Game designer Chris Kaleiki was an employee of Blizzard for 13 years, and in that time worked on World of Warcraft (opens in new tab) PvP, class design (in particular the monk), and its Ashran zone, among others. He's been there so long he's got two characters and an item named after him. But this year Kaleiki left Blizzard, and in a 15-minute video posted to YouTube (opens in new tab) he explains why.
"For a while now, probably too long, I've just been unhappy with the state of the game," Kaleiki says, noting that the addition of Classic highlighted the differences between its vision and that of the modern game, which he describes as "a little muddled". An example he gives is the changing importance of guilds.
"I think in Classic the guild's a big deal," he says. "To do anything at endgame you really need to be in a guild. What this does is it creates interdependence among players, where they really need each other in order to be successful. And I think this can feel really restrictive at times, but ultimately what it really does is it creates cohesion, it creates community."
In reducing the importance of guilds for the sake of those who want to experience WoW solo or don't want to have to deal with bossy guild leaders, a focus on players has been lost, Kaleiki argues, and replaced by a focus on NPCs and their story.
"Warcraft and WoW has always had a story," he says, "but lately I think in the modern game the story is just a bigger part of it. The characters and all their own dramas really soak up a lot of air in the game. Whereas I think in a virtual world, in an MMO, really the players are the story."
What's more, he sees the modern vision of WoW as being too focused on extrinsic things, progression systems and engagement, and suggests that it "should focus on the core features of the game, again systems like the guild system," which "really only an MMO can do."
Kaleiki says he's aware that these changes are what a lot of players want, and that, "it's not so much a problem with the game as it is really a disconnect between what the modern game is and what the game used to be" for him. That's ultimately why he left the company, and hopes to work on "the next big virtual world instead."
In closing, Kaleiki notes that he's sure "long-term, WoW and Blizzard will be totally fine" and addresses his former coworkers by saying: "To my Blizzard family in the WoW team, I'm rooting for Shadowlands, I know it's going to be incredibly successful and I'm so excited to play it, only days from now."
Shadowlands seems set to do well. In fact it already has the highest pre-sales of any WoW expansion (opens in new tab).