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Blizzard just saved the World of Warcraft


Yesterday I asked the question if Blizzard was going to pull it off at BlizzCon. I asked if they were going to be able to deliver a product that would take the gigantic ship that is WoW and right its course, steering it into another nine years of prosperity.

Cory Stockton, the Lead Content Designer of Warcraft replied to me on Twitter Friday morning: "Workin' on it!"

I feel my question was legitimate and necessary. Looking at the truths of a game like WoW is important; and it's important to do it even more so when you have so much invested in it. I have spent the majority of my professional life reporting on it. I want to see it to succeed, but I want that success not to come with flashy words and spin, but with legitimately good gameplay and long-lasting fun. I know for a fact that many people at Blizzard feel the same way I do; and many of them are more critical of WoW than any of us ever could be.

Comments in yesterday's post surprised me -- most thought that Blizzard wouldn't be successful at BlizzCon. They thought the series is headed for its sunset. Others on Twitter were more optimistic, most feeling that the answer was an obvious 140-character yes. Those on Facebook ended up somewhere in-between.

Having seen the first day's activities, it's time to answer the next logical question: did Blizzard pull it off? Did they light the spark to save WoW from a slow and painful population decline that seems to be happening? Have they done what they need to do to ensure that the World of Warcraft will be around in 10-years time?

While only the coming years will tell us for sure, I believe that they have -- if for only one reason: nothing is sacred.

Blizzard demonstrated an ability yesterday to throw everything out the window that wasn't working. They showed that they can accept the harshest of criticisms and complaints and turn them around into positives. They've shown that while they don't have the right answers all the time, they're going to look for them like there's no tomorrow.

That drive, and that passion, is what is going to lead this game to the next decade of its life. Mark my words: November 8, 2013 will be looked back at as the turning point for WoW. It is a fixed point in time, when what came before was one way, and what came after was another.

There are three main things that shows Blizzard's understanding of the situation at hand and their ability to adapt and deliver.

First and foremost -- the boosts to level 90. While we only know scant details of the program, we do know that players will be able to raise at least one character to level 90 instantly. I'm a huge advocate of this, and while there are players who are clearly going to follow through on their threats and quit the game over this (this is sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell), this demonstrates that Blizzard knows what WoW is all about: playing with your friends and making new ones. It's not about the level grind or anything else -- it's about having a damn good time killing internet dragons.

Second, player housing. For years Blizzard has swore off player housing like a bad omen. They said that it causes people to go sit in their towers and not get out into the city, not interact with the world, and just become hermits in their adobe. All this might be true, and only time will tell, but it has always been one of the number one features demanded by players. And what do we have now? Not just player housing, a player city. You're building your own town. I have no doubt that this town building experience will be better than the failed relaunch of SimCity; Blizzard never drops the ball on this stuff. We've been told no player housings for years, and when Blizzard finally delivers, they deliver big. They're showing a commitment to their fans, to fun, entertainment, and enjoyment. As they've said time and time again: the game is about fun. Blizzard is delivering the fun.

And finally last but not least, the third thing that demonstrates Blizzard turned a new page on WoW yesterday was the new character models. We've known for a couple years these were being worked on. It's been a not-so-secret-secret, occasionally talked about, often mislead in subtle statements of unclarity. But yesterday the gloves came off and we saw what our characters will soon look like.

Amazing doesn't describe it. The transformation are astounding, they're revolutionary. Blizzard is taking graphics that were first developed over 10 years ago and are applying modern techniques and designs on them. Look at the gallery. Look at the undead in particular. The undead of today look like they're something out of a Nintendo 64 game compared to the beautiful creatures Blizzard designed. The tauren are amazing, gnomes don't look like a joke, orcs are beasts who will destroy you, and female dwarves? Do you know the number of females dwarves I've known in nine years of playing this game constantly? One. Do you know what character I'm going to roll as soon as this model gets made? A female dwarf. Their transformation has been the most astonishing out of them all.

The spark is lit, Blizzard started down the path to restoring WoW. I haven't felt the vibe of a BlizzCon like this in a long time. Chris Metzen was beaming with excitement and pride yesterday, Dave Kosak could barely contain himself when talking about the lore, and the Art Panel delivered a presentation for the ages. Yesterday saw a team of game designers not defeated, not making content patches for a game that's going to die off in five years, not just biding their time until something better comes along. Yesterday we saw the full force of one of the world's greatest entertainment companies come to bear on a game that needed a helping hand.

The World of Warcraft is coming back.

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Analysis / Opinion

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