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World of Warcraft
September 5, 2001 | IMG Staff

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An Ever-Changing World
One important decision made early on in the design process for WoW was that there will be a permanent 'live-team' dedicated to the continuation and upkeep of the World of Warcraft. Not only will this team be charged with fixing bugs and implementing any minor tweaks necessary, they will also be a part of the world, adding to content such as quests and tasks and interacting with players. The team will aim to roll player feedback and unforeseen outcomes into the world, live.

In one anecdote, the team related their experience with a previous design project: In a previous MUD design (multi-user-dungeon; the fore-runner of MMORPG's), the game development team noticed an odd action popping up: newbies were constantly buying cheese and putting it in the sewers. This was investigated, and they found out that the newbies thought that cheese attracted rats, a low-level enemy useful for gaining experience points and easy to kill. As it happened the game wasn't scripted to make this behavior work, but the team was intrigued and inspired by the newbies’ blind faith, so the decision was quickly made to add this feature to the MUD. Blizzard wants WoW to have this level of flexibility. If something appears in the game – a myth, a legend, a player-created storyline or even an amusing bug – the WoW team wants the power to work these user creations right into the game world, live.

As far as a projected release date goes -- well, Blizzard is of course remaining silent, as is always their way. This is partially because of the fact that these dates never turn out right, and the game has only been in development for a short time – barely one year. They also want to leave as much time as is needed for beta-testing; this title is very different from previous Blizzard games, so they want to get as much testing in as possible, and beta-testing has proved an invaluable way of doing this in the past. The team doesn’t want to be constrained by a release date if they're not happy with the game; we all know by know what amazing, obsessive perfectionists the Blizzard team can be.

Why Warcraft, Sniffed the Starcraft Fan
The decision to base this next title in the Warcraft universe was not an easy one. Initially the team made the decision to stick with what they knew, and expand one of the existing Blizzard “universes” rather than striking off on their own. After choosing to stick to a world that the team was already familiar with, Blizzard had to decide which one it was to be! The advantage of staying within an already-created world was the ability to build upon the established mythology while being able to forge new ground – the game designers would always have the core mythology to fall back upon when their design ideas went awry.

Although there were certainly many within Blizzard who leaned toward the Starcraft universe, untouched for almost three years, Warcraft kept on popping up as an untapped pool of content which had a huge user following. This decision was made partly because the team felt there was so much in Warcraft that had yet to be explored; there is a lot of room to take characters and ideas as well as the world itself and examine them in much more detail than has been possible in the previous Warcraft games. After all, in an RTS all characters are expendable and there isn’t much room for character development over time.

There's so much material out there based on Warcraft, including a series of fiction novels, that this is sure to be a wise move for Blizzard. It also can't hurt that Warcraft III is on its way as well, and although they will be very different games, the teams are developing the worlds in conjunction with each other. Characters, locations and plot lines from the RTS Warcraft III are likely to show up in the WoW game world, allowing players to not only transition from one game to the other but perhaps to enjoy both simultaneously, as Blizzard games tend to have a long life online.

But Will There Be a Mac Version?
On the subject of a possible Mac OS version of the game, the team was rather quiet; this was a behavior consistent throughout Blizzard's presence at ECTS. The press conference itself was invite-only, and their booth was a closed room with most discussions going on behind the scenes. What was made clear by the development team was that possible versions of the game on other platforms would be totally compatible with the currently developed structure, allowing all players to join in a single game space.

As Blizzard certainly has a solid-gold reputation for creating and supporting multi-platform releases, we are confident there will be a Mac OS release. However we did ask about decisions made during the engine development that might potentially exclude Mac users, such as using an engine dependent upon Microsoft technologies such as DirectX. Their answer was clear; they always strive to keep their products accessible and portable and have made no decisions that would exclude the possibility of a Mac version. So, as usual, we'll just have to wait and see, but we do know that the release of World of Warcraft on any platform is still some time in the distant future. In the meantime, check out the screen shots and characters and dream of your future adventures in a world of possibilities.

Related Links

World of Warcraft Gameplay Footage (12 MB, .hqx)

World of Warcraft
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
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