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Gameplanet: Going back to those concepts of Heaven and Hell, good and evil: they’re really easy concepts for people to understand quickly but in their purest forms they don’t necessarily make for very interesting storytelling. What makes “good” good and what makes “evil” evil and does The Book of Cain seek to explain this in any way?
Metzen: It definitely gets into who these angels and demons are, what they’re motivated by, what they’re about. It gets into a little bit of where they live, what is their modus operandi and certainly what has been their history together.
We don’t necessarily get into the waters of trying to explain good versus evil innately – selfishness versus selflessness, ultimately – we’re not trying to get super-philosophical with it any further than the fact that the franchise characters are really based – or are – physical representations of virtues and sins, if you will. The Great Evils are Terror, Hatred, Destruction and so on, and conversely, the angels are Justice, Hope and Valour, things like that.
But apart from those motifs, we don’t attempt to get philosophical about the true nature of man or anything like that. It’s a videogame at the end of the day.
Metzen: So yeah, we want to kind of stay out of those waters, but I can tell you: rooting the book in the voice of Deckard Cain allows us, through him, to riff a little bit about what he perceives of the Diablo universe, about what he perceives of this giant conflict between good and evil.
Ultimately, one thing that was important to me as a story developer that I’ve tried to ingrain in this book and in Diablo III is that given that it’s this war between Heaven and Hell, what does it mean to mankind? Why be a hero in this universe? Why would you put your boots on in the morning and attempt to fight the good fight if it’s all so bleak? The Book of Cain does attempt to deal with some of those themes, that hope is important, that selflessness is important in the face of absolute terror, that being a hero does count. So we do attempt to suggest those themes [and make them] inherent in the text.
Gameplanet: Picking up on Cain as the voice. This is his lore, his understanding of the war between Heaven and Hell. Is he a fallible voice? Or is he a completely reliable author? Does he have his own interpretations on things that might be slightly different to reality?
Metzen: I have two answers for that! The first answer would be that certainly he’s as fallible as anybody else. Within the fiction he could potentially have made mistakes or have misread things or whatever, certainly that’s possible. But if we’re talking about advertising this book to a fan: why pick it up? I certainly want players and fans of the franchise to expect that this is Blizzard’s most definitive look at this world. This is our best foot forward in terms of the history and the themes. As close as we can get, it’s all correct information if that makes any sense?
Metzen: However, the wonderful thing about putting it in Cain's voice is that if we happen to have a mistake or two over the arc of it, it was his damn fault, not ours! So it’s a wonderful catch-all.
Gameplanet: Yeah, he is getting on in years!
Gameplanet: Going back and revisiting the lore necessarily leads to retroactive continuity – formerly established facts get altered. Leoric’s son Aidan being identified as The Dark Wanderer is the most significant example that I’m aware of at the moment but are there others fans might expect to find in The Book of Cain?