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Big Orc on Campus: We tour through Blizzard

Kevin Kelly

Blizzard's main company headquarters are, much like any other, located somewhere inside a massive corporate building complex, this one deep inside Irvine, California. Once you get past the guard gate and make your way inside, it's not quite like most business parks. For one, Blizzard has its own ginormous Orc Wolfrider statue guarding the front doors.

There's enough lush green vegetation around to conceal a Fallout-style vault, or a mechanized army of robotic dragons ... which might be where your monthly World of Warcraft fees are going. At least part of that money went to pay for the company's own sand volleyball court, where brave employees reenact that scene from Top Gun.

What other secrets does the place hold? Read on to find out, and browse through the 99 images in the gallery below, which sadly doesn't include the photos we were asked not to show or talk about. Hopefully they'll let us do that soon. For now, let the speculation begin ...

Gallery: Blizzard Tour | 97 Photos

Besides the photos we can't talk about yet, there was also one location we couldn't photograph: the Global Operations room where Blizzard can monitor everything related to its servers, and the income streams of its customers. It seriously looks like the war room in Dr. Strangelove (no fighting!), and has massive screens on one wall, tuned to the, er ... news. We'd like to have seen that Blizzard had launched a satellite of its own to keep tabs on Dick Cheney, but that wasn't the case.

After letting us peek through the window here, the Blizzard folks whisked us away to their new library, which just opened recently. Behind the barred wooden doors there's a complete research library, stocked with technical books, role-playing game manuals, tons of fiction, and even a video game library featuring just about every PC title you can think of (and someone's been playing console games). They even have board games available, and employees can reserve items through Blizzard's computer system and then flash their ID badges to check them out.

Moving on, we breezed past dozens of open offices, many containing items ranging from life-sized statues to a complete Blizzard arcade game cabinet, which sadly didn't seem to be working. Of course, there were also tons of employees at work, although they ignored us while we snapped pictures of their desks. Their many, toy-covered desks. Seriously, is it a law that when you get hired at a game company, you have to cover your cubicle in action figures? Who are you trying to impre ... OOOH! Vault Boy!

We were quickly ushered past areas where the secret work was being done, thereby keeping us from seeing what Blizzard's unannounced MMO is, when the next WoW expansion is due out, and what the exact ship date for Starcraft 2 is. Still, it was fun to walk through the areas where the World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, and Diablo 3 development teams work. Blizzard is definitely a fan of its own artwork judging by the painted columns, framed versions of WoW patch art, and prevalence of more life-sized statues -- and who can blame them. That stuff's pretty good!

So, in summation, these are just like other offices. Offices that have themed elevators, hulking statues just beyond the break room, WoW-style directories, whiteboards covered in tomfoolery, bizarre and inexplicable shrines ... Oh, and peppered about everywhere are small WoW server monitors that show how many people are currently playing World of Warcraft around the globe, complete with different time zones and a dynamically changing day / night cycle. Just look how high tech they are, especially in comparison to the WoW maintenance clock.

From there we headed down to the Blizzard Museum, which isn't quite as grand as it sounds. It's mostly used to house some of Blizzard's many gaming awards, older concept art (we're sure there's a massive Blizzard archive somewhere), a framed version of the entire shooting script for the "Make Love, Not Warcraft" South Park episode, a copy of Starcraft that flew on the space shuttle into outer space, and an impassioned letter from a soldier who had brought items back from Iraq and wanted to get in one of the WoW betas (not sure if it was Burning Crusade or Lich King ... but they let him in).

The museum also shows off what you can get if you're lucky enough to land a job and stay employed at Blizzard: a steel sword at five years, and a shiny, burnished shield at ten. When you hit 15 you get a signet ring, and soon enough they'll have to figure out what 20-year veterans will get. That's one way to keep employees happy ... or else a good way to inspire revolution.

Now, to figure out how to sneak back in.

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