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Vanilla WoW Developer Interview - John Staats
We recently had the opportunity to talk to John Staats about his ongoing Kickstarter for a book about Vanilla WoW development that ends tomorrow!

The book is now the most funded non fiction book in Kickstarter history. If you are interested in how it was created, there is an article about the book's creation and approval.




Originally Posted by MMO-Champion
Hey John, could you give our viewers a little background on you and the kickstarter?
John built half the dungeons in the game and 90% of the non instanced dungeons and wanted to talk to the fans directly to answer questions about game development.

So you did one kickstarter already, how did that one go, and how is this one going?
He aimed way high for the first kickstarter and learned from it, which is the big difference between the two kickstarters.

Getting a copy of the book in Europe is expensive, what is being done about that?
He's working on gettin an EU distributor and got a response recently, but is waiting to hear back. He's trying to alleviate the taxes involved.

Are the European Amazon sites going to be the cheapest way to get the book for European users?
Yes, it is a great way to save money. The price right now is mostly shipping.

Are you still playing WoW or Blizzard games?
He doesn't play any computer games anymore.

Method recently streamed their World First progression, the first time a top guild has done so. The community response was great, with WoW being near the top of the games list all week. Any thoughts about that?
It is surprising to him that it hasn't been streamed before. They used to watch guilds attempt world firsts and mentions that they initially were going to test all raids internally only to avoid spoilers. The QA team couldn't find all the bugs, however, and that is what led to raids being tested on the PTR.

In the book, you talk about the train sounds during the ill-fated Molten Core raid testing.
One of the programmers told everyone to stop making the train sounds and of course it caused everyone to do it more.

Were you around when the toy train system was added?
He loved the train toy. He was a train dropper.

Can you tell us about the process of building Molten Core?
Because he had permission to slip things into the build, he was asked by Jeff Kaplan how fast he could put together a raid dungeon. Him and Scott Mercer ninjaed it into the build and then presented it to the producers when it was almost done.

What other things got snuck into the game?
Gnomes and Trolls as a race were snuck into the game. A third of the monsters were using skeletons of other monsters and editing them into a new creature. The minimap was also snuck in.

Can you tell us why the Naga didn't make it into the game as a playable race?
The team actually wanted to make them playable, but the animators didn't thing Naga would work with mounts or armor very well. They had a lot of plans for water. Najatar was going to be an underwater city early in the game.

Did you have a lot of expansions planned out before starting on Burning Crusade?
The reason Outland was chosen as the first expansion was because of server limitations. The main continents were getting overloaded and they needed something elsewhere. They wanted a trading card game where you could find cards on mobs.

What features did WoW have early on that made it stand out from other games?
Streaming was a main one to avoid adding choke points or loading screens between each zone. They also considered flight paths to be a killer application because you could look down at a seamless giant world. Low system specs was also a good one.

Why did WoW end up going with a more cartoony art style rather than the more common realistic art style used in games at the time?
WoW started out more realistic. It eventually evolved into the more cartoony style based on artist edits. They were told to "wonkify" many things and stay away from anything thin. Everything had to be large.

What was the process of designing a zone and how did Metzen contribute? / What was the process of designing a zone?
Metzen had what he called his "Lore Hits." The question was what haven't we done yet? They utilized experiences from life to design zones.

Where did the layout of things in the zone come from?
Metzen built the world. He pitches it to game design and decide if it is something they can work with. The flow of zones is also very important.

When designing zones, were flying mounts a consideration?
Flying was never in consideration when designing zones in the beginning. Stormwind was all facades like a movie set before flying. It was the worst one to fix for flying.

What level of detail systems were in place when you were building the game?
Hills in the distance are procedurally generated. There was no model swapping for physical objects back in Vanilla.

How were people hired during development?
Designers were vetted in QA. He was the first level designer to be hired outside of the company. They had a hard time getting people willing to work in 3D zones and textures. They weren't originally budgeted for the salaries of 3D designers.

How big was the team when the game shipped?
20 programmers and designers from team 1 and about 65 total.

How was the Blizzard level of quality maintained?
Blizzard self funds and publishes their games which gives them time to polish and release when ready.

Was that same culture of polish maintained throughout the time you were there?
Every company goes through growing pains. Blizzard went from a few hundred employees to over 1,000 and with that growth you aren't going to be the same mom and pop company you started as. That same culture of polished remained while he was there, though.

What were life quests?
They were long quests that focused on your character arc. They were an idea that never quite took off. They were supposed to eventually lead to a good reward.

Was it during Wrath when the game got the only real mounted combat?
Yes, the idea was floated around before though. He built the Argent Arena.

What happened with player housing?
Animal Crossing was a big influence on WoW. The concept of anticipation was an untapped resource in gaming at the time. He wanted to make guild castles. Guilds would get better real estate based on how good they were on their server.

I guess you were gone by the time they were doing Garrisons, right?
He was not there when Garrisons were created. The failure of The Sims Online caused them to move away from player housing.

What happened with animating fingers?
It came down to what was the biggest bang for your buck and animated fingers slow down the frame rate. Customizable faces were also not included as it didn't fall into the biggest bank for your buck.

One of the things that has been consistently great throughout the life of the game is the music. I don't know how involved you were with the people that worked on the music, but is there anything you can tell us there?
The music composers worked off site. The unobtrusive music is what worked best for each zone. Bombastic music didn't work in game, but more in the loading screens and login. He thought the sound was a pain point in the game. He wanted things like wind sounds when on ledges and such but it never happened.

How did you settle on what would be on the login screen?
Aaron Keller, a level designer, was given the task of creating the login screen. Everyone pitched their ideas to him including Metzen. Whatever the art director agreed on is what would happen. At some point someone suggested a dark portal as it is important in WoW and represents a portal to a world.

Speaking of Metzen, you had a fun story about him testing a dungeon near the end of the book.
The story is how they realized they needed kill credit for a dead party member. Originally in the Alpha if your party killed a monster and you were dead you didn't get credit for the kill. Metzen's character died a second before a hard boss died and was super upset about it. He stopped playing the Alpha because of it.

There was a section of the book about wowedit. People are curious about what capabilities it had, how it evolved, and what the pain points were.
It was a barely put together tool. Everybody wanted their production process streamlined, but it was a luxury for it to happen. The program worked, however, and was a useful tool. It takes a lot of time to make an editor that does everything. Quests were prioritized.

How were files named and organized during development?
One of the luxeries was that you could store your objects any way that you want to. Spelling errors happened though. Metzen named a few things towards the end. Scholomance was the Keep Micro Dungeon.

What races didn't make it in the original release?
Naga and Ogres. They couldn't figure out how to make female Ogres work. Goblins were too intensive. Undermine was planned, but it was a ton of work with little assets developed. Demons were also planned as a shapeshifter race. The forsaken were on the cutting room floor a lot of times. The animators put the extra effort in to make sure that they were ready.

What was the process of building out Stormwind?
They didn't know what kind of gameplay was going to take place in the cities, but were told to make big cities. Stormwind originally had a group of 9 districts. They thought at one point that all quest givers would be in the main cities. Auction Houses were not there for a long time. Stormwind was originally going to have gondolas.

What kind of things got hacked together by designers due to the lack of programming time?
Quest designers didn't want simple turn in quests. Their department was largely unsupervised as long as they got a certain amount done. They never gave art asset requests, however, and has to use what was available.

What were the crypts under Karazhan for?
The crypts were part of the many areas in the game that was unneeded. Microdungeons used to level around a dungeon while forming a party became less warranted when leveling was sped up.

What was the Runemaster class?
Runemasters were basically just a name. It might have been an idea for a hybrid buffing class.

One recent topic of discussion has been the time required to play the game during Vanilla versus the time it takes to play now. Was the time requirement to play the game a consideration during development?
They were terrified people were going to burn through content too fast and unsub. They made everything huge in response, but eventually leveling was sped up and alts were thought to be something to keep people subbing.

When were talent trees added to the game?
Talent trees were added because they wanted something immediate to give players to power up when they level instead of waiting to go back to a trainer. Originally the idea was to just give a main stat bonus but eventually evolved into the talent tree. They weren't very customizable until they set programmers to do them specifically.

The end of the book had a story about a tornado…
A tornado hit the data center in Georgia. A video circulated of someone turning off servers while water entered the server rooms. This happened a month before the game went gold.

What was the feeling like after launch?
Everyone was gone. He was 1 of 3 people at the office on launch day. The servers not working wasn't because of the code, but because of a problem with the hardware through the manufacturer. They had to give away days and days of playtime because the servers had so many problems.

What was the reaction to the huge player numbers?
No one cared in the slightest. They were too preoccupied with feedback and bugs. Morale was pretty low and a lot of people left.

Were they happy to be done?
They were not happy to be done because they weren't done. There was a mudslide of bugs to fix and realization that the work was just starting. Many of the devs were not MMO players.

Was there a champagne toast after release?
There was a champagne event but it was 3 months after release. The company sent everyone to Las Vegas.

Is there a possibility of a book that focuses on the other expansions in the future?
He is pleased to say that there will never be another book for the other expansions because he didn't keep notes for them. This book was a lot of work! He would love to read a book like this about another game. He hopes this book is used as an instructional tool.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, is there anything else you wanted to say?
They are in their final few days for the kickstarter. The kickstarter version will be very rare with some unique bells and whistles.



WoW Token and The Dreadwake Mount
You won't get The Dreadwake mount if you convert Tokens into game time.
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker)
Hey guys,

I just wanted to confirm that you would NOT get the Dreadwake mount if you convert your WoW Tokens into game time directly.

In this case you would need to claim the tokens for balance first and then buy the correct bundle from our shop, here:
https://eu.shop.battle.net/en-gb/pro...ametime-bundle

Hope this helps!

Dark Legacy Comics #649
DLC #649 has been released.



Garbage Guide To Warcraft: Battle For Azeroth
Kilian is back with another World of Warcraft guide.

This article was originally published in forum thread: John Staats Interview, DLC #649, Garbage Guide To Warcraft: Battle For Azeroth started by chaud View original post
Comments 8 Comments
  1. eschatological's Avatar
    It's always interesting looking at early MMO development.
  1. musicallittle1's Avatar
    That video, the Garbage Guide, was hilarious. Thanks for sharing, I would have never found that! Way better than the 2 weeks I spent playing the expansion lol
  1. oddmole's Avatar
    THERE IS NO HORDE BIAS... Make Horde Great Again (MHGA)
  1. splatomat's Avatar
    Winning the Battle: Saddam Hussein Style!
  1. lichbane's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by musicallittle1 View Post
    That video, the Garbage Guide, was hilarious. Thanks for sharing, I would have never found that! Way better than the 2 weeks I spent playing the expansion lol
    At least I don't need to level a horde character now. I've just seen a the story! Awesome!
  1. musicallittle1's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by lichbane View Post
    At least I don't need to level a horde character now. I've just seen a the story! Awesome!
    Haha exactly what I was thinking when I watched it!
  1. Wilfred's Avatar
    Dude. IF you play blood elve Demon Hunter, then you are part of the Horde!
  1. Alkizon's Avatar
    Mhh, nice to see old (WotLK) Sylvanas model on video title screen

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