World of Warcraft’s Schizophrenia

Five years on, WoW’s designers are working through what they see as the mistakes of the past.

Launched in the U.S.on November 23, 2004 (Feb 11, 2005 in Europe), the fantasy MMO boasts 12 million active subscribers, and has been the benchmark for all competitors since its launch. It has taken MMOs to a level previously thought, well, fantastical.

Speaking to The Escapist, Rob Pardo, Blizzard’s EVP of game design, said that many decisions of the past five years have been missteps, or have spawned unexpected results. "Right now, WoW has a bit of a schizophrenic philosophy behind it, and we’re trying to figure out how to guide it," he said.

Pardo points to the dynamics of the game’s PvE and PvP as a prime example. "Is WoW a PvE cooperative game, or a competitive PvP game? I don’t think we ever foresaw how much tuning and tweaking we’d have to do to balance it in that direction. Either I’d go back in time to before WoW ever shipped and change the rules to make the basic game more conductive for being an e-sport, or if not that, just say it doesn’t make sense."

Looking back at the company’s initial expectations for WoW, he said, "I certainly did not expect it to have such a transformational effect on our company and the industry as a whole. We thought that WoW would be able to expand the MMO genre, but I figured that, if any game would ever pass the 10 million subscriber mark, it would be in many years, many generations of MMOs, many different evolutions of the genre."

On the future of WoW, he predicted, "Obviously, we want to compete with ourselves, and create something bigger than WoW. We know that someone is going to beat WoW one day. Someone is going to make a bigger MMO, it’s going to be faster and better." But, of course, Blizzard is working on its own mysterious WoW-beater, "If someone’s going to beat WoW, it might as well be us."

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