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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?
Metzen: There’s plenty of new lore that I guess you could say is retconned on top of ideas that we never really embellished before and that fans would not be aware of. So there are all kinds of retcons that I can identify but they wouldn’t necessarily cause a stir among the fanbase. I think the Wanderer as Leoric’s son is potentially the most visible, but I think it’s riddled with that kind of stuff. I was challenged to rethink a lot of the ideas that we had built on top of. But not many of those were visible to the public.
There are certainly tons of new ideas and while they’re not necessarily new to me, they’ll be new to the public. In terms of the mythology that underlines nature of the universe, the natures of the Evils, and the Angiris Angels, I think they’ll appear to many as new ideas.
When and where we’ve had continuity issues where the stuff we’d written in a novel didn’t necessarily match something that’s come up in an obscure manual passage somewhere, we actually have Cain call out the discrepancy. Cain will say “in my findings I’ve found this, but these other guys say this,” and he might riff on what he thinks the correct way of looking at events is, which probably reflects our way of looking at events.
Gameplanet: Thinking about those lore masters of Sanctuary, I remember – and perhaps it’s even earlier than Diablo III – but a scholar called Abd al-Hazir wrote many of the lore entries on the original site. In the fiction he disappeared under mysterious circumstances but he had an interesting voice. Is he referenced at all in The Book of Cain?
Metzen: You know I’ll be honest with you, as I think about that right now, the first most logical thing we should’ve done is make sure – because Cain refers to any number of scholars throughout the breadth of the manuscripts – my great hope is that we referred to Abd al-Hazir significantly, but I don’t remember off the top of my head if we did so. But that would’ve been the appropriate use!
Gameplanet: Art is obviously a significant part of this book as well. What can you tell us about the collaboration with the art department?
Metzen: Our internal group is called Creative Development. The group has a publishing component, so they really were the work horses on this thing and did a lot of the visionary design, so they reached out specifically and contracted with a number of these artists, and just worked with them personally to dig out a number of things, visions that we might need – just felt them out based on the artist’s profile based on images that these guys dig doing more, or are known for doing more. They divvied out where appropriate but I think we got some really nice stuff.
Gameplanet: And onto the book’s production itself: I understand it has an embossed cover and the stock for each page has a kind of rough edge. Can you talk us through the book’s physical production?
Metzen: I think we knew from the beginning that we didn’t want to do just any kind of source book, we wanted the book to feel – provided all the business worked out – that it was as convincing a relic of Sanctuary as possible, that it physically embodied this sense of being an artifact of the world, that it could feel as authentic as it could. So that’s why we really went with the cover the way it is, there’s no real branding on the cover specifically, the pages feel parchment-like.
I’ll be honest with you, there’s actually an artifact in the game – one of the cinematics – where we actually get to see Cain’s journal, a big hard-bound book with a big embossed demon on the cover, and in a subtle way it sort of plays into the story of the game. This thing represents his life’s work, his collected knowledge of all this mythology. It has a kind of totemic significance in the game. So we wanted this to match that fantasy as much as we could, and feel like a real physical manifestation of that – although I think that book is about three feet thick and this one is not! You’ll have to suspend belief a little bit.
Gameplanet: Is that the Black Soulstone trailer we saw at BlizzCon this year?
Metzen: Yes indeed! Leah is thumbing through it, if not completing it in that scene! It will be featured in other scenes as well – just a little spoiler for you.
Gameplanet: And what can you tell us about the Black Soulstone?
Metzen: I wouldn’t want to say too much about it because it plays a central part in the game’s story and it’s construction, where it comes from, who designed it, what its function is absolutely plays to the big reveal of the game. But it’s a really cool story in and of itself, definitely one of the cool new hooks at the franchise level, but I’d hate to spoil it at this time!
Gameplanet: Of course! A final question that personally interests me – and I can’t hold a candle to Red Shirt Guy – but I’ve been curious: When the angels and demons learned of Sanctuary, they held a truce and agreed to a kind of non-interference pact. Obviously the Prime Evils had no interest in holding to that pact and their interference in Sanctuary triggered the uprising against them by the Lesser Evils. They lost that civil war and were exiled to Sanctuary, but that’s exactly where they wanted to be in the first place. Does The Book of Cain look to address or provide a plausible reason for that?
Metzen: There have been some theories that it was all by design. That tends to help that idea, that they did it on purpose. I don’t actually like those theories and although it’s a little funky – why in the world would these other demons..? The idea is that the Lesser Evils overthrew the Prime Evils because they were jealous of men, because they feared what they represented in the cosmic order. Ultimately they feared being replaced.
I guess you could theorise, “Well you love these talking monkeys so much you can go live with them!” In their hubris they believed, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ Well, in the Diablo universe the worst typically does happen!
So I don’t know that the Lesser Evils – while they’re super-genius level bad guys – I don’t know that that was their smartest move… History will certainly show that was not their smartest move!