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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Neitzsche Elves

Last month, ShadowBolt commented that if he knew the formula to World of Warcraft's success, he would sell it and live in a house made of candy. He will be pleased, because Rob Pardo - Vice President of game design at Blizzard - unveils right here the philosophy behind the game.

The crux of Pardo's thought lies in regarding the MMO game as a giant doughnut. You might be thinking that the vast seas of gold have driven Pardo bonkers, perhaps you're right. But seven million people agree with this madman's philosophy, so I'd say it's worth paying attention to. Pardo suggests that the doughnut consists of two key components, the core, which represents the hardcore gamers, with the doughy goodness representing the casual gamers; as the population expands, the goodness grows faster than the core and thus Blizzard must cater for both audiences. Blizzard aims to provide something for everybody, but there is a problem. These are Rob Pardo's words:

"[W]e try not to compromise. It usually results in both sides being dissatisfied."

So... content suitable for everyone, but compromising for no one. Tricky. Pardo takes the attitude that this obstacle can be overcome by introducing a plethora of varied challenges, and ensuring these additions are thoroughly playtested by gamers hailing from all walks of life. By assembling a varied group of testers, Blizzard try to attain the most diverse range of feedback possible. "Don't ship until it's ready" would appear to be the guiding force behind World of Warcraft, and although I can remember those early weeks of lag and protest, this statement seems to have served Blizzard well.

Can Blizzard truly hope to provide for all castes of player? I applaud them for such lofty aspirations but I believe they are a long way from achieving this goal. When I began playing, I had expected more from the Player Vs. Player combat, perhaps for the contested zones to be truly fought over. The battlegrounds are fun, but I'd prefer an element of PvP in which the repercussions extend beyond a round. WoW still has a long life ahead. Hopefully in the future we will forgo piloting hovercars and consuming food pellets in order to defend Ironforge against the Horde.

I've only covered a fraction of Pardo's philosophy. If you are even slightly interested in the development of MMO games, the top link is well worth a read.

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