The WoW Diary

May 08, 2022 · 6 mins read By John Staats

One of the first things I learned was how unimpressive games look in their early stages.

It was important to capture a strong style for ground textures because players generally look downward.

Litterally losing a server, reminded me of this quote:

WoW’s entire database was lost. While the database system was working, and on the network, somewhere in the building, the hardware itself had been forgotten and no one could locate the machine when an upgrade became necessary. The predicament was an amusing illustration (to me, at least) of how overlooked database programmers were. After days of searching, it was discovered under an unused desk.

And publishers are always portrayed as the bad guys. Much publicity was made about studios closings, mistreated employees, and destructive executives, but little attention was given to the culpability of irresponsible studios who bilked investors.

Gamers aren’t a subtle crowd:

Subtlety is lost on the gaming audience. Things like socialization, user interface, twitch skills, and character advancement are what players focus on. Games require obvious plotlines and archetypal characters because the audience is doing several things at once. There is a cacophony of preoccupying issues, so it’s unreasonable to expect players to follow a detailed storyline or subtle hints. Storytellers in this environment must wield blunt instruments.

On how growing a company affects social dynamics:

The increased size of the team had affected the social dynamics, as departments started to stick together instead of mixing over lunch. Dinner during late nights was becoming the only time the team got together. Most people sat on the rickety hallway chairs (or the floor, if chairs were unavailable) and talked over pizza and soda, while others retreated to their offices to work and eat. Meetings with so many people were cumbersome, so there was less interactivity between different disciplines. Since there were more designers on the team, non-designers were participating less frequently in design discussions, and while this was good for productivity, a natural social separation grew between departments.

Testing to learn how players wanted to play:

Only until Uldaman was built, quested, scripted, and played by non-developers did we learn players didn’t like leaving a dungeon unfinished—they wanted the closure of a full clear.

Mark Kern summed up the company’s desire to address the concerns of the lucrative Korean market: If Koreans want point-and-click movement, we’ll give them point-and-click movement.

Concept sketches are artists’ prototypes:

Bill explained the value of loose concept sketches: A lot of concept artists focus on detail work, and that’s okay if you’re doing armor or things that need it, but when you’re doing landscapes or environments all you’re really going for is a mood.

WoW broke more ground in three months than was achieved in Nomad’s eighteen-month lifespan. Adham’s presence provided the new project with solid design direction, a refreshing departure from Nomad’s speculative meandering.

Not all storage is cheap:

PC hard drives sometimes fail and lose data, which was why they are regularly backed up. But the hard drives used for storing player data cannot lose data. Ever. Even reverting to a backed-up state would be a terrible faux pas that would enrage the customer base. No game company can risk losing persistent character information, so the type of hard drives used for MMO data storage are unimaginably expensive. As a result, engineering efforts focused on minimizing both data size and the processing power needed to retrieve it.

Performing on low spec PCs was a priority:

We shunned technology that required powerful video cards because it diminished our number of potential customers

A good game storyteller has a reputation for flexibility and surrenders the details to the worker bees, empowering them to add to the game universe.

Crappy equipment also has value:

Bad Object—an object that is clearly worse than other objects of the same type in the quanta. These objects let players pick good objects and thus lets them feel like they made active positive choices. Also, bad objects increase the value and desirability of good objects. Diablo II did an excellent job of creating bad items.

WoW was addicting from the beginning:

The reception from significant others was so positive that even spouses who weren’t typical gamers were finding WoW quite addictive, and their phone calls were less, When will you be home tonight? and more How can I raise my tailoring skill? This was an encouraging validation of the game’s appeal to non-core gamers.

The first streamer:

Someone rigged a real-time webcast of themselves playing, uploading screenshots every couple of seconds.

What would you do if the world was ending?

The end of closed beta, 11:30 p.m. on October 31, 2004. Korean players responded to the thirty-minute warning of the server going down. Without planning, all the players went back to their capital cities. Orc players gathered around Thrall, as did the undead Sylvanas in the Undercity. The tauren went to their starting village and sat around a bonfire, danced, laughed, and set off fireworks until the world’s end.