Interview with Chris Metzen

There was a time when the Blizzard parking lot used to empty out before 11PM - but that was before the internal alpha of World of Warcraft went live. Although the population of the Blizzard building isn't quite enough to make for a truly "massively" multiplayer experience yet, somehow the call of exploring Azeroth and Kalimdor, even with fifty of your office mates, is enough to override more sensible instincts like eating and sleeping.

Wanting to share some of that excitement, the team has revealed a lot of new information on the Troll and Gnome races. Both were previously announced as playable races in Computer Games Magazine, but are now much further along and Blizzard Creative Director, Chris Metzen, sat down with us to answer a few questions about what's in store.

Blizzard Insider: With so many great races that could be turned into playable characters in World of Wacraft, why did you choose Gnomes and Trolls?

Chris Metzen: I think many of us have had a soft spot for Trolls since Warcraft II, especially once they evolved into the jungle variant we see in Warcraft III. We've used them a lot as NPCs in the Horde story recently, especially in the Orc campaign, so it seemed like a natural fit.

As for the Gnomes, we went back and forth on the decision of whether to make them or Goblins a playable race. Goblins were a big part of the Warcraft universe already, and we all thought it would be very cool to play from their perspective. But in the end, we decided that we'd used Goblins in so many spots as neutral NPCs that it would be tough to fit them into a two-faction system. Both factions get along fairly well with Goblins as traders, so we ultimately went with Gnomes because we thought they would be a better fit.

BI: How do the Gnomes fit back into Warcraft lore? They were notably absent from Warcraft III. Where have they been?

Metzen: I think we deal with it a little bit in upcoming D&D supplements. During Warcraft II, the Gnomes were, in effect, building weapons and lending designs to the Alliance - but they were staying out of any direct fighting. In Warcraft III and Frozen Throne, and even in World of Warcraft, it becomes clear that the Gnomes have had internal problems of their own for several years. As of World of Warcraft, they still offer support to the Alliance in terms of building tanks, designing weapons, sending flying machines, and so on. But they had a problem at home that has recently been discovered - an ancient menace from the depths of the underground, called Troggs. The Troggs invaded the Gnome's city of Gnomeregan and wiped it out. The Gnomes decided not to let the rest of the Alliance know about this because they figured that they could deal with it on their own. But Gnomeregan fell, probably thanks as much to the Gnomes' own actions as to those of their enemies - they likely blew themselves up with whatever failsafe devices they used to defeat the threat. After the destruction of their homeland, the Gnomes fled to the safety offered by their nearby allies the Dwarves.

BI: Each playable race in World of Warcraft seems to have some overarching theme that also involves finding out the life-story for characters of that race. Will the events surrounding Gnomeregan's demise be a part of playing a Gnome?

Metzen: Definitely. I don't want to give away too much, but we can say that part of being a Gnome will have to do with getting payback.

BI: How about the Trolls? What is the central theme for them? There are different races of Trolls, right?

Metzen: Yes, there are multiple types of Trolls, including Desert, Forest, Jungle, and Ice varieties. The Jungle Trolls have a very dark culture (they may all be cannibals…) and this specific Jungle tribe that has allied itself with the Horde is called the Darkspear Tribe. For reasons that will be expanded on in the game, most of the Jungle Trolls have been involved in an ongoing civil war that has lasted a thousand years.

The Darkspear Tribe first appears in the Warcraft III demo that features the Horde missions. The demo missions took place between the intro of the Warcraft III Orc campaign and the remainder of the campaign. In the missions, as the Horde is going to Kalimdor, they befriend the outcast tribe of Jungle Trolls and save their leader and ultimately the entire tribe from extinction. To make a long story short, the Darkspear Tribe ends up following Thrall to Kalimdor. When they arrive, they offer the Warchief their services and become fast friends with the Orcs and, to a lesser extent, the Tauren, who don't know if they really trust the Trolls or not. The Jungle Trolls are definitely an evil race, but these guys are doing their best to steer straight.

BI: It sounds like the Trolls will start in the Orc city of Orgrimmar then. Where will the Gnomes start?

Metzen: Gnomes will start in or around Ironforge, the Dwarven city. Their homeland was destroyed, so their neighbors and allies the Dwarves offered to help them out. In fact, Gnomeregan lies in the same mountain range as Ironforge, so it was a logical step for the Gnomes to take.

BI: How do the starting locations differ for these two new races from those of the Dwarves or the Orcs? Will Gnomes start out in the same areas as the Dwarves? And is the same true for Trolls and Orcs?

Metzen: Yes, they both start with exactly the same conditions. We went out of our way to include a lot of Troll and Gnome NPCs and content in those core cities so that it feels a little bit more like home. The Troll player will start in the Orc starting area, but just up the road is a Troll village with its own NPCs and its own support system. Any Horde player can see the same content and visit the Troll village to get those quests, but there is definitely a strong Troll presence in the Orc homeland.

BI: Will players be able to explore the ruins of Gnomeregan?

Metzen: Definitely. There is a lot of quest content that sets up the adventure before you even get there, though. The story of its fall and the nature of the creatures that invaded it are part of something bigger - a deeper story line that has its roots in the entire world.

BI: Is Gnomeregan going to be a high-level zone?

Metzen: Gnomeregan is more of an intermediate dungeon, somewhere around a level-30 area. We've had meetings on it, but we're still juggling with the numbers and a lot of other details that'll be needed before this is a fully fleshed out part of the game world.

BI: Is Gnomeregan totally self-contained, or does it lead to something bigger?

Metzen: It's fairly self-contained. However, I would say that the fall of the city (and the nature of the creatures that invaded it) are part of the overarching theme for all of Khaz Modan (all of the Dwarven lands), and that theme resonates throughout the rest of the world as well.

BI: We know the design team has been playing an alpha version of the game for a while. With the addition of the Gnome and Troll races, are internal testers picking them over the more exotic Taurens and Night Elves now? What race is Blizzard playing most currently?

Metzen: It's kind of a funny situation right now. The game is currently in a state of development where we're very focused on the classes. Really, the draw of each race at this early stage is the awesome variety among the starting zones. People just like to play in a new area. We were playing last night - I think we had around 200 people playing in a Night Elf area - and we were just having fun, creeping around and whatnot. It was cool seeing everyone run around with all the different hair colors, and it was just way too funny.

BI: So what classes will you be able to play as Gnomes and Trolls?

Metzen: Gnomes can play Warriors, Rogues, Mages, and Warlocks. Trolls can play as Warriors, Hunters, Rogues, Priests, and Shamans.

BI: Thanks for your time, Chris.

To learn more about the Troll and Gnome races, check out the World of Warcraft Town Hall at