IT wasn't that long ago that Julian Morris was a chef. Now Mr Morris is living in California working on World of Warcraft, arguably the hottest videogame on the planet. How did an Aussie chef of nine years move from hot plate and oven to textures and polygons? Almost by accident it would seem. “For many years after work, I would come home after a long night in the restaurant and play games to unwind,” he said. “At some point along the way I started having just as much fun using the various game editors as I did playing the games. "I really enjoyed using game editors to build the mountains I was familiar with from snowboarding or to create worlds from my favourite books.” Related galleriesWorld of Warcraft: Take a tour through Sunwell IsleThis passion for creativity and world design saw Mr Morris and his brother brainstorming ideas and trading maps they’d made, until eventually he noticed he was creating level layouts on white boards at work. "(I) realised that it might be time to seriously look at the possibility of moving out of the kitchen and into the games industry,” he said. Dream gigIt’s a far cry from designing virtual landscapes for fun to doing it professionally, but after cutting his teeth at a game development studio in Sydney, Mr Morris' talent shone through and he was hired by Blizzard Entertainment in California. Now he helps create virtual landscapes that millions of gamers around the world will traverse. “From Azeroth to Outland we shape the mountains, forests, seas, lakes, rivers, roads, and every land feature in between,” he said. “We basically create a base for the layout and placement of every city, town, building, rock, tree, ancient ruin and all the thousands of other objects that make up the cultures and details of the world.” A dream gig? You could say that. “I have always been a huge admirer of all things Blizzard Entertainment, especially the Warcraft series of games,” Mr Morris said. “To say it’s a dream gig is a huge understatement. "I get to contribute to the future of my favourite game, World of Warcraft, on a daily basis, and I‘m working with a great group of people," he said. "They quickly got me up to speed on how everything works at the company and… are a constant source of motivation to me. "I’m still surprised and in awe of the stuff that I see coming out of the various departments every day.” Constant growthTo say that World of Warcraft is a huge success would be an understatement. A massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that’s both refreshingly social and worryingly addictive, it recently surpassed 10 million subscribers worldwide. That’s 10 million people paying a monthly fee to access a persistent online game world, in which they can get together with one another to embark on epic quests and adventure through its gorgeously-realised high fantasy world. World of Warcraft is also the product of one of gaming’s most revered studios, Blizzard Entertainment. The company has produced hit after hit across its 14 year history, including the classic real-time strategy title Starcraft – which has become almost the national sport of South Korea – making it one of the most sought-after studios to work for in the industry. By its very nature, World of Warcraft is ever-changing and ever-expanding. Players thirst for new areas, new equipment and new quests, and Blizzard regularly oblige through content updates and expansion packs. Virtual architectsMr Morris and his team have an ongoing role in shaping the future of the game by crafting the very land on which the World of Warcraft saga will continue. One such area, Sunwell Isle, is one of the most visually arresting locations seen to date. Its cobble-stoned streets, autumnal trees, picturesque harbour and ornately-patterned circular towers are vibrant and full of life; a testament to the strength of the various art teams at Blizzard. “(The game) clearly has a strongly defined art and design stye... everyone on the exterior level design team is able to bring a personal touch to their work", Mr Morris said. "Each of us has certain strengths within art or design and we often work together to continually evolve the techniques and styles that we utilise as a team. "This approach helps us define the unique variety of locations and environments found in World of Warcraft.” Sunwell Isle will be available for players in the next couple of months, and brings with it a slew of new content, including Magister’s Terrace, a five person dungeon where players will face Prince Kael’thas, and Sunwell Plateau, a 25-player dungeon, which will serve as the final chapter of the Burning Crusade storyline. The Burning Crusade plot will culminate in a battle against Kil’jaeden – “one of the most challenging boss encounters we have developed to date,” according to Mr Morris – while the Aldor and Scryer storylines will also reach their finale on Sunwell Isle. Whether that last paragraph made sense to you or not, it’s clear that with 10 million acolytes around the world Mr Morris and the team at Blizzard are doing something seriously right. Perhaps it’s their passion for their work, perhaps it’s their philosophy of creating games that are easy to get into but difficult to master, or perhaps it’s the intense community support that’s lifting them higher. Then again, it could be the Aussie connection.
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