Blizzard's Rob Pardo Talks Five Years of Warcraft

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Blizzard's Rob Pardo Talks Five Years of Warcraft

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World of Warcraft turns five this month, and we sat down with Blizzard VP of Game Design Rob Pardo to chat about the biggest triumphs and biggest mistakes of the mega-MMORPG, and why he's not worried that their new MMOG will kill it.

It feels hard to believe, but in just over a week on November 23rd, World of Warcraft will have been live for half of a decade. Love it or hate it, WoW is one of the most important and influential games in recent memory - but five years ago, nobody could have foreseen just how big it would become, including the man at the helm of the project:

"I certainly did not expect it to have such a transformational effect on our company and the industry as a whole ... we thought that WoW would be able to expand [the MMO genre], but I figured that... if any game would ever pass the 10 million subscriber mark, it would be in many years, many generations of MMOs, many different evolutions of the genre," Rob Pardo, Blizzard's Executive Vice President of Game Design (and one of TIME's People of the Year in 2006), told The Escapist.

With twelve million active subscribers around the globe - and a total subscriber count "easily more than double - maybe closer to triple" the current base, WoW smashed all previous records to become a dominant force in the industry. Though some point to WoW's prominence in the MMOG space as a stranglehold that makes it more difficult for newer games to succeed, Pardo disagrees - in fact, he thinks that WoW's success helps other games by introducing more people to the MMOG genre. People who would never have otherwise tried an MMOG beforehand picked up WoW, "(a)nd then when they were done, they decided to go, 'Hey, I'll give Lord of the Rings Online a chance, or Dungeons and Dragons Online a chance.' The genre benefited from the growing of the market."

On the other hand, anyone who tries to take the throne from WoW has "a huge hill to climb," because it would be up against a full decade of game design - the five years before Warcraft launched as well as the five years of post-launch development.

Of course, Pardo and Blizzard recognize that WoW won't last forever - which is why he isn't too worried that Blizzard's unannounced "next-gen MMOG" will cannibalize the WoW playerbase, leaving the company doing twice the work for the same amount of people. "Obviously, we want to compete with ourselves, and create something bigger than WoW ... We know that someone is going to beat WoW one day. Someone is going to make a bigger MMO, it's going to be faster and better."

"If someone's going to beat WoW, it might as well be us."

Of course, Pardo also recognizes that there might not have to be too much cannibalization, since many of the people currently playing WoW weren't the ones there when it first started. "There's a whole bunch of people who tuned out of WoW two years ago or four years ago, but who really enjoyed it, and when another MMO comes out that tickles their fancy, they'll jump into it."

Yes, despite the game's massive success, the developers are extremely aware that they've made mistakes, says Pardo. The lack of a proper Looking For Group tool was something he was "really unhappy" to not have at launch, and that tool is only now coming five years later in Patch 3.3. Aside from all of the technological errors like having too few servers at launch to keep up with the demand, Pardo thinks that the single greatest mistake as far as design of the game is concerned was the choice to introduce competitive "e-sports" into the game via Arenas.

"I'm not sure that that was the right thing to do with the game ... we just added it on, so it continues to be very difficult to balance. Is WoW a PvE cooperative game, or a competitive PvP game? ... I don't think we ever foresaw how much tuning and tweaking we'd have to do to balance it in that direction. Either I'd go back in time to before WoW ever shipped and change the rules to make the basic game more conductive for being an e-sport, or if not that, just say it doesn't make sense. Right now, WoW has a bit of a schizophrenic philosophy behind it, and we're trying to figure out how to guide it."

Mistakes aside, though, Rob Pardo thinks that his team's biggest success is the game itself, and how they achieved their goal - to introduce the fun of high-end MMOG play to a wider audience - beyond all imagining. "[O]ur goal was to look at the genre, and we saw what was super fun about it ... 'Lets make a game where people can get to that fun, see it, and get invested in this wonderful genre instead of scoffing, and passing over it because it was an MMO.'"

"There were lots of little implementation details, but the idea was this: 'Let's just take this super fun genre that people don't know really exists, and expand it out so that everyone can enjoy that.' We set that goal and achieved it, and I'm most proud of that."

To read the full transcript of our interview with Rob Pardo, head over to our sister site WarCry. Check back early next week for an interview with WoW Production Director J. Allen Brack and Blizzard Art Director Samwise Didier!

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Hmm, I say unless they stop releasing significant content and stop patching the game I doubt any significant cannibalization will occur.

HOWEVER, if it is a "WoW 2", I predict significant cannibalization, with an even more significant internet petition(<-- lol).

It won't be WoW 2, it will be "world of lost vikings".

As much as I hate to say it; I am looking forward to see what they come up with next. Especially how they saw the issues with Arenas and PvP in a PvE game. Should make for a much more fun experience the next time around.

I can't wait till Guild Wars 2 invades.

What made this interview so outstanding was that Pardo was so candid. It's been AGES since I saw a developer / designer willing to talk in detail about past mistakes and future plans. That stuff so often ends up watered down to "We strive to always provide the best experience possible", which yeah: Duh.

I know WHY it usually works like that. I'm sure the stuff Pardo said here will be getting dragged up in Hardcore vs. Casuals debates months from now, and end up being thrown back at Blizzard in their own forums if someone gets mad about balance or somesuch. (And there are always people mad about that stuff.) But it's great to read some genuine answers and some honest introspection.

EDIT: Added missing words so this could be understood by civilized people.

I played WoW for 3 years and enjoyed it greatly. Of course it did have a lot of issues that made it feel like work sometimes, or the Grind so to speak, which eventually led to me quitting.

I believe that if Blizzard designs their next MMO with both PVE and PVP in mind it will be so much superior to anything anybody else is going to put out. I loved both in WoW but PVP was constantly imbalanced in some way from one patch to another, not to mention that many classes required a 50 gold respec to switch between PVP and PVE. (Warrior here). I wish they had enabled players to have 2 different specs they could switch between all along. Farming for gold must be the most masochistic thing you can do in a Video game. Don't even mention repair bills to me.

I know the Grind is a current facet of the MMO genre but I'm hoping they can reduce it as much as possible in their next MMO. Then I might just give it a shot.

Do have to agree with him on arenas though, when Blizz bought them in it threw everything out of whack.

Guild Wars 2 is taking everything that made Guild Wars good, removing it, and trying to be a WoW clone.

i've played WoW on and off pretty much since launch day, and i have to agree with Pardo. Lots and lots of mistakes, especially the LFG system, which currently is next to pointless.

Glad they will be finally releasing a decent system in the next content patch.

Five years, two expansions, two new races, a new class and about fifteen important lore characters' deaths later, here we are.

mrjinx:
I played WoW for 3 years and enjoyed it greatly. Of course it did have a lot of issues that made it feel like work sometimes, or the Grind so to speak, which eventually led to me quitting.

I believe that if Blizzard designs their next MMO with both PVE and PVP in mind it will be so much superior to anything anybody else is going to put out. I loved both in WoW but PVP was constantly imbalanced in some way from one patch to another, not to mention that many classes required a 50 gold respec to switch between PVP and PVE. (Warrior here). I wish they had enabled players to have 2 different specs they could switch between all along. Farming for gold must be the most masochistic thing you can do in a Video game. Don't even mention repair bills to me.

I know the Grind is a current facet of the MMO genre but I'm hoping they can reduce it as much as possible in their next MMO. Then I might just give it a shot.

You can have two specs it was something they added in a patch.

As a former Wow player I must say that I am glad to hear that they realized implementing a game mechanic like arena late into the life of the game and then began balancing the entire game to arena was a bad move. One that hopefully they are willing to fix with their unannounced MMO. Pre-arena wow was a fantastic game. Sure there were bugs and some balance issues, but they worked to fix balance issues for general play instead of just arena.

Sean B.:

mrjinx:
I played WoW for 3 years and enjoyed it greatly. Of course it did have a lot of issues that made it feel like work sometimes, or the Grind so to speak, which eventually led to me quitting.

I believe that if Blizzard designs their next MMO with both PVE and PVP in mind it will be so much superior to anything anybody else is going to put out. I loved both in WoW but PVP was constantly imbalanced in some way from one patch to another, not to mention that many classes required a 50 gold respec to switch between PVP and PVE. (Warrior here). I wish they had enabled players to have 2 different specs they could switch between all along. Farming for gold must be the most masochistic thing you can do in a Video game. Don't even mention repair bills to me.

I know the Grind is a current facet of the MMO genre but I'm hoping they can reduce it as much as possible in their next MMO. Then I might just give it a shot.

You can have two specs it was something they added in a patch.

I'd heard that, unfortunately it was well over a year after I quit the game. People tried to lure me back in to the game but I resisted the temptation. :P

Even though I play WoW, I dislike the grind and the snobbery of the level 80's; although granted, if I was a raid leader, I'd not want some n00b messing up the raid because he couldn't read the tactics.

While he is right the 'welfare epics' were horrible for the game the greatest mistake isnt that, its in releasing super new content...and then saying 'oh by the way its all goign to be obsolete. Not like soon but don't work too hard on this'. The big raiders benefit from the initial surge of enthusiasm and the slower to end game guild are terribly hurt when blizzard stabs it in the heart. I thought they realized it with BC but they repeated the mistake with WotLK.

A good read for any WoW player old or new. I've been playing for over 3 years now, I run my own casual raiding guild and have made some of the best friends ever in game and have never allowed myself to get addicted which puts so many people off.

Really looking forward to Cataclysm it's gonna be a huge shake up!

Shamus Young:
What made this interview so outstanding was that Pardo was so candid. It's been AGES since I saw a developer / designer willing to talk in detail about past mistakes and future plans. That stuff so often ends up watered down to "We strive to always provide the best experience possible", which yeah: Duh.

I know WHY it usually works like that. I'm sure the stuff Pardo said here will be getting dragged up in Hardcore vs. Casuals debates months from now, and end up being thrown back at Blizzard in their own forums if someone gets mad about balance or somesuch. (And there are always people mad about that stuff.) But it's great to read some genuine answers and some honest introspection.

EDIT: Added missing words so this could be understood by civilized people.

What I liked was that the things I hate (or at least really really don't like) are the things he mentioned. So at least I'm not alone in the feeling :P.

Shamus Young:
What made this interview so outstanding was that Pardo was so candid. It's been AGES since I saw a developer / designer willing to talk in detail about past mistakes and future plans. That stuff so often ends up watered down to "We strive to always provide the best experience possible", which yeah: Duh.

I know WHY it usually works like that. I'm sure the stuff Pardo said here will be getting dragged up in Hardcore vs. Casuals debates months from now, and end up being thrown back at Blizzard in their own forums if someone gets mad about balance or somesuch. (And there are always people mad about that stuff.) But it's great to read some genuine answers and some honest introspection.

EDIT: Added missing words so this could be understood by civilized people.

its the blizzard ethos...rather than try to convince people that what they are doing is the right way to do it (MW2 ded servers yadda yadda), they try to convince themselves that things are the wrong way of doing it, therefore find ways to build it up and make it perfect, self criticism to make perfect games

one example, diablo 3 went through like 3 art revolutions before they decided on the best

I like rob pardo though, he is my fave blizz dev, you can just tell that he is the most laid back and coolest guy ever

Capo Taco:
It won't be WoW 2, it will be "world of lost vikings".

win.

Im starting to think that the next gen mmo in the works is gonna be Universe or Starcraft, because Diablo is alredy kindof a single player WoW. Plus, its rare to see a space themed MMO, and it would be good to see a company who has made one of the greatest space-RTS games of all time turn it into an MMO, like Warcraft.

benbenthegamerman:

Capo Taco:
It won't be WoW 2, it will be "world of lost vikings".

win.

Im starting to think that the next gen mmo in the works is gonna be Universe or Starcraft, because Diablo is alredy kindof a single player WoW. Plus, its rare to see a space themed MMO, and it would be good to see a company who has made one of the greatest space-RTS games of all time turn it into an MMO, like Warcraft.

Yes that's what I was going to say but then I thought about their valuable vikings ip.

Sevre90210:
I can't wait till Guild Wars 2 invades.

GW2 won't have a subscription therefore it won't really invade, my WoW fanboy friend is actually considering gw2 even with WoW: Cataclysm coming out, he doesn't have to pay for a gw2 subscription on top of his WoW one so he'll play gw2 on the side.

SAccharing10:
Guild Wars 2 is taking everything that made Guild Wars good, removing it, and trying to be a WoW clone.

Erm, not exactly, there won't be any kill 10 rats quests, infact there won't be any quests, just random events, gw needs gw2, its more mainstream but it still keeps its individuality. There hasn't been much released about gw2 other than lore, there will be gameplay news next year before the open beta starts.

As far as I know, I'm guessing that the new blizz mmo will be a starcraft one. That is, I can't see it being in the news until Diablo 3 and Cataclysm are out.

Pardo is absolutely right about Arena. It creates a function where people have to decide exactly what direction to take their experience. And it has the unfortunate afterbirth of the player who can grab some low end pvp purples(Welfare Epics, as previously noted.) and think that their purple items should automatically earn them a spot in a raid. I know and have played with someone like that.

Funnily enough, I quit the game after extensive raiding during BC. And he's still playing, though no guild will touch him. He fails to realize that anyone with a real full-time job who submits for overtime as often as possible is not an attractive candidate for raiding guilds. Especially when they think the possession of three or four PvP epics entitles them to a PvE raid spot.

I also get the impression that he thinks I weaseled my way into a spot on the raiding roster. But, again, fails to understand that I earned my place. I studied all the boss fights. Put in the time and effort to learn everything I could. I paid attention, followed orders and acted on suggestions about gear, tactics and add-ons. And I never, EVER, complained about drops. And even though I never topped the damage meters, they still frequently took me along. Which I think says a lot. Most guilds don't like bringing along fire mages, at least they didn't at that time I was playing.

Apologies for tooting my own horn there. But what I meant to point out is that WoW is a game with a skill set that's quite uniquely it's own. And it's made a lot of contributions to gaming that are good in some respects. Admittedly, it was the time investment that convinced me to stop playing. But at least I can say it was nice experiencing a lot of the content that a good portion of the player base probably has never, or will never experience first hand.

I'm REALLY surprised, floored even, what he said about their biggest mistake. A bigger surprise is that he is right on the money. So, I guess Blizzard knows what they are doing. =p

Though, there were all kinds of abuses in WoW that we saw no effort from Blizzard to fix until WAR came out and took care of them easily. Examples would be cave camping and twinking. (While WAR saw a lot of WoW's problems, unfortunately it seemed blind to its own, so I guess all developers have their blind spot.) The party system was one of those things WAR improved. If Blizzard just copies WAR's party system they'll be much better off. Blizzard is good at copying Warhammer, after all.

Warrior Irme:
As a former Wow player I must say that I am glad to hear that they realized implementing a game mechanic like arena late into the life of the game and then began balancing the entire game to arena was a bad move. One that hopefully they are willing to fix with their unannounced MMO. Pre-arena wow was a fantastic game. Sure there were bugs and some balance issues, but they worked to fix balance issues for general play instead of just arena.

I have to agree, I don't normally PvP and having my characters "balanced" so heavily for PvP and thus hindering my job in PvE really grates on me. One thing that Blizz did learn to do right was make quests interesting. The quests for WotLK are much more fun than either BC or Classic.

benbenthegamerman:

Capo Taco:
It won't be WoW 2, it will be "world of lost vikings".

win.

Im starting to think that the next gen mmo in the works is gonna be Universe or Starcraft, because Diablo is alredy kindof a single player WoW. Plus, its rare to see a space themed MMO, and it would be good to see a company who has made one of the greatest space-RTS games of all time turn it into an MMO, like Warcraft.

Obrien Xp:

Sevre90210:
I can't wait till Guild Wars 2 invades.

GW2 won't have a subscription therefore it won't really invade, my WoW fanboy friend is actually considering gw2 even with WoW: Cataclysm coming out, he doesn't have to pay for a gw2 subscription on top of his WoW one so he'll play gw2 on the side.

SAccharing10:
Guild Wars 2 is taking everything that made Guild Wars good, removing it, and trying to be a WoW clone.

Erm, not exactly, there won't be any kill 10 rats quests, infact there won't be any quests, just random events, gw needs gw2, its more mainstream but it still keeps its individuality. There hasn't been much released about gw2 other than lore, there will be gameplay news next year before the open beta starts.

As far as I know, I'm guessing that the new blizz mmo will be a starcraft one. That is, I can't see it being in the news until Diablo 3 and Cataclysm are out.

We already know it'll be a new IP, not one of their existing ones. So no Galaxy of StarCraft or World of Lost Vikings, unfortunately :(

CantFaketheFunk:

benbenthegamerman:

Capo Taco:
It won't be WoW 2, it will be "world of lost vikings".

win.

Im starting to think that the next gen mmo in the works is gonna be Universe or Starcraft, because Diablo is alredy kindof a single player WoW. Plus, its rare to see a space themed MMO, and it would be good to see a company who has made one of the greatest space-RTS games of all time turn it into an MMO, like Warcraft.

Obrien Xp:

Sevre90210:
I can't wait till Guild Wars 2 invades.

GW2 won't have a subscription therefore it won't really invade, my WoW fanboy friend is actually considering gw2 even with WoW: Cataclysm coming out, he doesn't have to pay for a gw2 subscription on top of his WoW one so he'll play gw2 on the side.

SAccharing10:
Guild Wars 2 is taking everything that made Guild Wars good, removing it, and trying to be a WoW clone.

Erm, not exactly, there won't be any kill 10 rats quests, infact there won't be any quests, just random events, gw needs gw2, its more mainstream but it still keeps its individuality. There hasn't been much released about gw2 other than lore, there will be gameplay news next year before the open beta starts.

As far as I know, I'm guessing that the new blizz mmo will be a starcraft one. That is, I can't see it being in the news until Diablo 3 and Cataclysm are out.

We already know it'll be a new IP, not one of their existing ones. So no Galaxy of StarCraft or World of Lost Vikings, unfortunately :(

I'm guessing none of you have ever visited Uldaman.

johnx61:

CantFaketheFunk:

benbenthegamerman:

Capo Taco:
It won't be WoW 2, it will be "world of lost vikings".

win.

Im starting to think that the next gen mmo in the works is gonna be Universe or Starcraft, because Diablo is alredy kindof a single player WoW. Plus, its rare to see a space themed MMO, and it would be good to see a company who has made one of the greatest space-RTS games of all time turn it into an MMO, like Warcraft.

Obrien Xp:

Sevre90210:
I can't wait till Guild Wars 2 invades.

GW2 won't have a subscription therefore it won't really invade, my WoW fanboy friend is actually considering gw2 even with WoW: Cataclysm coming out, he doesn't have to pay for a gw2 subscription on top of his WoW one so he'll play gw2 on the side.

SAccharing10:
Guild Wars 2 is taking everything that made Guild Wars good, removing it, and trying to be a WoW clone.

Erm, not exactly, there won't be any kill 10 rats quests, infact there won't be any quests, just random events, gw needs gw2, its more mainstream but it still keeps its individuality. There hasn't been much released about gw2 other than lore, there will be gameplay news next year before the open beta starts.

As far as I know, I'm guessing that the new blizz mmo will be a starcraft one. That is, I can't see it being in the news until Diablo 3 and Cataclysm are out.

We already know it'll be a new IP, not one of their existing ones. So no Galaxy of StarCraft or World of Lost Vikings, unfortunately :(

I'm guessing none of you have ever visited Uldaman.

SPEAK NOT THE NAME OF THAT PLACE

I always wonder how long WoW is going to last? 10 years? 15 years? Even 30 years?

benbenthegamerman:

Capo Taco:
It won't be WoW 2, it will be "world of lost vikings".

win.

Im starting to think that the next gen mmo in the works is gonna be Universe or Starcraft, because Diablo is alredy kindof a single player WoW. Plus, its rare to see a space themed MMO, and it would be good to see a company who has made one of the greatest space-RTS games of all time turn it into an MMO, like Warcraft.

I think there's a space themed MMO being developed by some unknown RPG developer, set in a universe nobody's ever even heard of.

http://www.swtor.com/

Rob Pardo:
Right now, WoW has a bit of a schizophrenic philosophy behind it, and we're trying to figure out how to guide it.

Wow. I can't believe he actually admitted that. Not that I disagree, but it's just surprising he came out and actually said it.

Was a really interesting read, seeing a developer admit their mistakes and their regrets of the past is always interesting, since it both meshes and goes against the grievances and praises that the consumers seem to have.

Or if you read the official WoW forums, just grievances. Endless grievances. Oh the whining...

Capo Taco:
It won't be WoW 2, it will be "world of lost vikings".

You made me hope, and when my hopes were instantly crushed, I cried. I hope you are pleased with yourself.

OT - I'm going to be honest, I think PvP should be left to games which are primarily PvP - World of Warcraft, Champions Online, City of Heroes... All rubbish PvP experiences. Warhammer Online and Guild Wars are great because that's what they focus on. If Blizzard (and Cryptic) really want to help the game feel less schizophrenic, they'd leave PvP to the pros and focus on the story and PvE content which they are brilliant at.

CantFaketheFunk:

johnx61:

I'm guessing none of you have ever visited Uldaman.

SPEAK NOT THE NAME OF THAT PLACE

Uldaman. Uldaman. Uldaman.

Give in Funk. You know you like fighting ancient robots, huge golems and bitchy titan women.

johnx61:

CantFaketheFunk:

johnx61:

I'm guessing none of you have ever visited Uldaman.

SPEAK NOT THE NAME OF THAT PLACE

Uldaman. Uldaman. Uldaman.

Give in Funk. You know you like fighting ancient robots, huge golems and bitchy titan women.

I find Uldaman is less an exercise in fighting mobs and bosses and more an exercise in fighting your own group. Same with Blackrock Depths.

Amnestic:

johnx61:

CantFaketheFunk:

johnx61:

I'm guessing none of you have ever visited Uldaman.

SPEAK NOT THE NAME OF THAT PLACE

Uldaman. Uldaman. Uldaman.

Give in Funk. You know you like fighting ancient robots, huge golems and bitchy titan women.

I find Uldaman is less an exercise in fighting mobs and bosses and more an exercise in fighting your own group. Same with Blackrock Depths.

You speak the truth, and the truth is funny.

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