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Blizzard reveals full scale of World of Warcraft operation

20,000 computer systems, 1.3 petabytes of storage and 4600 people utilised on game

Blizzard has revealed the full scale of its World of Warcraft operation, from the number of computer systems it uses (20,000) to the amount of people it takes to create the game's numerous classes, items and levels (37 - who have created some 70,000 spells and 40,000 NPCs since the game's launch five years ago).

Speaking at GDC Austin, executive VP of product developer Frank Pearce and production director J Allen Brack revealed a range of mind-boggling statistics in a keynote entitled 'The Universe of World of Warcraft', as reported by Gamasutra.

"Operating an online game is about more than just game development," pointed out Pearce, demonstrating his point with the revelation that the World of Warcraft team contains no less than 30 department leads.

The game's programming department consists of 32 people, he said, split into teams working on systems, tools, gameplay, server technologies and UI. The art department contains 51 people, including technical, character, environmental, dungeon, prop and concept artists. They have created more than 1.5 million assets, notes the Blizzard exec. The programmers are responsible for some 5.5 million lines of code.

123 people work on the game's cinematics, dealing with machinima sequences, teasers and pre-rendered scenes. Meanwhile, the sound department has created over 27 hours of music for the series. Brack goes on to detail the platform services group - a group of 245 which encompasses localisation and QA.

The original World of Warcraft contains 2600 quests. The Burning Crusade expansion added 2700, and the Wrath of the Lich King 2350. During the testing of every one, the QA group has tackled 180,000 bugs since the first game's launch.

Localisation translates and culturalises WoW into ten different languages, with the team responsible tracking over 360,000 text strings and some two million words. Choosing to launch in a new language is a decision Blizzard doesn't take lightly, points out Pearce, due to the amount of resources required to do the job to a high enough standard.

And the WoW team doesn't end there. For there are yet more Blizzard employees working on online services - monitoring over 13,250 server blades, 75,000 CPU cores and 112.5 terabytes of blade RAM. The company's customer support staff include 340 billing managers and 2056 game masters.

There's a web team overseeing more than 900,000 web files and a corporate applications team working on fraud prevention, bug tracking and on conveying to designers what is most popular with players in the game world.

Blizzard even employs two full time 'lore historians' to work with novelists on the game's story, archive every piece of art and keep track of the Blizzard universe's epic past.

Still more staff on top encompass human resources, finance, legal, information technology, PR and marketing teams, which also contribute to the game's ongoing worldwide success. In all, more than 4600 people are required to keep the game running, said Pearce, and, worldwide, Blizzard is currently recruiting for 221 jobs. More than 20,000 computer systems and 1.3 petabytes of storage are used in total.

Pearce's conclusion - "the moral of the story is that operating an online game is about more than just game development" - certainly couldn't be more true than when applied to the gargantuan universe Blizzard has created with of World of Warcraft.

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