Originally published September 16, 2016 on Gamespresso.com

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Best know for his tenure as Lead Designer on World of Warcraft, Rob Pardo is no stranger to making games. Having left Blizzard in 2014, he has now announced the formation of a new indie development team, Bonfire Studios.

“Often, developers must compromise and decide — do I work on a blockbuster game where I have less personal impact or the gutsy indie studio that struggles to get noticed? Our vision is to create a studio that doesn’t require them to choose,” Pardo writes.

Comparing starting a studio to setting out on a fresh quest, he continues, “We can’t say we are going to Mount Doom to save the world, but we do think deeply about what we love about games. One of the most rewarding parts of creating any game, be it a D&D campaign or a massive persistent world, is the connection you have to the players themselves. You get to see the player’s reactions, you get to respond to them and make their experience better over time. It’s like the warmth of friends around a bonfire, sharing stories.”

And that’s the central idea behind Pardo’s new studio. “The bonfire is a metaphor for the experiences we wish to create. We want friends to connect through our games and share amazing experiences, tell the stories, and come closer together.”

In order to do just that Bonfire Studios will be made of smaller “superhero” teams. Cutting out all the redtape, these smaller teams will have more of a direct connection with fans and more freedom to create and evolve their games.

“If we are going to create a superhero team, we needed our version of Shield,” Pardo admits. “After all, superhero bases are not free.” As a result, Bonfire Studios is partnering with Riot Games, the developers behind League of Legends.

“Riot’s aspiration to be the most player-focused game company in the world, aligns very nicely with our vision to build friendships through our online games.”

For additional financial backing, Bonfire is also partnering with venture capital firm Andeessen Horowitz.

During his 17 years at Blizzard, Rob Pardo played a role in shaping multiple titles in all three of the developer’s tent-pole franchises, going all the way back to StarCraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III.