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Gameplanet: So where did this core philosophy come from?
Morhaime: I think it evolved, as the company evolved. I think we learned a lot of lessons along the way about how important that last ten percent of polish is, and some of the critical design changes we made to some of our games very late that made such a huge difference. A lot of time, what happens is at some point a development team feels like the project is sort of good enough to let people start playing it, and when people who aren't involved in the original design start experiencing it, you get insight into all of these things that maybe you didn't think about, maybe you didn't consider.
So every one of our games goes through a period where the company plays it, you get a lot of developers who are very good game players in their own right providing feedback to the development team on how we can make the games better, and then it goes through another round of feedback once the company thinks it's as good as it can be - we put it out and let our players play it, and we get to see how they're interacting with the games and see if there are any major problems or obstacles that prevent it from achieving it's potential. So it's all a very informed process, you know what's going to happen when the game finally comes out.
Gameplanet: Have you found it hard to maintain this commitment to quality over the years?
Morhaime: There's a huge amount of momentum, pressure - we've set the bar very high, and the expectations we have of ourselves and that our players have of Blizzard games is very high, and and no team wants to be the team that doesn't meet those expectations. It's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because there's such a commitment to meet a very high bar of quality. I think a lot of time, what happens is you get to a particular point in a project, and sometimes companies will say, "well, you know, we didn't hit the bar this time, but it's too late, we've worked on this thing too long, let's just go ahead and put it out and next time we'll hit that bar. From now on, we're not going to ship any more games, but this one we're going to ship". There's that sort of mentality, and I think it just always starts with today. It doesn't start with tomorrow.
Gameplanet: Historically, Blizzard has always provided Mac support when most developers don't bother - why is this?
Morhaime: Probably the biggest reason is that we've been supporting the Mac for so long, it's just not that difficult for us to do. Initially, I think we treated the Macintosh platform as almost like a localisation for an additional language. We'd localise our games into all these languages, and release them around the world, and here you had another platform which was kind of the equivalent to releasing to another country (laughs).
Mac users are a very loyal and passionate group, we happen to have some of them that work at Blizzard! So we've just sort of embedded Mac development as part of our development process. It's not an afterthought, we develop simultaneously for Mac and PC, we sort of have that part down. As long as there are a sufficient number of Mac users who want to play our games on the Mac, we'll continue supporting them.
Gameplanet: The RealID fiasco - were you surprised at the backlash from the community?
Morhaime: The amount of backlash and the volume of the backlash was surprising to some of us. Requiring real names on the forums was a very controversial topic internally at Blizzard, and it's an example where the community called us on something. We were trying to improve the experience on the forums, but we neglected to consider how important anonymity is to some of the people that like to post. I think that we wound up in the right spot, and we do listen to what our players think, it's very important to us, and I'm very happy and very comfortable with where we ended up on that topic.
But yeah, they were very loud and made their opinions known very clearly!
Gameplanet: We've seen that huge statue on the Blizzard campus of an orc riding a wolf, which was made by New Zealand's Weta Workshops –
Morhaime: Yep, that's right!
Gameplanet: How did you get it?
Morhaime: Oh I'm pretty sure we approached them, I don't know the exact details of how that came about. Good question. But I know that when we talked to them about it, they were very excited to be involved in that project, and they knocked it out of the park. That statue is so awesome, it's truly epic.
It's a bronze statue and I was here at the campus when they installed it, they had to drive it here on a giant flat-bed truck after it docked at the port. They had to bring it over on a boat from China where it was fabricated. We had this huge crane lifting it in two pieces and assembling it, it's pretty awesome.
I actually visited New Zealand - actually got engaged in New Zealand! And on that trip, we visited Weta Workshops and got their tour, really amazing stuff they do there.
Gameplanet: Blizzard seems like a fun place to work - any office traditions?
Morhaime: Oh yeah, we have a bunch of them! When we ship a game, we'll gather everyone out in the big open quad area, and we'll crack open a bunch of bottles of champagne, and basically toast the project and developers, and spray everybody with champagne! (laughs) there's a lot of spraying going on at those things.
We have a big holiday party every year. We have multiple offices around the world now, so we really can't get all the employees in one place, but each office will have a holiday party celebrating the year. Boy, I don't even know where to start, there's a lot of stuff! We have service awards at Blizzard that are kind of unique, when you're with the company for five years, you get a Blizzard five-year sword, instead of a pin. Most companies get pins. Davidson and Associates gave us pins, I still have a five-year one from there. After ten years you get a shield, so when you walk around the Blizzard offices you'll see a lot of people with swords and shields mounted up on their walls. After 15 years you get a ring, and I've got a 15-year ring that I wear, and we've just turned 20 and we're actually working on a design for a 20-year crown.
Gameplanet: Did you have a celebration for your 20th?
Morhaime: We did! We had a big party, our DVD video department made a really cool 20-year celebration video where they went back and videoed a lot of the old timers, and it came out really awesome. And the founders of Blizzard are going to be out in New York at the NASDAQ stock exchange, they invited us out to ring the closing bell, so that'll be pretty fun! As part of that, we get to put up any video content we like on the big NASDAQ screen in Times Square, so we're going to show a bunch of Cataclysm and StarCraft II trailers.
Gameplanet: So what's happening with the expansion of your Irvine campus?
Morhaime: We did just lease some space across the street so we could basically continue expanding because we'd outgrown our campus. We're in the planning process as to what we can do next, because we are continuing to grow.