday, October 29, 2005, 1:55
Section: Geek

Blizzard Entertainment’s Chris Metzen delved deep into the lore of Azeroth, Draenor and the rest of the Warcraft universe in a discussion with Blizzard gamers Friday at BlizzCon.

He started by discussing the just-announced expansion to the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

“It’s the proper name of the ongoing war of the Burning Legion to snuff out all life,” he said. “The Burning Legion has wiped out thousands, tens of thousands of worlds.”

The only world to ever survive being in the demonic Legion’s sights is Azeroth — and the world has done it twice now, most recently at the climax of Warcraft III: The Reign of Chaos.

“The Legion has thrown themselves against this planet twice now,” Metzen said. Recognizing their problems with Azeroth, the Legion is changing tactics as a result: “The Burning Legion is going full court press on every other world out there. And the heroes of Azeroth are being called into the void to fight against the Cruasade.”

Although there are numerous other areas Blizzard could have chosen for this expansion — Metzen specifically mentioned Northrend, Undermine and the South Seas — the Burning Crusade’s Outland focus was chosen because it reinforced an important theme of WoW.

“At this point, we really want to stress that this is a cosmic conflict.”

(Northrend is also out for another reason: The expansion is only raising the level cap to 70 this tie. “I mean, come on. Arthas at level 70? No.”)

But there’s a wrinkle in the heroes’ fight against the Burning Legion. Illidan Stormrage, licking his wounds after his battle with the Lich King, has shut down all of the dimensional portals originally opened by the orc warlock Nerzhul to other worlds. Illidan is afraid the Legion will find him through the portals.

“We’re going to Outland to reopen these gateways and take the fight to the Burning Legion,” Metzen said. “Of course, Illidan is not going to be happy about this.”

Blood Elves were chosen as the Horde expansion race in the Burning Crusade because designers were thrilled with how well Samwise had redesigned the classic wood elves with the night elves. And they knew that, “one day, high elves are going to have to get a facelift, too.

“I don’t think anyone has abused high elves to this degree,” Metzen said.

Players surprised that the Blood Elves would have any interest in joining the Horde don’t know everything that’s going to lead the groups to joining up.

“Magic is absolutely corrupting. You shouldn’t play with it.” In the wake of the destruction of the Sunwell, the high elves of Quel’Thalas turned to demonic sources of magical energy to feed their magical addiction (which was thanks to thousands of years of constant exposure to magic, even for the high elves who didn’t practice magic themselves). But messing with “fel energy” is scary stuff, and it frightened the other races in the Alliance. “Dwarves and humans don’t want to hang around them. They’re not returning their phone calls.”

But the Blood Elves “could care less, they’re going to do whatever they have to do.” And thrilled by this new, seemingly endless supply of powerful magical energy, the Blood Elves have a unique take on the shattered planet of Draenor, now known as Outland. “They view Outland as an Eden. … Their homeland is great, but Outland is where their destiny is.”

The Blood Elves will leverage their relationship with Sylvanas, leader of the Forsaken and the former Ranger-General of Quel’Thalas. And more importantly, the Blood Elves will not come to the Horde, hat in hand.

“The Blood Elves are going to bring something to the table the Horde can’t do without.”

Look for the lead-up to the Burning Crusade to play out across World of Warcraft servers in the coming months.

The Alliance heroes of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, who sealed themselves on Draenor as Nerzul’s dimensional portals tore the planet apart — and whose statues can be seen in the Valley of Heroes in Stormwind — will play a major part in the Burning Crusade.

“They’re still alive, and they’re kicking ass. They’re BAD. ASS. There’s a reason their statues are in Stormwind.”

The development team also fielded questions from the audience.

The two Hakkars that appear in Warcraft lore was Metzen’s fault, he said.

“The answer is my bad.”

He liked the name when he read it in drafts for Richard Knaak’s War of the Ancients novels, but forgot where he heard it, and when it came time to give the Soulflayer the Zul’Gurub trolls worship, the name came right back out.

“That happens daily” to him, he said. “‘Dude, there’s already a Luke Skywalker.'”

Lingering quest lines, including the intrigue with the Grimtotem Tauren and the fate of the King of Stormwind will be resolved, although the team couldn’t promise an immediate resolution. But things are happening: The King of Stormwind will be gone from the island prison many players have found him in when the 1.9 patch goes live.

“We know there are some unfinished quest lines out there that we’ll get back to,” Pat Nagel said.

The racial lifequests talked about for each race before the game was released have been scrapped. The idea had apparently been to give each player a storyline that would take them from humble beginnings to heroism, but while the quests felt great in a single player context, they didn’t work when thousands of undead were dealing with feelings of abandonment, or everyone was searching for their long-lost father, and so on.

“We didn’t want to make this canned story for everyone,” Metzen said.

Players wanting more interaction with the dragons of Azeroth will get it soon. Anachronus, the dragon guarding the Caverns of Time, will begin giving players quests in the 1.9 patch.



    Comment by fdad gdar — April 1, 2006 @ 18:40

  2. Agreed

    Comment by Ogre lover — April 1, 2006 @ 18:41

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