Exclusive Interview with World of Warcraft Lead-Designer Tom Chilton



WorldofWar.de: The most important question first: When will player housing be integrated?

Tom Chilton: (laughs) Haha, no, there are no plans for player housing.

WorldofWar.de: (smiles) Tom, the big success of WoW changed the face of the company Blizzard Entertainment from a pure Games Developer to a customer service company with several thousand employees. Do you still feel like a real game developer or are you in fear to lose that special “gamer attitude”?

Tom Chilton: We are still development focused. 90% of the Dev Team is working on the next content patch, the next expansion or other games that we have in development. World of Warcraft has reached a status where you need a strong service department and other new parts of the company.

WorldofWar.de: Will the new shape of the company affect your new games like Diablo III or SC2? Or even Battle.net? Are you in fear to lose quality over the time?

Tom Chilton: Well, obviously WoW’s success lead to the fact that Blizzard is able to make more projects. The way we are doing these projects is really or nearly identical to how we are creating World of Warcraft. A lot of things are the same, the culture is the same, talking about things is the same, the meeting rooms are the same and talking in the hallways is still the same. So ultimately for me, from a team development standpoint, does it still feel like identical how we work on WoW and how we doing it.

WorldofWar.de: 11 Million subscribers for WoW! What are your goals for the future? The game is getting older and older…

Tom Chilton: To be honest, we never really tried to plan the game in terms of numbers and subscribers and not even from before the game shipped – and is still not the case today. So we’ve really approached the game development in terms of: what do we think we need to do to make the game better. How do we deliver all the things that we want to deliver in a content patch or an expansion and how do we do that over the right frequency so that players feel content is coming often and often. WoW has been successful enough to where we can continue to maintain this approach and not really worry about other things.

WorldofWar.de: When you think back: what was the coolest feature you have ever implemented in World of Warcraft? Was it a feature in which you hadn’t so much confidence in first?

Tom Chilton: Well, what comes into my mind now is the Dungeon Finder! It’s been something we’ve been trying to get ready for five years now. We had other implementations like Meeting Stones, the latest version of the Looking For Group System in Burning Crusade, which still wasn’t really quite there yet for a couple of reasons. Not only it wasn’t capable of getting the critical mass of players. But it also was a compromise between different designs, one of which is the automated match making process and the other was the aspect of letting players see which other players are in the queue to let them create their own groups. This compromise wasn’t working very well, I think.
Then the system did not have the depth to keep up with the speed the games was changing. The system was too simplistic, it had this approach where it thought “oh ok a priest is a healer” but it couldn’t think of a priest as a Damage Dealer. So the system had not really the depth that it needed to keep up with the depth of the game that it had when Burning Crusade came out. I feel we finally came to the point where the system always should have been.

WorldofWar.de: What lifetime do you see for WoW? Jeff Kaplan said in an interview a few weeks ago “WoW will be online until internet is online”. You really have so many ideas left?

Tom Chilton: I think it is going to last a long time. Games like World of Warcraft and other games from the genre also have a tenth year or very long life spans once they created a player base that has that kind of enthusiasm and success.
For the WOW life time – well I don’t think we really know to be honest. Personally I would be surprised if World of Warcraft wasn’t still around another five years from now.

WorldofWar.de: Will PvP arenas continue to exist? Rob Pardo said that he considers them a big mistake…

Tom Chilton: I definitely expect they will continue to exist. I think it is easy to take what Rob said out of the context. What Rob was trying to convey is that something, that is a very powerful feature in the game today, will need continued supporting. If we could go back in time it might not be thing that we worked on for PvP in Burning Crusade. Knowing what I know now I probably would have tried to have rated battlegrounds before we did the arenas. We didn’t expect and we didn’t really anticipate is how much of a focus the arena system took PvP away from everything else. Again: if I could go back in time I would have done rated battlegrounds first and then probably would have approached the arena system differently.
That being said, the arena system I still think is really a fun system.

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