April 2, 2001 | Michael Yanovich
Located an hour’s drive south of the Orange Curtain – that invisible border that separates the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles from the suburban sprawl that is not – there sits an industrial complex that houses everything from tech firms like Cisco Systems to an extreme sports television production company. And nestled in one of the dozens of squat buildings between rows of carpool-designated parking spaces, right under the glorious heat of the Southern California sun, there rages a snowstorm so overwhelming that it can only be called a blizzard. Except that in this case, the Blizzard sports a capital “B” and the snow is strictly virtual, littering the bloody, corpse-ridden ground that is one of the new maps for Warcraft III.
Sitting at his desk, Rob Pardo, senior game designer, is showing off one of the new single player maps. “We just got the scripting system working last week, so this is one of the first maps with working trigger points.”
I watch as a small Orc struggles against the bars of his cage, which hangs in a small forest clearing. He is surrounded by a mob of armed humans. His cries for help are quickly answered when a troop of his Orcish brethren charge to his rescue, blades gleaming in the midday sun. The fight is brief but bloody. Only three tattered humans are left standing when it’s all over. None of the Orcs survive.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Yes, I did receive the envious task of visiting Blizzard’s West coast offices to see the latest build of their upcoming (and HIGHLY anticipated) game, Warcraft III. Life-sized cardboard standees of various staff members grace the reception area, having just been transported back from their 10-year anniversary party a few days before. Two scrapbooks lie on the table, filled with scores of fan letters full of praise, ideas and sketches (by the way, most of you who wrote in really need to learn the difference between “your” and “you’re”). A conference room off to the side is lined with statues and paintings of demons, Diablo displays, Starcraft trophies… I’m reminded of Bart Simpson visiting the offices of Mad Magazine. It’s the kind of place any game addict would love to work.
For veteran game writers, this would be just another day at the office. But for a game-fan/hobbyist like myself who makes a living in a totally different field, this was more like getting to take a day off from school for a rockin’ field trip.
This is where I met Debra Osborne, Blizzard’s PR guru and the person to thank for all the screenshots you’re about to see. (Everyone say “thank you, Debra!” Very nicely done, class!) She led me and a fellow journalist upstairs to meet Rob who showed us the latest WCIII build.