The Rehabilitation of Blizzard’s Alex “Furor” Afrasiabi

It’s been an interesting journey for WoW’s Lead World Designer Alex Afrasiabi. Almost 10 years ago he started out as the infamous guild leader of the Fires of Heaven an EverQuest raiding guild. Back then he was known as “Furor” and became an unlikely cult hero for the raiding culture that ended up dominating EverQuest — a revolutionary MMO that made WoW possible.

Along with Jeff Kaplan (another EQ guild leader and current Blizzard developer) they morphed into unofficial MMO consumer advocates railing against incompetence at SOE the makers of EQ. In those days before blogs Alex routinely used the FoH forums as a bully pulpit to advocate for more quality control back in the early days when MMOs were still very new and full of bugs due to lack of testing and resources.

Despite his entertainingly sharp wit on the forums, I hated the guy. I found his online persona on the vile FoH forums to be repugnant. Back then he was a cocky, foul-mouthed bully who indulged in locker room bravado and juvenile one-upmanship that still plagues those antiquated forums to this day.

When Blizzard hired him to be a quest writer, I figured they had lost their minds. I wondered how an avowed power gamer who seemingly cared little for “quests” and the plight of casual gamers had any qualifications to be a quest designer.

Even MMO impresario Brad McQuaid was so impressed with Furor’s uberness that he had expressed interest in hiring him to work on his Vanguard MMO. Just think… Alex would probably be designing children’s quests in Free Realms right now (as many ex-Sigil employees ended up back at SOE working on Free Realms) if he had joined Brad and company on their ill-fated voyage.

Although I’ve been a critic of his penchant for putting endless references to himself in WoW, over the years I’ve come to admire the high quality of the quests and lore that he’s contributed to the MMO. I guess he finally realized that what you do in life speaks louder then what you say.

We really haven’t heard much from him at Blizzard over the years. He’s become strangely quiet and even muzzled probably due to various bravado relapses. He rarely does interviews unlike the loquacious braggart that was his former and thankfully retired Furor persona.

Just this week Gamasutra interviewed him about quest design, phasing technology and the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. It was refreshing to see paragraphs of text coming from him that didn’t include “gay”, “retard” or some of his other favorite insults. Could it be that Alex has finally grown up?

While I’m not particularly fond of WoW’s rigid quest-centric “on rails” MMO, I can appreciate the story of how he and his fellow designers accidentally discovered phasing — at least their version of it. I still contend that Turbine actually invented phasing when they released their Lord of the Rings Online MMO back in 2007.

While reading the interview I found Alex to be intelligent, thoughtful and even likable. It’s been interesting to see the metamorphosis from hardcore foul-mouthed guild leader with a checkered past to cerebral Lead World Designer in charge of other Blizzard employees. If you want a rare insight into the design and production process at Blizzard this interview is well worth reading.

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