Ex-WoW devs form Notorious Studios to build MMO-adjacent multiplayer RPG


Even before the recent scandal, Blizzard has seen one hell of an exodus of top-tier talent over the last few years. (“Our mentors are leaving in droves” was 2020.) The only good news to come of that is the fact that many of these folks are staying in the industry and crewing their own studios.

Joining that steady stream of ex-Blizzard devs is Chris Kaleiki and Doug Frazer, who are spearheading a group of ex-World of Warcraft and Overwatch developers who’ve formed a new company, Notorious Studios, named after the gaming guild some of the devs belong to. Kaleiki was a systems and class designer on the game (he’s responsible for the Monk), while Frazer was a senior gameplay engineer; both departed Blizzard at the end of 2020.

According to GamesBeat, the new studio – backed by no less than Riot Games – now includes eight developers, expected to grow by half by early next year, and it’s just pulled in a fresh $5M in investment. Most importantly to our audience, the studio has revealed that it’s working on a multiplayer RPG with third-person action combat. (GamesBeat calls it “MMO adjacent.”)

Kaleiki did address the ongoing scandal at Blizzard in his GamesBeat interview.

“The challenges that Blizzard’s had that have been unearthed in the last several months or so have been really troubling, hard to hear about. It affects us as well, even though we’ve been out of Blizzard for a while. […] What’s important is starting a culture and having no tolerance for harassment and things like that, and also being transparent and open. We’re aspiring to do a flatter structure. None of us are leads or directors. Previously in our careers we were all individual contributors. We were the ones who’d just build or code or make art or design things. We aspire to have that flatter structure where we don’t have a rigid hierarchy. Harassment usually comes from a subordinate-superior sort of relationship. We’re hoping that flatter structure can address some of those problems.”

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