Alex Afrasiabi’s Excellent Adventure with Blizzard Entertainment Comes to an End

It seems every week, we learn of yet another veteran Blizzard employee that has left the massive studio. According to his LinkedIn page, Alex “Furor Planedefiler” Afrasiabi is no longer with Blizzard Entertainment headquartered in Irvine, California. After 16 years working on both World of Warcraft and the stillborn Project Titan, ladies and gentlemen Alex, has left the building.

At a time when second rate EverQuest developers are leaving Daybreak Games (formerly SOE) and joining Blizzard, the continual hemorrhaging of established talent from Blizzard is hard to fathom and digest.

At this point it is not clear if he was laid off, fired, or just quit. To my knowledge, there was no farewell post on the official WoW forums by Afrasiabi. There was no goodbye post social media post as he wisely deleted his Twitter account a few years ago.

As of yet there is no mention of his departure mentioned at the glorious Fires of Heaven forums — once his former EverQuest guild website and now a trap house for misfits, malcontents, and miscreants. Apparently they have more important things to do such as demanding transgender representation in EverQuest and lampooning the efforts of Visionary Realms who are still in the trenches making their Pantheon MMORPG.

It’s not easy to list Alex’s accomplishments in WoW because many of them are not known. It is public knowledge that he created many of the signature quests in vanilla WoW from Bingle’s Lost Tools to Mor’ladim to the inventive tribute mechanics in the Dire Maul dungeon. Perhaps his crowning achievement was creating and overseeing the creation of the Death Knight hero class starting area in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

After the release of Wrath of the Lich King, Afrasiabi was transferred to the Project Titan team which ended up a cataclysmic failure. It is not coincidence that this is the era when WoW started to go off the rails.

From a player’s perspective, it was affirming to see Alex — a former outspoken and intelligent Fires of Heaven EverQuest guild leader — working on WoW. Hardcore players loved to see one of their own finally being represented on the staff of a major MMORPG. His example provided inspiration for MMO gamers to strive to become game designers.

Over the years Afrasiabi enjoyed a lot of visibility as a WoW developer on panels at BlizzCon and various trade shows that Blizzard attended. The one video that many WoW fans will remember is his humble interaction with the indomitable Red Shirt Guy.

I’m not sure what Alex was involved with after Titan was cancelled and he rejoined the team. But he was a dutiful representative of WoW when Blizzard would trot him out during various BlizzCons and global trade shows to extol the virtues of each expansion.

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It can’t be easy leaving a company that you have worked at for over 16 years. But to be honest, given the horrible working conditions at Blizzard, the exorbitant cost of living in Newport Beach, and Blizzard’s inept and woke leadership, perhaps it was the only logical thing to do.

With Afrasiabi gone, there are probably on a handful of people that exist who worked on vanilla WoW. Perhaps being a white male at Blizzard 2.0 is intolerable thanks to all the woke zoomers and alphabet people recently brought in because of Blizzard’s diversity and inclusion initiative.

Given the current state of WoW that bears almost no resemblance to the amazing fantasy virtual world that existed in 2004 when it was released, I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to be a part of WoW given its current cadaverous state.

One of the most fascinating stories I’ve ever heard about EverQuest was related by Alex Afrasiabi as he reminisced about helping some forlorn players who were desperately trying to retrieve their corpses in the deadly Plane of Fear. This account deserves to be memorialized for posterity:

That account of his mission of mercy in EQ paints a stark contrast from the pulse-pounding sandbox experiences only available in EverQuest to the hand-holding, on rails amusement park safety that World of Warcraft has become. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever experienced in WoW that has come remotely close to the feeling I would get trying to survive in the unforgiving world of EverQuest’s Norrath.

Given his strong views on what a MMORPG should be back in his Fires of Heaven days, I find it unfortunate that he was unable to stop WoW from going off the rails due to short-sighted design decisions. I’ve always wondered what the Furor EverQuest guild leader of 1999-2003 would think of the WoW of recent years?

As the years went by and Blizzard was absorbed more fully into the Activision Borg Collective, you would get marketing department approved boilerplate statements and wokeness from Alex and the WoW team. Alex became more invested in pushing the “epic storytelling” in WoW hype rather then talking about anything meaningful to hardcore MMO players. Back in those days, Game of Thrones was still huge and perhaps the entertainment public’s fascination with that HBO fantasy series made Blizzard push the narrative angle more.

Occasionally, the Furor side of Alex would come out. I recall in 2015 when he confessed that the social nature of WoW had taken a beating (I can’t seem to find the original source for this quote):

Alex Afrasiabi:…one of the things that I feel like we’ve potentially lost sight of, and it’s my fault, more than anyone else’s — is the social world aspect of an MMO. Because we’ve made great strides in giving you more personal, meaningful stories to your character, but whenever you do something like that, in the manner that we do things like that, you risk removing the player from the social world.

Seeing Alex man up and take responsibility for the erosion of the social nature in WoW was one of his better career moments. But by then, the horse had left the barn and WoW retail was on it’s single-player easy peasy mode MMORPG trajectory.

It was good to see Alex resurface in a promotional video for the release of WoW classic:

At some point, it might be cathartic for Afrasiabi to come clean and post a post-mortem of his career with WoW similar to what ex-Blizzard developer Kris Kaleiki did this past week in a YouTube video. I think the fans of WoW would really appreciate his perspective on his story, details of his career working for Blizzard on the WoW team, and what he thinks of the state of WoW. There’s never been a serious post-mortem done of WoW by the people that created it.

I think many WoW and MMORPG fans would enjoy hearing his reflections on game design, quest design, and other aspects of fantasy world design and where he waxes philosophically about the future prospects for this beleaguered genre. Perhaps a blog, podcast, YouTube channel or even a book would be something that he might want to consider going forward.

Whatever the future has in store for Alex, I hope he lands on his feet and finds another MMORPG or video game project that will be able to utilize his passion and talents to the fullest. I wish him all the best.

― Wolfshead

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  1. Wolfshead November 26, 2020
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