It says much about how different Blizzard’s games are from the norm that Diablo III’s lead designer, Jay Wilson, moving on from the divisive hacker-slasher to another role with the same company can be news. Blizzard’s games are designed to live for a long time, not to be abandoned after a couple of post-release patches and some token DLC. Don’t expect to see Diablo IV for at least another decade, y’know? Instead, D3 remains in a state of continuous development, catering to a large and vocal community, balancing and rebalancing to increasingly anal degrees and, no doubt, trying to become a goliath of real-money transactions. Then there’s the much-rumoured console version of the game potentially still in the wings. So, a going concern, and now in need of new leadership.
A lot of people have a lot to say about Jay Wilson’s seven-year stewardship of the project, the state the game launched in and some of the big decisions (DRM, RMT, grind vs merriment) made. Wilson obliquely referenced some of these in his long goodbye letter (again, bear in mind he was moving to a different part of the same building rather than another developer), and while it’s full of pride about the game too it’s probably the closest we’ll ever come to Blizzard admitting that D3 wasn’t their finest hour.
It sounds very much as though he jumped rather than was pushed, and quite understandably just wants a change after the best part of a decade working on one game. Though the ghost of his infamous ‘fuck that loser‘ comment regarding former Diablo lead David Brevik’s dissatisfaction with D3 has doubtless haunted him. Here’s probably the key phrase from the goodbye letter, in terms of hinted regret:
“Now some of you feel we fell short of our promise to release the game “when it’s ready.” While we’re not perfect, we try to make the best decisions we can with the information and knowledge we have at the time. That doesn’t mean we always make the right decisions, but if we made a mistake then I feel we’ve made an exceptional effort to correct it.
“…For example, we agreed that Diablo III’s itemization at launch was not good enough, so the team made numerous changes, including changing drop rates, re-tuning legendaries, and adding scores of new items to the game. We also agreed that the end game needed more depth, so the team added new events, and new systems like Monster Power and Paragon levels.”
For my part that stuff was too little (or at least too statistical) too late, and I have about as much interest in going back to Diablo III as I do in having another maths lesson with cruel secondary school teacher Mr Kelly, but the game’s most faithful wanted more numbers, and more numbers they duly got. Staying on its rather cold course Diablo III may be, but it’s certainly not resting on its laurels.
Some of those who felt personally let down by D3 (yet, perversely, apparently still lurk about its forums griping rather than moving on to another game) took Wilson’s goodbye letter to be an opportunity to rather, ah, vociferously voice their concerns. An apology for his silly Facebook comment has done little to de-bad the community’s blood, so perhaps the reaction shouldn’t have been entirely unexpected. Even so, it prompted Wilson’s boss, Blizzard Chief Creative Officer Rob Pardo to step in with a typed smackdown-attempt.
“This thread saddens me greatly. I know that the Battle.net forums have earned a reputation for rough justice, but I do not believe justice is being served by how people are speaking about Jay’s departure from Diablo III.
I am very proud of the Diablo franchise and what the team was able to accomplish with Diablo III. As a gamer I have enjoyed the game and played for many, many nights with friends and family. I’m not, however, going to use that as an excuse. The Diablo community deserves an even better game from Blizzard and we are committed to improving it. We have a talented team in place and have no intention of stopping work on Diablo III until it is the best game in the franchise.
I’m the only person in this thread who has actually worked with Jay. I hired Jay to head up the Diablo project and had the pleasure of getting to work with him, both in building the team and designing the game. He has great design instincts and has added so much to the franchise with his feel for visceral combat, boss battles, and an unparalleled knack for making it fun to smash bad guys. I’ve worked with many, many designers at Blizzard and Jay is one of the best. He has a great career at Blizzard ahead of him and I guarantee that you will enjoy Jay’s game designs in future Blizzard games.
If you love Diablo as much as we do, then please continue to let us know how you feel we can improve the game. If you still feel the need to dish out blame, then I would prefer you direct it at me. I was the executive producer on the project; I hired Jay and I gave him advice and direction throughout the development process. I was ultimately responsible for the game we released and take full responsibility for the quality of the result.”
Right, you asked for it Pardo. Wait for it, here it comes. Are you ready punk, huh? Are you? OK, here we go: I thought Diablo III was a bit boring and it was really annoying that I couldn’t play it on train journeys, and if that’s your fault then, then, then… Then I’m going to make this expression at you if I ever meet you:
THAT’LL TEACH YOU NOT TO HAVE AN OFFLINE MODE PARDO
(Jesus, is my nose really that big?)