Monday, June 30, 2008

Reading between the lines

An anonymous commenter asked me: "Tobold, I wanted to ask you if you are not a little bit disappointed about the announcements made at the WWI regarding wow. I mean, we learned nearly nothing. What do you think?" Well, I think that I learned a lot about WoW that weekend. Because often you learn more by reading between the lines and watching what is going on than by listening to a big new announcement.

Just read my interview with J. Allen Brack again. Many commenters simply projected their own view onto that, and just saw what they expected to see. But if you read it with an open mind, you learn a lot about the way Blizzard sees World of Warcraft. They are obviously extremely confident in the long-term future of WoW, so confident they don't even think they need to plan ahead. They strongly believe in quality, which is good, and don't believe in sticking to a timeline, which I think will bite them in the behind one day. You wouldn't want to produce lets say a car the way Blizzard develops games. Fortunately all other software companies have the same problem. Apparently creative coding doesn't lend itself to strict organization.

The interview also told us that if you hear anyone from Blizzard talking about a potential future feature, it is just that: Talk. For example somebody on some WoW panel mentioned Blizzard looking into allowing people to switch between two talent builds, and many people jumped on that and now think this is a feature that will come soon. But the interview clearly taught us that Blizzard looking into something only means the idea is on a board together with lots of other ideas. Maybe it will be patched in next year, maybe it will be part of the next expansion after WotLK, or maybe it will simply never happen.

Another important info from the interview is that Blizzard still considers World of Warcraft to be a group game. Did you notice that when we talked about the reasons for lack of healers and tanks, J. talked about the warriors damage contribution in a raid or group, which should be more meaningful? The solution to add more damage to warriors is the good one, but of course most players are worried about their damage output when soloing or PvPing, and couldn't care less about their position on the damage meter in a raid.

Finally there is a world of info contained in the simple phrases "We definitely want you to play at the high level with your friends. And we are always looking at neat good ways for you to get up to the high level." Not "we want you to level up with your friends". Blizzard is totally sold to the idea that the real multiplayer part of their game happens at the level cap.

I think that getting this sort of information of how Blizzard sees World of Warcraft, and how they produce the patches and expansions, is more useful than a precise announcement of lets say the WotLK release date or one more feature in it. For example I can now tell you with almost certainty that the next expansion after Wrath of the Lich King will come out in 2010, just by logically extrapolating the information about the production process. You heard it here first. :)

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