How World of Warcraft was created: an inside look at 20 years of development
  • Transfer
For the past 14 years, World of Warcraft has remained not only active, but also relevant. He did not become the founder of the MMORPG genre, but continues to evolve with him. World of Warcraft sold millions of copies, earned billions of dollars and won hundreds of awards. After the release of the seventh expansion - Battle for Azeroth, WoW still boasts a growing fan base.

Some of the former World of Warcraft faction leaders are posing for us. [All images from the article belong to Blizzard Entertainment.]

From the start, World of Warcraft was conceived as a response to other games; successful MMO players wondered if the game process could be better? After the release of games such as Ultima Online and Everquest, the development team from Blizzard Entertainment transferred players to Azeroth (Azeroth), which first appeared in Warcraft 3. Players could explore a vast world filled with heroes, villains, gods and monsters in the gameplay that was much more user friendly than competing games. I myself have played these old MMOs; I remember the anarchy and the killing of players (you did not forget Corp Por) in Ultima Online and the players gathering crowds of mobs, running about without armor to their corpses and the hard grind in Everquest. Compared to this, World of Warcraft looked like a breath of fresh air.

Game development is complicated. Games are constantly failing - sometimes because they are bad, sometimes they just do not find the right audience. To release a successful game is difficult, and maintaining its success for more than ten years requires a combination of craft, love and good luck. This is evident from the fact that a bunch of broken competitors World of Warcraft remained at the dawn of the MMORPG. Over the past 14 years, World of Warcraft has flourished due to the fact that the developers took into account the feelings of the players and learned to communicate more with the community.

We managed to talk with only a small proportion of people involved in the creation of the hit Blizzard. The current World of Warcraft project leaders, such as Battle For Azeroth director Ion Hazzikostas, lead artist Jimmy Law and technical director Patrick Dawson, were invited by Blizzard Entertainment’s former creative director Rob Pardo (lead designer of World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade) and former lead designer systems by Greg Strit (World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria). Together, they managed to create a structure in the plot of World of Warcraft in the initial and subsequent stages of development.

History before the release of the game: 1998-2004

Although the in-game story World of Warcraft originates from the characters and plot moves of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, many do not realize that both of these games were developed in parallel. Warcraft 3 was officially announced by the Blizzard Entertainment at the European Computer Trade Show in September 1999 and released in July 2002. World of Warcraft was introduced to the public on the same show in 2001, and the game itself was released in November 2004.

They were not only developed together in the offices of Blizzard. Some of the staff were also common, for example, lead designer Rob Pardo, who worked on both projects.

The founders of Blizzard Entertainment are Frank Pierce, Mike Morheim and Allen Edham at the Video Game Awards 2011. [Image source: Zimbio]

“After Starcraft, there was a time when we divided the teams in the south of the country into two separate teams,” says Pardo . “One of them worked on a project that eventually turned into Warcraft 3, but from the very beginning it was not obvious that he would go that way. The other team was working on a completely different project that did not bear fruit, and we decided to stop the development. This team had to work on something further. That was how the foundations of World of Warcraft were laid. ”

Members of the Blizzard Entertainment team were already active players in the MMO, because Ultima Online (1997) and Everquest (1999) were quite popular on the PC. It was decided that the development team of the canceled project should deal with their own attempt to implement the MMO. This concept was defended by Allen Edham, called by other co-founders of Blizzard Entertainment, Mike Morhaime and Frank Pierce, the "father of Blizzard . " Edham took over the leadership of the team, which began to develop the game, later became known as World of Warcraft.

Бывший креативный директор Blizzard Entertainment Роб Пардо (ведущий дизайнер World of Warcraft и The Burning Crusade) и бывший ведущий дизайнер World of Warcraft Том Чилтон (последний сейчас работает над необъявленным пока проектом Blizzard). [Автор изображения Joi Ito]

“I was the lead designer [of the Warcraft 3 team]. Allen took on the role of lead designer [of World of Warcraft] and actually managed the design of the project in the early stages, ”says Pardo. “We had very interesting relationships with him - there were not many other leading designers in the studio, so we spent a lot of time together designing many aspects. At an early stage, we carefully thought out design solutions for Warcraft 3, dined together every day and talked about it. Over time, WoW became deeper, so our conversations were increasingly reduced to it. "

Many of the early concepts and mechanics of World of Warcraft were borrowed from previous games such as Everquest. The developers were Everquest fans, but at the same time game designers. They thought about how to fix and improve the gameplay. The system of deaths Everquest forced players to return back to their dead bodies, very often without weapons, to pick up armor and items; World of Warcraft implemented another system in which the player is an invulnerable ghost and can pay a fine just to be reborn in any graveyard. The enemies in Everquest chased the player until they reached the zone barrier, while the WoW mobs were tied to their initial location and returned to him if they went too far.

Pardo had experience of communicating with the community that was formed at the high levels of Everquest gameplay; he even managed a fairly large guild Everquest, in parallel with the work on Warcraft 3 and World of Warcraft. He wanted to convey this sense of community and camaraderie, but with a stronger sense of purpose, which was absent in the virtually non-logical ending of Everquest.

Clear markers of quests in World of Warcraft.

Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan, former member of the World of Warcraft team.

The main idea of ​​the team World of Warcraft were quests. Players had to enter the zone, find quests in it that would be used as an aid, giving an understanding of what he should do. At some point, the quest log should go blank, after which the game should become free, more like Everquest.

“So the design initially looked on paper. But almost immediately after the first tests, we realized that at the moment when the quests ended in the magazine, the game seems to be broken and people no longer know what to do, ”says Pardo. “This was exactly the turning point when the team decided:“ Yeah, it looks like we will need ten times more quests than we thought. ” But I think this is one of those great moments in game development, when you find nuggets that are really interesting and you invest in them with a vengeance. ”

If you need more quests, then you need to expand the WoW team to create them. Therefore, the team opened new job designers quests. According to Pardo, Geoff Kaplan, an assistant to game designer, who you may know as the director of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and another small game called Overwatch, was one of those who received such a vacancy.

When World of Warcraft began to take more concrete forms, Pardo moved to the post of designer of the original classes of the game: Warrior, Hunter, Rogue, Mage, Priest, Druid, and Warlock. The last two classes belonged to the two warring factions of the game - the Horde had access to the Shaman, the Alliance - to Paladin. The difficulty was that although World of Warcraft classes were based on Lore of Warcraft 3, most of the abilities needed to be invented or taken from other types of characters.

“In Warcraft 3, even the heroes had only four abilities. In World of Warcraft, we were going to create classes with 30-40 abilities. Therefore, we could not take the Mage, the source of inspiration for which the Archmage from Warcraft 3 could become, copy his skill set and say: "Well, now we have a class for the RPG." It doesn't work that way, ”explains Pardo. “Very often we took the spells and abilities of several Warcraft 3 heroes and put them together in one class. A good example of this is the World of Warcraft Shaman, with whom we used the totem concept. But if you look at Warcraft 3, the totems are the concept of the Troll-healer and partly of the Troll. ”

“Another problem was the division into the Horde / Alliance, because if you look at the games of the real-time strategy genre (RTS), then there is a hard division between the armies. But we had to come up with some explanation why there are Druids on both sides. Therefore, we had the idea that the Night Elves can be Druids, but we have expanded the possibilities even further, because female characters can also be Druids. We then added to the side of the Horde Druid Tauren, which was not necessary for Laura at that time. ”

Early advertising art of the Night Elves and Tauren.

In addition, Pardo initiated the creation of a system that prevents players from burning out. Blizzard conducted pre-release testing, and the team noticed that some players tend to play much longer than intended. Some players never left the game, and several people managed one character. Blizzard did not want the game to turn into endless mechanical work, so Pardo came up with a plan.

“We thought - so, this is bad behavior. In addition, we wanted to save people from themselves, ”he says.

The idea was to reduce the experience. After entering the game you get a full experience for a certain time. After some time, the experience gained is reduced to half of the usual. The players did not like it at all. Therefore, Pardo turned the system. The initial, enlarged experience set is presented as if the player gets a bonus experience, and the state without rest is considered normal. This made the players much happier.

“From the point of view of pure numbers, this did not affect the speed with which you raise the level, but it had a tremendous psychological impact on the perception of the system by people,” Pardo says. “For me, as a game designer, this was a very valuable lesson. In fact, it has become one of the principles of studio design: turn everything into a bonus. When you try to prevent a player from doing something in his game, ask yourself: “Is there a way to reward him with a bonus for the opposite behavior?”

World of Warcraft in the days of alpha.

Before WoW managed to cross the finish line, another serious event happened to him. Allen Edham, who played an important role in the birth and creation of the core of World of Warcraft, finally dried up in 2003. The development of the game has exhausted his strength. Edham left the industry completely, returning to game development at Blizzard Entertainment only a decade later, in November 2016. Pardo took Edham's place and helped bring the game to release status.

Around the time of the departure of Edham, the World of Warcraft staff was added to the developer, who later became a veteran of the studio. Concept artist Jimmy Law came to Blizzard to help design the visual style of World of Warcraft.

Lead WoW artist Jimmy Lo. [Image of Blizzard Watch ]

“I think that at the very early stage, we wanted to create a different style. At that time, many MMOs had a more realistic style, so we decided: “So, we need World of Warcraft to be visually different from everything else.” The basis of the game was Warcraft, so it’s obvious that we drew inspiration from it, noting that there were many bright colors and exaggerated forms in the game, ”explains Lo.

The problem was that Blizzard hired artists who grew up and studied in the then popular graphic style games. Modelers used realistic proportions, and artists used realistic textures. The team had difficulty creating a completely new look at Warcraft. The artists experimented with hand-drawn textures in a more cartoon style, but did not know what they would look like in the game. Therefore, they created one building and tested it.

The architecture of the region of the Western Land on the example of Lunorech'ye.

“Until we created a super-styled building in the West End with hand-painted textures, we had big doubts. Even the relief textures were painted by hand, ”Law told me. “When we first saw the farm building in the Western Territory, we finally realized that there was something in it. It was also great because it gave everyone a sense of handicraft work, we painted everything ourselves, did not apply photo-painting and photo-textures. We had the word "Warcraft" in which there is a "craft" (art) - a lucky coincidence. "

In the process of developing World of Warcraft, there were many such successful matches. Experiments that have borne fruit; crazy ideas that have acquired a complete form; technology designed for one purpose and used for another. World of Warcraft's visual design was taken from sketches and hints of the areas of Warcraft 3, but the team of artists made their own touches. The standard Blizzard workflow included the following principle: to find something interesting (or take an interesting idea from someone else's game), and then constantly rework it until you get a polished finished design. As one example, Lo cites the original concept of the Forsaken house in the Undercity.

“One of the first ideas was a land in total decay, and it seemed interesting, but some of the artists said:“ I think that it is possible to make something more original. ” We constantly returned to the discussions and negotiations. "So, why not arrange it in the underworld?". It was a completely different idea, but we managed to push through its leadership. Having seen concept art, we were ready to start work, ”says Lo.

World of Warcraft: November 23, 2004

After months of rush and beta testing, Blizzard Entertainment finally released World of Warcraft in North America and Australia on November 23, 2004. The European release was due in February 2005. The fans were happy, the reviews were great, the game received awards and high sales. Obviously, the development team was elated, right?

Not really. Blizzard Entertainment has previously released games such as Warcraft 3, Starcraft and Diablo. But the difference between these games and World of Warcraft was that after the release they became complete. Yes, Blizzard could release patches and extensions, but the team had time to take a breather. All the WoW team had was panic.

“We greatly underestimated not only the popularity and sales of the game, but also the amount of time that some people spent on the game every day. And we were not ready for this. On all fronts, ”Pardo admits, repeating the legendary phrase of the villain Illidan, The Stormrage of the Burning Crusade.

“We were not ready in terms of hardware. We are not prepared for how quickly the players will reach the maximum level and we will have to add content. We have never dealt with a game that is essentially infinite, ”adds Pardo. “In many respects, from the moment of release, everything is just beginning, and none of us were mentally or morally ready for this distinction, because many of us released games, and got used to the fact that after graduation, work ends. Frankly, the first two years after the development of WoW, we constantly asked ourselves the question: "Can we keep up with the popularity of the game?"

While most of the game ensured the performance of the game, one department worked to ensure that the players had something to do. These were the raid developers who created the monsters for the current game completion. So much effort was invested in the release of the game that not many resources were left for the late stages of World of Warcraft. "

Ragnaros the Firelord and the Molten Core might not get into the game when released.

“We are very grateful to this department, which was intensively involved in the creation of raids, because at that time we did not have a particularly detailed late stage of the game,” says Pardo. “Initially, we thought that we had enough time to complete only one raid - Onyxia. The molten core was not even in the work schedule. ”

“The employees of the department came up with the idea of ​​the Molten Core, mainly using the content and graphics we already had. They came up with a way to create a full-scale raid dungeon that would use ready-made or mixed existing resources. Obviously, this is the real version 1.0 of the WoW raid, but at that time we only found out what the raid should look like in WoW. He was very experimental, because we did not have the opportunity to place it in the beta version, because it was released in a hurry. Therefore, I view our initial raids almost as beta versions of what the raids turned into later. ”

The raid team played a crucial role in the existence of World of Warcraft. Onyxia's Lair and Molten Core were 40 player raids available upon release of the game. In fact, Ragnaros of the Molten Core was the final World of Warcraft boss of the time. Behind these trial raids, the team released Lair of the Wing of Darkness for 40 players, Zul'Gurub for 20 players and Naxxramas for 40 players. Blizzard has even created a major event with the opening of the Gate of Ahn'Qiraj in the deserts of Silithus. They were supposed to lead to a land raid for 20 people in the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj and an underground raid for 40 people in the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj.

Players await the opening of the Gate of Ahn'Qiraj.

World of Warcraft Technical Director Patrick Dawson

Of course, the event did not go as smoothly as planned. The current World of Warcraft Technical Director Patrick Dawson joined the company in December 2005, right before the release of Patch 1.9 and the opening of the Gate. At that time, Dawson was in the server team, ensuring the stability of the servers. And when the Gates opened, everything began to crumble. Each player on each server came to look at the opening of the Gate, but the game was not designed for the presence of all players in the same zone.

“Perhaps, at that time, the WoW development team was not yet a well-oiled mechanism, because for engineers it was a surprise that we decided to concentrate the entire World of Warcraft population in one area. Everyone was waiting for this moment in one zone, ”recalls Dawson. "We sat and teleported from the zone of characters of level 30 with the words" They have nothing to do here, they just kill the server! ", Threw them out manually."

Despite the troublesome day, Dawson remembers him as a joyful moment in the history of World of Warcraft. "It was wonderful. That moment cannot be recreated; even then I realized how unique it is. He had to go down in the history of World of Warcraft as one of the most memorable moments, and at that time I was in the thick of things, trying to save the ship from sinking, ”he says.

Welcome back to Warsong Gulch.

The last part of the “vanilla World of Warcraft,” as it was later called, witnessed the first version of the technology, which was then leaked to the rest of the game. Battlegrounds for battle between players were complemented by cross-server Battlegrounds. If you were on a sparsely populated server or on a server where one side was far superior to the other, now you had someone to turn to for help.

"How to make the system cross-server?", - wondered Dawson. “Our leading server developer Joe Ramsey locked up for three months and said,“ I will make this thing work. ” He wrote the technology that allowed us to do this. It mainly concerned the efficient use of the database. The battlefields proved quite successful; we had no special problems with them. There were usual everyday difficulties, but on the whole it was a success. ”

Illidan Stormrage is the face of the Burning Crusade.

The Burning Crusade: January 16, 2007

The World of Warcraft team survived the storm, but the sun has not yet appeared. After the successful release of the kernel of the game, it is time to decide how the extension should look. Everquest set the pace, releasing two extensions two years before the release of World of Warcraft. Blizzard should have answered him.

“We had enough developers to release WoW, but are they enough to support WoW? To update WoW content and simultaneously create an extension? No, and this is absolutely certain, ”says Pardo.

However, the release of the first expansion of The Burning Crusade, scheduled for October 28, 2005, was announced. The expansion was to push the players with the Burning Legion and the righteous wrath of Illidan Stormrage. He also added to the gameplay World of Warcraft many features. After the torment with the ending of World of Warcraft, in Burning Crusade developers have focused on the final stages of the game. In the expansion, eight raid dungeons were to appear, including the impressive Tempest Keep, the Black Temple and the Sunwell Plateau.

Flying mounts made a lot of changes to World of Warcraft.

However, the flying mounts have become the most serious innovation. Later they were added to the process of raising levels, but after receiving them, the player could fly over the fragmented ruins of Outland, the former home of the Orcs. It was a completely new world, for both players and artists. Initially, the world of Azeroth was not meant to be explored from above; there were lots of empty surfaces that looked good only at a certain angle. Flights suggested a completely different approach to the design of environments.

“At first, we all decided - yes, it will be cool,” says Jimmy Law. “But then, when we began to create prototypes of zones, draw concepts and think through each individual area, we gradually began to realize what awaits us. We will have to think quite differently about transitions between zones compared to the “vanilla” version, in which it was impossible to get into many zones. Then we didn’t have to think about the connections between the zones, because the players will not be able to get there or they will never see them. ”

“This has completely changed our approach to zones, even in terms of design. Traditionally, we started by creating a concept for the appearance of a zone. And then next to this zone, we did another concept; but now we had to think through transitions much more. ”

Concept Art for Outlandish.

It was not only the structure of zones of Outland that differed, but also their sizes. Mounts fly quickly, so to compensate for this you need to increase the area, and artists need to fill large spaces. This meant that a zone like Zangartopi could not consist entirely of water, mushrooms and one color; the development team had to experiment with several biomes. A look at the world from above also made the team think more about points of interest. They were supposed to become objects that can be seen even with a small rendering distance.

However, in Outland there was a share of freedom. Its design was only partially guided by the previous Warcraft lore, so World of Warcraft artists were free to invent everything their imagination was capable of. And they knew how to invent, so the Outland became the split shell of the world: huge layers of the bark of the world floating in a multi-colored sky.

“A lot of things are taken from the fantasies of some artists who dreamed that the Outland was based on some descriptions,” says Lo. “We had one image in which the Outland was shown with continents torn and torn apart. We all saw this image and decided that it was exactly what was needed. We never thought about it in such a plan until we saw the concept, after which it all began. Prior to this concept, there was no talk about creating scattered zones. Everyone gladly accepted it. It was great because it was something completely new compared to “vanilla”.

Another change was to add two new races. Blood Elves joined the Horde, and the Alliance accepted Draenei into its ranks. Each of the races broke the rule of the original World of Warcraft, adding Paladins and a Shaman to opposite sides for the first time. The personal war between the Horde and the Alliance spread to the players, another distinction of which was a unique class. Blizzard reluctantly broke the rule.

After the addition of the blood Elves, the Paladins appeared in the Horde.

“Yes, it was difficult for us. The division into the Horde / Alliance had a long history. After the game came out and came to life, it was a very significant part of it. The players understood that there are Blue and Red, ”says Pardo, referring to the colors of the Alliance and Horde banners. "We wanted to keep this situation, because belonging to one of the parties is a wonderful part of the gameplay."

The problem was that the classes of the Paladin and the Shaman were very different, but the enchanters for the Alliance and the Horde had to consider them as identical. Especially when it came to raids, in which raid designers had to take into account the existence of either Paladin or Shaman in the teams. The developers tried to fix the problem by adding a kind of equality between the two unique classes, but this only blurred the differences between them.

“Once we came to work and thought:“ Wow, yes, the Shaman is already very similar to Paladin. ” This is completely contrary to the principle of design differences. We wanted each class to look unique and different from the other, ”says Pardo. It was necessary to change something, and such a change was the destruction of the uniqueness of classes of factions.

Draenei follows the Light, but may also become a Shaman.

The first version of the Looking for Group tool.

Trying to make the game more flexible and player-friendly, Blizzard added a group search tool to Burning Crusade. In the “vanilla” or “classic” World of Warcraft, players had to chat in the unique Looking for Group chat channel to find other players who want to go through the same dungeon. After finding a complete party, it could take minutes or even hours, it was necessary to invoke the entire party. To do this, I had to walk, ride, fly and teleport a lot.

The Looking for Group tool was an attempt to solve the problem “at the touch of a button.” The idea was to make the search for the group and the instance instance as easy as possible.

“If you want to get to the pre-history of Dungeon Finder, you will most likely have to return to Warcraft 3. When we moved from Starcraft to Warcraft 3, one of the most serious innovations of Warcraft 3 was the addition of an automatic search for opponents,” says Pardo. “I have always been attracted to the idea of ​​using the Warcraft 3 methodology. Can we reduce everything to a single button? You press a button and suddenly magically find yourself in a formed group. ”

The system more or less worked - it allowed players to instantly unite with like-minded people to complete the dungeons. Yes, in some cases, they still had to wait, for example, to select a good healer or tank, but it still took a lot less time. However, this system had two drawbacks: one appeared immediately, the other showed up in future extensions. The first was that instances became much more popular and this required internal changes.

“At that time, everything that happened to the player in the field had to be performed on the equipment associated with this realm. Therefore, if you have a very highly populated realm, then several blade servers were allocated for it, and the instances were executed on these servers. It was impossible to run them with a friend on another server. Therefore, when resources were running out, players received the message 'Transfer aborted. Instance not found ', and in populated areas it happened quite often, ”explains technical director Patrick Dawson. “How do we add equipment, where to add it, to which servers, and how will it work? Today, we basically started working with clouds, so this does not happen anymore, but then it was a problem. ”

The Lich King Arthas is on his Ice Throne.

Before the release of Wrath of the Lich King: 2007-2008

Overall, Burning Crusade was successful. In the first 24 hours, about 2.4 million copies were sold, and another 3.5 million copies were sold during the first month. World of Warcraft developed steadily, and an increasing number of people joined the team, many of whom were themselves players in WoW. The first was systems designer Greg Street, known to many in the WoW community as Ghostcrawler. Straight joined the team in February 2008, leaving the position of designer at Ensemble Studios, the developer of Age of Empires.

Former lead systems designer Greg Street (World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria)

“At that time, Ensemble bought Microsoft, and it became increasingly active in the development of games. I was beginning to get nervous about the fact that they were going to endlessly make the prequels of Age of Empires, so I called Rob Pardo at random, ”Street says. “I just said,“ Listen, I was a lead designer for four or five years. I have been making games for about ten years. Is there any work for me in WoW? “The time was just right, because Jeff Kaplan had already discussed his departure from WoW to the Titan project, and Tom Chilton needed to fill his position as a classroom designer. I decided that I could do it. I knew the game well enough, I got used to it and knew what it needed. Therefore, everything happened quickly enough. ”

The street was handed over projects related to the talents of Hunter's pets and with the implementation in the game of the first new class - the Death Knight. Blizzard showed this class at BlizzCon 2007, but the design hasn’t actually been completed yet. According to Street, when he came to the project, there were only three actions in the class repertoire: basic abilities - Plague Strike, Blood Strike, and Death Strike. Street had only an understanding of the work of World of Warcraft, the lore of the Death Knight, and a team of experienced class designers. "I created talent trees almost entirely on paper, not knowing for sure whether it would be easy to implement them."

Concept art of the Death Knight.

“My team consisted of veterans, class designers such as Kevin Jordan, Chris Zeerhat and Chris Kalekey. Kevin was on the team a long time ago, I think from the very beginning of World of Warcraft. They could build anything in the development tool. They had a fairly clear understanding of what will work and what is no good. Therefore, I briefly outlined several ideas for them, and they answered me: "You know, we tried them, and we had such problems here." Now I think this is not the best way to design. If I understood a little better what a game engine is capable of, what will cause bugs, and what to implement easily, it would save us a lot of time, ”says Street.

A few months later, another participant appeared in the World of Warcraft team - a game designer named Ion Hazzikostas, who worked on the implementation of boss battles (encounters). Today his name is well known to WoW fans. For everyone else, Hazzikostas is the current director of World of Warcraft, managing the development of the new Battle for Azeroth expansion.

“One of my first tasks as an implementer was to create monsters for the interior of the Battle of the Undercity event. This was the culmination of the Gate of Wrath. We needed to fill the entire Undercity with flames, dangerous undead and enemies, ”explains Hazzikostas. “I learned how to use the tools for spawning enemies just a few days before. Therefore, I had to be immediately involved in the work. ”

The current director of the game is Ion Hazzikostas, a newbie designer at the time of developing the Wrath expansion.

“One of the most exciting things about working with World of Warcraft was how brief the iteration cycle was between our work and what appeared in the gameplay. I came to Blizzard, studied the tools in the first days. A week later, I created content for our beta builds, which in just three days were already discussed on fan sites. It blew the brain. So I first realized the reality of my work. And from that time on, it remains an amazing adventure. ”

At a time when these two designers came to World of Warcraft, one veteran climbed to the top of the studio leaders. After leaving Allen Edham's Blizzard, Rob Pardo became Blizzard's vice president of game design and took over the management of several projects. After starting the development of Wrath of the Lich King in Blizzard, a number of leading designers finally gathered and Rob Pardo was able to rise to the management team. Wrath of the Lich King’s daily development burden fell on the shoulders of game director Jeff Kaplan and lead designer Tom Chilton. Kaplan’s position at Wrath of the Lich King was new for the company, although in fact it was just a new classification of work that leading designers used to do in Blizzard.

“It was during Lich King that I switched from everyday tasks to managing the design of the project as a whole. Lich King was released under the management of game director Jeff Kaplan and then this job title was used in the company for the first time, ”says Pardo. “During Lich King, the work process began to look like a modern WoW design. Before that, we constantly broke out, hurried, understood how everything works, and studied, studied, studied. ”

Another step that marked the beginning of modern Blizzard was Street’s readiness to communicate directly with players. Previously, individual developers from the World of Warcraft team could not be heard, the players communicated only with the community management team. But Straight wanted to connect with users.

Longtime fans of the game can remember the Ghostcrawler avatar and developer messages in a nice blue font.

“At the time, Blizzard almost did not participate in the community,” explains Street. “Chilton and Kaplan had accounts on the forum, they also had a team that worked with the community. It seems then it was Eyonix, Drysc and Nethaera. Chilton and Kaplan worked in a common corner office; Once I went to them and said: "Guys, what do you think about getting a blue account on the forum?" They looked at each other, Kaplan shrugged his shoulders and replied: "Yes, let's try it."

The street turned into a Ghostcrawler - a mythical developer Blizzard, who spoke to the community. Community managers worked flawlessly, but Ghostcrawler always had answers to the players' questions and he willingly shared them. It was completely new to the players.

"I think that Blizzard for a long time could not understand how to relate to this," - he says. "I did not understand who the initiative was from, from my bosses or from the community management team - there were thoughts that this complicates the work with the community: now the players did not want to communicate with the community management team, because they did not have all replies. At some point, Blizzard made a corporate decision that developers will no longer write on the forum and this is the work of community members only. On this I am done. Fortunately, Twitter became popular at that time, so I almost went from my Blizzard account to my personal Twitter account, and continued to chat there. ”

Today, Blizzard actively participates in social networks, communicates with players on Twitch streams, YouTube videos, posts on Reddit and through posts on the official forum. But in those days, Ghostcrawler was an oasis for some players, and a hated avatar for others.

Wrath of the Lich King: November 13, 2008

After disappearing at the end of Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, the former heroic Paladin and Lich King Arthas reappeared in the frosty wasteland of Icecrown on the Northrend continent. The expansion of Wrath of the Lich King has placed a strong emphasis on the culture and mythology of Scandinavia with many allusions to the Vikings and Old Norse myths. Players could fight the ghosts and shadows of the undead Vikrul or help the seamen of Tuskar in their fishing villages.

In this expansion, a new heroic class of the Death Knight appeared, starting not from the first, but from the 55th level. The success of the Death Knight required the concentration of the efforts of the entire design team. He was not just the first new class, but also a litmus test to test future classes.

“One of the most awaited opportunities has almost always been new classes,” says Pardo. “The class development team clearly understood that if we add new classes, this will be an aspect not only of the new extension. It will affect every system in the game. He will force us to add new class objects, quests, NPCs, spells and abilities. In addition, it will complicate the balancing of the game in PvP, raids, etc. Adding a new class was a major step, with many potential negative consequences. ”

The starting location of the Death Knight introduced the player to the story of a powerful death knight, marauding in the city of the Scarlet Enclave from the flying fortress Black Stronghold. When a death knight with his army invades a city, the world itself is transformed from a small base camp into a bridgehead of the army. Scarlet armies defend themselves against your attacks, but disappear by the next quest. In terms of plot presentation, Blizzard once again emphasized the importance of the player’s actions.

Technology called phasing replaced one version of the in-game reality with another. According to Patrick Dawson, this technology consists entirely of server tricks.

“Phasing is all you see. All visible exists simultaneously in one place. Technologically, it is very difficult to do, because in one phase a large-scale war between the Alliance and the Horde can take place, and in another phase it is a peaceful, calm area, because the war is over, ”Dawson says. “If after one war we move on to another, and then on to the third, then we will have three phases, on top of each of which a very computationally costly battle takes place; This could lead to big problems on the server. Therefore, we very carefully approached the phasing in terms of tactics, because in fact it is a visibility problem for the client. The player does not know what is happening in other phases, but everything is actually performed on the server in parallel. "

Phasing has breathed life into the starting location of the Death Knight.

Hazzikostas notes that while phasing is an interesting technology from the point of view of the plot, it has problems. Players in different phases cannot interact, because technically they are in different instances. If you are doing one part of the quest, and I am another, then using phasing, we can be on different servers.

“We have always tried to find a balance between a powerful storytelling for an individual player and the feeling that his actions are changing the world. There is a holistic narrative in the world, which is its core. But at the same time, the gameplay has the nature of MMO. We never wanted to move too far away from the roots of a shared social multiplayer mode. In the early stages, this new technology was widely used, concentrating on its power and not fully aware of its shortcomings, ”he explains. "I think that this story is constantly repeated with many other technologies that we have created during all these years: first, we actively use it, study its limitations, and then return to equilibrium."

New Dungeon Finder.

During the Wrath of the Lich King patch creation cycle, Blizzard created a replacement for the awkward Looking For Group tool from Burning Crusade. In the patch Patch 3.3.0, it was remade and named Dungeon Finder; under this name, it is today known to most players. Now, adding to the service queue, players can choose which of the three roles they can perform - Tank, Heeler, Demage Dealer. The system had the flexibility to dungeon for five people, and Blizzard added an award system that encourages players to play at least one random dungeon per day. In addition, Dungeon Finder has become a cross-server, so adding to the queue dungeon connects players from the entire battle group (battlegroup) - a set of game servers.

For players, it all seemed a big change, but not very serious. However, behind the scenes of Blizzard, it was a significant change in how game servers work. The technical team had to re-invent a way to create party players and get rid of the old procedures. However, the developers believed that the alteration was worth it, because it made life easier for players.

Ulduar from Wrath is one of the most successful raids.

“Certain parts of the data were stored locally in the area, so we had to completely destroy this scheme and place them in a more open area. For example, the party was originally stored in what we called the process of simulating the world. By itself, this process should have had all the information about the party. But when in the party people from different servers, it is impossible. We need the party to be stored somewhere else, ”Dawson explains in detail. “Therefore, we needed to separate many of our services and move services to other processes that can be performed in a centralized repository. It was a great deal of work, real madness. We had to seriously rework the system architecture in order to move from individual areas to a distributed model. ”

Another new addition, greatly changing the rules of the game, was the addition of Dual Talent Specialization, in the community known as the “Dual Spec”. Previously, each class was mainly limited to a single specialization: the Magician could have Arcane Magic, Fire or Ice, and the Warrior, Weapon, Fury, or Protection. Each specialization defined abilities and main priorities: the Paladin with the Defense was a tank, the Paladin with the Retribution was engaged in DPS, and the Paladin with the Light treated the party.

Before the expansion of Wrath, players could change specializations, but this was a rather complicated process. It was necessary to return to the city and pay for the discharge of all talents, and then choose new ones (this operation was called “respec”), set up all new abilities and put on suitable armor. These monotonous actions were not liked by the most active team members.

Growing a tree of talents.

“Kaplan was pumping levels - it seems then he played for the Warrior. He had to choose Weapons for the quest, and then switch to Defense for passing dungeons, and this was a real torture. So we thought about the idea of ​​double specification instead of one, ”says Street. “I always had doubts in this system. The player does not want to always be a defensive warrior with a shield, choose what you need at the moment. By this, we are very far removed from the RPG-roots of the game, but it didn’t matter to the players, because such a function is very convenient for them, and it’s difficult for them sometimes to understand why the designer may have conflicting feelings for her. ”

There were some minor changes in the expansion. Wrath of the Lich King has a new transportation system. In some ways it resembled the mount of the players, only it was temporary and was used in various quests and dungeons. In the Lake of Ice Shackles or Ulduar, a player could ride a siege tank, in Oculus - fly a dragon. Thus, the developers wanted to diversify the gameplay World of Warcraft. Naturally, they wanted to figure out what else this technology is capable of.

“We always tried to connect different elements in an unexpected way,” says Hazzikostas. “About halfway through the development of Wrath of the Lich King, having created this transport system, the team thought:“ Wait a minute, we can put a player or creature on another creature. Doesn't it have to be a transport? "Thanks to this, many new opportunities have opened up."

One of the siege tanks of the Lake of Ice Shackles.

“I tried to use this system in the Battle for Undercity. The moment was quickly forgotten, but for me it was an interesting experiment that taught something new, ”says Hazzicostas, describing the boss Guardian of Terror. He picked up the friendly soldiers to him, sucked the life out of them, and threw them away. For the player, it looked very cool, but in fact it used a new transport system. "From a technical point of view, for a couple of miserable seconds this soldier was a passenger in the hand of the Guardian of Terror."

Pardo calls this general Blizzard tendency to reuse the new technology "ninja tactics." He admits that after his departure from the company in 2014, this practice has lost a bit of its popularity, but it definitely lurks through the many stories that have been told to me. Many of the functions and capabilities remembered to players were created by connecting different parts of the game with insulating tape in the hope that they would “fly up”.

Burning Crusade was successful, but Wrath of the Lich King overtook him with a large margin. The storytelling game improved significantly and helped complete the story of the most notorious Warcraft 3 character. Those who liked Warcraft 3 saw Arthas falling out of favor after losing the plague city Stratholme, and this was his first step toward becoming the Lich King. Players could not only meet with Arthas in the raid on the Icecrown Citadel, but also felt his presence by completing quests. As Pardo said earlier, Wrath allowed the WoW team to take another big step and reach 12 million subscribers. It was an absolute record subscribers for the entire project.

So now you could relax, right?

Before the release of Cataclysm: 2009-2010

The World of Warcraft team had other plans. Instead of simply adding a new continent, the next expansion would have to focus on the original Azeroth. Flying mounts have become a terrific opportunity since Burning Crusade, but players could not use them in vanilla WoW because the terrain was not designed for them. In addition, some of the old content already looked a little rough; Since the release of WoW in 2004, the size, experience and resources of the team have grown.

So Blizzard decided to start small.

“We felt that the players always wanted to ask:“ Guys, can you fix the West End? Now he looks stupid. " The graphics did not match the present. There were strange and broken quests. He no longer responded to those epic plot points that we managed to create in Lich King. Therefore, we decided to go back and repair the old world, ”says Street about the early form of this idea.

According to Hazzikostas, the team began by examining the entire map of Azeroth and color-coded each zone: green, yellow or red. Green areas almost did not require changes. In the yellow zones, it was necessary to improve the relief, geometry and line of quests. Finally, the red zones required complete rework; it was necessary to destroy everything to the ground and build anew. Street recalls that the team first proceeded to the area of ​​10-20 levels - Silver Forest. However, after reworking this zone, the team was so pleased with the result that the desire for change only increased. Everyone wanted a chance to fix the game.

Deathwing seriously transformed.

“At first there were not many red spots on the map. But our team is a group of perfectionists, so we longed for serious changes, ”explains Hazzicostas. “Therefore, over time, more and more zones moved into the“ completely redo ”category. What began as a series of surgical interventions ended with a fundamental reworking of 70 percent of the world. Therefore, we had to redo the content into 60 levels, rework the complete discovery of the environment created in 2004, and also make five completely new zones for pumping from level 80 to level 85, new dungeons, new raids and much more. It was a large-scale enterprise. ”

A team of artists fully supported him, because it was a chance for a significant improvement in graphics. Technologies were improved, and Blizzard artists, by their surroundings, gained many years of experience in creating complex structures and zones, like the Tempest Keep, the Icecrown Citadel, the Crystal Song Forest or the Storm Ridge. Cataclysm provided the opportunity to use all the experience to rework previous work, and the artists happily jumped at the chance.

“We started brainstorming and were delighted, because we could take a new look at many of these areas and at the same time create new content for them. This added to the work a large share of delight. Then new ideas began to emerge, as if we were gaining momentum, ”says leading artist Jimmy Law. “In addition, we have a great opportunity to go back and improve the quality of some graphic resources. I believe that in WoW we managed to create a stylized, timeless graphic style. It never becomes obsolete. ”

Blizzard tore the Barrens in half.

The steppes were divided in half, and the Horde and the Alliance began to compete for one half. Thousand Needles, formerly a desert area with protruding tips, turned into a vast lake with several islands. Hillsbrad Foothills, a zone of constant war on the PVP servers, fell completely under the control of the Horde. The starting location of the Dwarves - Dun Morogh - received a new city called the City of Mechanics, a starting point for gnome players, and the Trolls moved to the Echo Islands off the coast of Durotar. Blizzard was cutting, reshaping, redrawing and inventing the old world anew.

Causes of the Cataclysm changes led to technical difficulties. The developers have significantly changed the world, but the players have already lived in it. If a player in vanilla WoW or Burning Crusade left the game at the top of the mountain, then by entering Cataclysm, he could be in the crater. Dawson led the team to correct the situation, but for a while distracted to help the Overwatch team. The players, who were supposed to be in much changed places, just woke up in the capital cities of the game, ready to explore a new world.

“We should not have tried to transfer them to a new relief. If a player left the game at the Lok Modan dam, how would we have to do? ”, Says Dawson. “There was talk inside the company:“ Why don't we just kill all the players? ”, But I think that this is also not very friendly towards them.”

Cataclysm: December 7, 2010

And so Deathwing awoke. This is the former Keeper of the Earth, one of the five incarnations of the dragon, which the Titans entrusted to protect Azeroth. His task was to protect the very sky of Azeroth from external threats, but over time he was driven mad by the whispers of the Ancient Gods. Neltharion died, and the armor tyrant Deathwing took his place.

Deathwing's flight has split the world, causing the changes that the Blizzard team has made to the world. The goblins from the Bilgewater Cartel joined the Horde as a playable race, and the departed Gilneas men returned as werewolf-like werewolves. Quests for levels 1 through 60 became a completely different gameplay, and experienced players could explore new zones added along the edges of the existing continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. These zones included the reworked Mount Hyjal and the underwater zone Vashj'ir. One of the zones was the house of Deathwing - the Underdark in the Monastery of the Elements.

“I have a lot of warm memories of the Underdark. I worked on it. I managed to make some concept art for him and draw some textures. It was a wonderful collaboration to create a completely new look. I still remember drawing textures for jewels. Other artists came up to me and looked at what I was doing. “Wow, cool. But what if all these stones seem to hang in the air? “This is an amazing process in which everyone shared ideas with each other and created something of their own,” says Law.

Underground - from concept to reality.

Cataclysm was mostly successful, but there were rough spots in the gameplay. The players were happy to see the old world alteration, but the new zones seemed glued to Azeroth, there was no feeling that they were connected to each other.

"I think you can see that from this point on Blizzard has always professed the approach of" let's just add a new continent "and not try to create randomly scattered zones," Street shares.

In addition, the dungeons again became difficult. From the point of view of dungeon content, World of Warcraft has always had its ups and downs. Dungeons for five in the classic World of Warcraft were heavy and long. The Burning Crusade dungeons turned out to be more compact and presented a certain difficulty for the players, but they lacked proper planning. The dungeons of Wrath of the Lich King have become much simpler, changing the style from carefully controlling the crowd to a more magnificent one. Tanks captured rooms with enemies, and DPS used their best AOE abilities. There were also heroic dungeons for players of maximum levels with sophisticated mechanics who first appeared in Burning Crusade, but the WoW designers did not really like the change in style of play. Therefore, Cataclysm again returned to a more rigid gameplay.

The players were unhappy.

“Yes, I think, for all my work at Blizzard, this was one of the most controversial parts,” says Street. “I can say that I grew up on very difficult Burning Crusade dungeons, and I didn’t like what they were like at the end of Lich King. We knew that adding to Cataclysm, where players would be properly equipped, new dungeons would make them much more difficult. I gave the team the direction of development: I decided that we would return to the principle of “passing the dungeon - this is a real feat”. ”

Atmospheres Cataclysm'u not occupy.

"I remember how I was at the event dedicated to the release of the expansion, and said:" We make dungeons for Cataclysm and they will be difficult. " Some players in the hall began to express disapproval, and this was the first signal for me: “Stop, maybe players need something different. Perhaps I want complexity. " The expansion came out and some of the dungeons were the hardest. If players used Dungeon Finder to search for a group, then the chances of success were very small. ”

Looking back, Straight believes that the mistake was not to complicate the content of the dungeons. It was that there was nothing in the expansion for more casual dungeon explorers and quest lovers, many of whom came into the game in the era of Wrath of the Lich King. Many quest chains for singles ended in dungeons; if the player was more interested in the plot, then the complex dungeon gameplay really annoyed him. The expansion required dungeons for casual and hardcore players.

“We created a huge community of casual dungeons in Lich King and did not give them an alternative. They had nothing to do at Cataclysm. They reached the maximum level and left the game because they could not find something to do, ”he admits.

In the end, Blizzard managed to cope with this problem through the scenarios and dungeons of the Challenge Mode in Mists of Pandaria, the mythical dungeons in Warlords of Draenor and Mythic + in Legion. They gave the opportunity to choose something easier or more difficult for those players who liked a certain kind of content.

The fall of the abyss did not come out.

Not all promises were fulfilled. Members of the World of Warcraft community may remember how at BlizzCon 2010 the company announced the release of the mouth of the abyss within the section of Dungeons and Raids. She was conceived as the “second leg” of the storyline of the Tron tide dungeon in Vashj'ir, the release of which was planned in patch 4.1. The team even managed to work on the dungeon itself, creating a new technology for some of the effects.

“The maw of the abyss was interesting. I remember how we fantasized about her. There were a lot of high-concepts, but this is quite normal, because in the end we started the technology. We wanted to create a sense of the underwater world and realize the idea of ​​divided water - the player had to see the wall of water held by magic. We created a concept and we had an excellent development department: they were often inspired by our art. Therefore, as a result, they developed a new water shader, which we used, and now we are developing it further, ”Lo recalls.

However, in the end, the development of the dungeon was canceled. According to former Blizzard designer Greg Street, the team simply did not have enough time to work on the dungeon so that its release would not harm the rest.

“When the time began to come to an end, we already had time to work on the Fiery expanses, but the Mouth of the Abyss was basically reski, which used one of the dungeons of huge sea horses with monsters in the style of the Ancient Gods, which we used before. We were very worried that she would disappoint the players, ”says Street. “In Lich King, we did something similar: we originally had a plan for the epic Azjol-Nerub, a spider-style raid, which we just cut out due to lack of time, because we needed to create an Ice Crown, and then move on to the next expansion” .

Greg admits that the players were dissatisfied with the cancellation of the dungeon, but believes that this discontent is caused by high expectations. He believes that in fact the Mouth of the Abyss should have been similar to the Ruby Sanctuary of Wrath of the Lich King - a short adventure with content that has already been seen by players before.

Before the release of Mists of Pandaria: 2011-2012

After several rather gloomy and heavy extensions in which players fought Illidan, Arthas and Deathwing, Blizzard wanted to try something more relaxed. Back in Warcraft 3, the studio created the Pandaren, a race of panda-like creatures that looked more like a joke. However, the race revealed new opportunities, a chance to explore a different style and aesthetics, unusual for players.

“Initially, it was intended to be a more frivolous, peaceful expansion. A return to the thrill of exploration and adventure after a series of apocalyptic threats, ”says Hazzikostas. "We knew that Pandaren was the classic Warcraft race that existed in Warcraft 3, and we were looking for some way to integrate them into the game, so we decided to redouble our efforts."

Early concept Mists work by Jimmy Law.

“We had previously considered using them as a race for expansion, it seems, in Burning Crusade,” explains Street.

The Blizzard team of artists again had a chance to turn around and experiment with new ideas. Pandaria was a completely new continent with a clear influence of Chinese art, architecture, mythology and pop culture. Artists had no problems in creating concept art and prototypes.

“Some topics sometimes caused difficulties, because not everyone understood how to approach them. With the Mists, the situation was completely different, because we immediately knew that the expansion would be based on Asian themes, ”says Lo. “Chinese landscapes, culture and pandas. From the very beginning, everyone knew where to go. It took us quite a bit of time, and we could spend the remaining time on inventing all the cool stuff. ”

The expansion of the Mists has pushed artists to create stunning works.

The style and overall tone of the beginning of the development of the extension also gave a large share of the freedom of the part of the artists team.

“I remember my work on the Khmiliarney of violent porters. We could imagine that the whole dungeon was a brewery, having fun exploring this topic and communicating with artists. We had this freedom. Not everything had to become superdramatic and serious. In this expansion, we made a curious move, ”explains Lo.

Also Blizzard has significantly changed the talent system. Before the Mists of Pandaria, players had to invest points in talent trees. The tree in which the most points were invested determined the player’s specialization. World of Warcraft maintained this system for years, but it had a problem: with each expansion, the talent trees grew longer. Blizzard could have truncated these trees, but it would just postpone solving the problem for a longer time.

New talent system for Mists.

“This fact has been underlined by Tom Chilton for a long time. He was worried that the system we were going to create would be unscalable, and I think he was right. I wanted to give him the opportunity to figure out what we need to change. He and I worked as if on a third-party project to check whether we could build a new talent system for the class, because we were worried that the players would have conflicting opinions about it, ”says Street.

Now players could first choose their specialization. After every few levels the player had a choice of one of three talents; the line of talent usually had a common spirit, but each talent had its own purpose. This is a flexible system that was supposed to reward players for real choices, as opposed to imaginary choices in old talent trees. A player could put talent points into anything, but in practice users would pump numbers and create builds that maximize the numbers they need. According to Street, the difficulty created the illusion of choice, but in fact it was not there.

“For players, complexity has its value. They make more meaningful choices and have the option of specialization. But this is an illusion. I think we never managed to achieve this, and most of the games trying to do the same, in fact, could not cope, because such a system is difficult to do correctly. I think when the players said that they loved complexity, they meant the importance of choosing the talents of Pandaria in combination with the huge amount of choices they made in the old trees of talents. But if you approach realistically, I don’t think that in such a system you can achieve a balance. ”

Mists of Pandaria was a powerful attempt by Blizzard to destroy some of the walls built in the game. The expansion provided more freedom of choice and provided a wide range of possible actions. Dungeon Challenge modes allowed players to complete challenging dungeons for periodic rewards. The Pet Battle system was added, which turned collected pets into a Pokemon-like combat system. Collections allowed players to control pets, mounts, and later, the appearance of transmogrification in a single UI window.

The possibility of transmogrification was added to Cataclysm and was very fond of individual parts of the community. With it, players could make the current armor look like any other they possessed. The problem was that all the uniforms had to be stored in inventory. Turning to the collections, Blizzard wanted to get rid of these difficulties with transmogrification of armor. The new system simply unlocked the appearance in the collections after receiving the item. In addition, Blizzard wanted to give the players all the looks they had previously received - the game knew which quests they had completed, so it was enough just to give these looks as a reward.

“We were very afraid that on the first day of release hundreds of thousands of people would log in and the client would tell the server:“ So, here are five thousand things that I now have. Let's write them all in the database. Thank you, ”explains Patrick Dawson. “So we decided to give everything out. The client seemed to be saying: “This is what I already know.” Players do not have to get all this in the first second after entering? Definitely not. Is it important that all this appear within five minutes? Probably. Therefore, within a few minutes, we loaded player items into the transmogrification database. ”

Updated transmogrid tab from Warlords of Draenor.

“We just knew that everything would be like this, because some players had up to ten thousand items. I think the developers used as a litmus test of my character. I am a hardcore raider and collector. Probably, in the WoW Progress ranking, my collection of combat pets is in the top five all over the world. So I play quite fanatically. ”

Dawson also participated in the "second largest change in the architecture of World of Warcraft", which allows you to create cross-realm zones. This new feature seamlessly integrates players who complete quests in certain zones of different realms. It allowed Blizzard to solve the problem of sparsely populated servers: it was enough to combine them into a cross-realm group with densely populated servers, and then players would never feel lonely.

“It was a very difficult task, because we created a seamless world that needed to be broken apart. For example, the Elven Forest is different from the Western Fringe. We haven't done anything like this before. What we had was more like a grid architecture, in which the load was divided depending on where we went beyond the grid. Everything was uniform, so there was no difference between the forest and the Western Territory. Actually the question was at the border crossing. Now the borders were based on zones. Therefore, when a player crossed the border, he could move to another server. ”

Dawson said that the system imitated the seamlessness of the areas as follows: when crossing the boundaries of the zone, the player disconnected from the server and logged in again on another. Some players, after adding cross-realm zones, noticed slight slowdowns that occurred due to the login process. Now the system works differently, but at that time it turned out to be the best that Blizzard was capable of.

Cataclysm changed the world, and Mists of Pandaria introduced many systemic changes that transformed the game itself. For longtime fans of the game, their inadequacy to expectations was too strong.

Mists of Pandaria: September 25, 2012

Although the players liked the Pandaren as a minor Warcraft 3 character, they didn’t accept an extension entirely made in the Pandaren theme. In the Mists of Pandaria, the Pandaren appeared as the new race of the Horde or Alliance, and the Monk became a new class with an emphasis on martial arts. For players in World of Warcraft, it was a new style, and they didn’t like it.

“Honestly, it was hard for us,” Hazzikostas said about the community’s response to expansion. “The team thought it did something amazing. I think that in retrospect the players agreed with this, but at first there was an absolutely understandable discord. The players thought: “What, pandas? Same for kids. I do not like it". It is difficult to learn a lesson from this, because I think that in general the expansion was excellent. But we need to take into account what the players expect to see in the expansion of Warcraft, and think about how to meet these expectations. "

“We made the mistake of assuming that all players would like the idea of ​​the Pandaren, who initially thought of it as a joke,” adds Street. “Now I think: what if we simply created a continent in the spirit of Asia and added the Pandaren race, but would not emphasize it?” Would not call the extension in her honor, did not place the Monk Pandaren on the box. Perhaps we would not get such a sharp rejection. People saw Pandaren and thought we decided to break away from our roots. ”

How do the wandering islands of Pandaria wander? That's the answer ...

Thanks to Mists of Pandaria, the game took another big step and added even more unique content. Scenarios have appeared in the expansion - dungeon-like encoders with resources and enemies from ground areas. Scenarios were designed for the passage of one or three players, but without restrictions on the composition of the party. Anyone could join the script, regardless of specialization, while receiving high-quality gameplay.

“The important thing about them is that they were easy to develop and easy for players to pass. A team of one developer and one designer could independently do what they wanted. We could reuse ready-made fragments of the world, we could do things that usually players would never see. We could create a more polished storyline. From the point of view of the players, we wanted to do something more lightweight than the dungeon, so that players would not have to wait 30-40 minutes to select a healer, ”explains Street, describing the tasks of the new regime.

“In addition, this was the beginning of our experiments with a different type of narrative and gameplay,” adds Hazzikostas. “Underground is a more traditional“ corridor-room-corridor-room ”scheme. Players make their way to the final boss. Scenarios often looked like partial dungeons, but their gameplay was more like a land one, only more manageable. ”

Hazzicostas did not fail to notice that the release of Mists of Pandaria did not mean the simplification of World of Warcraft. He pointed out that even today, the passage of Mythic + dungeons remains difficult. World of Warcraft to this day remains hardcore, but that's not all. It offers content for singles, dungeons and scenarios for passing with friends, pet battles, professions, auction and raids for high levels. Today in the World of Warcraft studio Blizzard seeks to find something interesting for everyone.

After a while, many players began to consider the Mists of Pandaria one of the best extensions of World of Warcraft. It had a lot of thoughtful changes to the system, such as cross-realm zones and collections, excellent dungeons and raids, and some of the most beautiful zones in all of WoW history: the Valley of Four Winds, the Jade Forest and Everlasting Dale. Despite the initial rejection, over time a community of fans was created around the expansion.

Mists of Pandaria is the latest expansion released by lead systems designer Greg Street. He left the company on November 27, 2013, almost a year before the release of the next expansion. Greg became the leading game designer at Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends. Street surprisingly openly talks about the reasons for leaving Blizzard, but still loves the company and fondly recalls the years spent in it.

“They became one of my closest people, and I love this team. It took me several months to make this decision. At that time, we were very worried about the return of players to the game, and the more changes we made to the classes, the more difficult it was for the players who had once left to return. We had a wish list, for example, Chakra Priest’s ability was rather weak, and we planned to correct it. ”

“But suddenly we were told that the Chakra remains in the game. Everything must remain. We only make minimal changes to classes. And even if from the point of view of the game it was right (perhaps it is so), but for me as a developer it became uninteresting, ”adds Street. “In the end, I began negotiations with Riot. This company has focused on communicating with the players. I always liked to move against the stream, and the guys from Riot loved it. So it seemed to me that I would fit perfectly. ”

Warlords of Draenor: November 13, 2014

Part of the Mists of Pandaria story was the fall of the former leader of the Horde, Garrosh Hellscream. The player came across Garrosh in the last raid of the Mists, but he escaped. Together with the old character of the world, Gul'dan, Garrosh convinces the clans of the orcs Draenor from an alternate reality to rise and create an army: the Iron Horde. While the expansion of Mists of Pandaria was a tranquil Chinese opera, the Warlords of Draenor literally turned into death metal.

“Warlords was a much more serious and gloomy character. Many were delighted with this, because the expansion gave us the opportunity to go back to the old school roots of Warcraft, ”says Jimmy Law, describing the return to the visual basics of WoW. “I was literally obsessed with this idea. We could return to the foundation of World of Warcraft, and at the same time be able to revise and update some of the characters. ”

In the Warlords of Draenor, the studio also wanted to go back and update the character models of most races. She sought to preserve the overall appearance, but at the same time improve the graphics, facial animations and character animations in general. Most of the original character models did not even have fingers. The desire to update the models remained in the game in the future; In each expansion, a series of updates of the old models of "vanilla" and Burning Crusade. It was necessary to preserve the modernity of the game.

The Warlords artistic style was much darker than in the Mists of Pandaria.

“From the point of view of the evolution of style in World of Warcraft, a huge amount of work is being done. Part of it is pretty obvious - adding high-resolution textures and the like, ”says Lo. “We added new rigs to the faces in order to create additional facial animations, to make the characters expressive. Later we changed the armor sets, the geometry of the components, created separate geometric parts for the armor. We always make similar evolutionary changes to the game. ”

However, the main chip Warlords was the Garrison. Expansion Warlords has witnessed the change of storytelling World of Warcraft. Previously, the player was just one of the soldiers on the battlefield, running for the main characters of the WoW log. But by the time Warlords was created, the player had already killed such bosses in the series as Ragnaros, Arthas, Deathwing, and others. He saved countless lives on Azeroth and Outland.

Therefore, the characters in the game began to treat him accordingly. In Warlords, the player became the Commander, the hero of hundreds of battles trusted by the leaders of the Alliance / Horde. Important characters Laura turn to him for advice and support. The player is a true hero.

Concept art of the Garrison.

The Garrison system puts the player to the forefront, gives him the role of Commander, who controls not only his own city, but also the many outposts in Draenor. “This was one of the largest undertakings in the history of World of Warcraft in terms of the work of artists and developers who jointly created a completely new type of gameplay,” explains Hazzikostas. “We wanted to come up with a new way to interact with the world, supporting the story we are telling. The player actually needs to develop his army. What does this mean for Warcraft? This means building a base, barracks, an arsenal, a sawmill, and everything else, because they were all the basics when the franchise was still a real-time strategy. ”

The Garrison itself was a city created for a player in a separate instance. Only he could see his Garrison and visit it, all its inhabitants and soldiers were aware of his presence.

“We first had to put a player in our own instance and do it for the entire population of World of Warcraft,” says Patrick Dawson. “That is, the Garrisons actually exist in the form of instances, like the Dead Mines or the Molten Core. Only instead of 30-40 people there is only one in them. An instance is expensive, creating an instance is not cheap. So when we deploy it for each player, World of Warcraft support becomes a bit more expensive. Therefore, we had to think carefully about the division of memory. In essence, we create a process and then allocate a stream for each garrison in it. ”

Concept Art of the Peaks of Arak.

However, as a result, the Warlords of Draenor became the opposite of the Mists of Pandaria. After the first expansion announcement, the fans were delighted - the servers did not cope with the load - but the longer they played, the worse the ratings got. In Warlords, there were only three raids to pass: High Hammer, Black Mountain Foundry and Hellfire Citadel. This was not enough compared to the five raids of the Mists and six in the Cataclysm and Wrath of the Lich King. From the point of view of playable content, these were lifeless two years. Warlords had fewer content patches than any other extension, and fans suffered from it. “We made a mistake,” Hazzikostas said in an interview with Destructoid during the Legion release.

“We all play a game, so every time our players feel something, then most likely, we will feel it. Our support for Warlords of Draenor from the point of view of both the team working on it and the release cycles of the patches was insufficient, ”said lead game designer Luis Barriga in an interview with PCGamesN around the same time.

Legion: August 30, 2016

Against the background of the marketing miscalculation of Mists of Pandaria and the lack of content in Warlords of Draenor, World of Warcraft: Legion became a return to the former greatness. The expansion has added a new heroic class - the Demon Hunter, which followed the teachings of the revived Illidan. Mythic + has become a new dungeon mode, a logical continuation of the Mists Dungeon Challenge mode. The garrison was replaced by the Class Bastion, which transports each player to the vanguard of his class in the world of Azeroth and offers a unique weapon for each specialization-artifact. Artifacts replaced the simple and legendary weapons that players used earlier. Now they could use weapons taken directly from the World of Warcraft Laura, for example, Thrall’s Rockhammer or Ashbringer. Artifacts not only became the embodiment of the players' fantasy, but also a good development system as a whole.

Also in Legion appeared the huge city of Suramar, which at that time was probably the largest city ever created in games. This home of the New Night faction was a magnificent sight. He became a monument to elven architecture and the way to new world quests of the game. Players returned to it again and again to get the Good Samaritan achievement.

“Nightbirths became an opportunity to expand elven architecture as a whole, to make it more powerful,” says Lo. “It was a chance to expand their culture a little more. We tried to draw inspiration from the old Laura, from what we did before. Of course, it is interesting to create new things, but it is also interesting to return to the old and look at it with a fresh look, because the players like it. ”

Suramar became an illustration of the power of the Elves.

Before the release of Legion, the company added Legion invasions, random attacks on different areas of Azeroth. The fans loved the invasion, because it was a huge interesting battle, providing an excellent opportunity to pump. According to technical director Patrick Dawson, these invasions before the release of Legion actually tested server technologies. They were the result of the creation of dynamic shards technology, which, if necessary, divided the server into several server-like instances.

Gul'dDan on Tomb of Sargeras.

“The population of the world at the time of the Warlords became so huge that we could not put all the players in realma on one server so that it could work normally. Therefore, while the cross-realm zones connected people from two servers to one, Warlords of Draenor demanded that we take people from one server and divide them into two, ”says Dawson. “Suppose we want about a hundred people in the region. When a hundred is typed, we create a new instance. Then the next hundred people get on this new instance and continue the gameplay. It was very convenient, especially for the players. ”

Legion started off the bat and did not think to stop. He was an attempt by Blizzard to correct the situation, and the fans loved the game, and the WoW team on a regular basis began to release new content.

“If you look at Warlords or Mists, then within one expansion there were long pauses between patches and content updates,” Hazzikostas explains. “For me, this was a priority problem that we have to solve in Legion. I am very proud of what the team managed to do: it picked up the pace and released a series of patches and content updates at intervals of just a couple of months throughout 2017 and before the current one. In my memory, this is the shortest period between the last raid and the next expansion. ”

Battle For Azeroth: August 14, 2018

Last month, Blizzard finished Legion chapter in the history of World of Warcraft and launched a new release of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. The expansion has already received the largest first-day sales among all World of Warcraft extensions: 3.4 million copies were sold in 24 hours. It is already with us, and the players play it, loving and hating it in equal measure. As can be understood from the name of the expansion, attention again turns to the war between the Horde and the Alliance.

Zandarlar is one of the island regions of Battle for Azeroth.

“We believe that the idea of ​​separating factions remains fundamental from the days when Warcraft was RTS. We danced around it in many extensions, and now we feel that we must give it its due, ”said Battle For Azeroth creative director Alex Afrasiab in an interview with Forbes . “There are so many almost invisible differences in factions, but they still exist. For these races such differences are not forgotten. And that is what we want to talk about in the extension. ”

Following recent events of World of Warcraft's lora, such as The Burning of Teldrassil and the Siege of Lordaeron, Battle for Azeroth spreads the Alliance and the Horde into two separate continents. In the new regions, Zandalare and Kul Tirase, there are lost civilizations that can give both armies more power. Both sides are licking their wounds and looking for new allies in the renewed conflict. These allied races are offshoots of the familiar WoW races: Tauren Highmountain, Enlightened Draenei, Night-born Elves, Abyssal Elves, Black Iron Dwarves and Orgi Mag'hara. The war (war) has returned to Warcraft, and the number of its participants is growing.

The battle continues ...

At the same time, Blizzard uses this extension to explore what the Horde and Alliance are actually fighting for. Players have always been passionate about their factions, but the story that led to Battle for Azeroth tested the loyalty of the players for the Horde. The current leader of the Horde, Sylvanas Windrunner, made decisions that the players did not like, and some even provoked anger and a desire to reassess values.

“These factions are strongly attached to the personality of the players, and when they see the banners, they know what they are fighting for - this applies to the players on an individual level. They accomplished exploits for the faction, fought against its enemy, strengthened its ranks, defended its capital. You will not forget it just like that. This is part of Warcraft's DNA, ”said lead narrator designer Steve Danuzer in an interview with Polygon . "I can say that we still have enough space for development and changes in the image of these factions, as well as for changes in their relations."

Like the faction, World of Warcraft also continues to evolve. I do not want to give out spoilers, but in the future another WoW extension is expected. (Probably in 2020.) And World of Warcraft will continue to change in accordance with the developers' vision. But in the end, it will still be World of Warcraft, because the principles that stimulated the creation of the first version of the game are still alive in the team. This is not just a desire to create a magnificent world in which a player is a hero who kills gods and saves the world, but a desire to implement a game process accessible to everyone.

Also popular now: