Former World of Warcraft developer Ghostcrawler weighs in on Mike Morhaime’s ‘social glue’ discussion

I was never really here.

So you remember Mike Morhaime’s kind of nonsensical comments that treated “social” as the equivalent to “forced grouping” from a couple days ago, yes? Well, it turns out that Greg Street, AKA Ghostcrawler, the former lead systems designer on World of Warcraft, opted to weigh in on the same comments with a small Twitter thread that is… uh… actually, it’s kind of baffling, although it ultimately seems to come down on the side of a wistful glance and a statement that it was a different time. But, well…

People forget sometimes that when WoW became popular, things like instant messaging didn’t really exist, let alone having social features in every game….

For those of you keeping track at home, we’ll save you a trip to Wikipedia: AOL Instant Messenger launched in 1997, ICQ launched in 1996, and IRC was originally developed in 1988. All of these dates are substantially prior to the launch of WoW. It is, ultimately, kind of a baffling thread featuring other arguments like the idea that no one had played MMOs before WoW while also praising the social systems present in WoW which were, in fact, fairly common in other MMOs. It’s kind of weird.

Source: Twitter

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Everything this dude ever wrote is baffling so this comes as no surprise…

Kickstarter Donor

Meridian 59, Ultima Online, EQ Asheron’s Call… I’ve got a bigass list of MMORPGs I played before WoW came around in 04… What a weird argument.


My MMO prior to WoW was Star Wars Galaxies, where I played a Doctor. A lot of socializing there as I had to move the resources to craft medicine.

So based on personal experience, Socializing took a huge hit when I moved to WoW.

Fast forward a few years when we get dungeon finders, I hardly socialize 50% of the time while the other 50% was dungeon raiding thru mics.

Emiliano Lozada

I’m unsure where to pout really. One can say that it’s an issue with modern MMOs but I have regular conversation in FF14 everytime I play. Even had a LFD run where we just stopped and admired our mogs but I’d never do that in WoW.

Perhaps it’s just how nasty the Blizz community is/has on top of the way the game shifted away from such.

Loyal Patron
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While Greg’s comments are obviously wrong on a technical and historical basis, WoW was the first online social experience for a lot of people. His comments align with the experience of a lot of players.

Robert Mann

Ghostcrawler was… always that kind of weird and logically compromised individual who would think that things were different than reality, despite being confronted with the truth. It seems no change has occurred.


There is only one thing to blame.

hooby _

Weren’t most games prior to WoW (like for example UO and SWG) equipped with a lot more and better social systems?

Player housing (with full decoration), player cities, mayors and vote systems, a player-driven economy where people depended on each other, people sitting in an inn or cantina while getting healed and buffed – socializing with the other patrons, etc. – all of those things work a lot better than forced grouping.

It would seem to me that WoW was a major step backwards in terms of social features, compared to what was the norm at the time.

This “social glue” is indeed extremely important for MMOs and player retention, but WoW never put much focus on that, right from day one.

Bree Royce
Bree Royce

This, this exactly.

Fenrir Wolf

I feel like MUDs were where the social aspect reigned supreme, anything that took a page from them tended to have a more social scene.


I’ll never understand this “boohoo people dont talk to each other anymore” thing. If people stopped talking to strangers… Its probably because they didn’t want to talk to strangers in the first place. I wasn’t any more or less social in vanilla than I am now. If I want to talk to people, I will. If I don’t want to, I won’t. And I can just speak for myself, but I’m not really interested in talking to people during dungeons. I already have friends and a guild to be social with.
Also, maybe it would be more fun to chat with people during dungeons of Blizz moderated peoples behavior more. as in, maybe people should get more than a little slap on the wrist for being absolute humongous douche-nozzles. I chat with people 200% more often in FFXIV because I know I won’t be getting death/rape threats or insults.

TBH if I wanted to go out and meet new people and make friends, I wouldn’t be doing it while trying to finish my weekly mythic lmao.

Robert Mann

I’ll give you plenty of points for the factor of people being less than decent, punishments being insufficient, and so on.

I do think that there is room for games pursuing both more and less social interest. I would also say that design is a major factor… but not only in that downtime in dungeons resulted in boredom and thus conversation, but rather that the constant carrot and stick approach to MMO design actively hinders social interactions.

hooby _

I’m pretty convinced that the more people do depend on each other in the game, the more incentive there is to be decent to each other.

If you need the other players because they harvest the materials, they craft your gear from those materials, they repair your gear, they heal your wounds, they give you buffs, they fund the city you live in, they provide the main services you use in the game… if all those other players are beneficial to your game experience, that puts you in a very different mindset – as to to when you play your own quests and earn your own rewards, and nothing what any player outside your party or raid group does has any influence on what you do, other than maybe competing with you for spawns or quests drops.

People not being decent to each other is to some degree increased by the lack of social features in the games’ design.


Vanilla WoW had a casual-ized and watered-down Old School feel to it already, but it’s what made it so accessible and massive, but then future WoW content destroyed this feeling in order for the game remain just as massive and accessible with people becoming less involved, having less time and let’s not forget – becoming more lazier and entitled. Now if Shadowlands gets some surprise news that it’s getting the Vanilla treatement where all QoL changes are going away for good and people now have to talk to each other in game, mobs will kick your ass and whatnot, there will be an outrage, which only goes to prove that the game evolved with the players for good or bad.