Home » News Item
Book of Cain Interview With Micky Neilson
Posted December 6th, 2011 at 9:18pm by CaerganTo compliment our full review of Book of Cain published yesterday, we were given the opportunity to interview Micky Neilson, one of the creative talents involved with the book. The Q&A touches on his role at Blizzard, the content of the book and what lore junkies can expect in the future.
Blizzard QuoteWhat's your role on the Blizzard team and what contributions did you offer in the development of the Book of Cain?
I run the publishing team for Blizzard; so comics, novels, web content – all kinds of published materials. I run the team that takes care of all that stuff from the Blizzard side. For Book of Cain specifically, I did all kinds of things, basically the idea came from Chris [Metzen] early on and what he wanted and envisioned was kind of a source book/artbook. He made it clear early on that it definitely wasn't just going to be an artbook, he really wanted to dig into the history. So he brought that idea to me and then said "how can we make this happen, how can we explore different ways to create this".
So at that time on the licensing side, one of the licensing people went around and talked to different publishers who all came in and did presentations, Insight Editions ended up getting the job. From there on out, it became our task on the publishing side to create the outlines of what that book was going to be. Early on it was really kind of funky trying to communicate what the vision was to some of the publishers, so we looked at a lot of different examples from a bunch of different books that were kind of the same vein as what we were trying to do. Eventually I banged out an outline that fit the vision that Chris was going after and also clearly communicated to the publisher what we were trying to do.
Later on my role was to go in and restructure, keeping an eye towards clarity. That was really the big thing as far as marching orders from Chris, making sure that we maintained clarity as far as history is concerned with all these big ideas.
Okay, so is it Chris that gets the final say on Diablo lore then?
Pretty much, I mean we collaborate with team 3 and Chris is really good about talking to the folks on team 3 and making sure that we're in sync with where they want to go with the franchise – but for the most part the final call rests with him.
Is it safe to say that the "Book of Cain" is the 'official' canon for Diablo Lore from here on in, and if so what motivated Blizzard to establish this?
It is true, and the nice thing is that is from Cain's perspective so if we ever do decide to go back and make a change we can always say well you know what Cain got it wrong.
Well he is an old man after all right?
(laughing) He's old and senile, and you know maybe he got some bad information, who knows! But it is canon as of right now and the nice thing about it is we were able to use Book of Cain to really clear up some things. There have been some inconsistencies in Diablo history in the lore, and there have been some contradictions. We were aware of these things and we wanted to rectify those situations.
So getting into more of the lore contained in the Book of Cain, how many attempts at a creation myth were made before settling on the story of Anu and Dragon? What made this one stand out above the others?
That was an interesting process, that was a lot of meetings and throwing a lot of ideas back and forth... and then writing that section a few times. Me, Chris, Flint, one of the other writers Matt Burns, the folks from team 3 making sure they knew what was going on, and really just trying to find something that made sense in kind of an abstract way. I mean obviously you're dealing with a lot of abstract ideas with Anu and the Dragon and everything else. From a mythological standpoint, it's something we eventually arrived at and everybody agreed that this is a really cool mythology – this works, it makes sense. It's different from what you'd expect, that was something else that we tried to do, not really be beholden to what people think heaven is and what people think hell is. We were able to make the high heavens and the burning hells unique to this IP.
In the opening letter to Leah, Deckard talks about the prophecy of the 'End of Days'. Where did the old man dig up this Prophecy? Does this exist elsewhere in Diablo lore or is this the first time we see reference to it?
The interesting thing about the prophecy is that there are many, many, many prophecies in Diablo and there's more published fiction coming out where there's even more prophecies. Specifically we wanted to, for the sake of clarity, nail down one prophecy of the end times so we gave it a proper name and everything else. This is specifically one prophecy that tells about the end of days. Cain cobbled that together from different sources, probably taking bits and pieces from here and there and came up with what he sees as the final prophecy, but there are other ones as well.
You guys devoted a double page spread of art work to Trag'Oul, with only a brief paragraph to actually talk about him. This compared to the in depth descriptions you gave for so many other big name characters of the Diablo universe. This 'Guardian of Sanctuary' seems like an intriguing character and we'd love to hear more about him. Was the reference intentionally meant to be somewhat cryptic?
It was for now, and that gives us the flexibility to be able to continue exploring that particular character later on. We knew going into this that we wouldn't have all the answers right away, which is fine as long as we provide enough information to keep people interested. In the case of Trag'Oul, to have people asking questions and to know that people have that interest is great, because that allows us to explore that character fully in the future.
Deckard Cain states that "Aidan and Adria spent long nights behind closed doors" after Aidan defeats Diablo and attempts to contain the Lord of Terror within himself. Shortly after this we learn that Deckard's 'niece' Leah is in fact the daughter of Adria. So essentially Leah is the daughter of a mysterious witch and Aidan... or is it Diablo? How far are we supposed to read into this?
(laughing) Uhhh, let me think exactly what I can say. So, you are not incorrect in your statement, and all of what you just mentioned will tie into Diablo 3. That's probably all I can say.
In the story of the Hunt for the Three, Deckard makes a point of contradicting the commonly assumed role Tal Rasha played in suggesting that a human could contain Baal's essence within the damaged soul stone. Is this an official ret-con on Blizzards part or just a way of highlighting/introducing the character of Zoltun Kulle?
A little bit of both, if I remember correctly there were two sources for what happened with Tal Rasha and the soulstone. I think one of the sources was one of the manuals, and then I forget what the other source was, it was either another manual or it might have been the same manual where there was actually a contradiction. As we were going through the process of writing this thing, that was one of the contradictions that came up and it basically came down to "okay we need to make a choice". But also in making that choice, that did give us an opportunity to explore Zoltun Kulle a little bit more.
Zoltun Kulle and the Black Soul Stone he created seem to be a major feature of Diablo 3 judging by your latest cinematic (which was awesome by the way!), but there is still very little actually said about either of these in Deckard Cain's writings. Are you intentionally not telling us too much here?
Yes, there will be a lot more Zoltun Kulle and a lot more information about him coming up. Did the assassination of Zoltun Kulle make it into the final version of the book?
Didn't really talk about it from what I can recall.
Okay there was a section, I thought it had made it in there but I could be mistaken, talking about the Horadrim and their having to hunt down Zoltun Kulle and take him out. If that's not in there, that is a section that might have gotten cut.
Sorry I should clarify that, you guys did mention the Horadrim went after him but I did notice that in the lore panel at BlizzCon they actually went in and talked about how they rather gruesomely cut his head off and separated the body parts, alternate dimensions and all sorts of stuff. But none of that was really mentioned in the book of cain, it was just quick one pager on Zoltun Kulle and the black soulstone.
Right, and that I would chalk up to continuing development where the game team is in a development process and that's evolving, so there was only a certain amount we knew was safe to say in the book.
Deckard makes a point of highlighting certain passages or ideas which Leah should pay extra attention to. Is this intended to give us the reader a sneak peek at some of the issues and challenges we'll be facing in Diablo 3?
It is, and in some cases it's just clarification or in some cases it's just areas where we thought it would be nice to have an aside from Deckard. But there certainly are callouts that are important for what's coming up.
Going back to the end of days prophecy, it seems to mention each of the Archangels of the Angiris Council in turn. Should Diablo fans be expecting to see a lot more of the Angiris council when Diablo 3 is released?
Fans should expect to see a lot more of the Angiris Council in general, not just in the release of the game but all over the place. There's all sorts of cool stuff that we're working on right now and the Angiris Council features heavily in a lot of that.
The general tone of Deckard Cain's narrative seems to insinuate that he is passing the torch of the 'the Last of the Horadrim' on to Leah. The Diablo universe would just not be the same without his voice-overs. You can't seriously be considering killing off uncle Deckard?!
(laughing) I can neither confirm nor deny anything having to do with the death of Deckard Cain!
Okay, fair enough! The "Book of Cain" was an enjoyable experience and a major boost in the collective lore surrounding the game universe of Diablo. Aside from playing through Diablo 3 when it arrives, what other offerings can lore junkies such as myself be expecting in the months and or years ahead?
There's some stuff I can talk about and some stuff I can't. We have announced a book coming up from Nate Kenyon. It's called "The Order" and it has Deckard Cain as the main character, it's got Leah when she was a little girl and it's all about their adventures. There's a group that claims to be the Horadrim which has piqued Deckard Cain's interest and he's trying to find them, and there's yet another prophecy of a demonic attack on Sanctuary, so he's trying to figure out how to prevent that from happening. The real value of that book is getting into Deckard's character and really getting into Leah's character, her history and their history together.
There's also the Diablo comic which issue 1 is out right now, that's a 5 issue limited series that deals with Tyrael's sword. It's the story of how this mortal picks up Tyrael's sword, or more accurately the sword chooses him to be the avatar of justice on Sanctuary. Really cool story, again setting up some things that happen in the game as well.
We're going to have a bunch of web fiction coming up, so before the game comes out that'll be something for fans to keep an eye out for - web short stories.
So you're talking more along the lines of the short stories for the leaders in World of Warcraft for example?
Yeah so about the same length, similar kind of thing and there's some other really really cool stuff that I can't talk about.
Well I'm sad you can't talk about it but I'm also excited since that means it must be good!
Oh yeah, some great great stuff, I'm very excited.
Pre-Ordering the Book of Cain
Release Date: December 13th, 2011
Comments have been disabled for this news article.