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Blizzard released a newsletter recently. In the news letter came an interview with Scott “Daelo” Mercer and Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street about the Lich King and how the stories leading up to the Lich King and more, check it out!

Quote from: Blizzard (Source)

Arthas! The blood of your father… of your people… demands justice! Come forth, coward, and answer for your crimes!

Highlord Bolvar Fordragon

In the Fall of the Lich King content update (patch 3.3), Arthas Menethil, one of the most sinister and iconic antagonists of the Warcraft universe, concludes his tragic tale in a final confrontation with the Horde and Alliance.

To gain more insight into this epic moment in Warcraft history, the Insider sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer and Lead Systems Designer Greg Street. Read on to learn more about how Arthas evolved, how his fall from the Light influenced the history of Azeroth, and how the end of his tragic character arc could shape the game going forward.

What was the inspiration for the character of Arthas? Was he originally intended to be such a central figure in the Warcraft universe, or did his role evolve as the story developed?

Scott Mercer: Early on in the development of Warcraft III, we knew the game would be about heroes leading their armies into battle. We initially created Arthas as one of those leaders, so we knew from the beginning he would be central to the storyline. Arthas starts the game as a young paladin of the human armies and then, after his fall from grace, he leads the undead through the Scourge campaign. His transformation is the bridge connecting the human and the undead campaigns, and he continues to serve as a villain in the other campaigns as well.

Despite Arthas’s importance in Warcraft III, we weren’t initially sure just how big of an effect he would ultimately have on Azeroth. A lot of his storylines — such as his battle with Illidan and his inadvertent creation of the entire Forsaken faction — didn’t really take shape until Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, or even much later on in World of Warcraft.

Greg Street: Also, it bears mentioning that the Lich King and Arthas are actually two separate entities. The Lich King is the lingering spirit of the orcish shaman Ner’zhul. Ner’zhul originally started the demonic invasions in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal. So, in a sense, the entity that players know as the Lich King has been around for a long time, even long before Arthas was born, and has had an even larger hand in shaping the ongoing history of the Warcraft universe.

How did the Lich King’s centrality to the concept of the expansion shape its development?

Scott Mercer: After The Burning Crusade, we realized that Illidan had appeared many times in the concept art and the other material surrounding the expansion, but very few players ever actually saw him in the game itself. To most heroes, Illidan was a bit like Sauron from The Lord of the Rings; he was an omnipresent evil that they would hear about, but never actually meet in a face-to-face confrontation.

When development began on Wrath of the Lich King, we knew we wanted the players to have a more personal connection with the Lich King than they did with Illidan, even if it was an antagonistic relationship. So we started designing quests and instances in which we could show the Lich King to the players, even have him interact with or hamper them on their quests, like in Utgarde Pinnacle or Howling Fjord.

In addition to the Lich King himself, we also referenced the events from Warcraft III many times in the content of Northrend. Players can see the wrecks of the Alliance ships that Arthas set ablaze during Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. They can also find the altar upon which Arthas first discovered Frostmourne. And of course there’s the Culling of Stratholme, the Caverns of Time instance that allows players to relive the moment Arthas first began to adopt his zealous “ends-justify-the-means” attitude, which ultimately lead to him becoming a death knight. We deliberately built these aspects into Wrath of the Lich King to help remind players who Arthas is and where he came from, which we hope makes his character that much more vivid in players’ minds.

Overall, we think this new direction for the portrayal of the expansion’s main villain worked very well in Wrath of the Lich King, and we will likely adopt this approach for other villains in the future.

The Fall of the Lich King content update is the culmination of Wrath of the Lich King. Was it daunting to try to create an encounter that topped all of the expansion’s previous epic encounters?

Scott Mercer: Encounter brainstorms rarely begin with the idea of topping previous encounters. Instead, they start with a discussion about finding the best way to portray a particular character or idea. In this case, the initial discussions revolved around how to best convey the Fall of the Lich King via a raid dungeon. Of course, we’re always experimenting with new tools and ideas, especially when it comes to designing encounters, so a lot of what may be perceived as “topping” of previous encounters is actually a byproduct of what we learned through the course of our experimentation. That said, the Fall of the Lich King is going to be epic, even by World of Warcraft’s standards, so get ready for a world-altering finale.

From a gameplay standpoint, how do the other raid encounters in Icecrown Citadel build up to the final Lich King event? Do any raid encounters stand out in particular as the prelude to the Lich King?

Greg Street: One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the evolution of Icecrown Citadel is the way the art and the encounters in the dungeon come together to portray a fully functional enemy stronghold. No boss in Icecrown Citadel is just standing around, waiting for players to kick in the door. Instead, they all have a reason to be there and a vital role to play in the Lich King’s army. As the players progress through Icecrown, they are attacking the leaders in charge of the various day-to-day operations of the Scourge. There’s the Soul Forge in charge of “recruitment” and Professor Putricide who heads up R&D…. And that’s pretty much what Icecrown progression is all about, attacking the Scourge’s operational strength as you move higher and higher up the chain of command before finally confronting the Lich King himself.

Can you give us any teasers about the final Lich King encounter from a gameplay standpoint? How difficult will he be? Any insight into how his skills and powers from Warcraft III will carry over into the final Lich King raid event?

Scott Mercer: We’re going to keep those cards close to the vest, as players will be toe-to-toe with the Lich King soon enough, but I can say that he will pose the greatest challenge yet found in World of Warcraft. Beyond that, I can only share a few additional details. The battle against the Lich King takes place at the top of Icecrown Citadel where the Frozen Throne protrudes from the citadel’s tallest tower. Throughout the fight, players will have an epic view of Icecrown Glacier, and falling off the tower will be a real danger, especially as the fight progresses. Also, I’ll just say that Frostmourne serves as more than just a weapon wielded by the Lich King during the encounter; it will actually provide a core mechanic of the fight itself, a mechanic which we hope will resonate strongly with all players — especially the lore buffs.

The rest, you’ll have to see for yourself.

Let’s talk loot: what kinds of rewards await players strong enough to bring down the Lich King?

Greg Street: Well, with great challenge comes great reward. So, in addition to the usual stuff, the Lich King is also going to drop some epic weapons that have a higher item level than any other item in Icecrown Citadel. We’re hoping to have something for every character class in this bag, but note that this is just our current goal, not a promise. The main idea is that the Lich King has an inventory of weapons that he has stolen and corrupted throughout his reign. These weapons originally belonged to characters like King Terenas, Antonidas, Sylvanas, and Muradin Bronzebeard. In addition to the corrupted weapons, we’re also planning to have Arthas’s undead mount, Invincible, drop each time the Lich King is defeated in 25-player Heroic mode. Also, once the Lich King is finally defeated, there will be an in-game cut scene, similar in size and scope to the Wrath Gate cut scene.

The title “Fall of the Lich King” suggests the end of an era. Can you give us any teasers for what next awaits the denizens of Azeroth?

Scott Mercer:: Players have been gearing up to fight the Lich King for a long time and it’s definitely the end of an era, but it’s by no means the end of World of Warcraft. We’ve already begun to hint at an in-game event surround the upcoming Cataclysm expansion that will be at least as big as the zombie invasion that kicked off the Wrath of the Lich King. Players already know that the Barrens are getting cut in half by a volcanic chasm, so we’ll have to show you how that happens. The Cataclysm in-game event will probably hit in a patch before the actual expansion goes live. We’re still figuring out the details, but whatever happens, it will be felt throughout the entire world, and it’ll be just the beginning of the reign of Deathwing.

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