The World of Warcraft creative team discusses how diversity of characters in the new Shadowlands expansion is only the beginning.
The World of Warcraft: Shadowlands expansion is almost here, and it will change the world of Azeroth. In Shadowlands, players will actually be taking a peek behind the veil and getting a chance to experience life after death for several main characters. Another big thing that the creative team is doing with Shadowlands is make Azeroth a more diverse world, and a recent interview highlighted some areas where the team behind World of Warcraft is focusing.
While the world and lore of World of Warcraft is made up of dozens of different creatures, one of the issues that players have voiced for years is lack of diversity. While the races are diverse from each other, characters are mostly the same within their race. When asked about including a better representation of black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, LGBTQ+ groups, and other communities, Assistant Lead Quest Designer Johnny Cash said diversity “has been a big topic for the team and a big topic in the community. We want to always improve and tell better stories, which also means more diverse stories, and more diverse characters.”
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One of the biggest changes the developers have made to the game came with the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands pre-patch. Many races got new customization options that allowed for more diverse characters to be made. Art Director Ely Cannon talked about how the group was focused on starting small with the knowledge that they can expand. “When we started talking about where we can do that best, it really had to start with Humans. The reason being, of course, is that we live in a world of humans and the ones that we’re going to most align with as people are going to be the Humans.”
The interview turned to Pelagos, the first trans character and a resident of the new Bastion zone in World of Warcraft. Cash believes that “not only letting people create characters that feel like them, but also letting people meet characters that feel like representations of people in the real world themselves or otherwise” is an important part of the game. He said players should feel immersed and also accepted into that world.
Cash mentions one of the focuses when it comes to diversity is making everything feel believable. Rather than players coming across NPCs and seeing them as token representatives or making their World of Warcraft experience feel lacking, Cash wants to create NPCs “that feel like people you might meet in the real world, except maybe this one’s a sorcerer…” The goal seems to be making Azeroth appear like a fantasy mirror of the real world.
All of this comes down to the creators listening to their fans, whether that shows up as returning previous World of Warcraft content or adjusting Covenant abilities that appear overpowered. The creative team has made several diverse NPCs that players will meet throughout this next expansion, but they want players to know this isn’t the end of Azeroth becoming more diverse. Cash mentions he “would definitely see Shadowlands as a step on this journey, not a destination.” Many players will no doubt be there to take that step on November 23.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands releases November 23 on PC.
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