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Fifteen Years of Warcraft: The Interview
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Fifteen Years of Warcraft: The Interview

December 18, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

At that time, J, you were working at Origin, followed by Star Wars: Galaxies, right?

JAB: Yes.

Can you speak to how your experiences on those games led you to Blizzard, and what you've brought to World of Warcraft?

JAB: Definitely. I actually got into the game industry shortly before Warcraft 1 came out. It was one of the first big games that I remember playing.

Descent had come around at that time, and Doom II had come out around that time, and those were the three games we were playing. I had also played Dune II, the real-time strategy game Westwood made, and thought that was really great, so I was excited about the real-time strategy genre.

I started at Origin and worked on Wing Commander games, and eventually got to working on an online Wing Commander game with some people who had worked on Ultima Online.

We had them come over to be the online experts, and we had some people come over from the Wing Commander team to have the Wing Commander expertise, and the idea was we were going to make an online Privateer-style game. That was really exciting.

So this was after the EA acquisition.

JAB: Yes. The EA acquisition happened for Origin a lot sooner than people remember. EA purchased Origin in 1992. But that was the first time I ever really got into online games. I had been bigger into BBS games. But then Ultima Online came out. I played a good amount of that. I got into online games then, and I've worked on online games ever since. I was part of the startup for [Sony Online Entertainment's] Austin studio. We worked on a game that became Star Wars: Galaxies.

They're really an exciting type of game to work on. They have a lot of different problems to solve. I like solving problems. My job is very much solving problems, and online games seem to have more problems than most to be solved. [laughs] There are plenty of opportunities to feel like, "Hey, I did some good here."

Shipping an online game is a huge achievement, and you definitely learn a lot. I think that experience of game development as well as running the live game for Star Wars led to Blizzard being interested in me. I played World of Warcraft when it game out, and I loved the game. I was a big player before I even came to Blizzard.

Does it ever get frustrating to go such long periods of time between release? Blizzard has a reputation for taking its time, but there was about a decade or so where the company created several new franchises and released games and expansions on at least a fairly regular basis.

SD: No. To me, we've always taken our time making games. Back in the day, with Warcraft, it was a year to develop the game. Now it's multiple years. But a lot of it deals with how much we can actually put into the game. With the old Nintendo stuff, you only had so much space. The game was done when you were out of space. But now the game is done when we say it's done. We can put as much into it as we want.

It was nice back then being able to work and finish games and crank them out, but now it's like working on a giant masterpiece. Everything that we're making, we want to be as good as any of our other games, so we have to make sure that we put all the love and dedication into it.

You can't really rush that and expect it to be a super game, something that people will be playing for five years, that people will be playing for ten years. Whatever the drawbacks are for taking a long time, I think they're worth it. The longevity of the games is more important to me.

StarCraft II

And you're primarily working on StarCraft II now?

SD: Yeah. StarCraft is my main focus. I'll still, every once in a while, get asked to work on certain other things, but it's not really on World of Warcraft anymore. That team has got the ball rolling. Everything is awesome over there.

JAB: We look at Sam as kind of our grandfather consultant [laughs]. He comes in and helps out with very specific things or ideas or things like that to make sure we're staying true.

World of Warcraft is its own beast, but StarCraft II will be the first other game Blizzard has released during this console cycle. There aren't as many big high-budget tent-pole PC strategy releases this time around. Is that on the team's mind much?

SD: I'm sure the PR and marketing guys think about that more than I do. StarCraft's taken so long to make, and we also had to work on Warcraft III and [its expansion] The Frozen Throne in between the release of StarCraft [and StarCraft II], not to mention WoW and various other projects. I just don't really worry about when it's going to be released, or if it's been ten years from this and that.

We're working on games and having fun working on the games. It's usually marketing that's pushing with, "Well, you know, it's been so long since this game came out." We were like, "Well, we're currently working on Warcraft III. We can't work on StarCraft right now. How about when Warcraft III is done, we'll start on StarCraft II?" "Okay."

JAB: There are a lot of different ways to run your game business. Blizzard definitely has the philosophy of, "Make a game that the team is really excited about working on, and you're going to get a great product. If you have a great product, then it's going to do well." That's the way Blizzard has chosen to be successful.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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