Patrick Wyatt, producer and lead programmer for Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans, has written a behind the scenes account of the Blizzard team and the challenges they faced creating the company's seminal RTS.
Patrick Wyatt, producer and lead programmer for Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, wrote a behind the scenes account of the Blizzard team and the challenges they faced creating the company's seminal real time strategy game.
According to Wyatt, Warcraft grew organically from the games that employees of Blizzard — then called Silicon & Synapse — played. Dune 2, an early RTS, was of particular importance because it expressed the possibilities of the genre. Enabling players to "give orders simultaneously, placing a premium on rapid, decisive tactical movements over long, drawn-out strategic planning" was the "singular goal" from which Warcraft evolved.
In the earliest stages, Wyatt was the game's sole developer. Using Dune 2 assets as inspiration, he created the game's tile-based scrolling map and sprite renderers, and developed a system whereby players could select multiple units with a simple click and drag motion. In early 1994, Blizzard assembled a Warcraft team, and Wyatt profiles each team member and their contribution to the project.
He also recalls several challenges inherent to early-90s game design. For example, Blizzard didn't have an office LAN, so programmers swapped floppies to update the source code and artwork revisions, a stopgap solution that also created many problems of its own. He also writes of the challenges creating a game in DOS "Real Mode," which only allotted 640K of system memory — and about 120K of that was reserved for the operating system.
Wyatt, who left Blizzard in 2000 after working on Warcraft 2, Diablo, Diablo 2, and Starcraft, went on to found ArenaNet and develop Guild Wars. His article promises a follow up post to continue the story.