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Blizzard Explains the Entire History of World of Warcraft | WIRED

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Blizzard’s Ion Hazzikostas, Patrick Magruder and Jimmy Lo tell the entire history of World of Warcraft. From the game’s launch date, until it’s newest expansion (Battle for Azeroth), Blizzard chronicles every aspect of the legendary MMO’s journey.

Ion Hazzikostas – Game Director, World of Warcraft
Patrick Magruder – Lead Gameplay Engineer, World of Warcraft
Jimmy Lo – Visual Development Supervisor, World of Warcraft

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Blizzard Explains the Entire History of World of Warcraft | WIRED

hi my name is ian has a hostess I'm the game director on world of warcraft hi my name is Patrick McGruder hi my name is Jim Edo I'm the lead gameplay engineer on the world of warcraft team and I am the visual development supervisor we are here to take you through the history of world of work I joined the team in the summer of 2008 I've been at Blizzard for just shy of 10 years now I've been playing well the Warcraft since day one back in November 2004 all the Warcraft presents players with a vast world to explore to adventure in to meet friends potentially to make enemies it's a place where players can play out their fantasies of being a hero and do so alongside millions of other players from around the world it's set in the world of Azeroth the home to the Warcraft franchise going all the way back to the RTS games of the mid-90s it places players in the shoes of one of the denizens of this world it's a world of swords and sorcery a world of high fantasy and adventure you begin unassuming beginnings setting off to make your name in a world full of danger and great glory to the errant as you explore as you do things like humble deeds you know helping farmers with beasts that are attacking their crops – unearthing plots that may have touched upon some of the major issues of the day in that world you gain power you gain renown in many ways it's a classical fantasy role-playing game in a world full of thousands of other people so as players grow in stature they would take on more powerful foes by the end of that initial journey players were heroes in this world players had toppled some of the great threats facing Azeroth we're looking for new adventures both in terms of the confines of the story but also as human beings playing the game they wanted to see what was next what great foe awaited around the corner Masek world of warcraft was the base game before any expansions existed this was just world of warcraft as a standalone product that came out in North America in November 2004 it came to Europe some months later in the spring of 2005 and the rest of the world to follow it really was this moment that united people who has the war effort yes franchise seized this excitement for the MMO genre really opening up what had been a relatively niche genre to the broader audience of gamers from all walks of life all ages all backgrounds it became something of a cultural moment back at launch at the very start of World of Warcraft there were eight playable races and nine playable classes these races half court members of the Horde half members the Alliance the Horde side you could be an orc control a tauren or a member of the undead forsaken on the alliance side you could be human dwarf elf or no and these were the canonical Warcraft races the players have seen and interacted with going back to the realtime strategy roots of the franchise and then there were character classes it were a mix of you know sort of traditional fantasy archetypes and abilities that have been seen in the realtime strategy games so you have the warrior wading into toe-to-toe combat wearing heavy armor wielding my weapons or shield the stealthy rogue hunter with an animal companion spellcasters a mage master of the arcane arts or the elements warlocks who are summoning demons and binding them to their will hybrid classes like druids who commune with nature can turn into various animal forms that they're in touch with and then back then there were two classes that were limited to specific factions only horde players could be shamans who were sort of hybrid melee combatants who also could harness the power of the elements as well as totems with a certain ritualistic shamanistic vibe and then on the Alliance side paladin's warriors of light who combines a mighty sword arm with invoking light for healing and support of magics and so all in all there were nine character classes playable eight available for the Horde eight available for the Alliance which was better between shaman and paladin was a major point of contention back then and it depended on who you asked and most would say the grass was greener on the other side it's one of the pillars from what world crafts was having a largest broad appeal a lot of games were pretty realistic in terms of that aesthetics a lot of MMOs were based off of token fantasy realistic medieval kind of setting and we knew we wanted to develop a style that was different than what was being done we had Warcraft which is the roots of what a World of Warcraft is and they had established a style that was very colorful it pushed a lot of exaggerated shapes created heroic characters epic environments to craft adventures and epic stories and so we knew okay if that's the root of Warcraft we would take that and use that for the aesthetics of World of Warcraft making something that was very memorable for the players from the first moment when it came out back in 2004 there were indications that it was going to be somewhat different game and the ones that had come before there were countless people lining up around the world on release night to get their hands on the very first boxes Blizzard actually found themselves quickly unable to meet the demand just from a server perspective just in terms of the sheer load Blizzard had planned for conservatively actually what if more people come to play this game than any other past MMO games such as EverQuest and competitors at the time even those expectations and projections weren't enough to meet the initial demand when wow first came out it was a hundred percent what server are you on was everything if you were on mal Ganis you could only interact with people who were on mal Ganis and we realized very quickly that while mon gannets itself is overloaded that's okay we're gonna get that capacity up and then people are gonna want to do more so we wanted to figure out how to cook them in able players to play because World of Warcraft is about playing the game with your friends it's about doing things together in a shared world and how could we get that experience moving forward a lot of those first months were spent really just trying to keep up with demand just trying to stabilize the service to get to a point where players could just come home from work login and I'll have to wait or not have their servers be down due to load I was just a player back then I bought the game the very first day I came out I want to say it was Thanksgiving weekend coming up I remember coming home excitedly logging in that first night playing and then could not wait to get back to the game the next day only to discover that my server was offline and was one of five servers that were going to remain offline for the next two days they were so hopelessly overpopulated they couldn't run with any sort of stability so we had a little enforced initial break from the game once they got up and running again we all jumped back in and picked up where we left off in many ways that was the story it was a testament to how magical that experience was back then despite pretty frequent down times long periods of lag and instability poor responsiveness not because of any technical shortcoming of the game but because of the unprecedented player demand and the load that was hitting the server's everyone realized they're a part of something magical that we had never seen before in a game we definitely got bonus points as a game just for those unique social elements whereas now the ability to interact with others in your gaming experiences has taken for granted almost every console PC mobile game you pick up in play is gonna have some of those interactive social elements what World of Warcraft has done over the years is add new ways new modes of engaging new places to visit in the worlds to explore and has really provided just this ongoing engaging gameplay experience that leans on the uniquely social nature of the experience so whether you are joining up with four players 20 friends or making new ones to go take on powerful dragon explore dungeons or test your skills against other players it's a game that's really been able to build itself from the ground up as a fundamentally social game at the same time it's a game for everybody it's a game that from its earliest days was one that could be played alone if you were looking for just meditative peaceful exploration if you didn't want to deal with others you want to come home after a long day of work and explore tranquil elven forests do good deeds there that was the game that it could be for you 13 years ago it's the game that it still can be for you today in many ways that really is the story of classic world of warcraft before any of the expansion the first year was one of stability then the next year was content updates that were more traditional in the sense of modern content updates adding new environments to explore new bosses to defeat new dungeons to conquer and some balancing to the game and adding some additional features like fleshing out player versus player combat all of those things came in with a course of the base game that really just set the stage for the expansions to first expansion we created was the Burning Crusade and it was pretty challenging from a visual art direction standpoint because it was very different than what was created for classic Wow this was the first major expansion to World of Warcraft players journeyed through the mysterious dark portal to the broken world of outland which was the home of one of the major races that is found in World of Warcraft at the orcs this was a whole new world to explore with its own cultures multiple zones and dungeons new enemies it massively increased the scope of the game we spent a lot of time thinking about that aesthetics of it we got the story and the design and oftentimes that's the first inspiration for the artist and we get a rundown ok what's the kind of the gameplay for the expansion the story arc and maybe some of the characters and then once we find out about that our imaginations start going wild we start to imagine how could these worlds look like it was coming up with like all these brand new worlds literally another planet was really cool really fun to do it was a lot of opportunity visually to create different experiences it also brought with it new features such as much more formalized structured competitive player versus player combat new races to play from blood elves and the drew nigh for the horde and Alliance respectively access to new classes that hadn't been around before new abilities in the truest sense a significant expansion of the base game on all vectors along all lines of progression there was more to do more to earn more to seek more to explore a lot of the initial systems of the game had been fleshed out over the course of the classic World of Warcraft period Burning Crusade really formalized them into permanent structures rating was an activity that involved you know groups of back then 25 players getting together and taking on from the most challenging foes in the game Burning Crusade also introduced 10 player raid size so it's somewhat smaller groups could still have that epic experience about needing to get together a full number of 25 people the arena system was added in Burning Crusade which allowed players for the first time a chance to mash themselves and match their skill against others from around their region to determine who was the best truly and get rewards in the process that was actually also the beginning of World of Warcraft eSport Warcraft World Championship back then a fledgling eSport league started to broadcast while arena tournaments resto druid and keep a few barely alive crazy deep into damp Ania there's a lot of excitement or on seeing the best from different countries go head-to-head against each other determine who the best World of Warcraft players were in the world rewards became more streamlined better tuned and balanced or as it had been the Wild West previously and one subtle addition to the game that really laid a foundation for the next decade to come was a system that the World of Warcraft team called daily quests previously quests had been something to guide players through the game's context a lot of massively multiplayer games prior to World of Warcraft didn't have much structure to them you would go out into his own and be expected to just find enemies and defeat them often repetitively for long stretches of time to get stronger to get items and grow in power well the Warcraft overlaid a thorough network of level up quest lines but not all have not forgotten it's telling stories state your business giving you purpose to your actions the reckoning is at hand in guiding you through the world as you explored it in the classic game those quests pretty much came to an end once you've reached level 60 the maximum level in the base game Burning Crusade raised that to 70 but it also added this whole new set of daily repeatable quests they were only available at max level that were randomized and varied and will give players a new thing to do new quests to explore and pursue in a regular basis when they were logging in it made outdoor gameplay a staple of the end game experience in World of Warcraft rather than something that you just did while leveling up that's something that the team has really continued to expand upon and it's now really a core pillar of what makes the franchise what it is introduced for the first time in Burning Crusade was the ability to fly around you could at max level are flying mounds that let players for the first time soar through the skies get around the world bit more quickly a bit more easily it also opened up literally a whole new perspective on looking at this expansive world that before had been seen you know from beneath the tree canopies and much closer flying was fun for both of our team oh yeah we had to figure out how to let characters fly one of the mute methods of art that we did was introduced sky boxes because in out man you literally saw great dark beyond you saw energies raking through base and creating these nebulous clouds in the sky and it was very fantastic and we had to kind of develop a new technique to sell that and we had done a lot of really awesome visual development on how that stuff could look like now it was time to kind of translate that and actually execute on it so we implemented this new Sky box system that we didn't do in classic Wow that was very exciting come one of the big question was how fast can they fly at the time our servers had a whole lot of interaction limitation that how fast a player could go if you fly too slow it feels kind of lame so you wanted to go nice and fast but how fast is too fast well how fast can we fly you go through this world how can we make it feel good cuz if you fly too fast you end up and there's nothing below you and then things are loading and it's not a great player experience right and you miss all the cool stuff that we all write and all the cool stuff that arts put in until it loads in or whatever and classic wow you know we created a lot of cool cool worlds like different zones biomes each were their own very distinct aesthetic feel and look but we never really had to think too much about transitions when you transition from one zone to the NEB there was certain paths that we know players would take to go from one zone to the next and we could control that and make that a very nice blend and transitions like I say a snowy forest two more icy mountains and there were areas where we didn't have to really worry about transitions at all because players never were able to get up there unless they were somehow like climb all the way up to the mountains but with the introduction of fly mounts right now it's a huge it really changed the way we built zones and different landscapes and design visually the landscapes too we now had to actually think about transition zones and how one last gate transitioned into the next one get it to feel right and feel correct in order to sell the fantasy of what we're trying to do all the way down to what the view distance when you're here how do we deal with fog how do deal with lighting all these things suddenly became more of a problem once the player was elevated and able to see from Taric our forests over to Hellfire and see the line and see the between them you had to make these beautiful transitions first before it was kind of hidden where my personal story begins as a member of blizzard as a member of the World of Warcraft team was on the eve of Wow second expansion Wrath of the Lich King you shall be someone who had played the game ardently it was an honor to be able to come work on the team to help shape the game that I'd look for so long ratha Lich King took players to the frozen wastes of northrend an area also introduced and with its roots in the lore of the realtime strategy games to face off against Arthas the Lich King probably the greatest most notorious villain ever introduced in Warcraft this also introduced an all new character class the death knight as well as systems such as vehicle combat which played out in this massive battleground called winter grass advancements to the rating game the expansion of daily quests as a system integrated cinematics in some cases having powerful single-player moments where you could see the world around you and transform there was new technology that the team had invested in around this time called phasing that let players actions in effect influence the world around them so whereas before there was always a pretty heavy element of suspension of disbelief where you would rescue a prisoner from the villains lair and have the prisoner thank you but then because of the conceits of the massively multiplayer world a couple of minutes later the prisoner we back in their cage for someone else to rescue because it was just a shared world whereas now for the first time you could take over an enemy base and have it turn into a friendly one for you yourself you can see the results of your actions played out in the world at large this was used to great effect in storytelling in elements such as the death knight class starting experience and elsewhere throughout Wrath of the Lich King so a live game with such a rapid iteration cycle is the ability to come in do something at my desk put something into the game and then literally see players reacting to that thing ten days later in our public test environments or back then our beta servers that's an incredibly rare privilege I didn't realized the time as someone that was sort of new to the industry new to the environment just how rare a privilege that was to have such a tight creative iterative loop and rapid feedback over the course of Wrath of the Lich King we continued to expand the pond features and try to create new ways for players to play the game with each other and one of the biggest changes ever introduced to World of Warcraft was the dungeon finder feature that was added in patch 3.3 it was a matchmaking service it was something that's probably pretty routinely found at games today it allowed you to quickly find other players interested in doing the same content that you are looking to do rather than standing around town looking to manually form a party of adventurers to go into a dungeon you could just say I'm a damage dealer looking to do a dungeon into yourself into the system and the game would find you for other players of the right group composition looking to do a dungeon as well and put you right into the action we have you know various character classes in world of warcraft that occupy different roles we have tanks whose job it is to sort of stand up in the front and absorb the brunt of the enemy's attack healers who keep the tanks the rest of the group alive and then damage dealers who the ones who dish out the damage to defeat the enemies that are confronting the players a balanced group requires one tank one healer three damage dealers and putting that group together could often take manually upwards of thirty forty minutes you'd be standing around saying all right there's four of us ready to go we just need to find one healer and then we're good and then maybe someone has to go or someone has their internet go out and you're back to square one but the dungeon finder was and what its promise was was automating this process it massively decreased the barriers to entry for this content led to far more players than ever before participating in the dungeon gameplay that is some of what makes will the Warcraft special field World of Warcraft does it just about the best there is this revolutionized the way people played the game and it remains a linchpin of the game for the past 10 years I'm shortly at the dungeon finder was added the world Warcraft was integrated into blizzards battlenet platform which is its cross game communications platform allowing players for the first time to chat with their friends who are planning at the time starcraft 2 wings of Liberty is just about to come out that would later expand to include Diablo 3 overwatch etc so today players do battlenet can chat with their friends and other servers not functionalities only continuing to expand as people play games throughout the Blizzard ecosystem another feature that we added in Wrath of the Lich King is the dual spec system or a dual talent system that one was born of many folks realizing hey you know this is kind of a pain point because especially the hybrid class when you talk about their paladins in your druids in other classes as well who can play different roles do you want to go to a dungeon and you want to have a good group and to have a good group need to have that balance of the one tank one healer three damage dealers so a player would go hey I'm playing the druid I'm currently a resto druid I'm a healer but we need a tank I'm gonna go switch hold on everybody I'll be back in fifteen to twenty minutes that really wasn't fun cuz you had to go back to town and spend a lot of money and suddenly all your spell's are different so you have to change your action bar all over the place my solution for action bars was I had screenshots on my desktop of this is what I look like as holy this is what I look like his pride and this is what I look like his rent I was playing a paladin I'm just hitting the one two three four key it's all you know wired in my head at this point for playing I don't remember what that spell is I just know the two does what I wanted to do and then I'm like we can do better than that so we eventually envisioned dual spec start it is how do I save action bars and it turned into what it is now Deathwing has returned Cataclysm was the most ambitious expansion blizzard had ever made up until that point Cataclysm set out with a massive undertaking of actually breaking the world the so told the story of this great dragon Deathwing who burst forth from within the earth and unleashed chaos and catastrophe across Azeroth areas were flooded areas were broken apart massive crevasses appeared but what this did what this provided was a vehicle to remake the original world they had been crafted in 2004 and in fact in many cases back in 2003 during the pre-production development of the game to embrace some more of the modern conventions and Technology and the way that the team had come to build content by 2010 as Cataclysm raised the level cap has it introduced some new features new professions interest yeah and that bite it also took the unprecedented step of going back and remaking everything that had come before so the entire level 1 through 60 experience in all of those zones were fundamentally transformed both visually art wise but also in terms of the stories that were being told there the timeline had advanced there were new characters occupying those spaces with a truly radical transformation of the world art we had to look at the old zones okay now it's all being destroyed how do we actually make it look cool and chaotic but not too chaotic now that we're going back to some of the classic zones that was the start of actually upgrading some of the aesthetics of the classic areas so we started looking at all the assets that we paid on the trees and all the tile sets and we started to slowly update some of the zones and that is kind of like the start of the art in world of warcraft where we slowly started to update more and more that was when we decided you know it's time to start upgrading all this stuff yeah yeah and engineering has been big on that because they've worked on how to you know streamline the bow engine so it could run more smoothly more efficiently and allow us to actually have more polygons and more high-res textures and now we can upgrade the visuals when the initial trailer was announced at Blizzcon seeing side-by-side juxtapositions of areas like the thousand needles dry barren area dotted with tall stone spires turned into essentially a giant lake or the blasted lands that had been utterly ruined by the opening of the Dark Portal the potential that it created in terms of revisiting and re experiencing content that have been around for years the players may have thought of is something in the past some of the other challenges we face is one of those things you don't tend to think about as a player but we have all this data for the world as it is in Burning Crusade in in Lich King and now we have all this data for the world that is very different in Cataclysm how do you get some of that data to what we call propagate when you make a change here because we're still supporting the live game as we're developing Cataclysm and making changes but that was one of the bigger technical challenges that we faced was how do we manage all of this data because the tools team they did a great job of it because we literally just changed something like 90% of the world thousands of quests numerous NPCs you name it bit changed in Category that's pretty big yeah the most difficult thing that making Cataclysm really was revamping and rebuilding the outdoor world they're a bunch of maps where the team went through drew up maps of all of the existing zones that had been the game from its earliest days and they color-coded them green yellow red green zones were okay these are the ones that were they're pretty fine actually we're not going to do much to them they do some minor tweaks here and there we're gonna leave them as is yellow will see some more heavy overhaul and red is pretty much complete redo from the ground up including our level design and the stories being told there but once the team embarked down that road and started with the red zones they realized one was that it was very challenging both visually but also storytelling wise to have the old and the new side-by-side and second that once we cracked open that door the team as a whole had an appetite in through perfectionists and suddenly before he knew it some of those green zones were becoming yellow some of those yellow zones were becoming red at the end of the day almost the entire map ended up being completely redone so what's set out to be something more surgical ended up being an almost complete reinvention and recreation of the base game outdoor experience that was even to this day I would say probably the single largest task the World of Warcraft team is everyone there definitely some technical challenges the process of actually Sun during the world out from under players basically needed to have two separate versions of the world in parallel how do we sunder the world out from under the players make it believable and not mess everything up in the process because when they logged out they were above the ground and when they log in the secretary position is now inside of a mountain or inside of a fire pit or their high up in space because there's now a crater where they were one of the original requests from design was kill all players on login told me hey hey patty we get to kill all the players wait what so one of the initial thoughts was why don't we just kill everybody and move into a graveyard I'm like I'll come up we can do better than that so we did there was a lot of challenge in handling that situation the transmog system transmogrification transmog for short that was introduced in Cataclysm this is something that has made appearances later on in Diablo 3 it's been recently expanded upon during our Legion expansion it's a core part of the way players experience the game today the basic premise of the system was the ability to take the armor the weapons equipment that you're wearing as a character apply the appearances of other pieces of equipment that you have whereas previously people strove to obtain the most powerful items in the game this is a limited set of gear that might come from the most challenging dungeons the most challenging raids the long run most players looked pretty much the same as each other maybe some differences here there everyone's long term goal was this fixed state that negated and undermined a lot of the sense of individuality and self-expression that is part of what's most exciting about the MMO genre transmog it's ultimately glorified dress-up but it's awesome now suddenly rather than a whole bunch of identical looking clones standing around the city you saw a mix of colors and looks for many players collecting outfits and collecting appearances is one of the major motivating factors they have in playing the game they will go back and do old content they will do things not for the story but for the cosmetic rewards and the appearances that content yields it's just a reminder of how profoundly important the concept of self-expression is to the genre the raid finder were looking for read system those introduced and our 4.3 dragon soul content update that was essentially an expansion of the dungeon finder that have been introduced late in the Wrath the Lich King that allowed players to be match made into forming even larger groups to tackle our raid content which let more players than ever before experience some of the game's most epic battles course than easier difficulty setting so that they could see the story face the villains that were the ultimate antagonist in the world unlike some past expansions that had only had one raid at the start cataclysm came out with three separate red zones when the expansion first released and now this is the 10 or 25 player large-scale group content intense collaboration people proving their skills proving their ability to work together to overcome the challenges in front of them but I think back to the first few months of Cataclysm I think back very fondly to the time that was spent with my friends with my guild mates going through those red zones for my kind the truth question is what is worth fighting for Mists of Pandaria was in many ways it was a deep breath it was an interlude following on the heels of a series of expansions where there's a great villain and an existential threat to the world mists of pandaria was getting back to the original spirits of world of warcraft a vibe of exploration and discovery there wasn't any immediate villain or existential threat facing the world it was about this mysterious new landmass Pandaria shrouded in mist s– that have been discovered and yes the great forces of Azeroth the horde and alliance both mobilized they wanted to explore it they wanted to understand its secrets they wanted to lay claim to its treasures they were both embarking upon a journey of discovery mists of pandaria marked an advance in our storytelling weaving months long in fact years long narrative arcs through our content through the many content updates that mist had we introduced brand new characters develop them into villains introduced new heroes it was a time that began with peace and tranquility but ended with all-out war Missa Bend area was one of our strongest expansions in terms of art direction oftentimes we play off of classic motifs whether it be classical fantasy archetypes or real world archetypes just from the very beginning we knew we wanted it very heavily influenced on Asian landscape but you know that wasn't to be enough right we kind of like put in the Warcraft flavor in it and just took it to another level so that players could just get immersed in it and craft their own adventures in this new fantastical world first time I saw jade forest I couldn't believe that I was looking at World of Warcraft yes whoa these mountains oh my goodness that was Jim cannibal what a work I've already has a very colorful aesthetic so this one we just pushed it even further and we were able to do like these really nice blends and transitions that weren't possible with this new tech you're looking like unlined mountains and such wouldn't look the same without that yeah and that's just a constant evolution of not just the art style but our technique and our how we work too because with the M diffusion now artists didn't have to paint shadows and fake shadows within our textures we actually allowed the engine to do that for us so say that's a lot of time so now you know it's awesome tell them all the tricks mr. pan area had for content updates and in any way is looking back that served as a model what we've done most recently with Legion what we'd like to continue to do going forward after initially exploring the confident of Pandaria the first content update five one took players to the coast of Pandaria as horde and alliance forces had both set up small bases there and were clashing with each other for control of the territory their resources within the second patch the thunder king took us to the Isle of Thunder off the coast of Pandaria where we were introduced to an all-new villain the leader of the Mogu race called Thunder King and the Zandalari trolls who were his allies this was a huge chunk of content with many quests for players to explore guided linear scenarios that were used as a storytelling device that had not previously been done probably the biggest or second biggest raid zone we've ever made in World of Warcraft's history as its capstone from there over the course of the next two content updates the story veered backed asura to the conflict growing within the Horde as the forth fought against the Alliance in the final update of mists of pandaria Garrosh Hellscream the war chief the leader of the Horde one of the two major factions in world of warcraft and a character the players had first met back in Burning Crusade and Outland he had taken his pursuit of power in the name of the Horde a few steps too far and wittingly or not had turned into a tyrant and sparked all-out war were not only the Alliance his own faction worked to overthrow and oppose him to the final rain zone of the expansion the siege of Orgrimmar was an epic 14 boss journey into the depths of the fort capital of Orgrimmar culminating in a battle against Garrosh Hellscream himself Garrosh Hellscream was the first that was born entirely within World of Warcraft all of the others Billiton the demon lord kil jaeden the Lich King Arthur's who I mentioned earlier all of those had their roots in the realtime strategy games and especially in Warcraft 3 Garrosh Hellscream he was born in Outland in 2007 and that was a poignant and important character arc it marked the first time that a major villain like that had been created within this world and played out that full story arc within it when we build a new expansion in world of warcraft first and foremost we're creating a world the players are star of the story but the co star is the world it's not about any specific character any hero and a villain it's about the setting it's about the mood the atmosphere the environment what comes with that of course are new types of races new allies new cultures and so there's definitely a lot of Asian inspiration behind the content of Pandaria players met races like the mischievous monkey like hosen the wise Jinyu and of course the sagacious but occasionally boys and are one of the strengths one of the unique things about the expansion was that didn't have a villain that actually makes it harder to convey to players in some ways to introduce from the outset it's much easier more approachable to wrap your head around well there's the bad guy who's on the box purpose this expansionist to go kill him or her it's more challenging when it's just go to this place making sure the players didn't feel purposeless without the clear objective in front of them and instead felt encouraged to just explore and destroy come to them secondly in mist of pandaria we added an all new gameplay type that we call scenarios previously we'd have five player dungeons we'd had 10 to 25 player race scenarios were meant to be a bit more bite-sized and organized for three players because and didn't have specific role requirements I mentioned earlier the concept of tanks or healers or damage dealers scenarios could be done with any group of people that you had the idea was grab a couple friends jump in have some fun one of the hardest things we can ever do in World of Warcraft is pioneering an all new type of content I think once we have gotten experienced making a sort of content we learn lessons we learned from experience we'd build upon that we were fine we'd try some new things within the confines of a structure that we know but when we're setting out to break those rules and try something all new there's a lot of challenges that took a lot of iteration and they really a process in many ways that continues to this day that began back then to nail the right gameplay for this scenario there were a number of people who were turned off by the theme by the motif of the expansion they saw mists of pandaria they saw these pandas that and Dharan race but though in fact they dated back to Warcraft 3 they looked at it and said this isn't the Warcraft I know the Warcraft I know is about orcs and humans and Dragons and this feels like a different game this feels almost childish in retrospect and many of those players would say those who passed on the expansion for that reason made a mistake players who gave it a chance we got into the story quickly discovered that it actually was one of the most complex narratives and beautiful environments that World of Warcraft has ever presented to this day as players today discuss what was your favorite expansion was the best expansion mister Pandaria tends to figure prominently in those discussions what an expansion means is more of everything that you like but also something new a new angle a new approach a new way to spend your time in Azeroth new zones to explore new quests to complete new dungeons to conquer but for a long time we had had these little companion past critters scattered around the world and in many cases players could collect them and you could summon your pets we had the idea of making a fully fleshed out system that incorporated those companion pets and gave you something to do with them and that something was training them raising them battling them against each other battling them against your friends pets and bound them against ones in the underworld it was this whole separate meta progression that really gave some legs and some depth to the collection game that had just been purely superficial up until that time and it's something that you know was a big hit and mists and that we've continued to expand upon to this day one of the challenges that the engineering team has been working towards solving for years as removing barriers between players we started with cross-server powder grounds we move forward with what's called cr-z cross chromosomes instead of being on only your home server you could potentially end up on another server and if you invited a player to your party suddenly bang you're in the same group together cross realm dungeons with the introduction of the looking for raid looking for dungeon tools we realized it didn't make a lot of sense to limit those only to your server we want you to be able to pull from the region populous so that your queue isn't as long official if you're out on the highest population server you might be waiting a while for that tank to show up or that extra DPS to shovel what must we give in return increase warlords of draenor it came out in the fall of 2014 it was technically visiting the same space as we visited in Burning Crusade just in a different time period in a different timeline this marked the beginning of story arcs that weave from one expansion into the next but the end of mists of pandaria we the heroes toppled Garrosh Hellscream leader of the Horde but we didn't kill him he was imprisoned was going to stand trial instead he managed to escape with the aid of some powerful allies opened this portal back to drown on the origins of his race to the origins of the orcish people who would later become the backbone of the Horde he was disgusted by what he'd seen around him and was resolved to take a different path this time to achieve the destiny that he felt he deserved as I mentioned earlier the star of an expansionist is the world this was a case where the story was an excuse for us to get players into the world we wanted to share with them this is the world of Draenor the homeland of the orcs as described in instruction manuals written by Chris Metzen 23 24 years ago and an awesome place that was at the heart of Warcraft lore that we never been able to show players the orcish race that they now know it has iraf originated in this world scattered across a harsh climate mix of desert frozen tundra lush jungles different tribes that had their alliances have their conflicts and a whole new host of enemies and allies Clara's Worth plunged into the heart of this world as they had to navigate its dangers be the heroes that they're always meant to be the major feature of worlds of drown or was what we call the garrison system no the conceit here was the players at this point are not just regular heroes they're actually commanders they've risen in stature in the world of Azeroth to the point that they're actually in a position to set up a fort set up a defensive emplacement and band others lead a literal army in pursuit of their shared goals one of the first things players did when they arrived in Genoa was flame a plot of land and begin to construct a few buildings and recruit a few followers a garrison was a persistent space of your own in the world that you could customize as you saw fit it also introduced some asynchronous gameplay elements where you would have an army of followers that you would send off to complete missions you would choose to customize and level up your followers and pick the best ones to counter the threats posed by certain missions to maximize your likelihood of success you might send them to explore a cave or to assault some naval outpost somewhere and that would take 12 or 18 hours real time you might go to work come in come back home log in at the end of the day and your followers would have returned from the mission you could see the results for the first time there was a way of having events in the game unfold while you were away from the game it was used to further both the storytelling and players fantasy as not just a hero when their own right but a commander of other heroes late in warlords of draenor this is really tied to a specific expansion we introduced something called the WoW token the while token is it's a way for players to exchange with each other time for in-game currency or token is real-life asset that can be purchased and listed on the auction house in within our game you sell it to another player the player gives you gold that player can consume the token and add a month of game time to their account now the reason why this exists the purpose that this serves is twofold first off with the popularity of World of Warcraft over the years there was a lot of interest in in-game assets in-game currency there was real world value to the time the players had invested in making their characters wealthy or more powerful in the game world there was no literal illicit black markets selling in-game currency for real-life currency the way a lot of the bad guys got this in-game currency was by hacking accounts compromising accounts and a bunch of activities that were really negatively impacting the game for all players we recognized that there is this demand there are players who want to buy gold they want to buy a game currency but the only options available for them to do it were harming the game so the while token effectively killed two birds with one stone it gives players who want to spend money to get some in-game gold a way to do it by transacting securely and safely with other players on the other hand it lets players who have a lot of gold effectively playing the game for free they can subsidize their game time by spending gold and Wow tokens and what is ordinarily a subscription-based game they can effectively earn their right to play it for free at least for some given number of months depending on the goal they have well the largest feature of warlords has been mentioned was Garrison's it was also one of the most significant technical challenges because up until then in the server technology side we had a thing called an instant server which is where you would go to run your dungeon they were set up to handle five person ten person 25 person 40 person it had a bit of an overhead for that suddenly the design realized we were going to need millions of Garrison's at the same time that's a big technological challenge that we number what embraced and I think we succeeded at but it really laid the groundwork actually for the future sharding technology they came in in Legion and 7'o that led to such a smooth launch we have been successfully driving the technology so that players never feel like they're waiting for the world to catch up and ever waiting for the world to populate there's always people in the world yet we can launch a massive success like Legion with its millions of players on day one and it doesn't feel overpopulated we just split him apart Legion passion came out in end of August 2016 Legion is head-to-head confrontation with one of the core enemies in the Warcraft franchise the Burning Legion there's their demons we bought them in the Burning Crusade that first expansion over ten years prior they've been a primary villain throughout the realtime strategy games so Legion saw them assaulting our world as opposed to us going elsewhere rifts opened and powerful demons came through and we were fighting for survival across our option do this to have a chance of even standing up to them we needed to seek out new aid that we never got our hands on before in the forum first and foremost of artifact weapons which all players began their journey through Legion by seeking out and claiming now these were 36 fabled weapons with unique backstories unique arc and a deep progression system the players could seek out and claim as the special weapon for their class and it would be you know their source of aid and strength in the face of the Legion the artifact weapon served two main purposes in our minds first off it's incredible fantasy these are some iconic weapons in the Warcraft universe that we wanted to get into player hands there's a reason why when you look at legends you think about the sword Excalibur and the number of fantasies and stories that have been told around mighty weapons is something that resonates but second the way we crafted this feature in some ways reflected lessons learned from the past dozen years making old-world crafts prior to that we build artifact weapons as a feature that was going to be tied to the Legion expansion players will not carry the art was forward into battle for Azeroth and expansions beyond what that meant was we could really double down on the amount of depth and complexity and power that could be earned through this system in a way that we never would be able to if we were signing up to continue to support this for further expansions and the concern there isn't effort on our part it's more about the complexity of the game the game's balance just how overall bloated it might get with years of layering new systems upon new systems upon new systems we've decided to make more of our mega features limited to specific expansions like the garrison that you built up in wallow to drown or that's still back in drown or you can go visit it whenever you want but it's not something that you brought forward with you we're not updating garrison as we release new content updates your artifact weapon was your trusted companion throughout Legion now of course we're always looking to learn lessons and take the most successful elements of those features and carry them forward in the design of the thing that comes next just as the garrisons from drown or heavily inform the design of the class order halls in Egypt these were shared spaces these are effectively club houses for members of a given class so all the warriors would go hang out together the Rogues would scheme and plot in their secret lair beneath the city streets the classes would work together to overcome Legion threat Legion was an expansion that doubled down on class identity like never before we own the visual aesthetic side revamped a lot of mechanics of our in-game combat to make them just feel more dynamic punchy more visceral we've course introduced a brand new hero class the demon hunter if we were ever gonna make this class in World of Warcraft this was the time to do it their purpose in life is to fight demons they're elves who sacrificed great things they've sacrificed everything in order to gain the power to fight demons they try their own powers against them the most dynamic highly mobile almost action gameplay class that will the Warcraft has to offer they attack by dashing through the battlefield leaving blazing trails in their way offer in some ways an all new way to play the game playing a new class like that and in the case of even hunter that was one that was paying off really 15 years have build up going back to Warcraft 3 and seminal moments in world Warcraft history like our Burning Crusade expansion where we first introduced non-player character demon hunters that players could see and fight against one of the significant additions to Legion was a legion companion app it was one of the first times that the World of Warcraft team had made an app for iOS and Android it allows you to lay your order halt while not playing Wow we thought this is a very reasonable but awesome extension to the game itself back in 2004 he was perfectly normal for a person playing an MMO to sit down for four hours that was kind of expected these days a lot of folks don't necessarily I was much time they got families they got kids sometimes they wanted more bite-sized play experience World of Warcraft has so many ways to play you can play everything from these short bite-sized experiences to those long epic sessions if you'd like it is all about playing the game how you want to play it one of the most stunning visual aspects I believe for Legion is the significant improvement we've made to the draw distance and what I mean by that is how far you can see this is any player of all – Warcraft playing Legion you stand in Dollar on or you fly over to Dollar on now and you look out towards high mountain and you see all of sirum are beneath you as you look towards their that distance is really far and all that stuff that you're seeing that would not have been possible in an earlier version of World of Warcraft there's just too much stuff there it was through some significant engineering effort and significant artifice to make that possible and I think really sells some of the most fantastic vistas I've ever seen in world of warcraft when you're flying in from the north over high mountain and you see the Turin city down there that valley surrounded with the river yeah that just goes to show like this a constant evolution of just like the tech in the art now that you could see far like you know two zones away it really changed the way we design zones and just aesthetically how we come up with visuals for for the different zones we emphasize more time and effort into just art direction and visual design for our landscapes now cuz we knew as players they can actually see into the distance and see if we could compose shots better because I each one you could actually see literally the transition from the zone you're in to the next zone that's right next to it to the zone that's next to that one so that was one of the big challenges for that just be able to come up aesthetically designs that work in tandem légion effectively had six content updates patch seven one seven one five seven two seven three without fives in between alternating between major content releases that took players to new outdoor zones gave them the new raid to tackle a new dungeon smaller releases added and more evergreen background ways of playing the game with systems such as micro holidays periodic events that happen throughout the calendar year the diff players unique ways of engaging at the game or an expansion of her time walking system that lets players revisit old content for current rewards massively multiplying the number of dungeons or raids that you might have available to do and a given gate we were able to deliver content updates in a pretty regular cadence throughout the lifetime of Legion with the goal of players always having something new to do or something just around the corner to look forward to that was an ambitious challenge that we took on as a team but I couldn't be more proud of the team's effort in delivering on those goals we have paid the price for sharing this world and we have forgotten battle froth is the upcoming next chapter in world of warcraft it's coming out this summer and if Legion was an expansion in many ways about character classes battle for Azeroth is a return to the roots of the franchise it's an expansion about factions it's an expansion about horde and alliance this binary identity that's been at the heart of the franchise and going back to the RTS games in the 90s players are going to venture to new continents of coal Terrace and zandale are in search of aid and new allies as Azeroth as a whole is plunged into war hoardin alliance are at each other's throats they're fighting for control of the planet on which they live and they're at a stalemate they've reached an impasse players were at the forefront of this conflict but working at the upper hand will control the fate of Azeroth the same time there are dark threats that aren't necessarily in the foreground right now they threaten to destroy the world that were fighting over even as we're fighting over it and so as players ventured to these new lands in search of allies they're also going to begin to uncover mysterious threats and secrets that will need to be explored and understood otherwise we risk losing the earth beneath us even as we're fighting to claim control of it one of the things in the new expansion they're working on is the islands expeditions I think they're going to be a truly remarkable new experience for the World of Warcraft player and for the player who hasn't played World or workout before – one of the things that I'm super excited about is the new artificial intelligence we're adding when you start up an island expedition it will be with you and to other people harkening back to the mists of pandaria three person scenarios where role doesn't matter you and two other friends get together you sign up you get on your island exposition and it'll be you three against three cunning smart well depends on how smart you want them you actually can choose artificial intelligence BOTS they're trying to beat you to the same objective you're trying to get to the other thing that's truly exciting about them is it's in randomized at content and we've worked very closely with the art team using assets that we have developed over the entirety of World of Warcraft to make these islands be populated by buildings and creatures that will feel familiar but not always be the same they'll be different every time one of the really exciting things we're doing for this one is going back to what is the foundation of Warcraft and that is essentially Alliance and horde coming together and being able to go back to the just the foundations of what makes Warcraft but also updating it so modernizing it old Warcraft look now with you know the new stuff designs in the new art direction yeah it's definitely about the Horde comes in and they're establishing a base and the Alliance says no you're not a sad-looking that base we're going to burn it down or the Horde says we're going to build a base here Alliance get the heck out I'm going back and forth like that it's all about the war and that's what we're front it's gonna be twenty players and you and 19 other people get together and go take out the other faction we're putting the war in local there you go world Warcraft it's been an incredible journey me personally it's been the lasts and 13 and a half 14 years of my life first supplier limo recently as a developer and could not be more excited as a team you to push the boundaries of what we can do in the MMORPG genre to create worlds to explore new adventures to have we have incredible stories left to tell each new expansion we add to the game we're looking to expand the core of the game the players have come to know and love over all these years but also a brand new ways of playing the game new features new types of gameplay new challenges to undertake and a fresh look at you know game that seeks to reinvent itself every couple of years as we update again