This article is from WeChat public account: GameLook (ID: GameLook_News), speaker: Blizzard co-founder Mike · Mohan.
Blizzard has always been known as the king of the ticket. To a large extent, this is because Blizzard co-founder Mike · Mohan insists on a core idea —— don't release the game before it is ready.
In today's Internet world, most products and apps go online first, then look for problems, then look at user feedback, and then start iterations again and again.
But Mike · Mohan believes that premature release of the game is a very risky thing, "because we spent so much time building the brand, and releasing an immature game will give a high degree of recognition." The series brings a lot of damage, you only have one chance to give the player a first impression, if you lose this opportunity, you may lose the player, they may not come back. ”
The speech shared today is Mike · a speech made by Mohan in 2007 is not well known to the public. In this speech, he described Blizzard's 10 beliefs and has important implications for Blizzard's past, present and future games. Although the end-game is subject to changes in the terminal situation, the influence is no longer the same. But today, Mike · Mohan's ten sticks are also out of date, even if Blizzard has passed the source of the dark moment, it is undoubtedly from the persistence or resumption of these beliefs.
For the founder, it often feels that the feeling of being sensitive does not help to make the right decision. But the belief is not, the belief allows people to examine themselves when they are hesitant and confused, and find a yardstick for measuring action.
From its inception in 1991 to the release of World of Warcraft in 2004, the name Blizzard suddenly became a household name in the game industry, from Warcraft to Diablo, StarCraft to World of Warcraft and Hearthstone. Legend, Blizzard has always been synonymous with boutique games. What is the secret of this top developer on the road of development for more than 20 years?
This is a speech that Blizzard co-founder, CEO and president Mike Morhaime is not familiar with. He talks about Blizzard's 10 core concepts and has important implications for Blizzard's past, present and future games:
Blizzard's establishment and development: from host game transformation PC
In 1991, two of my friends who graduated with UCLA founded Blizzard. This was actually the idea of my friend Allen Adham, who brought me and my friend Frank Pearce together to create Silicon&Synapse. I and Allen each contributed $10,000. He borrowed from his parents, and my money was borrowed from my grandmother.
We also brought the computer at home to the office. This is the PC we originally worked on. I had a 386 at that time, and the hard disk space was 20M. It was already very big at the time; Allen had a 386SX and 16M storage space. The game was very limited at the time, because the floppy disk was able to store very little space, and the CD did not appear at the time. So, a group of programmers, artists, or someone who does audio can do game development, which may be all that is needed to do the game at the time.
We started to do game migration for large publishers, such as Macintosh and other computers. We learned a lot of game development in this process. By looking at the way of large-scale company game development, we learned how to make a The game, because at the time we did PC games is also a new platform.
In 1991, Nintendo's Super Nintendo was released in North America. We were hired by Interplay to develop a racing game on Super Nintendo. We actually developed it for four months and released the game. We got the first A split can be around $5,000.
Then we started to expand the team, focus on creating our own games, doing their own originals, and submitting these ideas to publishers like Interplay or Sunsoft. We did some Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games, we were games. The magazine was selected as the best software developer in 1993.
At the same time, the console market began to decline, so we decided to transform into a PC game, so our first PC game is "Warcraft: Orcs and Humans", and at this time, the Internet has begun to spread slowly. We are also beginning to consider how to make full use of the advantages of the Internet to let players play games together.
Next we became a division of Davidson & Associates, and then we went through multiple acquisitions, and finally we were a subsidiary of Vivendina in France, thanks to our relationship with Bob and others, and our ongoing game performance. The idea was protected, so we were able to make the final decision on all Blizzard games, which I will mention later.
Core Idea 1: Gameplay First
What we pay most attention to is always making great games. So the first gameplay is one of our mottos, but don't get me wrong. I am not talking about a game design here, but I need to explain that if you don't figure out the design idea, everything else can't make sense. .
Some people say that the game field is like a donut. A few players in the core part spend a lot of time every day, while the outer circle is a lot of casual players. The casual game market is much bigger than the core game market. We had very Successful ideas, we hope both.
So our approach is to create deep and reproducible games, but at the same time make it acceptable to most people, we try to reduce any barriers that prevent players from entering the game. One of the most obvious examples is the system requirements. The masses of players don't have such advanced operating systems, so we want to make sure that even if we bought the computer a few years ago, Blizzard's game needs to be able to run on it.
Core Idea 2: Easy to learn, difficult to master
Our other philosophy is “easy to learn, difficult to master”. In fact, the game market has many excellent examples in this regard. For example, in addition to Blizzard games, I think Guitar Hero is the best example, you can invest A lot of time to improve your skills, get higher scores, get to the level of experts and even pass the game, but anyone who is new to the game can play, and feel that they understand how to play this game.
So this is what we always pay attention to. The starting point of our game is built on a very shallow ramp, even if you have spent several months playing Warcraft, mastering a lot of skills and operating skills, and discovering many strategies and The way the characters are controlled, these may be complicated to say, but at the beginning, the players are very easy to get started.
Core Idea 3: Brand is the most important asset
At our Blizzard company, the brand is our most important asset, and we do our best to build brand awareness and protect brand value. We hope to achieve some results. We hope that Blizzard will become synonymous with high quality games, fun and exquisite. One of our goals is to let players have faith in our games. If they walk into a game store and see the games on the shelf. As long as you see the words Blizzard, it is enough to convince them to buy this game, because they trust our brand, this is our ultimate goal.
From a marketing point of view, you can build a brand like you would a bank account. You want to save the brand, not the brand, because if you do, the players will feel that the time and money they invested are not equal. Experience, so this is something we try to avoid.
Marketing includes marketing programs, promotions, and fees we do, and we want to make players feel more value. So some of the ideas I'm talking about here are related to Warcraft, but they will also be the standard for our future games.
Core Idea 4: Don't release the game before you are ready
So this is also the reason why a game is released before it is ready, which will bring a lot of pressure. The practitioners who do it all have such pressure, and we are the same.
Our team will also encounter a very tired state of R&D. People want to release the game because there are a lot of players looking forward to it; we will also face economic pressure, especially if you are a listed company, budget, annual financial report. It's all very important. If your game doesn't appear in time, it will lead to a series of problems.
But we think that prematurely releasing the game is a very risky thing, because we have spent so much time building the brand, and publishing an immature game will bring a lot of recognition to the highly recognized series. Damage, you only have one chance to give the player a first impression. If you lose this chance, you may lose the player and they may not come back.
We try to use long-term thinking to make games. Of course, prematurely releasing games can lead to user losses. The idea that you can reach a fixed number is very short-term.
Even for listed companies, I think there will be some changes in ideas. For example, as the financial season ends, they may think, “This is our most important fiscal quarter. The settlement number may be up to 2 days later. If we don't release this game, we can't achieve the performance. Once the quarter is over, this project is not the most important. If you don't release the game on time, you are always releasing the game for the last quarter. Maybe Will not achieve the expected sales performance. ”
Perhaps the best example of what happened to us was when Diablo was made in 1996, when the release time of the game was likely to miss Christmas, and this was a very bad thing (as the most important holiday in Europe and America). You have to release the game before Christmas, right?
This is the time when people buy the most games. We are also busy and hope to be released at Christmas, but it is not ready to release, we can't do anything about it, so we missed Christmas and sent it on December 31, although we are also in the last quarter. The game was released before the end, but what it means to miss Christmas is probably everyone knows.
However, when people got the game, people really liked it, and the sales in 1997 were very good.
But now no one will go back and say that if Blizzard released the game for 3 weeks, then Diablo should have a better performance. Because if that's the case, it's a disaster, because when people buy the game home, they won't say how good the game is, but how many bugs it has.
So we explained this to the parent company, let them know the whole research and development concept, quality is the most important. I think if you ask the players about the impression of Diablo, they won't say that the game missed the Christmas release, they just remember that they got a very good gaming experience.
Unfortunately, this concept has also constantly put us to the test. For example, the Burning Crusade was originally released in 2006. In fact, if we are willing, it can be released in 2005, but the risk is too great.
We then had enough time to test, and after a very tortuous release process, we felt that we finally had a chance to successfully release a really large piece of content for the game, so we didn’t release it until January 2007, and It achieved very good results and sold 2.4 million in one day, so I am sure that even everyone in the company believes that before the game is released, make sure the game is ready.
Core Idea 5: Focus on important things
Another point I want to make is that we focus on the important things.
There is a lot of pressure to do everything, such as competing everywhere, not missing out on existing opportunities, such as marketing, PR, etc., which are very distracting, so we try to find what is most important, then focus only For the most important things, then go further on your success.
With a certain foundation, you can do bigger things, but if you want to do everything from the beginning, you may end up doing one thing. Of course, "World of Warcraft" is a great project. I think that without these years of accumulation, we can't make World of Warcraft without doing so much game learning experience.
Next I want to talk about how Blizzard has gradually become a global game company. Nowadays, we are a global game company. We have global studios and global players, so when we make certain decisions, we always remind ourselves that we are an international company. For example, first test in the US and then push to the world, or globally release and so on.
But when we first started, the United States was indeed the only important market, so our focus at the time was entirely the United States, so our game is English R&D, and only after the North American release, we will consider other regions and put them Translate into other languages.
Then we began to consider the European market and later became an increasingly important market. We are beginning to realize that this huge market is beginning to bring us losses. Because when we release the game, the core players in Europe will buy it immediately, and when we are localized, they are not new, and the retailers will not help us release the game. So we realized that we need to shorten the release time interval in different regions.
The development of the Asian market is very different. Internet cafes are very important. At that time, there were about 20,000 Internet cafes in Korea. At that time, there were about 200,000 Internet cafes in China. If there were comparisons, McDonald’s had only 30,000 stores worldwide, so Internet cafes. It's important to make sure your game is working well in Internet cafes.
So when we think about how to deal with different types of markets, we want to release them simultaneously, so that players around the world can be on the same starting point. So this is the change of our publishing method. When Warcraft 1 was used, most of the sales came from the United States, and the sales volume became more and more global.
This change happened in the days of "StarCraft" and "Diablo 2". The change in "StarCraft" is mainly reflected in South Korea. This game was not designed for Asian languages at first. By 2007, Asia still Only the Japanese version, but the Japanese version is not compatible with other versions, so they can't play together.
At that time, "StarCraft" still had no Korean version. They were all playing in English, but this game is very popular in Korea, which opened the eyes of us. It turned out that there is such a big market in Asia, especially South Korea. So when we are doing Diablo 2, we hope that the world will be released at the same time. You can also see how much this decision has brought about.
Core Idea 6: Do the games that Blizzard employees like
But in the game of "World of Warcraft", we actually didn't do this. Here we may have to talk about focusing on the most important things, don't think about eating a fat man. We know that the upcoming release is a very complicated new system, so we don't want to face global problems from the beginning, we hope to develop step by step in the main market.
This is another thing, I am more conservative. Some people say that the rule of success in the world is to translate your game into local language and customize it according to local culture. Local people will tell you the tastes of the players, and then you can modify them accordingly.
But the way we think about it is not like this. We think there are different types of games everywhere. You may say that Korean players like PVP or PVE more, but in fact there are such differences everywhere, they may like it. Different interface games, some people like single machine, some people like to play a copy, some people like multiplayer games.
These are all different types, but there are these differences around the world, so we are thinking about adding more types of gameplay when making games, so that everyone feels that entering the game is playable.
So when we play the game, we don't consider the players in this area and the region. We are playing games for ourselves. We feel that if all Blizzard employees like to play, it is very likely that there will be many people around the world who like it. So doing research and development is not a guessing game.
Core Idea 7: Stay sensitive to culture
However, we are still sensitive to specific cultures. Here is an example. In Warcraft III, we thought it might be cool to add a panda race because our art director Sam Didier (Samwise) loves pandas very much and also likes to paint pandas, so we Joined the Pandaren for Warcraft.
But the problem is that Sam painted the samurai style and added Japanese equipment and weapons.
Original Pandaren design (Japanese clothing and weapons)
As a result, Chinese players are dissatisfied with this because they think that giant pandas are a special culture of China and should not wear Japanese clothes. They sent a lot of emails to remind us that they expressed anger at the forum because Blizzard is against their culture. Not sensitive.
This actually gave us a wake up. The first thing that comes to mind is that we originally had so many players in China! Second, they have their own expectations. They are proud of the giant pandas, so we quickly changed and used Chinese-style clothes and weapons. Chinese players expressed their gratitude for this, they listened to us and Appreciate the way you react.
Pandaren in War 3 (Chinese clothing)
So, let's talk about World of Warcraft. When this game was released, we have learned global thinking. Our partners handle all user management, server facilities, and localization and marketing. We have a European office in France, a Korean office in Seoul, and a branch office in North America in addition to the California headquarters.
Core Idea 8: Don't blindly make predictions
When we did World of Warcraft, we encountered a lot of challenges, here are some of them.
The first challenge is to predict how many people want to play such a game. This is our first paid subscription game and the first game that can only be played online. Since you can only play online, there is a problem if you can't predict the number of players, because it determines how many servers you need to buy, where to set up the server, how many customer support staff you need, how much bandwidth these servers require, etc. There are many foundations here. Facility problems, and you need to know these.
So in 1943, the CEO of IBM made a prediction at the time. He expected to sell five computers worldwide, but later proved that the prediction was wrong. We were also wrong at the beginning. We were working in the game packaging team until midnight, and the loading of the handlebars was full of parks nearby. We were surprised, I don’t know what will happen next week, but it’s obvious The reason is that we need to buy more hardware.
Because we didn't have much data to refer to at the time, mainly through testing, we learned about the sales of some games at that time, we also know the sales of Warcraft III, because War3 is our best-selling game at the time, so we think, World of Warcraft will definitely not exceed the sales of War3, because we have to pay monthly fees, and must be online, at least people will hesitate, maybe a year later, but it will not be red.
We used Warcraft III as the ceiling for game sales. Later, it turned out that our initial estimate was wrong and it was always wrong. We even stopped selling the retail version because we Not capable of making so many boxed versions.
So, when you are still a small company, you don't think too much about human resources. When you become a big company, you will suddenly find that HR is very important. You have so many employees, they have specific needs, you A special person is needed to handle these things.
So we found that the entire business has to be expanded overnight, such as research and development staff, IT staff, online (operational) teams and so on.
Because we found that these things distracted the team, and our team suddenly became seriously inadequate, there was no way to focus on adding new things, so we decided to expand the team and let the special people do special things. For example, community management, customer service, management team, HR team, so we were not ready at the time.
Core Idea 9: Doing MMORPG is doing service
So, during the operation of World of Warcraft, we learned a lot. When you run an online game that runs 24 hours a day, there are so many paying players, this time is completely another It’s going on.
I think we understand this now, but before we released it, none of us knew this. I think running a MMORPG game is no longer just a game development. The things that affect the player experience may be as important as the game itself, so we We must change our mindset. We are no longer just game developers, publishers, but service companies. We need to do things with some of the concepts of service companies.
So we have a community management team, but as I said, the number of employees may not be enough, but more importantly, we found that when there is a problem with the game, we are not efficient enough to deal with the problem in real time with the player. communicate with.
The programmers knew that there was a problem with the game, but they didn't know what the cause was. The community management team was talking to the players. They found the problem but didn't know why and how. We can't even tell them because we don't know why we have problems.
So we didn't say anything during this period, but the player community may have already exploded, and if you don't communicate with the community, it usually happens.
So we formed a formal email feedback method that not only allowed the local team to participate, but also gave feedback to all those who need to know the problem, so that the global R&D team knows the problem. If we can't find the problem at the time, we will send an announcement to let the players watch the update after an hour, so they won't be so crazy, because if they don't know the problem and the possible solution, sometimes the forum will be brushed. burst.
Since there is not much time, we will make a long story short.
Core Concept 10: Improve the game testing process
What happens if there is an economic reward? Many people may be willing to do it. So if people can earn gold coins in the game and can sell in real life, it will be very motivating. But this is actually a negative experience for more players who just want to play games.
For example, in places where the labor force is relatively cheap, they may be someone who specializes in gold and then sell it to people in more developed regions to make money; others will use the Trojan horse to steal money, and for a game that costs $15 a month, such a game. The loss is great, so we do our best to minimize the player's losses.
The last thing I want to say is the game testing process, especially when the deadline is very tight, you may not have enough time to test. At Blizzard, everyone is a game tester, after the internal test is completed, if We feel very good, we will conduct a beta test, let people outside Blizzard join the game for testing.
As we continue to release new content, we found it very important to set up a test specifically. We may have made mistakes when we did Warcraft, because it would save a lot of money, but in the long run, we will update the content. Testing can give players a better experience.
So when we were doing the Burning Crusade, we wanted to use what we learned. We updated the infrastructure and increased the game compatibility from the first day of the release; due to the mistakes in predicting the amount of users before. So we would rather estimate the number higher, even if it is wrong, it doesn't matter, so the first step of the expansion is smoother, our server is under pressure, and our customer service team reflects that the release may be smoother. .