From WoW Product Manager to MMORPG Creator: Jerome's Journey in the World of MMORPGs
As an avid MMORPG gamer, I have played a variety of MMORPGs, starting from MUD, then Dark Age of Camelot, all the way to World of Warcraft, as well as numerous global and Chinese MMORPG titles. I became deeply engrossed in these virtual worlds because of the sense of belonging and immersion in MMORPGs that other game genres simply can't replicate. The satisfaction and accomplishment that come with growing your own unique characters, the sense of realism and depth like truly living in a different world with endless possibilities and adventures, and more importantly, the friendships and the communities you build in the games that can last for years in real life.
Fortunately, I became the product manager on World of Warcraft for China and got to work on it directly. I led the team that launched the game in 2005 while I was at the9. Later on, I joined Blizzard China and continued to manage and operate it until 2014.
World of Warcraft served over a hundred million users in China for more than a decade. I am also extremely grateful to have worked with Netease for so many years. Their methodology for creating strong ecosystems, and social connections in an MMORPG is unparalleled in the gaming industry. Working with the No.1 MMO developer in the Western world has allowed me to learn about world-building, along with creative and narrative design. Working with the No.1 MMO developer in the Eastern world has taught me about system design, progression design, and numeric design. I also serve as the connecting hub between our gamers and our developers, allowing me to better understand what works and what doesn't.
I dreamt of creating an MMORPG that incorporated all the changes and features that I always wanted to see. However, I always considered this to be an impossibility, since creating a real MMORPG in the early days would require a lot of technical expertise and extensive content. A good MMORPG Project would require a skilled MMORPG team with a minimum of 200+ developers, as the technical aspects of an MMORPG would need many experienced engineers, and many experienced designers are also needed to generate large quantities of content. Some parts of the ecosystem and social design are still difficult to resolve considering the bias and the common practice of the industry.
In 2021, I realized that with the emergence of Web3 technologies and the maturation of other technologies, it has finally become possible to create a new type of MMORPG. Luckily enough, Tony and I share the same vision and objectives, even though we come from different starting points. That is how all of this began - we are embarking on a journey to build an MMORPG with a reasonably-sized team (around 100ish). Our goal is to empower this team with new technologies and tools, either developed in-house or through partnerships, including Web3, AI, cloud computing, and more. We believe this is the right direction to take in order to create a new type of MMORPG that truly delivers an unparalleled gaming experience.
While on this journey, we will be experimenting with a lot of new and innovative features in this game. We are excited to enhance the gameplay and create a unique and engaging experience for players.
Here are some of the key principles that will guide our Space Nation Online:
- Gameplay First - it must be fun to play above all else, echoing the #1 culture/rule of Blizzard.
- There will be just one universal server, creating a huge virtual world where all players can play together (with the exception of any local laws that may require a different approach).
- The game will be accessible from all devices, making it easy for players to jump in and play anytime, anywhere.
- Players will own key assets in the game, which will be interoperable with our other Space Nation IP games, as well as external or even real-life worlds.
- Over time, the community will have real governance over the game. The players who contribute the most to the game world will have the opportunity to participate in governance, as they are the ones who know the game best and want the best for its long-term success. We call this Proof of Achievements.
- The ecosystem will be highly stable and sustainable, with longevity in mind. It may not necessarily have a huge user base like World of Warcraft or Fantasy Westward Journey, but it will last for decades.
- Economic and social relationships will be key elements of the game, encouraging players to stay and belong to this world.
- The game world will be vivid and vibrant, with characters possessing their own unique personalities.
- And there's more to come as we continue to develop and refine our vision for this MMORPG project.
It may sound like a daunting challenge, but we have solutions for all the items listed above, and we are confident that we will deliver on our commitments starting from early 2024.
Once everything has been thoroughly tested and evolved to the next level, and as the technologies continue to mature, we will embark on creating the second MMORPG of Space Nation IP. This will be a combination of my two favorite games - StarCraft & World of Warcraft - and we will call it World of Space Nation.
As a child who started playing video games at a very young age and then became a game enthusiast working in the industry for 20 years, I am extremely excited to embark on this new adventure. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to many people who have helped me along the way:
- Sage Huang, who hired me into the game industry, allowed me to make mistakes, and mentored me to become the Product Manager of World of Warcraft.
- My beloved Blizzard family, including Mike Morhaime, Paul Sams, Michael Fong, Shane, Paul, J, Greg, Nichol, Taewon and many others. The culture of Blizzard is still deeply ingrained in me.
- Netease folks, including William Ding, Ding Dang, Tian You, Ken Li, Kai and many others. In my opinion, during the decade of 2010-2020, there were two levels of MMORPG teams in the game industry: Netease and all the others.
- Leilei Wang, who promoted me from a product manager to an executive and gave me the chance to work on games like World of Tanks and Guild Wars 2.
- Dave Jones has inspired me greatly in views on the relationship between technologies and game development, and always in a most creative way!
- Tony Harman, Taehoon Kim, Yunfan Zhang, Hongyi Zhou, and many others who have helped me or guided me along the journey.