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The making of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans – the groundbreaking strategy game that paved the way for World of Warcraft

When we mention the name Warcraft today, most people immediately think of World of Warcraft. This is an incredibly successful MMORPG that has dominated this genre since 2004 and was recently re-released as the World of Warcraft Classic. However, Warcraft’s history began more than a decade ago with an early company called Silicon and Synapse, and soon evolved into the famous Blizzard Entertainment. The founders of the company were Allen Adham and Michael Morhaime. “I met Mike through an engineering scholarship at UCLA,” Patrick begins. “And he invited me to offer him a contract to convert DOS / Amiga Battle Chess games to Windows 3. He graduated from college and worked full-time at Silicon and Synapse that year. Patrick quickly took part in various SNES projects such as Lost Viking and Rock’n’Roll Racing, but they received good reviews, but the focus was on PC products, as they weren’t big sellers. ..

“One day in September 1993, Allen came to me and told me to work on a new project called Warcraft as producer and head of programming,” Patrick recalled. There was no doubt that the main inspiration for the game was. The Silicon team is obsessed with the iconic Westwood Dune 2 game, which describes a variety of tactics and styles that you can use almost every day. “It wasn’t a market gap beyond chance,” he smiles. I thought that if I could improve the design, I could make something special. The first big change was the setting-“We all love fantasy, Tolkien was a big inspiration”-and Patrick also confirmed that a Warhammer license was being considered. “It was definitely discussed. Allen was keen on increasing sales and gaining a bad reputation, but was happy when nothing happened. Warhammer had a huge impact on Warcraft’s art style. But we wanted to create and control our universe. “

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“The process of creating Warcraft was very organic, and first, I mostly wrote the code as fast as possible in a few months,” Patrick continues. As the game began to form, Blizzard invited Ron Miller to lead the design, a small team of programmers assisted Patrick’s coding and graphics, and the story was created. However, the difference in the meaning of the game soon became apparent. Warcraft has evolved into something completely different from the series we know and love today.

Focus on simplicity

Patrick supports simplicity, one of Warcraft’s core design principles. “Many games were very difficult to play because they required detailed interaction with the user interface, so our goal has always been to make the interface out-of-game games.” He explains. One of the things the team quickly learned during development was the use of keyboard shortcuts. In real-time combat, it was clear that players needed to issue action commands to units quickly and easily, given the limits of control of the units.

Looking back today, it seems strange that you can only select up to 4 units at a time in Warcraft, but this method removes one of Westwood’s criticisms of the Command And Conquer series that there are no such restrictions. “Allen Adham was a major supporter of the four-unit election cap,” says Patrick. “Not everyone agreed, but I realized there were benefits.” Frontier served several purposes. Most importantly, it makes the game more tactical by eliminating “tank attack” tactics and forcing players to focus more on the body and bones of the game. It’s a war.

“If you’ve played Warcraft in 1993, you can drag and select as many units as you want, but it was a very convenient way to set the orientation and write the code. Units- Choose 50 units and have them all ready. Go to the other side of the map and avoid traffic jams. Tell them to watch the chaos unfold. I thought the boundaries were the right move. Patrick later modified the code and selected four units, which solved the traffic jam problem, but he admits four. In retrospect, the units may have been too low. Yes. For Warcraft 2, the limit has been increased to 9.

Technical problem

“I found a lot of sync bugs, but at some point it got worse, and Allen said he had to remove multiplayer, release a single player game, and then add multiplayer.” Passionate about, the team fought hard to revive him. Patrick believes Blizzard is not today’s company if multiplayer games have been removed from the original Warcraft. “I had a few months to track down a particular bug. The game was about to be released without multiplayer, but I finally got it and shipped it two weeks late.” Other issues were gradually resolved. It was relatively minor compared to the dreaded sync error.

At this point, Warcraft already boasted a distinctive bright and hilarious graphic that believed in frequent bloody battles. “Many companies wanted a bold look for the game, but I think the experience of the artist who created the” well-read “characters in the early console games we developed had a big impact here. increase. It’s a very attractive style, and everyone who saw it loved it, “says Patrick.

Bright and colorful

Towards the end of Warcraft development, another important member has been added to the team. Bill Roper apparently joined Oaks Against The Humans to complete the story and eventually lent his charismatic abilities to one of the game’s most memorable features. He laid the foundation for art, “says Patrick proudly. He games that personality. Warcraft was starting to shape well with Patrick as Bill helped design the game guide, and the team doesn’t seem to be aware of the notable competitors in development yet. “It wasn’t until I met the Westwood people at the post-Warcraft trade fair that I started learning what happened after Dune2-CommandAndConquer. I got the impression that they weren’t completely happy with it. But they should be happy that we have adopted their big game as our foundation.

When released, Warcraft was a huge hit and was a dormant success. Did this surprise Blizzard? “Yes, no,” Patrick said. “I knew it would be a hit because I was addicted. When I released the Gold Master Disc, everyone kept playing the game and no one went home. But our idea was successful. Was to sell 200,000 units, so I was surprised that he was also a consistent seller if the game didn’t start right away: selling 400,000 units in about a year. I thought it was great. ”

Finally, ask Patrick how he sees the importance of Warcraft today. “Blizzard is today’s company, thanks to going from start to finish in 1992. I made a mistake, but I learned from it. I had a lot of discussion, but the best solution to a difficult problem. I found it. And it’s a company. From the beginning we knew all the right answers, the right answers for the players. “We built it and it was ours in the next few years. It has led to the immense popularity of the game. And Warcraft was almost there from Startup. “

This feature was the first Retro gamer Magazine No. 111. For great articles like the one you just read, subscribe to the print or digital version at. My favorite magazine.


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The making of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans – the groundbreaking strategy game that paved the way for World of Warcraft

Mention the name Warcraft today and most people will immediately think of World of Warcraft, the incredibly successful MMORPG that has dominated the genre since 2004 and has recently been re-released as World of Warcraft Classic. Yet the story of Warcraft began over ten years earlier with an embryonic company named Silicon and Synapse, who would soon transform into the more commonly-known Blizzard Entertainment. The company’s founders were Allen Adham and Michael Morhaime. “I knew Mike from an engineering fraternity at UCLA,” begins Patrick, “and he invited me down to offer me a contract role converting the DOS/Amiga game Battle Chess to Windows 3.” Patrick worked on this conversion from February until June 1991 before graduating from university and beginning full-time employment at Silicon and Synapse later that year. Patrick was soon busy on various SNES projects such as The Lost Vikings and Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing. However, despite good critical reception, they weren’t big sellers, resulting in a focus on PC products.
“One day in September 1993, Allen came up to me and told me to take over a new project called Warcraft as producer and programming lead,” recalls Patrick and there was little doubt of the main source of inspiration for the game. Many of the Silicon team had become addicted to the iconic Westwood game, Dune 2, discussing almost every day the various tactics and styles that could be used. “It wasn’t so much a gap in the market, as an opportunity,” he smiles, “as it was obvious to us that Dune 2, despite our fondness for it, had weaknesses. We thought we could create something special if we improved upon the design.” The first major change was the setting – “We all loved fantasy and Tolkien was a major inspiration” – and Patrick also confirms that a Warhammer licence was considered. “It was certainly discussed. Allen was keen on it to try and increase sales and gain brand recognition but as far as I was concerned, I was pleased when nothing came of it. We wanted to create and control our own universe, although Warhammer became a big influence in the art style of Warcraft.”
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“The process of creating Warcraft was very organic,” continues Patrick, “and to start off with was mostly me writing code as fast as I could for several months.” When the game began to form, Blizzard brought in Ron Millar to head up the design, a small team of programmers to assist Patrick with coding and graphics and the storyline was devised. However, a divergence in the direction of the gameplay was soon appearing; Warcraft was turning into something quite different from the series we know and love today.
A focus on simplicity

Patrick confirms one of Warcraft’s principal design tenets: simplicity. “Many games were just too hard to play because they required detailed interaction with the user interface,” he explains, “so our goal was always to create a game where the interface just got out of the way of the gameplay.” One of the elements the team quickly learned during development was the use of hot-keys; it was evident that in a real-time battle, players needed to give actions to their units commands quickly and easily, given the unit control limit.
It seems odd looking back today that you can only select up to four units at once in Warcraft, yet this method sidesteps one of the criticisms of Westwood’s Command And Conquer series where no such restriction existed. “Allen Adham was the chief proponent of the four-unit selection limit,” reveals Patrick, “and whilst we didn’t all see eye to eye on it, we realised it had merits.” The limit served several purposes, most importantly making the game more tactical by eliminating “tank-rush” tactics and forcing the player to concentrate more on the meat and bones of the game: combat. 
“If you had played Warcraft back in 1993, you’d have been able to drag-select as many units as you like,” discloses Patrick, “and although it was a really useful way to determine my path-finding and unit formation code – select fifty units and tell them all to go to the other side of the map and watch the unfolding chaos of a traffic jam – I thought the limit was the correct decision at the time.” Whilst Patrick’s subsequent code tinkering and the four-unit selection solved the traffic jam issues, he concedes in retrospect that perhaps four units was too low; the limit was raised to nine for Warcraft 2.
Technical challenges

“We discovered many sync bugs, and at one point it was so bad that Allen said we had to drop multiplayer, release a single player game and then add the multiplayer later.” Still passionate about its inclusion, the team fought for it to be re-instated and Patrick still firmly believes that if multiplayer had been dropped from the original Warcraft, Blizzard would not be the company it is today. “There was a period of several months where I tracked one specific bug. The game was so close to shipping without multiplayer but we got it in the end and shipped just two weeks late.” he remembers. Other issues were slowly ironed out and relatively minor compared to the dreaded sync bugs.
By this stage, Warcraft already boasted its distinctive bright and cheerful graphics that belied the frequent bloody battles. “There were lots of companies that were going for the gritty look in their games, but I think our artists’ experience with making characters “read well” for the early console games we developed really had a big impact here. Sam Didier led the art and had a style that was so engaging, everyone who saw it loved it,” explains Patrick. Blizzard’s artists worked under a policy that all artwork had to be drawn under fluorescent lights rather than dark rooms, with the theory being that as it was the worst possible light, the artwork would look better in any other light.
Bright and colourful

Towards the end of the development of Warcraft, an important member was added to the team. Bill Roper joined ostensibly to back-fill the Orcs versus humans storyline and ultimately lent his charismatic talents to one of the most memorable features of the game. “Along with guys who laid down the foundation with the artwork, Bill did a fantastic job creating the voice-tracks to Warcraft,” says Patrick proudly, “and the many humorous one-liners that gave the game its personality.” With Bill also helping to design the game’s manual, Warcraft was beginning to take shape very nicely with Patrick and the team still seemingly unaware of a notable rival that was also being developed at the same time. “It wasn’t until we met up with the Westwood folks at trade shows after the release of Warcraft that we began to learn what it’d been up to with its follow up to Dune 2 – Command And Conquer. My impression was they weren’t exactly happy over it; but I reckoned they should have been pleased that we’d taken their great game as a base for ours.”
On release, Warcraft was a big success and a sleeper hit. Did this surprise Blizzard? “Well, yes and no,” says Patrick, “We knew it would be successful because, hell, it was addictive! When we shipped the gold master discs, everyone just kept playing the game and no-one would go home! But our idea of success was selling 200k units, so I guess we were surprised, as although the game didn’t take off straight away, it was a consistent seller; word of mouth meant we sold 400,000 units in around a year – which we thought was awesome.” 
We conclude by asking Patrick how he sees Warcraft’s significance today. “Blizzard is the company it is today because of the things we did all the way back in 1992. We made mistakes, but learned from them. We argued a lot internally, but came up with the best solutions to hard problems. And from those beginnings we built a company where we knew all the right answers, answers that were right for the players which led to the vast popularity of our games in later years. And Warcraft was there, practically from the start.”
This feature first appeared in Retro Gamer magazine issue 111. For more excellent features, like the one you’ve just read, don’t forget to subscribe to the print or digital edition at MyFavouriteMagazines.  

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