If you have ever played games on a computer or a console system, you have probably played at least one Blizzard game. In fact, at least 10 million people were subscribed to World of Warcraft as of October 4th, 2012. Blizzard continually produces some of the best selling and most critically acclaimed games in the industry. My own favorite games are many that the company has created: Rock ‘N Roll Racing, the Diablo series, the Warcraft series, and of course World of Warcraft. I have played World of Warcraft (WoW) off and on –well mostly on- for 6 years. I battled ogres, demons, trolls, dragons, and ghouls and made at least a dozen good friends from all across the country. I am engaged to a woman I met while playing. I felt deep sorrow when a player I knew for years passed away due to stomach cancer. The game extends beyond the screen for me, as it has for so many others.
So when my supervisor, Karen Kroslowitz, asked if I wanted to visit the Blizzard headquarters in Irvine, California, my gamer soul wept with epic joy. World of Warcraft (WoW) is being highlighted in the Museum’s upcoming Make Software, Change the World! exhibit and I was being sent to visit Blizzard. As a WoW player might excitedly exclaim: “Wooooot, epic win!”
My expectations for the one day visit soared, much like the expectations that Blizzard fans have for their latest game title. However, like most Blizzard games, the actual visit to the Irvine, California offices exceeded my expectations. CHM Curator Chris Garcia and I presented our ID to the guard at the gate and we immediately saw a 12 foot tall statue in the courtyard of the offices. It was an orc mounted on a frostwolf, his expression a menacing snarl and his axe raised above his head. At that point, I knew I was in for quite an adventure.
Blizzard Associate Curator Dana Bishop and Producer Michael Bybee greeted us shortly after, and led us to the Blizzard museum display in the building. The walls were covered with concept art, illustrations, and original paintings from Diablo III.
Also on display was an assortment of small statues, most likely used as artist references. We were later shown the workshop where the models are sculpted and assembled. Among the models were iconic Warcraft characters including Arthas the Lich King, Illidan and Lady Vashj, as well as models that would represent playable characters like a gnome warrior wearing a tier 2 armor set riding a Mechanostrider.
Dana Bishop maintains a storage room in the Blizzard office that is filled with material. Present there is a collection of Blizzard themed action figures, game boxes, original sketches and other artwork, blade server hardware, and even a few cans of Pringles Potato Chips featuring WoW characters on the packaging. She also kept a set of newspapers in which WoW was discussed on the front page. In the three office buildings, Dana and Michael maintain small exhibits that honor Blizzard games and characters, and even the original artwork of non-artist Blizzard employees. One such exhibit stood near a standee advertising the new Mists of Pandara expansion for WoW. Next to the standee is a full size (and full weight) Frostmourne sword, set in a base of plastic made to look like a block of ice. Another display in the office had an overview of how Blizzard designs the quest game mechanics for WoW.
I would like to say that I am not completely sold on adding the Pandaren as a playable race to WoW. They seem to be a bit too cartoonish, but a Disney style cartoon. That being said, I have still bought the new expansion. There is something amazing that Blizzard games are able to accomplish. Whether they are deemed a success or a let-down, they always tell an amazingly deep, compelling story. The new continent will be hours of new places to explore, new enemies to face, new challenges to solve, and I know I will make new friends along the way.