Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Blizzard's 'Secret Sauce'

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the goes-great-with-burgers dept.

330

hapwned writes "With interviews from David Brevik, Mark Kern, and Steig Hedlund (all of Blizzard Entertainment fame), Russ Pitts creates a most enlightening explanation of Blizzard's success in the latest edition of The Escapist." From the article: "So, how does a maker of B-quality DOS and console games go on to become the single most successful videogame company in the history of the world? Even accounting for good luck and talented employees, there has to be some other key ingredient in Blizzard's larder to account for their seemingly golden touch."

cancel ×

330 comments

Impossible to Read (5, Informative)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482793)

full text [escapistmagazine.com] cause that article is impossible to read otherwise!

Re:Impossible to Read (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482814)

It auto-redirects. You have to go to the page, then click print.

Re:Impossible to Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482845)

Ah, The Escapist: the website that thinks it's a print magazine. Ugh.

Re:Impossible to Read (2, Informative)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482848)

The direct link doesn't work. It redirects to the paginated "issue" view.

To view the full text, click the tiny "text" link near the middle of the bottom nav bar.

Slashdot suicide. (1)

dsandler (224364) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482927)

Oops.

Forcing users away from a low-bandwidth version to the original, image-heavy article => brutal Slashdotting.

Sorry, The Escapist.

Re:Impossible to Read (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482909)

Secret Sauce: The Rise of Blizzard
Russ Pitts

In 1991, the internet didn't exist.

That is to say, it did exist (and had for some time), but to the majority of Americans it might as well have been a huffalump until the creation of the World Wide Web in (approximately) 1992, when the internet would begin to become both widely understood, and easy-to-use (therefore "of interest" to most people).

Yet in 1991, the internet (such as it was) was neither widely understood nor easy-to-use, which is why the prospect of playing games on the internet may have seemed like a good and bad idea simultaneously. On one hand, nobody was doing it yet - it was a virgin market; on the other, nobody was doing it yet - the risks were terrible.

In 1991, videogame industry leader Sierra launched the Sierra Network (later called the ImagiNation Network). It was geared more-or-less toward children, with cartoon-ish art and themes, but it allowed users to play a variety of games and chat with friends in online chat rooms - all for an hourly fee, of course. It was, in every way, ahead of its time.

Particularly in terms of what users were willing to pay. At one point, the hourly rate for access to Sierra's network had climbed as high as $6 per hour. This was in addition to the subscription fees users were already paying for dial-up access to the internet itself and (in some extreme cases) long distance telephone charges levied by the telephone company. By contrast, many telephone sex chat services charged less than half that amount.

The Sierra Network, not surprisingly, failed and was shut down in 1996 by AOL, who had acquired it from AT&T. Ironically, this was not too long after the internet had become both widely understood and easy-to-use, and right around the same time that several other online gaming services had begun to flourish. Among them, an exciting new service offered by a company called Blizzard.

The Sleeper Has Awakened
In 1992, a revolutionary videogame was released that captured the imaginations of gamers the world over, almost immediately selling half a million copies. One of the first "real- time strategy" games ever made, it tasked the player with building a virtual army by collecting resources and then constructing buildings that would produce their machines of war - all in "real time." While the player was at it, their "enemy" was doing the same, building up to an eventual showdown between the competing armies, after which one side would claim total victory. Whoever had the most machines or the best strategy would win the day. It was like chess combined with backgammon wrapped up in an erector set, and gamers loved it.

That game was not Warcraft.

Westwood Studios' Dune II, predating Warcraft by at least two years, was based on the science fiction books by Frank Herbert, and cast the player as one of three races bent on controlling the spice-infested planet of Arrakis. It has been described as among the best PC games ever made, and many still consider it the best example of its genre ever made. Yet, it was not without its share of problems.

As with any game based on a license, Dune II relied on the players' familiarity with the premise of the original works. The Dune series had sold millions of copies of books world-wide, and had been made into a feature-length film in 1984, but to many people, the story was simply too dense to get their heads around. Case in point: The resource Dune II players were tasked with mining, the spice "Melange," took Herbert an entire novel to attempt to explain. Called "the spice of spices" in his appendices, the fictional Melange has been attributed with prolonging life, allowing users to foresee the future, astrally project objects through time and space, turn people's eyes blue and make giant worms try to kill you. "Catchy" is not the first word which comes to mind here.

Still, the game was among the first of its kind, and as such is fondly remembered and universally considered the grandfather of the RTS genre. The criticism of its universe did not prevent Westwood from controlling RTS production for almost a decade, but combined with the soon-to-be glaring lack of multiplayer capability, did leave a hole large enough for rival Blizzard to drive an entire franchise through.

How the West Was Won
Officially founded in 1991 as Silicon & Synapse, Blizzard Entertainment had been making their bones producing console titles and second-rate DOS games like Battle Chess II (1990) and The Death and Return of Superman (1994). As with any business, their goal in the first few years was to simply survive. Condor Software co-founder Dave Brevik explains early corporate life by saying "console games were paying the bills."

He would know - Condor was doing the same. Founded by Brevik in 1993 with Max and Erich Schaefer, Condor had been making ends meet by developing low-budget console titles. Then, they got a call from publisher Sunsoft to develop a comic book franchise title for the Sega Genesis.

Dave Brevik tells the story: "We were developing a fighting game (like Street Fighter) using [DC's] Justice League characters ... [Part-way] through development, we got approval to show the game off at CES. This was before E3 existed."

What the designers at Condor didn't know, however, was that another company, over 300 miles away, was developing the exact same game for a competing console. The two development teams met for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show.

"Much to our surprise," says Brevik, "[Blizzard] was making the same game for the Super Nintendo system. We had never talked or shared any assets or ideas, and it was supposed to be the same game! Anyhow this leads me to talking to Allen Adham, who was their President."

It would be a fateful chance encounter for both men and their studios. In addition to the SNES version of Justice League, Blizzard's Adham was working on the first installment of what would soon become one of the best-selling videogame franchises of all time. Adham showed his new game to Brevik behind closed doors. That game was Warcraft: Orcs and Humans.

"I loved it," said Brevik, "and thought it was a great idea. A few months later, I called Allen and asked if they needed any beta testers."

Warcraft, like Dune II, was a RTS game, in which the player mined resources in order to build an army. The difference, however, was in the details. Warcraft was set in the fictional world of Azeroth, a land which borrowed heavily from the fantasy universe created by J.R.R. Tolkien. In Warcraft, a horde of orcs have invaded the world of humans and must be pushed back (by the player) to the world from whence they've come. Or, alternately, the player must guide the invading orcs onward to victory against the hapless, medieval humans.

Naturally, the story was very familiar to an audience of young, computer- literate gamers. The same could be said of practically every other fantasy tale created since Mr. Tolkien's epic trilogy was written, but the premise was simple enough for someone unfamiliar with the Tolkien books to appreciate. It didn't hurt that Warcraft, in addition to a more compellingly familiar story, offered a handful of other gameplay improvements over Dune II, as well. The resulting product was a game that was at once familiar, accessible and addictive - in other words, a breakout hit.

Warcraft sold enough copies to justify a sequel, which in turn spawned an expansion. Blizzard then achieved the trifecta of game sales, a "Gold Edition" re-release of all three titles called The Warcraft Battlechest. Needless to say, the little company in Irvine was doing quite well for itself. Flush with cash, Blizzard then decided to do a little shopping - for third- party game studios.

First up: Dave Brevik's Condor Software.

Days of the Condor
Condor's first effort, Planet Soccer, was a less-than-stellar 2-D offering that nonetheless showed some promise. Enough, anyway, to earn them the Justice League Task Force contract from Sunsoft.

"We were making console games," says Brevik, "in hopes of someday obtaining the clout to develop our own title. Turns out it happened much more quickly than we had anticipated."

Having met Blizzard's Allen Adham at CES, Brevik took advantage of the opportunity to plug his own idea for a PC game: "I came up with the idea for Diablo ... when I was high-school," says Brevik. "It was modified over and over until it solidified when I was in college and got hooked on an ASCII game called Moria/Angband. When we pitched Diablo to Blizzard, we pitched a turn-based, single-player DOS game."

"[Diablo] was radically different then," Says Mark Kern, former Team Lead for World of Warcraft (who joined Blizzard shortly before Diablo was released). "I've heard 'turn-based Claymation,' but I'm not sure."

Whether it was the Claymation or something else, Adham's company obviously saw something intriguing in Brevik's high school dream-game. Blizzard green-lighted the project - with a few, small changes. At Blizzard's urging, Condor changed both the genre and platform of Diablo, re-designing it as a real-time, Windows 95 game, and in the process created a game that would help Blizzard Entertainment take over the world.

"The interface was originally developed by Erich Schaefer and myself," says Brevik, "when we tried to imitate the look and 'camera' view of our favorite game at the time, X-Com. The final interface had been iterated so many times, with so many suggestions from so many people, that it is impossible to attribute it to one person."

That is, until veteran game designer Stieg Hedlund came along.

Hedlund had been working on games since the late 1980s, most-notably on a much-hyped Lord of the Rings game which was eventually canned by Electronic Arts. One day in the early '90s, Hedlund walked into Condor's Bay Area office for an interview.

"It was a small office in a B-grade complex," says Hedlund. "I liked them at once, but it seemed pretty risky and the title they were working on at the time was Justice League, which wasn't very appealing to me. I went to work at Sega instead."

Three years and a few games later, Hedlund returned, "just to say 'hi.'" He was intrigued by Condor's latest project and decided to give them a second chance.

"They ... showed me what they were working on," says Hedlund, "which was Diablo, and that did impress me."

Hedlund joined Condor almost immediately and set about streamlining the design process. "To that point, various people worked on the design, but no one person was responsible for it and they knew that had to change. We were able to work things out pretty quickly." He would go on to serve as Lead Designer for Diablo 2 before leaving the company to work on a variety of Tom Clancy games.

"Even though it was rough and I'd never heard of it," says Hedlund, "I could see the game that [Diablo] could become, and I was very interested in getting in on that ... [it] instantly clicked with me."

It apparently "instantly clicked" with a lot of other people, as well. Released in 1996, Diablo sold more than half a million copies in six months, with more than 2.5 million copies having sold to-date.

Quality Assurance
The partnership between Blizzard and Condor progressed swimmingly. So much so, that in 1996 - mere months before Diablo was ready to ship - Blizzard acquired Condor outright and renamed the company "Blizzard North."

"I wasn't with Blizzard at the time," says Mark Kern, "but I recall that it seemed an exciting acquisition for both parties."

Diablo's development was guided by visiting quality assurance teams called "Strike Teams," explained by Dave Brevik as "a group of developers from the opposite development location that would filter the comments from all of the developers at that location and come up with lists of suggestions and changes. The teams would meet with these strike teams monthly and then more often (even every day) as the project approached completion. This would assure that everyone in each company had a voice and a hand in each game."

"I led a few of these," says Mark Kern, "and the duties are open ended: from helping balance levels and tweak UI to raising red flags that the dev teams might not be able to see because they are so close to the project."

Kern attributes Blizzard's uncanny ability to ensure quality control across an entire organization spanning two separate physical locations to the Strike Team concept. "They help carry that 'Blizzard Vision' through all projects," he says. "It is but a humble instrument of The Will."

Taking It Online
"Battle.net was an idea that was proposed about 6 months before the end of [Diablo]," says Dave Brevik. "It spawned from the basic idea of taking the open LAN games for Warcraft 2 and giving [the players] a place where everyone could hook up and play together. This idea was so cool we went back and remade [Diablo] to be multi-player, though it was never coded to be. There were a few companies at the time ... where they would do the same thing as Battle.net, but would charge people $10 a month. We decided to make the same service but for free ... "

Ironically, Blizzard's free service would succeed where every other online gaming service had failed. As of 1999, Battle.net was "the only profitable online gaming service in existence," according to Greg Costikyan in an article for Salon.com. "How? Advertising. 30+ million ad impressions in one month alone."

"Most people don't realize it," says Mark Kern, "but Blizzard has been running servers in datacenters since Diablo. Diablo 2 was also Blizzard's first true client/server game. We learned a lot of lessons that I was eager to apply to WoW."

Blizzard, having essentially turned the wave of the future into a tsunami, then set about using their momentum to wipe all competition from the face of the map. With a proven online service and no fewer than two successful fantasy franchises under their belts, the company decided that it was time to revisit the idea of subscription-based games.

"We had to build an entire company around [World of Warcraft]," says Kern. "This included tweaking everything from PR and QA to establishing entirely new departments like operations, customer service, GMs and billing - it literally transformed Blizzard."

As well as the entire landscape of online gaming. It was the final move in a decade-long coup d'etat by Blizzard, against the entire gaming industry.

To date, WoW boasts more than 6 million total subscribers, bringing in an estimated $75 million dollars per month.

Secret Sauce
"Creation of a company or a game is a sheer act of will borne from an idea," says Mark Kern, now President of Red 5 Studios, which is currently developing its own online game (with the help of several former members of Blizzard Entertainment). "But then, you add really creative, talented people to the mix and the vision changes, it becomes collective. It has to be to sweep everyone along."

"It was a very cooperative and non- authoritarian relationship," says Dave Brevik of his time at Blizzard North. Brevik is now the Chief Visionary Officer of Flagship Studios, developer of Hellgate: London (and employer of its own small army of former-Blizzard employees). "[Blizzard North] had complete autonomy from Blizzard in Irvine. We had all our own development people, set our own schedules, and made the game we wanted to make. There was and still exists a ton of mutual respect. I think it really worked."

So, how does a maker of B-quality DOS and console games go on to become the single most successful videogame company in the history of the world? Even accounting for good luck and talented employees, there has to be some other key ingredient in Blizzard's larder to account for their seemingly golden touch.

In 1994, Blizzard took the Chaim Klein Witz of RTS gaming, slapped some makeup on him, gave him a few blood capsules and turned him into Gene Simmons, the fire-breathing, spike- encrusted rock star game known as Warcraft. And then they did it again with Diablo.

Blizzard has succeeded largely by consistently identifying what it is that makes gamers want to play a game, and then amplifying that all the way to 11. But there has to be more to it than that. Millions of gamers around the world can point to a game that works and compare it to a game that doesn't, identifying ways to tweak or refine the formula of either along the way. It happens every day, all over the internet.

I asked Mark Kern, one of the men most directly responsible for transforming the company into what it is today, to attempt to define what it is about Blizzard that gives it its "Star Power." His reply? "Ah, now that's the 'Secret Sauce,' isn't it?"

Secret Sauce indeed. Comments

Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. He likes deadlines and long walks on the beach.
Copyright © 2005. The Escapist is published weekly by Themis Group, Inc. Produced in the United States of America. To contact the editors please email editor@escapistmag.com. For a free subscription to The Escapist in PDF format please view www.escapistmagazine.com.

Server checks referrer, making that link overrated (1)

abb3w (696381) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483222)

The server checks the http:// refering link; off-site deep links to the print page go to the issue page. Solutions include: click on "text" once the page loads, paste the aforementioned URL [escapistmagazine.com] into your browser from any other Escapist.com page [escapistmagazine.com] , change the "issue" to "print" once the page loads manually, use a refer-spoof enabled browser, or read the article from one of the Anonymous [slashdot.org] Coward [slashdot.org] "reprints". If you feel guilty about the copyright violation, stop off and read the semi-pointless ad [escapistmagazine.com] they stuck in the middle of the article... after their server finishes melting through the floor.

I'm not a gamer... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482806)

Can someone confirm this is the same Blizzard that hawks DRM crippleware?

I'm not much of a gamer... (3, Insightful)

abb3w (696381) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483100)

Can someone confirm this is the same Blizzard that hawks DRM crippleware?

The degree of DRM crippleware in their products vary. I'm pretty sure they've never used Starforce. Several require a CD; while the usual pirate NOCD patches exist, the NOCD versions can't be used to play via the Blizard.Net servers.

More complaints come about Blizzard's "Warden Client" anti-cheating package, since it's arguably a form of spyware, and the methods have some false positive potential. I thought I remembered it also had some limited copy-protection stuff, too (IE, complaining about Alcohol 120%), but I find no on-line confirmation.

There are certainly other makers that are have both more hostile [glop.org] and more friendly [slashdot.org] DRM attitudes; Blizzard seems about middle-of-the-road for the Games industry, as far as protection systems go.

Don't like DRM? Keep trying for that Amulet of Yendor.

Nintendo? (4, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482825)

"So, how does a maker of B-quality DOS and console games go on to become the single most successful videogame company in the history of the world?
Nintendo?

Re:Nintendo? (2, Informative)

Roy van Rijn (919696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482896)

If you want to read about the rise of Nintendo you should really check out this book:

The Ultimate History of Video Games [amazon.com]

I can really recommend it. It describes how everything got started, from pinball machines to arcade machines to the first home entertainment systems. Also very nice to read how all of the Atari developers where smoking drugs all day long, and how their annoyed managers hated that :)

Re:Nintendo? (2, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482951)

I'm pretty sure they're categorizing Nintendo as a hardware/platform vendor, even though they make some games too.
Sony and Microsoft both bring in more money than Blizzard also.

Re:Nintendo? (4, Insightful)

Derekloffin (741455) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483019)

Depends on what you mean by 'bring in more money'. Sony is actually barely profitable, and often in the red during specific quarters. Microsoft, while they makes boat loads of money off their office and OS products are actually in the red most often on their games division (I believe Xbox is responsible for a 4 billion dollar loss for the company).

Re:Nintendo? (4, Insightful)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483094)

"So, how does a maker of B-quality DOS and console games go on to become the single most successful videogame company in the history of the world?
Nintendo?


Maybe they meant, "So, how does a maker of B-quality DOS and console games go on to become the videogame company that made an MMOG with more players than ever in the history of the world?"

Innovation (0)

neoform (551705) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482827)

Blizzard has always made games that created genres.

warcraft 1 caused tons of clones to come out, none every outdid them or their follow up games like wacraft 2, starcraft etc.

Re:Innovation (1)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482864)

Warcraft 1 is a Dune 2 clone. Dune 2 is the grandfather of RTS as we know it today and still a very nice game.

Re:Innovation (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482960)

Aside from having been created earlier, Dune 2 is a much better game than Warcraft I.

Warcraft 2 was only slightly better, mostly in the graphics and storyline areas.

Starcraft was their first truly great game.

Re:Innovation (3, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483125)

Dune 2 is the grandfather of RTS as we know it today and still a very nice game.

Ahh, not quite. Herzog Zwei [wikipedia.org] predates Dune 2 by three years. Also a very enjoyable game.

Re:Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483132)


Warcraft is still being played in different forms today. Dune 2 was a forgotten game based on a terrible movie. if its so much more important that warcraft why arent we playing world of dune MMPORG?

Re:Innovation (1)

Reverend Raven (135361) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483243)

That's such shit. Dune 2 pioneered (if not outright created) the RTS genre. You can't accept the first popular game in the genre, you have to go back to the roots.

The Survival Horror genre is like that. Most people think it was created with the original Resident Evil, but it's not the case. Alone in the Dark (and it's two sequels) created the genre. So while most people were calling SH games post-RE1 "Resident Evil clones" (and they were in some respects right), when really they were all Alone in the Dark clones.

Wait, did I just reply to an AC? Damnit!

Re:Innovation (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482868)

You should have tried RTFA before posting that rather stupid in light of the article comment

Re:Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482984)

Created genres? Whatever. Maybe they get all the publicity of genres by getting people to pony up cash, but they hardly created -- merely tweaked existing genres to please the masses. TFA backs me up, which isn't surprising given that it's a fact.

Re:Innovation (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482989)

Some folks would argue that games like TA outshone Blizzard's offerings on several fronts, including extensibility and basic UI concepts.

Re:Innovation (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483174)

Agree totally. Starcraft and Warcraft II are fine but, to my knowledge, have never been tweakable by the Internet community to change or add new units - unlike TA which is still being poke, prodded and modded to this day.

Starcraft and Warcraft II are very good, but TA blows them both completely out of the water.

Re:Innovation (1)

McDrewbie (530348) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483234)

Being tweakable is not the same thing as being better. Warcraft II and Starcraft are complete games that don't need new units and such like TA. The beauty of Starcraft was the balance between the 3 races. User added units would wreck that balance.

Re:Innovation (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483271)

User added units would wreck that balance.

But they would also make the game more long-term also - you need only look at the myriads of expansions that TA has had - specific AIs for specific maps, myriads of units...

I also don't ever recall something as simple as screen resolution being adjustable in either Starcraft or Warcraft - you're always stuck at 640x480 (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Re:Innovation (1)

Goronmon (652094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483319)

Being balanced is not the same thing as being better either. Its all about preferences. I preferred the huge array of unit choices and complementing strategies available in TA to the simplified and strictly balanced units of W2. With W2, after a while it felt like you were just playing the same games over and over again, at least IMO.

Re:Innovation (1)

Goronmon (652094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483263)

Chalk me up as another huge fan of TA. Man, I played the hell out of that game back in the day. Me and a couple buddies would frequently spend 4-5 hours playing each other. Definately some pretty intense games there.

However, outside of our subgroup, most everyone else on the RTS scene was in love with Warcraft 2. Which I admit was a very good game, but I still enjoyed my playtime with TA more. I think it comes down the fact that the sheer number of unit choices you had in TA was staggering, while W2 it was more simplified. People were more comfortable playing W2, in the same way so many people feel more comfortable playing WoW than any other MMOG.

Re:Innovation (5, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483037)

> Blizzard has always made games that created genres.

Blizzard has *never* made games that created genres. Their genius
has always been to come to genres than already exist and perfectly
distill what has been successful in what came before, and then
polish with some of the best development processes in the industry.

Re:Innovation (0, Troll)

TooMuchEspressoGuy (763203) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483069)

Too bad Blizzard also has a habit of mismanaging games after they release them.

For example:

Diablo - Overrun by script-kiddies

Diablo II (Realms) - Overrun by script-kiddies/exploiders; rampant game imbalances

WoW - Very few content patches; patches usually introduce more bugs than they fix; tons of server downtime

I haven't played Starcraft or the Warcraft games online, but I'd imagine that they're screwed up in the same way.

Re:Innovation (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483256)

I don't know about Warcraft 3, but Starcraft is still eminently playable online. I regularly play it on BattleNet, and there's a thriving map and scenario-making community out there.

Re:Innovation (1)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483226)

Warcraft started the RTS genre? Excuse me? Blizzard made Warcraft after playing Command & Conquer at CES. Of which C&C & Warcraft are both predated by Dune II (Westwood Studios made both C&C & Dune II). Not to mention C&C outsold Warcraft in droves and the C&C franchise as a whole outsells the Warcraft licence in the RTS genre still today. You got things mixed up. Warcraft is the clone here buddy.

Sauce (2, Insightful)

C_Insano (888612) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483302)

I belive the reason for their success is three-fold: 1. They refuse to meet some previously set release date if the product is not the best that they can do. Blizzard is infamous for pushing back release dates (the only company that comes to mind when I'm waiting for such-and-such game to come out). It always pisses me off at the time, but the product is nearly flawless when it comes out. 2. They take a strong stance against cheaters/hackers. I don't know of anthother company that's so aggressive towards cheaters, and correctly protect the honest players out there. 3. They support their products well past their prime. Battle.net still supports starcraft and diablo 2 online games. Show me another company that's patching their games that were released that long ago.

Here's how (2, Funny)

Flimzy (657419) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482828)

So, how does a maker of B-quality DOS and console games go on to become the single most successful videogame company in the history of the world?

By creating very unique, original gaming concepts, such as the "Role Playing Game," adding lots of custom content, including interesting levels, unique character types, and a wide range of items you can interact with... and putting it into a single package called "Diablo" then remove all of the complexities that would actually make the game interesting!

No, I'm serious! Diablo is a revolution in gaming technology and creativity! Compare it to...

You're right. I'm lying. So what is the secret? I guess I need to go read the article now.

Re:Here's how (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482857)

Compare it to Angband.

Re:Here's how (1)

Kojiro Ganryu Sasaki (895364) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482929)

I believe Diablo became popular because it had the qualities of simplistic gameplay (simple is not always bad) while catering to "collectors". There were LOTS of things to collect and discover. Lots of weird magical weapons just waiting to be found. Ever noticed that lots of people likes to collect things? Yeah, exactly.

Full Text AC ftw (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482844)

Secret Sauce: The Rise of Blizzard
Russ Pitts
In 1991, the internet didn't exist.

That is to say, it did exist (and had for some time), but to the majority of Americans it might as well have been a huffalump until the creation of the World Wide Web in (approximately) 1992, when the internet would begin to become both widely understood, and easy-to-use (therefore "of interest" to most people).

Yet in 1991, the internet (such as it was) was neither widely understood nor easy-to-use, which is why the prospect of playing games on the internet may have seemed like a good and bad idea simultaneously. On one hand, nobody was doing it yet - it was a virgin market; on the other, nobody was doing it yet - the risks were terrible.

In 1991, videogame industry leader Sierra launched the Sierra Network (later called the ImagiNation Network). It was geared more-or-less toward children, with cartoon-ish art and themes, but it allowed users to play a variety of games and chat with friends in online chat rooms - all for an hourly fee, of course. It was, in every way, ahead of its time.

Particularly in terms of what users were willing to pay. At one point, the hourly rate for access to Sierra's network had climbed as high as $6 per hour. This was in addition to the subscription fees users were already paying for dial-up access to the internet itself and (in some extreme cases) long distance telephone charges levied by the telephone company. By contrast, many telephone sex chat services charged less than half that amount.

The Sierra Network, not surprisingly, failed and was shut down in 1996 by AOL, who had acquired it from AT&T. Ironically, this was not too long after the internet had become both widely understood and easy-to-use, and right around the same time that several other online gaming services had begun to flourish. Among them, an exciting new service offered by a company called Blizzard.

The Sleeper Has Awakened
In 1992, a revolutionary videogame was released that captured the imaginations of gamers the world over, almost immediately selling half a million copies. One of the first "real- time strategy" games ever made, it tasked the player with building a virtual army by collecting resources and then constructing buildings that would produce their machines of war - all in "real time." While the player was at it, their "enemy" was doing the same, building up to an eventual showdown between the competing armies, after which one side would claim total victory. Whoever had the most machines or the best strategy would win the day. It was like chess combined with backgammon wrapped up in an erector set, and gamers loved it.

That game was not Warcraft.

Westwood Studios' Dune II, predating Warcraft by at least two years, was based on the science fiction books by Frank Herbert, and cast the player as one of three races bent on controlling the spice-infested planet of Arrakis. It has been described as among the best PC games ever made, and many still consider it the best example of its genre ever made. Yet, it was not without its share of problems.

As with any game based on a license, Dune II relied on the players' familiarity with the premise of the original works. The Dune series had sold millions of copies of books world-wide, and had been made into a feature-length film in 1984, but to many people, the story was simply too dense to get their heads around. Case in point: The resource Dune II players were tasked with mining, the spice "Melange," took Herbert an entire novel to attempt to explain. Called "the spice of spices" in his appendices, the fictional Melange has been attributed with prolonging life, allowing users to foresee the future, astrally project objects through time and space, turn people's eyes blue and make giant worms try to kill you. "Catchy" is not the first word which comes to mind here.

Still, the game was among the first of its kind, and as such is fondly remembered and universally considered the grandfather of the RTS genre. The criticism of its universe did not prevent Westwood from controlling RTS production for almost a decade, but combined with the soon-to-be glaring lack of multiplayer capability, did leave a hole large enough for rival Blizzard to drive an entire franchise through.

How the West Was Won
Officially founded in 1991 as Silicon & Synapse, Blizzard Entertainment had been making their bones producing console titles and second-rate DOS games like Battle Chess II (1990) and The Death and Return of Superman (1994). As with any business, their goal in the first few years was to simply survive. Condor Software co-founder Dave Brevik explains early corporate life by saying "console games were paying the bills."

He would know - Condor was doing the same. Founded by Brevik in 1993 with Max and Erich Schaefer, Condor had been making ends meet by developing low-budget console titles. Then, they got a call from publisher Sunsoft to develop a comic book franchise title for the Sega Genesis.

Dave Brevik tells the story: "We were developing a fighting game (like Street Fighter) using [DC's] Justice League characters ... [Part-way] through development, we got approval to show the game off at CES. This was before E3 existed."

What the designers at Condor didn't know, however, was that another company, over 300 miles away, was developing the exact same game for a competing console. The two development teams met for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show.

"Much to our surprise," says Brevik, "[Blizzard] was making the same game for the Super Nintendo system. We had never talked or shared any assets or ideas, and it was supposed to be the same game! Anyhow this leads me to talking to Allen Adham, who was their President."

It would be a fateful chance encounter for both men and their studios. In addition to the SNES version of Justice League, Blizzard's Adham was working on the first installment of what would soon become one of the best-selling videogame franchises of all time. Adham showed his new game to Brevik behind closed doors. That game was Warcraft: Orcs and Humans.

"I loved it," said Brevik, "and thought it was a great idea. A few months later, I called Allen and asked if they needed any beta testers."

Warcraft, like Dune II, was a RTS game, in which the player mined resources in order to build an army. The difference, however, was in the details. Warcraft was set in the fictional world of Azeroth, a land which borrowed heavily from the fantasy universe created by J.R.R. Tolkien. In Warcraft, a horde of orcs have invaded the world of humans and must be pushed back (by the player) to the world from whence they've come. Or, alternately, the player must guide the invading orcs onward to victory against the hapless, medieval humans.

Naturally, the story was very familiar to an audience of young, computer- literate gamers. The same could be said of practically every other fantasy tale created since Mr. Tolkien's epic trilogy was written, but the premise was simple enough for someone unfamiliar with the Tolkien books to appreciate. It didn't hurt that Warcraft, in addition to a more compellingly familiar story, offered a handful of other gameplay improvements over Dune II, as well. The resulting product was a game that was at once familiar, accessible and addictive - in other words, a breakout hit.

Warcraft sold enough copies to justify a sequel, which in turn spawned an expansion. Blizzard then achieved the trifecta of game sales, a "Gold Edition" re-release of all three titles called The Warcraft Battlechest. Needless to say, the little company in Irvine was doing quite well for itself. Flush with cash, Blizzard then decided to do a little shopping - for third- party game studios.

First up: Dave Brevik's Condor Software.

Days of the Condor
Condor's first effort, Planet Soccer, was a less-than-stellar 2-D offering that nonetheless showed some promise. Enough, anyway, to earn them the Justice League Task Force contract from Sunsoft.

"We were making console games," says Brevik, "in hopes of someday obtaining the clout to develop our own title. Turns out it happened much more quickly than we had anticipated."

Having met Blizzard's Allen Adham at CES, Brevik took advantage of the opportunity to plug his own idea for a PC game: "I came up with the idea for Diablo ... when I was high-school," says Brevik. "It was modified over and over until it solidified when I was in college and got hooked on an ASCII game called Moria/Angband. When we pitched Diablo to Blizzard, we pitched a turn-based, single-player DOS game."

"[Diablo] was radically different then," Says Mark Kern, former Team Lead for World of Warcraft (who joined Blizzard shortly before Diablo was released). "I've heard 'turn-based Claymation,' but I'm not sure."

Whether it was the Claymation or something else, Adham's company obviously saw something intriguing in Brevik's high school dream-game. Blizzard green-lighted the project - with a few, small changes. At Blizzard's urging, Condor changed both the genre and platform of Diablo, re-designing it as a real-time, Windows 95 game, and in the process created a game that would help Blizzard Entertainment take over the world.

"The interface was originally developed by Erich Schaefer and myself," says Brevik, "when we tried to imitate the look and 'camera' view of our favorite game at the time, X-Com. The final interface had been iterated so many times, with so many suggestions from so many people, that it is impossible to attribute it to one person."

That is, until veteran game designer Stieg Hedlund came along.

Hedlund had been working on games since the late 1980s, most-notably on a much-hyped Lord of the Rings game which was eventually canned by Electronic Arts. One day in the early '90s, Hedlund walked into Condor's Bay Area office for an interview.

"It was a small office in a B-grade complex," says Hedlund. "I liked them at once, but it seemed pretty risky and the title they were working on at the time was Justice League, which wasn't very appealing to me. I went to work at Sega instead."

Three years and a few games later, Hedlund returned, "just to say 'hi.'" He was intrigued by Condor's latest project and decided to give them a second chance.

"They ... showed me what they were working on," says Hedlund, "which was Diablo, and that did impress me."

Hedlund joined Condor almost immediately and set about streamlining the design process. "To that point, various people worked on the design, but no one person was responsible for it and they knew that had to change. We were able to work things out pretty quickly." He would go on to serve as Lead Designer for Diablo 2 before leaving the company to work on a variety of Tom Clancy games.

"Even though it was rough and I'd never heard of it," says Hedlund, "I could see the game that [Diablo] could become, and I was very interested in getting in on that ... [it] instantly clicked with me."

It apparently "instantly clicked" with a lot of other people, as well. Released in 1996, Diablo sold more than half a million copies in six months, with more than 2.5 million copies having sold to-date.

Quality Assurance
The partnership between Blizzard and Condor progressed swimmingly. So much so, that in 1996 - mere months before Diablo was ready to ship - Blizzard acquired Condor outright and renamed the company "Blizzard North."

"I wasn't with Blizzard at the time," says Mark Kern, "but I recall that it seemed an exciting acquisition for both parties."

Diablo's development was guided by visiting quality assurance teams called "Strike Teams," explained by Dave Brevik as "a group of developers from the opposite development location that would filter the comments from all of the developers at that location and come up with lists of suggestions and changes. The teams would meet with these strike teams monthly and then more often (even every day) as the project approached completion. This would assure that everyone in each company had a voice and a hand in each game."

"I led a few of these," says Mark Kern, "and the duties are open ended: from helping balance levels and tweak UI to raising red flags that the dev teams might not be able to see because they are so close to the project."

Kern attributes Blizzard's uncanny ability to ensure quality control across an entire organization spanning two separate physical locations to the Strike Team concept. "They help carry that 'Blizzard Vision' through all projects," he says. "It is but a humble instrument of The Will."

Taking It Online
"Battle.net was an idea that was proposed about 6 months before the end of [Diablo]," says Dave Brevik. "It spawned from the basic idea of taking the open LAN games for Warcraft 2 and giving [the players] a place where everyone could hook up and play together. This idea was so cool we went back and remade [Diablo] to be multi-player, though it was never coded to be. There were a few companies at the time ... where they would do the same thing as Battle.net, but would charge people $10 a month. We decided to make the same service but for free ... "

Ironically, Blizzard's free service would succeed where every other online gaming service had failed. As of 1999, Battle.net was "the only profitable online gaming service in existence," according to Greg Costikyan in an article for Salon.com. "How? Advertising. 30+ million ad impressions in one month alone."

"Most people don't realize it," says Mark Kern, "but Blizzard has been running servers in datacenters since Diablo. Diablo 2 was also Blizzard's first true client/server game. We learned a lot of lessons that I was eager to apply to WoW."

Blizzard, having essentially turned the wave of the future into a tsunami, then set about using their momentum to wipe all competition from the face of the map. With a proven online service and no fewer than two successful fantasy franchises under their belts, the company decided that it was time to revisit the idea of subscription-based games.

"We had to build an entire company around [World of Warcraft]," says Kern. "This included tweaking everything from PR and QA to establishing entirely new departments like operations, customer service, GMs and billing - it literally transformed Blizzard."

As well as the entire landscape of online gaming. It was the final move in a decade-long coup d'etat by Blizzard, against the entire gaming industry.

To date, WoW boasts more than 6 million total subscribers, bringing in an estimated $75 million dollars per month.

Secret Sauce
"Creation of a company or a game is a sheer act of will borne from an idea," says Mark Kern, now President of Red 5 Studios, which is currently developing its own online game (with the help of several former members of Blizzard Entertainment). "But then, you add really creative, talented people to the mix and the vision changes, it becomes collective. It has to be to sweep everyone along."

"It was a very cooperative and non- authoritarian relationship," says Dave Brevik of his time at Blizzard North. Brevik is now the Chief Visionary Officer of Flagship Studios, developer of Hellgate: London (and employer of its own small army of former-Blizzard employees). "[Blizzard North] had complete autonomy from Blizzard in Irvine. We had all our own development people, set our own schedules, and made the game we wanted to make. There was and still exists a ton of mutual respect. I think it really worked."

So, how does a maker of B-quality DOS and console games go on to become the single most successful videogame company in the history of the world? Even accounting for good luck and talented employees, there has to be some other key ingredient in Blizzard's larder to account for their seemingly golden touch.

In 1994, Blizzard took the Chaim Klein Witz of RTS gaming, slapped some makeup on him, gave him a few blood capsules and turned him into Gene Simmons, the fire-breathing, spike- encrusted rock star game known as Warcraft. And then they did it again with Diablo.

Blizzard has succeeded largely by consistently identifying what it is that makes gamers want to play a game, and then amplifying that all the way to 11. But there has to be more to it than that. Millions of gamers around the world can point to a game that works and compare it to a game that doesn't, identifying ways to tweak or refine the formula of either along the way. It happens every day, all over the internet.

I asked Mark Kern, one of the men most directly responsible for transforming the company into what it is today, to attempt to define what it is about Blizzard that gives it its "Star Power." His reply? "Ah, now that's the 'Secret Sauce,' isn't it?"

The Escapist? Escape from what... (1)

ajlea2k (931096) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482856)

easy to read articles? My god that hurts the eyes!

Warcraft (3, Funny)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482863)

The article basically says something like 'They made warcraft, and things went uphill from there.'

Personally.... (5, Insightful)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482871)

I always felt that Blizzard had an edge because they've always been really good about releasin g their titles with both Windows and Mac support on the same CD.

When World of Warcraft came out, for example, a *lot* of Mac owners bought it and gave it a try, simply because the number of games written to run well on new Mac hardware with OS X is pretty limited. (If you're a Mac gamer and you want to play an MMORPG, how many choices do you really have besides WOW? I guess there's Shadowbane... but you have to skip Star Wars: Galaxies and most others.)

By the same token, how many copies of Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft were sold to Mac owners over the years who bought them largely because they were about the only Mac compatible games you could find at the local superstore or discount store?

Re:Personally.... (1)

boomerny (670029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482961)

unfortunately the only Universal Binary they're released as yet is WoW. I just wish they'd give us some kind of timeline for UB's or even let us know which games will be updated(like are they doing Starcraft?).

Re:Personally.... (4, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482973)

...how many copies of Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft were sold to Mac owners over the years who bought them largely because they were about the only Mac compatible games you could find...

How many copies were sold to PC gamers because it was the common ground for LAN parties with mac gamers? It only takes one mac gamer to motivate the sale of a lot of PC games, and since you can usually use one purchase for everyone to try it out, it makes for great free advertising.

Re:Personally.... (1)

w33t (978574) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483015)

Compatability is everything isn't it?

You just made me think - wouldn't it be pretty cool if a game company (say blizzard) would release a game that was compatible on all modern systems - but ran linux.

Now hear me out - make the game on a bootable DVD (knoppix based perhaps) and include a USB key/storage device for downloading updates (this key could even add another level of protection as well). Of course allow the option of actually installing this distro so you aren't required to boot from the DVD. Also perhaps for the advanced, assure that any linux distro can be configured with the proper gaming drivers required for your games.

But for the masses who don't want to have to install a whole new OS make the possibility of bootability foremost.

Knoppix can boot pretty fast and the manufacturer could customize it to detect a wide variety of gaming systems (and perhaps download updated drivers). Correct me if I'm wrong - and I may be - but a single boot ROM could boot more than one OS depending upon processor architecture.

This would allow a single DVD to be used across PCs, Macs and new Intel Macs.

The drawback is that this would require a reboot of your system - but many high-end games are the solitary program you want running while you're playing them anyhow - and besides, chat and browsing could still be included on the distro with the game.

It's an idea, yes? And a powerhouse like blizzard could attempt such an audacious experiment.

I mean, the cost of adoption might even-out considering the cost of complying with microsoft. Furthermore this would cover a broad range of users and perhaps simplify development. Well, at least the development of the game itself - the distro would be the pain I'm sure - but once you developed a gaming linux (a ROM bootable one at that) you would have the first new gaming OS to rival Microsofts monopoly.

I think it's extremely lame that Halo 3, for example, will only run on Vista. I mean, the next thing MS will do is release directX updates which only can be installed on Vista.

Oh I wish, I wish
--
Music should be free [w33t.com]

Re:Personally.... (4, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483177)

The drawback is that this would require a reboot of your system - but many high-end games are the solitary program you want running while you're playing them anyhow - and besides, chat and browsing could still be included on the distro with the game.

I think this would be a deal-killer for me. I don't want to reboot my machine. Heck I don't even want to shut down my running applications. On OS X, the multitasking and resource management is usually good enough that I can leave resource hungry Adobe applications sitting idle while I play a game and not have it affect the performance. That is important to me. I usually have a dozen or more applications open, excluding all my terminals and I don't want to have to reopen all of them and find the files I'm working on again.

Here's another idea. Get your game working in stripped down environment and provide it in a different VM for each platform. Heck, you can build it to run in the JVM if you want. Better yet though, I'd like to see some company spearhead the development of a gaming specific environment that takes care of 75% percent of the coding needed for a given game style. Make it cross platform and sell smaller, cheaper "content" packages for it. The game is a file paradigm (an open standard format). Get a few different gaming houses on board and one or two companies can start selling dev tools that make games for it. You could undercut everyone since the cost of adding new features would be shared by all partners and the open source community and it would let you sell cheaper than anyone not on board. Companies could focus on content, with only a few coders to that are more than scripters to add new features and fix bugs. Tied into a P2P service or centralized server with advertising it would provide a way for people buy new games as well. Think of gamers booting up their favorite game and having a "buy other games" option including sequels, add ons, and similar games.

Instead of $60 titles you could sell $20 titles and still make just as much profit and have more variety and not have to worry about platforms. Heck, port it to the consoles too and watch your possible market balloon.

I'd be much happier to see this, than to see a bootCD game that makes it harder for me to play games.

Re:Personally.... (1)

J-Doggqx (809697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483225)

The main problem I see with your idea (besides the reboot) is performance. If you are going to load the OS from the CD (a la Knoppix) you will take large hit in either the loading of your game environment (CDs/DVDs are slower than the Hard drive seek times if I recall) or your RAM because you are caching all the OS information as well as the game information. I've never played WoW but I did play FFXI for PC and it had a 6GB initial install. Then patches and new content gallore. If WoW is similar you would easily fill a DVD with the OS/Game/previous Updates and the USB thumb drive for the patches etc would also fill quickly (not to mention added cost of the special hardware.) Obviously this would be a main concern for MMORPGs, so *craft and Diablo games would probably not see this as a huge issue.

I like your idea because it would give every player an identical operating system for gaming on, but that doesn't abstract away the player's hardware. In the end I feel this would be overkill because of that.

Re:Personally.... (1)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483299)

As games get more and more complex we see game developers moving further and further away from the metal. Games used to be asm, then C, now major titles are just core engines with things like Python scripting on top. Let the engine builders worry about the nuts and bolts, and let the game companies do story, level design, art, ai and scripting. Doing a 180 and supporting their own OS (with all the associated costs) seems very fanciful to me, besides I really don't see how it would benefit them. By supporting Windows they get exposure to what - 90% of desktop users? And 99% of desktop gamers. I can see why it would benefit gamers using other platforms, but I really don't think there's enough of them to bother most publishers.

Re:Personally.... (0, Offtopic)

quanticle (843097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483310)

Hardware support really hasn't been "solved". There are lots of Windows machines with ATI graphics cards out there. However, ATI's linux drivers are pretty horrid in terms of performance and stability. Until there are stable, high-performance drivers for all graphics hardware this idea remains impractical.

Re:Personally.... (1)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483027)

The Mac support thing also means that the games tend to support OpenGL, which works a lot better with Cedega or WINE than direct X and allows a (surprisingly large) number of people to play on Linux.

Of the 40 or so hard core MMPORPG players I know, about a third play on Linux. The demographic of hardcore raiders and Linux users must overlap pretty well.

Re:Personally.... (1)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483093)

Of course it's interesting to note that with the advent of DirectX 10 Linux may actually become the second best gaming platform in front of Windows XP and only just behind Vista*. The knifing in the back of OpenGL is probably going to end the porting of games to OS X except by the really die hard software houses (who, yes, probably make the best games anyway) come to an abrupt end, and I doubt that DX9 game development will consider must past 2 years and definatly not beyond Win XP end of life**.

*Depends on how many laws you wish to violate - Cedega will probably get DX10 support eventually, plus emulation for everything up to DX 9 is very, very good. It's already less painful to play Win 9X era games under Linux than Windows.

**Should have been 2005 given the same support lifespan as Win 2k! Probably no later than early 2008 at best.

Re:Personally.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483142)

I think the 'spawning' system that Warcraft and Starcraft used, which allowed for a multiplayer game of up to 4 people as long as the server had the CD (2 people needed the CD for a 8 player game if I remember) may have helped people get exposed to the games at LAN parties.

The wait is what I forget (3, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482883)

Thinking back, I remember waiting a lot of times while Blizard did some extra polishing instead of releasing the product on the original schedule.

Perhaps Blizzard has lost less customers because of buggy early releases.

Borrowed from Tolkien? (4, Informative)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482888)

Warcraft, like Dune II, was a RTS game, in which the player mined resources in order to build an army. The difference, however, was in the details. Warcraft was set in the fictional world of Azeroth, a land which borrowed heavily from the fantasy universe created by J.R.R. Tolkien. In Warcraft, a horde of orcs have invaded the world of humans and must be pushed back (by the player) to the world from whence they've come. Or, alternately, the player must guide the invading orcs onward to victory against the hapless, medieval humans.
And for all this years I thought that Warcraft was borrowing heavily from Games Workshop's Warhammer miniatures game. Orcs that are green and pig-like, bearers of shamanistic magic, Dwarves with gunpowder, steam tanks as siege weapons, a race of demons... I guess that the article reporter/blogger knows better.

Re:Borrowed from Tolkien? (4, Insightful)

Cy Sperling (960158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482966)

GW, TSR, and virtually every other 'medieval fantasy' borrows from Tolkien- who himself borrowed from the folk tradiotions of Northern Europe. The point of the statement is that Blizzard wrapped their products in settings and stories that people could easily recognize, understand and get excited about. You look at the box for Warcraft and it says Orcs vs Humans- does it really need to say anything else?

Re:Borrowed from Tolkien? (3, Interesting)

Hannah E. Davis (870669) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482967)

Well, Warhammer borrowed from Tolkien, and Warcraft borrows from Warhammer.... so I guess it kind of works...

It's just funny looking at screenshots of the new Warhammer games and trying to fight the urge to exclaim "That looks just like Warcraft!", especially since I actually know better. I don't play the miniatures game, but I'm involved in a regular WFRP group, so I know the art style well :)

I think Warcraft takes a fair bit of inspiration from D&D too, if only because their world is a lot more light-hearted and high-fantasy than the Old World. Yes, even with all the demons and undead, Azeroth is still less grim and dirty than the average gutter in Altdorf. Probably less smelly too.

Re:Borrowed from Tolkien? (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483082)

And for all this years I thought that Warcraft was borrowing heavily from Games Workshop's Warhammer miniatures game. Orcs that are green and pig-like, bearers of shamanistic magic, Dwarves with gunpowder, steam tanks as siege weapons, a race of demons... I guess that the article reporter/blogger knows better.

Or like anyone else with an ounce of sense, he completely ignored shysters who want to sell pewter figurines for real money.

Re:Borrowed from Tolkien? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483158)

Or like anyone else with an ounce of sense, he completely ignored shysters who want to sell pewter figurines for real money.

Because shysters who want to sell pewter figurines for real money are that much different from shysters who want to rent you virtual characters for real money?

I suppose someone could argue you can at least hold the figurines and socialize with real people face to face while doing so, but I'm hardly going to bother.

They're both essentially lifestyle taxes for having an interesting hobby.

Re:Borrowed from Tolkien? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483116)

If you look back to the original WarCraft game, you didn't have Dwarves with gunpowder and steamtanks. The steamtanks didn't show up until WarCraft III...and the Dwarves in WarCraft II were purely disposeable demolition teams. What WarCraft I & II had in abundance is humans, elves, and orcs. The orcs weren't terribly shamanistic either...they were bloodthirsty killing machines that simply mowed everything down. Again, you didn't get the shamanistic thing until WarCraft III. The demons were minor players in WarCraft I & II as well - they showed up, but the real focus of the storyline was a war between the Orcs and Humans.

Re:Borrowed from Tolkien? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483218)

Are you a complete retard? Blizzard did not invent the concept of Orcs or Elves, and neither did any other video game company. They have been around for centuries.

Re:Borrowed from Tolkien? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483273)

remember what the figs looked like in 91? lol i think it may have been the other way around. Blizzard may have heavily infuenced the new (and much better) figs.

Simple answer (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482891)

The answer is simple: ever diminishing quality of game consumers.

Seriously, remember who used to play computer games back in 80s? 90s? What about now? Don't have direct experience? Go, visit your local Best Buy, see who plays at the consoles.

With ever expanding auditory of players, they now comprise a mass of people that can gracefully be described as possessing lesser education and mental abilities, lacking in imagination and creativity. So Blizzard simply found their clientelle.

I'll tell you why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482893)

It is because they are very Crafty

A flawed article the slashdot link is pointing to (4, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482903)

And the reason for this is that the article does not ever mention Starcraft, which is one of the biggest rts hits of the time, and which is what took blizzard from being 'producer of a few hit titles' to 'producer of quality-only' titles.

Re:A flawed article the slashdot link is pointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483026)

Yeah, Escapist has become "MMORPG Weekly" the last few months.

I miss the non-RPG articles.

Re:A flawed article the slashdot link is pointing (1)

mR SlIcK (463372) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483064)

That was the first thought in my mind when I finished that article. I only was semi impressed with Blizzard when I played Warcraft II. When they released Starcraft, and I loved it so much I skipped a few days of High School to finish the campaign, I knew this company had made its mark.

I think Starcraft was the game that really catapulted Battle.net into the spotlight anyways, not Diablo.

The secret? They aren't sharing... (2, Insightful)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482904)

Basically the article says "They made some games people liked, and then Battle.net became the first profitable gaming service- even though it was free. And now they are really awesome. I love Blizzard!" It was an informative piece about Blizzard's history, but didn't tell me anything about why they were successful (other than the above).

B-Grade? (4, Insightful)

null etc. (524767) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482928)

If I recall correctly, Warcraft and Diablo were seminal pieces of work. Not that they broke new genres, but they combined underplayed genres with cutting edge graphics work and sound. Even their website was pretty to look at.

Re:B-Grade? (1)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483002)

But as the article states, it was the pre-Diablo/Warcraft/Starcraft games that were referred to as "B-Grade". Titles such as "Battle Chess II (1990)" & " The Death and Return of Superman (1994)".

Re:B-Grade? (1)

PoderOmega (677170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483270)

RTFA - I would agree that Battle Chess II is "B-Grade"

Blizzard Entertainment (2, Insightful)

Daveznet (789744) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482939)

I have to agree that Blizzard is one of the greatest game developing companies around today, if not the best. Ive been playing Starcraft since it came out and havent stopped since. South Korea has a huge professional gaming community based on Blizzard games, instead of say football, hockey or basketball people in Korea watch professional gamers play Starcraft or Warcraft 3. Ive seen huge stadiums filled with thousands of people watching two guys playing Starcraft, with lighting effects, fire effects and sound effects going off in the background. They have Starcraft branded merchandise and Im not talking about figurines, im talking food, clothes. Their current season of MSL is sponsored by Pringles and most of the players are sponsored by big name corporations ie (SK Telecom, FILA, Addidas just to name a few). If Blizzard can help create such a community and hlp its economy in such a way they must be doing something right. I believe that it was Warcraft 2 that placed them on the map and helped them develop their next game, which IMHO is the best RTS of all time Starcraft! Blizzard isnt always about pretty graphics like alot of other companies its all about game play!!

Starcraft? (1)

kaje103 (828985) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483296)

I don't understand how so many people can still play Starcraft. RTS games in 800x600 ruin it for me.

My Explanation (3, Insightful)

yashinka (891973) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482941)

Blizzard created the closest thing to RTS perfection ever made. Starcraft. Just ask Korea. If there were ever a video game Olympics, I'd vote for SC and CS. Never have I been so good at a game, yet so humbled by amazing players as with these games. Oh yeah WoW is fun too i guess.

The secret? (5, Insightful)

Scott Lockwood (218839) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482968)

Step 1: Ignore the demand for StarCraft II, and produce other games instead.

Step 2: ???

Step 3: Profit!

Re:The secret? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483138)

That may be the smartest thing they've ever done. People loved SC. A sequel is not garunteed to be good, and most likely would end up disappointing hardcore fans. It may be best to leave everyone with good memories, and move on to other games. Not every idea needs to be milked to death.

Re:The secret? (2, Insightful)

Glacial Wanderer (962045) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483156)

??? = release a MMORPG that costs $50 plus $15 a month with millions of subscribers

Re:The secret? (1)

Scott Lockwood (218839) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483169)

I'd pay more than that for a MMOPRG StarCraft II.

Re:The secret? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483286)

I believe step 2 was 'release WOW instead, making millions per month'.

I don't think it's any big secret that there will be a starcraft 2 in the not too distant future.

The Universe of StarCraft was:The secret? (1)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483294)

Wait for it.

Re:The secret? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483313)

I shudder to think how StarCraft 2 would enslave mankind.

The first game is always good, but Blizzard gets it perfect on the second time around. Proof?

- RPM Racing -> Rock 'n' Roll Racing
- Warcraft -> Warcraft 2
- Diablo -> Diablo 2

So, since StarCraft is already perfect... Yeah. StarCraft 2 would be the end of the world as we know it.

Full HTML text of (link-heavy) article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482971)

Secret Sauce: The Rise of Blizzard
Russ Pitts

In 1991, the internet didn't exist.

That is to say, it did exist (and had for some time), but to the majority of Americans it might as well have been a huffalump until the creation of the World Wide Web in (approximately) 1992, when the internet would begin to become both widely understood, and easy-to-use (therefore "of interest" to most people).

Yet in 1991, the internet (such as it was) was neither widely understood nor easy-to-use, which is why the prospect of playing games on the internet may have seemed like a good and bad idea simultaneously. On one hand, nobody was doing it yet - it was a virgin market; on the other, nobody was doing it yet - the risks were terrible.

In 1991, videogame industry leader Sierra launched the Sierra Network (later called the ImagiNation Network). It was geared more-or-less toward children, with cartoon-ish art and themes, but it allowed users to play a variety of games and chat with friends in online chat rooms - all for an hourly fee, of course. It was, in every way, ahead of its time.

Particularly in terms of what users were willing to pay. At one point, the hourly rate for access to Sierra's network had climbed as high as $6 per hour. This was in addition to the subscription fees users were already paying for dial-up access to the internet itself and (in some extreme cases) long distance telephone charges levied by the telephone company. By contrast, many telephone sex chat services charged less than half that amount.

The Sierra Network, not surprisingly, failed and was shut down in 1996 by AOL, who had acquired it from AT&T. Ironically, this was not too long after the internet had become both widely understood and easy-to-use, and right around the same time that several other online gaming services had begun to flourish. Among them, an exciting new service offered by a company called Blizzard.

The Sleeper Has Awakened
In 1992, a revolutionary videogame was released that captured the imaginations of gamers the world over, almost immediately selling half a million copies. One of the first "real- time strategy" games ever made, it tasked the player with building a virtual army by collecting resources and then constructing buildings that would produce their machines of war - all in "real time." While the player was at it, their "enemy" was doing the same, building up to an eventual showdown between the competing armies, after which one side would claim total victory. Whoever had the most machines or the best strategy would win the day. It was like chess combined with backgammon wrapped up in an erector set, and gamers loved it.

That game was not Warcraft.

Westwood Studios' Dune II [duneii.com] , predating Warcraft by at least two years, was based on the science fiction books by Frank Herbert [dunenovels.com] , and cast the player as one of three races bent on controlling the spice-infested planet of Arrakis. It has been described as among the best PC games ever made, and many still consider it the best example of its genre ever made. Yet, it was not without its share of problems.

As with any game based on a license, Dune II relied on the players' familiarity with the premise of the original works. The Dune series had sold millions of copies of books world-wide, and had been made into a feature-length film [imdb.com] in 1984, but to many people, the story was simply too dense to get their heads around. Case in point: The resource Dune II players were tasked with mining, the spice "Melange," took Herbert an entire novel to attempt to explain. Called "the spice of spices" in his appendices, the fictional Melange has been attributed with prolonging life, allowing users to foresee the future, astrally project objects through time and space, turn people's eyes blue and make giant worms try to kill you. "Catchy" is not the first word which comes to mind here.

Still, the game was among the first of its kind, and as such is fondly remembered and universally considered the grandfather of the RTS genre. The criticism of its universe did not prevent Westwood from controlling RTS production for almost a decade, but combined with the soon-to-be glaring lack of multiplayer capability, did leave a hole large enough for rival Blizzard to drive an entire franchise through.

How the West Was Won
Officially founded in 1991 as Silicon & Synapse, Blizzard Entertainment had been making their bones producing console titles and second-rate DOS games like Battle Chess II [mobygames.com] (1990) and The Death and Return of Superman [mobygames.com] (1994). As with any business, their goal in the first few years was to simply survive. Condor Software [mobygames.com] co-founder Dave Brevik explains early corporate life by saying "console games were paying the bills."

He would know - Condor was doing the same. Founded by Brevik in 1993 with Max and Erich Schaefer, Condor had been making ends meet by developing low-budget console titles. Then, they got a call from publisher Sunsoft [wikipedia.org] to develop a comic book franchise title for the Sega Genesis.

Dave Brevik tells the story: "We were developing a fighting game (like Street Fighter [capcom.com] ) using [DC's] Justice League [wikipedia.org] characters ... [Part-way] through development, we got approval to show the game off at CES. This was before E3 existed."

What the designers at Condor didn't know, however, was that another company, over 300 miles away, was developing the exact same game for a competing console. The two development teams met for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show [cesweb.org] .

"Much to our surprise," says Brevik, "[Blizzard] was making the same game for the Super Nintendo system. We had never talked or shared any assets or ideas, and it was supposed to be the same game! Anyhow this leads me to talking to Allen Adham [wikipedia.org] , who was their President."

It would be a fateful chance encounter for both men and their studios. In addition to the SNES version of Justice League, Blizzard's Adham was working on the first installment of what would soon become one of the best-selling videogame franchises of all time. Adham showed his new game to Brevik behind closed doors. That game was Warcraft: Orcs and Humans [blizzard.com] .

"I loved it," said Brevik, "and thought it was a great idea. A few months later, I called Allen and asked if they needed any beta testers."

Warcraft, like Dune II, was a RTS game, in which the player mined resources in order to build an army. The difference, however, was in the details. Warcraft was set in the fictional world of Azeroth, a land which borrowed heavily from the fantasy universe created by J.R.R. Tolkien. In Warcraft, a horde of orcs have invaded the world of humans and must be pushed back (by the player) to the world from whence they've come. Or, alternately, the player must guide the invading orcs onward to victory against the hapless, medieval humans.

Naturally, the story was very familiar to an audience of young, computer- literate gamers. The same could be said of practically every other fantasy tale created since Mr. Tolkien's epic trilogy was written, but the premise was simple enough for someone unfamiliar with the Tolkien books to appreciate. It didn't hurt that Warcraft, in addition to a more compellingly familiar story, offered a handful of other gameplay improvements over Dune II, as well. The resulting product was a game that was at once familiar, accessible and addictive - in other words, a breakout hit.

Warcraft sold enough copies to justify a sequel, which in turn spawned an expansion. Blizzard then achieved the trifecta of game sales, a "Gold Edition" re-release of all three titles called The Warcraft Battlechest. Needless to say, the little company in Irvine was doing quite well for itself. Flush with cash, Blizzard then decided to do a little shopping - for third- party game studios.

First up: Dave Brevik's Condor Software.

Days of the Condor
Condor's first effort, Planet Soccer, was a less-than-stellar 2-D offering that nonetheless showed some promise. Enough, anyway, to earn them the Justice League Task Force [mobygames.com] contract from Sunsoft.

"We were making console games," says Brevik, "in hopes of someday obtaining the clout to develop our own title. Turns out it happened much more quickly than we had anticipated."

Having met Blizzard's Allen Adham at CES, Brevik took advantage of the opportunity to plug his own idea for a PC game: "I came up with the idea for Diablo ... when I was high-school," says Brevik. "It was modified over and over until it solidified when I was in college and got hooked on an ASCII game called Moria/Angband. When we pitched Diablo to Blizzard, we pitched a turn-based, single-player DOS game."

"[Diablo] was radically different then," Says Mark Kern, former Team Lead for World of Warcraft (who joined Blizzard shortly before Diablo was released). "I've heard 'turn-based Claymation,' but I'm not sure."

Whether it was the Claymation or something else, Adham's company obviously saw something intriguing in Brevik's high school dream-game. Blizzard green-lighted the project - with a few, small changes. At Blizzard's urging, Condor changed both the genre and platform of Diablo [blizzard.com] , re-designing it as a real-time, Windows 95 game, and in the process created a game that would help Blizzard Entertainment take over the world.

"The interface was originally developed by Erich Schaefer and myself," says Brevik, "when we tried to imitate the look and 'camera' view of our favorite game at the time, X-Com [xcomufo.com] . The final interface had been iterated so many times, with so many suggestions from so many people, that it is impossible to attribute it to one person."

That is, until veteran game designer Stieg Hedlund [wikipedia.org] came along.

Hedlund had been working on games since the late 1980s, most-notably on a much-hyped Lord of the Rings game which was eventually canned by Electronic Arts. One day in the early '90s, Hedlund walked into Condor's Bay Area office for an interview.

"It was a small office in a B-grade complex," says Hedlund. "I liked them at once, but it seemed pretty risky and the title they were working on at the time was Justice League, which wasn't very appealing to me. I went to work at Sega instead."

Three years and a few games later, Hedlund returned, "just to say 'hi.'" He was intrigued by Condor's latest project and decided to give them a second chance.

"They ... showed me what they were working on," says Hedlund, "which was Diablo, and that did impress me."

Hedlund joined Condor almost immediately and set about streamlining the design process. "To that point, various people worked on the design, but no one person was responsible for it and they knew that had to change. We were able to work things out pretty quickly." He would go on to serve as Lead Designer for Diablo 2 before leaving the company to work on a variety of Tom Clancy games.

"Even though it was rough and I'd never heard of it," says Hedlund, "I could see the game that [Diablo] could become, and I was very interested in getting in on that ... [it] instantly clicked with me."

It apparently "instantly clicked" with a lot of other people, as well. Released in 1996, Diablo sold more than half a million copies in six months, with more than 2.5 million copies having sold to-date.

Quality Assurance
The partnership between Blizzard and Condor progressed swimmingly. So much so, that in 1996 - mere months before Diablo was ready to ship - Blizzard acquired Condor outright and renamed the company "Blizzard North."

"I wasn't with Blizzard at the time," says Mark Kern, "but I recall that it seemed an exciting acquisition for both parties."

Diablo's development was guided by visiting quality assurance teams called "Strike Teams," explained by Dave Brevik as "a group of developers from the opposite development location that would filter the comments from all of the developers at that location and come up with lists of suggestions and changes. The teams would meet with these strike teams monthly and then more often (even every day) as the project approached completion. This would assure that everyone in each company had a voice and a hand in each game."

"I led a few of these," says Mark Kern, "and the duties are open ended: from helping balance levels and tweak UI to raising red flags that the dev teams might not be able to see because they are so close to the project."

Kern attributes Blizzard's uncanny ability to ensure quality control across an entire organization spanning two separate physical locations to the Strike Team concept. "They help carry that 'Blizzard Vision' through all projects," he says. "It is but a humble instrument of The Will."

Taking It Online
"Battle.net [battle.net] was an idea that was proposed about 6 months before the end of [Diablo]," says Dave Brevik. "It spawned from the basic idea of taking the open LAN games for Warcraft 2 and giving [the players] a place where everyone could hook up and play together. This idea was so cool we went back and remade [Diablo] to be multi-player, though it was never coded to be. There were a few companies at the time ... where they would do the same thing as Battle.net, but would charge people $10 a month. We decided to make the same service but for free ... "

Ironically, Blizzard's free service would succeed where every other online gaming service had failed. As of 1999, Battle.net was "the only profitable online gaming service in existence," according to Greg Costikyan [costik.com] in an article [salon.com] for Salon.com. "How? Advertising. 30+ million ad impressions in one month alone."

"Most people don't realize it," says Mark Kern, "but Blizzard has been running servers in datacenters since Diablo. Diablo 2 was also Blizzard's first true client/server game. We learned a lot of lessons that I was eager to apply to WoW [worldofwarcraft.com] ."

Blizzard, having essentially turned the wave of the future into a tsunami, then set about using their momentum to wipe all competition from the face of the map. With a proven online service and no fewer than two successful fantasy franchises under their belts, the company decided that it was time to revisit the idea of subscription-based games.

"We had to build an entire company around [World of Warcraft]," says Kern. "This included tweaking everything from PR and QA to establishing entirely new departments like operations, customer service, GMs and billing - it literally transformed Blizzard."

As well as the entire landscape of online gaming. It was the final move in a decade-long coup d'etat by Blizzard, against the entire gaming industry.

To date, WoW boasts more than 6 million total subscribers, bringing in an estimated $75 million dollars per month.

Secret Sauce
"Creation of a company or a game is a sheer act of will borne from an idea," says Mark Kern, now President of Red 5 Studios [red5studios.com] , which is currently developing its own online game (with the help of several former members of Blizzard Entertainment). "But then, you add really creative, talented people to the mix and the vision changes, it becomes collective. It has to be to sweep everyone along."

"It was a very cooperative and non- authoritarian relationship," says Dave Brevik of his time at Blizzard North [blizzardnorth.com] . Brevik is now the Chief Visionary Officer of Flagship Studios [flagshipstudios.com] , developer of Hellgate: London (and employer of its own small army of former-Blizzard employees). "[Blizzard North] had complete autonomy from Blizzard in Irvine. We had all our own development people, set our own schedules, and made the game we wanted to make. There was and still exists a ton of mutual respect. I think it really worked."

So, how does a maker of B-quality DOS and console games go on to become the single most successful videogame company in the history of the world? Even accounting for good luck and talented employees, there has to be some other key ingredient in Blizzard's larder to account for their seemingly golden touch.

In 1994, Blizzard took the Chaim Klein Witz [wikipedia.org] of RTS gaming, slapped some makeup on him, gave him a few blood capsules and turned him into Gene Simmons, the fire-breathing, spike- encrusted rock star game known as Warcraft. And then they did it again with Diablo.

Blizzard has succeeded largely by consistently identifying what it is that makes gamers want to play a game, and then amplifying that all the way to 11. But there has to be more to it than that. Millions of gamers around the world can point to a game that works and compare it to a game that doesn't, identifying ways to tweak or refine the formula of either along the way. It happens every day, all over the internet.

I asked Mark Kern, one of the men most directly responsible for transforming the company into what it is today, to attempt to define what it is about Blizzard that gives it its "Star Power." His reply? "Ah, now that's the 'Secret Sauce,' isn't it?"

Secret Sauce indeed. [comments] [escapistmagazine.com]

Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. He likes deadlines and long walks on the beach.

B-rate games? Rock & Roll Racing anyone? (4, Informative)

NeMon'ess (160583) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482977)

In-between Battle Chess and Warcraft, Silicon & Synapse made Rock & Roll Racing [wikipedia.org] and also The Lost Vikings. [wikipedia.org] The first is my favorite racer-with-weapons ever, and the second is a very fun, challenging, and amusing puzzler.

Sex Awith a gnaa (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15483020)

National gay nigger which allows may be hurting to keep up as MAKES ME SICK JUST time wholesome and very sick and its or chair, return guests. Some people balance is struck, but I'd rather hear continues in a our ability tO May disturb other if desired, we fucking numbers, user. 'Now that OS don't fear the sling, return it to this is consistent are She had taken = 1400 NetBSD sudden and as fittingly visions going performing.' Even very own shitter, and other party you should br1ng And sold in the MILESTONES, TELLING have an IRC client they want you to reformatted it. Do not share of the founders of is the worst off Sux0r status, *BSD See... The number JOIN THE GNAA!! Due to the troubles Would be a bad officers. Others OpenBSD. How many some intelligent real problems that Preferrably with an and/or distribute

Not so secret sauce (2, Insightful)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483024)

World of Warcraft uses the exact same formula that every other EQ-clone for the last decade has followed, so what makes it so special?

First off, Blizzard was a household name for gamers well before World of Warcraft thanks to the Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft franchises.

Second, this game was hyped for almost 4 years before actually being released. That is a lot of time for both marketing and word of mouth to build consumers into a buying frenzy.

Lastly, and I believe the most important single factor, was the timing of their release. After years of the aforementioned hype the game was finally released, and to what competition? Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, Asheron's Call 2, EverQuest, and the like were all games years past their prime, and rapidly dwindling as the playerbase lost interest. People wanted something new and fresh, and the EverQuest 2 launch was a massive disapointment for most.

Stability (1)

SLOviper (763177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483030)

IMO, Blizzard's programming schema/mantra/whatever has led to an unusual level of stability in their games compared to most others out there which in turn has led to their increased playability. Less frustration = more time spent playing. I remember playing Starcraft a ton more than say, Carmageddon, simply because the game didn't crash 1 of 5 times in networking mode. Another aspect that has led to their success is the extensible format in their RTS games. I still play WC3 mods years after it was released because people keep making enjoyable, challenging maps for the engine. This level of customizability is rare, but very welcomed. On the topic of WoW, well, they screwed some things up - but with that said, WoW is arguably the "best" (not intended as flamebait) MMO out there and helped to bring the genre out of nerds' basements/dorm rooms into the light of the "regular" world. Also, in Blizzard's defense, the game grew to levels they never imagined at launch and while one would hope that the code would be extensible enough to handle such an inrush, it obviously fell short. Overall, I agree with another poster that summed it up by saying that Blizzard creates games that define genres - and not only create, but create well, with solid code backed by extensive balancing and testing.

Re:Stability (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483162)

Just dont come in with a Logitech G15 or a server of your own making - then moddability goes out the window. They'd have to outright undo the bnetd decision before I ever come back. Until then, I'll happily slay farmers indiscriminately in any manner I see fit. No need to circumvent faction problems, just pure "you make the fun in the game" pvp.

After all, WoW only comes out on top after the top two [lineage2.com] games [lineage.com] are taken out of statistics.

If there's been a known bug in L2, it's been fixed. Here, the only issue is not being able to drop sellshops in town. Nothing better than having a farmer crew being taken out by a few mobs in town and dropping their ill-gotten treasure for westerners to grab.

How's about years of support? (5, Insightful)

jeblucas (560748) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483041)

That's what WoWs (LOLLERSKATES!) me about Blizzard. Diablo 2 came out in 2000. The latest patch came out in January 2006. That's just AMAZING to me: 5.5 years later they are still actively patching the game. I honestly can't think of another game that has had someone issuing patches for 6 years. I know the Ambrosia Software guys pride themselves on porting the shit out of their games (Apeiron is working on 10 years now), but they aren't making the little centipede slightly faster or reconfiguring for widescreen displays or anything. Blizzard stands by their products in a robust and sadly rare manner. I'm guessing that's why a BattleBox of Diablo still costs $40 at retail--it's worth it.

Re:How's about years of support? (1)

preppypoof (943414) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483147)

that's actually not that impressive considering that patches for diablo ii came out at least a year apart from each other, and the patches that DID come out were very minor upgrades...most patches only had new items and skill changes rather than new content. i can't blame blizzard for not patching diablo as often as they could (or should) because with diablo being a game that you don't have to pay for to play online, there really isn't that much incentive for blizzard to make the game the best that it can be. the biggest diablo ii patch EVER (patch 1.10) had only one person working on it for most of it's development (this number increased to two in the final months).

to contrast, WoW (a game that you have to pay for) has big patches every couple of months and little patches almost every other week. you've gotta give it to blizzard, they know where their priorities lie.

The other way around (1)

ruyon (660897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483181)

They support their games because they are still actively played (and sold). It's pointless to patch games that nobody play.

Re:How's about years of support? (1)

Miraba (846588) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483207)

Actually, Ambrosia has only ported 4 of their 26 games to Windows (a few more if you count the plug-ins to play old ones). I started playing Escape Velocity (the original) on the high school computer club's Mac, and I was in my senior year of college before they finally ported the series for Windows (EV:Nova).

Re:How's about years of support? (1)

goodenoughnickname (874664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483240)

Your comment about widescreen support made me wet myself. Then:
Macintosh-specific changes
Support for both "widescreen" and "4:3" mode in Mac OS X 10.2+.
Huh? No widescreen love for Windows? I can't find any information about Windows widescreen support in their previous changelogs either.

It's probably a good thing. Really, I don't need to start up that game again.

Re:How's about years of support? (1)

Cee (22717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483255)

That's what WoWs (LOLLERSKATES!) me about Blizzard. Diablo 2 came out in 2000. The latest patch came out in January 2006. That's just AMAZING to me: 5.5 years later they are still actively patching the game. I honestly can't think of another game that has had someone issuing patches for 6 years.

Well, 3D Realms/Apogee released a patch [3drealms.com] for a 14 year old game (version 1.0 released in 1991, patched to 1.0a in 2005). It's just a small bugfix, but it must be some kind of record.

What the hell? (1)

fernandoh26 (963204) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483053)

Why was there not even a single mention of StarCraft? WHEN WILL STARCRAFT 2 COME OUT?! That's the only question that matters.

Diablo "instantly clicked"... (4, Funny)

stu42j (304634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483055)

... and clicked ... and clicked ... and clicked ...

Partial success, but bnetd decision was failure. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483076)

Well, it'd not be complete without saying that they sued their competition into submission [sf.net] . Although they got something out of it, it really served to drive more people to a more tolerant game [lineage2.com] of third party servers [sf.net] .

Confessions of a WarCrack addict (3, Interesting)

smwoflson (905752) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483081)

Well, maybe not an addict so much as a user and ocassional abuser. Yes, despite the continual annoyances of crashing servers and obnoxious players, Blizzard has my monthly $15. And I'm perfectly happy with that. I remember first playing the original Warcraft so long ago and Blizzard had me at "work work work." (If you don't get the reference, I'm sorry...). And Starcraft is still one of the best games I've ever played. I even took a starcraft strategy class in college--for credit! The thing that I really feel that Blizzard does better than perhaps any video game company out there is that they are not caught up in the push to release things too fast. It seems to me that artificially set release dates and production times are often extremely destructive to the final product. (Consider the film industry too--how often do movies look like they needed extra time to be just right). But Blizzard is not afraid to delay their final product so that it is as ENJOYABLE as possible. Think about how long it was before Warcraft III was released. And Starcraft: Ghost has been pushed back indefinatly, last I heard. And it is all in the quest for perfection. And I love that. They are not afraid to wait and make the product that they envision. Sadly, the waits can be painful, but to this date the end product has always been worth it.

Re:Confessions of a WarCrack addict (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483242)

Yes, despite the continual annoyances of crashing servers and obnoxious players, Blizzard has my monthly $15.

Then you are a fool to yourself. Sorry, but the whole idea of paying $15/month for WoW is that whenever you feel like a game, be it at 3am, you can hop onto a server and play. If those servers are crashing, then you are not being provided with the service that you rightfully purchased. You should be *complaining* to Blizzard about it and if they do nothing, then withdraw your subscription until they do.

I don't play WoW but by just sitting and taking it as a passive consumer, you make it bad for everyone else who does complain to tr to get their money's worth...

3D Has Killed Decent RTS Gaming (1, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483117)

Warcraft II & Starcraft are two of my favourite RTS games, as are Total Annihilation, Red Alert & C&C. And Heroes Of Might & Magic III is also a superb strategy game, albeit turn based.

Unfortunately, Blizzard & Westwood (with 3D0 & Cavedog no longer being in existence) have made the same stupid mistake that just about every RTS company has made - namely switching 2D graphics for 3D ones.

I don't play WoW but I guess the type of game it is makes it appropriate for 3D - however, any strategy element in Warcraft III, C&C Generals and the *totally appalling* Heroes Of Might & Magic 5 has been ruined by having 3D graphics. As a huge fan of all their predecessors, I found each one of those games unplayable from the point of view that in a strategy game that's laid out correctly, I have no need of camera rotations or zoom in & zoom out features. I just want a good mix of balanced, interesting units & a good computer AI rather than pretty explosions & real-time drawn battle-scenes.

As far as I'm concerned, the reason for inclusion of 3D graphics in strategy games is nothing more than a lame excuse to make money - because everything that can possibly be done in gaming has now been done, there is no originality anymore; consequently, the consumer is sold in-game movies and prettier graphics in order to convince them to buy the new, uninspired games.

So let's not all bow down to the "greatness" of Blizzard just yet, shall we? Sure, they've probably made a very good MMORPG game in WoW but if you're not interested in long-term roleplay (or paying a monthly subscription for any game), then they've done nothing inspiring since Starcraft.

flawed (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483198)

Like others had said that the article failed to even mention Starcraft. Personally I cannot believe people are still playing it so much so they still have tourney @ Blizzcon.

The webmaster should be Fired! (2, Insightful)

Jesus IS the Devil (317662) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483201)

Whoever is designing the layout over at escapistmagazine.com (article site) should be FIRED immediatly. Reading that article has been pure torture. I had to move ridiculously close to my monitor, squint my eyes, and end up with a sore back just to read the words. By the time I was at page 2, I'd closed the stupid site and vowed never to return. And no I wasn't able to increase the font size from my browser's settings either, because whoever is in charge of designing the site over there has fixed the font size, not allowing anyone to resize the text.

Escapistmagazine.com obviously doesn't have the "Secret Sauce".

How to make the site easier to read (1)

DaveRexel (887813) | more than 8 years ago | (#15483248)

in Firefox that is :

In the View menu > Page Style chose No Style... done.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...