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With the Shadowlands expansion for World of Warcraft looming on the horizon, the folks over at Windows Central decided to have a chat with Steve Danuser, the lead narrative designer on Blizzard Entertainment’s flagship MMORPG. This resulted in a lengthy interview that revolves around World of Warcraft’s story direction, some of the criticisms the game’s been receiving lately, and Blizzard’s plans for the upcoming expansion.
Here’s an excerpt and you take things from there:
Battle for Azeroth's character arc with Sylvanas feels a tad familiar to how Garrosh Hellscream played out in previous expansions. How do you feel about accusations that Sylvanas is becoming a "Garrosh 2.0?"
One of the major themes in this expansion was expressed by Sylvanas in the opening words of the Battle for Azeroth trailer: "Ours is a cycle of hatred." To demonstrate that there is a cycle, we created a story structure for Sylvanas that, on the surface, echoed many broad strokes of the road Garrosh took. A warchief promoted under questionable circumstances. A brutal act of aggression that instigated conflict. Distrust among the inner circle that led to an uprising. These parallels were intentional. But it's within the nuance that we sought to show the story grow and change.
The Horde believed that, by putting the wise Vol'jin in place as warchief, their future was secure. But they hadn't changed the underlying structures or practices that enabled Garrosh's tyranny in the first place. The untimely passing of Vol'jin and a bit of manipulation in the aftermath of his death were all it took for the pattern to begin repeating.
Similarly, the Alliance found itself with a new leader after King Varian's fall on the Broken Shore, but Anduin was so focused on living up to his father's legacy that it blinded him to certain truths. Those blind spots proved costly and will be something he has to come to terms with going forward.
Once the plot was put into motion, the differences in the stories of Garrosh and Sylvanas began taking shape. The theme of change was brought home by Saurfang's words in the cinematic that preceded the mak'gora: "Breaking the cycle." Horde players were given the opportunity to see both sides of the conflict and decide which they wanted to follow. This time, the army that gathered at the gates of Orgrimmar didn't raid the city; they caught a glimpse of what Sylvanas had been working toward the whole time.
The structure of the Horde's leadership was fundamentally changed, and they now have a real chance to prevent history from repeating once more—though they still have their share of challenges ahead. The Alliance is showing fractures that have not healed cleanly, and that storyline will continue into Shadowlands.
The aftermath of a war is always messy. Expect repercussions from the Fourth War to carry forward for a long, long time.