What's so great about Blizzard?

“it” being a character unit in a game. Blizzard has skipped over at least 2 (playable) games now instead of releasing a half-assed product.

looking at the Valve thread, it seems that all the reasons they gave also applied to Blizzard, perhaps doubly so. having played all of Blizzard’s game since the original Starcraft, i am too biased to see the negative side. what’s the dirt on them?

quote. Dinaroozie .unquote.

I’ll WAG and say that by and large the reason Blizzard is great is because they make great games.

Didn’t they try to sneak in spyware into Battle.net back in the day ? I seem to remember something like that.
Fake ETA: got it.

Also, they’re in bed with Activision and Activision is the Devil. Finally, WoW basically destroys any other MMORPG by sheer numbers, which in turn prompts new MMORPGs to try and ape WoW in multitude of ways instead of going in their own gameplay directions.

Beyond that, I got nothing. Their games are not my cup of tea, but they do release a polished product.

My impression (been playing since Warcraft 1) is that they always put the gamers first, even though it hurts their own company. However, they always come out ahead because they never abandon a title too early. Diablo II: LOD, for example, is one of the best selling expansion sets of all time because they didn’t drop the price on it for many years, and it sold well because they kept developing the game. Afaik, D2 still has a vibrant community with constant updates.

As someone who’s bought everything Blizzard’s made from the first Warcraft game onward, i’d say there are three things that set them apart as a unique developer;

  1. They put an extreme amount of effort into world-building, creating elaborate backstories and character motivations for what would be mere background characters in other games.
  2. They won’t release a game until it’s done - Starcraft II spent something like 8-9 years in development, and it won’t be a finished game until 2014. They don’t rush games to market for Christmastime.
  3. They continue to support and develop their games long after other companies would have abandoned them - Diablo II, and the original Starcraft, were still getting patches more than a decade after their initial release.

Moved Cafe Society --> Game Room.

It’s quality. Blizzard’s quality is just light years ahead of the competition. If it takes a few extra years to get it right, well, then it does.

Consider this; Blizzard really has only three franchises; Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo, and Starcraft is just Warcraft with different graphics. (so really the split is Fightin’ Craft, Diablo, and World of Warcraft.) How many video game companies would be around that long and keep perfecting just three lines of games?

The only critiscism I’ve heard leveled at Blizzard that I agree with is their apparent terror of approaching new IPs.

Well take a look at their retrospective and see. They’re gamers that love what they are doing and in the early years got with a company that didn’t try to micromanage and second guess them.

For those that don’t want to watch a 40+ min video the most interesting thing in my mind was the part where the founders were going out and getting advances on their credit cards to make payroll. Now that’s dedication to your staff and company.

I agree on the things mentioned like quality of games, being willing to wait until the product is good enough, and recognizing the importance of multiplayer fairly early.

I’d add one more thing, and that’s being very good at learning from other companies successes and failures. You often hear accusations that someone is stealing or borrowing ideas from other people in entertainment in general. I’d say there’s nothing wrong with taking a good idea, and improving and developing it further to make it great. There’s a difference to straight up copying something of course.

Blizzard has been very good at spotting great ideas in other games, and then taking them to the next level. For example taking what was good and successful in Dune 2 and Everquest, and then developing them further to make it better in Warcraft and World of Warcraft. Similarly Diablo wasn’t the first point and click type RPG (Ultima 8 came out a few years earlier for one), but it was probably the first really successful one.

While Titan may have something new to offer (it could be a Starcraft MMo, but right now they are tight-lipped about it), I think the real reason ehre is that they want everythying to be perfect, or as close to it as possible. So they really focus on just a few game liens, and once they got them rolling, well, why change it?

It is interesting to see how a number of game developers tried to expand too far, but simply didn’t have enough talent to make it work. Blizzard expanded slowly when they expanded at all, but has been a lot more sure about.

Starcraft: Ghost, of course, but what was the other one?

There was a Warcraft adventure game in the mode of Zork way back in the 90s; they decided it sucked and scrapped the project, well into development.

They always said they were 95% done. Just some puzzles needed polishing and the bug checking phase. What I always thought is they should have stealth finished it and included as an undocumented extra in the collector’s edition of Warcraft III or WOW. Just include a file stating it was an unsupported/unoffical extra and people would have gone berserk for it. Even if it was crappy people would have been buying up the special editions just to play it and Blizzard could sit back and shrug if people said it was bad.

Actually, the 3/4 view was almost a joke by then. When Diablo 1 came out, everybody was predicting it would be the same old crap that failed so spectacularly before.

Mainly reiterating what has already been said:

Blizzard polishes the heck out of their games. This polish extends to areas that many other companies don’t seem to spend a lot of time on, like the user interface and tutorial levels. This helps makes their games very easy to start playing. You don’t have to spend minutes or hours just trying to figure out how to play the game. You simply start playing the game.

This level of polish is also evident in how (relatively) un-buggy their products are. Every complex piece of software has bugs, but Blizzard games tend to have significantly fewer bugs than other PC games.

Blizzard games also have very reasonable system requirements. Some games push the envelope on graphics or computational needs. Blizzard chooses instead to make games that can be played even on fairly low-end systems, and they play well on average systems.

On the other hand, I do have some complaints:

I thought Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty was very disappointing. The worst part by far was the so-called “story”. I usually don’t care much about the story of a game, but it was impossible to ignore it in WoL due to the numerous cinematics, cut scenes, (terrible) in-level dialogue, etc. Basically, if I had been more easily able to just ignore the story, I wouldn’t have cared how bad it was. But I couldn’t, and it was bad.

It also seems to take a very long time to load (or reload) a level. I don’t think it ever took Diablo that long to load a level, except maybe on the PlayStation. It seems I could spend a lot of time just waiting to play, so I don’t bother to play anymore. I will probably not buy either of the two expansions for Starcraft II.

I also think that World of Warcraft is a giant convoluted mess of a wanna-be social network in search of a game, but that’s more “not my cup of tea” than a real complaint.

I think my biggest complaint about Blizzard is that they seem to be getting dangerously close to focusing on the polish to the exclusion of the thing they are polishing. That’s rather subjective, though, and all the positive things I listed above are still true.

Blizzard handles tradeoffs well. As an example, World of Warcraft is riddled with collision glitches. Portions of your body, your mount, your weapon, your adversaries are always going inside the landscape. When I started playing, this drove me nuts. I used to work in computer graphics, and we never would have released something that glitchy in the CAD business.

But they have very good performance on “meh” hardware. And adding all the extra processor cycles to fix those problems would require upping the hardware requirements. So they put the effort into different areas that make the experience better (e.g. good shadows, excellent water effects…) that require less processor power.

I’d also say that putting the effort into releasing and supporting WoW on the Macintosh platform has paid off hugely for them. I, and a lot of others like me, might be interested in a competitor like Rift, but we’re not going to buy a whole new computer just to play it. Blizzard gets to keep our subscription money.

As a former EQ player, I always hated their business model re: new content. Every 4 months or so I had to shell out an additional $40 for an expansion, on top of my monthly subscription fee.

Blizzard only makes players pay that $40 every couple of years while still increasing game content every few months via patches. This is a huge nod to the players and for me will inform future gaming choices. A developer who won’t cater to players won’t find my money in their hands anymore because I know it can be done without compromising their profits. Blizzard supports their clients needs & wants, and in return they have millions of loyal customers.

WoW and SC2 both run like ass if you crank up the image quality settings. Certainly far worse than you’d expect from their graphics. WoW shadows would drop me from a solid 60 to under 20 on a q6600/8800 SLI setup. SC2 on ultra barely runs better than Crysis and looks far worse. Sure, you can run their games on four-year-old mid-range tech. Your 5GHz 2600K and 580 GTX SLI won’t do anything, despite barely pushing 60 fps.

Other criticisms of Blizzard:

  • Starcraft in Korea. After 10 years, Blizzard got a stick in its ass and started muscling around the Starcraft leagues in Korea. Maybe you could argue it was a response to KeSPa’s aggression against GOM, but they certainly didn’t play it out to the best of everyone by demanding licensing fees.

  • Ridiculous development cycles. Say what you will about their polish, but lots of other companies are able to release solid and innovative games in a reasonable time frame and they don’t have nearly the same vast resources of Blizzard. Their long developments are based more on strategic release windows than polish.

  • BlizzCon. It’s $150. What a kick in the balls to their fans. QuakeCon is free and doesn’t have nearly the sponsor potential of BlizzCon. QuakeCon manages a massive tournament and insane prizes for free. Why not BlizzCon?

  • Merchandising. The amount of tacky stuff you can buy based on Blizzard’s IP is crazy. It’s shameless. It’s not Nintendo bad, but it’s at least Pixar bad. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy” isn’t a defense because it’s damaging to gaming culture. You’re supposed of design amazing experiences to get money, not hock plastic crap.

  • Their games, for all their lengthy development and polish, lack obvious and expected features. SC2 online replays. SC2 chat channels. SC2 LAN-esuqe touranment mode. WoW spectator mode. All promised but never delivered (except chat, which took too long and was ridiculous to exclude.)

I’m certainly not going to hate on Blizzard. You can come up with a solid list of complaints for any company and it’d probably have far more serious charges. Blizzard is a company that wants to make money foremost, and that’s obvious. They make games based on wide appeal and accessibility. They don’t take chances on anything. They squeeze out every penny. That kind of sucks. The best decision from a business perspective isn’t always the best from a gamer perspective. Not that anyone really chooses the latter. Maybe ye olde id Software. Blizzard could do better.

Aside from in-game premiums like buyable mounts and pets (which, one could argue, start an MMO down the slippery slope towards F2P), I’m not sure how merchandising is inherently “damaging” to the gaming culture. I would think that a company’s Plastic Crap Division and Game Development Division don’t have a whole lot of overlap, and it’s not as if developer time is being monopolized by having to come up with new designs for Murloc plush toys or whatnot.

If you think merchandising cheapens the original game, that’s fine, but I don’t see Blizzard products (or at least WoW products, but I might say the same of SC as well) exactly dominating store shelves everywhere. Occasionally I will see some Blizzard IP shirts at Hot Topic, but mostly it’s Mario, Zelda, and Halo stuff for sale. You can buy lots of Blizzard stuff via their online store, but if merchandise offends you so much then you don’t have to visit that particular site. It would be silly to think that a company that makes games with players bases in the millions wouldn’t think of alternative methods of profiting off their IPs, but I don’t think Blizzard is quite as bad as you say (go to any anime con and behold the endless piles of crap that the Japanese game companies sell…and it’s not just Nintendo).

I do agree that the $150 fee for BlizzCon is a bit stiff of a money grab, however. Even the “Virtual Tickets” are expensive.