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Author: Blizzard toyed with 'always online' idea for Warcraft 3

It's Monday, and that means more stories from David Craddock's upcoming book, Stay Awhile and Listen, a behind the scenes look at Blizzard Entertainment. Today's revelations deal with the creation of the Blizzard cinematics group and the autonomy that group enjoys from the rest of the company, as well as a look at a Heroes of Warcraft model that never quite made it off the drawing board.

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It's Monday, and that means more stories from David Craddock's upcoming book, Stay Awhile and Listen, a behind the scenes look at Blizzard Entertainment. Today's revelations deal with the creation of the Blizzard cinematics group and the autonomy that group enjoys from the rest of the company, as well as a look at a Heroes of Warcraft model that never quite made it off the drawing board. Imagine a cinematic ending where the development team has no clue what will be in the video until they see a final version. "Today, Blizzard fans look forward to the company's cinematics almost as much as they anticipate its games," Craddock said. "However, the idea of devoting an entire internal team to cinematics took time to catch on and remained disconnected from the game development process. Diablo's opening cinematic was made late in the production process before the story was finalized, consisting of a brief tour of a derelict town that may or may not be Tristram, shots of monsters roaming a dungeon, some mysterious force sliding the lid off of its sarcophagus, and several close-ups of an important-looking-but-never-used sword sticking out of a hilltop. Without much of a story to work with beyond 'Kill Diablo,' the video was created more to set a mood than to kick off a story. "About midway through StarCraft, a proper cinematics team formed at Blizzard Entertainment, where all cinematics but one were created," he said. "The team had almost total creative control over all game cinematics, even those used in Blizzard North's games. The ending of Diablo, where the hero stabs the gem into his own forehead? Blizzard North had no idea that was going to happen until Blizzard Entertainment sent them a copy of the video."

The Diablo ending cinematic was not Blizzard North's idea.

The always-online concept was tossed around back in the time of Warcraft 3. Blizzard wanted to come up with a way that players could not cheat. "The decision to store critical game data on internal servers rather than players' hard drives was an idea Blizzard had toyed with during spitball sessions for WarCraft 3," Craddock said. "The team lead wanted to do something a little different, so he came up with a design entitled Heroes of Warcraft, a RPG/RTS hybrid where players controlled a hero who had special abilities, and a small squad of companions. The game would eschew economics and base-building in favor of pitting squads against each other in tactical combat. "The Heroes of Warcraft model provided the project's lead developer the opportunity to attempt creating a cheat-proof game: because players would control no more than 10 to 12 units each, Blizzard could store all critical data on its servers. Without direct access to that data, players could not hack the game to give themselves advantages over other players. Ultimately, the team decided that a squad-based game with no resources or base-building strayed too far from the series' beaten path. They decided to return to WarCraft's 'gather resources, build bases, crush enemies' roots, and threw heroes into the mix to change things up a bit." Future stories from Craddock will include behind-the-scenes details on the Diablo games, StarCraft, the Warcraft series and World of Warcraft. Craddock and Shacknews will also bring you a week of book coverage during the week of October 29, featuring an in-depth interview with the author and a full chapter from his book.
Author David Craddock has been working on his book about Blizzard Entertainment since mid-2008. Entitled Stay Awhile and Listen, the unauthorized book talks to nearly 80 former employees, including those who used to work at Blizzard, Condor (later Blizzard North), and Silicon & Synapse (Blizzard's original name when it was founded), as well as people who had regular dealings with Blizzard head honchos Mike Morhaime and Allen Adham. Shacknews is pleased to offer a steady stream of stories from the book each Monday leading up to October 29. The book launches early next year. and will be published by Digital Monument Press.
Contributing Editor
From The Chatty
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    October 1, 2012 9:00 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Author: Blizzard toyed with 'always online' idea for Warcraft 3.

    It's Monday, and that means more stories from David Craddock's upcoming book, Stay Awhile and Listen, a behind the scenes look at Blizzard Entertainment. Today's revelations deal with the creation of the Blizzard cinematics group and the autonomy that group enjoys from the rest of the company, as well as a look at a Heroes of Warcraft model that never quite made it off the drawing board.

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      October 1, 2012 9:11 AM

      Really glad they dropped always-online for WC3. I'm not a fan of it now either but it would have prevented a lot of people from playing back then.

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      October 1, 2012 10:43 AM

      Most people didn't have broadband or stable enough connections when Warcraft 3 came out. It is easy to say this after 10 or so years but they are forgetting what the technology was like.

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        October 1, 2012 1:44 PM

        Many people STILL don't have broadband or stable enough connections to play SC2 or D3 now.

        Not that anyone at post-Kotick Blizzard seems to give a shit about it.

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          October 1, 2012 2:05 PM

          Many people STILL don't have broadband or stable enough connections to play SC2 or D3 now.

          But most people who play Blizzard games probably do have broadband, and had it prior to these games announcing the always connected features. The non-broadband portion is probably so small that it isn't worth them giving a damn about.

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            October 1, 2012 3:19 PM

            It's bad PR to not give "a damn" about those people, though. They do exist. I know some guys who live in a rural area with little to no connectivity. They can't play Diablo 3.

            I don't want to reopen that particular argument; my point is "majority" does not equate to "every single gamer on earth."

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      October 1, 2012 11:43 AM

      No idea what was in the cinematics? A whole lot of shit is starting to make sense now.

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        October 1, 2012 12:25 PM

        Plenty of interesting stories to do with D2's cinematics as well, all along the lines of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing. ;)

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      October 1, 2012 3:25 PM

      I'm getting pretty tired of the endless "this game company evaluated this business idea for that product" stories. (by endless I mean this is the second one that annoyed me)

      Spoiler alert: every big company has evaluated the idea of all of this shit for every one of their games. It's weird that it's a story at all!

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      October 1, 2012 3:30 PM

      I hate the always online. I wish they'd give me an option of making a character that I could never take online, to beat the cheaters. In Diablo 2, I could take my laptop when I travel and start playing anywhere. Now I have to have a solid internet connection. It's damned annoying.

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      October 1, 2012 3:52 PM

      This is pretty interesting. If War3 had been always online, DOTA wouldn't have taken off like it did (one of the big reasons for the popularity was the ease of pirating the base game), LoL probably wouldn't have happened and I wouldn't be sitting at this desk fucking off from doing work at Riot! Buttefly effect, man.

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