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BlizzCon 2009: interviews Richard Knaak Part II


So, in the future, do you have any subjects you'd really like to write about in the Warcraft Universe? Or are there any projects you're working on that you can tell us about?

Well, there's nothing I can tell you about as far as current projects, but if given a chance, Deathwing, again, I will take that, because I feel he and I work well together -- He hasn't burned me up yet! Worgen, yes, I want to do Worgen, they have a really good, a really tragic story, they struggle with the dark side. I always felt they had more a tragic story than vampires. Vampires are good, but werewolves are better! Those are probably my top two subjects. Of course, right now I'm working with the Dragons of Outland in the Manga.

So it sounds like you're excited to go to Outland, which brings me to my next question. What's been your favorite Story to work on in the World of Warcraft? What's been the most challenging?

Oh wow. Well, I'd have to say the War of the Ancients was the biggest and most challenging. That trilogy was a really big concept. There was a lot of back and forth work on that, a lot of detail work with people, what we kept intact and what he had to adjust, and I'm really very proud with how that trilogy worked out. I've gotten some very good comments on that one. Amongst my Warcraft stuff, I think the trilogy has struck a lot of people, and I really have to say that it's my favorite so far.

Although I have to say that if I'm proud of anything more, it may just be Stormrage. It's been great working on the new book, there's been a lot of characters people will recognize from the game, there places people will recognize. The Nightmare's a significant part of it.

Interesting. I have to say, I was expecting Stormrage to tie in with the Cataclysm.

I never said it didn't! And I never said it did! It's one of those annoying parts where I can't confirm or deny, and the very fact I am saying that doesn't not mean I am confirming or denying. When I say that, people think, "Aha! This is what he means, but..."

Right, Everyone wants to read just a little more into things.

Yeah, but I have to go with what Blizzard wants me to tell, and they can be pretty restrictive on that. But I can only emphasize that Stormrage will be very current, and you can take that for whatever you want it to mean.

That's Fair! Now, I know you've created a lot of original characters for the Warcraft universe. I'm curious as to what your creation process is like. Are these characters that come to you, or do you try to sculpt them to the story they're in, perhaps?

Well, first of all, I've always loved Dragons, and I've always loved shape shifting Dragons, so you'll find that in a lot of my dragon work, if there's intelligent dragons who are magical. I'm not the first one to originate that, of course, but I am one whose really pushed in that. If you read my Dragonrealms series, I started out with that sort of thing. Although in Dragonrealms, the males tend to look like these scaly armored figures. They can't quite get the human aspect out. Whereas the females can really get it down, but their powers are lessened because of it. But that's an example from my series.

But I do try to build the characters based around the situation. So Korialstrasz - Krasus - seemed to be a logical character because the Red Dragonflight seems to represent life, so they would like to protect things, I think. And who better than the consort of the Aspect?

Also, I always like Mages, and I always like ones that are a bit argumentative with the upper brass, so to speak. And I think red is a good color for a temperamental Mage, so Rhonin came about because I needed someone who was a bit of a do-it-himself guy who really gets on people's nerves. Krasus, while being at the opposite end of the scale, is aware of how capable and useful he is, and Krasus can't do everything. It's not that he wants to use other, lesser people, but he feels its a necessity. It's a dragon's point of view. Rhonin's not the first person he's used. As I hint in, I think, Night of the Dragon, Krasus has used other agents over the centuries, and some of them have died because of being involved with them. He feels bad about that, but the bigger picture demands the protection of the world. Again, a dragon's point of view.

For Vareesa, I wanted to have a counterpart to Rhonin who was a bit more of a stickler for detail and how things should be done, but yet ends up being just as rebellious as him in many ways. And the Villains depend on the situation. Deathwing was obvious, but we wanted to show his machinations behind the scenes, so we created Lord Prestor. And for a bit of comic relief, he had a Goblin who was assisting him.

And there's characters who just meld in depending on how the story runs. A lot of it depends on how the story runs. And I do try to come up with some different characters each time, like the Draenei in Night of the Dragon. And in War of the Ancients, I had to create a lot of different Night Elves in a lot of different positions to show how, if you're in this position, you're not as respected as if you were in this position.

For example, Jerod Shadowsong is a Captain of the Guard, but he's not going to be as respected as many of the lords and masters until he proves he's the guy who can actually do something. Aristocrats always think they can run the wars better. Haughtiness unfortunately tends to be something you have to watch out for in Night Elf Society. The way Azshara was described to me, she was vain and a little bit mad, but I just knew that she had to be a manipulator in some ways too. Then there's Xavius, her advisor, who says I'll do what's best for my queen because that's my power too, and that's basically all the Highborne thought: The Queen is all, and as long as the Queen is all, we are all. Of course, some of them figured out at the end it wasn't quite like that all. But that's how it goes, you have to feel out the different hierarchy of the different races, and try to come up with characters who fit into the situation as it is.

That actually reminds me of my next question. I know you've created or fleshed out quite a few characters and cultures in your books, and we're seeing hints of them in game. For example, the Highborne are returning in the latest patch to rejoin the Night Elf culture. We're seeing Rhonin now as head of the Kirin Tor. Does the lore team consult you on putting your characters in to the game, or is it more of a pleasant surprise for you?

Well, sometimes its been a surprise, though they do often tell me, "So-and-So's going to be in the game eventually." They almost never say when or where though. But sometimes they'll tell me, "Oh, Rhonin's going to be head of the Kirin Tor." Fine by me! He's going to have to learn a little responsibility it looks like. But hey, he has kids now, so maybe he is learning it already. He's gotta get a good daytime job now, he has kids to raise.

Of course, Agents of Krasus turned up fairly quickly in the game. I had done some work with Alexstraza to develop her character, and they started doing more with her as well. And of course, a lot of my Manga characters showed up in game, like Anveena and Kalec. And Anveena had a pretty significant role. They were very happy with what I came up with for Anveena. They thought it was a great way to bring back what they wanted to bring back, so they said pretty quickly that they would use that situation in the game. Really, I've gotten to the point where if I put in a good amount of work on a character, there's a good chance they'll use it for something, and I'm very proud about that, I'm very pleased. I'm always trying to think of characters who are worthy enough and strong enough to make it in game.

Trag Highmountain has shown up in game now, the first Tauren Death Knight. I honestly believe I'm the one who gave them the idea for Tauren Death Knights. As I recall, I told them I wanted to bring Trag back as an undead warrior type, and they said, "The only real undead warrior types we have are Death Knights," and I said that a Death Knight would be cool! And they started sending me illustrations and sketches of Tauren Death Knights, and I'm like, oh wow! And well, I can't say for sure, but I was definitely thinking this up pretty early on, and now they (Tauren Deathknights) are in game. If somebody else came up with the concept before me, I hadn't heard about it, so I certainly feel I was in there very close to the beginning, and now he's in there telling people he's going to join them in the final assault on Icecrown.

Right, I've seen him around, but I'm only Alliance, so I don't know exactly what he says.

Yeah, I'm Alliance and I haven't quite gotten that high level, but some of my Horde friends tell me that. But anyway, he's one of my favorites that they've put in the game. I love Minotaurs, so I love Tauren.

Yeah, I definitely need to read more of the Mangas. It's probably my weakest area as far as keeping abreast of Warcraft literature and lore.

You've not gotten into the Manga yet? Let me introduce you to someone...

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