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games: world of warcraft
Producer Shane Dabiri on his record-breaking game.With the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo games, Blizzard Entertainment has established itself as a significant developer during the past 10 years. But it's been their latest, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World Of Warcraft, that has taken them to a different level, breaking sales records within hours of its US release. “We were hoping that World Of Warcraft would be popular, but we didn’t expect it to achieve the level of success that it has so quickly,” explains Shane Dabiri, the game's producer.
The key factor about World Of Warcraft is that while it may not be hugely innovative in the area of MMO fantasy role-playing, it has honed the elements of the genre. It's not only a paradigm, however, it's an accessible game for those unfamiliar with the genre and its systems.
Even the fact that the Warcraft games have 10 years of heritage isn't a hindrance for gamers looking to enter a monumentally imaginative game world. “We know that it can be daunting for new players to learn all the backstory of this rich universe,” says Dabiri. “That's why we ease them into it gradually.” Seasoned Warcraft players needn't fear dumbing down, though. “A lot of the more extensive lore is certainly there for those who will look hard for it, but it isn't thrown at the players immediately.”
But Blizzard initially established its reputation with strategy games. “Strategy games have been, and probably always will be, one of our core competencies. However, the decision to branch out into RPGs was a natural one. You can tell that fantasy, Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons, are a big influence on us from our games, and many of us love to play role-playing games. Ultimately, we create games we’d like to play, so it was only a matter of time before we set our sights on developing an RPG we’d be proud to call our own.”
Despite the game involving genre-standard orcs, elves and other fantasy creatures, Blizzard have their own spin on things. The game has a distinctive visual style that sets it apart. “From the beginning, our art style has always been over-the-top and colourful, with as much humour and personality as we could add to our characters. Our graphics have always been more cartoony than realistic. I think history has proven that players really respond to that.”
World Of Warcraft is many things: it's compelling (nay addictive), it's exciting for its diverse experiences - from player-vs-player combat to exploration of its varied environments – and it's sociable for its guild play and wider communities. But most of all it refines the MMORPG genre while making it accessible. Blizzard may well have created my game of the year. And it's only January.
World Of Warcraft's release date is to be confirmed.
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