Blizzplanet Interview: Blizzard’s Micky Neilson Talks Diablo III: Book of Cain
Blizzplanet and other Blizzard fansites had the opportunity to individually interview Blizzard Entertainment Publishing Lead and Senior Story Developer Micky Neilson over the phone. Eldorian forwarded most of the questions submitted recently by our visitors.
In our interview, Micky Neilson talks more about the mysterious Zoltun Kulle — for those who got to watch the BlizzCon 2011 Diablo III Lore Panel, and reveals the main theme of Nate Kenyon’s upcoming Diablo: The Order (Slated: May 29, 2012).
Read our interview with Micky Neilson to find out why!
Note: Post on twitter a comment about this interview using the hashtag #bookofcain plus @blizzplanet for a chance at a free Diablo III: Book of Cain giveaway. Deadline: Thursday, Dec 15, 2011. (example: @blizzplanet I <3 Blizzard, gimme #bookofcain)
Why is Deckard Cain so important in Diablo history?
Neilson: Why is Deckard Cain so important? Well, he’s one of the most identifiable characters. I would say that stems from him being chosen as the NPC you deal with the most in the series. So, I think as a character he resonated with fans early on so he had some longevity and some staying power. Over the course of the different games he’s become certainly a marquee character. He worked really well for this book specifically because he’s the guy gathering all the information, lore, text and all of that stuff. It really made sense that he’s the one to put this book together.
Where did the inspiration come from to make the Book of Cain a real item that people could buy?
Neilson: Early on the idea came from Chris Metzen as far as he came to the publishing team and said that he really wanted to do a book that is kind of a history of the universe and also an art book. He described it as a hybrid between a source book and an art book. So we went forward from there. As part of that process we had discussions if this is part of Cain’s journal from the game or something completely separate. So we went back and forth a few times and through the course of identifying what the book would be and kind of nailing down the vision of the book, we settled down on the in game artifact aspect of it. We felt like that was the better way to go. I mean as far as the cover and maintaining continuity within the IP it felt like a cool hook for it to be something actually within the game.
Does the Book of Cain take any information from previous Diablo books such as those written by Richard A. Knaak or Mel Odom?
Neilson: Yeah. There is definitely. A lot of the Sin War trilogy is covered in here. You can get kind of a condensed version of the events from the Sin War Trilogy, and it touches on some of the other books as well.
Given that this book is set as the source book for Diablo lore, does it contradict or change any of the major events that have taken place in the game? And if so can you elaborate and be specific on any of the changes?
Neilson: It does clarify a lot of things. We have a lore team who basically pour over all of this material. We knew going into the creation of this book that there were already some contradictions that existed in the lore and the history. So we took this as an opportunity to set the record straight. We definitely identified a few things. One specific example is Tal Rasha and the Soul Stone; and Zoltun Kulle being the one that suggested that the essence could be trapped within a human. There were already a couple of differing accounts and who made that suggestion. I think in one account it was Tal Rasha made the suggestion and another account that Tyrael made the suggestion. So we went in with a different option that Zoltun Kulle was the one who made the suggestion and the purpose of that was to set up that character more because he’s a main character in the next game.
Does Book of Cain go into any post-Sin War details after the trilogy by Knaak? A lot of the other lore in the games and other novels make it seem as if the Sin War didn’t end until a few hundred years before the events of Diablo 1.
Neilson: It does go into detail and we’re trying to nail down the timeline right now. I don’t remember if it nails down exactly how many years before the events of the game that the Sin War takes place but we are in the midst of nailing all of that down for a more refined timeline.
Book of Cain talks about the Angels, and Demons, but Does Trang’Oul get mentioned in the book?
Neilson: Trang’Oul is mentioned briefly. He actually has a gorgeous double page spread and as part of that there’s a little side bar written as a handwritten note from Deckard Cain. There’s a little bit of information, but it’s almost more like a teaser for Trang’Oul.
Are there any potential Diablo III story spoilers in Book of Cain for those who wish to read it before playing the game?
Neilson: There’s no spoilers for the game. Information in the Book of Cain certainly does inform what is in the game. When you read the book you will certainly be more informed of the lore perspective when you play the game.
Are there examples of Deckard Cain and Leah’s research throughout the years searching and piecing together the fragments of the new Prophecy about Azmodan and the comet?
Neilson: There is a lot of that covered in the book. The prophecy is kind of an amalgam that Cain put together on many different prophecies that exist. Some of the different cultures around Sanctuary have some of their own prophecies and a lot of these prophecies point to the comet and the end of days. Deckard Cain put together one all encompassing prophecy based on everything he’s read. So there’s the one he put together but there are a lot of different ones as well.
In Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, Tyrael opens a portal for Cain and the hero prior to the destruction of the Worldstone. Do we get to read about the explosion of Mount Arreat from the point of view of any surviving Barbarians? For example, the upcoming DC Comics Diablo mentions a survivor.
Neilson: We do have a section on the destruction of the Worldstone I believe, I’ll have to double check, but I believe it’s told from Deckard Cain’s perspective. So I don’t believe it’s told from the Barbarian perspective.
Does Cain mention Abd al-Hazir, and if so, does his research help Cain piece together the prophecy? Have they met or worked together?
Neilson: I don’t believe we mention Abd al-Hazir in here and if we do it’s just a really brief mention of the many sources Cain is drawing from. We don’t suggest in the book that they have been hanging out and sharing information.
Are all lands of Sanctuary featured, and given in-depth background story?
Neilson: There wasn’t enough space in the book to go in depth giving all the other information we put in the book. There is a section near the end of the book called Lands and Cultures that does cover all the main areas and cultures in sanctuary. It also covers all the new classes that will be showing up in Diablo 3.
Does Cain uncover new history of his Horadrim heritage and learn the background stories of NPCs/Bosses/lore figures met in the previous games? (for example: Leoric’s pre-Tristram reign, Warriv, Wirt, Anya, mythical stories of possible Tyrael encounters across time.)
Neilson: Yes. For sure we get into Leoric a lot more. We do touch into a lot of the history of the Horadrim, the hunt for the three, we get into a lot more detail as far as the events that took place back then. We’re also working on another book, Nate Kenyon is writing a book for us called The Order and that is really going to go into a lot more detail also into the history of the Horadrim and Cain’s involvement and how he learned about the Horadrim and the events at Tristram.
What was more interesting or challenging about compiling the lore for Book of Cain and working with Flint Dille?
Neilson: Flint Dille was great. Flint really understood the character so he nailed that character voice, that scholarly voice of Deckard Cain. I’d say the biggest challenge was just codifying everything. Just putting it all together identifying contradictions that existed and clarifying which direction we wanted to go. There’s a lot of history in the Diablo universe. It was a mammoth task just to put distinctly. What did we end up? 140-some pages? So just trying to the entire Diablo history in that amount of pages, and a significant amount of that was art, was not the easiest thing in the world.
What inspired this mythological background for the Diablo universe concerning Anu and Tathamet the dragon?
Neilson: A lot of that came from Chris Metzen and early on we had meetings and we talked about what would different mythology be for the universe. And we knew there was one we wanted to back and enforce as canon at least from Cain’s point of view and the information that he discovered. A lot of those ideas came from Chris Metzen, and we hashed out the rest of it in brainstorming sessions.
Is Tran’Goul somehow related to Tathamet considering both are dragons, but both seem to be different: the former good, the latter evil?
Neilson: I think there’s more information that will be revealed in the future about Trang’Oul – right now I can’t disclose anything.
How do you feel about the mood and story of the Diablo series? What do you think makes it stand from other dark fantasy universes?
Neilson: Interesting. So the biggest theme that we face with Diablo is heroism facing absolute terror. I really think that sets it apart. You have humanity that is caught in the middle between these cataclysmic forces of light and dark, but light and dark aren’t exactly what you expect them to be. The angels aren’t exactly what you expect angels to be – most of them want to destroy humanity. So it’s a really kind of an interesting dynamic and humanity has the ability to become powerful in its own right, and to upset the balance of the Eternal Conflict between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. I think that is really a cool hook.
Thank you, Micky Neilson, Eric Yco, Bashiok, Lyndsi, and Blizzard Creative & Public Relations Teams for your awesome support to fansites and lore fans.
Order Diablo III: Book of Cain now (Release date: Dec 13, 2011) or gift it to a friend or family member.
We recommend reading our BlizzCon 2011 Diablo III Lore Panel Transcript to learn more about Zoltun Kulle, and other mentions of Diablo III: Book of Cain made during the Panel.