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Windows Central Interview with Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser

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Windows Central interviewed Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser about the past, present, and future of the game.

Interview Highlights

  • Storytelling is a team effort, they have narrative designers, quest designers, cinematic directors, artists, the story and franchise development team, historians, and other people who contribute to the ongoing narrative of the game and make sure everything is consistent.
  • The goal is to tell a focused and entertaining story that players can interact with. 
  • They realize that pulling too many characters into the story can lead to their narrative being disjointed and hard for everyone to keep track of. 
  • With every patch, they outline major characters and plotlines that intertwine to tell deeper stories.
  • It's natural that fans of a particular character (likely referring to Sylvanas) get anxious if they do not see an immediate resolution to a plot thread (we learned almost nothing about Sylvanas and her plans so far)but they want to let these things "unfold naturally" rather than "wrap them up prematurely."

Screenshot_Full_-_Cinematic_4.jpg

  • The departure of Sylvanas didn't only affect the Forsaken, but also Night Elves who felt betrayed after the War of Thorns. Those qualities were amplified after they were raised into undeath and capitalized upon by Sylvanas. Those raised Undead elves needed were hopeless and needed someone, so Calia Menethil and Derek Proudmoore vowed to help them find their true identity.
  • They like how NPCs react to the story, it's cool to see dialogues between various creatures in capital cities after a major plot unfolds and they want to keep adding elements in the future.
  • It was the plan all along to delve deeper into the storylines of Azshara and the Old Gods as the war between two factions kicked off in Battle for Azeroth.
  • It was intentional for Sylvanas' story to be similar to that of Garrosh Hellscream on the surface (warchief promoted under questionable circumstances, brutal act of aggression that instigated conflict, distrust among the faction that led to a rebellion), but with nuance, they sought to show the story grow and change.
  • Anduin was focusing on living up with Varian's legacy and that blinded him to certain truths. He will need to come to terms with these blind spots in the future.
  • We can expect the repercussions from the Fourth War to carry forward for a long time.
  • They are extremely happy with how they were able to tell stories through pre-rendered cinematics in Battle for Azeroth and we can expect them in Shadowlands where they make sense.
  • In the new player experience (level squish) coming in Shadowlands, players won't be heralded as all-powerful champions, but someone with great potential with exciting adventures ahead of them.
  • In Shadowlands, they decided to go with a focused story that develops and culminates in a compelling conclusion as the goal is to tell the story throughout the expansion.

Check out the full interview for more details!

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  • Quote

     

    • Storytelling is a team effort, they have narrative designers, quest designers, cinematic directors, artists, the story and franchise development team, historians, and other people who contribute to the ongoing narrative of the game and make sure everything is consistent.
    • The goal is to tell a focused and entertaining story that players can interact with. 

     

    I want to call BS.     Having that many people and still having the disjointed, contradictory mess that was BFA's storyline?    Where plotholes big enough to drive a bus through abound?     This felt more like they had a lot of people as they say involved in crafting the story, but None of them Talked to each other.

Quote

It was intentional for Sylvanas' story to be similar to that of Garrosh Hellscream on the surface (warchief promoted under questionable circumstances, brutal act of aggression that instigated conflict, distrust among the faction that led to a rebellion), but with nuance, they sought to show the story grow and change.

 

This is even worse.    They said several times that Sylvannas was absolutely NOT Garrosh 2.0, even as we protested that that was exactly what we were seeing as the story unfolded.     Now that BFA is done and the storyline was almost a total remake of MoP's storyline, they say "oops that was the plan all along"?    

Also the story grew and changed how?   We all speculated the war was finally over, cross faction guilds would be a thing and there'd be peace since the war made no sense anyway in the face of the constant cosmic threats out there...but then we got "there must always be a faction war" and nothing really changed again, sitcom style.

Edited by Migol

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13 hours ago, Stan said:

In the new player experience (level squish) coming in Shadowlands, players won't be heralded as all-powerful champions, but someone with great potential with exciting adventures ahead of them.

This will somewhat make sense in the new areas, since they won't know of us I guess? But if current leaders, who know what we can and have done, this makes no sense. 

"Hey mr promising, Azeroth is hurt, go heal her woonz!"

  • Haha 1

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Yeah story continuity has been a problem.   In Legion we were working hand in hand with the other faction's priests, paladins etc, united against a common cause.   We traveled across space to stop the legion together.

2 weeks later at each other's throats.     Everything forgotten.    Except they use the giant sword to arc into the Azerite being bled out, killing the planet.    Otherwise we're backing up from space weapons and light-meks into wooden siege machines and normal swords.    The Draneii somehow make everyone forget they exist, including Sylvannas and her "Can't have no ports" grand strategy.

Oh, and then later they forget the giant sword, still killing azeroth, still bleeding that (important?) Azerite.    But off to Shadowlands we go, I'm sure it'll be fine.

Edited by Migol
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Are Teldrassil and Ruins of Lordaeron going to be just "dead space" going forward?
 

And I find it weird that this expansion didn't see a resolution to the giant-*filtered* sword stabbed into the planet. This expansion was set up by that crazy moment when the sword was plunged into Silithus, and so much of the initial story was based around it. It's a monsterously large loose-end that is seemingly going to just sit there forever now?

 

I also was caught off guard when they slapped the "Fourth War" label onto this story. I guess it is easy to justify the name because of Teldrassil and Lordaeron's destruction, and these static "war fronts," but the majority of the activities were in Kul Tiras and Zandalar. It just felt weird referring to it as the 4th war. The previous wars took you all over the planet from pillar to post, though I suppose this is just the difference between an RTS narrative and an MMO narrative. I might just be too nitpicky too, I'm open to that possibility 🙃

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2 hours ago, Migol said:

2 weeks later at each other's throats.     Everything forgotten. 

in fairness to this point, that's realistically our entire history, so it didn't seem that far-fetched.  

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2 hours ago, TyZone said:

Are Teldrassil and Ruins of Lordaeron going to be just "dead space" going forward?
 

And I find it weird that this expansion didn't see a resolution to the giant-*filtered* sword stabbed into the planet. This expansion was set up by that crazy moment when the sword was plunged into Silithus, and so much of the initial story was based around it. It's a monsterously large loose-end that is seemingly going to just sit there forever now?

 

I also was caught off guard when they slapped the "Fourth War" label onto this story. I guess it is easy to justify the name because of Teldrassil and Lordaeron's destruction, and these static "war fronts," but the majority of the activities were in Kul Tiras and Zandalar. It just felt weird referring to it as the 4th war. The previous wars took you all over the planet from pillar to post, though I suppose this is just the difference between an RTS narrative and an MMO narrative. I might just be too nitpicky too, I'm open to that possibility 🙃

World War II was fought entirely on 2-3 fronts at any time: Stromgarde, Darkshore, Kul Tiras, Zandalar, and Lordaeron. With armed forces heavily depleted across both factions, a total war that enveloped every inch of Azeroth is unbelievable for the lore and impractical when considering actual military strategy.

The Third War was also a war against the Undead Scourge, a plague that ripped across the planet. The first and second conflicts between the Horde and Alliance predominately took place in concentrated areas. 

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21 hours ago, durdyenglish said:

World War II was fought entirely on 2-3 fronts at any time: Stromgarde, Darkshore, Kul Tiras, Zandalar, and Lordaeron. With armed forces heavily depleted across both factions, a total war that enveloped every inch of Azeroth is unbelievable for the lore and impractical when considering actual military strategy.

The Third War was also a war against the Undead Scourge, a plague that ripped across the planet. The first and second conflicts between the Horde and Alliance predominately took place in concentrated areas. 

 

Fair points 🙂

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