There are many examples of homages and tributes to real life friends or family of the developers and other staff members of Blizzard. Almost all are a memory of a loved one who left the world suddenly, but now live forever in the world that they were in some way part of.
Lone warrior in the cold and windy Icecrown. He has been infected with the plague and knows he will die. The player’s task, is to do anything in his/her power to save the brave and noble crusader. But even with all the effort, we are unable to save him. This takes place in the Lich King expansion and is an homage to the brother of Robert Bridenbecker, Vice President of Online Technologies, Bradford C. Bridenbecker. He died from cancer in 2007 and the quest chain was created as a tribute to him.
Almost every Tauren has met with this old farmer, he is standing next to the wooden bridge, looking for his dog Kyle who is running around the Bloodhoof Village. The quest and the character are the creations of Blizzard and young Ezra Chatterton, who visited Blizzard with Make-A-Wish Foundation. Ezra also helped to design the Merciless Gladiator´s Crossbow Of The Phoenix and was the first person ever, to receive the Ashes Of Al´ar. After his 20 month long bout against brain cancer, Ezra passed away in 2008, and starting from 2009, during the Lunar Festival, Blizzard renamed one of the NPC´s from Elder Proudhorn to Elder Ezra Wheathoof in memory of Ezra.
Shrine Of The Fallen Warrior
If you are of the Horde, you have seen it, even if you’re a member of the Alliance, you have seen it, has been there for a long time, it was there when I started the game. The dead body of an Orc on the mountain, initials MK engraved in the stone he is laying on, next to him, a spirit healer named Koiter. This is a memorial to a young Blizzard illustrator Michael Koiter, who died suddenly aged 19 in 2004, while World Of Warcraft was still in development.
Elloric The Hunter
In Pandaria, in the Seat Of Knowledge, stands a lone night elf, just reading a map, his name is Elloric and he is a tribute to Michael, a hunter from the guild La Familia De Stonewall who died from an asthma attack on New Years Day 2013 aged 29. His partner, friends and guildmates held an ingame memorial service a few days after his passing and the service was recorded and uploaded to YouTube. The map reading is not a random thing, it´s a part of Michael´s time in World Of Warcarft, as he was often lost and constantly reading the map for guidance.
Owen´s Wishing Well
In the Jade Forest, in the middle of the thickest shrubbery, you can find a well, a wishing well, and if you drop a coin in, you will be granted a Made A Wish buff. The well and all things around it, were created by Blizzard for 16 year old Brian Wicks, a fan of the game, who had started playing at the age 8. He visited Blizzard via Make A Wish foundation. He was suffering from a bone cancer and in 2012 he passed away, but before he passed, his parents were able to show him the Well, in Mist Of Pandaria beta. His name will always be remembered in a game that kept him close to his family, gave him something else to think during his brave fight against cancer, in a game that he played for the half of life.