Classic WoW Leader Brian Birmingham Sets the Record Straight – World of Warcraft Classic

This weekend, Brian Birmingham posted no less than 25 tweets One after the other. The goal of the WoW Classic boss was to put the church back in the middle of the town. He believes in fact to be considered, erroneously, as 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 she was younger, he was alone, and now that the team has grown, there are two of them. She even admits that it wouldn’t hurt if there were too many (hello to Mike Ybarra by the way). However, even when he was alone, he was assisted by Omar González.

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. A lot of the code is now shared and everyone is working on it.

However, Brian is still 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 teamwork.

At the start of Classic, Blizzard assumed design decisions would be few enough that engineers could work them out based on technical limitations and get direct oversight from the game director. It has hired technical designers, but continues to check and be supervised.

But why is Brian explaining all this? Well, because he seems a bit tired of being considered the only one responsible for all the decisions that are made in the game, he does not want to blame anyone and adds that no one makes all the decisions. Therefore, errors or controversial choices that have been made (such as the absence of automatic group search) are collegiate.

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

So what is my job?

To start: I am a people manager. I recruit people who are attached to me. I evaluate their performance.

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

It is important that I make them understand that they can disagree with me and still do a good job.

Another aspect of my job is creating 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 their colleagues uncomfortable or unable to work.

Likewise, it is my responsibility to recognize and promote (in both senses of the word) people who contribute to the success of their colleagues. Fostering an environment of teamwork and cooperation is probably the most IMPORTANT aspect of this job.

Brian then addresses the fact that he doesn’t make direct decisions for game development, but rather delegates. He tries to find the person who will fill a position in the best possible way, then analyzes his work and helps him if necessary. He points out possible problems, but does not seek to do the work of others.

He also talks a lot about how a 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 details of a problem. Trusting others to do their jobs well is an essential leadership skill.

That doesn’t mean I don’t know anything. When I ask, “Have you thought about…?” I try to make sure that all possibilities have been fully explored. It would be arrogant to assume that I know more 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 right now) is communication. I am responsible for describing my team’s work to other teams, both within the World of Warcraft team and outside of the rest of Blizzard.

A little later, Brian explains that he obviously talks a lot with his superior, the Technical Director, but also with other people like the Game Director, the Art Director and the Production Manager. Are these the people who really make the decisions? Yes and no because although they can tell you what to do, they prefer to lead you in one direction and make sure all avenues have been explored.

They are people who have a very global vision, less detailed. They handle all of WoW, Classic, and Retail, while trying to satisfy as many players as possible. For his part, Brian focuses specifically on Classic.

Going back to the original comment that I’m “THE boss”, it’s fair to say that I’m at the top of the org chart thinking primarily about Classic.

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

I can speak authoritatively on behalf of the company *in press interviews* because we discussed it and reached a consensus that we are ready to share. On Twitter, I answer *for myself*.

On Twitter, it’s just me: one person, with more authority than others, but 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 am not the one who decides.

Sometimes he delegated it.

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

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