Speaking exclusively to Eurogamer, Blizzard's Chris Metzen and Sam Didier have revealed that early World of Warcraft concepts were more futuristic and "much darker" than the game they eventually made.
"For a good stretch of the early period of WOW, certain components of the dev team had pitched the idea of placing WOW a hundred years in the future of [Warcraft's world] Azeroth," said Metzen, the company's vice president of creative development, and story guru.
"The wars of orcs and humans were long-done, it was a much darker game," he said. "At the end of the day, there was a lot of cool art churned out - and this is a little-known story - but as we stood back and looked at it, we just felt that there was a disconnect. It didn't feel like Azeroth."
Art director Didier agreed: "We were pushing it a few years ahead, into the future of the world, or rearranging the way that some of the characters would look - and it just wasn't biting for a lot of people. It's like changing Darth Vader from a big scary death knight in the future into a small child. Oh, never mind, sorry, they did that already."
In the end, a return to the exact art style of strategy hit Warcraft III won out. "It was like, why are we trying to reinvent this thing?" remembered Didier. "Everyone loves Warcraft - let's just make this Warcraft. We don't need any futuristic spin on it, or scary versions of this character, compared to the Warcraft III one. Just make it Warcraft III - that's what the fans are going to love."
For more on how the biggest game in the world came into being - including lead designer Tom Chilton's confession that it was originally going to have few quests after the starting zones, and how little of the game was made just one year before release - check out the first in our exclusive, two-part Making of World of Warcraft feature series, published today.