Gameplanet: What has been the major influence on the design of the asura?
Jeff Grubb: The asura first appeared in Eye of the North, but got their start as part of an earlier project that ArenaNet decided not to pursue. That earlier incarnation gave them both their name (pulled from mythology) and a nastier appearance. Katy Hargrove moved in the direction of “ugly cute” for the creatures, creating an asura that was less immediately threatening (until you got close and saw the sharp teeth). What really settled the nature of the asura was their voices – not a high squeaky voice, but rather a more intelligent, deeper, Orson Welles kind of voice – we did a “test run” with one of the early asura speaking with the voice of Vincent Price reading “The Raven” in order to see if it would work.
Gameplanet: How strong is the role architecture plays in the asuran society?
Grubb: Asuran architecture, like most things in asura life, is highly magical. It is not enough to have a laboratory sturdy enough to withstand the occasional mystic explosion or rogue golem, but it should be a FLOATING lab as well. The architecture is the asura showing off, demonstrating in concrete (pardon the pun) terms the inherent superiority of the race. This is best demonstrated by Rata Sum, their main city, which is a huge cube of stone that they have carved out of the living earth and set aloft, with small cubes cut and levitated off of it.
Gameplanet: What kind of technology will the asura use?
Grubb: The nature of asuran technology is magical technology. It is more than just magic (casting a spell), it is understanding the component forces involved in such energies, and imbuing them into useful items. The magic of the asura is the magic of power stones, teleportational gates, and levitational platforms (see previous note on architecture). The asura have internalized magic in a way that no other race has done so.
Gameplanet: What changes have been made to the role asura play over the course of development?
Grubb: All of the races have grown and evolved over the course of the development of the game, getting both broader (including more different examples as opposed to a few archtypes) and deeper (digging into their personalities). They are not just “humans in different skins” but rather have their own personalities, values, and ethos. We’re seeing the asura at their best – a successful race, their colleges and krewes, their Eternal Alchemy and their worst – the depradations of the Inquest, a group of asura who feel no longer contrained to ethics, making the dangerous even by asuran standards. As they have developed, they have shown that they a victorious race, one of winners, who believe that no problem can stand in the way of sufficient brainpower and determination.
Gameplanet: Will asura use their advanced technology for the benefit of all, or primarily for their own self-interest?
Grubb: Depends on what you mean by “all”. Asura tend to be secretive about their research and their processes while they are creating things, but once they have a final product or concept, they want to demonstrate it and share with others. This is not so much as for the benefit of all asura, as it is so that all asura can benefit from the knowledge that the inventor is so brilliant. The idea that it benefits the race on a whole is considered a side-effect (and sometimes an afterthought).
Gameplanet: Can you give us an example of some of the artifacts asura will use?
Grubb: The big ones that most people in Tyria connect with the asura are golems that operate off elemental powerstones, teleportation gates that link the cities of the major races, and levitation platforms that keep individual labs (and their city of Rata Sum) aloft. But magical technology is endemic throughout asura society, such that their society is awash in arcanic spanners, mystic voltometers, and trimystical aura analyzers. Magic is an ingrained, everyday component of everyday life for the asura.