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WoW: Ex-Dev Brian Birmingham dump – ABK reason for 2 hasty additions in WoW

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After nearly 17 years at Blizzard, chief software engineer Brian Birmingham has left the company. He’s worked on Hearthstone and Warcraft 3: Reforged, among others, and has worked on every expansion for Warcraft. Most recently, he helped launch World of Warcraft Classic and served as technical lead for the ongoing game.

His termination was in protest of his unwillingness to implement the controversial stack order (vitality curve) system. This performance management practice requires employees to be rated and evaluated against each other by management.

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The system has long been a controversial practice due to its negative impact on employee morale and the potential for bias and discrimination. Investigative journalist Jason Schreyer has announced Birmingham’s resignation from Bloomberg. Interestingly, Schreier quotes emails from Birmingham, which Birmingham did not claim to have sent. However, Blizzard’s former lead software engineer on Twitter confirms several theses from the Bloomberg article and reveals in a series of tweets how managing ABK (Activision Blizzard King) is hurting the company.

“I hope Blizzard’s positive culture can overcome the toxicity of ABK”

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No matter how well a team is doing, according to the rules of the Stack Ranking System, some employees have to be rated worse than they really are in order to be able to portray the team’s performance as a bell curve in the end. However, this artificial evaluation curve has real implications for employees. Those who do worse in this random evaluation get lower rewards and have a harder time climbing their positions. According to Birmingham, this system was introduced by Activision and King at Blizzard.

On Twitter, the former Blizzard developer expressed his displeasure with this system, which Blizzard was forced to do. After his resignation he takes the opportunity to point it out What many did before him: Activision’s negative impact on Blizzard. He hopes that the positive community at Blizzard can overcome ABK’s toxins, but he hasn’t done so yet.

WoW expansions were released very early on under pressure

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Among other things, Birmingham explains that, under pressure from ABK, the latest WoW expansions (Shadowlands and Dragonflight) had to be released early. This made itself felt in the Shadowlands immature charter system Notable and can also be seen in the positively rated Dragonflight expansion, which More bugs than any other addon for WoW before We take.

This would explain the many bugs and shorter testing phases for WoW addons and content updates. In the recent past, WoW content was generated at longer intervals with the same or less content per patch. So it is doubtful how long WoW developers would have taken their time if they had not had to publish extensions earlier due to pressure “from above”.


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