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Shadowlands Dev Interview – Steve Danuser

Shadowlands Dev Interview – Steve Danuser
Taliesin & Evitel talked to Steve Danuser (Lead Narrative Designer) today!

Story Choice

  • Going forward, the team wants to have a unified story. Everyone playing Shadowlands will know what Sylvanas is up to and working towards. Choice in the story doesn’t make sense anymore.
  • There may be little references to choices players made in Battle for Azeroth, but no major choices for the Shadowlands Sylvanas story.
  • Player choice in story isn’t planned for Shadowlands right now, but when it makes sense they’ll do it again.


  • The team enjoyed giving players the leveling zone choice in the past few expansions, but there is a lot of charm in the linear leveling experience. This time around, there is a narrative arc through the zones.
  • The leveling finale in Revendreth will then ask you to make your Covenant choice. That way you’ve experienced all of the Covenants. There will be a Covenant campaign story as well.
  • When you play alts, you can skip the narrative experience and go straight to choosing a Covenant. All of the narrative arc quests will then become open so that you can do them in whatever order you want.
  • The narrative arc won’t take you to every corner of every zone.


  • Covenants are designed to take you around, similar to the War Campaign or Artifact quest lines, so players that only play one Covenant will still get to see some things and not be stuck in one zone.
  • Covenant campaigns are vastly different. The majority of the story is something that only your Covenant experiences, aside from some crossover moments that pull things together.
  • Legion having content for each class was great, but a ton of work.
  • The War Campaign in Battle for Azeroth was nice, but only having two stories didn’t feel like enough.

Shadowlands Zones and Story

  • The team had a ton of options for what would be included in Shadowlands. They touched on death in various ways in Azeroth, so they wanted to revisit some of those and show players the origin or go deeper.
  • The Scourge’s source of power and the Emerald Dream spirits were things people wanted to explore more.
  • It wouldn’t surprise Steve if future patches included currently unknown realms of the Shadowlands.
  • The Shadowlands is a place of infinite afterlives and the team is only expressing a few of the key parts of the ecosystem of death.
  • To mortals, death is the end, but to the denizens of the Shadowlands, Death is the cosmic power that drives everything. It’s not the end of anything, but the beginning of an eternity you can experience in the Shadowlands.
  • A drought of souls is a drought of anima, which is the main resource. What happens to these zones when resources start to run dry? How do the systems break down?
  • The team knows the ending of the story for this expansion and how it leads to the things yet to come. It’s important to tell a good story by knowing where it is going and what it is leading to.
  • There were some stumbles with the story in Battle for Azeroth, and some things weren’t executed as well as they should have. The team is trying to address that in Shadowlands.
  • As people come up with cool things to add to zones, the team has to ensure everything fits together. You have to choose the awesome ideas that fit together and tell a unified story.
  • In Battle for Azeroth, pacing of the content wasn’t perfect. Things were left nebulous at the end of patches and major events that should have been tied together better with what is to come.
  • In Shadowlands, when you play through the 9.0 arc, you are going to be at a cool place and looking forward to what is yet to come. You should have enough ideas to speculate in a healthy and exciting way about what is to come, rather than being confused and lost.

The Jailer

  • The team wanted a central villian whose actions are driving what is going on in the expansion.
  • The Jailer has been involved with the story for a long time.
  • The Shadowlands have been suffering for a while now, and not just at the hands of the Jailor. His allies are also helping out.
  • Everything gravitates around the Jailer. What he has done, how he has gotten Sylvanas to agree with him, his allies, and his motives. There will be more to him than first appears.
  • The Maw provides some story context that you get before you start in Bastion.

Shadowlands Forces

  • We’ve mostly seen the Titans through their Azeroth expressions. We haven’t gone to a Titan homeworld. We’ve dipped our toes into the Emerald Dream, the Void, and other places.
  • You’ll see different perspectives on the universe than we have before and how the forces interact with each other.
  • As you play Shadowlands, you’ll learn more about the rules of the cosmos. The Shadowlands is a place for mortal souls to go. Demon souls go to the Twisting Nether.
  • Where do the beings from other cosmic forces go when they die?
  • Mortal beings are what we see in the mortal realm.
  • Magical beings such as the real Demons from the Burning Legion.
  • Tyrande will be a prominent part of Ardenweald’s story both in 9.0 and going forward. She is one of the threads from Battle for Azeroth that couldn’t be wrapped up neatly with the Battle for Azeroth ending. There may be some cool cinematics that tug at the heartstrings.
  • The Forsaken will be a part of the story. The team doesn’t want to rush their story, especially after all that happened in Battle for Azeroth.


  • Torghast is not only a big part of gearing and repeatable content, it is also integral to the play experience and story of Shadowlands.


  • The helm of domination is broken, but the pieces might have something to do with events during Shadowlands.
  • Bolvar is very key to the storyline that is playing out. He couldn’t look into the Shadowlands with clarity but he has peaked beyond the veil and is able to interpret things for us.
  • Bolvar also has a personal stake in Shadowlands. Talia’s interactions with Bolvar will be part of the story.
  • They needed to be cautious because they didn’t want Shadowlands to be a “greatest hits” of dead characters, but showcase key characters of the past that have importance to the events of the Shadowlands.
  • Steve is satisfied with the choices made for returning deceased characters. Some are core characters and others are just light character moments.
  • Arthas is a fundamental character of the Warcraft IP, but they didn’t want to just place him into the story just to have him return and cheapen the events of the past.

Working from Home

  • Working from home during this time has taken some getting used to. The whole team has been checking on each other a lot and putting people’s needs first.
  • It’s too early to tell if it is slowing down production and they are constantly analyzing their schedule, but the team is happy with the work progress that has happened so far.

Steve’s Favorite Covenant

  • Steve loves all the Covenants and will try to play all of them across all of his toons.
  • He says he is making his decisions based on what he believes his characters would choose.

Events of Shadowlands

  • The events of Shadowlands will carry forward into future stories.
  • Expansions solve mysteries that you have had in your head for awhile, but also lays the seeds for future story payouts.

Quickfire Round

  • There are a lot of ideas for where future expansions will lead. The team likes to see what stories players gravitate toward and change plans for future stories accordingly.
  • The sword of Sargeras has a part to play in future events.
  • Wait and see if Azeroth’s world soul wakes up.
  • Tuskar don’t have souls and this is why they don’t appear in the Shadowlands. (Joking)
  • Life and death have different meanings in the Shadowlands, so we will have to wait and see if everyone who starts the expansion alive will still be alive at the end!
  • There was nothing in the new customization options that went against the story or narrative. These customization options were more about giving the players many ways to express their character.
  • Adding customization options like Wildhammer tattoos is there to be able to differentiate your character’s place in the world. You don’t necessarily need to have a unique starting zone for each different clan, and no matter what the quest text says, if you want to roleplay your character as a specific subrace, then that’s what it is!