Interviews

Can Blizzard rush art?

The online games business is bursting forward at blistering speed. Can World of Warcraft keep up?

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Zoom

That's a really interesting response, and it reminds me that Blizzard will take years if needed to release something to a standard it is happy with. Considering that is in your studio's DNA, do you think you'll ever be equipped to take on a faster approach to content updates? Is there an internal, philosophical resistance to rapid updates?
LAGRAVE: It's a great question. We... I mean, I don't know. That really is the question. Will we one day be so malleable that one day we can sit there and say 'hey this is interesting, let's do it right away'?

We can respond to certain events quickly. But would Blizzard hypothetically create a game where we give you a chunk of content very rapidly? Possibly. We are all about playing new games. It certainly would be a challenge for us, but we're gamers, we like new things.

But historically Blizzard has sacrificed everything for the sake of quality.
HAZZIKOSTAS: When we feel that content is not living up to the standard that we set for ourselves, there will be things that we shelve completely and rework extensively before it's released.

To give you an example, the first zone in Mists of Pandaria is called Jade Forest and I remember when we thought work on it was 'completed' months ago. But we found from a lot of feedback that some players didn't get a sense of what they were doing. So we looked over everything, and we ultimately agreed with the feedback, so we completely redesigned the first third of the zone.

This was a decision we made late in the beta process. We closed the beta down, reworked it, and a few months later opened the beta again. We added in new quests, new design and an entirely different storyline.

The results were great, people seemed to be far happier with the product, but that's an example of the hard decisions that we make for the sake of quality.

Don't hate me for asking, but can you not do that? Can you not take the more straightforward route and just pump the content out?
LAGRAVE: You know, yes of course we could. We could look at the content and say yeah, that's good, it's not great, but let's just leave it. Here's the thing, we have pride in our work and we don't want to be embarrassed by our work. We owe ourselves - and I know this sounds like bullshit but it's true - we owe ourselves to a very high standard. We want to be proud of our work.

Don't get me wrong, we have released content where I thought we could have added a bit more to it, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

HAZZIKOSTAS: And that's John's job. If he left it just to the designers we'd just polish and polish and polish on it forever. He makes sure we are on a schedule. And if it's above the high standard that we set for ourselves then it can go out the door.

Zoom

I wanted to discuss free-to-play too. World of Warcraft is at level 20 right now. Are you going to raise it?
LAGRAVE: You know, we looked at it lots, we looked at whether Level 20 would give you a good sense of what our game is, and we think it does. We've definitely slid some of the pay-for features into the first 20 Levels.

But there's also a lot of things in the game that are special that we want to reserve for our paying customers.

Finally, what elements of Mists of Pandaria do you think your community is looking forward to the most?
I don't think there's one specific answer, because it varies on what type of player and what kind of content they enjoy. One of our goals is to deliver a very broad range of content for different players, whether you are a hardcore raider or if you're someone with a limited amount of time. All those different kinds of players will have a chunk of content for them.

Mists of Pandaria is scheduled for release on PC and Mac from September 25th

Image credit: Zam

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