Looking Back... World of Warcraft

Blizzard takes us back to where it all began for its phenomenally successful MMORPG

World of Warcraft has proved a massive success for Blizzard Entertainment, since launch the MMORPG capturing the hearts and minds of millions of players who live a life of adventure in the developer's ever-evolving online world. But where did it all begin, and what are Blizzard's own favourite WoW moments and parts of the game? We caught up with producer Shane Dabiri and game designer Jeffrey Kaplan to find out.

Dabiri: The original idea came about six years ago: a lot of us were playing MMOs, so we just thought, why not make one? The debate at the time was over what kind of MMO it would be and what world we would put it in. We have all these great universes that we based our RTS games around, and Diablo (which was already an RPG), so we decided to just tap into what we already had. People had already experienced the RTS side, they'd fought these battles - but they hadn't actually been able to explore these worlds.


Dabiri: At the time, we were all very much into fantasy-type MMOs and we'd only just finished doing StarCraft: Brood War - so we had this real excitement about the Warcraft universe because we hadn't touched it in a while. There's so much history behind it, there've been books about it, we've even done paper-and-pencil role-playing games - it's a universe that really has a dear place in our hearts and that's why it was the route that we decided to take."

Kaplan: Most of the concepts in the creation of Azeroth came from our creative director Chris Metzen - he's the keeper of lore around Blizzard and he started designing maps based on previous maps and lands. We started figuring out the landmass, figuring out the different areas and asked ourselves questions about the places, the races and the story. Then we moved onto concept art and getting everybody excited about it. We looked at it as if we were building a real, existing place - but it really all started with just one simple idea.

Dabiri: If you look at the different RTS games we've made, then you can see we did a ton of lore in those, but there are things that we never touched on - like women in the game, for example. There were a few women characters in the game, but we really didn't have a lot about them, and we didn't have religions in the game or the origins of the races either. So we replicated a lot of what you saw in the RTS game, although there was a whole world that wasn't there - it was up to our imaginations to come up with new things to do for say, the Titans or Ogrimmar - a lot of this stuff had been talked about, but we'd never worked out exactly what they looked like and where they came from.


Kaplan: It's definitely a set universe, but it's a universe that we've created so if we need to bend it, we don't have to go and ask permission from a license holder. We can do whatever we want with it, as long as we keep true to the spirit of the world. If we need to change things around, we'll do it.

Dabiri: There's a recent example of the unexpected: the plague. We'd implemented a new dungeon which included a spell effect called 'Corrupted Blood'. It was a spell that did damage to you, and if you came near other players, the spell effect passed on to them. The idea was that this spell existed only in this dungeon, but there was a bug and it got out. Players went back into towns and were spreading it to other players. We quickly resolved the issue, but what surprised us was that on the game's forums, players were like: "Wow, what a fantastic world event! The day the plague wiped out Ironforge!" We got calls from the CDC - the Centre for Disease Control - saying: "Hey, what's all this about the disease in your game? We want to look at the simulation data - it might help us in a real-world situation." We kept saying: "No, no, no, it's just a bug! We fixed it, it's just a game!

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