While my love for the charr is widely known (dare I say legendary?), the knowledge of my fondness for the asura may be more obscure. In this spirit I approached ArenaNet with a request for an interview about Tyria’s most diminutive of geniuses. Mister Jeff Grubb was gracious enough to enlighten this poor bookah. He also answered my questions. I tried to cover a wide variety of topics from lore to mechanics to design, and Mister Grubb did not disappoint. Enjoy!
Secret Agent Cat Interview with Guild Wars 2 Continuity & Lore Designer Jeff Grubb
Q: We know that the asura have a good deal of interaction with the skritt and the quaggan (and logically by proxy, the krait) but what are some of the other ‘lesser’ races that the asura interact with?
Jeff: The asura are interested in all the races, whether as potential allies, enemies or resources, and they recognize the strong points of the others. The hylek are excellent alchemists, for example, with a strong knowledge of biology and potions. The dredge have powerful sound-based technology and are the heirs to the dwarven kingdoms. Even such brutish races as the ogres and jotun have their own uses, for heavy lifting if nothing else.
Q: Rata Sum and the Pale Tree seem pretty close to one another geographically. Are there any conflicts between the asura and the sylvari? How is their relationship portrayed in-game?
Jeff: The sylvari met the asura soon after their awakening. Needless to say, the meeting did not go well as the asura were crafty and manipulative and the early sylvari were open and friendly. It was an important lesson for the sylvari – not all the other races are particularly nice. Since that time, the two races have gotten along better, but both races treat each other based on early assumptions – asura think of the sylvari as being frivolous and unsophisticated, while sylvari think of the asura as being poor, limited beings – grasping and calculating.
Q: What is the asuran family structure like? What kind of education can an asuran child expect to receive?
Jeff: Asura tend to practice serial monogamy, in that they have a serious romantic relationship with only one other asura at a time. Most of these relationships are equal partnerships which often (but not always) have a firm, pre-determined end date. Most often, such relationships come out of two asura who fall in love with the same beautiful concept. These marriages of the mind produce rapid development of ideas and increased conceptual paradigms. Oh yeah, and children. Relationships that break up tend to feature more fights about who gets the inventions than who gets the kids.
Asura do love their children, and try to provide the best environment for their budding geniuses. Of course, being asura, the method by which this environment is provided varies from family to family. Some asura children remain with their parents, learning the family legacy of invention and magic. Others are aimed to placing well within their schools, attracting the devotion of other, lesser geniuses. And many are apprenticed to well-established, notable asura who can provide instruction (and are looking for enthusiastic lab assistants).
It goes without saying that all asura children are above average.
Q: If they have such sharp teeth, does that mean they are primarily meat eaters?
Jeff: Asura are omnivores. Their teeth are adapted particularly for catching wild game in the Depths of Tyria and ripping apart the stone-like fungus that infests those caverns.
Q: You can’t say ‘asura’ without saying ‘golem’. Can you give us some more information about how they work?
Jeff: A “golem” is any limited-will, responsive construct that uses powerstones, mystic energies, crystalline matrices, or elemental forces as power sources. They are most commonly encountered as metallic bipeds with mystic ligatures, but there is a wide variety of customized and unique golem types. The great Snaff made a golem entirely of sand, and the golemancer Blimm had a tomb guardian that assembled itself out of bones.
Q: Can you give us an example of some asura racial skills? Utilities? Elites?
Jeff: There is an asura elite skill that allows you to create a battlesuit, which any player can jump into and utilize.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges when designing the asura?
Jeff: Walking the line between cute and evil. The asura are a diminutive race of geniuses (with long ears), and it is all too easy to make them just a bit incompetent. They are not. They are a driven, intellectually fierce race whose inventions work (eventually). Similarly, it is very easy to turn them into bad guys – they tend to value knowledge above all other things, and that can lead to abuses. There are asura who think nothing of tormenting sentient creatures and seek to learn things that no asura should know, but they are in minority, and tend to be viewed with shock and disgust by the others of the race.
Q: From reading Ghosts of Ascalon and Edge of Destiny, I noticed that asuran speech is highly technical. Does this create any unique challenges for writing lines and voice acting?
Jeff: The asura love arcane technobabble, and we have rules for naming things – it should reflect both magical and technological origins. A Demiplanar Transtabilizer. A Retrograde Orrery. A Conjuration Metacircuit. One of my jobs has been to name asuran creations on the fly.
When we audition voice actors, we always include a line of technical speech (“We need to calculate the inverse root of the polymetric arcane wave!”) to find actors that can deliver such lines with confidence and convince people that these are real things.
Q: What is your favorite thing about the asura?
Jeff: Their belief that every problem can be solved, given enough brainpower and test subjects.