World of Warcraft Retrospective

A new four-page World of Warcraft retrospective feature has surfaced on, during which Blizzard's Paul Sams and Rob Pardo talk about the popular MMO's early days, beta testing period, post-release success, and more.
However, in order to take advantage of a market that's ripe for a product, you've got to have the right product to succeed - and when Blizzard's MMO project was first devised, it wasn't actually a Warcraft game at all, says Blizzard COO Paul Sams. You wonder, inevitably, just how different things might have turned out.

"Well, candidly, it was a completely different game," he recalls. "We were developing a new franchise that wasn't Warcraft, StarCraft or Diablo, and we were looking to do a massively multiplayer game. We were very inspired by Ultima Online and Everquest and wanted to build a new thing. There was a selection of people on the development teams that were very hot on this product, they were excited - they wanted to build it next, to play it next.

"They were keen to take what had been done with Ultima and Everquest, and could see so many ways to evolve it - to Blizzardify it - and really create the Blizzard formula of easy to learn, yet hard to master."


As the game progressed and entered its first beta stages, plenty about it was materially different from the way that it was at launch. Pardo recalls the very early days, when only friends and family were given access and the player cap was still level 10.

"There were things like the whole ghost world death penalty - early on in the beta, wherever you died you just teleport automatically back to your bind point. So what people would do, when they were done questing they would kill themselves so they could get a free teleport.

"It was really funny - we'd go to certain quest areas, I remember by Sen'Jin Village you'd be playing a troll and you'd go dive into a lake to drown yourself... and your whole system would block out because there were a thousand other corpses at the bottom of the lake.

"Then there were all kinds of other features that went in - the auction house went in during beta, the talent system was revised several times, the whole system for being able to attack other people's towns and guards... a lot of those things weren't necessarily pre-designed during the beta, they were things that we were trying to continue to evolve in the game towards what we hoped it would be."