Friday, February 13, 2009

Jeff Kaplan officially moves on to the new Blizzard MMO

Everyone has their own two cents on what Jeff Kaplan leaving World of Warcraft means for the game. Most agree that the decision to move onto Blizzard's new MMO is related to the raid changes that Wrath of the Lich King brought to the game. One theory is that upper management demanded a reduction in raid difficulty and that caused a irrevocable difference of opinion with the lead developer. It's not a far fetched theory since Tigole has been know for being outspoken in his design ideas and achiever like mentality. After all as the developer who coined the phrase "welfare epics" he's sort of become a symbolic representation of everything casual gamers hate about raiding. Still if I remember correctly, during last year's Blizzcon he was already saying that a majority of his time was devoted to the new MMO.

This probably means that he's been working on the project for quite some time and hasn't been that involved with Wrath of the Lich King from the start. That not only explains why the raid content in the new expansion is easier, but also why there is so little of it. It must have somewhat slowed the development team down to lose their expert raid designer. While I'm not a fan of Jeff' Kaplan's high level design ideas, I'll admit that he does quality work. Under his lead the raiding in World of Warcraft had excellent art direction and some very interesting boss encounters. Of course most of us never got to see this content so I'm not that sad to see him moving on. In fact, one of the first posts on this site was about his focus on raid content and the problems it was causing. I only hope that Blizzard's new MMO benefits from his expertise without running into the same problems.

I also have to say I'm very interested to see what Blizzard's new MMO is all about. I've been holding out for one set in the Starcraft universe, but I just don't see that fitting in with Jeff's design style. In fact I'm starting to think more and more that Blizzard is working on a new fantasy IP for their next game. Jeff seems like a fantasy guy and I just don't seem him designing raid encounters for spaceships and marine squads. Then again I could be wrong, maybe after six and half years he's tired of elves and orcs.


Anonymous said...

My guess is from a business perspective that Blizzard will want the new MMO to overlap as little as possible with WoW, so I'd be fairly surprised to see anything fantasy oriented. My best guess would be an EVE Online competitor where you play a ship, but who knows what they're thinking. Their long term control of the information internally is impressive.

Anonymous said...

I'd say this is pretty accurate.

Note that 'lead designer' is listed for Tom Chilton alone on WotLK.

From what I know at Blizzard, they allow experienced devs relative freedom to move to whichever project suits them most. Tigole, after maintaining an existing product is probably happy to cut his teeth on a design from the ground up, which AFAIK would be a first for him.

And yeah, in a raiding sense, Anon above is probably right too. They're quite aware at Blizzard that there's only room for one premium raiding game, that's why they targeted that market away from EQ.

Openedge1 said...

All we do know is it is a new IP...So, Starcraft it is not either...
Bugger...they need to be careful. I still think the appeal of games like EvE Online is limited.
It needs to have a mass appeal for many players...which Fantasy does...Sci-Fi does not.
Steampunk would be cool...but, who would go for that?
So many questions....

Ixobelle said...

i can't understand how this is news everywhere.

he's a lead design on a 6 year old game. they're making a new game. of COURSE they're going to bring over their best and brightest to the new table, not leave tigole behind to rot on WoW. if he WANTED to stay behind they probably would have been fine, but if i worked for 6+ years on designing the company's flagship product, then they started a new IP (or whatever it's going to be), and they grabbed some new guy off the street, would that make sense?

Relmstein said...

A Steampunk MMO would be great and I get the feeling 38 Studios might be going that route by calling their game Copernicus.