WoW devs on the fine balance of storytelling

WoW devs on the fine balance of storytelling
Images via Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Amy Eastland


16th Oct 2023 17:00

Getting the balance right for storytelling can be difficult, especially in an expansive game like World of Warcraft - and Maria Hamilton and Laura Spreitzer, Associate Design Director and Game Designer respectively, sat down with us to talk about how they decide which stories to tell in the game.

Choosing between adding tense moments from more central characters to those sillier stories found in side quests can be difficult, but the WoW devs are certain of their ability to choose correctly. While weightier tales like the Fyrakk consuming the world tree often take centre stage, others from Azeroth's inhabitants within the Emerald Dream also have a place to stay.

Arguably one of the most memorable moments from Dragonflight thus far is the quest 'Stay A While' from Veritstrasz, and this easy-to-miss moment can be a real tear-jerker for those who choose to participate in it. 

Telling crucial stories

Emerald Dream architecture in WoW Dragonflight patch 10.2
Click to enlarge

Referring to how they found a way to balance the 'cutesy' quests in the Emerald Dream alongside the scenes of Fyrakk and the Druids of the Flame destroying the Emerald Dream for sinister purposes, Spreitzer said: “I don’t think we ever want to shy away from telling the stories that we need to tell and giving the characters their depth of emotion.

"Letting Tyrande have her moment and explore all of the pain she’s dealt with and the pain that the Night Elves in general have dealt with… is all part of the job.” 

Both Spreitzer and Hamilton gave high praise to the cinematics team, saying that they are the ones really committing to the emotion of a scene, with Hamilton stating: “Cinematics have really stepped up to the plate… Serious kudos to the cinematics group and narrative team. It’s a huge team effort.”

Cinematics carry those memorable moments to your screen, allowing you to really absorb what is going on in the story, and to see your favourite characters come to life and go through dramatic storylines alongside your own. 

When creating stories to tell in World of Warcraft, there's a consideration as to whether they become a side quest or a main quest, and whose story goes to the front alongside which ones are more significant. Spreitzer said: “We end up with stories that we want to tell, and if they don’t quite fit in the campaign, they go into local stories.

"Those will end up being some of the more intense ones sometimes. When we have time to work on local stories, it can end up being a very open concept. Do you want to do something silly, do you want to do something emotional?” 

Some of the best-hidden gems come from the local stories that some players may often skip over as they are not part of the campaign. Not only can you find some really fun ones here, but some of them are very emotional and tense - and it’s a fine balance between what emotions you want to give to a player. 

For more on everything Azeroth, be sure to check out our World of Warcraft homepage for content like what the WoW devs had to say about the Superbloom event.

Amy Eastland
About the author
Amy Eastland
Amy was a Guides Writer for GGRecon. She has a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Journalism, and has previously worked for companies such as Gfinity and HITC. Her favourite games include Dark Souls 3, Elden Ring, and Crash Bandicoot Warped. When she's not at work, she's hanging out with her black cat, Shelby.
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