Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

This should have been posted with the last post, but I wanted to check the facts with Rob before posting it...

Chris Anderson asked me to participate in giving a toast at the Wired Rave Awards dinner about why WoW was so great and giving a Raver award to Rob Pardo, Lead Game Designer of World of Warcraft (WoW), and his team. I had my own opinions about what made WoW so successful, but I asked Rob with whom I had the opportunity of sitting next to at the dinner. We had a longish conversation about games and WoW and was impressed by Rob's insights and practical experience.

Rob was a guild leader of a hardcore raiding guild on Everquest. Rob is a hardcore gamer. He loved the game, but realized that there were things that could be better designed. He looked at all of the MMOs and together with his team, built a game that was better in each of the different components than any of its competitors while keeping the core culture and functionality of MMOs. They added some important new features including the rest system, team PvP without segregating players from the opposing factions, and a completely quest driven experience, which were new innovations. They also paid attention to issues that existing games experienced or they anticipated would experience and designed WoW to deal with them.

For instance, WoW does not allow buying and selling game gold. However, according to Rob, it doesn't break the economy as some people think. The game is designed to minimize the negative impact of "farmers". The quests and and equipment are designed so that there are many key things that you can't buy with game gold. The issue of gold buying is primarily a matter of players feeling that it is unfair - the great thing about WoW and similar MMOs is that everyone starts equally regardless of what they do in real life.

Although Rob was a hardcore player in Everquest, he designed WoW so that it allowed casual players to have as much fun as hardcore players. It really shows and as a guild custodian of a guild that has many casual players, the ability for casual players to have fun in WoW is very important. Rob mentioned that one of they keys to success of a game is to make sure that the game is fun in the first 5 minutes. I think many game developers forget this and focus on gamers who are "serious" and willing to invest significant time to learn to play or wait a long time to have their first "fun event". I think it is the breadth and diversity of the players that Rob tried to appeal to that is the key to success of WoW and he did it through attention to detail and trying to get each part right rather than focus on a single killer feature.

It reminds me a bit of the book "From Good to Great".


An opposite viewpoint, as often voiced (especially by "anonymousdev", search Google) is that Rob ruined several aspects of the previously very balanced game by giving raiders precedence over collectors and PvPers, making the game dynamics hell for World PvP, and introducing an utopian pseudo-Everquestish dynamic (remember, EQ wasn't PvP and EQers scoffed at PvP until EQ2) that made is basically necessary to raid MC to advance past 60.

Indeed, even today, armor upgrades are known as "Dungeon Sets", the Rank 14 rewards are dwarved by drops off BWL, AQ, and MC bosses (while being orders of magnitude harder to obtain, not to mention requiring 20-day sessions to get to), and craftable items are a joke.

Since the "original" WoW, things have changed. The influence of Tigole Bitties (Jeff Kaplan, GM of the first EQ guild to down the Ancient of War with LoS) is slowly subsiding, making 5-man high level instances possible.

Another bad influence, the unholy alliance between EnoYls (Rob) and Kalgan (Tom Chilton). Chilton was the head behind the vastly unsuccessful and pretty much botched UO with Age of Shadow, and designed the PvP system which is, by all accounts, the worst way to make PvP work. After Blizzard realized, that World PvP would concentrate on certain areas (Tarren Mill vs. South Shore, for example), discouragers like DKs and encouragers like Battleground faction rewards were introduced. Again, Rob's hatred for PvP, hatred for "casual" gamers, and absolute dedication to hardcore raiding and rewards based not on skill but 40-man murder sprees influenced the game.

Of course, 6 million players don't err. But between Tigole, EnoYls, and Kalgan, there's not much glory for design well done to go around. What we see today, and what we'll likely see in TBC is attempts at salvaging what three men, against the better wisdom of advisors, pushed through.

I have to agree somewhat with the first commenter. WoW is an excellent game for casual players, as long as your character is leveling up to 60, but when your character hits the level cap, the game ceases to become 'casual friendly.' Neither dungeons nor raids can be completed in anything resembling a 'casual' amount of time. PvP rewards are worse. Soloable equipment upgrades typically require massive grinding. Not fun.

On my first 60, I tried to do the dungeon grind for my Shadowcraft Armor, get keyed for Molten Core and Onyxia, and find a regularly-raiding guild, all so I could try the raid content out. I had the usual problems - it took way too long to get a group together, the drop rates were frustratingly low, and the raid guilds were unacceptably authoritarian. High attendance requirements, forced respecs, lengthy DKP-less trial periods, mandatory Ventrilo use (hey, I play on my Powerbook, beside my wife, in front of the TV.) What a nightmare.

I considered quitting before I found the solution - put the 60 on ice and start a new one. Different faction, different class, different race, different server. For now, at least, the game's fun again.

I highly recommend Tobold's MMORPG blog - - for the best writing out there on these problems.

My first memory of WoW is the kobolds in the human starting area screaming, "You no take candle!" "Fun in the first 5 minutes?" I was a believer.

I agree with some of Pseudonymousdev's comments. Blizzard keeps introducing raid dungeon after raid dungeon. There is little to no meaningful content for non-raiders at level 60. Meanwhile, the gear difference between raiders and non-raiders continues to widen.

Starting another character seems to be the natural continuation of WoW gameplay.

A few comments... Rob was clear it was a team effort.

I personally enjoy the balance between raiding an PvP. I disagree about the comment on casual gaming. Our guild is quite casual and we have a lot of fun even after lvl 60. We're slowly making our way through MC without the pressure of a hardcore guild.

Like I'm not already posting on enough forums, but...

I'm new to the MMO's, but, if you're going to continue playing the game, isn't it supposed to get tougher as you go?

I'll agree, I would like to see a few more mid-to high range dungeons, but the balance between raiding and pvp isn't so terrible. I certainly wouldn't classify it as Rob's "hatred" of casual gamers. I'm usually one of the Raiding Gang, but today I wasn't really in the mood and pvp'd instead on an alt; I learned that it wasn't pvp that sucked, but me pvp'ing as a rogue. I don't like fighting up close, I could get hurt! Most fun I've had in a while, and I don't do much besides have fun. If you have a level 60 of every class and you're bored with the game...

Alright I'm rambling.. but what would you have 'em do? I agree that most crafted items are K-mart irregulars, but those rank 14 geared toons are feeding me my thumbs out there, and rank 14 is by no means easy to get. Point is, you can essentially do it solo, or if you prefer grouping, and not so tenacious, get 39 friends and go the raiding route. I won't ever be top-rank, but I might finish off BWL. There are plenty of guys out there who are the exact opposite, I think it's a killer work in progress at the very least.. But I'm curious, if you were in charge, what would you change and to what?

Depending on the group you run with it's a completely different feel. (Some guilds are almost military, some are completely informal, just for chatting, some are in between. They've all kicked me out. Seems like a nice array of options unless I'm missing something.

My fondest memories of WoW are still back in those beta days. I was so freaking excited to even get selected to be in the beta, the rush was incredible. The beta lasted a really long time and as time went on I was getting more and more hooked.

Then came retail. I've played WoW for two + years and I finally kicked the habit last week. I grinded in MC, I grinded in PvP, I grinded multiple level 60 characters. WoW is all about time. If you lots of time to kill then WoW is your game. Once you hit 60 there isn't much left to do but grind. Be it grind for rep (faction), grind for gold, grind for PvP, grind through boring raid dungeons, etc, etc.

Blizzard has built the ultimate time sink game. The first 60 levels are super easy mode and are there just to set the hook. Once you start to get the taste for purple loot (epix!!!!1111) your sunk.

All I get for googling "anonymousdev" is some photographer's art...