WoW Diary Kickstarter - The Starting Zone Interview, Classic WoW AMA, Giveaway
For this week's WoW Diary Kickstarter spotlight, we have a giveaway, interview from The Starting Zone, and Classic WoW AMA. Read to the end of the post for a giveaway for the Diary!
Click here to support the WoW Diary Kickstarter!
About the Author and Kickstarter
A veteran of WoW's development, John Staats in vanilla designed and built Ahn’Qiraj Temple, Blackfathom Deeps, Blackwing Lair, Blackrock Mountain, Blackrock Depths, Booty Bay, Karazhan (w/Aaron Keller), Loch Modan Dam, Lower Blackrock Spire, Molten Core, Razorfen Downs, Razorfen Kraul, Scholomance, The Slag Pit, Upper Blackrock Spire, The Wailing Caverns, and Warsong Gulch (w/Matt Milizia).
When John first joined Blizzard Entertainment, he was unfamiliar with the games industry and took copious notes on everything he learned and even interviewed his teammates. These detailed notes serve as the basis for this new book! This book includes not just essays on game development and fun anecdotes about the WoW team, but over 130 annotated images printed on high-quality paper stock.
The book will be available to
Kickstarter backers first
, with pledges starting at $5, electronic copies at $30, and physical copy for $40. There are also deluxe options available--$150 nets you supplemental essays on WoW's development. All Kickstarter products are expected to ship by December 2018.
If you're an avid WoW player with fond memories of the early days, or want to learn more about the games industry in the hopes of joining it one day, this book definitely seems for you!
The WoW Diary has recently crossed the first stretch goal at $300k! Check out the other goals that are within reach:
This stretch goal will fund two versions of The WoW Diary. The first, will be the standard Amazon Edition that has all the high-end specs already listed. Then, I'll print a Golden Edition that will be for only and all of my Kickstarter First Edition backers.
Upgrade 1: Unlocks at $300,000 The end sheet (pictured below) will be gold that reads “Original Kickstarter Backer" followed the whenitsready logo. The mock-up (on the right) shows the subtle printing, and the magnification (on the left) is darkened and enlarged for readability.
Upgrade 2: Unlocks at $350,000 - Gold foil title lettering on spine and front cover differentiates Kickstarter editions from non-KS prints.
Upgrade 3: Unlocks at $400,000 - Spot varnishing makes all the pictures shiny and opens opportunity for shiny "ghost shapes" on an otherwise blank page. Very few books have this because it costs a lot, but if we hit this mark, I'll add it for free.
The Starting Zone
John Staats was on the latest episode of
The Starting Zone
Some interesting details:
While working on Karazhan, Staats had ideas for more environmental effects--like flooded areas of the dungeon as well as micro-dungeon areas--but this had to be cut due to time constraints. He also had an idea that a demon would be playing a pipe organ in the dungeon, and the pipes would be holding the dungeon together. However, while this sounded cool, it didn't make any lore sense.
Karazhan was worked on for years before Burning Crusade! It was intended to be a raid from the start, and started as a 10-player raid because the rooms were too small to accommodate 40 players. Blackrock Spire had a smaller amount of players than a classic raid size for a similar architectural reason.
Staats hates Titan architecture because it "doesn't make sense"--they're larger-than-life, how do you show such a massive scale in game?
The ability to scale NPC models up proved handy when designing Molten Core and filling large cavern spaces.
The first version of Molten Core's layout was set up in less than a day. Elements like red fog were easy to set up and looked good! As a level designer, the Molten Core is a "joke" and "easy" to pull off. Lava and red fog = winner.
After the game shipped, Blizzard learned more about player habits and gathered data. This led to more certainty in designers forming opinions and leading teams.
Classic WoW AMA
held an AMA with John Staats along with several former Warcraft employees - Bo Bell, Alexander Brazie, and Sam Lantinga.
John Staats (/u/whenitsready) built half of Vanilla WoW's instanced dungeons, and 90% of its non-instanced dungeons (caves, mines, crypts, etc.), including Booty Bay, Warsong Gulch, and Loch Modan Dam.
You can read more about his memoir on his kickstarter page, thewowdiary.com
Bo Bell (/u/Hapy00) created zones such as Loch Modan, Duskwood, Moonglade, Thousand Needles, Silverpine Forest, and Durotar. He helped on other zones with other exterior level designers (they all did). He worked in QA for almost two years before moving onto WoW, testing Diablo, Starcraft, and Diablo II.
Alexander Brazie (/u/Xelnath) was a monster, dungeon, and raid designer who joined the company soon after the game launched. He worked on event design, monster design, spawning, boss fight design, pet battles, and overhauling warlock spells.
Sam Lantinga (/u/slouken) was a lead gameplay engineer on WoW. In addition to creating the WoW UI addon system, he worked on spells, AI, and gameplay systems like phasing and battlegrounds.
Below are some of the most highly-upvoted and interesting answers, but you can check the full
AMA on Reddit
Before the game released did you anticipate people walking between darnassus and Ironforge/Stormwind at a low level?
Thinking back to classic wow it felt like I was going to the scarlet crusade dungeon for a long time and I really enjoyed it. I'm pretty sure I was going there even after I had out leveled it. What do you think made SC dungeons so captivating?
Brazie - I believe Jeff mentioned at some point that he knew someone was going to do it. It wasn't too shocking when it finally happened :)
Bell - To answer the first question: Prior to the Friends and Family Alpha there were those that said people would do it, but none of the exterior level designers thought much of it (we knew just how far those ridiculous runs were).
Then, the Friends and Family Alpha started and sure enough things got out of hand real fast. A lot of it was just people wanting to explore and many zones were either still under construction or just a shell of what they would become (literally just an outline of the zone with no textures). As the Alpha turned into the Beta it became more common not only for people to attempt these runs (my wife did the Darnasus to Stormwind run/swim several times).
As to the second question: The Scarlet Monastery sat in the level range where the XP curve plateaued (mid 30's - low 40's). It got ran a lot because it was still relevant for a long time for most characters. As for why it felt so good?
It had great layout and encounters! :)
Staats - We anticipated everything, but we were hoping people would stay in zones suited to their level (I think that's what you're asking). The Scarlet Monastery was cool because it had 3 short wings, most of our later dungeons was based on that approach. People dug it because it was short, and short = fun!
How do you feel about Cataclysm taking a giant wrecking ball through most of your classic vanilla work?
Brazie - /finger on the nose - man, that sucked sooo much... I definitely did NOT enjoy having deathwing fly through every zone and set every man, woman and gnome on fire.
... I definitely did NOT come in an extra weekend just to get that done. No sir.
(Did you enjoy the Deathwing event btw? Feel free to tweet @xelnath)
Bell - As I had left Blizzard after Classic, seeing what they did to my poor innocent Loch (Modan) was mortifying.
But, at least they made Shimmering Flats fun (finally!) :)
Staats - I personally didn't like the use of "black" in the game (burned lava sections), but I'm not an art director. I was the guy wrecking some of the walls in Stormwind, and I nuked the useless Night Elf quarter. I don't like throw-away structures. I didn't particularly enjoy building stages of the Argent Crusade Gladiator event in Northrend. Content that goes away forever (like the half-built arena) doesn't add a lot of value in the long run. And in the long run, I'd like to see *some* of the rubble get cleaned up...eventually! ;)
If you know, who designed the Scepter of the Shifting Sands questline and subsequently the opening of AQ gates event? I love Silithus and the Qiraji lore.
And another question: How long do you think until Classic is released? Just an estimate.
Xelnath - That was Alex Afrasiabi. He did it pretty much in isolation, with some QA time on the raid content.
I actually did the Scepter of the Shifting Sands on my server (Blackrock! Character name was Alexander) - I remember fondly working at another studio as a producer, farming green dragons in between calls to go out and pick up dinner for the team.
(That was the worst internship of my life, but I'll never forget bribing my guild to slay a million bugs in Silithus.)
Staats - Probably Alex Afrasiabi, but a bunch of people worked on that mega event. I don't know for sure.
If Classic comes out...I'm guessing after 2021. MMOs are tough, they take a lot of time and testing.
Perhaps this question is better directed to u/Xelnath, though I would appreciate any and all insight I could get. For some reason beyond even my own understanding, the Onyxia-esque raid portal within Mount Hyjal (the one in the deep ravine) has always intrigued me. I'm dying to know if any of you have even the slightest idea what may have been planned for that raid.
I reached out to John with this question after missing his previous AMA, but unfortunately he didn't personally have any insights into what the intention for it content-wise might have been (thank you for answering though!). I remember when I first wall jumped into Hyjal and witnessed that interior raid portal, my imagination went wild with the possibilities. I'm honestly not sure why, but that raid portal in particular has always captured my wonder. I'd appreciate any insights that any of you might offer regarding this particular raid.
Xelnath - Yeah - at one point there were plans to do a raid zone inside of Hyjal, I believe it was vaguely connected to the Emerald Dream line. However, it ended up canned before any significant work happened on it. I remember opening the raid zone inside the WoW Editor while reviewing all of the unfinished world tabs.
It was an unorganized mish-mash of trees and old night elf structures - much like the PvP zone that got cancelled in azshara. Basically, Alterac Valley flopped and they didn't see the point in doing a second.
It was a huge flop for the designers who wanted a persistent outdoor warzone. Ultimately that concept was highly unsatisfying and there were MASSIVE amounts of content that just didn't work.
Do you remember turning in ram pelts? Cuz I remember turning in ram pelts.
What's your guys' favorite piece of content you got to work on/create from an RPG nerds' perspective?
Staats - For me, it was a non-linear dungeon because they're more immersive, more believable. BRD. When Farcry released, I regretted not doing more non-linear dungeons, but they're very tricky and prone to exploits. They're also a lot more work!
Bell - I really liked doing Duskwood, especially Ravenhill Cemetery. I was really going for a "House on Haunted Hill" vibe with it, but I just couldn't quite pull it off.
Then one day, our environment texture artist, Gary Platner walked into my office and showed me some new tech we had just developed with lighting. He had changed the lighting around the house on the hill to a purple from Duskwood's normal blue. Prior to this, we didn't have the ability to do "in-zone" lighting. It was all or nothing for the entire zone.
After that, one of the quest designers (I don't remember who it was, sadly) made the house a POI and named it "Forlorn Row".
I was especially fond of that area.
The funny thing about it was that when I started Duskwood, I started with Darkshire and built out from there. I kind of forgot about the general map layout/POI resources I had and decided to build a "cool graveyard" near Darkshire. It made sense. A village and farms would have a cemetery near by. Then I got done with Twilight Grove and moved further west, and remembered Ravenhill and thought "Whoops! Well, I better make this one the REAL graveyard."
And that's why Duskwood has two separate cemeteries.
Xelnath - Mine personally was Shade of Aran - it was the first fight in the game that I made where I had full design ownership.
Was there an attempt to make all dungeons tie in with the areas questing such as with The Deadmines? That's really the only one where we were spending TONS of time on the lore before taking on the big bad.
Staats - Westfall also went through numerous passes with Alpha and Beta testing...so I think it was a lucky luxury to have it so integrated with the zone.
The Deadmines: It really tied the zone together.
That was probably because it was the first. I think it depends on the zone. Westfall didn't really have anything going on other than the bandits. So all the quests dwelt on the dungeon. I think references to a dungeon is good, but you get a TON of flavor when the quest designers are allowed to make up their own, smaller stories.
Bell - From my recollection, I think the answer was yes, we wanted them all to tie in as well. However, the sheer number of quests that needed to be done and content that needed to be created got in the way.
The first three zones we "polished out" that contained an instance were Elwynn, Westfall and Red Ridge. That was the second Friends and Family Alpha (the first one was Dun Morogh/Loch Modan, with no instances).
So, Westfall/Deadmines/The Defias storyline all got a lot of love. Then reality set it. :/
Xelnath - You know, Deadmines was proof that it could be done well. A few other regions, such as Blackrock and the dark iron dwarves were good content as well - and cohesive - but perhaps a little too hard for non-alliance players to follow.
In Deadmines, if you manage to escape the boundaries, you will find a good bit of what appears to be early Outland textured models. Was this ever planned for anything?
Xelnath - Not related to the models but...
Originally, there was going to be a huge quest line where Warlock Players needed to perform a global collection effort to rebuild Medivh's spellbook and perform a group ritual to open the Dark Portal while players on the server protected them from enemy attacks.
However, that idea didn't get very far after they saw what a world-changing event caused on the server in Silithus. It was an amazing effort, but ultimately, wasn't a show everyone could enjoy.
It was the right design change.
Thoughts on Flying mounts? Was most of the dev/design team up for it, or opposed? Did you guys have an inkling that introducing something like it would change the game forever?
I was in a few of the discussions when flying mounts were discussed for outland. The expectation was that they would NEVER leave outland - hence Nether dragons as a lore hit.
However, we really did NOT grok the full implication of what being able to hunt and peck for quest items would do to the game - like we kind of knew - it was on our minds - but ultimately, we didn't acknowledge it until someone made the hard call to cut flying from the game until you cleared max-level content in Lich King.
If there was a mistake made - it was giving flying mounts that were SO fast out the gate. 280% was deemed needed because it felt *so* slow at anything less than 200% - and that wasn't faster than mounts at that point.
Rob made that call and we went with it - but I'm not sure there was a much better solution at the time. Perhaps someone else will disagree. It usually isn't wrong to favor the player's needs - as long as they won't ruin the experience for her.
We're giving away three copies of the WoW Diary! Books will ship earliest December 2018.
WoW Diary Giveaway
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