One of the most remarkable aspects of World of WarCraft is not just its longevity, but how long its original developers have stuck with it.
Tom Chilton is one such designer. Having joined Blizzard in early 2004, Chilton has been a World of WarCraft designer since before the game's launch. His experience as a designer goes back to the dawn of the MMORPG, when he was one of the lead designers of Ultima Online.
Check out our Legion discussion at the 1:00:36 mark.
I had the chance to talk to Chilton briefly in the period before the launch of Legion, World of WarCraft's latest expansion, and the main question my mind was what he had learned about class design over the past 12 years.
He replied, "One important thing is that there are limits to the complexity of the character class, and those limits are closer to what the complexity of the class design was when we first launched than we thought. We thought we had a fair amount of breathing room in terms of what stuff we could add to the classes before they became too cumbersome, and we hit that and passed right by it before realizing it.
World of WarCraft fans are probably nodding their heads in agreement right about now. Twelve years is a long time, and the classes have all received overhauls in that time. For example, Mists of Pandaria, which launched in 2012, dramatically changed many of Cataclysm's talents, introduced new talent trees, and overhauled buffs and debuffs - and that was just one expansion. There have been six total expansions since the game's launch in 2004, and that doesn't include the myriad patches, updates, and nerfs the classes have undergone.
Legion brings with it the much-requested Demon Hunter class and a huge number of class changes. The best way to describe it is that World of WarCraft is out to cut the fat, with classes like Hunter losing abilities like Adaptation - a skill that makes pets much more powerful. Indeed, Chilton has a promise for the fans going forward: "We're going to be a lot more disciplined in how we allow the classes to bloat."
And rest assured, there will be more World of WarCraft in our future. Blizzard's MMORPG has been shedding users for a while now, but it still has millions of players, and they are hungry for more content.
"We have several more expansions already planned. We have an idea of where it's all going, and the development team is larger than ever. It's still a healthy game, and I imagine it's going to continue being worked on for quite some time to come."
World of WarCraft: Legion launched earlier this week, and our resident WoW experts, Jaz and Mike, have been playing it non-stop. Keep an eye out for their full review soon, as well as additional coverage over the next week or so on our RPG podcast and elsewhere.