World of Warcraft is taking storytelling lessons from Overwatch, Blizzard says

WoW Battle for Azeroth

Blizzard has built a cast of beloved characters and stories across all its games, and Overwatch is no exception – though you’ve got to go beyond the game itself and dive into comics, stories, and animated shorts to get the full breadth of the narrative. That’s only strengthened players’ connection to the game, though, and Blizzard has applied what it’s learned from Overwatch even in its most story-driven title, World of Warcraft.

Terran Gregory, project director for creative development at the company tells us that “I think Blizzard started putting its foot into the transmedia game with Overwatch. And as they saw that being incredibly successful throughout its comic book releases, its short series, 2.5D animation, character origin stories, any number of things building out that world – before even the game had been released, people were already enamored with and in love with this world.”

Since Blizzard’s animation and creative studios are all housed in a single building, Gregory says “of course we take notice and want to apply the lessons learned from Overwatch to World of Warcraft.”

We’ve gotten an advanced look at the Battle for Azeroth story thanks in particular to the Warbringers shorts showcasing the Burning of Teldrassil and (more importantly) Zappyboi – as well as plenty more. Add that to further bits of additional story provided in things like the Windrunners comic, and WoW fans are getting plenty of plot even before the Battle for Azeroth release date.

“I think we started in Legion, but Battle for Azeroth is the one that from its seed inception of a concept, before it was ever even on a whiteboard, we knew this is how we wanted to approach this story. And resultingly, we always had in mind that the comics, and the books, and the gameplay, and the in-game cinematics, and the 2.5D animations all need to be very, very closely woven together – tell one cogent story.”

Gregory adds that they “try not to leave too much of the critical information outside of the more game-centric ones,” and rather want to use the stories from other mediums “as more of the ‘for further reading see.’”

Principal level designer Gary Platner adds that lead up to Battle for Azeroth has been everything Blizzard could hope for, with the protracted storytelling largely being well-received. He says that the response to the narrative has been especially heartening because of the team’s focus on story.

“Story is super important to us. Everything we do is story. How we build everything is based on the story of a character or a culture. Everything we do, from the cities to the smallest of items. There’s a story behind how things are built, the materials that built it, why they’re even made. Everything is related all the way up to giant, fully rendered CG movies, which now just mesh so well with the other into a cohesive player experience.”