Interview: Rob Pardo

Interview: Rob Pardo

World Of Warcraft‘s co-designer on the challenges of maintaining a world and choosing to destroy it.

With Blizzard’s world-changing WOW update, Cataclysm, launching early next week, Azeroth may never be the same again. We sat down with executive vice president of game design, Rob Pardo, to discuss how much longer WOW can stay at the forefront of MMORPG’s, the relative benefits of intuition over metrics and where the world can go next.

Do you think WOW has the potential to define the next decade as it did the last? Can it maintain that influence?
I certainly think that WOW, like a lot of similar games, has been influential. Just like FPS games of today are still influenced by Doom and Quake. But it’s more about games that are built on top of those principles. So I think that’s where you’re going to see the influence of something like WOW or Everquest. There will be similar games definitely influenced by those genre-defining titles. You’ll definitely see WOW‘s influence in bigger MMOGs in the future, and WOW will then fade into the past as just being another of those similar games.

WOW has changed a great deal since its launch. Do you think it can be continually added to and tweaked in order to maintain that level of influence, or does it take a whole new reboot like Cataclysm to do that?
I certainly think you always have the opportunity to keep an MMOG going for a very long time, and I always compare it to how most games are like making a feature film, whereas an MMOG is more like running a TV series. Some series last a few seasons and some go on for 26 seasons. Now can WOW become more like that? I hope so. We do have the ability to continually add to the game and evolve it, but the trickier challenge is that eventually people are going to want to move onto new types of entertainment. And simply from a graphical point of view, as time goes on WOW will come to look increasingly dated. I think it’s very resistant to that due to the style we chose, but five to ten years from now there’s going to be some amazing looking games.

Would it be possible to create a patch to update that side of WOW, like Eve Online did?
Eve has a lot less content, but for us I don’t know how reasonable it would be to, say, upgrade the graphics engine and replace every single piece of content of the game. Consider we have ten years of development of WOW today. And most of that is creating art content. So if we want to replace art content we can’t just do that in a year. We’re always tweaking it but I don’t think you could do a full graphics reboot.

Given infinite time and resources would you like to implement more changes?
I think that’s always the case. If I could just wave my production wand and make something happen then we’d do X, Y and Z. But you’re always more bound by production realities than you want to be – that’s just part of making games, and any other entertainment. You can always imagine more than you can create.