This article is taken from the latest issue of PC Zone magazine. You can buy your copy online and have it delivered to your door.
Three years after Blizzard was founded, Shane Dabiri - now the lead producer on the next Blizzard MMO - stood at a 10ft by 10ft booth on the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Twiddling his thumbs, he smiled and demonstrated the first Warcraft game to a group of around 30 people.
"Back then I was one of our first beta testers for Warcraft. I did more supporting of the business than anything related to the games." Dabiri's humble beginnings as an IT guy, beta tester and general computer handyman failed to tell of both him, and his company's, future successes.
Seven years later, Blizzard announced World of Warcraft to huge fanfare, and a big departure from their roots. "Up to that point we had been, for the most part, creators of games with multiplayer components to them. We always focused on not just the single-player component, but how we could get three people together to play an RTS, or a game like Diablo." He admits, though, that the inspiration wasn't totally from within. "Back then, Ultima Online and EverQuest started to become very popular."
"The MMO market was small, but a few of the guys in the office started playing. We saw the possibilities and we thought 'You know, in the future we have to do something like this.' I mean, with all of the stuff we were doing with Battle.Net, it made total sense to go in that direction - that, and a lot of us had been playing EverQuest."
In fact, their interest in EverQuest led Blizzard to poach several key players from the communities, including Fires of Heaven's Alex 'Furor' Afrasiabi and Jeff 'Tigole' Kaplan, who both went on to work on a great many of the quests in World of Warcraft. Kaplan now also works on the new Blizzard MMO with Dabiri, and was hired by Rob Pardo (Blizzard's Executive VP of Game Design), his EverQuest guild leader at the time.
"I think it was opportunistic. I mean, back then the MMO genre was still relatively small. There weren't many developers, and to find the best and brightest out there, you had to consider the gaming community. We didn't necessarily go out of our way to make the whole team that way, there were just a few opportunistic hires we had along the way."
Dabiri, regardless of WOW's far-reaching success, claims that it doesn't spell the end of the Warcraft series. "The Warcraft series is really near and dear to our hearts. There are always things that we're looking at, possibilities for it, ideas that we have. Other than the RTS series and our MMO, we're looking for opportunities down the road.
"And I know in the past we've made announcements that we are going to do an adventure game. Though that got cancelled, that doesn't mean we won't do anything else with the series. We love the Warcraft universe."
Last year, however, Blizzard changed as a company after a merger, becoming Activision Blizzard. Dabiri, however, insists nothing has altered. "If anything, it's just given us a wider audience to work with. From the Activision side, you have a lot of players and their games - the Guitar Heroes and the Call of Duties. People worry that when you get bought by another company they'll change the way you work. It's happened to Blizzard before, and every time the business people on the other end have known better - you don't touch something that's working."