Notorious Studios breaks free from World of Warcraft to build its own worlds

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Chris Kaleiki worked on World of Warcraft at Blizzard, where he spent years designing and balancing character classes. He even developed the monk for the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Now he has started his own company, Notorious Studios, to capitalize on that experience.
“Ultimately we’re all really world-builders on our team. We like building worlds. That’s what our focus is going to be in our first title,” Kaleiki told GamesBeat. His studio has eight people right now, all also former World of Warcraft team members. Many of them were also in his WoW guild, which was also called Notorious.
While he won’t get too specific about the studio’s new game, he did say that it will be a multiplayer RPG with third-person action. So if it isn’t an MMO, it’ll at least be MMO adjacent. Kaleiki wants to grow the studio to 12 people by early next year.
Of course, Blizzard and even specifically the World of Warcraft team have been in the news because of investigations into its workplace practices and accusations of sexual harassment.
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“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,” Kaleiki said. “It affects us as well, even though we’ve been out of Blizzard for a while.”
So, how can Notorious avoid the same pitfalls that have afflicted Blizzard?
“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.”
Notorious has developed a relationship with Riot Games. The League of Legends developer has invested in the new studio.
“I think they’re a developer who cares a lot about the player’s experience as well,” Kaleiki said. “They have a franchise that’s beloved by players. We have so many friends and colleagues who work at Riot, who used to work at Blizzard. I’ve always had a good view of them.”
That support could be key to helping Notorious launch its first project. And help isn’t just coming from Riot. Its investment round brought in $5 million, with Galaxy Interactive as the lead investor.
“We’re very excited about the idea of this studio and the culture we’re going to build and the types of games that we can make,” concluded Kaleiki.
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