But in all this attention, there's a central theme to Ghostcrawler's discourse, and a theme that resonates well with the player base. He's a professor, the cool one that you'd like to have a beer with while watching the game at the bar. He doesn't talk down to players, he isn't afraid to get into deep philosophical discussion, but at the same time he has a wit that lets him smack down the grandest of trolls. It's through this style that he's been able to connect with the community.
To answer our experiment, we must look then at if not only his presence was good, but if his design matched his musings. A good presence in the community should be measured not by the popularity of the person, but by the long lasting positive social impact they have. Similarly, a game designer's success shouldn't be measured by how many units the game sells, but by the innovation and creativity he brings to the table.
In all these aspects, from both the public view we have of Ghostcrawler and the internal (and private) one we've heard about, he's succeeded.
His community presence fundamentally altered the view of Blizzard. He personalized a game that is played by millions of players. His interaction with the fans brought the game down to an individual level, where a single person could have a huge impact. He was approachable and friendly -– he was interested in having a discussion and listening to what you thought of the game. Few public figures have such attitudes.
As a game designer Ghostcrawler revamped and refined a system that continued to age. In a game in which the core systems were developed over a decade ago, the challenge was to modify and expand the design to match modern systems (which seem to change every couple years). While it is a fair criticism to say that Ghostcrawler was around for the loss of millions of players, it's also equally true that he was there during the ascent of WoW. He began working for Blizzard during The Burning Crusade and presided over Wrath of the Lich King – the very time that many in the community consider the golden years.
Ghostcrawler's presence in the World of Warcraft elevated the game to a new level. He lead the team that designed the core of the gameplay we're familiar with and has helped WoW become of the longest-lasting success stories in the industry. In his departure, as any good leader ensures, he leaves behind a remarkably capable group of individuals that will usher WoW into the next decade of its life.
Wherever Ghostcrawler goes to he's guaranteed to positively impact the game. The current experiment is over, and it's been a success. The only thing left is for the torch to be picked up by future designers in WoW and carry forward the level of personal engagement and discussion the community has come to expect. Will someone step up and do it? We've seen some do so now, yes, however only time will tell the true success of such attempts.