WoW Classic Lead Brian Birmingham sets records – World of Warcraft Classic

This weekend, Brian Birmingham posted no less than 25 tweets one after another. The goal of the WoW Classic chair was to return the church to the center of the village. He actually believes that he is being viewed, incorrectly, as the great mentor of the MMORPG development team.

First, he made it clear that he’s only one of the lead software engineers on the Classic team. When she was young, he was alone, and now that the team has grown, there are two of them. He even admits that it wouldn’t be so bad if there were a lot of them (hello Mike Ybarra by the way). However, even when he was alone, he was helped by Omar Gonzalez.

He adds that you have to keep in mind that the classic team is part of the World of Warcraft team. The WoW team is responsible for both Dragonflight and Classic: Wrath of the Lich King. Much of the code has now been shared and everyone is working on it.

Brian is still one of the supervisors for the part that takes care of the classics (including WotLK). Officially, he reports to his technical director. But who is responsible for the design in this case? Well, it’s teamwork.

At the start of the classic, Blizzard assumed that design decisions would be minimal enough that engineers could work on them based on technical limitations and have direct oversight from the game director.

But why is Brian explaining all this? Well, because he seems a little tired of being considered the only person responsible for all the decisions that are made in the game, he doesn’t want to blame anyone and adds that no one makes all the decisions. Thus, errors or controversial choices made (such as no automatic mass search) are group errors.

But then, what does Brian do? This is the subject of his following tweets, of which I offer a translation:

So what is my job?

For starters: I’m a personnel manager. I am recruiting people related to me. I evaluate their performance.

The people who work for me know that I am responsible for evaluating their performance. If you force it on them when they make decisions, that’s not leadership, that’s intimidation.

It’s important to make them understand that they can disagree with me and still do a good job.

Another aspect of my work is creating a positive team culture. This is an area in which it makes sense to exercise my “strength”. It is my responsibility to hold people accountable if they make their colleagues uncomfortable or unable to work.

Likewise, it is my responsibility to recognize and promote (quite literally) the people who contribute to their colleagues’ success. Promoting a teamwork and collaboration environment is perhaps the most important aspect of this job.

Brian then touches on the fact that he doesn’t make direct decisions to develop the game. He tries to find the person who will fill the job in the best possible way, then analyzes his work and helps him if necessary. He points out potential problems, but does not seek to do the work of others.

He also talks a lot about how the team is run at Blizzard:

If delegating important decisions sounds crazy to you, you have a lot to learn about leadership. Often, because I am responsible for so many things, I don’t know the specifics of the problem. Trusting others to do their job well is an essential leadership skill.

This does not mean that I do not know anything. When I ask: “Have you thought about…?”. I try to make sure that all possibilities are fully explored. It would be arrogant to assume I know better than the person doing the work, but it would be irresponsible not to share my concerns.

The last aspect (at least the one I can list at the moment) is communication. I am responsible for describing my team’s work to other teams, within Team World of Warcraft and outside of the rest of Blizzard.

A little beyond that, Brian makes it clear that he talks a lot with his boss, the head coach, but also with other people like the game director, the art director, and the production department. Are these the people who actually make the decisions? Yes and no because although they can tell him what to do, they prefer to steer him in one direction and make sure all avenues are explored.

These are the people who have a very global view and are less detailed. They run everything WoW, Classic and Retail, while trying to please as many players as possible. For his part, Brian is particularly focused on the Classic.

Going back to the original comment that I’m the ‘chief’, it’s fair to say that I’m at the top of the org chart thinking mostly classic.

But there are people around me who influence all my decisions, and have their own decision-making power. This underlines the difference between traditional press interviews and Twitter posts.

I can speak with the authority on behalf of the company *in press interviews* because we have discussed it and come to a consensus that we are willing to participate. On Twitter, answer *myself*.

On Twitter, it’s just me: one person, with more power than the others, but it’s still just me, not the whole classic team. So I can’t always answer your question.

Sometimes I don’t know the answer.

Sometimes it’s not me who decides.

Sometimes I delegate it.

This does not mean that I do not read it, and pass it on to the team. This doesn’t mean I don’t care. (I care about you guys so much, you have no idea). But that means I often tweet about something else.

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