How much economic monitoring do you do? Both in-game and on the secondary market (eBay)? Have you considered working with an economist (Steven D. Levitt comes to mind, but there are dozens of others as well) to study some of these phenomenon?
We monitor the economics of the game very closely. We watch the in-game economy on a regular basis and have personnel that monitor game logs every day. When we see irregularities, we take action. This can range from exploring the account further, finding and removing exploits, or even possible suspension and bans. We also look closely at out-of-game transactions involving real-world cash for in-game items. Some of those transactions occur over eBay, some do not. But in many cases, the involved parties are warned or suspended, and some accounts are also banned.
2.) What would you have done differently? by Trespass
It's the biggest MMORPG to date in terms of number of subscribers. It's easy to guess that you've encountered challenges due to scale that no other developer has before. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently, and when?
Oh yeah, there were definitely things we wished we could have done differently during the development of World of Warcraft. But we learned from those challenges and used that knowledge to improve the game at every opportunity. All of us at Blizzard strive to study the challenges of development and apply those lessons to our next project. It helps us to refine our development process and make each game better.
3.) Mutiple platforms by Fizzlewhiff
Blizzard is one of the few companies that distribues Windows and Mac games together on the same media. Going further, WoW allows Windows and Mac users to play together on the same realms, something which isn't done in other MMORPGS. What kind of hurdles did you have to overcome to get both Windows and Mac versions to co-exist and have you had to make any sacrifices because you were only able to do something on one platfrom and not both?
There was never any question that World of Warcraft would be co-developed for Windows and Mac users. Blizzard has always supported the Mac platform; you'll notice that even as far back as Warcraft II and Diablo we were there supporting Apple. However, with World of Warcraft, we wanted to improve that relationship further and shoot for a simultaneous release on both platforms. All of us are thrilled that we succeeded in that respect, and we're sure Mac users are happy as well. Both games are equal in every respect; there weren't any features in one version that didn't make it into the other.
4.) Balance by zaffir
What is the process the dev team goes through for balancing character classes, items, NPCs, etc.? Seemingly minor changes can have a huge effect on gameplay, how do you avoid unwanted negative effects on the overall gameplay experience with each content patch? Also, How much of an effect does feedback from the community have on this process?
As you've implied, game balance is a very difficult and challenging thing to achieve. If it were easy, every game would be perfectly balanced. Of course we know that's not the case. Our designers work very hard to try to balance the game and we know that the more feedback we get, the better our odds of achieving that elusive balance. That's why it has always been important to us to hold closed and open beta tests for all our games, a process dating back to Diablo and StarCraft. The feedback of our beta testers has always been invaluable, and that is still the case in World of Warcraft. That's also why we have Public Test Realms and why all our patches go there first: for more testing before we reveal it to the public.
5.) More dynamic universe? by Zarhan
Battlegrounds are a nice feature, but despite them, the World of Azeroth is quite static place. There have been few events - like the orphan week - but nothing big. Are you planning to introduce "events" into the gaming world that would actually shape it permanently, like in Asheron's call?
That's something we're looking into. We'd like to enhance our events and create more ongoing ones as well. Children's Week, Darkmoon Faire, and the Stranglethorn Fishing contest are all steps in that direction. Darkmoon Faire, for instance, will continue to be enhanced with new content so that players can keep coming back for new experiences. The Fishing contest is a weekly recurring event that we hope makes the Stranglethorn area more relevant for players. We can't give away too many details for what we have in store, but our goal is to always make the game world feel and act more alive.
6.) Why innovate, if you're just going to stop later? by Mirkon
World of Warcraft was the first MMORPG I gave more than a passing play. Everquest, Asheron's Call, Ultima, SW: Galaxies; none of those interested me, because I saw and read about the endless toil and trouble just to gain numbers on your character stats. WoW was different - I saw the simplicity of Diablo/II in it: easy to play, rich in content, and with a wide world to explore. But then I got to level 60, and all that ended. Now, instead of being able to do most things alone or with a small group of friends, game accomplishments take a full raid of 40 people? You need someone to plan it all out in advance, you need everyone to agree to common rules and to get along with each other; and you need everyone to be coordinated in order to defeat ridiculous enemies. With this, the challenge of the game ceases to be learning techniques and honing skills, and becomes social. The difficulty is not in playing, but in making sure everyone else is playing. Endgame is a different game, and I don't care for it. It's not the game I bought. Rather, it's the games I declined to buy in the past. Friends of mine who played Everquest and Final Fantasy XI are right at home, but I'm decidedly out of place, and don't really want to invest hours, days of my time on goals with exponentially increasing difficulty and exponentially diminishing rewards. The early game is brilliant, and playing it was a joy. Why is that so hard to retain in level 60 play?
As this question illustrates, the audience for MMORPGs and especially World of Warcraft is very wide and diverse. It is difficult to please all gamers all the time. In fact, some decisions that we make are praised by some players and then criticized by others. It's a difficult balancing act to satisfy so many needs. However, at the same time, we understand that some players just don't have the time or social circle to experience the classic 40-man raids and high-end content of an MMORPG. That's why we created and continue to create more content that can be experienced by casual gamers. Our 10-man PvP Battleground, Warsong Gulch, was a response to this need. It allows smaller groups of people to experience content that is level-neutral and still walk away with great rewards. Arathi Basin, our newest Battleground, is similar in that casual gamers without large social circles can also enjoy playing there and reap great rewards from doing so. Zul'Gurub is an example of non-PvP content that we created for smaller groups of casual players. It is a 20-man raid dungeon that isn't as much of a time commitment as Molten Core or Blackwing Lair. And further in the future, we hope to do some things in Silithus that will enable solo and 5-man groups to still have plenty of fun and questing even after they've hit the level cap.
7.) final decision process? by grungebox
Let me be up front: I don't play any MMORPG's...probably never will. I'm sure WOW is fantastic, but I generally stick to console games. Which sort of leads to my question. How in the world did the decision for a Warcraft MMORPG get made?
Well, we hope that you'll try out the game. You might be pleasantly surprised. World of Warcraft was designed to be easy and inviting for non-traditional MMORPG players to try. It has an intuitive interface, stylized and familiar settings, and very easy-to-accomplish quests for the casual gamer. As for why we decided to make World of Warcraft in the first place, well, many of us loved playing MMORPGs and we wanted to make one that had all the features we wanted to see and experience ourselves. Since no one else was making the exact MMORPG we wanted to play, we decided to design it ourselves.
8.) What are you doing to curb farming and ebaying? by Amich
I've noticed that "bot"'d characters programmed to do nothing but farm money and items has become a growing problem in WoW. Farming bots can frequently be spotted in the game, and I have evern personally recieved in-game mail spam advertizing mmobay.com . What do you plan to do to curb this issue that is eating away at the economy and atmosphere of your realms?
We have a zero-tolerance policy against the sale of World of Warcraft items on eBay and similar activities. We investigate such allegations very seriously and those accounts that are indeed guilty of exploits or selling of in-game items for real-world cash suffer disciplinary action within the game. We have various steps we sometimes take in dealing with such issues, but trust us when we say we don't tolerate actions that destroy the economy of the game.
9.) More solo endgame content? by Anonymous Coward
I played WoW since closed beta, and bought it the day it came out. In about 3 months, I made it to level 60. But... then my interest in the game sort of ended. I didn't care about high end raids, or about any PvP content. Elite content was more of a hassle for me than it was fun and exciting. I eventually cancelled my account. So, my question is, are there any plans for more solo content for the endgame? I understand the concept of a MMORPG is to interact with others, but I don't want to have NOTHING to do if I can only play for an hour and want to do something alone.
We touched on this in the earlier question, but yes, we know that some gamers want more casual content that can be experienced in short periods of time. Many of our quests are designed to be accomplished in short bursts, and that goes from low-level to high-level quests. In future patches, you'll see more casual content that continues along this philosophy.
10.) Developer blogging as done in Linux, MS groups by Sleepy
I loved the Warcraft games so much that I could never play WoW (major time sink! :-) My question is, would your company encourage, allocate time for and generally nudge willing developers to blog? If anyone's worried about bad postings and replies to the blog, a good example to look at is the Microsoft IE7 bloggers. A public blog seems to have influenced Microsoft into fixing IE7 to a degree more than initally planned, which is a Good Thing for many. A theory is their developers wanted to do the right thing, and the blog helped support that.
We care deeply about our community and definitely want to keep our World of Warcraft gamers updated, but the development and refinement of our games take first priority. However, we do our best to keep the community up to date with regular updates such as the World of Warcraft "Battle Plan," as well as interviews with various news organizations such as this one. Every company has a different way of reaching out to the community and we feel that the World of Warcraft community site is a great way to keep gamers up to date and informed about every aspect of World of Warcraft. The forums are also a great place for gamers to express their opinions and give feedback about the game.