Game design, game programming and more

The making of Warcraft part 1

Back before the dawn of time, which is to say when PC games were written for the DOS operating system, I got to work on a game called Warcraft.

I get to lead a project!

While I had developed several PC games, a couple of Mac games, and seven console titles for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, I was either in a junior role on those projects, or the projects were game “ports” rather than original development work. A game “port” is the process of moving a game from one platform, like the Amiga, and converting the code, design, artwork and other game assets to make them work on another, like the Nintendo.

My role encompassed two jobs: leading the development team as Producer — a game industry term for project manager, designer, evangelist, and cat herder — and writing the majority of the game code as Lead Programmer. This was perhaps less daunting then, when a game project might employ ten or twenty developers, than it is now, with development teams tipping the scales at two-hundred or more developers.

The source of Warcraft

The developers at the startup company I worked for — then named Silicon & Synapse but later renamed Blizzard in a nod towards our tempestuous development methodology — played a great many games during our free time. And from that game-playing came the spark to create Warcraft.

We were inspired to create Warcraft after playing (and replaying and replaying) a game called Dune 2, by Westwood Studios. Dune 2 was arguably the first modern real-time strategy (RTS) game; with a scrolling world map, real-time unit construction and movement, and individual unit combat. It isn’t that much different in design than a modern RTS like Starcraft 2, excepting perhaps a certain scale and graphics quality.

Its predecessor, Dune 1 — a very worthy game itself — shared some of the same elements, but its semi-real-time unit combat was wrapped inside an adventure game. Dune 2 stripped its predecessors’ idea of the player representing a character inside the game-world and focused exclusively on the modern RTS mechanics: harvesting resources, building a base, harvesting more resources, building an army, and finally, finding and conquering the enemy.

Along with the other folks at Blizzard I exhaustively played Dune 2 during lunch breaks and after work, playing each of the three competing races to determine their strengths and weaknesses; and afterward comparing play-styles, strategies and tactics with others in the office.

While the game was great fun, it suffered from several obvious defects that called out (nay, screamed) to be fixed. Most notably, the only way that my friends and I could play the game was against the computer. It was obvious that this gaming style would be ideal as a multiplayer game. Unlike turn-based games, where each player must wait for all opponents to issue unit movement orders, a real-time game would enable all players to give orders simultaneously, placing a premium on rapid, decisive tactical movements over long, drawn-out strategic planning.

And with that singular goal in mind, development of the game began without any serious effort to plan the game design, evaluate the technical requirements, build the schedule, or budget for the required staff. Not even on a napkin. Back at Blizzard we called this the “business plan du jour”, which was or standard operating methodology.

Initial development

As the sole developer on the project, and lacking an art team during the initial phase, I screen-captured the artwork of Dune 2 to use until such time as my forward progress warranted an artist or two. The artists were tied up working on any number of other pressing deadlines and didn’t need distractions at this point — we were always pressed for time.

My early programming efforts developing the game engine included creating a tile-based scrolling map renderer, a sprite renderer to draw game units and other bitmaps, a sprite-sequencing engine to animate game units, an event-dispatcher to post mouse and keyboard events, a game-dispatcher to control unit-behavior, and a great deal of user-interface code to control application behavior. With this subset of the project completed in the first few weeks it became possible to “play” a solo game, though I didn’t implement unit-construction until sometime later; early play required using typed commands to spawn units on screen.

Each day I’d build upon the previous efforts in organic fashion. Without schedule milestones or an external driver for the project, I was in the enviable position of choosing which features to build next, which made me incredibly motivated. I already enjoyed game development, and getting to do this green-field programming was like a drug. Even now, some 22 years after getting into the game industry, I still love the creative aspects of programming.

The first unique feature: multi-unit selection

One feature of which I was particularly proud was unit-selection. Unlike Dune 2, which only allowed the user to select a single unit at a time, and which necessitated frenzied mouse-clicking to initiate joint-unit tactical combat, it was obvious that enabling players to select more than one unit would speed task-force deployment and dramatically improve game combat.

Before I started in the game industry I had worked extensively with several low-end “Computer Assisted Design” (CAD) programs like MacDraw and MacDraft to design wine-cellars for my dad’s wine cellar business, so it seemed natural to use the “click & drag” rectangle-selection metaphor to round up a group of units to command.

I believe that Warcraft was the first game to use this user-interface metaphor. When I first implemented the feature it was possible to select and control large numbers of units at a time; there was no upper limit on the number of units that could be selected.

While selecting and controlling one hundred units at a time demonstrated terrible weaknesses in the simple path-finding algorithm I had implemented, after I got the basic algorithms working I nevertheless spent hours selecting units and dispatching game units to destinations around the map instead of writing more code; it was the coolest feature I had ever created in my programming career up to that time!

Later in the development process, and after many design arguments between team-members, we decided to allow players to select only four units at a time based on the idea that users would be required to pay attention to their tactical deployments rather than simply gathering a mob and sending them into the fray all at once. We later increased this number to nine in Warcraft II. Command and Conquer, the spiritual successor to Dune 2, didn’t have any upper bound on the number of units that could be selected. It’s worth another article to talk about the design ramifications, for sure.

Apart from the ability to control multiple units at one time, at this phase Warcraft resembled nothing so much as a stripped-down version of Dune 2, so much so that I defensively joked that, while Warcraft was certainly inspired by Dune 2, the game was radically different — our radar minimap was in the upper-left corner of the screen, whereas theirs was in the lower-right corner.

The formation of the fellowship

By early 1994, I had made enough progress to warrant additional help on the project. I was joined by Ron Millar, Sam Didier, Stu Rose, Bob Fitch, Jesse McReynolds, Mike Morhaime, Mickey Nielsen, and others. Many of these folks started work on the game after our company was acquired by Davidson & Associates in February 1994.

Ron Millar, who, with his long blond hair and strong build, was obviously the progeny of Viking warriors. He was originally hired on as an artist based on his skill in creating artwork for Gameboy titles at Virgin Games, but his amazing creativity and design sensibilities led to his taking on a design role in many Blizzard projects, and he stepped into a similar role for Warcraft.

Sam Didier, a strong, stocky and stalwart character who resembled nothing so much as a bear scaled down to human proportions, and whose heroic characters and epic drawings are now the definitive art style for Blizzard games, had honed his computer drawing skills on sixteen-bit console titles, but his penchant for drawing fantasy artwork during meetings and at any other spare moment demonstrated his capability to lead the art direction for this new title.

Stu Rose — whose background as an illustrator led to his design of the Blizzard logo still used today — initially contributed to the background tile-map artwork, but he would later take on a critical role in the ultimate design of Warcraft. Stu is quite memorable as a voice actor in the role of Human Peon Peasant, where his rendition of a downtrodden brute-laborer was comedic genius.

Bob Fitch had started work as a programmer and project lead on another title at the same time I started development of Warcraft. Allen Adham, the president of Blizzard, had assigned Bob the task of building a word game called “Games People Play” that would include crossword, scramble, boggle, and other similar diversions. Bob’s notable lack of enthusiasm for the project resulted in his making little progress on the title for many months; with Warcraft showing well Bob was released to assist me, and his enthusiasm for the game helped move the project forward more rapidly.

Jesse, a Caltech graduate, started work on building a network driver for the IPX network protocol so the game could be played on a Local Area Network (LAN). Mike Morhaime, one of the two co-founders of Blizzard, later took on the significantly more difficult task of writing a “mixed-mode” modem driver. While Warcraft was a DOS “Protected Mode” game, the modem driver could be called from both Protected Mode and Real Mode due to quirks in the DOS operating system and the 80386 chip-architecture it ran on, so he could regularly be found in his office staring at screens full of diagnostic numbers as he worked through the complicated timing issues related to re-entrant code. At the end of the day, the modem code was rock-solid, quite an achievement given the primitive toolset we had at the time.

Warcraft art

Allen Adham hoped to obtain a license to the Warhammer universe to try to increase sales by brand recognition. Warhammer was a huge inspiration for the art-style of Warcraft, but a combination of factors, including a lack of traction on business terms and a fervent desire on the part of virtually everyone else on the development team (myself included) to control our own universe nixed any potential for a deal. We had already had terrible experiences working with DC Comics on “Death and Return of Superman” and “Justice League Task Force”, and wanted no similar issues for our new game.

It’s surprising now to think what might have happened had Blizzard not controlled the intellectual property rights for the Warcraft universe — it’s highly unlikely Blizzard would be such a dominant player in the game industry today.

Years after the launch of Warcraft my dad, upon returning from a trip to Asia, gave me a present of a set of Warhammer miniatures in the form of a skeleton charioteer and horses with the comment: “I found these cool toys on my trip and they reminded me a lot of your game; you might want to have your legal department contact them because I think they’re ripping you off.” Hmmm!

Blockers to game development

One interesting facet of the early development process was that, while I was building a game that would be playable using modems or a local area network, the company had no office LAN. Because we developed console titles, which would easily fit on a floppy disk, it wasn’t something that was necessary, though it would certainly have simplified making backups.

So when I started collaborating with other artists and programmers, we used the “sneaker network”, carrying floppy disks back and forth between offices to integrate source code revisions and artwork.

Bob Fitch was the second programmer on the project, and he and I would regularly copy files and code-changes back and forth. Periodically we’d make integration mistakes and a bug we fixed would re-appear. We’d track it down and discover that — during file-copying while integrating changes — we had accidentally overwritten the bug fix, and we’d have to remember how we had fixed it previously.

This happened more than a few times because of the rapidity with which we developed code and our lack of any processes to handle code-integration other than “remembering” which files we had worked on. I was somewhat luckier in this regard in that my computer was the “master” system upon which we performed all the integrations, so my changes were less likely to get lost. These days we use source-control to avoid such stupidities, but back then we didn’t even know what it was!

With more programmers, designers and artists working on the title progress increased substantially, but we also discovered a big blocker to our progress. The game was initially developed in DOS “Real Mode”, which meant that only 640K of memory was available, less about 120K for the operating system. Can you believe how crap computers were back then!?!

As the art team started creating game units, backgrounds and user-interface artwork, we rapidly burned through all of the memory and started looking for alternatives. A first attempt at a solution was to use EMS “paged memory” mapping and store art resources “above” the 640K memory barrier.

Stories programmers tell about EMS memory are like those that old folks tell about walking uphill to school, barefoot, in the snow, both ways, except that EMS stories are even more horrible, and actually true.

In any event the EMS solution quite fortunately didn’t work; it turned out there was a better solution. A company called Watcom released a C compiler which included a DOS-mode “extender” that allowed programs to be written in “Protected Mode” with access to linear 32-bit memory, something every programmer takes for granted today when they write 32-bit (or even 64-bit applications). While it required a couple of days to update the source code, the DOS-mode extender worked perfectly, and we were back in business, now with access to substantially more memory.

Not the conclusion

In the next article in this series I’ll talk about Stu Rose and the design coup, the first multiplayer game of Warcraft, the bug that nearly killed multiplayer, how Bill Roper made Warcraft awesome, fitting the game onto floppy disks, the Westwood Studio reaction to our game, and other gems I can dredge up from a game that I and the other members of the development team worked on eighteen (!) years ago.

About Patrick Wyatt

As a game developer with more than 22 years in the industry I have helped build small companies into big ones (VP of Blizzard, Founder of ArenaNet, COO of En Masse Entertainment); lead the design and development efforts for best-selling game series (Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft, Guild Wars); written code for virtually every aspect of game development (networking, graphics, AI, pathing, sound, tools, installers, servers, databases, ecommerce, analytics, crypto, dev-ops, etc.); designed many aspects of the games I've shipped; run platform services teams (datacenter operations, customer support, billing/accounts, security, analytics); and developed state-of-the-art technologies required to compete in the AAA+ game publishing business.

  • Shaun Yelle

    This post reminds me of the book “Masters of Doom”, which I devoured rather recently. The thing about “Masters of Doom” I enjoyed the most was stories like this where a programming issue is presented, solutions are presented, and the one that is settled on is something we more or less take for granted. It’s how I learned (and remember) that Carmak is the reason we have scrolling, parallax scrolling, and 3D perspectives in games.

    I put the “multi-unit select” item in that same category: interesting and neat as a gamer. The insight into the start of one of my favorite franchises plus hearing about the origin of multi-unit select was pretty awesome.

    • Masters of Doom == Epic. Great Article!

      • Stpk4

        I love this post and love masters of Doom, can you guys recommend anything else that is in the same vein as this? = D

        also Mr Patrick Wyatt, I love you and your team that made Warcraft 1 and 2 =D

      • Andrés Castillo

        You can try Gaming Wonderland by Francesco Fraulo. It deals more with game software testing in the UK (Bullfrog, EIDOS) but it is pretty good too.

    • Pod

      Carmak explicitly states in the book that the smooth scrolling and parallax scrolling where intended to be copies of Mario. The entire selling point of their original game was to show that he PC can do smooth srolling just liek a NES, which is what a lot of people said isn’t possible. How is “Carmak is the reason we have scrolling, parallax scrolling, … in games.”

      • *PC games

        Although, technically, it wasn’t even the PC platform back then. It’s more like non-console games.

      • Ally B

        Even on the PC there was parallax scrolling in Moon Patrol (1983) and full 3D (not the sort-of-3D raycasting of early iD games) in Castle Master (1990). To name but two. What Carmack achieved initially was a way to do these things very efficiently.

  • Great article. Loved this game. Played it to death. Looking forward to the next in the series :)

  • da

    Awesome article. Warcraft 1 was the game that hooked me into computer games when I was a kid (and probably started me down the path to being a programmer). Looking forward to the rest.

  • ShardPhoenix

    Great article. It also reminded me of “Masters of Doom”. If you have enough material like this it could also make for a fun book.

  • awesome read! thanks :)

  • Gabriel Gohier-Roy

    It’s very inspiring to read about the making of one of the most beloved games of all time. It’s very cool to know where and how it all started. Thank you!

  • Wow! This brings be back. I’m totally gonna break out W1 and get it up and running.. somehow.

  • Thank you!

  • Vincent

    Hello Patrick! This is an extremely interesting article. Reminds me of the old epic times. That’s good you’re sharing this with us. I took the liberty to entirely translate this into French for my website, I hope you don’t mind :) This can be found here:

    • PatrickWyatt

      Vincent, I’m grateful for your translating & posting the article in French — much appreciated!

      • Vincent

        Hello again! I’ve got a question about all those old games. Do you got a position concerning abandonwares? Do you think it’s ok for people to download for free (and in theory illegally) very old games, such as Warcraft? I think no one is more qualified than you to answer this question :-) But I also understand if you don’t want to answer this on a public space!

      • bliksempie1975

        I have wondered about this many times, but at this point in my life, I do not mind BUYING all the classics of my youth nowadays. The only reason why I didn’t, is I am finding it impossible to get to work on Windws 64 bit… If someone has a universal solution for this, I will SEEK then, BUY them, and burn my computer’s somewhat primitive 6 core CPU to shreds with it, RIGHT NOW! :-)

      • Have you tried using DOSBox?

      • bliksempie1975

        Hi Emil,

        Yes, I have, but it does not want to install on Windows 7 64 bit. Apparently there is a 64 bit version floating around, but I can not find it, and every download I try fails to install.

        Thanks for your feedback!

      • jo Pa

        hi Patrick. good articles .. if u want assistant in translate to spanish let meknow

  • David Mann

    This is a great read. Please explain what the “day” ->”fief” console command in Warcarft II means :)

  • Nathan Wailes

    great article

  • Rob

    As a child, my friends and I absolutely loved Warcraft. As an adult I find this insight into it’s creation absolutely fascinating! Thanks a ton for sharing.

  • Kevin

    I hated having to create roads/paths as a prerequisite to building a structure. Removing that requirement made Warcraft 2 awesome.

    • PatrickWyatt

      I plan to talk about your point in a future post, but the short answer is we were — in retrospect — too scared of the consequences to allow players to be able to build anywhere on the map. It was something that was argued back and forth extensively — we passionately argued every design point and all won or lost our fair share. I remember Allen Adham was very critical of the idea of allowing base-building anywhere on the map — “what happens if an enemy builds a barracks right next to your base?” He led the day on that point.

      After launch it was clear that the road-building requirement was the greatest flaw in War1, and was therefore one of the first things fixed in War2 — mostly a matter of *ripping out* code.

      If we had more development time we might even have fixed it in War1, but boy was the entire project a race against time.

      • Sam

        “what happens if an enemy builds a barracks right next to your base?”

        What happens? People laugh, scream, yell at/hit each other, develop counter strategies, and generally adapt. It’s a beautiful thing.

        Alas, I’m sure this was your argument.

        Thanks so much for this inside view of the development of an all time classic. I love this stuff.

      • bliksempie1975

        Awesome comment, Sam! Nothing as exciting as having to counter something as having a barracks right next to your base! The point can be argued that if someone can do this before you get your barracks out, considering travel time for his builder unit, you need a bit of experience playing the game, but man, it is FUN!

      • Marcin K

        That a valid strategy I was using in War3 – Tower Rush

  • Danny Sotiropolous

    So awesome…thanks Patrick! Started RTS games with Dune 2 as well, (oh, the nostalgia!) amazing to think you guys were right there playin it with me, and ready to develop the next one. (warcraft seemed like RIGHT after) They really HAVENT changed a ton since Dune 2, definitely not. Anyways, take care.

  • Awesome post, Pat! LOVED reading some of the history here!

  • Yarr

    I actually like the road building part of building a base. I have some OCD and my bases were always symmetrical and well laid out with roads and walls sectioning them off into different areas.

  • Måns Olson

    Great article! These are no doubts some of the more important moments in the history of computer gaming (among with many others, of course). I’m looking forward to reading part two!

  • Voltage

    Great article. I chuckled when you described mass unit selection and path finding fun. I played it start to finish more than once. Looking forward to another article.

  • Warcraft is THE reason I got into computer games as a kid. What a cool article. I can remember walking around with my friends in school muttering “Work, work” in our best peon impression voices.

  • Tim E

    Loved everything about this – thanks for sharing.

  • Dosquatregé

    Thanks for your articles.

    I never played Warcraft 1 but played Dune 2 a lot (moving units one by one, inch by inch) and of course Warcraft 2 (up until Windows 7 killed IPX !)

    • stpk4

      Didnt warcraft 2 have a battle net edition and also worked over tcp?

  • Ivan Stimac

    first of all, I was 12 back then, Dune 2 was my favorite game (along with Goblins serial, and an absolutely amazing The Lost Vikings, which I played on 2 platforms). I will never forget that game, and was was to follow, the WarCraft 2.

    What I will sorry the most, from those times, is the fact that me and my friend actually changed all voices of all units to Croatian, and game was still working flawlessly (I’m talking about war 2), but somewhere in disk formats/floppies going corrupt, that “art” of ours got lost.

    (We even used the same voice for knights and paladins, but paladins’ had echo in them)… Oh those days…

    Great article, I’ll never forget playing the game over modem for the first time, against my friend!


  • Leffy

    I guess I should say thanks for your work. Warcraft II was a pretty big part of my childhood. Thanks for sharing some cool stories about how the universe came to be.

  • zzz

    Great article1 Looking forward for 2nd part!

  • Brad

    I played this game all the time when I found it at my local Target. I remember calling Blizzard and asking when Warcraft II was coming out because I felt so sad that I was done with 1. It is so interesting to see the behind the scenes on this. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • I also played Dune 2 through the night back then! And I was only 14 years old. It was the second game that hooked me to my old PC all night long. The first one was Civilization and the third one was UFO:Enemy Unknown.

  • Thank you for taking the time to share your story. It is great to hear about people who coloured outside the lines to shape the industry as we know it today. I’ve only been in the industry 10 years myself and it is amazing the changes I’ve seen in the way we make games. I’m glad we have the internet for you to be able to share your experience…something that wasn’t certain when you made Warcraft.

  • ConnorConlon

    Wow! Amazing read. I can’t wait for the next one. Warcraft 2 is the reason I got into gaming and wanting to be a programmer. Its really cool to see the people who inspired me talk about what inspired them. Thank you for the great game and the motivation to make it in this industry.

  • alex

    Warcraft got me into games! Thank you (or damn you, depending on how you look at it).

    • PatrickWyatt

      I get a lot of that — people tell me I’m the reason they had to drop a semester in school because they played too much. But thank you.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I’m currently creating an RTS and so many parts of this story mimic exactly what I’m doing, especially the part about moving units around after getting the selection & pathfinding working.

  • Falling

    Wow, this is so awesome. Warcraft II was my first RTS, but a couple years ago, I went back and played both campaigns for Warcraft 1. Fun times.

    I really hope you do a bunch more of these including design choices on Starcraft.

    Amazing, amazing blog.

  • Gabriel Friedmann

    And I was just chatting with Herb Elwood ( about RTS interface lineage that we traced back to Dune II. : ) He claims credit to the “put the control interface on the bottom and show unit thumbnails” UI aspect. Great insight and I’m glad to see this experience receive more attention.

    • PatrickWyatt

      Love to hear more! I tried to find Herb on Moby Games, but it can’t be the same person because his first published game isn’t ’til 1997.

      • Gabriel Friedmann

        Yah, that’s the guy. Age of Empires. I’m not aware of any other RTS before 1997 with “show units on the bottom.”

  • Demicore

    You are the most awesome person in the world :0

  • Dhinanta

    Just want to tag another “My childhood” on this one. I even tried to get Blizzard to release the Warcraft 1 source to me to study for a school project! lol

    • PatrickWyatt

      While the source code to Warcraft 1 is not available, some folks created an open-source game called Freecraft, which was able to use the data files from Warcraft. The game was later renamed Stratagus, and you can find more information (and a link to the code) here:

      • James Urquhart

        On a related note, some other folks created a reimplementation of Dune 2 which is essentially a faithful line-for-line rewrite of the original disassembled executable ( ). For me, it’s interesting to see someone else’s take on how to write an RTS from 20 years ago, especially given the hardware constraints at the time.

    • bliksempie1975

      I did the same for a company who created a cricketing database. I can not believe they didn’t want to export their database table structure for me! Gmph! :P

  • Lovely :) But I’d love some info on the decision of the selection limit. It’s my #1 gripe with these RTSes.

  • Amkosh

    I don’t have good memories of the first warcraft. I found it to be fairly unfun, partially because of the tech problems I had, as its support for non SB sound cards was really weak, and it interacted weirdly with my video card, causing major ghosting and every once in awhile, only partial redraws.

    I loved Dune II, that was an incredibly fun game. I also loved Warcraft II, mainly because at that time I had gotten away from higher end sound and had a real SB card. Of course shortly after, MS settled those issues greatly with DX..

  • samhain

    This is so cool to read! Some rogue programming went down at Blizzard, back in the day! I wonder if they work Agile these days… with smaller SCRUM teams. I am very interested in behind-the -scenes stuff.

    I recall when Warcraft came out, I was 16. I was heavily into Sierra adventures back then, and I think we just had our first cd-rom drive installed. Warcraft was so playable and addictive! Our entire family played it. My mom still plays the old Warcraft games to this day and I have gotten into WoW big time, ever since.

    Looking forward to the next part, thank you for sharing this!

  • Fascinating article, not just about the beginning of a famous series but also about software development of that era. I remember the travails of boot disks and batch files; I can only guess how much worse it was at your end.

    My compliments and thanks to you, specifically, for coming up with the ‘select multiple units by dragging a rectangle’ user interface innovation.

  • My first RTS multi experience was Warcraft 1 on a mac LC III against my dad on appletalk. We didn’t understand the concept of “expansion” yet and simply send the peons walking across the entire map for gold. We would also spend the entire match lining up our units in the middle a la Braveheart, waiting for one of us to accidentally send an archer forward to start the battle.

  • Alan Wolfe

    Dune 2 was beyond great, I really loved that game.

    * rocket projectile physics and team-killing
    * sonic tanks had longer range than rocket turrets
    * If you used the ordos tank that temporarily converted units, you could keep the enemy unit selected when it “changed back”, then issue it one final command that it would never deviate from (such as… attack your own turret!)

    * limited spice!
    * the emperor and his saudakar

    Loved and Hated:
    * sand worms!!* The DRM of typing the name of various things (I lost my manual… yeah.. thats it!)

    Man… and i remember the first time i saw warcraft 1, me and my buddy couldn’t figure out why our guys were hitting the ground with a hammer (ie harvesting lumber lol).

    Amazing games both of em!

    • bliksempie1975

      LOL… I once read an article about the “scariest” things in games. Among those where when you sent a militia into a hut and out came a horde of barbarians (Civilization 1). I am ABSOLUTELY certain that the exact moment when a Sandworm chomped your harvester falls in the same category! Ha!

    • fred

      The major thing I hated from Dune2 is “Unable to create” for the last 2 levels, until I learned way later that you could do “rush turret” with an SCV similar to “rush cannon” in Starcraft when the game was re-released in HTML5/canvas.

  • You, sir, are one of my idols and like the other guys who worked at Blizzard and Blizzard North, are our inspirations as to why we are in the gaming industry today. Love the blog!

  • Mountainking

    Thank you man for making this great game that I played in my teens. Too bad they killed the water elemental and deamon in war2 which I still play today…
    Come meet us on!

  • j_meissner

    This is off-topic but personal, how did you manage to stay in this business for 22 years? I’m coding for 30 years now and when I try to find another job that inspires me I am either told to be overqualified or I am missing the basic prerequisites for Java when having a certificate for Hibernate.

  • James

    You’ve given me a real desire to go back in time. Working for Blizzard back then sounds like real fun! Thank you for sharing.

  • This is sick Pat, keep these coming. It was great working with you, I hope our paths cross again in the future!

  • Taharqa

    I enjoyed reading this article. I posted a link to it on my blog (

  • This is incredible! I loved Warcraft so much. Thank you so much for writing. I can’t wait for the rest of the series!

  • alex wyatt

    pretty Impressive Pat, even though I don’t know what half of that stuff means, cat herder, that’s funny.

  • I love this :)

  • So many hours Bloodlusting :)

    • bliksempie1975

      Bloodlust! Forgot about this! What AMAZING memories this article and comments bring to me! WOW! Thanks!

  • Jeremy

    Patrick as someone that is new to game development I find myself scratching my head over the term “game-dispatcher”. Is there anything you could add that would help me understand that term better?

    • PatrickWyatt

      A game-dispatcher is the mechanism for ensuring that each game unit gets time to plan what it wants to do. Each unit periodically asks: “what should I be doing now that I finished my current behavior?”, “should I re-evaluate the path to get where I’m going?”, “is there a better unit to attack instead of the one that I’m targeting now?”, “should I change my behavior based a game state-change?”, “did the user give me a new command?”, and so forth.

      • bliksempie1975

        You, Sir, are a genius! I never knew what this was called, but I guess for the one and only game I ever wrote (which was a DOS-based text game similar to the Police Quest series, just without graphics), I wrote a “game-dispatcher” of some sort… :-)

  • Davis Centis

    The original Warcraft is what started me down my path of gamer-love. For me, it was the demo on the floppy disc. That was a FANTASTIC marketing decision! Congratulations to whomever pushed successfully for that. I remember each of those games fondly (Doom, Heretic, Descent, and Warcraft).
    When will we see part 2 of this article?

    • Matt

      Yeah, I didn’t have the $$$ for the full game back in 94. Definitely made sure I bought War2 though. +1 for the demo.

  • Guillaume Bourassa

    We’re still waiting for part 2 :)

  • Joost

    Nice read, thanks for sharing!

  • Ilija

    Incredible. Ty

  • Magnus Roe

    I seem to recall human workers being called peasants while the orcs were peons

    • PatrickWyatt

      I use the term “peons” to refer to both human peasants and orcish peons because it sounds funnier, but you are correct. I’ve amended the post; thanks.

  • You can read Korean translation of the article now :~)

    • PatrickWyatt

      Thank you, Sun.

  • Andrés Castillo

    What a great story. Thank you for the countless hours of fun your team brought to us the masses. As many people said here. Gaming was what got me into programming, and Warcraft and Monkey Island were the main drive for me.

  • I’ve played Warcraft way too much… great game. Interesting article can’t wait to read more.

  • Merlyn

    I’ve recently rebuilt a machine (out of parts from a skip no less!) and installed windows 98, I’m highly looking forward to playing WarCraft II again.

    Thanks for the interesting article, look forward to the next.

  • James

    Interesting! With a little bit more modesty it would have been almost perfect as a post.

    • Well you know, tone is so hard to read in writing when we lack the human touch of interpersonal communication.

      I’d have to say I am proud of being part of the team to deliver the first multiplayer RTS to market and helping to build the foundation of Blizzard Entertainment. And all that pre-mainstream-Internet when I couldn’t just copy the source code from snippets.

      Oh, and incidentally, “…how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?”

  • martinng76

    Awesome article! So much memory here, DOS, 640K, EMS (Oh you forgot to mention XMS), WATCOM C, Dos4gw, and etc.

  • virrepirresnopp

    I’m working on a school projekt, and i chose to talk about the creation of Warcraft, do you have something to say or add? or do you know a site where i can read more of it? why the idea first came up and how it continued. thanks <3

  • This is absolutely fascinating. I loved hearing all the groundbreaking developments that went into this game. I loved WarCraft 2 and 1 as a kid and WarCraft 3 is my favorite game of all time, so I have you and all the other developers at Blizzard to thank for your hard work in inventing such an amazing franchise!

  • Yuri

    Hi Patrick! What programming language do you used in War I and II?

    • The game and tools were written in C and 80386 assembly.

  • essmithsd

    I always smile when I see “herding the cats” because I truly know – this person has been a producer.