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Shadowlands Lore Interview with Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser - Elune, Sylvanas, Calia
09/07/2020 à 13:58
Wowhead interviewed Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser on Shadowlands lore. We learned that reverence for Elune is not unique to Azeroth, that Sylvanas's motivations will finally become clear, and more!
Shadowlands Press Event Coverage
News & Updates
Potential Class Wide Artifact Transmog
Account Wide Legendary Power Recipes
Changing Covenants Should be Easy, Changing Back Should Be Hard
Rune Carving - Legendary Armor Crafting
Change Gender at the Barber Shop, No Longer a Paid Service
New Class Animations on Character Selection Screen
The Final Boss of Shadowlands
Pathfinder Based on Renown Instead of Reputation
No Bonus Experience from Heirlooms in Shadowlands
Save Famous Characters from the Maw
The Maw Max Level Questline
The Maw Max Level Zone Preview
Venthyr Covenant Campaign Preview
Sinfall Covenant Sanctum Environment Preview
Covenant Sanctum Systems - Upgrades, Many Resources, Transportation Network
Rune Carving - Legendary Armor Crafting
Soulbinds Progression Breakdown
Covenant Adventures: Missions Evolved
Dangers of the Maw - Eye of the Jailer Levels
The Maw Zone Preview
Abominable Stitching Recipes
Venthyr Covenant Preview and Ember Court
Night Fae Covenant Preview and Queen's Conservatory
Necrolord Covenant Preview and Abomination Stitching
Kyrian Covenant Preview and Path of Ascension
Covenants System Preview
Soulbinds and Conduits Preview
PandaTV and Ion Hazzikostas Liveblog
Lordmons with Morgan Day - Pantheon of Death & Unlocking Legendary Powers
Warcraft Radio and Patrick Dawson Liveblog
Judgehype Insights with Patrick Dawson
Morgan Day and MrGM Liveblog
Zones, Covenant Armor, and Customization with Ely Cannon
Ion Hazzikostas - End-game Loot, Utility Legendaries, Droprates
Highlights from Ion Hazzikostas Group Interview
Shadowlands Lore with Steve Danuser - Elune, Sylvanas, Calia
Sloot Interview with Paul Kubit
HazelNuttyGames Interview with John Hight
Tonton Interview with Ion Hazzikostas - Open World Lag, Swapping Covenants, PvP Power
Lapi Interview with Ion Hazzikostas - Weekly Loot, Covenant Tuning
A lot of people have noticed a certain Titan-like theme in some Shadowlands zones, such as
. The introductory questline and a couple of NPCs in Bastion both mention some group called The First Ones. Can you tell me any more about them? And are they related to the Titans in any way?
Well, the story of the First Ones is one of those things that's going to be unfolding over the course of the Shadowlands expansion, but if you walk around in Oribos, like you said, you see Brokers making some references, and some of the attendants there talk about them. You could think of them as being godlike figures that people know very little about, but they've had references to them, but you will find out more and more about them as we go further into the expansion.
So I don't want to spoil too much right now, but I will say that they are tied into the other Pantheons we have seen before like the Titans, and going through the Shadowlands, you will meet the Pantheon of Death, which are the leaders of these Covenants: The Winter Queen, The Archon, those kinds of figures, and they certainly have knowledge on the First Ones, but what they have to share… we’ll just have to wait and see.
How does Mograine
have the Ashbringer
when I happen to personally know, and play, the current wielder of the Ashbringer?
So that's just a little bit of confusion over some data mining. Early on when our quest designers are putting in content, we don't always have the final models for things. And so, for a while, they were using a version of one of the Ashbringer appearances, but recently we put in a unique sword for Mograine. It still looks similar to the Ashbringer, but it's not the Ashbringer - It's actually a sword called Fatebringer.
One of the storylines that you’ll see as you’re playing through the different Covenants... in Maldraxxus for example - that is a culture that celebrates who you were in life and the accomplishments that you had - Maldraxxus is all about striving to climb this pyramid and become the best that you can be. And so it was natural for Alexandros Mograine, the original Ashbringer, to fashion himself a sword that recalled the blade that had made him famous long ago. There are some questlines that people haven't played yet, where it calls out the name of that sword, but it is not the Ashbringer. It's something that he had forged for himself in Maldraxxxus.
You talk about
… I have to mention, I’ve played on the alpha, and I was particularly impressed with how it just feels like each zone, the way that the quests progress and even the difficulty matches the theme of that zone. Maldraxxus in particular feels like you’re constantly proving yourself as a warrior, right from the introductory questline. I assume that was intentional?
Yeah, very much so. We took a very deliberate approach with each zone having its own identity here. You know, throughout Warcraft, every zone has its own identity in a way, but one of the things that we did as we were developing the storyline for Shadowlands was I made this... I guess I would call it a ‘theme board’ - it was a corkboard - and I had areas for each of the zones, and I put words on the board that were capturing the themes of each of the Covenants and what those zones were really about.
I think that helped me and the other storytellers on the team really focus in on, “Hey, what's different about each of these zones. And also, what are the similarities?” What are the crossover points that even if someone from Bastion looks at Maldraxxus and might think “Oh, it's this place full of these terrible warlords who are bloodthirsty…” There's actually a lot of things in common between them if you think about the themes, and that helped us really architect the quest lines and the Covenant campaigns and all this stuff that's really going to show you how these different realms interact with one another. So that was definitely a deliberate approach, and it's cool that you picked up on that.
Shadowlands is also bringing some huge
changes to leveling
that will very likely stop most players from experiencing the stories that can be found in most zones. Do you ever feel worried about certain general knowledge about the story so far being lost completely, and how can you keep players informed about the more important story beats?
Well, when we were architecting the changes to the leveling flow and the new player experience, we put a lot of thought into those topics because Warcraft does have so many years of great stories. We didn’t want those to be lost, we didn't take any of those away, but yet, when you have new players coming into the game, there's a danger of them being overwhelmed by too much story as well. So, that's why there's different approaches for whether it’s the first time for you playing the game, versus if you've played it before.
Anyone who's just coming in for the first time does get guided through Exile’s Reach, and we've put in some new transition content that guides them from that experience into Battle for Azeroth, and then from Battle for Azeroth into Shadowlands – and it's kind of a natural flow that happens. If you're an experienced player, we don't need to put those rails around you and that's where we give you that option to play other expansions or jump around between them if you really want to.
So all that content is very much still there, and we think that new players, once they get the lay of the land and the broad picture of what the Warcraft universe is all about, that they'll want to delve into those storylines and see what it was like to go to Northrend and experience the Lich King story, or to Outland and see what the Burning Crusade was all about. So hopefully we get the best of both experiences.
I did notice in
that you pulled from
quests from Legion
to update the player.
Yes, that's a great example. There are quests in Ardenweald that wouldn't make sense if we just assume that you knew some of those story beats in Legion, so I think our designers did a really great job of revisiting some of those questlines in a way that felt meaningful and caught you up on the story while still very much keeping the focus on Shadowlands and what's going on with those characters now.
Some datamining has revealed some information about the first Night Warrior
, but we’re still left with questions. From what’s been gathered so far, it seems that this Night Warrior was not a Night Elf. Is this true?
I don't like commenting too much on datamined stuff because it's out of context, because there's a lot more that's in game that gives additional framework for that. What I will say is that you will find out that reverence for Elune is not unique to Azeroth. There’s other worlds that worship her - and other figures that we've met before - in our storyline. So while Azeroth is the focus of our story, we do meet characters in the Shadowlands from other worlds - because the Shadowlands is the afterlife for not only people from Azeroth, but from all the worlds in the mortal realm.
So you will encounter other people who have been the Night Warrior on their world - and it's not just the one that datamining has uncovered so far. That storyline is going to be expanded upon as you go deeper into the Ardenweald Covenant campaign as well as some of the patches to come. So there's a lot of really cool story there that ties into the Night Warrior and Tyrande’s storyline as well.
That does raise a question that I’ve sort of brushed on already - after playing through all the beginning experiences, I know that eventually you’ll pick a Covenant and then you’ll learn more about that Covenant. What about certain really important story being locked behind certain Covenants? For example, if you’re playing a Night Elf, but don’t want to pick the Ardenweald Covenant of Night Fae, is it possible that players will feel cheated about not getting closure on the Tyrande story? And, on that note, for those of us who will want to play through all the Covenants, will Shadowlands be more alt-friendly?
Yeah, that's definitely a consideration that we take not just in Shadowlands, but expansions in general. BFA had an Alliance side and a Horde side and there was some crossover, but they each told distinctive stories and had distinctive characters in them, and unless you played both sides, you didn't get the full story of Battle for Azeroth. Legion had all those class hall campaigns that each told individual stories as well.
There was obviously a lot of content that everybody played, but there were those storylines that were specific to certain classes. So in Shadowlands, we both want to tell stories that are universal - there's the overarching story of what's going on with the Jailor and Sylvanas and the Maw that everyone will experience - everyone will have played through portions of the four zones through the narrative arc that they level up in before choosing a Covenant at max level. So everyone will get some exposure to the themes and ideas of the Covenants, but we did want the Covenants to each have their own distinctive storyline as well.
We think it's an opportunity for players to have those alt storylines that they jump into, and playing and alt should feel like a fresher experience. Like, it is distinctive so that you're not just repeating the same things each time. Every Covenant is a lens for what's going on in the Shadowlands. There are some unique storylines that each Covenant has, and there's different ways that they crossover and intersect one another. So, yeah, to see the full story, you will want to play all the Covenants, but, again, that's not all that different from things we've done in the past in terms of encouraging you - if you want to see the whole story - to play multiple sides in any given expansion.
Taliesin and Evitel lore interview
, you did state that Sylvanas loyalists are, by the time of Shadowlands, considered no longer loyal to her. However, one of the themes I’ve noticed in Shadowlands is that of redemption – particularly in Revendreth but we see it in other zones as well, for example Lady Vashj seems to have found a new purpose in the afterlife. Redemption as a subject always played an important role in the Arthas storyline as well – with characters like Jaina finding it hard to let go of the Arthas they knew even as we were attacking Icecrown. Is there any hope for Sylvanas at this point? Is it possible for her to be redeemed?
*laughs* Well, that's a that's a very broad question. You know, Warcraft is a world of possibilities certainly, but the Sylvanas storyline I think will uncover some new truths about her and the things that have motivated her. It will give some new perspective on the decisions she made not only in Battle for Azeroth, but that she's been making her whole life - and so it'll provide some additional framing.
The way I'd put it is that in the past, especially in Battle for Azeroth, she concealed a lot of her motivations for things. We saw the actions that she made, but often we were left to guess at why she was doing something, and I think that's one of the things that frustrated players in some ways - and we recognize that. So pretty early on in the course of Shadowlands, you will reach a point where Sylvanas frankly says, “No more masks. I'm going to tell you what I want, why I'm doing this.” She has some very frank conversations with one of our major characters in game that I think players will find illuminating.
I don't think it's as simple as saying will she or won't she be redeemed? I think we will learn more things about her, and a lot of people might change their point of view on some of how they see her. Some people won't, because they've already decided what they think, or what they want to be true, but our job as storytellers is to continue to evolve these characters and show new sides of them - and that's something I'm very pleased with what we're doing in Shadowlands. So it'll definitely give fans of Syvanas is more things to think about, and that was one of the goals we set out to do.
On a slightly different note, in Legion, Odyn is a character that’s quite honored and revered - you see him spend his day drinking and partying with his warriors in his domain without anyone bringing up his past. But in
Chronicles Volume 1
, we see him act
particularly abusively and violently towards Helya
. It’s a contrast that stood out for me and made the warrior and Stormheim questlines uncomfortable, especially if you consider how similar situations so often happen in the real world. Will we ever see Odyn face a reckoning for what he’s done, and perhaps the respect so many seem to hold for him be challenged?
I think you've hit on a fair assessment of Odyn having one way that he portrays himself - he wants people to think of him as this great, glorious warrior that does everything right, and makes all these decisions on behalf of what's best for the world, and all these kinds of things - but even reading through some of the texts within the Order Hall and some of the text on the Artifact Weapons, and delving into the background of Helya, you found out that he did a lot of very unsavory things - and those things were mentioned in Chronicle as well.
What I will say is that his story doesn't directly on the surface tie into some of the events of Shadowlands, but we've hinted at certain things about the bargains that he made in the past, the way that he acquired some of the power he did to make the Valkyr, and those storylines will get touched on and we will find some things out. I would certainly like, in the future, to revisit Odyn’s storyline and expose some of the things that he needs to face, to answer for, and maybe we'll see that play out down the line.
Brilliant! Now, this next question, I suspect I know the answer already but... it's just about the alpha again - with the
introductory questline into Shadowlands
, we saw some unusual pairings on the Horde side. We saw Calia and Valeera standing on the Horde side of things. Now, as far as I know, Calia is not the new leader of the Forsaken according to the book
, and Valeera's always been more of an Alliance character, so I just had to ask more about their position there.
Yeah, so what you're seeing there, and what players are reacting to, is just some early content blockouts. We're going to make some adjustments to the populations on top of Icecrown there. Valeera wasn't intended to be positioned as one of the Horde leaders or anything like that. She is a neutral character that shifts between both. So her positioning was just a spawning thing with how the designer had made a first pass and set things up there. You'll see that evolve as we go.
In terms of Calia Menethil, you're right that she is not the leader of the Forsaken. She is on top of Icecrown for a reason and you’ll learn that there's some content that that people haven't experienced yet, because it involves events of the prepatch - both Calia and Lillian Voss will be there in the prepatch, and that will set up some context for why Calia would go to Icecrown.
I don't want to go into too much detail there, except I will say that if you think about Calia’s past and her family history, she has a personal involvement in the spectre of death that hangs over everything - and there's no way that you can think of the Shadowlands and the power of death without thinking about Arthas and the Lich King and that legacy. So, I will say that Calia is involved in the Shadowlands more for her personal reasons than she is as a representative, or a leader in any way.
is a character that we encounter in Bastion. Previously he used they and them pronouns, but in a recent update this has been changed. It was explained that while he presented as a woman in his mortal life, he chose to be a man in the Shadowlands, and that the change from they/them pronouns to he/him pronouns is a result of listening to feedback. There's also being a few other things that we've seen, there's
/Flynn – and a few other inclusions of LGBTQ+ storylines and characters - the first Night Warrior as well - and I just wanted to ask you about this direction in Shadowlands.
Well, I think that one of the one of the things that we've done in Shadowlands in a lot of different ways is try to really show that Azeroth as a whole represents the inclusiveness of the real world - the diversity of the real world. We've spent a lot of time creating the character customization options that you've seen go into the game and, you know, humans in particular.
It's really awesome now that players will be able to create characters that more represent themselves, or the diversity of the world, and we'll see that woven into the populations of places. And part of that also includes the representation for other perspectives on gender or sexuality. And while Warcraft is not a game that's about those things - it's a heroic adventure - we want players to be able to see themselves reflected in these characters, and a lot of different perspectives, and maybe it's an opportunity to see the world through someone else's eyes, rather than just your own.
Pelagos is a great example of a character that we think people will like, regardless of what you know about his background. He's hardworking. He's determined. He's lovable. He tries really hard to do the right thing - and those are noble qualities no matter how you identify or how you look at the world. But it is also an opportunity to tell a really cool story about him, and we'll be delving into that more through the patches and things like that through our content updates.
I think it's a valuable thing that we show these different perspectives on Azeroth and want to really make clear that, you know, there's people who sometimes say, “Well, Warcraft is this medieval fantasy game and those kinds of things weren't talked about in medieval times, so they shouldn't be in Azeroth,” but I disagree with that.
I think that Azeroth is a world of magic and a world of possibilities, and one of the things that's really important to know is that, in Azeroth, you can love who you want, you can identify yourself the way that you want, and all of those things are possibilities. We just want the game to be able to reflect that through it storylines, and through its character customization options, and we're really excited about that.
To build onto the relationships thing - In Maldraxxus, we meet
- one of my personal favorite characters. I can’t help but notice Durotan is missing. Will we meet him in Shadowlands, but also how do relationships work in the Shadowlands?
So one of the things that we recognized early on when we were developing the story for Shadowlands is that there was both an opportunity and a danger. The opportunity is that we had all these characters who died - some of whom were very notable and familiar, others who maybe less so that only had little bits of story previously – and we didn’t want to make the expansion just about a checklist of “Who are these famous people I can meet with and interact with?” because there’s so many stories. We wanted to choose ones that we felt best fit the themes of the zones, and some of those choices are more obvious than others.
When you look at Bastion, you think of someone like Uther and you say, “Oh well that makes total sense – he embodies all of those qualities.” In Maldraxxus you have this society of contentiousness and climbing the ladder and proving yourself. Well, what are some characters that would fit that? And so we took maybe an approach that people didn't think of as obvious a choice: Draka. But when you think about her story in life, she was this fierce… She was a warrior made not a warrior born. She changed herself. She built herself up to be this really badass character that embodied her Frostwolf clan really well, and she died trying to save her son against the treachery of others. And we felt that was the perfect kind of story to tell in Maldraxxus, and so it gives us an opportunity to focus on her.
It does raise the question of well, what about people in life? We've shown that as souls come into the Shadowlands, the Arbiter judged them and sent them to the afterlife that was appropriate for them, and we see four of these afterlives that we play through in the Covenants, but the Shadowlands is a realm of infinite afterlives and one of the things that we're showing is that, just because someone had a certain pairing in life, doesn't mean they're going to go to the same place - at least not right away - in the Shadowlands.
But there are opportunities… Shadowlands represents an eternity, and so maybe her and Durotan are in separate places right now, but maybe their fates would, down the road, lead them to find an afterlife that they can share together. But right now the place that she needs to be Maldraxxus because they're in a lot of trouble, and her warrior spirit is going to be one of the things that that helps see them through this dark time.
We hope you enjoyed this interview - it certainly answered some of our own most burning questions.
This interview was covered by Discordiankitty! She's been in love with the Warcraft lore ever since Warcraft III. Right now she’s working on our ‘the story of’ various zones lore series, as well as the occasional lore article. Come find her on Twitter at
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