Thursday, September 15, 2011

Snarky Little Geniuses – Angel McCoy on Writing the Asura

Hi! It’s Angel Leigh McCoy, wordsmith on the Guild Wars 2 design team, and I get to tell you about the work we’re doing with the asura. The races of Tyria are each unique, in their own special-snowflake way, and the asura are the flakiest of all—which is why we love them so much!

Meet the Asura

Asura are diminutive, vibrant geniuses with chips on their shoulders. We first met them in Guild Wars: Eye of the North, but their history might surprise some people. Before 1078 AE (~250 years before GW2 present day), the asura lived underground, building their civilization in dark caverns. They rarely came out, and few other races encountered them.
Then, Primordus, the Elder Fire Dragon, stirred and awoke evil creatures that lived even deeper underground: destroyers. When the destroyers swarmed forth from their pits, they drove the asura up and out, into the light of day. Many of you may remember helping save the asura in Eye of the North.

While grateful to be alive, the asura had a difficult time with the transition from subterranean society to surface dwellers. Fortunately, they’re more stubborn than an ettin gnawing on a dolyak bone. They refused to be victims, and instead, leveraged their strengths to create an even better and bigger home for themselves. They built Rata Sum—a city that takes one’s breath away—and have honed their “alchemagical” knowledge beyond that of any other race.
Concentrated Magnificence
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Most asura use big words (like “alchemagical”). With the asura, we writers have a license to make up words, combine words to create something fantastic, and use existing words in strange new ways. As a result, we’ve developed intimate relationships with our dictionaries and thesauruses.

The asura talk like the little smarty-pants they are. Completely lacking in humility, they show off their genius at every turn and even exaggerate it whenever possible—you might say they have a Napoleon complex. An asura doesn’t speak in layman’s language unless absolutely necessary for communication with “lesser beings.” Why use a short word when you can once again prove your superior intelligence by using a word those around you don’t understand?
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Do asura have families?
Well, of course, they do. They have children, parents, and grandparents. They have the crazy uncle that nobody talks about. They have the elder brother who can do no wrong, and the great-grandmother who has gone deaf. A black sheep in the family affects everyone’s reputation, so family tensions among asura run hot.
They affectionately call their children “progeny” or “offspring.” Parents have high expectations for their progeny and will go to extraordinary lengths to see that they rise above their peers. Often, an asura’s offspring will be forced to follow in their parents’ footsteps, even into joining the same krewe.
Speaking of krewes, do asura have jobs? Yes! An asura works on a team, called a krewe, and is loyal to it. The asura are often competitive and jealous, even to the point of sabotaging one another. There are no social taboos against inter-krewe espionage.
As a matter of fact, it’s expected. Imagine how fun it is to write scenes between competing asura! Snark, snark, snark!
Talk Dirt to Me
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And More Snark!

Sit back and watch the sass fly! A side effect of asuran intelligence and self-confidence is that they’re masters of the zinger. They don’t suffer fools lightly and don’t believe in sparing feelings. Workers expect to get snide comments from their krewe bosses, and progeny expect it from their parents. Teen asura, of course, give it back as good as they get it—it’s part of growing up.
This verbal abuse may seem mean-spirited, but the asura don’t see it that way. They don’t take it personally. Their competitive natures drive them to greater heights of achievement. Remember, asura have survived against terrible odds, including their tiny statures. They’ve earned their attitudes, and a certain amount of bravado keeps them from being victims. With their jibes, they’re telling it like they see it, and if you can’t take the heat, get out of the laboratory.
Asuran Snark
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Self-absorbed as they can be, the asura understand how dangerous the dragons are. They have decided that they will save Tyria from the beasts, even if they have to do it by working with other, inferior races. They’ve learned that you can’t put out a fire with a single drop of water, and a krewe makes no progress if the genius in charge isn’t supported by an army of lab assistants.
In contrast to asuran heroes, there are those who will resort to any means possible—even evil—in order to fight the dragons. These asura gravitate toward the Inquest, an organization that doesn’t have the same moral compass as most heroic krewes. They will stop at nothing, even going so far as to experiment on other sentient races, to find a weapon that will destroy the Elder Dragons.
Group Safety
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With their short physiques, big words, and even bigger egos, if you still can’t imagine how awesome it is to write for the asura, I’ll leave you with a tease. Two words: asuran pirates.
Asuran Pirates
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