The world of Draenor in the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor, was inspired by the desire to evoke a sense of nostalgia in players while also answering questions, according to creative director Alex Afrasiabi.
Speaking to Polygon, Afrasiabi said the development team looked at Outland — which is what Draenor became after it was destroyed, and is also a place that World of Warcraft players are familiar with — and worked back from that.
"We already had Outland, and we feel like when you're building something that already exists, you have to service that thing," he said. "So that was the base for us — Outland was an initial source of inspiration.
"Then there were things we wanted to do. We wanted to answer questions. What did Outland look like before the warlocks took over and shattered the world? Outland had an ocean. Outland had a sea. What did those look like?"
Afrasiabi said the development team wanted to introduce environments to World of Warcraft that players had never seen before. He said players have seen snowy zones in the game, but they've never seen a region like Frostfire Ridge, which he describes as a "clashing of snow with fire — what you'll see is this beautiful melding of a volcanic zone with a frozen tundra."
Similarly, players will get a chance to see a region like Nagrand before it, too, was destroyed.
"There are things players have never seen in Nagrand," Afrasiabi said. "Before the world was shattered, Nagrand had variable height. It had a marshland. It had a highland and a scrubland. These are the things we'll be showing the player, and hopefully servicing the nostalgia while showing them a new look."
According to Afrasiabi, "the game is the world," which is why these new environments are important and will shape the player's experience. The environments will tell players something about its inhabitants, tie into the game's extensive lore and give them a sense of discovery as they venture into regions they've never seen before.
"The environments really play up to what this world is about," he said. "So what we're saying is Draenor is savage. It's beautiful, but it's also kind of scary. You see these giants lumbering across the land, and you have to take a step back. This is an alien world to you. It's the home of the orcs. The orcs live in this environment where most things just freeze — that's how rugged they are. That's what we want to play up and that's what you're going to experience."