Creating Warcraft (Part 2)

Original author: Patrick Wyatt
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The second note on the creation of Warcraft from one of the creators of the series - Patrick Wyatt. In the first part, he promised to tell us about many interesting details and kept his promise. The truth told about completely different details, but they are even more interesting from this.

Under habrakat - about what, in addition to love for Dune 2, pushed for the creation of Warcraft; Why is there so vivid graphics in Warcraft; which buildings did not make it into Warcraft 1; where the heroes' legs grow in Warcraft III and a few other interesting things, including the back cover of the first edition box and several screenshots in order to release a tear of nostalgia.

Traditionally, I will be glad to comments, corrections. And thanks to everyone who wrote about this last time!

In a previous post about Warcraft I , I talked about how the development of the game began, which later formed Blizzard Entertainment around itself , and made it one of the most famous and beloved gaming companies in the world.

But how did Warcraft go from an idea to a full game? I’ll tell you right away, this path from concept to launch was far from straightforward. As in the case of many games, the idea of ​​which evolved during the development process, ideas appeared, we argued, checked, argued, changed, argued, double-checked, and some ideas did not withstand this cycle of controversy and tests.

It is clear that there were many disputes, but this was not always bad. Despite the fact that sometimes we became personal, rude, and then apologized, disputes showed that the ideas came out very real.

And even sometimes disagreeing with each other, we felt a strong spirit of camaraderie, and this inspired us to new exploits. We worked together, played together, had fun together, slept 10 people in one conference room. Some even lived together: I shared a dwelling with three other Blizzard guys, and this house resembled dorm rooms scattered across Orange County, California.

Original plan

We at Blizzard at the time I started Warcraft were working on about four other games. There were about 20 people in the company and everyone was mega-busy trying to control the development processes of these projects. Often, our artists, developers and designers worked on two or even three projects. And our only musician / sound engineer, Glenn Stafford , generally worked with all projects at once.

But we always found time to get together by large companies to brainstorm and discuss our plans, even if we called them "business plans for the day."

I already talked about our desire to make a real-time strategy (RTS) like Dune II in the previous post, but another important point has made us really do the development.

The next beacon for the creation of the game was the proposal that Allen Edham - the president and co-founder of the company - made at one of our brainstorms. He wanted to create a series of wargames that would go on sale in almost the same white boxes labeled “Warcraft”, but with subtitles referring to specific historical moments for each game in the series: the Roman Empire, the Vietnam War, and so on.

The idea with the same boxes relied on marketing. In a store where most of the rack will be occupied by packages in one design, it will be easier for players to notice the game. A similar trick was already done by that time SSI with its Gold Box series for Dungeons & Dragons . And then, in the late 80s, they were on horseback. New players would notice the game due to the fact that a lot of space was obviously taken by one series, and veterans would know where to look for new releases of the game in the store. I understand that now, in the days of online stores and Amazon, it is strange to read about our worries about laying out goods in stores.

However, Ron Millar and Sam Didier , the two artists who worked for us at an early stage, were not particularly inspired by the idea of ​​painting a historical reconstruction. They liked fantasy games such as Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons. At a glance at Sam's work, it was clear that his passion was fantasy worlds. And it so happened that one of our later meetings they suggested the idea: let the first game of the series be in a fantasy world where orcs and people live. And then, they said, they will have the opportunity to make really cool innovative artwork for the game, as opposed to a situation where they would have to be caught in a strict framework of historicity. The idea was accepted. The first game in the series became known as " Warcraft: Orcs and Humans ."

Original game design

It seems to many people that the game designer is fully and solely responsible for the whole concept and actually “creates a game design”, and this may even be true for some development teams. Designers need to be very creative guys and implement many elements of the “personality” of the conceived game.

But it is just as important for designers to accept ideas from others: without the ability to influence game design, the rest of the team will be much less motivated and will not try their best. Anyway - you never know where a new cool idea will come from. This is the most important task of a game designer: to listen carefully to others and not let their ideas suffocate.

Our informal organizational process in the early stages of development worked very effectively in this regard. Many brainstorms took place directly during random meetings in the corridors, lunches, breaks and after evening gaming sessions. Everyone in the company expressed their ideas. Without any formalities, without a single design dock, the game concept evolved every month.

Ron , who began his career in the gaming industry as an artist, at that time became our savior in all controversial issues related to design. He generated ideas for our game, even though he was then completing the development of Blackthrone , a side-view shooter for Super Nintendo.

Stu Rose , another artist who was one of Blizzard 's very first collaborators was the exact opposite of Ron. In most cases, he did not agree with him. They agreed with each other only in rare cases, when someone had some undeniable evidence.

These two became hoarfrost and yang throughout the gameplay. Both worked separately, and developed ideas about the game world, the culture of the universe, invented game units, determined game mechanics, fantasized how spells would work, developed game missions, chose geographical names and finalized many other details that were important for that so that the game finally spread its wings.

Already at that moment, it became simply impossible to put together a document that would reflect who invented what. Well, only if you do not reassemble everyone to remember how our conversations went and who suggested exactly what. And even then it became difficult to determine who we will write in the Game Design column when it comes to “credits”. Therefore, we decided to act in a very egalitarian manner - we decided to register everyone. Therefore, on the box of Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans and it is written "Game design by Blizzard Entertainment". By chance, this column is incorrectly filled in at Moby Games, they mixed the description there with later versions for the Macintosh and DOS-reissue of the 98th year, thus forgetting to mention a lot of guys.

I have rather vague memories of that period, but recently I discovered an early concept dock dating back to 1994 and signed with the name “Chaos Studios”. This means that we formed this document in early 1994, before we called ourselves Blizzard . By February 94th, we had already collected a number of concept docks (rather crude nevertheless) that went through several iterations and stored the key concepts of the game.

It’s clear that it might be wiser to collect a dock with a description of the design before I even started programming, then, in September 1993. But the amount of “foundation” that I must collect before it is time to talk about Truly gaming moments could have been developed without this documentation. The lack of design did not bother at that stage at all, and some of the necessary elements were pulled from Dune 2 .

What was cut

Today you can still play Warcraft 1 , but the feeling is not so great because there are late RTS. The difficulties that arise in connection with the launch of an old game on modern computers somehow overestimate expectations, which instantly break up when an image appears in the resolution of 320x200 pixels on the screen - one-twelfth of the resolution of a modern hi-res monitor. Well, both the interface and the game balance are difficult to compare with what we invented later.

But playing Warcraft I , you will notice ideas that survived the process of sifting ideas. Basically, Warcraft I is not much different from the later games in the series.

Even today's players are familiar with the classic constructions of Warcraft , such as Barracks , Town Hall , Sawmill , and Gold Mine . All of these buildings went through all Warcraft releases . Perhaps these objects are especially stable for the reason that their names and functions easily penetrate our consciousness, even though we live in the real world, and not in Azeroth .

But many of the ideas from our earlier concepts did not materialize. This is partly due to the hard deadline - the game had to be launched by Christmas 1994, we barely had time. Ideas also died because more successful alternatives were found. Or they did not have inspired advocates. Or introduce them was too long. Or you had to use too much RAM. Or they were not cool.

I think you would be interested to know about the ideas that remained there, only in the documents. For example, we had such buildings planned : Quarry (made it possible to build stone buildings), Dwarf Hut (accelerated the "extraction" of stone), Elven Workshop (upgrades for archers), Tax House and Tavern .

All these buildings performed additional functions, some of which could be obtained from other sources. But instead of introducing buildings that are tied to only one function, we scattered their functions over other, already existing buildings. For example, in cases with the Dwarf Hut or Elven Workshop.

The quarry fell away because we decided that introducing stone into the game as a third resource (in addition to gold and wood) is an unnecessary complication. We thought about this thing once more when we got to the creation Warcraft 2 and rejected it again, even trying to program this case.

Tavern we came up with the building, which would increase the limit to create a soldier and gold mining. I’m not sure how the productivity of the work done the next day after a night of drinking increases, but I attributed this to some magical device of Azeroth . But it seems that because of these doubts we abandoned the Tavern .

Drafts also had the idea of ​​introducing NPC races: human lizards, hobgoblins, half-sockets. But she was almost immediately rejected because of the extra cost of drawing and animating the figures in DPaint.

There are always a lot of trade-offs in game development. Great games are not based on everything and immediately, on the contrary, they rely on a limited number of great ideas.


There was an idea that we discussed for a long time, but never put into the game: constructions. We wanted to give the player the opportunity to make certain groups of units keep each other on the battlefield. The feature turned out to be difficult to implement, so we threw it out of the document.

The first difficulty that made us quit this venture at that time was that the units needed to move at the same speed when building, so that the slow units did not lag behind - this would require a lot of changes in the code.
The constructions would have to rotate in a coordinated manner (or respond to “on the left” and “on the right”, as the military calls it). For example, a detachment of spearmen and a detachment of archers, lined up one after another and marching to the north, should, in case of an attack from the east, turn so that the archers remain behind the infantry’s human shield - this complicates the interface. If we had more time, we would have implemented it all, but at that time we had little time and a number of basic features that were not yet implemented.

To replace this idea, I introduced “digital shortcuts” for unit groups. The player could select a group of warriors, hold down Ctrl and a number (from 1 to 4), the highlighted unit was remembered and could only be called up after tapping a number key (from 1 to 4) on the keyboard. But the warriors moved at different speeds, even being united in a group.

Player character on the battlefield

Another idea that we discussed, but did not implement, was the idea of ​​launching a unit representing the player on the battlefield: his avatar, which would advance from mission to mission, throughout the game.

The player’s character, according to the idea, was supposed to gradually turn from a weak unit into a mighty hero, in the process of completing missions, so that the player can feel the pumping. To correctly implement this idea, it would be necessary to make the character pumped only if he participated in the battles. So, a non-combatant character would remain weak, while an avatar constantly fighting in the forefront would become stronger.

Moving a unit from mission to mission brings us to the problem of mission balance. A good player would pump a strong character and later missions would become too easy for him, and a less experienced player would not be so attentive to pumping and could not pass the game because of the impossibility of the last missions, due to the weakness of his avatar. These two conflicts would lead to the fact that both experienced and non-experienced players in the end would not like the game - in the first case due to insufficient complexity, and in the second because of disappointment. And only a small part of the players would venture to return to previous missions in order to correct their mistakes.

A product of our competitors, the game War Wind , which was released a few years after the release of Warcraft , gave the player the ability to transfer units from mission to mission. They decided the issue of balance by allowing only up to 4 units to be taken with them and putting a check on the power of these units - so that during the transfer they did not greatly affect the difficulty of completing the mission. It's funny that such a solution, with the transfer of a number of ordinary units, turned out to be the opposite of our decision with the transfer of one unique character.

Heroes in Warcraft 1 ?!

We also had the idea of ​​introducing hero units into Warcraft I. They had conceived names in the spirit of Illusory Thief, Barbarian, Huntress, Juggernaut, each had special skills. But ultimately, we reduced the list of game units. Most likely, again, due to the cost of design and animation.

I only participated a little in the development of Warcraft III , but it was very interesting to watch how the idea with the heroes finally found life in a series of games, but at the same time the heroes from Warcraft III do not go back at all to rethink the concept docks of Warcraft I , the idea came from a completely different source.

In short, Warcraft III began as a game under the working title Heroes of Warcraft , which was supposed to reject the experience of traditional RTS games that we previously released in the amount of five pieces (W1, W2: ToD, W2: BtDP, SC, SC: BW) and become tactical wargame in the Warcraft universe . Then this venture degenerated into a more traditional RTS, but retained the idea with the heroes, in the role of pumping the leaders of the squads.

Bright Warcraft Color Picker

If you paid attention, in Warcraft always used rather flashy colors, in comparison with, for example, Diablo , where only in at least a little lighted rooms you could see the whole beauty of artworks. Bright, comic rendering generally differed from most other PC strategies of the time, which, on the contrary, gravitated towards more realistic palettes.

Part of this apparent difference can be explained by past experiences of our artists, which before Warcraft worked on different toys for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. There, the games were usually much more contrasting due to the fact that TVs of those times displayed worse colors than PC monitors. Therefore, console games had to be tied to contrasting graphics in order to display well on low resolution TVs and color reproduction.

The second reason was the order of Allen , who urged all artists to paint in brightly lit rooms. He regularly walked through the halls of Blizzard , including the whole world and draping windows.

He explained his venture by the fact that most of the guys play games in brightly lit rooms, so artists should draw the design of the game in the same conditions. In his opinion, it was easy to draw a design that would be well read on the monitor screen in a dark room. But when the image on the screen is in a bright room - it is much harder to see. And fluorescent lamps - in general, the worst form of light possible - is cold, the shivering light of their tubes makes the eyes get tired faster and the colors become paler.

So, the light always burned in the rooms, designed to force artists not to correct too dull designs later, but to immediately draw in conditions close to those in which, according to our assumptions, they would play the game. These conditions annoyed part (all?) Of the team of artists, but in the end led to the fact that the design of the game was very different from other projects of those times.

Now you know why Warcraft artwork looks like candy.

And what's about...

Last time I promised to tell a bunch of stories in the framework of this article, but in the end I got a long text on a few other topics; I will keep my promise in future articles. But give me a little break, I'm hooked on DayZ and I want to spend more time in the game!