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World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Interview: Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street

John Funk | 20 Aug 2010 20:00
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JF:
When you go on the Forums, there are always 80 different threads about things like "Is the Horde evil?" Do you think this will throw more fuel onto the fire of "oh, this is the good side and the bad side," or is there more ambiguity?

GS:
Oh, it's very ambiguous. Horde players in particular are going to start out thinking "Garrosh Hellsceam is such an asshole, we want Thrall back." But you know, quest designers were really clever in the way they tell that story, and you end up kind of finding yourself saying "Gosh, I kind of respect Garrosh and what he's doing..." Orgrimmar has never looked better, and the Horde has kind of lived in this desert before - in the Barrens and Durotar - and didn't necessarily have ample food supply. He likes to look out for his people, and the orcs are riding a wave here and are pretty excited about it.

Then you see Garrosh in action a few times and you're like, "You know, he's not the jerk I thought he was, he's actually a pretty cool guy" So we're trying to throw in a little of that, and as I mentioned already, Sylvanas is a very charismatic character, and there's a lot of tension between her and the orcs. She's more or less on their side but as soon as they turn their backs, she's got a lot of machinations going on behind the scenes, too.

JF:
So we're kind of seeing factions split within the factions that are more overt now.

GS:
We're certainly hinting at that, and it may lead to something more exciting in the future.

JF:
That's kinda cool. [laughs]

Going back to a more conceptual idea, you're bringing a lot of stories in Cataclysm back that were from vanilla WoW. Again, you have Nefarian; the Goblins are a very classic Warcraft race, and the Worgen were there very early on in the Undead story. When was the story of the Worgen and Gilneas first concepted? The Greymane Wall has been there from the beginning, so were you originally planning to revisit them at a later date, early on in WoW? Or did that emerge alongside everything else?

GS:
You know, we definitely tried to sow the seeds of these future stories. Things like Uldum is another example, where we just walled off what appeared to be some cool stuff, and players are like, "Huh, I wonder what's behind that big gate with the big ol' statue in front of it?" So, they're finally going to get to find out. Likewise, the big Greymane Wall, which was always there in Silverpine [Forest], is busted open now, and you can wander in and see this new zone.

And I think there was always this inkling that there were some Worgen down there and we knew Genn Greymane's name, but we weren't quite sure what the story was or how to use the Worgen as a playable race. It was not something that was conceived of from the very beginning, and we threw out a lot of ideas for various playable races that we could use.

JF:
So, again at the conceptual level: How do you plan the apocalypse? [GS laughs]. Again, you're destroying something you've spend thousands, maybe millions of man hours creating? How do you decide, "OK this zone gets flooded, then we're gonna blow up this zone, and we're gonna set this on fire, and then we're moving some encampments up here?" What kind of bible do you use when you're planning the end of the world?

GS:
Well, I'll tell you they kind of break down into three different categories. One is if it was just kind of a shitty zone - it needed a change. Something like the Barrens was wide open, it didn't really have a big story, there was no real 'flow' for Horde characters to move from place to place so we knew we needed to kind of shake up that zone. Another category, I would say, was just bringing in the more modern style of making quests, and having lots of flight paths, and doing the whole "Fly to this little camp and do five or six quests there, and then advance to this next camp and do some quests there."

We had a real challenge with a zone like Darkshore, that was very long and thin - and Felwood is another one. Those zones are really hard to quest in because you have your hub, which is Auberdine in Darkshore, and you're supposed to go there and go out from there and then go back, and the further you go, the longer the travel time gets to get back to your town. So we needed to break that up a lot and kind of have a progression where you go from town to town to town with flight paths in between so that level 15 characters aren't hoofing it back and forth all the time.

JF:
Yeah, I leveled a Night Elf, I know how that goes.

GS:
Yeah, yeah. And that zone is so much better now.

JF:
[laughs]. I'm glad to hear it!

GS:
We were trying to stage an apocalypse here, and we wanted some crazy things to happen, and we knew there were 'sacred cows' that might perhaps even upset or shock players a little bit. So we wanted to do some of that, to show - a portion of Stormwind has been ruined because Deathwing flew through there. I'm trying to think of another example ... Thousand Needles has been flooded, and it wasn't necessarily because it was a terrible zone, but we really wanted to show the impact of what happened. Life will never be the same there.

Westfall has fallen on really hard times too - a big chunk of the population is homeless now, and a lot of the transient and homeless people have been pushed out of Stormwind and are kind of squatting in Westfall now. So, that zone used to kind of have that pastoral, evening feeling and now it's fallen on pretty hard times ... it's a place that's very much in need of heroes.

JF:
This is obviously - as you were just saying - it's an expansion with with a darker tone to it. Is that kind of why you, introduced the goblins? My coworker played through their starting race and he says they're really wacky and zany all the time.

GS:
Yeah. You, the thing about being dark, is it makes a great story but it can also get really old, particularly in a videogame. One of the things that we do in all of our games - I mean you can see it in StarCraft II - is you want to inject a little bit of humor just to break the tension, and just for pacing purposes. And the goblins are just exceptional at doing that. There are dark elements to the story, but the goblins themselves are so hysterical. I was one of the people, at first, who was a little skeptical, 'Are you going to pull this off?' you know, 'Aren't they kind of just, like, annoying?' but I think we really made them funny, which is sometimes hard to do.

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