There’s the first half of an interview on GamesIndustry.biz with Paul Sams and Chris Metzen of Blizzard Entertainment on their company’s success and their move into MMORPGs with the launch of World of Warcraft:
Moving on to World of Warcraft, then; how have you found moving to developing a massively multiplayer game? Has this been a real paradigm shift for you creatively and in terms of your process?
Paul: I think there are two parts to that answer, and I think I can field half of it and Chris can probably field the other half.
From a company perspective, we’re shifting from a situation where we create a PC boxed product and put it on the shelves, although yes, we support it with patches and what have you over time. But with this product, because it’s a subscription based product, because this type of product requires so much support, our company focus and thought process has had to shift. We’re not only creating what I believe to be a great game, but we’re also having to create a world-class service organisation.
People, when they’re paying, are expecting things that we, historically, have not had to provide them. Now, we’re going to be providing 24 by 7 support in-game. We’re going to have local servers for these products, with local technical people on the ground that can do all the maintenance and upgrades and what have you that need to be done. And so, a huge amount of effort had to go into preparing for the operations associated with doing something that is this large in scale.
Then, obviously, there are some creative aspects as well that Chris can touch on…
Chris Metzen: These kinds of games are monsters. Totally unlike anything else we’ve tried to build. The sheer number of artists and coders and designers that you have to throw at it is really beyond the pale of what we’re used to. In terms of just the sheer magnitude of lands and creatures and animations and tilesets, and just all the art resources you could ever imagine, which all need to be programmed as well, it’s beyond anything we’ve tried to create before.
We’re used to these nice, finite, closed-ended games that we can power through, put on a shelf, go home and sleep for a month. This is just a completely different kind of monster – it will not end. We’re prepared for years and years, for this thing to be up and running, so it really did involve a big shift, not only in the business but specifically the running of our team and the structure of our team. The influx of new players, new designers, new artists needed to bring this thing off forced us to really rethink our small team minded culture. We’re dealing with a much larger team, but we’ve gone out of our way to try and maintain that small team culture, which got us to this point – to keep things very familiar, to keep the vibe alive, so that the ultimate vision – the singular vision – that’s provided at the end of the day isn’t drowned out just by the sheer influx of new perspectives.
So yeah, it’s been quite shift. But you know, I think we’re weathering it pretty well. *laughs*
Considering they’ve already sold over 600,000 copies and broken the record for most concurrent players online at once with 200,000 people bashing on monsters during the holidays, yeah, I’d say they’re weathering it pretty well. In fact, rumor has it that WoW has been pulled from shelves under Blizzard’s orders because it’s sold faster than they expected and they’re worried about the servers becoming overloaded. If this is true it shows just why Blizzard is such a great gaming company. How many other publishers would yank their title off the shelves until they could get more servers in place to ensure that those folks who are already playing aren’t impacted by the success of the game?