How Blizzard Transforms Its Fans Into Employees

Ion Hazzikostas was fairly certain that Blizzard had broken World of Warcraft. He and his guildmates were deep in the ancient sanctum of Ahn’Qiraj, face to face with the delirious cosmic gaze of the eldritch god C’Thun. The dusty tomes of the Warcraft legendarium imply that C’Thun is one of the most powerful beings in the universe; he commands an army of obsidian golems and routinely devours raid members whole with one of his many toothy maws. Still, the amount of damage he was soaking up seemed a bit overtuned. Hazzikostas spent endless evenings getting blown to bits by this grim divinity, and his guild had little progress to show for it. C’Thun still stood, sweatless and indomitable, as the armor repair fees mounted in his wallet. Eventually, Hazzikostas had had enough and sent his complaint up the chain at Blizzard Entertainment to World of Warcraft lead designer Jeff Kaplan.

“He graciously responded, and over the following months and years I would regularly send in bug reports and feedback regarding the game’s design,” said Hazzikostas. “In 2008, I was looking to move on from my law firm and hunting for other legal jobs, and in the course of that I also decided to send a résumé to Blizzard, just to see where it might lead. I ended up getting sent a written design test, then flown out for an interview.”

“The rest,” he added, “is history.”

Today Ion Hazzikostas is the game director of World of Warcraft, a post he has held since 2016. The man who once logged endless doomed attempts to topple the fulcrum of celestial power, who raged at those unseen developers for their balance oversights, is fixed on the other side of the Rubicon. Here is Hazzikostas at last weekend’s Blizzcon, talking with his hands about the black citadel of Torghast in a crewneck emblazoned with the Shadowlands logo. Imagine that: To be seduced by the magic of Azeroth—to live it and breath it—and now serve as its author.

“More and more game companies are tapping into that ecosystem nowadays, but 20 years ago when Blizzard was starting up World of Warcraft, recruiting top MMO guild leaders to be members of the design team was, I believe, an extremely unusual move,” said Hazzikostas. “It reflected and helped reinforce a culture that continues to this day, where our games are living worlds that evolve as the product of an ongoing dialog with our community.”

Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
Dalesarms
 

Blizzard celebrated its 30th anniversary last weekend, which means that the venerable publisher has spent more than three decades beguiling a legion of superfans in every discipline; Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft, Overwatch. Today, the halls of 1 Blizzard Way are filled to the brim of veterans just like Hazzikostas—those who entered the gamer-to-developer pipeline and made it out the other end in one piece. It is, perhaps, the most authentic, headstrong expression of fandom; loving a video game enough to put your own portfolio on the line to see, once and for all, if you are capable of making it a little bit better.

Over the years, this transition has become part of the backbone at Blizzard. It goes all the way to the top. Just look at J. Allen Brack, who serves as president of the company. Once upon a time, he too was a halcyon video game producer with a taste for Blizzard’s ancient CD-ROM golden years—the first Warcraft, the first StarCraft, the first Diablo, back when the company’s directory listed about 50 people. Like Hazzikostas, he fell in love with World of Warcraft, while he was working on the ill-fated LucasArts MMO, Star Wars: Galaxies. (The fate of that game, which was tanked by a series of disastrous creative decisions, is another story entirely.) But the prospects of a Blizzard job felt different, he explains. Like it was his best chance to explore his true limits as a developer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.