For the past couple of years, Metzen has been enjoying playing tabletop games with friends in a club, talking with them for hours at a time and enjoying himself. That helped him heal his mind from a kind of burnout and it made him hungry to create worlds again.
Metzen opened up about that sense of burnout and creative exhaustion. He felt like he didn’t have a safety net, and that asking for help wasn’t an easy option. He left, relaxed, and is recharged again.
“Tabletop is where I learned to be creative with my friends growing up, playing D&D, playing Warhammer,” he said. “Loving these ideas and playing these games in the same space as my best friends. Those are some of my most cherished memories. At 47, I come back to that. Even after that glorious Blizzard experience, I want that intimate scale again. This is my path.”
He added, “I’ve always felt that even things like World of Warcraft, which is still my favorite video game of all time, they’re reaching for what D&D does. I don’t mean to sound arrogant in saying that. For my entire career at Blizzard, I was trying to chase the feelings that tabletop had always given me. Whether I was playing a role-playing game or a wargame, I just wanted to feel those things with the people I was playing with.”
“I think I damaged my transmission a bit, kind of ground my clutch down,” he said. “Getting back into this stuff with Mike and starting this company, I think I’ve found it at last. Being that man at home and being a creative dude in my daily life. It feels good. It’s hard to collate all of that. But I think this feels like balance.”Metzen recalled that the time when he felt most creative was when he was working the hardest, going back and forth between work on World of Warcraft and Warcraft III — two games that eventually became blockbusters.
“I was so in love with it all. I was in love with the product,” Metzen said. “I was in love with the way that the jobs felt and the teams I was working with. Once World of Warcraft came out and got big, things changed. It was still awesome, and it’s still awesome today. But we went from being this tight little development shop to being a service provider of this big giant game. That comes with its own rise and fall, its own new conditions and concerns.”
For Metzen, Warchief takes him back to that kind of creative time, before Blizzard became huge.
“It’s building ideas for your friends and laughing at it as we work every day,” he said. “There’s a purity to the smaller scale. Blizzard did exceptional work, but it was at a massive scale. It’s hard to control and keep the train on the tracks. And they’re running multiple trains. They’re all excellent. It’s just a lot of mindshare. This feels like it’s so much more freeing and simplified, the creative process."