Vanilla-Dev raves about the crunch and the great WoW team

of Karsten Scholz
It's time again for a new anecdote from John Staats, former 3D level designer at Blizzard, who created many of the dungeons in Vanilla-WoW. This time it is about the team structure in the first years of WoW development as well as the crunch phase, which Staats apparently looks back on with great pleasure.

At least since being funded via Kickstarter Diary around the development of World of Warcraft (Vanilla version) we know that John Staats is an inexhaustible source of exciting insider anecdotes from the years before the Vanilla launch. As a 3D level designer, he distinguished himself for the development of many vanilla dungeons. If you want to learn more about the creation of WoW, you don't have to buy the book, because Staats also regularly publishes short essays on Wowhead in which he tells his stories.

In the current issue is about the team structure in the first years of WoW development as well as the crunch phase, which Staats apparently looks back on with great pleasure. We have summarized the most important findings from the essay below:

  • Mark Kern, also a developer of Vanilla-WoW, once remarked that he had never had such a social life as the WoW team in the years before the Vanilla launch. And John Staats confirms this: The team constantly went to lunch together, squeezing themselves into spontaneous groups on the back seats of a few cars and often the group was so big that only a few restaurants were even considered for lunch. There were remarkably few cliques that mostly remained in isolation.
  • The leaders of the WoW team had learned from the development of Starcraft and absolutely wanted to avoid burning out the team members due to long and violent crunch phases. In this regard, the development of Starcraft must have been a nightmare, as the team was constantly lagging behind the milestones, Allen Adham kept finding things to improve, and repeated problems caused the crunch to not stop. A sprint that was contemplated for a short time became a marathon at a constant sprint pace. It was normal for people to work late into the night and sleep in the office. Meals were left out, as was the daily shower. Thanks to this exhausting time, Blizzard co-founder Allen Adham announced his departure in 2004.
  • Nevertheless, there were also labor-intensive phases at Vanilla-WoW that could be called a crunch. However, John Staats explains that many of the overtime hours were volunteered by the developers. He saw Blizzard less as an employer and more as a sponsor. He loved designing dungeons. He would have loved to take care of every instance, since all of them have their cool special features. And it was a matter of course for him that he spent as much time as necessary in the design of the dungeons in order to achieve the best possible result.
  • According to the state, the same was true for the other developers, who worked extremely hard so that the features that were important to them could remain in the game and achieve the best possible quality. Programmers like Collin Murray and Scott Hartin, who spent many of the weekends in the office, were particularly blatant. Tim Truesdale, the roommate of John Staats, often experimented with the code and systems late at night, simply because he wanted to see if you could use WoW (buy now for € 26.99) could do even better. Even the employees with the family invested a lot of overtime that was not required at all. There was no such thing as someone just doing his eight hours a day.
  • Before the European Computer Trade Show (ECTS), the developers wanted to show a polished version of the game as possible for a big announcement, which is why working hours had been extended to 22:00 in the months before, twice a week. However, a large part of the team voluntarily stayed longer. Partly to work, but partly to play a few rounds of counter-strike. Which brings us back to the first point: the WoW team was a very sociable bunch at the time.

More anecdotes from John Staats:

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