Jeff Kaplan Blizzard Career Review, From WoW, Titans, to Fighting Special Attacks | 4Gamers

In 2016, the launch of “Overwatch” (Overwatch) triggered a global craze, and it is also a new IP that many Blizzard players love very much. However, after the director Jeff Kaplan announced his resignation today (21), in addition to wishing him a great future Many old players are also pessimistic about the future of the game.

Jeff Kaplan was a member of “Legacy Of Steel”, a well-known North American guild of “Endless Mission”. He was invited by one of the founders of Blizzard, Alan Adham, to join Blizzard and became a member of “World Of Warcraft”. head of design. After that, he transferred the department to develop a new project “Titan”, and later became the director of “Fighting Attack”.

Perhaps many players are still unfamiliar with this uncle, but as early as a few years ago, overseas magazines had an interview with Jeff Kaplan. He described in the magazine that he joined the Blizzard team and became the ins and outs of “Fighting Attack”.

The following content is translated from PC Gamer and reproduced from Jeff Kaplan’s interview, included in“Edge” May 2017“Soundbytes” unit.


World of Warcraft

I joined in May 2002, when they had just released “Warcraft 3” and they were preparing the E3 demo version of “World of Warcraft”. This is a big deal. WoW will be exposed for the first time at E3 and needs a good show.

They recruited me to come in with another designer, Pat Nagle, who was in charge of task design. Pat and I studied how to run the task almost from the beginning. We started to make various creative ideas: what type of tasks we want to experience in the game, what stories do they have, and can we have this type of gameplay?

We worked with engineers to make task editing tools first so that we could produce content, and then we split up. He started in Elwynn Forest, and I started in Westfall. We said at the time, “OK, let’s get started, you are responsible for this area, and we’ll take a look at that.”

Elwynn Forest is the first time we use team size to test. We were a bit shocked at the time, because from the experience of “Endless Missions”, the irony is that you hardly solved any missions in that game (note: the original EQ did not have a complete tracking or integrated mission system).

Our initial assumption is that we first give you a task, and then let you solve the task, and then you will find a new area—for example, “Hogg is here. It looks like there are a lot of jackals here. I guess we should be here. Kill the jackals for a few hours.”

We let the team test, and the first thing everyone does after the test is to start to feel annoyed. “My mission is over! Is there anything wrong?” Alan, Pat, and I returned to the real world: “Oh my God, we have to fix the problem before us.” So we rethinked the project now. The number of tasks we estimated at the beginning is quite different from the number of tasks that actually need to be produced.

Whenever I think about the impact of “World of Warcraft” on MMO games… I always think more profoundly than this issue.

On the one hand, MMO games are suitable for everyone to play. MMO is not a game designed to make a group of crazy-hardcore people willing to spend a third of a day playing.

On the other hand, and I think it is closely related, that is, if the game lacks the direction and goal that the player is willing to pursue, it will not be OK.Many players just need a motivation, a direction, and a goal that makes them willing to enter the game and explore.

Although “World of Warcraft” was a successful game afterwards, there were everything we have experienced in 11-12 years, but it may sound very strange that we were actually very uneasy about this game at the beginning. In every interview we are always asked questions like this:“How are you going to do MMO? You guys used to do real-time strategy games.”

In that era, the two most anticipated games by the MMO player community were “Endless Mission 2” and “Star Wars: Galaxy”. Many people are convinced that “Galaxy” will dominate the entire market, because I know that the two most exciting things in my life at the time are about to be combined, “Star Wars” and MMO.

I remember that year we showed “World of Warcraft” at the E3 video game show. Our game is playable. You can run around, walk to the Scarlet Monastery or do anything, but they only show “Star Wars: Galaxy”. A film was released, and that film also won the E3 Best Award.

Our morale was quite low at the time, but the only one who held confidence among them was Alen. (Allen Adham, one of the founders of Blizzard Entertainment)

At that time, “Endless Mission” officially announced that they had exceeded 400,000 registered players. I thought that if we were lucky half or a quarter would be great, but Allen Adham stood in front of us and said to us:“We will have more than 1 million registered players, because I think this game is so great. This number represents how much I believe in your work.”

I remember looking at Allen at the time, holding high respect for him, because he was my first boss, he was also my mentor, he recruited me, and he founded Blizzard. At that moment, I looked at him and couldn’t help thinking, “Wow, he is crazy.”

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade

I don’t know if many people know it, but when “World of Warcraft” was launched, our team had only 60 people. 60 people made the game. This is something I am still proud of today, but after the game was launched, 20 developers left because of the previous serious overtime and hard development process.

Because of the great success of “World of Warcraft”, we tried every means to support the content of the game, and we had no animators at the time, and all animators had already resigned. There was a revision at that time. We installed the four green dragons (version 1.8 in 2005, the four green dragons of the nightmare are the corrupted children of the green dragon Ysera). The truth is that we only have one dragon module. If we simply change the color To no avail, and no one of us can continue to develop games right now.

The team was in a state of disintegration, and we even removed physical packages from retail channels, preventing players from buying World of Warcraft. It feels a bit like you put the game on the shelf, and then suddenly said, “Put the physical package back, we can’t continue to update the game!”

We have recruited some new people. I remember that we once hired a server engineer named Brian Gibson-Winge. We were having a team meeting and everyone was talking, for example, “How are we now?” and “It’s okay, we are fine. “

Brian is a newcomer in this conference room. He stood up and said, “Hey, guys, I know I am a newcomer. I shouldn’t have spoken out, but what’s the matter with you? You created “World of Warcraft”. But the best and best game in the world!”

Suddenly, afterwards we began to recruit people like Brian in, and the team regained its vitality. There was a considerable turning point in the period from the Muji period to “The Burning Crusade”, precisely because of the influence brought about by these newcomers to inspire the team. This was the first time for us to hold BlizzCon and it greatly motivated our morale.

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

The development team has achieved many amazing deeds in “Wrath of the Lich King”. Although I think the best expansion is “World of Warcraft: Armed Forces”, at the time, the “Lich King” was a very special existence.

When we reviewed “Burning Crusade”, we realized that the story of the game may be a bit confusing, so that most players cannot understand it. At that time, blood elves seemed to have five prestige camps. As the chief designer, I didn’t even know which blood elves belonged to which camp.

Another mistake we made in “Burning Crusade” is that although we have such a charming character as Illidan, players can only interact with him in the Dark Temple dungeon. This has resulted in only a few players being able to experience this part, making the game too hard (hardcore), and it is too far away.

Therefore, the biggest lesson learned from “Burning Crusade” to “Wrath of the Lich King” is that if you have such a charming villain as Illidan or Assas printed on the cover of your package, try to open it up to the players! Allow players to interact with it.

We learned the lesson from the very beginning of the “Wrath of the Lich King” login, especially when you created a death knight, who stood in front of you? Assas.

At the same time, we have Alex Afrasiabi, who is probably the most well-known player of “Endless Mission”. Although we have recruited him since the Wu Yin period, I believe that the peak of Wu He’s career began in “Wrath of the Lich King”.

We let Alex be responsible for all the mission design of the expansion. He made the death knight novice village mission experience. Until now, I still think that the plot may be the best mission story experience, because the plot reminds the player what Azer is What did Russ do.

“Titan” Project (Titan)

In November 2008, on the week that “Wrath of the Lich King” was revised, I switched from the Warcraft team to the Titan project. The reason I remember clearly is because Blizzard has a tradition that whenever we have a game on the market, we will open champagne in front of the orc statue. For me, the “Wrath of the Lich King” champagne party has 3 reasons to remember.

One, because this is “Wrath of the Lich King”, we are very proud. Second, that day is my birthday. Third, that day was the day Obama was running for the president of the United States. I remember that I was quite drunk, and then I learned that Obama had won the election. I said “Wow, that’s great!” Then I became drunk. Soon, the next day, I moved to “Team 4” to develop the Titan project.

Things went well at the beginning. At that time, the project was full of enthusiasm and ambition, and everything was very attractive. In the first year of my project, in 2009, I had a lot of creative ideas at the time. The starting point was not good but most of them were motivating, and there were also many technical explorations. But one day at the end of 2009, I noticed the red red flags.

“It feels like we haven’t moved the project development in the right direction.” This feeling has increased day by day over the next few years.

One week before the launch of “Diablo 3”, they transferred Ray Gresko to “Titan” to save the project, so he could not enjoy the joy of the game with his team at all. We were dragged to the conference room and told, “Hey, you are the development director, you are the game producer, you have to try to save this project.”

Ray said that we have to have lunch, and we brought the lead producer Matt Hawley to attend. Ray sat down and said to Matt, “Tell me what happened to the Titans.” Matt looked at me, and I looked at Ray, and I said, “Well, we must stop development.”

Ray was taken aback. He said, “Hey, they asked me to come here to save the project. You must respect this fact. I can’t let it terminate the development.” Six months later, during this six months, we replaced some of the supervisors in the team. We have a new technical chief named Mike Elliott, because the technology developed by Titan at the time was simply messed up and it didn’t work, so we asked Mike to help.

Ray, Mike and I were in a one-on-ones meeting; I don’t know how the three people are one-on-one, but in short, we call this kind of meeting. During the meeting, it was Ray’s turn to say: “Oh my God, you and Matt are right, we have to stop development, this can’t be achieved at all.”

Mike replied, “Hold on! I was just asked to save this project! We can’t stop the development!” So we should spend another 6 months, and then we had another one-on-one meeting, and we concluded Conclusion: “It’s time to tell the studio’s leadership that it’s impossible to inform them of this project.”

I guess most people don’t know, but Blizzard has cancelled more games than we have developed. If you want to develop a new game in Blizzard, eventually your game will have a high chance of being cancelled.

Now, I don’t think every game developer will believe that he is so unlucky (being the one whose game was cancelled) — I think we all think we’re special.

What makes Titan’s situation special is not that the team often says “this is impossible”, but that Titan development itself is an extremely difficult task. Basically you can only say “We failed to do our duty well”. You have no idea what will happen next. You don’t know if they will walk in and say, “Thank you for your hard work during this period. You can leave.”

In this way, most projects have been struggling for such a long time to continue to develop. Finally, I did it for 6 years (on the Titan project).

In April 2013, we finally learned that this project was definitely canceled, but only a few people knew. Only their leader Bobby Kotick knew about Activision, as well as Mike Morhaime, Frank Pearce, me, and Ray Gresko. , Rob Pardo, Mike Elliott. The other team members don’t know.

Because we have a team of 140 people, we intend to develop a contingency plan. At that moment, we want to act cautiously. We don’t want too many people to feel frustrated. We don’t want to make them feel like they’ve wasted their life and career time.

The initial plan is that we will propose a new game concept, and then inform the team to terminate the Titan project at the end of May, but that will also be a new game that we will develop later.

This plan still sounds naive. I have to pretend to be developing Titan during the day, and when I get home at night or on the weekend, I have to piece together all the plans to form different game concepts. I was panicked.

As a result, before announcing the new plan and notifying the cancellation of the project, the other departments of the studio urgently needed people to assist, so it was the perfect time to release manpower. So we retained 60 development members, mostly engineers and programmers. We built a new engine for Titan before, but the engine was a mess, so we said: “Do our best, don’t let the previous hard work be wasted.”

After that, a small team of us, about 10 people, was given the task of continuing to hand in game planning for 6 consecutive weeks. If you don’t do this, the rest will be allocated to other projects.

We were in the weirdest period of mourning, but we must inspire the most creative moments of our lives.

Overwatch

At the beginning, we really thought we were an MMO development team. The original idea was that we were creating an MMO that was completely different from World of Warcraft, but still belonged to another piece of Blizzard Universe-there are a lot of questions about what it will grow into, I can imagine.

The second idea is that the MMO we are developing does not belong to the existing worldview, nor is it Titan’s worldview, but a brand new MMO concept.

This is really difficult because we have to think retroactively. Although Titan is the most ambitious MMO development project I have ever seen, we always get tied hands and feet when we think about other MMO ideas. We understand that under the current market conditions, developing MMOs is not actually good. idea.

Many people in our team have experience in MMO development, and we know what to pay for, and we also understand that this project cannot be realized.

We had a career discussion meeting-originally intended to develop a career-based MMO-and we had a professional designer named Geoff Goodman said, “Instead of doing 6 or 9 careers, I would I hope we have a lot of professional roles. But if these professions can do less, how can we highlight their special features?”

This sentence really shines for me. I went back to my desk and thought about the inspiration that Geoff’s inspiration gave me, but what I was really thinking was: “I don’t think that is an MMO game.”

I have always been very passionate about shooting games. This concept is the most feasible on Titan, because Titan uses shooting as its combat module, PvP shooting. My favorites in the game industry are shooting games and MMOs. So I started to use Geoff Goodman’s wish to have a lot of professional roles to define a more precise game model.

I started to review the character concept that Arnold Tsang had designed for the Titan project. We used to have a profession called “Jumper”, with flash, retrospect, pulse bomb, and about 30 kinds of skills, and I always think: flash, retrospect, pulse bomb, plus a pair of pulse pistols , This part is the coolest.

Suddenly I thought: “If the jumper adopts this design and only has these skills, then he is a character with a name and a surname, not an obscure public face job, but a real character, how about it?”

When the idea of ​​this proposal was made, other members were still working on the MMO No. 2 project. Ray Gresko walked over and looked at the thing behind my shoulder. I showed Ray the concept, and he immediately said, “Oh, my goodness. , This is what we should do.”

So we brought the proposal to Chris Metzen, which immediately aroused his interest. Especially when he started to think of an extraordinary sniper, a life-threatening woman, a cold-blooded killer who killed his husband with his own hands, this was more attractive than any other general professional concepts. His reaction was exactly the same as Ray. Our producer Matt Hawley also overheard our conversation and told me, “You must report this proposal to the team early tomorrow morning.”

Matt is the driving force behind the game called “Overwatch”. When we explained this proposal to the team, the names on the table at the time were not very suitable for shooting games. Matt said, “Now there is nothing more exciting than naming the project. You have to come up with a name.”

So I said: “I want to name it Overwatch.” Overwatch is a world organization in the Titan project, but its positioning is completely different, but we all like this name. Therefore, at the moment, this new work can be called Overwatch, it is like the resurrection of Titans. After we explained the game concept to the development team, almost everyone said in unison: “Yes, we want to build such a game.”

As a member of the Team 4 development team, it was like entering a new era when we were developing “Fighting Attack”. It was really good. The remaining problem was that we had to get the game’s support from Blizzard and Activision. That year was 2013, and we had just experienced a major setback in the cancellation of development of Blizzard’s next MMO, which would have been an MMO shooter.

Then, we went back and sat in the briefing room with several Activision executives Thomas Tippl, Dennis Durkin, and Bobby Kotick. What did we show them in front of the people who had achieved great success in the “Decisive Hour” series? We showed a shooting game project.

They are super polite and super friendly to us, but you can feel that their reaction seems like:“Oh my God, what are you idiots doing all this?”

The picture drawn by Arnold Tsang became our life-saving straw. It was an early character design line draft. We were lost a lot of difficult questions during the briefing, and Bobby suddenly suspended the meeting and said, “Go back to the first two,” and “Oh, F**k, what were the first two briefings?” Then we go back, that is Arnold Tsang’s line draft.

The air in the conference room suddenly became quiet, and you could see the gears in Bobby’s head turning. He said, “I have never seen such an art picture before, and I have never seen such a character design.”

This is the only good news from the “Fighting Battle” proposal meeting, which is Bobby’s emotional reaction to the art picture. It wasn’t until March that we started to make the core combat experience version of the game.

We used the Temple of Anubis as a demo at the time, fully retouched and installed it on our engine, it was in an operational state, and then we had Grim Reaper, Death Girl, Farah, and Flash. That game was what we played. Have the most interesting experience. The people from Blizzard liked it very much, and the people from Activision also came to watch, because they are fans of shooting games, they screamed and screamed happily.

It was the most positive and exciting time ever.

The next step after the demo is Blizzcon 2014, we expect to make it public at that time. Ray is the spiritual leader of the team. He has deep confidence in us. He told us: “I hope we can become part of the Blizzard story one day;” A team that cancelled the development project within the same year and released the new work the following year team. Ray has an amazing plan for us at Blizzcon.

We know that the team will face many issues, one of which is that we have to announce the cancellation of Titans, and then I began to think about how to make the new work public, and what content and concepts should be used to make players believe in the game instead of letting them down.

There are a few things that I am worried about. One, we are not doing MMO anymore. Second, Blizzard is not a shooting game company, but we are doing shooting games. Third, players may think that we have changed the way the MOBA game is played too much, or that the game is like “Team Fortress 2.”

Every time we try to show someone a game, they are always skeptical, but every time they play the core combat experience version, they will say, “My God, this is really awesome.” So I ruled everything out. The painting was integrated together to make three maps, because I wanted to show an actual game, not a smoke screen that only appeared at the E3 game show.

The biggest effort is that we have to be 12 heroes. The reason for this number is because I want to be different from the 9 professions in “Team Fortress 2.”

I can imagine that if we only have 9 or fewer heroes open, the player will probably automatically post each hero to “Team Fortress 2” for comparison. What’s more interesting is that it really happened when the press conference was public. Some fans immediately came to the same conclusion after seeing it on the Internet.

But what’s even better is that what the fan showed is more about the gameplay of “Fighting Attack”, and they have become our most diehard supporters. “Everyone, I know this game looks like it was moved from “Team Fortress 2,” but they are really different and the experience of playing is very different.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8955xnjJ1E

For me, there is nothing more comforting than the moment Chris announced the game at BlizzCon 2014, and every player on the display floor was playing.

I almost forgot how important this matter is, not only to me personally, but also to all of our team members, “Because those people are playing our game there. That’s why I work hard (make the game).”

Now the team is in a great state. It was a bit hard for us to become an online operation team at the beginning, but the team managed to do it successfully. They get feedback from the game site, they get affirmation from the community, this time they are really ready to face the next big challenge we want to do.

They were not only inspired by the current grand occasion, but some day afterwards when they recalled “Fighting Attack”, what stories are the memories that can accompany us to go along.

This article was published on“Edge” May 2017“Soundbytes” unit.


In 2014, Blizzard announced the development of its new game “Fighting Special Attack”. In 2016, “Fighting Special Attack” was officially launched globally. In 2018, the number of global players exceeded 40 million.according toForeign media reportsActivision Blizzard’s Q3 financial report last year mentioned that “Fighting Battle” still has 10 million monthly active players.

In 2019, “Fights 2” was first exposed in Blizzard Carnival. In 2021, “Fights” director Jeff Kaplan resigned, and the sequel “Fights 2” will be replaced by Aaron Keller as the director.

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