In a modernist hotel lobby on the outskirts of Barcelona I sit face to face with the President. He's pretty casual as far as presidents go, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, wearing sunglasses even though we're inside. He's got a tattoo up the underside of his forearm which reads 'Neverdie'. It's his alias, but more of a name to him now than Jon Jacobs ever will be. He is President of Virtual Reality. It has nothing to do with Oculus Rift or VR goggles, and it's not some silly title in a game. President of Virtual Reality means president of all virtual realities - World of Warcraft, Eve Online, Destiny, the lot.
At some point in 2007, I become hopelessly addicted to World of Warcraft.
Yesterday's media briefing by Blizzard brought us details of new Heroes and a new battleground coming to Heroes of the Storm, as well as even more mischievous mechanics for Hearthstone, but the publisher's not done with Gamescom quite yet.
At 5pm this evening there'll be a special stream to lift the lid on the sixth expansion for World of Warcraft. It's a timely announcement too, given the notable wobble in WOW's subscription numbers that was revealed in this week's financial update.
Can Blizzard find a way to convince lapsed subscribers from the past to come back home, and maintain the enthusiasm of those still playing the game in the present? How long will we have to wait until the new expansion arrives, and what exactly can we expect from the game between now and then?
I'd tried saving the hard way, and it wasn't working. That glowing skeletal horse seemed permanently out of reach, so I kept dipping in.
World of Warcraft turned ten on Sunday, and through the week we've been marking the anniversary with a series of features from across Eurogamer's editorial team. John's already taken us through the game's finest dungeon - not to mention its toughest achievement - now Bertie sets out to discover if you can ever really go back.
Every week we bring you an article from our archive, either for you to discover for the first time or enjoy again. Today, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of World of Warcraft and to kickstart a week of celebration on the site, we bring you Oli Welsh's take on Blizzard's defining MMO, originally published as part of our series on games of the generation..
"NOW FOR YOU, INSECTS! BOLDLY, YOU SOUGHT THE POWER OF RAGNAROS. NOW YOU SHALL SEE IT FIRSTHAND!"
Traditional MMOs have gone out of fashion lately. It used to be that every gaming brand had exciting untapped MMO potential and every publisher wanted an MMO in its stable, but the gold rush inspired by World of Warcraft yielded little precious metal, and a lot of publishers got burned in the process - especially Electronic Arts with Star Wars: The Old Republic - while the term "MMO" has become taboo when discussing a new breed of games that includes The Division and Destiny, even though in many respects they are both massively multiplayer and online.
For as long as most folk remember, games have launched on Fridays in the UK and on Tuesday in the US. That's the way of things. Sometimes they converge for a glitzy worldwide launch but mostly they don't - they stick to the norm, and Europeans wait.
Blizzard launches Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion for World of Warcraft, at midnight tonight at perhaps the most crucial time in the gargantuan fantasy MMO's seven year history.
Hello! Welcome to the one hundred and fifth Eurogamer Dot Net Podcast, in which we successfully wrestle John Bedford in front of a camera (not without complaint) to talk about his recent trip to Blizzard's HQ in Irvine, California, to see next World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria.
To Blizzard's credit, it hasn't shied away from addressing the quizzical looks that many players assumed following the announcement at BlizzCon 2011 that the Pandaren - a panda-like race that debuted in an April Fool's joke - would be the focus of World of Warcraft's fourth expansion. That a peaceful, innocent race quietly munching away on bamboo in the isolated mists of the Isle of Pandaria should be a necessary component in the promised grand vision of a return to war between the Alliance and Horde faction is a theme that jarred for many.
At last week's preview event for the upcoming fourth expansion, we got more than a little extra of the message that somehow struggled to make it from those attending BlizzCon to those receiving the information at home.
It starts with the world itself, and the art of Pandaria is predictably drawn from Eastern architectural influences - pagodas and paddy fields, decorated with deep reds and delicate ornaments. While the rugged and Nordic Northrend was a high point for Blizzard's artistic vision, it's arguably been trumped by the efforts in this new expansion - a Great Wall of Pandaria strides across a zone, factional hubs are occupied by cutlass-wielding stone giants, and hanging bells and blossom trees adorn the pagodas and outcrops of the land. Bejewelled and beguiling, it's a pristine and intricate look, with a far greater focus on the finer details than the broad texture swathes that have typically dominated WOW's art style in the past.
Every Sunday we bring you an article from our archive, either for you to enjoy for the first time or for you to discover again. This week, with Blizzard's latest World of Warcraft expansion going strong and as we await the launch of Elite Dangerous, we return to John Bedford's opinion piece from 2012 on how to build better worlds.
This interview appears simultaneously on Eurogamer and on our sister trade site, GamesIndustry.biz.
You can hardly say that World of Warcraft is fighting for survival. Blizzard's online world approaches its seventh birthday in the same position of total dominance over subscription gaming that it's held since the servers were turned on.
But with every year that passes, the pressures on it increase - from big-ticket rivals like Star Wars: The Old Republic, the busy gaggle of free-to-play games, and from untamed community hits like League of Legends and Minecraft which seem to be able to summon tens of millions of players out of nowhere.
Nevertheless, WOW's greatest enemy by far is itself. Or, perhaps, it's its age. It's been a long time, now - for all of us.