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Warcraft III Was Almost A Non-Traditional RTS Called Warcraft Legends

by Mike Futter on Nov 03, 2014 at 11:47 AM

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We had the chance to speak with Civilization IV lead designer and Mohawk Games founder Soren Johnson almost a year ago. Now, in addition to his work on Offworld Trading Company, Johnson is spending his time interviewing other notable developers.

He’s started a new podcast series called Designer Notes, which aired for the first time on October 30. He led off with Rob Pardo, former chief creative officer at Blizzard.

During the conversation, Pardo revealed that Warcraft III was almost a very different game. It would have been called Warcraft Legends (not to be confused with the graphic novel series or the canceled Warcraft Adventures game).

“The game we were trying to make was not Warcraft III at first,” Pardo told Johnson. “[Mike O’Brien, lead on Warcraft III] was really passionate about not doing a traditional RTS. He wanted to do a strategy game, but he didn’t really have a vision for what it was, other than he wanted to be innovative and different. Looking back on it now, I think that’s a very flawed way to make a game, by defining what it’s not. I don’t mind that being aspirational, but I don’t think you can have a bunch of developers making something that they don’t know what they are making.”

Pardo describes a game that would have brought the camera much closer to the ground. There would have been fewer units to command, with an over-the-shoulder camera. What was eventually released, featured a traditional isometric camera and base-building (which also would have been absent in Warcraft Legends), but the heroes concept was always part of the plan.

After a year of work, Warcraft Legends didn’t gel into a concept that would have been successful, Pardo explains. “I think it’s really hard to have a game where you have a sense of strategy and the map when you’re down that immersed into the world itself, because you’re fighting strategy versus tactics. It never felt very strategic,” he said. “So, we kind of did a hard stop and really looked at where we are at. We said, ‘You know what, let’s really make this thing Warcraft III.’ That’s really what the team had wanted to make all along, anyway.”

[Source: Designer Notes on Idle Thumbs]


Our Take
You get a very different type of discussion when developers talk to one another than you do when a journalist interviews someone who makes games. Our video producer, Ben Hanson, works to set up conversations during conventions to make just this sort of thing happen. You can check out a chat between Peter Molyneux (Fable, Godus) and Sean Vanaman (The Walking Dead, Firewatch). There’s also a three-way discussion between David Cage (Heavy Rain), Ryan Payton (Metal Gear Solid 4), and Yu Suzuki (Shenmue) worth watching.