Sometimes when you work on a big, ongoing IP, ideas snowball. A little droplet hits the window, it starts accumulating mass, and suddenly you have a mixed-metaphor avalanche that’s created a fan-favorite character. In Guild Wars 2, there are few snowballs bigger than Snargle Goldclaw, author of Tyria’s finest “literature.”
In this blog, I, Connor Fallon (Senior Game Designer and occasional pretend writer on Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons™), will unpack the collaborative history that led Snargle Goldclaw to be the charr is today. He is the sum of many people and many passions—truly the Ambassador of Love.
During the summer of 2018, we were hard at work on the Living World Season 4 episode “A Star to Guide Us.” This episode put a button on the Joko arc, killed a beloved character, and brought Kralkatorrik roaring back into the story. It was generally serious business. It also contained a sequence where you go a little crazy from alien mushrooms.
One day, our team lead, Heather Conover, and I were discussing something that I’m sure was very important but is now lost to time. What matters is that in that discussion she mistyped “Kralkatorrik” as “Kralkatorrid.” Typing those both for myself, now, I’m not really sure how—K and D are not anywhere near each other on the keyboard. We can only assume it was the hand of fate at work.
Connor: “Hahaha, a Kralkatorrid affair.”
Heather: “Hah! Ridiculous.”
Connor: “…Now I kinda want to write a book called ‘A Kralkatorrid Affair.'”
Well, a whole book was a little out of scope. But I did write a page of one! And then for-real writer Lily Yu rewrote it and made it much better.
A License for Love
Lily and I gave the pretend books’ pretend author a name: Snargle Goldclaw. I had decided they were a charr (playing against type can be fun), and that nom de plume felt quite appropriate for a charr romance author.
Now, Samantha Wallschlaeger—the lead writer for “A Star to Guide Us”—was all for a little saucy romance (she would later write “Destiny’s Pledge” for The Icebrood Saga‘s promo magazine). But rightfully, she wanted to make sure all her bases were covered before we applied that sauce to Guild Wars 2. On her prompting, I decided to get approval from the top: then-Game Director Mike Zadorojny.
When I finished telling Mike that we wanted to put a book called “A Kralkatorrid Affair” in Guild Wars 2, he just…tilted his head and looked at me for a good ten seconds. “Sure,” he finally said. “Just…make sure it doesn’t distract from everything else in the episode.”
So, per instruction, I hid the book behind a table in the Pact camp. I believe it was about a month until someone actually found it.
Thus began what would become a tradition: a novel excerpt released with each map, hidden without any markers, each exploring exciting frontiers of Tyrian romance. To those who knew to look, Snargle was soon established as a regular Easter egg to seek out—fun side content, but nothing more.
A few episodes passed with this structure, and Season 4 gave way to The Icebrood Saga. I developed some small very non-canon headcanons about the character during this period—that he genuinely believed in the power of romance and had a sylvari wife and five adopted human kids. But then we came to “Whisper in the Dark,” and everything changed.
The Death of Goldclaw
As “Whisper in the Dark” introduced another new map, it was time for a new Snargle novel. Knowing the general themes of the story, I drafted up a new excerpt about a Svanir questioning his beliefs: “Svan Song.” Because nothing is more romantic than breaking free from an Elder Dragon cult.
There was just one problem: “Whisper in the Dark” was a straight-up horror episode. More than in any release before, Snargle was a terrible tonal match. And no matter how much fun we were having with Snargle, it was still essential that his works not distract from the core of what we wanted to do.
Luckily, Samantha—once again the lead writer for the episode—had a solution. “What if I just…changed the ending a little bit? Had it get creepy? Like he was falling under Jormag’s influence as he was writing.”
It was a great plan. I just had one concern: “Will people think he died?”
Good people of the jury, allow me to present the English Wiki trivia section for “Svan Song” from shortly after it was released:
The name is [a] probably pun on Svanir and Swan Song, as it is, based on the content and location, most likely Snargle’s last book.
People totally thought he died.
Snargle Claws Back
Snargle’s tale could not end there! He had come too far and had so much love left to share! With tears in my eyes [Author’s note: not really] I ran to Joe Kimmes, who was leading “Steel and Fire.” This release would introduce the Eye of the North, a player hub that was also our next new map. I asked him if there was anything we could do to save poor Snargle.
“Well,” Joe said after asking around a little bit. “We do have some extra VO budget. Would it be cool if he showed up as a character? We could have a collection for finding all his novels as a stretch goal.”
So, we asked Kwan Perng—writer for “Steel and Fire” and my future partner in crime for Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons—to take a stab at it. I don’t think any of us realized what we were about to unleash.
Kwan went ham. It turns out writers have a lot to say about writing, so Snargle had a lot to say about romance and about the importance of embracing love. Fred Tatasciore (who also voices Kralkatorrik) performed him with gusto. Kwan also introduced the first actual extension of Snargle’s world—his apprentice, Bonnie, whose cynical worldview provided a great counter to Snargle’s…exuberance. She is played by Nika Futterman, who also voices Aurene!
Players found Snargle super memorable. Suddenly he was no longer an Easter egg. He was an actual character with relationships and desires of his own.
Taking a Holiday
At this point, Kwan and I shifted our focus to the story of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons. We knew it was possible for there to be too much of a good thing, so we didn’t want to, ah…overexpose Snargle. The story of The Icebrood Saga was getting darker anyway; leaders were being assassinated and war crimes were being committed, which was not exactly fertile ground for his character. So, Erin Amschlinger wrote one last steamy excerpt for Drizzlewood Coast as Snargle’s last hurrah in the saga.
But we didn’t want to completely stop the Snargle bus. Over the next year, Joe and I collaborated to continue releasing novels in an area that we could trust would remain light: the seasonal festivals. Senior QA Tester Caspian Priebe made a guest appearance as a writer for “Taking Heart,” a fantastic addition to Snargle’s resume.
There were a few deliberate format breaks in the holiday collection. Curiously, Snargle passed up writing a novel for Lunar New Year—”Celestial Bodies“—citing a lack of current information. And Bonnie was the one who snagged the contract for SUPER ADVENTURE BOX: THE OFFICIAL NOVEL, producing a story that was surprisingly dark. You’d think Snargle would have wanted to write about King Toad and Raccoon Kingpin’s forbidden love or something.
Players may not have realized, but we were already planting the seeds of Snargle’s next arc.
Collision Course in Cantha
Kwan and I had a general idea of the next story we’d want to tell when we returned to Snargle: that he was being overshadowed by some literary rival and needed to accept that rival as an equal to grow. We discussed this character being a pretentious asura we tentatively named Great Author Kippo. We wanted a hint of drama, with Bonnie having left Snargle to study under Kippo instead. Kwan referred to these ideas as the Snargle Extended Universe. But we only lightly discussed them, as our focus was on, y’know, a huge expansion storyline.
Meanwhile Kirk Williford, Annie VanderMeer, and Morgan Lockhart were figuring out what the various collections in Arborstone should be. They wanted to make sure they covered a spread of topics, and one they settled upon early was Canthan art and artifacts. Well, what if they brought Snargle back and had him be the one who explored the local works? What if he clashed with a local tengu author who felt he didn’t appreciate the form? Annie was also adamant that Bonnie needed to strike out on her own—she’d dealt with pretentious authors long enough.
As discussions continued around the studio, it became apparent we’d developed two very different but equally viable ideas to continue the Snargle Goldclaw story. Would this split destroy the team? Would one story have to win out over the other in a torrid tale of betrayal?
Of course not. We’re not a soap opera—we’re a group of highly collaborative developers. We resolved it the way Snargle would! We allowed these two different ideas to become…entangled, taking the best elements from both.
Bonnie became Snargle’s rival, adding extra depth and history to the competition, and Kippo was reimagined as the skuzzy publisher we all love today. He’s voiced by Nolan North, who voices the human male player character and Mordremoth! I’m amused that all the Snargle Saga actors are also Elder Dragons.
We created a set of books for Cantha, too, with Indigo Boock writing the showstopper “Love Is in the Eir.” I’m sure Braham appreciates the tribute to his mother and won’t at all be upset about it.
Once again the writers found plenty to say about writing—something many players picked up on between the dialogue about hardened trees thrusting into the sky. Kwan provided the main scaffolding of the collection, and Morgan wrote Snargle’s especially revelatory Arborstone optionals. (During the recording session, Fred kept reading ahead and laughing to himself. It was a lot of fun.) I’m not going to break down that collection beat by beat here, but if you haven’t gone through it yet you’re in for a ride.
Snargle started as a small, deliberately obscure pocket of our universe and grew as more people contributed and found new ways to flesh him out. I love that Tyria is a world that can contain all the darkness of The Icebrood Saga and Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons and still have room for characters like Snargle to emerge and feel natural.
There is a little Snargle in all of us. It’s good to let him out sometimes.