Jump to content
FORUMS
Stan

Ex-Blizzard Dev Writes Book About Making WoW

Recommended Posts

8yUl7wZ.jpg

John Staats was Blizzard's first 3D level designer and worked at the company for more than ten years. He just finished a book about working at Blizzard called The World of Warcraft Diary that demystifies the world of computer game development and the secret sauce behind Blizzard's successful MMORPG.

John is currently looking for backers to fund the first edition on Kickstarter.

About the Author

John Staats spent ten years on World of Warcraft dev team. His Vanilla WoW portfolio includes half of the game’s instanced dungeons, and 90 percent of non-instanced caves, crypts, dens, mines, and hive tunnels. John’s Staats is a regular on the weekly podcast Roll For Combat who got an early preview of his book. The author’s web page is whenitsready.com where there are additional images and excerpts.

The World of Warcraft Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development

Based on interviews and monthly updates he took throughout Vanilla WoW's dev cycle, The WoW Diary covers the highs and lows of building Blizzard's massively multiplayer online game. Readers will get an inside scoop of one of the gaming industry's most prosperous companies. The WoW Diary is a comprehensive and candid picture of how difficult and messy game development can be, and includes details about the project's improvisations, mistakes, and lucky discoveries. It covers the devs who made the game and describes the secret sauce behind Blizzard's success.

The WoW Diary is 336 pages long, and while the book's 130+ images are used with Blizzard's permission, it is an independent publication. After the Kickstarter campaign, the book will be available only on Amazon.

Table of Contents

TableContents_ScreenBorder.jpg

Excerpts

Here are a few excerpts from The WoW Diary taken from John's website.

Page 5

Quote

I’d be remiss to omit my initial reaction to Blizzard’s development area. The Team 2 area was a dump, decorated like someone’s basement. At a glance down the hallway, I could see that half of their florescent lights in the ceiling were burned out. The closest thing to a kitchen was a tiny microwave next to a sink filled with dirty dishes. Food stains, blackened with age, had been ground into the carpet. The halls were littered with spent halogen floor lamps and torn cardboard boxes filled with discarded toys and books. The conference tables were cluttered with soda bottles and stacks of unused condiments, and these tables were orbited by a graveyard of broken and unmatched office chairs. A set of black leather couches faced haphazard angles with no purposeful direction. The walls were covered with dog-eared posters, and every desk and shelf was laden with dusty statues and action figures. People walked around wearing shorts and flip-flops. All evidence indicated this was not an ego-driven environment, and it struck me as a very comfortable place—a person could just plop down and get to work. These offices were so dissimilar from Madison Avenue that I wondered how I would fit in. I didn’t even own jeans or sneakers; all my clothes were work related (slacks, dress shoes). Was it possible that this casual atmosphere shared the same work ethic as the career-driven culture I knew from in Manhattan?

Page 87

Quote

“Everybody get back to their places!” Mark Kern shouted down the hallway. After spending two hours filming a scene of characters running together downhill, everyone’s patience was stretched thin. A dozen or so people were trying to film scenes for a gameplay trailer (to accompany our announcement), and no one liked the results. “Get ready! One, two, three—go!” After a few moments, groans and recriminations erupted. “Who didn’t go?! We have two people not running!” Onlookers quietly chuckled and shook their heads at the debacle. Shane Dabiri was on the other side of the building, filming in a cinematics office. Someone leaned into Shane’s temporary recording studio and explained that not all the actors in the game had speakerphones. Once again, shouts carried through the office hallway directing the actors to return to their places. While the programmers shut their doors, the easily distracted artists gathered to watch the train wreck but just as quickly grew bored watching the process. Like movies and television, the majority of time spent on a film set wasn’t spent filming—it was an exercise in waiting for everyone to get ready.

On the screen about a dozen or so team members had orc and human characters dressed in our newest armor pieces. Devs considered it cool to be in-the-know about the latest features, cheats, and art assets, so everyone was on the lookout for the latest fashion statements. If someone knew about a new helmet, they’d put it on to show off.

News traveled to Shane’s makeshift studio that someone had crashed and couldn’t log back on to the server and there was no way to know how long it would take for them to get back into the game. He talked into his phone, which was conferenced to half of the actors. “There are too many orcs, some of you guys have to be human!” After a brief standoff, someone relented and changed to a human character. “We need to get the sun on the horizon!” someone said on the speakerphone. “Shane, make sure you reset the time of day before you yell ‘action.’”

We learned after losing an entire day to filming that we needed a smoother camera. Our game’s frame rate was great, but the in-game camera was designed for playing, not filming, and its jittery mouse-controlled movements didn’t look very slick. Days later, after the programmers delivered a smoother joystick-controlled camera, the footage was reshot, yet the results only supplied a few seconds of in-game footage.

Page 308

Quote

With exactly one month until the manufacturer had our game on the shelves, the designers began testing the Molten Core’s boss fights internally with forty or so developers from both Teams 1 and 2. The laughable Alterac Valley tests looked coordinated compared to the early raid tests, despite all the debriefing and instructions given. While the designers described each fight in chat (which was ignored), people got bored and made choo-choo sounds prompting others (who found it annoying) to tell them to stop—which only encouraged more choo-choos. Players barely buffed one another, and all communication was done in chat, there was neither voice software or raid interface whatsoever: Players could see health bars of only immediate party members.

Jeff used the DPS meters (damage-per-second trackers, beta add-ons built by fans because we didn’t have internal tools for the job) to measure the combat numbers. Our volunteer group couldn’t pass the trash mobs (mobs were mobile monsters, and trash indicated the rewards for killing them were disposable; hence, trash mobs were “filler” monsters before the boss encounters) without wiping out, so we didn’t even try a boss fight. Even though we wiped (when all forty members died) to every “pull” of combat, Jeff got useful data and took screenshots of the DPS output and combat logs before he moved us on to the next trash mob. Many of us were incredulous that players would be able to kill these monsters. In chat he typed out: “Trust me. Organized raids will be able to get past this content easily.” Between fights, Jeff typed out brief descriptions of the combat mechanics to the unruly group, although there was scant evidence anyone was reading his instructions.

In subsequent raid tests, we confronted our first boss, the lava hounds (we sometimes could kill trash mobs in the tests that followed, but we still lost half of the raid on every pull). Some people forgot to repair their gear after dying so often. After Jeff explained that all the lava hounds needed to be killed within seconds of one another, many of us cheered and typed our approval. We were thrilled to learn WoW was going to have content this difficult. It felt as though we weren’t working on a Blizzard game anymore. Jeff continued to reassure the other developers: “Trust me, once the raiders figure this out, it will be trivial.”

If you ever wondered what it really takes to make great computer games, this is the book is a must! The first edition of The WoW Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development will be available after the Kickstarter campaign. Subsequent editions will be available only on Amazon.

MMOMiasma.jpg

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a software developer for slot machines (and employee of many other small companies in other industries), the behind-the-scenes aspect could be entertaining reading on the porch this summer.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This looks really interesting. Can't wait to read it. I tried getting into Blizz so many times, having grown up 20 miles from HQ. It was so hard to snag a job as a tester or something that didn't require some kind of experience in the industry.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Similar Content

    • By Starym
      It's been quite a wait, but it's finally time to head back to Azeroth's past, before the World part of Warcraft existed and the view was a bit different! Reforged is releasing today and we've gathered up all related content here, including the most important piece of info: just when exactly is the game releasing in your time zone!
      Reforged Release Date (source)
      The drums of war thunder once again. Wacraft III: Reforged—the recreation of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne—will be available at 3 p.m. PST on January 28, 2020.
      Though we’ve been working hard to get Reforged in your hands before the end of the year, as we started approaching the finish line, we felt we’d need a little extra development time for finishing touches. As always, our goal is to honor the high standards you hold us to.
      Step Back in Time
      Warcraft III: Reforged takes you back to a tumultuous time in Azeroth’s history, when a dark shadow eclipsed a peaceful land, the world trembled before the coming of the Burning Legion, and heroes risked it all to prevent the death of their world.
      Soon you’ll be able to relive the definitive real-time strategy classic, with revitalized visuals, an epic single-player campaign spanning over 60 missions, rebalanced online play, a suite of contemporary social and matchmaking features, a vast universe of player-created games, and more.
      Welcome Back to War
      You can pre-purchase the standard edition of Warcraft III: Reforged digitally now from the Blizzard Shop for $29.99—or for $39.99, you can pick up the Spoils of War Edition, which includes a host of extras as well as in-game bonuses for other Blizzard games that will unlock immediately upon pre-purchase. In addition, players who pre-purchase either version will get access to the ongoing beta test for Warcraft III: Reforged.
      See below for all the bonus items included in the Spoils of War Edition:
      Warcraft III: Reforged Champion of the Horde Thrall Hero Skin Daughter of the Seas Proudmoore Hero Skin Fallen King Arthas Hero Skin Emerald Nightmare Cenarius Hero Skin World of Warcraft Meat Wagon Mount Overwatch Player Icons: Human, Orc, Undead, Night Elf, and Lich King Animated Sprays: Footman, Grunt, Ghoul, and Archer Diablo III Mal’ganis pet Heroes of the Storm Anub’arak Hero Jaina Hero Thrall Hero Tyrande Hero StarCraft II Alliance Console Skin Horde Console Skin Sentinels Console Skin Scourge Console Skin StarCraft: Remastered Spoils of War Console Charging Toward Battle
      We’re looking forward to kicking off whole new era of Warcraft III, and we can’t wait to face off with your mighty armies online starting January 28!
      While we wait, you can check out a lot that we've already covered on the game, from official in-depth looks at how the races were updated to already fan-made maps of the various WoW cities and more:
      Recreating the Orcs, Humans, Night Elves, Undead Gameplay videos Custom maps for Orgrimmar, Darnassus, Stormwind, Silvermoon and Gilneas, Lordaeron, Dalaran Warcraft 3: Reforged esports joins the ESL Developer retrospective on Warcraft
    • By Starym
      We a very big or very small thing to check out today, depending on how you look at it, with the original Diablo-like being presented and playable in 4k, inside the highly modified "The Hell 2" mod. You might be thinking that would look weird and "playable" is a subjective term... and you'd be right! You can actually see the entirety of the Tristram map in one screen in 4k, as well as huge chunks of the dungeon maps (also I'll issue a "feels" warning here: the best game music of all time plays in the video below, so prepare accordingly):
      Now obviously this isn't really a viable way to play the game, unless you stick your face directly in your monitor, but the Hell 2 mod brings a whole lot more to the table as well. Aside from the new engine with the up to 4k resolution options, widescreen support, window modes, borderless, fullscreen and higher framerates, it also changes a lot about the base game - so if you're looking for the original experience, this isn't it.
      Among the many things the mod changes and adds are 24 basic dungeon levels and 19 new quest levels, all restored quests and zones scrapped from the original, 29 new and changed classes, including Dual wielders, multishot/sniper Archers, Critters, Summoners, Trappers, Flask throwers etc, 3 new item slots and many new items... you get the idea. Here's the full list of features for the mod:
      So whether you want to check out the craziness of D1 in 4K, or just get back into a highly modified version of the game, check out the mod - I mean we have to kill the time until D4 comes out somehow!

      Source: r/diablo.

      Related articles:
      Diablo 2 Upscale Final Demo Working In-Browser
      Diablo 2 Median XL Mod Patch 1.40 Released
      Path of Diablo (2) Season 9 Brings a New Skill, Widescreen Support, Trade 2.0 and More
      Diablo 2 Fan Remaster / Upscale Project
      Diablo 2 Remaster Unlikely - Code and Assets Were Lost According to Creators
      Why Diablo 2 Still Holds Up After 20 Years - Book Excerpt
      Diablo 2 Intro Upscaled to 8K
      Diablo 2 E3 Trailer and LoD Intro Upscaled to 4K and 8K
      Diablo 2 LoD Final Cinematic 8K Remaster
    • By Starym
      Activision Blizzard released a statement today announcing a multi-year "strategic relationship to power new player experiences" with Google. While this deal includes Google Cloud being the main host of the companies game infrastructure, the more immediate effect of it is that all Activision Blizzard esports will now be exclusively streamed on Youtube. This includes the Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, Hearthstone Esports, both Arena and MDI WoW coverage and more.
      The deal was initially announced as Overwatch League news, but the post itself also mentioned Hearthstone and WoW, albeit with somewhat unclear wording, and the press release later cleared everything up.
      OWL + Youtube Gaming (source)
      The Overwatch League is teaming up with YouTube for a multi-year deal to provide world-class livestreaming for our fans! Starting with the 2020 season opening weekend—with home matches in New York City and Dallas—YouTube will be the league’s exclusive streaming partner, home to all live and on-demand Overwatch League matches.
      In addition to hosting all matches, the Overwatch League YouTube channel will also be home to other special video features throughout the season and beyond. 2020 Overwatch League matches will premiere on youtube.com/overwatchleague on Feb. 8.
      In addition to OWL, the Call of Duty League, Hearthstone Masters and Grandmasters, and the World of Warcraft Mythic Dungeon International and Arena World Championship will also be livestreamed and available on demand on their respective YouTube channels. 
      Overwatch League match livestreams and VODs will be available in China on different platforms.
      Click here for additional details. More information will be announced soon.
      And here's the full press release:
      Activision Blizzard and Google Deal (source)
      SANTA MONICA, Calif. and SUNNYVALE, Calif., Jan. 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Activision Blizzard and Google announced today a multi-year strategic relationship to power new player experiences. Google Cloud will serve as the preferred provider for Activision Blizzard's game hosting infrastructure and YouTube as its exclusive streaming partner worldwide, excluding China, for live broadcasts of its popular esports leagues and events — including Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, Hearthstone Esports, and more. 
      With hundreds of millions of monthly active users around the world, Activision Blizzard sought a partner to help enhance its gaming infrastructure, as well as deliver superior, low-latency player experiences. The company turned to Google Cloud because of its highly reliable global footprint, advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and commitment to open source, creating a platform for building future gaming innovations.
      Players will benefit by experiencing premium network quality-of-service, including low latency and packet loss when playing high-fidelity games on any device. They will also have optimal personalized interactions, as Activision Blizzard can tap into Google Cloud's AI tools to offer curated recommendations for in-game offers and differentiated gaming experiences. 
      "We've worked closely with Activision Blizzard for the past few years across mobile titles to boost its analytics capabilities and overall player experience," said Sunil Rayan, Head of Gaming, Google Cloud. "We are excited to now expand our relationship and help power one of the largest and most renowned game developers in the world."
      "We're excited to partner with Google to drive the next generation of gaming innovation for the industry. Google Cloud's best-in-class infrastructure gives us the confidence to deliver great entertainment to our fans around the world," said Jacques Erasmus, Chief Information Officer, Activision Blizzard.
      Additionally, beginning this week, YouTube will host the official live broadcasts of Activision Blizzard's popular esports leagues and events including the newly created Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, Hearthstone Esports, and more. The inaugural Call of Duty League season kicks off on Friday, January 24, with 12 teams competing in Minnesota, and the Overwatch League's 2020 season will follow on February 8. All competitions will be livestreamed on each league's YouTube channel and will include archived and other special content. 
      "With more than 200 million gamers a day watching more than 50 billion hours of gaming content per year, YouTube provides gamers and their passionate fans with the most popular video gaming platform in the world," said Ryan Wyatt, Head of Gaming, YouTube. "Both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League are the quintessential examples of world class esports content. As a former Call of Duty esports commentator myself, I couldn't be more excited for Activision Blizzard to choose YouTube as its exclusive home for the digital live streaming of both leagues. This partnership further demonstrates our dedication to having a world class live streaming product for gaming." 
      "This is an exciting year for Activision Blizzard Esports as we head into the inaugural season of Call of Duty League and our first ever season of homestands for Overwatch League all around the world," said Pete Vlastelica, CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports. "It's our mission to deliver high-quality competitive entertainment that our fans can follow globally, live or on-demand, and to celebrate our players as the superstars that they are. This partnership will help us deliver on that promise at new levels, by combining our passionate communities of fans and players with YouTube's powerful content platform and exciting history of supporting next-generation entertainment."
      This collaboration with Activision Blizzard represents Google's ongoing commitment to supporting game developer success around the globe. Across its business units, Google offers comprehensive solutions for game developers, empowering them to create great games, connect with players, and scale their businesses.
      About Google
      Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Through products and platforms like Search, Maps, Gmail, Android, Google Play, Google Cloud, Chrome and YouTube, Google plays a meaningful role in the daily lives of billions of people and has become one of the most widely-known companies in the world. Google is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.
      About Activision Blizzard
      Activision Blizzard, Inc., connects and engages the world through epic entertainment. A member of the Fortune 500 and S&P 500, Activision Blizzard is a leading interactive entertainment company. We delight hundreds of millions of monthly active users around the world through franchises including Call of Duty®, Spyro®, and Crash Bandicoot™, Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft®, Overwatch®, Hearthstone®, Diablo®, StarCraft®, and Heroes of the Storm®, and King's Candy Crush™, Bubble Witch™, and Farm Heroes™. The company is one of the Fortune "100 Best Companies To Work For®." Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision Blizzard has operations throughout the world. More information about Activision Blizzard and its products can be found on the company's website, www.activisionblizzard.com.
      SOURCE Google Inc.
      Activision Blizzard make a huge deal with Google for streaming and cloud hosting rights.
    • By Starym
      We've already talked about the fan-made Diablo 2 AI upscale project run by redditor zomprd and took a look at some still images and creature models, but today we have his finished demo to check out! His second and final version of the browser-based sample shows off the Rogue Encampment with an Assassin walking around the place. You can also switch back and forth from the original game look and the new upscale, just to see what exactly has changed. Also, if you've ever really waned to walk around in the stream in the encampment, you can!

      Source: r/diablo.

      Related articles:
      Diablo 2 Median XL Mod Patch 1.40 Released
      Path of Diablo (2) Season 9 Brings a New Skill, Widescreen Support, Trade 2.0 and More
      Diablo 2 Fan Remaster / Upscale Project
      Diablo 2 Remaster Unlikely - Code and Assets Were Lost According to Creators
      Why Diablo 2 Still Holds Up After 20 Years - Book Excerpt
      Diablo 2 Intro Upscaled to 8K
      Diablo 2 E3 Trailer and LoD Intro Upscaled to 4K and 8K
      Diablo 2 LoD Final Cinematic 8K Remaster
    • By Starym
      There's more AI upscales incoming, with one pretty cool one and another weird one as well. MoP got the much-deserved higher res version, especially appropriate since 8.3 has us going back to Pandaria, while the Reforged video is doubly weird as it's already a remaster of the original so we're 3 layers deep here. Both also have an additional upgrade to the originals: they're running at 60 fps.
       
      And in case you wanted to compare them to the old versions, here are both the WC3 ones (whith a slightly bigger upgrade from the original) and the MoP video:
       
       
       
      Related articles:
      Other Upscaled Remasters
      Warcraft 3 E3 Trailer, Diablo 2 LoD Final Cinematic and Overwatch 2 Battle for Azeroth and Diablo 1 WoW Cataclysm and Starcraft: Ghost Diablo 3 Tyrael's Sacrifice Cinematic Burning Crusade Intro Wrath of the Lich King Intro Vanilla WoW Intro Diablo 2 Intro Diablo 2 E3 Teaser and Lord of Destruction Intro
×
×
  • Create New...