Saturday, May 5, 2007

Troubling Gossip

In light of the post below, I stumbled upon this bit of gossip on the forums this morning. So I'm memorializing it here before it gets deleted:
I should preface this post by stating that I have absolutely no insider information of any kind about their corporate workings...only an eye for the obvious.

When Vivendi bought Blizzard, much of Blizzard's developing talent left. Some of these were Diablo and Starcraft developers. They went to various other projects, including Hellgate: London and Arenanet. It's unclear whether they were fired, or merely quit.

Now let's look at Blizzard's remaining talent pool. To call this leftover talent pool "shallow as a kiddie wader" wouldn't be an understatement. I'll focus on their most notorious developers: Rob Pardo ("Enoyis"), Jeff Kaplan ("Tigole Bitties"), and Alex Afrasiabi ("Furor Planedefiler"). These guys were hardcore Everquest guild leaders, the sort of people who thought 24 hour raids should be the next olympic sport. Between them is zero prior MMORPG design experience.

Furor and Tigole hated hybrid classes. Their anti-hybrid stance was notorious in Everquest. Furor was an obnoxious baby who organized server crash protests because Paladins out-tanked him in the EQ Planes of Power expansion. He was a loudmouthed brat who didn't care a lick about taking all the fun out of the game for other people.

Tigole was his best friend.

With several of the original WoW developers gone, these two geniuses were suddenly in positions of influence, in a game with three hybrid classes. Two guys who crashed servers because, for whatever petty and childish reason, they saw red whenever someone with a mana bar out-tanked Furor's pwecious warrior.
Lithose took issue with the OP, though, in the same thread:

Tigole and Furor have been working on wow since early beta, they have influenced every aspect of the game. Padro has been the VP of blizz since before WoW came out, and for the most part has been their "Lead" in making excellent games.

Tig/Fur also didn't hate hybrid classes..They simply hated seeing certain non-hybrid classes die out. You see, in EQ, paladins and shadow knights (Anti paladins), by PoP (And expac) and beyond, gained the ability to tank better then any other class, heal and, because of "knight only" weapons and certain agro abilities, produced much more agro then a warrior.

In the end, hybrids eclipsed all other classes, and just like in WoW, it needed to be balanced, these two simply voiced their opinion, but thye were "far" from hating hybrids, thats just an idiotic statement.
Mezmo offered a more balanced observation:

Basically true.

But what the chumps on this board here don't realize is that those two are responsible for FAR more fun parts of the game than you give them credit for. Also they have NOTHING to do with class design.

So to all the nubs above me, and all of those sure to follow below... cry more.
And Elendil, after carefully examining the credits listed WoW game manuals at various times, observes:
i am not sure of their level of involvement in beta, but tigole and kalgan did not become lead devs until after release, at least according to the credits in the owners manual that came with the game.

furor's involvement has always been rather vague.

of the original lead devs, rob pardo was the only one still listed in the credits for TBC.

allen adham and mark kern were lsted as the lead devs in addition to pardo in the original wow, and they are both gone

As for myself, I'd add that Tigole reportedly designed Duskwood, my favorite zone in the game (thus far).

The upshot of all this is that powerful guilds clearly have an influence over game development, though the degree of that influence is debateable and certainly varies from game to game. Moreover, it's going to be important for MMO vendors to start publicizing their philosophy of their game in order to retain their player base over the long haul. (I'd also note that this is something the developers of Darkfall appear to be doing.)

In other words, it's entirely unclear whether the original WoW developers spent any time developing a Philosophy around it—a concept of what the game should be like that would remain constant despite staff turnovers. Instead, what appears to have happened is: as lead developers and designers left, underlings with their own agendas and philosophies took over and imposed their will, not considering that the established playerbase was counting on the continuity of the game's philosophy.

I'm not saying that this is definitely the case, but that is the public's perception, and Blizzard should probably do what it can to address it.