Blizzard’s Next MMO: “New, and different.”

By Jim Rossignol on November 13th, 2008 at 11:10 am.


VG247 got a chance to talk to Blizzard COO Paul Sams ahead of last night’s Lich King launch. All standard product-waxing was there, and Sams even made a few mutterings in the direction of their new MMO, which has been in the first stages of production for quite some time now. “We want to create a great game,” he said. “Something that’s cool, and new, and different, and kind of next generation in terms of look and feel and gameplay. That’s a challenging endeavour.”


No word on schedule yet, as the Blizzard team still aren’t 100% sure of this “new” direction: “We want to have a level of confidence that the direction we’re going in the right one, and that it’s polished enough to be able to show something, also. And we’re not in either of those places yet.”

It’s worth remembering that WoW was seen as a huge risk when it was originally in development. Any number of pundits predicted that it would break the company, that it was even – gasp! – too radical to really be a major success. Now of course we see it as a pillar of establishment commercial gaming, but it’s worth remembering that Blizzard took a big risk before, and now have more than enough money to do it again. So, speculation hat on folks: What will a second Blizzard MMO be like? And if you can bare to drop your Robes of Cynicism +5 for a moment, what should it be like in an ideal world? I think I’ve talked too much about this in the past, so let’s open up the floor, and some brains…

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70 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Fede says:

    As many have already said, it would be nice if it was something with a persistent world. That alone would make it much more interesting, as it allows players to generate their own content when they get tired of quests and so on (for they will, sooner or later).

    Another thing that could be interesting would be allowing players to create their own unique NPCs.

    As for the setting and kind of game, probably anything could do, be it RPG, RTS or FPS. I’d like to see Blizzard making a TBS, but I’m sure this won’t be the case.

  2. phuzz says:

    I love Eve’s single universe, I find it really hard to get my head round all the other MMOs that have separate servers.
    (I’m assuming though, that being from Blizzard any new game won’t have Eve’s vertical difficulty curve).

    More opportunity to customise your character as well would be nice, in WoW everyone looks the same because they all go for the same gear, so more unique gear would be cool.

    dunno why I commented though, I hate people so I don’t do MMOs

  3. Homunculus says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it ad nauseum: a better Planetside in the Starcraft setting boasting Blizzard’s trademark polish, please.

  4. Bobsy says:

    I was about to sneer at how they’d just managed to tell us NO new information… but I think it’s actually more interesting than that. Blizzard are going in new and exciting directions… and it’s put the willies up them!

    For a company who have for over a decade made their name by rehashing other people’s work with an incomparable level of polish, this is actually rather chin-strokingly intriguing.

  5. Gap Gen says:

    I didn’t think Activision did new and different any more.

    I think something new that no-one has done before would be a kind of fantasy setting with new and exciting creatures like elves and orcs, and you have to run around killing monsters to pick up new kit and become more experienced. I think it’d work quite well.

  6. BarkingDog says:

    Well, I’m a sick, sick person so I would like it to be like WoW without all the things that I personally don’t like about it. Like grinding and pickups. And arena requirements on pvp things and… well you get the picture. If I weren’t such an addict though I’d want Blizzard to live up to their own pre-hype and come up with something so revolutionary that I couldn’t have thought of it at this stage anyway.
    However, if it’s Starcraft I wouldn’t be too crushed.
    If it’s Lost Vikings in Space I will burn them to the ground. :D

  7. Meat Circus says:

    How much does he want to bet that it will be neither NEW nor DIFFERENT?

    Blizzard being a company largely famed for not doing either.

  8. Lu-Tze says:

    World of Starcraft the “action RPG” MMO.
    Obvious, but someone had to say it.

    And then Mythic will follow up with Warhammer 40k Online 5 years later.

    For something revolutionary, lets push the boat out and assume they’ll go for massive massive battles like EVE and have the game focus on huge numbers rather than huge dragons. That’d be genuinely interesting.

  9. Heliocentric says:

    Hello kitty online, of warcraft. Targeted at bridging the 14 year old boy and 8 year old girl markets.

  10. Gap Gen says:

    One thing you could do with a Starcraft FPS would be to have a kind of Left 4 Dead aspect, so the Protoss and Terran individuals are powerful, with the Zerg less so but each Zerg player gets a mini-swarm. A base-building aspect might also be interesting, with Terrans able to construct bunkers or turrets in the field, or Protoss able to warp in robot assistance.

  11. Dan Harris says:

    Bear to.

    That is all.

  12. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Persistant, player-changeable world for me!

    Even better though – a persistant meta-world. As most MMO’s can fit in a small corner on WOW, they should be put in a small corner of WOW. A world in which you move between the various MMO’s you are a part of, doing meta-quests within their framework to create a transcendant, aggregate avatar.

    I can forsee no problems with making this happen.

  13. Nik Daum says:

    I would love a combination of Gary’s Mod and Warcraft somehow, but without the monthly fee.

  14. Nuyan says:

    Sorry, can’t drop my Robes of Cynicism as they are soulbounded….

    What I’d like is a true open sandbox world, where players can decide in what direction they’ll go without a carrot-on-a-stick in front of them. Where players can build up their own places and items and where players provide each othe r with consequences. It’s the future of MMOs anyway, a MMO where there’s a strong framework for players to create their own content is superior to anything else. Its technically possible and should be able to become popular as well, although it does require a change in mindset of the current average MMO player and may not be an instant success moneywise.

    But I don’t see Blizzard doing that. The furthest thing they might go for innovation wise is a MMO in first-person perspective, perhaps a MMOFPS shooter. They’ll progress a bit on their copied RPG concepts a bit, implement achievement stuff correctly and generally make better carrots to place on their stick.

  15. Okami says:

    I hope the game will be based on a completely new IP.

    Which will of course not happen. I guess it will be a Starcraft MMO based upon the events in the three new Starcraft RTS games. And I guess that the three new RTSs will change the universe in pretty much the same way Warcraft 3 and The Frozen Throne changed the Warcraft universe to pave the way for WoW.

    I also like the way Gap Gen thinks: A Starcraft MMO with a few strategic and tactical elements thrown in could be cool. There have been a few MMOs that have tried to combine RTS and MMO mechanics but usually they sucked. If anyone could pull such a thing of, it should be Blizzard.

    Concerning the Left 4 Dead influence: I’d really love to see a concept like the AI director incorporated into an MMO, in order to bring a more narrative element to the gameplay.

    So instead of a set ammount of scripted quests that advance the story of each individual player, have a rough story arch for the whole game, that’s planned to play out over large stretches of time. And have an AI games master respond to the combined actions of all the players on a server.

    Think along the lines of WAR, but with the AI playing the enemy faction and all the players allied against it. There’s a huge war going on, with players able to capture and loose territory and the AI responding accordingly.

    Results of key actions and key quests could take the story of one server into a different direction than the story on another server.

    Well, I guess that’s never going to happen..

  16. Jesucristo says:

    Blizzard making an innovative game? ¡LOL!

  17. Super Bladesman says:

    Open up the floor, and some brains?

    It’s going to be a zombie MMO? Braaaaaaiinnnssss!

  18. Kadmon says:

    @ Dan Harris. Schoolboy error there, old chap. Notice the pun on ‘bare’ and ‘Robes of Cynicism’? I chuckled a little, anyway…

  19. Steve says:

    Next-gen gameplay? Blizzard don’t seem to be capable of moving past EverQuest, so I doubt it’ll be anything spectacularly different from the awful WoW and its endless grinding.

  20. Thirith says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever get the visceral hatred that WoW elicits. Obviously Blizzard is keeping a very large audience happy – personally I didn’t get much enjoyment out of the one or two days of WoW that I played, but I don’t understand why some people need to rant and rail at the game just because they don’t like it. (I understand even less why people who have spent months and even years playing the game then need to rant and rail. Obviously you enjoyed playing the game for a good long time…)

  21. Heliocentric says:

    Think of something you dont like, that other people do.

    Now imagine you are on the internet, and angry.

    “People are wrong or you are wrong” (binary nature of the internet)

    “People who are wrong are stupid”

    “I am not stupid, your stupid”

    This is no different for ex players, however. The people who compain and play it have not realised that they are the stupids.

    This goes for most mindless hatred.

  22. Heliocentric says:

    I hate that… No lower case email address, no mini dark one.

    Wow i judge from wower friends and experience in Guild Wars, I dont want to play a carrot and stick game. And wow has the stick of failure and punishment (cash lost, gold lost when you die) with the carrot of being like everyone else and playing multiplayer skirmish concepts.

    I can get that same carrot faster in other games without the stick of such magnitude. I’d take that stick for a better carrot however.

  23. Gladman says:

    I don’t think Blizzard remember how to create new things.

  24. Downloads_Plz says:

    I mean this as somewhat of a rhetorical question, but why SHOULD Blizzard create new things, at least on a regular basis?

    They’ve created three IP’s that have worked well for them in Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. And in the last 13 years, the only games they’ve made have been from those franchises. And people still want more of them!

    When SC2 was announced, a lot of people were extremely happy, and it will be huge.

    When D3 was announced, a lot of people were extremely happy, and it will also be huge.

    And even when Wrath of the Lich King was announced, a lot of people were extremely happy, and by the end of the week or so it probably will have sold about 10 million copies.

    You can give them all the shit you want about not creating new franchises, but really, why should they when the ones that they have created are still doing ridiculously well?

    That said though, I believe the new MMO actually will be a new franchise, a lot of people will be extremely happy, and it will be huge.

  25. cyrenic says:

    Smaller server shards (population wise, not necessarily world size) with more impact for player actions. Say, small enough that everyone could be at the same place for a major event and it wouldn’t crash the server. This would also make a tighter community, fostering both alliances and rivalries. Make the server structure more flexible so that friends can play with each other easily (i.e. no fees) even if they didn’t start on the same server.

    Multiple viable ways to advance your character, including PvE, PvP, and exploring.

    Some sort of variation in the content. If it’s a Starcraft MMO, (which is extremely likely) make really good tools that allow a single developer create a planet in a week.

    Drop the monthly fee. If they think their numbers are big now, dropping the monthly fee would make the current numbers look small. I think with that many people advertising when starting the game up or loading a new area could make up for the monthly fee.

  26. man alive says:

    Said this before, I think. Same old stuff gameplay-wise but tied into social networking, web games, etc.

    What I actually want from them is singleplayer WoW. Massively increase XP gain rate so you don’t have to grind and can skip all the fetch-10-skins quests, let you have AI companions. No monthly fee (which is why they won’t do it). Wowblivion would be neat, I want to check the world out but don’t want to play an MMO.

  27. tom@nullpointer.co.uk says:

    BRAiiiinnnnzzz,

    speaking of what happened to kojimas zombie mmo?

  28. AlexW says:

    Do the goddamn EVE formula. Blizzard have enough cash to get a unified game world up and running, and Lord knows people would jump at the chance to be able to meet anyone that plays the game without “Oops, I’m on a different server” troubles. With hefty differences from EVE, of course – in that respect, World of Starcraft would be a good thing.

    That, or a non-subscription MMO. Either one’s good, and would genuinely constitute new ground for Blizzard.

  29. shon says:

    I think what make Blizzard so successful is that they do familiar old things very very well. I have a hard time believing they will branch out into some of the theoretical new gameplays mentioned here.

    Having said that, I think the only thing you can be sure of is that it will be in a science fiction or modern setting just so they don’t infringe on WoW. I am betting on a more accessible to new players version of EVE.

  30. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Cyrenic: have the gold farmers pay to advertise on in-game billboards.

  31. Erik says:

    To me, the most interesting books written are the ones that’s not about commercial success, they’re not written to appeal to as many people as possible. This goes for music as well. Sadly, this is almost non-existant when it comes to games, and especially MMOs, that might have a great deal to do with the huge investment involved and the need to see good return on the investment. Probably. No one is willing to take risks, Blizzard calling WoW or any other new MMO they decide to make a risk, that’s a joke.

    I’ve tried almost every MMO, and basically they all feel very much the same. It’s all about progress in a way that’s to me tedious. Give me an interesting MMO, or even MMORPG, that has no levels and no currency, that might be the day I decide to try another MMO.

    The reason I love singleplayer RPGs, isn’t about the character’s progress when it comes to levels/XP or items. It’s about the character’s progress as a person, it’s about the journey, the choices made and the ability to change a world, different paths to be taken. You can’t change the world in an MMORPG because developers are under the impression that the game has to be the same for everyone, that everyone should be able to do the same things. That if you start playing on a server that’s two months old, a city that was filled with quests, can’t be gone because some other player destroyed it. To me that’s just very safe and very boring.

  32. Dan Harris says:

    @ Kadmon:

    I did notice, but my Grammatical Pedant filter has much stricter settings than my Weak Pun filter.

    Anyway, on topic, I want:

    - all players in the same world;
    - world actually changes when people do things, so two players starting playing a year apart will have genuinely different gaming experiences;
    - guns;
    - dragons;
    - sports mini-games well-developed enough that I could have a character solely devoted to being a professional GunDragonBall player, until my stadium is permanently destroyed by some other players on a quest at which point I get very angry and start playing the game ‘properly’ to exact revenge;
    - airships from which to fight dragons;
    - cake.

  33. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    They are going to make a sequel to Tibia.

  34. TooNu says:

    Look at Blizzards past and tell me what has been “different” asides from the obvious Warcraft/Diablo = swords and magic. Starcraft = Guns and space.
    So how can it be different? it has to be some FPS MMO and even then why pay a monthly fee if TF2, COD4, BF, CS and many other FPS games are free (after initial purchase).

    Even RTS games are free to play online. Diablo is free to play online. HOW CAN BLIZZARD MAKE A DIFFERENT MMO??????? THEY CAN’T.

  35. Dave says:

    TooNu, the lack of imagination in that post makes me sad.

    Blizzard isn’t really known for innovation, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing they can do now that’s not an MMOFPS.

    Maybe it’s going to be massively multiplayer World of Goo, or massively multiplayer Solitaire, or… who knows? :P

  36. Gap Gen says:

    Dan Harris: “airships from which to fight dragons”

    If the airships are filled with hydrogen, that is going to be a short fight.

  37. phil says:

    Based on what’s been on the bleeding edge of radical technical innovation, the championing of new media and the fearless exploration of the limits of human/technology interface since the internet’s inception, how about a porn centred mmo?

    No? Then how about one where high level characters can link themselves together, voltron like, into uber stompy creatures, capable of tearing hole in the game world itself and then using them to storm from server to server, serving as big bads or patrons to newbies. Personally I like the porn idea better, though the scoring for PvP could be problematic.

  38. Ian says:

    World of Diplomacycraft.

    You choose a mixed race citizen of Azeroth (human/orc, gnome/tauren, that sort of thing) and act as a go-between for the various faction leaders, and eventually go on a mission of peace to the Lich King himself!

  39. phuzz says:

    A good (fiction) book about the possible future of mmos (including AndrewC’s idea of moving between mmos) try Halting State by Charlie Stross. Loads of interesting ideas, especially for this audience.

  40. Gorgeras says:

    I don’t expect the next Blizzard MMO will be much of a change. It will be yet another game promoted and sold entirely on the premise of PvP and player factional warfare in the two years leading up to release following the official announcement. Then within the first month after release, disappointment as it’s yet another Everquest clone.

    I suspect EVE will be the only MMO that gives players any real freedom forever, even if it has become dissolved of late due to horribly ill-concieved changes in favour of PvE mission grinds.

  41. Arnulf says:

    Hmmm.

    I’m still strongly convinced that it will be a game set in the Starcraft universe. I’m thinking about the situation when WOW was announced back then. The exact details escape me. I’m terrible at keeping correct dates and such. But I seem to remember that Warcraft III, which took ages to complete, was still not released but almost there. Diablo II: Lord of Destruction was dominating the scene.

    Warcraft Adventures was ditched for some time then — correct me if I’m wrong here. The parallel to Starcraft is too tempting. SC2 is just over the horizon. Starcraft Ghost was scrapped, sadly. It must be a Starcraft MMO.

    Now, if we knew what visionary figureheads were joining Blizzard in the last five years, like Rob Pardo and Jeff Kaplan back then, we could guess what kind of MMO they’re developing. I’m still with a Tabula Rasa/Planetside kind of game. Probably it will be mostly PVE, but also feature a strong PVP element.

    Am I totally off here? With that all said I deem Blizzard too predictable. We don’t know all variables yet. Blizzard can be secretive. And successfully so. That they were able to hide this project at all. Although I don’t know for how long they were working on this. One year? Two years? They came out with WC3 after just one year. And I thought back then one year is a long, long time. They should be ready any time now. I was wrong of course.

    What I would like to see, is an MMO where I could talk with my guildmates when I’m outside the game, too. Like over IRC or via SMS with my mobile phone. Also, the game should be multi-platform: Wii, XB360, PS3, what-have-you. Not only PC. Market information (auction house etc.) should be available from the outside too. If there is some kind of territory, results of the PVP element, it should be also accessible from the outside. Think the WOW armoury stretched over all aspects of the world, or universe.

    Well, that’s my take on this.

  42. fulis says:

    Who cares

    It’s going to be grind based anyway

  43. Gorgeras says:

    All it would take to remove the grind is a properly implimented economy. EVE used to have something like this before PvE missions became so lucrative and miners got shafted.

    With WoW, I thought in 2004 that we could capture mines and lumber mills and NPCs would work them, giving all players of the owning race materials and cash. What are friggin disappointment it was when it got announced that the trade skills got dumbed down. I knew then that there wasn’t going to be a viable economy in WoW.

  44. mujadaddy says:

    Pff. Try Robes of Cynicism minus Five.

  45. Gap Gen says:

    How about they sell cocaine for £25 and then £9 for a monthly “subscription”. Cheap and effective.

  46. Jahkaivah says:

    “New and Differant”? From Blizzard? Surely they mean “Old, but remarkebly well polished”? :P

  47. Capon says:

    I do like the rhetoric of innovation that Blizzard are giving their new MMO. I say rhetoric, since I do think they’re going to go on a safer route in practice, only because MMOs are a very big investment…. they have to be able to pay themselves off, and get a steady growth of player population over a 5+ year span of time.

    One aspect in the game I do hope they be innovative is in their playtesting development stage of production. I know Valve does plenty of this, and it looks that Blizzard has caught on (Korean Starcraft league players alpha testing it). When this style of game testing in brought in, then more weirder and controversial ideas can be developed for the game.

    One idea that could have been play tested is Gorgeras’ idea with an NPC driven mining and logging industry. Maybe it was tested back when WoW was still in development back in 2004. But if it wasn’t, and it was panned out due to risk and staying in their comfort zone, then that would be a shame. Play testing could have tried out that idea, and seeing real results on it’s effects on the game economy.

  48. R. says:

    I guess I’ll ignore the several statements that Blizzard have made in the last 6 months about their new MMO being IN A COMPLETELY NEW AND ORIGINAL SETTING NOT TIED TO THEIR BIG THREE FRANCHISES as it seems just about everyone else seems to be in blissful ignorance about that little point. Oh and it’s somewhat funny to see several people scream and demand something new and untried while in the same paragraph begging them to follow the Eve formula.

    Jesus Marimba, just when I thought my opinion of my fellow gamers couldn’t get any lower, I read rubbish like a good 75% of the posts about this entail. At least try and establish some facts before complaining about it being Starcraft Online or whatever else nonsense some of you are projecting from your own personal prejudices.

  49. perilisk says:

    Lost Vikings Online.