Blizzard Still Has "Hope" for Starcraft Ghost

Blizzard Still Has "Hope" for Starcraft Ghost

In a meeting of the MMO minds at the Hollywood and Games Summit, Blizzard’s Rob Pardo said he still believes in the vaporous Starcraft Ghost. More on the MMO panel within…

The question posed to the MMO expert panel was “when do you pull the plug on a project?”

Pardo, lead designer of World of Warcraft at Blizzard, said “Hopefully before you announce it.” He drew an example from his own experience at Blizzard: the evasive action title Starcraft Ghost, which migrated between developers twice before being placed “indefinitely” on hold.

“[There’s] no easy answer…we’ve cancelled a lot of projects,” said Pardo. He claimed that Blizzard—known for hit games like World of Warcraft, of course—really doesn’t have a higher “hit game rate” than other developers.

But the difference is that the public doesn’t see the non-hits.

“We’re just willing to cancel the products that fail,” he said. “That’s important to our brand. We’re willing to bite the bullet and write off those expenses. Sometimes six months into development, the idea doesn’t flow.

“Our most recent one was Starcraft Ghost. With that game we were very stubborn. I still believe in that game and the characters but we were not able to execute at the level we wanted to…Rather than work on that we had to focus on our other games. We’re hoping one day to return to it.”

Does this mean Starcraft Ghost is imminent? Absolutely not. But the fact that it’s still on Pardo’s mind leaves hope to the drooling hordes who were crushed when the game was canned.

Blizzard has its hands full right now with a number of projects, not the least of which is Starcraft 2.

Community building

In building new communities in game and virtual worlds there is the inherent challenge of satisfying a very critical audience. Michael Lewis, CEO at City of Heroes house Cryptic Studios, jokes that this is why they do not publish their phone number or address:  “You are not going to make everyone happy.  How are you going to deal with those unhappy people?  That’s the fine art of managing an online community.  You have to pay attention, be reactive, listen to the player base…They appreciate that you’re listening to them, even if you’re not doing what they’re telling you to.”

The virtual world metaverse has shifted dramatically in a very short amount of time.  Lead creatives are constantly learning how to better handle interactive relationships with players, creating feedback loops that help build compelling worlds that last the test of time.

moscallout"It took us a while with WoW to warm up, it was not a smooth launch for us.”/moscalloutPardo noted how quickly Blizzard had to adjust to this new model of communication.  “Previous to WoW we made box products, which I compare to a feature film.  You work hard on it, by the time you release it you get to watch everyone love it and you’re moving on to the next project.  With WoW we told ourselves that it would be different, but it’s very different emotionally.  MMOs are more like the TV industry….It took us a while with WoW to warm up, it was not a smooth launch for us.”

And yet the media world is now learning from virtual worlds, taking new cues for future stories that allow for more integration, interaction and immersion.  Communities continue to grow around the niche elements of gameworlds of WoW, Second Life and Everquest.

For Sony Online Entertainment San Diego studio head Nick Beliaeff, there was a massive realization that came in the development of Everquest:  “The interesting thing I learned is how impactful the games are to the people who play them.  A couple had met playing the game and they wanted the CEO of our company to marry them”

There is a deep sense of engagement and connection that comes with participation in virtual worlds and this will only continue to grow in coming years, especially if these designers continue to produce compelling stories that give audiences new ways to play, shape and grow with the medium.