This weekend, Brian Birmingham posted none other than 25 tweets one after the other. The WoW Classic chief’s goal was to bring the church back to the center of the village. In fact, he believes that he is considered, wrongly, the great guru of the MMORPG development team.
First, he explains that he is just one of the two main software engineers on the Classic team. When he was younger, he was on his own, and now that the team has grown, there are two. He also admits that it wouldn’t be bad if there were too many (hello to Mike Ybarra by the way). However, even when he was alone, he was assisted 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 is now shared and everyone is working on it.
However, Brian remains one of the maintainers of the part that deals with Classic (including WotLK). Officially, he reports to his technical director. But who is responsible for the design in this case? Well, it’s a team effort.
At the beginning of Classic, Blizzard assumed that design decisions would be few enough to allow engineers to work them out based on technical limitations and gain direct oversight from the game director. He has hired technical designers but continues to check and be supervised.
But why is Brian explaining all this? Well, because he seems a little tired of being held responsible for all the decisions that are made about the game, he doesn’t want to blame anyone and adds that no one makes all the decisions. Therefore, the mistakes or controversial choices that have been made (such as the absence of automatic group search) are collegial.
So what does Brian do? This is the subject of the following tweets of him, of which I offer a translation:
So what’s my job?
To begin with: I am a people manager. I recruit people who are related to me. I rate their performance.
The people who work for me know that I am responsible for evaluating their performance. If I force it to them when making decisions, it’s not leadership, it’s intimidation.
It is important that I make them understand that they may disagree with me and continue to do a good job.
Another aspect of my job is to create a positive team culture. This is an area where it makes sense to exercise my “power”. It is my responsibility to hold people accountable if they make colleagues uncomfortable or unable to work.
Likewise, it is my responsibility to recognize and promote (both ways) the people who contribute to the success of their colleagues. Fostering a teamwork and cooperation environment is probably the most IMPORTANT aspect of this work.
Brian then faces the fact that he doesn’t make direct game development decisions, he delegates. He tries to find the person who will fill a position in the best possible way, so he analyzes his work and helps him if necessary. He points out possible problems, but he doesn’t try to do the work of others.
He also talks a lot about how a team is managed at Blizzard:
If delegating important decisions seems insane to you, you have a lot to learn about leadership. Often, because I am responsible for so many things, I don’t know the details of a problem. Trusting others to do your job well is an essential leadership skill.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know anything. When I ask: “Have you thought about it …?”. I try to ensure that all possibilities have been fully explored. It would be arrogant to assume that I know better than the person doing the job, 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 job to other teams, both within the World of Warcraft team and outside the rest of Blizzard.
A little further on, Brian explains that he obviously talks a lot with his superior, the Technical Director, but also other people such as the Game Director, the Artistic Director and the Production Management. Are these the people who actually make the decisions? Yes and no because, although they can tell him what to do, they prefer to guide him in one direction and make sure all roads have been explored.
These are people who have a very global, less detailed view. They handle everything WoW, Classic and Retail, trying to satisfy as many players as possible. For his part, Brian focuses specifically on Classic.
Returning to the original comment that I am “THE boss”, it is fair to say that I am at the highest level of the organization chart thinking mainly of the classic.
But there are people around me who influence all my decisions and who have their own decision-making authority. This highlights the difference between traditional press interviews and Twitter posts.
I can speak with authority on behalf of the company * in press interviews * because we have discussed it and have come to a consensus that we are ready to share. On Twitter, I reply * alone *.
On Twitter, it’s just me: one person, with more authority than others, but always just me, and not the entire Classic team. So I can’t always answer your question.
Sometimes I don’t know the answer.
Sometimes I don’t decide.
Sometimes I have delegated it.
That doesn’t mean I don’t read them and pass them on to the team. This doesn’t mean I don’t care. (I care so much about you guys, you have no idea). But that means he often tweeted about something else.
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