World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Community Interview

Written by Joe Martin

December 9, 2010 | 07:39

Tags: #blizzard-interview #cataclysm #ghostcrawler #interview #retail #world-of-warcraft #world-of-warcraft-cataclysm

Companies: #activision-blizzard #blizzard

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Interview

BG: Has the learning experience had an effect on other projects at all? You mentioned WoW was an unexpected success and I know that it’s got a huge back-end, with a huge number of people working on it and keeping it running – was building all that a distraction? A lot of people were asking about Diablo 3, specifically.

Greg: I know that Blizzard had a really hard time for a while growing from one big team into multiple teams. Every time there was a crunch it used to be that the message would come; ‘Diablo 2 is almost ready, all hands should be working on that’. That definitely happened on the World of Warcraft launch too.

It was pretty exciting that this year we were able to release StarCraft 2 from a totally different team and they didn’t need to cannibalise the Warcraft team to make it ready for launch. We now have four or five autonomous teams which work separately and are able to deliver their own content without affecting each other.

Dave: Right now, Blizzard seems really good at rotating people through different projects too. Experienced staff can get their work done and then rotate on to a new game, spend a few years on that. We have a lot of movement and it’s very dynamic. It’s very cool to have this culture in the company where everyone is constantly learning.

*World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Community Interview World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Interview
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BG: Do you see that as a strength or a weakness, to have people moving from one project to another so much? The argument against it might be that you should have staff staying with one genre or platform or whatever, to become specialists.

Greg: I think it’s a strength. I mean, someone who’s been on World of Warcraft since the beginning? It’s been out for six years, so those people might just burn out. Blizzard has all these other opportunities to put those staff on, such as StarCraft or Diablo, so it makes sense to move people around rather than (God forbid) look to outside companies to do that work.

BG: What about totally new projects? Do you see Blizzard always sticking with Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo? (Question from Gilljoy)

Greg: Well, we definitely love those worlds, so I’m not sure we’d ever abandon them. It makes sense to grow. I don’t know if Blizzard will ever be a ten game company, but as long as we can continue to support the existing franchises then we might add new ones as well.

BG: Do you plan to grow World of Warcraft on the graphical side of things? A few people wanted to know if there was going to be a HD texture pack or a graphics update released. (Question from Pookeyhead and LeMaltor)

*World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Community Interview World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Interview
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Greg: It’s unlikely that we’d ever dump everything and then start over. What we like to do is gradually improve things. The engine constantly evolves and is able to do things that it never could have done before. There are new shaders for water effects, new high-poly character models for the new races, the Goblins and Worgen. We’ll be retrofitting existing character models like that too. There are new shadows, new ground textures…

Dave: Ground clutter too. We upped the quality of that, so we can do grasslands, which never looked good before.

Greg: Plus, particle effects and stuff too. We’ll never roll something out and say ‘This is the new WoW engine’, but we will add improvements as we go along.

BG: Does that approach stem from Blizzard’s design philosophy, being iterative and polishing things for a long time, or is it because World of Warcraft specifically doesn’t require a high-end PC to run?

Greg: I think both of those are valid reasons. We’ve always tried to make great looking games that don’t alienate those who don’t have super-powerful systems. We’ll let other companies blaze the way by making games that look great but which only 500 people in the world can play. At the same time, we’ll make sure we have settings for people like your readers – who I’d bet can push the graphics to maximum on every game they have.

Dave: I think if you crank up the graphics on WoW right now and compare them to the original release then it’s pretty amazing to see the difference. The sunlight shining through the tree canopies, the ground and water textures… it’s impressive stuff.
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