Book Review: The WoW Diary, by John Staats

The WoW Diary is the painstakingly detailed story of the development of World of Warcraft, the famed MMORPG that debuted in 2004 and swiftly took over the world thereafter. The author, John Staats, worked as one of the game’s original level designers.

If you’re a fan of World of Warcraft, you need to pick this up. Originally, Staats got The WoW Diary funded on Kickstarter (which is how I came by my copy). It became one of the most successfully-funded non-fiction books ever in the history of the platform. There’s an immense amount of passion for World of Warcraft, particularly its original incarnation (“vanilla” or Classic — the game’s state before any additional expansion packs or major overhauls). Throughout his time at Blizzard, Staats documented the ins-and-outs of the development process, down to the most granular nuances (who sat where, what art adorned the wall, etc). Hardcore fans will appreciate Staats’ attention to detail and the intricacies of building the game tens of millions grew to love. The book also provides dozens of easter eggs (invisible bunnies, anyone?) fans will laugh and raise an eyebrow at.

There’s not much to say about this book if you aren’t a fan. If you’re into gaming it’s a stark picture of what designing and developing a game looks like: Horrifyingly long hours with no guarantees of even middling success as well as constant shifts in direction, strategy, and workflow. Gaming is not a pretty industry.

Keeping with the spirit of these reviews (that is, making them as short as possible), I’ll end this one in a sentence: Warcraft fans must own this book!