World of Warcraft took its first steps when Blizzard was still working on the continuation of Warcraft II. And this development story of what would be Warcraft 3, documented by few vehicles in 2000 and by Blizzard itself on a website that no longer exists, was shared between smiles of nostalgia by Chris Sigaty and Bob Fitch, two of the original team’s programmers who developed the strategy game and its future expansion, Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne.
“There were a lot of challenges, when I joined the team it was a very different 3D Warcraft game”, Sigaty unceremoniously opened the 20-minute limited interview at the exclusive 25-year event of the Warcraft series in Irvine, United States, to which I was invited to participate. Like Fitch, they were both there to talk about Warcraft 3, the real-time strategy game released in 2002 that, over time, became known for its iconic heroes and RPG elements that allowed for fewer battles compared to the his brother in the RTS genre, StarCraft.
But the final product came out like many strategy games that we know: the player controls everything from an upper camera, following the troops’ top view and giving their orders to each of the elements separately. Actions like: this unit needs to attack this opponent or this building needs to train this unit. But that was not the first idea for Warcraft 3.
“The way it worked was very different. You built heroes and only heroes could be controlled. Everything he saw you could click on and add to your army. But you couldn’t move the camera anywhere you wanted, just where the hero was going. So the vision worked just by switching from hero to hero. The game was in third person about that hero and the camera was limited only by the horizon ”, tried to explain the programmer.
“It was a completely different game.” And how it was. On one of the trips on YouTube, I managed to find out what this idea described by Sigaty would be, gathered from several recordings from the time when the Alpha phase was revealed to few members of the press.
“Imagine World of Warcraft in third person, looking just under your shoulder, running through the WoW scene with complete environments and you enter a building in the world, select it and tell it to do something,” said Fitch, making the comparison with the online success that would come 10 years later for the franchise. “Then you go to another place, select another building and ask it to evolve. And only then you go back and get the orc warrior that appeared to say to him ‘now you’re in my army’. ”
“You ran around the world like that, slowly increasing your army. But finally he finds someone else and says ‘now I see you, I’m going to hunt you down’, and then run in the middle of the battlefield and you shock all your units and fight, ”he added, trying to make it as clear as possible how the dynamics worked of the game at that time.
But the truth is that, as immersive as the idea was, perhaps some problems would bother the players and even the development team. “We found that it was not working very well for us, so we changed. But the concept of heroes really came out of it and became the real innovation that Warcraft 3 brought ”, continued Sigaty, remembering that they changed the dynamics of the game compared to other strategy games on the market thanks to the items and skills that can impact the course the victory.
And the community that continues to play for more than 18 years can attest to that – especially with the arrival of the remastered Warcraft 3: Reforged announced for 2019. Among the big requests from the community is to include more races for the original game, but the idea of several and several “factions” has always been present among the corridors of the development of Warcraft 3.
Bob took a loyal look when the topic of conversation reached the challenges of technology that the era offered. The best look of a cook who would like to make his banquet the best possible for his customers. “We tried to limit our appetite to how much we would like to add because we had already made three breeds, but we should do more … Twelve!”, Joked the programmer.
“Well, maybe twelve is a lot. How about nine? No, no, nine is a lot. How about eight? ”He continued.
It was only then that Sigaty recalled how they had to set foot on the ground. “But it took a long time for us to reach four races. There were a lot, in fact I remember documenting the twelve different races. As centaurs were a race, a lot of creatures that later became part of the armies of the orcs, the night elves. Before, they were separated, and that seemed to make more sense ”, he recalled.
“And those were good decisions at the end of the day, but when you fall in love with your choice on paper it is difficult to part with them,” continued Sigaty. The banquet, after all, was already well served.
But the concepts were reused during the project. “We had to think about which of these races has the strongest identity and we decided to keep them, as we didn’t want to lose all these cool ideas of units that we thought about. So let’s just transplant them into the breeds with the best identity for them, ”added Fitch. This later allowed centaurs, gnolls, harpies and other races to enter the “neutral” section of the entire Warcraft 3 fight, all of which could be hired by a player in the hero taverns and mercenary fields scattered across the map.
Always thinking about mods
About conception and creation, Fitch also remembered another factor that was taken into account when establishing the foundations of the game. “Warcraft 3 was built from the ground up knowing that people could use mods. But their number was unbelievable. It went beyond expectations, ”said the programmer.
The madness of Warcraft 3 mods has already yielded a full story here on Voxel – after all, the Chinese have already pushed the limits of the original Blizzard editor and created all kinds of bizarre maps within the game. There are mods with pure horror game experience, ten minutes of hitting between anime characters, platform games and things you believe are impossible to do within an RTS.
“We put scripts just for that,” said Fitch of the insanity of Chinese mods. “One of the lessons we learned along the way is that no matter how much you offer, the world will take that to the next level,” he joked.
“Another thing to think about besides how many maps were created, is to think how big some of them have become. Like DotA ”, Sigety exemplified the mod that was born on StarCraft and would later explode in the online rooms of Warcraft 3. Years later, this new genre created by DotA would be used in hits like League of Legends, DotA 2 (published by Valve) and Blizzard herself would be inspired by her onslaught in arena battles with Heroes of the Storm.
“But other Tower Defense also became very famous,” he recalled, telling of the times he was going to play a game on his cell phone and was immediately attacked by that thought: “hey, I already played this here on Warcraft 3!”
Lost to the insane computer?
If you’ve ever taken a chance on Warcraft 3 games, you might have realized how “insane” the computer can be when you challenge it. At first it can be unfair, but over time you will win more and more until you understand how the game works and how the written artificial intelligence reacts to try to defeat you. Regardless of all your attempts, know that every time you lost to the same person: Bob Fitch.
“Other is that I built artificial intelligence for Warcraft 3 ”, he commented in the final moments of the interview. “So any situation where I see someone else playing against the computer, it’s kind of watching me play against them indirectly. And I’m like, ‘go, go’. It’s really amazing to ‘play’ against people even when I’m not really doing it. It’s a lot of fun ”, he joked. But it should be said in passing that he was not prepared for some “differentiated” strategies that players would do over the years, such as the famous “Tower Rush”; aggressive attacks filled with towers that are difficult even for an ordinary player to defend. In fact, here’s a good tip for beating the insane computer, huh.
In the rotation of stories and emotions, both had thanks to the fans who continue to play the classic from 18 years ago. Fitch smiled. “We make games for ourselves and our friends. And if you liked that too, it means that you are also my friend, ”he concluded in the last interview scheduled on that sunny California afternoon. Sigety smiled together, confirming what his mate said. “Thank you is what we say to say. From the bottom of our hearts.”
There are many details that both developers were unable to tell due to the limited time of the interview, but the internet still rescues several curiosities about these first versions of Warcraft 3. You can find these and more information in two different places: in Wowpedia, which gathered a guide with everything that came out in the press and on the net about the development process, and at Hive Workshop, which rescued the original magazines that launched the first previews about the game.
Therefore, the best curiosities about the Alpha phase and the following versions of the game are:
- Warcraft 3 arose from two canceled games in the series. They would be Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, an adventure game starring Thrall, and Warcraft Legends, the version that Blizzard calls the “Role-Playing Strategy” that was presented in this article.
- The size of the army in the Alpha phase was defined by an attribute called “Leadership”; the higher the lead, the more units you could call your party.
- Gold was the only resource in the early stages, but then wood would come into play. Mana stones were thought of as an option for heroes, but later they were replaced by items and the inventory system.
- You could gain experience by killing enemy units and also doing missions while touring the map.
- Many spells went through makeovers until launch, and each race originally had five heroes. In Reign of Chaos only three went through faction, but The Frozen Throne increased to four and brought neutral heroes, reusing some who did not cross the “cut line”.
- The story in the Alpha phase still told Thrall’s trajectory, but it was not divided into missions. The players had to walk the scene and witness the development of the whole story.
- Furthermore, Jaina was predicted to die early in history to give motivations for Arthas to pursue Mal’Ganis to the ends of the world, but they cut that idea off by realizing that the king’s son would already be duly motivated to see his people being consumed by influences of the legion of the undead.
* The journalist traveled to the Warcraft Summit in Irvine, United States, at the invitation of Blizzard.