Blizzard's Bill Roper interviewed (part one)

by Mark Asher

Quarter to Three had a chance to talk to Blizzard’s Bill Roper yesterday. Bill was suffering from a slight cough but was otherwise in fine spirits. And why wouldn’t he be? Blizzard’s fiery chariot is still blazing across the gaming heavens with Diablo 2 still on the bestseller lists and an expansion due early this year and then, knock on wood, Warcraft 3 due out before year’s end. And that’s just the latest. Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft 2 were all huge success stories for Blizzard, even with Diablo 2 shipping with some bugs and some initial Battle.net problems. Here’s part one of our interview where we get the Warcraft 3 stuff out of the way.

Quarter to Three: What's going on with Warcraft 3?

Bill Roper: Oh all kinds of stuff. We’re banging away on the programming and the art. We’re now getting content into the game and planning out the campaign elements, putting triggers in, and so on. The level designers are going nuts and getting excited now, asking for all kinds of new triggers. We’re busy but its fun.

Qt3: Why did you initially want to do six races in Warcraft 3? That's so many.

Roper: I think it was a real desire on our part to really go over the top with every element. We always want to top the previous games. Plus, you really blue-sky at the beginning of the design process when everyone’s excited and you put in a lot. Then once the development process starts, you begin to see that some things just may not work.

A lot of difficulties had to do with the demons. We want them to be a huge component of Warcraft 3, a powerful element in the game, and we don’t want to have to negate their impact in the game world by having to balance them with other races.

Qt3: You mean, here’s this uber race and now we have to have demon peons?

Roper: Yeah, stuff like that. To make them balance we’d have to minimize them to some extent. "Here’s the most powerful race who have enslaved the Orcs, and oh yeah, this is the demon who goes and gets the gold." It just didn’t seem to work as well as we wanted.

Getting back to taking out races, Warcraft 3 is a lot deeper than our previous strategy games with the heroes and their abilities thrown into the mix. Also, we always take a lot of stuff out in our games. We’re always tweaking stuff right up until we ship. So dropping races isn’t unusual for the way we make games. It’s just that issues like this in our games get a lot of publicity. It’s like missing school. You’re always told how many days you miss instead of how many you attended.

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