Sources have revealed the development woes for Warcraft III: Reforged was caused by a lack of budget, and Blizzard Entertainment mismanagement.
Warcraft III: Reforged‘s launch was nothing short of a disaster; including poor graphics, stripping away many online elements, and a new EULA effectively banning many custom maps and game modes- along with making said game modes property of Blizzard Entertainment. All of this also replaced the original Warcraft III in an update (with the ability to toggle between the old and new graphics).
The user review score on Metacritic was so low, it end up becoming the lowest user-rated game on the review aggregate website at the time of its launch. Bloomberg sources also claimed the team behind it were handling the Diablo II remake, until dissolved by Blizzard Entertainment due to Reforged‘s reception.
Bloomberg Canada reports that according to documents and “people with knowledge” of the game exactly what went wrong. Despite bold talk by Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack about the importance of the title, it was reportedly never a priority as it had little chance of becoming a billion-dollar product as Activision wanted.
As Blizzard Entertainment was forced to focus on larger franchises, Reforged never go the budget its leaders hoped for. Blizzard had publicly stated they reneged their promise of improved cinematics because “we did not want the in-game cutscenes to steer too far from the original game.”
However, Bloomberg reports this was actually due to the budget cuts, and internal arguments over the direction of the game. This is based on interviews with eleven people who worked on or “near” the game, and documentation produced after the game’s launch.
Bloomberg later notes that Blizzard had chosen to continue with the premature release of the game due to already taking pre-orders. Likewise, pushing the game back too far would have resulted in refunds, and the risk of them not buying the game again.
In an internal postmortem of the game, obtained by Bloomberg, the developers also acknowledged this. “We took pre-orders when we knew the game wasn’t ready yet.” The developers also reportedly added that Blizzard needed to “resist the urge to ship an unfinished product because of financial pressure.”
The development team was reportedly small, disorganized, and even single levels were taking months to complete. Miscommunication lead to arguments over the game’s scope and artstyle.
Morale was extremely low, not helped by the head of the Classic Games development team Rob Bridenbecker. Along with (in Bloomberg’s words) an “aggressive managerial style,” he allegedly took frequent trips out of the US during production, and gave unrealistic deadlines. Bridenbecker left Blizzard in April, and declined to comment to Bloomberg.
The postmortem discussed how “we have developers who have dealt with exhaustion, anxiety, depression and more for a year now. […] Many have lost trust in the team and this company. Many players have also lost trust, and the launch certainly didn’t help an already rough year for Blizzard’s image.”
The Classic Games team took on the reputation of taking outcasts from other departments, and restricted from hiring due to the aforementioned budget. Staff took on multiple job roles, and worked nights and weekends. The layoffs in February 2019 lead to the team “missing and/or had the wrong people in certain lead roles. The Team structure didn’t set up the project for success.”
Features were cut, and management threw out revised scripts and re-recordings; sticking to the original dialogue and voice acting. David Fried, a developer on the original game and briefly brought back for Reforged, blames parent company Activision.
“I am deeply disappointed that Activision would actively work against the interests of all players in the manner that they did.” He also added in an email to Bloomberg that it was “quite telling” Chief Executive Officer Mike Morhaime had resigned weeks before the game wad shown at BlizzCon 2018.
The developers themselves blamed management such as Bridenbecker and other executives. The postmortem notes “leadership seemed totally out of touch with the velocity and scope of the project until extremely late in development. Senior voices in the department warned leadership about the impending disaster of Warcraft on several occasions over the last year or so, but were ignored.”
Despite bringing in more help from across all of Blizzard to finish Reforged by the end of 2019, the game’s launch did not even prompt a launch party or celebration. While Blizzard Entertainment have vowed to fix the game with patches and updates, fans have taken to implementing their own, along with bringing back missing features.
John Graves of the Warcraft 3 Champions development team has made restoring the games’ features a full time job for a year thus far. Nonetheless, he admits “We have a level of freedom that Blizzard could never have.”
“The central issue with Warcraft III: Reforged was an early, unclear vision and misalignment about whether the game was a remaster or a remake” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement. “This led to other challenges with the scope and features of the game, and communication on the team, with leadership and beyond, which all snowballed closer to launch.”
“Developers across Blizzard pitched in to help, but ultimately bug fixing and other tasks related to the end of development couldn’t correct the more fundamental issues.”
Due to these issues, the spokesperson stated Diablo II: Resurrected will be “a pure remaster, faithful to the art, gameplay, and cinematics of the original game.” In April, fans were outraged over the game’s Alpha test having censorship of the Amazon and other characters.
A Blizzard spokesperson state they have “a new team dedicated to updating Warcraft III: Reforged with improvements. In these efforts, we realize our work and actions will speak louder than our words. Across many projects, we’ve made process improvements, implemented better milestone planning, and improved visibility into work-in-progress.”
Image: Warcraft III: Reforged official website