Diablo III Director Jay Wilson Leaving Blizzard & Games

Jay Wilson minutes after clearing his desk

Jay Wilson, the designer perhaps best known as Diablo III’s [official site] game director, has announced that he will be leaving Blizzard and the games industry after almost two decades. He broke the news on twitter last night and has been replying to well-wishers ever since. Along the way, he’s provided some insight as to what comes next.

“I’m moving back to the Pacific Northwest, where I used to live. Going to pursue writing, see if I’m any good at it.”

Don’t accidentally turn into Alan Wake, Mr Wilson! Though Diablo III is the giant bookend to his career, Wilson’s work at Relic should not be forgotten, nor should his work as a level designer on Blood. Work on Blood, you get a free pass for life from me.

A career that begins at Monolith in the early nineties, takes in two of Relic’s best RTS games and ends at Blizzard almost twenty years after it began is a strong and varied career. Sadly, having just granted that free pass I’m going to have to revoke it immediately because I just spotted that Wilson’s early work also included Blood 2: The Chosen, which is the one crucial error a Blood alumnus can make.

At Relic, Wilson worked on both Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, which makes his move to Blizzard seem entirely sensible – the StarCraft, his destination, you might think. Except, no. Having already covered FPS and RTS, he now took in ARPGs and MMORPGs, in the form of Diablo III and World of Warcraft.

Taking on the mantle of a series as popular and successful as Diablo was always likely to be tricky, and a combination of launch issues, divisive design choices, the always-online requirement and the Auction House made the release choppier than Blizzard would have hoped. Wilson moved on to another role within Blizzard less than a year after launch.

As far as my experience with the game goes, I burned out quickly when I first played, but Blizzard have put an enormous amount of effort into improving the game since release. I still haven’t devoted as much time as I’d like to but it’s a brilliant podcast game for me these days – one of those I stick on while listening to my shows, perfectly occupying just the right amount of my attention.

Wilson has amassed quite the CV during his years in the industry, with contributions to all manner of genres at some of the best studios in the world. His writing career, should it take off, will most likely focus on urban fantasy, he says. But don’t be surprised if he switches to military history, epic poetry and then neo-noir after an initial success.

From this site

53 Comments

  1. commentingaccount says:

    Good riddance. I’m sure he’s not too bad of a guy, but after he not only fucked up my all time favorite game series, but insulted one of the creators for calling him on it?

    He needs to never make games again or be involved with them in any way, shape or form. I wish him well in his life outside of the gaming industry, but in it?

    Just don’t, man. You’ve lost your touch and in the process damn near sunk the careers of many other individuals. Time to retire.

    • int says:

      I’m not well versed in behind the scenes drama of games. What did he actually do?

      • Horg says:

        That would be Jay ”Fuck that loser” Wilson, in response to some fairly mild and diplomatic criticism of Diablo 3’s overall design, from former Blizzard North developer David Brevik. Jay Wilson became synonymous with Blizzard’s attitude of defending their mistakes (or simply unpopular features like the auction house) against the prevailing opinion of their customers. His twitter screw up simply made him the most visible face when much complaining was being thrown Blizzard’s way.

      • Faldrath says:

        After D3 was launched, there was an interview with David Breivik, one of D2’s designers, where he criticized (correctly, for the most part) some of the design decisions of vanilla D3. Wilson’s reply was “fuck that loser”, which was rather uncalled for.

        • Unruly says:

          Breivik wasn’t just one of D2’s designers. He’s one of the co-creators of the entire series. It was Erich Schaefer and David Breivik that started the whole thing going with Diablo 1. So if you’re going to take criticism about Diablo 3 from anyone, Breivik should probably be that person.

          You definitely shouldn’t call him a loser and tell him to fuck off.

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        Minsc_N_Boo says:

        D3 came out with a “real money” auction house, and an always online requirement.

        While I can forgive the latter, the auction house was a horrible idea. The game was balanced around having to buy upgrades, either with in game gold, or with actual currency.

        It was scrapped after a few years, but the damage was already done.

        • ludde says:

          Yeah, the game was incredibly unsatisfying to play. That coupled with the nose dive the writing took pretty much killed any Blizzard fandom I had left.

          • Unruly says:

            StarCraft II started that with me. It was fine on the single player end, but I didn’t like the Battle.Net revamp at all. I don’t play competitively. I play Use Map Settings maps almost exclusively in multiplayer unless I’m playing against friends. So getting rid of permanent map downloads and making me sort through an ever changing list of “popular” or “recently updated” UMS maps to find one I had previously played and liked drove me nuts. Where before I could set up a game in 30 seconds, it now took 5 minutes to flip through 10 pages of DOTA-clone maps and other garbage that I didn’t care about to find a map that I had played a week ago and wanted to play again. And then, if the author had changed it, there was no way to play old versions. And I had to hope that other people would spend 5 minutes flipping through maps to find the one I wanted to play, because there was no open game listings, just matchmaking based on what map you picked. Or the author could have just pulled the whole thing, and then it’s lost to me forever. Stupid.

            Then Diablo 3 came out, and, well, my love for Blizzard died completely.

          • kud13 says:

            My love for Blizzard ended the day they patched out offline play with battle.net profile without jumping through a million hoops in WoL. I uninstalled and never looked back. A few years later my account got hacked by a gold farmer. Since that account only had a retail copy of WoL on it (that I bought for cash, so no credit card info), I wish him godspeed with it.

            Announcing D3 as online-only made sure I will never pay attention to what Blizz does ever again.

    • jalf says:

      Good riddance. I’m sure he’s not too bad of a guy, but after he not only fucked up my all time favorite game series, but insulted one of the creators for calling him on it?

      He needs to never make games again or be involved with them in any way, shape or form

      Gamer culture sure is healthy and friendly, and gamers are such reasoned and well-rounded individuals who never get disproportionately angry about the luxury goods that they base their identity on

      • Don Reba says:

        Gamer culture sure is healthy and friendly, and gamers are such reasoned and well-rounded individuals who never get disproportionately angry about the luxury goods that they base their identity on

        Truer words have never been spoken.

      • Unruly says:

        I don’t respect Jay Wilson because he doesn’t respond well to reasoned criticism. I didn’t like 90% of the changes made in D3, and it killed what little good will I had left towards Blizzard for a LONG time, but I didn’t take the game’s failings out on Wilson personally. It was only after he responded to a fairly mild critique by saying “Fuck that loser,” about one of the creators of the franchise no less, that I came to dislike him.

        So, in his own words, fuck that loser.

        • Unruly says:

          Also, we’re no worse than sports fans. How many times does a coach get sacked because a team loses or doesn’t make the playoffs or whatever? How often do people scream obscenities at coaches or players they don’t like?

          It’s part of any fandom. People get heated over things that they’re passionate about. It’s happened since time immemorial and it will continue until all life in the universe is extinguished.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            You’re defending the behaviour of abusive fans by comparing them to football hooligans? Not sure you have a healthy concept of what it means to be a fan of something.

          • sysop39 says:

            I for one welcome our Vulcan overlords who always have a healthy concept of what it means to be a fan(-atic).

          • Emeraude says:

            @Ninja Dodo

            Not taking a stand here, but I wouldn’t make the shouting of profanities the defining trait of a hooligan, not when so many people (professional players and coaches included) seem to do it whereas the bashing of skulls with improvised weapons is a lot more localized and… where the real problem is, as far as I can tell.

          • Distec says:

            That didn’t read as a defense of bad behavior so much as pointing out this isn’t an issue unique to “gamer culture”, and using some salty post about a developer in order to make some sarcastic general comment on said culture is silly.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            Well, I don’t watch sports, but real fans do not hurl abuse at people who create the thing that they like is kind of my point.

          • Unruly says:

            Well, Jay Wilson didn’t create something I liked. He created something that I greatly disliked. So by that logic it’s perfectly fine for me to hurl abuse at him, which I haven’t really done aside from turning his own words against him.

            Anyway, my comment about being no worse than other fans is the truth. And there’s a vast gulf of difference being telling someone “you suck and should feel bad” in colorful language and physically beating their head in because you think they or their opinions suck.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            I don’t think I need to explain that momentarily disagreeing with someone’s decisions does not constitute an exception here, nor is it ok to attack those who make things you dislike… and since the “colorful language” you speak of tends to take the form of vicious threats and harassment I’m not sure there’s really much of a difference. It’s more like degrees of the same thing.

          • Unruly says:

            So no one is allowed to ever voice displeasure with someone, is that what you’re saying?

            The OP said good riddance and hopes he never makes games again, but wished him well outside the gaming industry. Then someone made a sarcastic comment about gamers, essentially calling us all assholes, and I responded that we’re no worse than any other fans. Which you apparently took exception to and used to equate my saying “fuck that loser” about Wilson, which were Wilson’s own words towards someone else, with me beating him over the head with a bat.

            I think you’re really overstating what’s been going on here, and taking it to places that it never was going to go.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            I’m responding more to general trends and your apparent defense of this as *totally normal* than anything specifically going on in this thread. Voicing displeasure or disagreement with things is entirely different from attacking people personally and it’s a line that is frequently crossed by angry ‘fans’ of both games and other things.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            Though to specifically address the OP: a developer makes controversial design decisions on a popular game series (some of which were later changed) and makes a disrespectful comment towards a former colleague who criticized those decisions (for which I understand he later apologized) and that means he should “never make games again or be involved with them in any way” ??? That is some insane bullshit. I can imagine having to deal with crap like that would be a reason to leave.

          • Unclepauly says:

            @Ninja Dodo – Why are you defending that scumbag? Jay Wilson took a dump on one of the creators of the series. A creator that was just pointing out(respectfully at that) the games missteps, and instead of getting an equally respectful response gets a “fuck that loser” response. There is nothing more deserving than a bunch of “fuck that loser” responses to his retirement.

          • LexW1 says:

            @Ninja Dodo – Your position could barely be more hypocritical.

            You are aggressively defending someone who himself was a big part of the “toxic culture” you’re railing against. He was so exceedingly toxic, than when his game was gently and accurately criticised by a very polite and sensible man, he said “Fuck that loser” of him.

            This was not the first time he’d behaved in such a way. Indeed it was one of very many. Yet you think the fairly mild criticism here is the problem, and not the behaviour of people like Jay Wilson himself?

            Let be clear – the biggest part of why gamer culture is “toxic”, if it is, is because so many big designers and the like themselves engage in “toxic” behaviour. Jay Wilson was one of those. Indeed I cannot off-hand think of a single high-profile Blizzard employee who has not been guilty of between fairly and extremely toxic behaviour. Jeffrey Kaplan, for example, whilst calling himself “tigole” (for “Tigole Bitties” i.e. “Bigole Titties” great not-at-all-misogynistic name there bro), used to verbally abuse Blizzard critics at extreme length. Tom “Kalgan” Chilton like-wise. God forbid anyone even mildly criticise their design decisions on the Blizzard forums – they’d gladly verbally abuse the hell of out of people and wouldn’t suffer consequences, which went a huge way to normalizing such behaviour.

            Jeffrey Kaplan in fact made a big start on creating the most toxic and entitled gamer behaviour by literally organising orchestrated server-crashes in order to protest the failure to nerf certain classes in EverQuest (yes failure to nerf – the classes weren’t overpowered either – he just didn’t like the design decisions). This being the Bad Olde Dayes, he actually managed to bully SoE or 911 or whatever they were called back then into doing the nerfs, so that their servers would stop being crashed.

            But it’s only the fans who are the problem, right? Sure, sure…

      • Emeraude says:

        I have to agree with you, Jay Wilson is a perfect example of just how toxic the community has become.

      • Dizrupt says:

        Not an argument.

    • ErraticGamer says:

      To be fair, Diablo 3 has improved enormously since Jay stepped out of his Game Director role with it (which happened back in 2013 so I find it curious that isn’t mentioned in this article). The removal of the Real Money Auction House and the addition of Adventure Mode and its final act and player class turned it into what is now probably my favorite casual action RPG, and I’ve played pretty much all of them.

      But I agree that he treated the game’s player base pretty poorly, both through his design and through direct treatment, while he was in charge of it.

      • gunny1993 says:

        Well tbh blizzard has never been good at writing unless you’ve never read a fantasy book containing more than 2 tropes, so the relative quality of writing drop was really rather low.

        Like comparing Dan brown’s later and earlier works

        • gunny1993 says:

          this is not the reply button I clicked on

        • socrate says:

          Yeah but even then D2 and D1 actually made some sense where in D3 it almost as if i was watching an accelerated season of Supernatural,it was actually and still is painful to experience and i do everything in my power to dodge that part of the game if i play it…its actually painful,not to mention it as a gazillion lore hole and like most of blizzard related lore since WoW their game tend to go stupid mode in a matter of second just to justify dumb come back or to appeal to the now retard crowd of gamer and does things like the butcher or skeleton king or w/e else they can bring back just for dumb fanboyism…don’t get me wrong im not a big lore person but i do prefer a world that make sense and that i can actually immerse and lose myself over a dumb game that offer me character that were in past game just to be like “hey look fan service”..dark souls 3 was a good example of that i think too much fan service can kill a part of the enjoyement of a game if its just there to be there.

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        Agree with all your points, still it was a horror game with satanic symbols and it was turned into nephalim disneyland. Diablo and the rest of the prime evils are characters appealing to brain-damaged five-year-olds.
        I expect no noble prize dialogue or oscar performance but not to cringe every time a word is spoken, realm of terroaar indeed.
        Also one barbarian = all possible barbarians by game design.
        Only two relevant values: damage and toughness.
        No playing skill involved at all. And about Deckard.
        It’s still a good time sink though.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      He will be always remembered in the internet as the “f that looser”-guy.
      Probably not the quite the devil incarnate but certainly our “Paul Feig of gaming”.

  2. DeadCanDance says:

    In his own words, fuck that loser.

  3. mvar says:

    Pursue writing?! Judging from the writing in Diablo 3, he better stay in the gaming business. And yes, he wasn’t responsible for the actual dialogues and storyline but he was the f*ng game director, how on earth did he ever allow that :S

    • Kolbex says:

      Given how discerning the general fantasy-reading public is, if he can crank something out I’m sure it’ll do all right. Most fantasy is derivative crap.

      • socrate says:

        Jules Verne would like a word with you sir…but yeah today’s fantasy and science fiction is so generic and horribly written…that said you have a gazillion idiot thinking that Cthulhu is awesome yet have never touched the horrible book that are of h.p Lovecraft and i wouldn’t recommend them at all…that said he also did inspire amazing stuff from is imagination but quite frankly is writing is horrible.

        • aepervius says:

          It is a question of taste. I consider HP lovecraft’s writing good inn the sense that it holds my breath reading the stories, wanting to read more. Same with , say, PK Dick. On the other hand a lot of what some consider “good author” with “good writing” I find drab, dreary, and so boring that I have to force myself to read. The writing might be that of an expert, making litterature analyst wet their pant, but boy, if it does not make you read more, than it is not a good writing.

          Naturally you may have a different definition of good writing. As as taste goes, neither ours is universal.

        • LexW1 says:

          Today’s fantasy is better than say, ’80s fantasy.

          90% of everything is crap. That was true in Verne’s day as it is now. It’s just only the non-crap survives long-term (for the most part).

          But at least if you stick to big names, fantasy is a lot better than it was. I’ve been reading it since the ’80s, and it’s come a long, long way.

          Still 90% crap, but everything is. And that 10% of non-crap is generally a lot better than it was.

  4. Morcane says:

    Extremely good news for any future Diablo game. :)

  5. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    My dislike for certain parts of Diablo 3 notwithstanding, he did work on Dawn of War which is one of my favourite games. He was Lead Designer on that, so I wonder what was so different between those two games/companies/teams.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that it was the well-known and existing universe and mechanics of the WH40k universe that provided a better framework. While Diablo 1 & 2 have a story, let’s not kid ourselves about the comprehensibility or quality of that story.

      Also maybe the guy just “gets” RTS games but not ARPGs.

      • socrate says:

        Let’s not forget that game workshop also tend to be erratic sometime giving free reign for no good reason and other time to be extremely watchful and strict but also helpful on their universe which was the case with Dawn of War

  6. Chaoslord AJ says:

    “Going to pursue writing, see if I’m any good at it.”

    He has a chance there if he had no hand in the Diablo 3 plotline that is which is doubtful.

  7. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Also remember this gem of entertainment.
    Jay about game design (D3)

    “Internally, we had this super hardcore test group – we’ve got a lot of hardcore players at Blizzard – that tested Inferno, and we got it to the point where they thought it was challenging enough,” Blizzard’s Jay Wilson told IGN.

    “Then we doubled it. Because we knew, no matter how good we are, our players are gonna be better. We focussed on making that as difficult as we could make it.”

  8. aliksy says:

    Yeah, Diablo3 was pretty bad. It was only after a few years and some stupidly obvious changes were made (no auction house, no longer forcing players to re-play the awful story, let people find cool items…) that it got fun. I have a low opinion of anyone involved in that mess.

    Now if only we could get adventure mode in path of exile…

    • shagen454 says:

      I honestly love Blizzard – but I have to say the new Blizzard norm seems to be “Pretty bad/only after a few years [did the game become] fun”. Overwatch really exemplifies this for me. The game is boring as FUCK and totally not worth the $40.00. While Heroes of the Storm, a free game, which when it was released was sort of boring as well. After a year [just like Diablo 3] did it become fun. That is the state of all things Blizzard. They “polish” the superficial shit and then come back later to fix the game mechanics and make a fun game. And then they tweak on those mechanics for years like an engineer smoking crack in a basement slowly adapting to severe OCD and drug addiction.

      • zetruz says:

        I don’t agree about Overwatch. It’s a GREAT game with fabulous mechanics, IF you have someone else to play with. If you play alone, it is mediocre at best and really boring and somehow simultaneously frustrating at worst. But if you play with a friend, it’s brilliant. And this is coming from someone who had absolutely zero hype about the game and only tried the open beta because why not. Got hooked. I love it.

        • socrate says:

          Well every game turn into a GREAT game with a friend frankly even the worst one…i would say if you play solo you wont go mediocre it will just be really boring…its just not a game i find good in any way it seem and is a recycled product that the old blizzard would have trashed but the blizzard of today as instead sold…people need to stop giving blizzard free pass because its a childhood memory of the best time of their life.

          Of course i do find it fun with my friends because i dont take it seriously because oh surprise surprise the balance is not at all there and the matchmaking is the most horrible thing ive seen since HoTs…but i also find dumb early access game that are totally broken and almost unplayable fun with my friends also for a time…doesnt mean its good or worth 40$.

          • zetruz says:

            I disagree. I don’t think bad games are automatically fun just because you play them with someone else. Bad UI, bad gameplay, bad mechanics – all of these things can affect multiplayer experiences. And while I don’t think Overwatch is a perfect game by any means, its foundation of mechanics coupled with its art style makes it an extremely enjoyable thing for me. I think Counter-Strike is a great game (though the AWP is the third-worst thing to ever happen to gaming), but I don’t enjoy playing it alone. I would compare them to board games. Playing a board game with someone else doesn’t automatically make it really fun. It’s pretty much automatically more fun than playing it alone, but that’s not necessarily saying much. Playing Overwatch with someone else doesn’t just gloss over its faults – it raises its teamplay mechanics and its silly moments to a completely different level.
            I do agree that Blizzard is too much of a holy cow in contemporary gamer culture, but that’s a separate discussion. The fact that Blizzard is a bit shite doesn’t take anything away from the frankly amazing hours I’ve had with Overwatch. Seeing as how I’ve gotten thirty hours out of it since launch, and I’m not tired of it yet, it’s safe to say I’ve already gotten my money’s worth. That makes it a good buy in my view.

  9. Mr Coot says:

    Mm. Mr J. ‘We doubled it’ Wilson. I remember him mostly for an unjust suspension I copped on the Diablo forums where I was posting contra to the prevailing hate – not because I was pleased with Diablo – I wasn’t, but pointing out that wishing and threatening an individual harm, self-harm and implying or fabricating material that suggests the individual is a sex offender against minors is never acceptable. Espesh not because the game you love is disappointing. Catch a whiff of that, anyway. Thass me, burning martyr, medium rare, 2012 vintage.

    (In a symbolic protest I took my pledge to Path of Exile and doubled it).

  10. nailertn says:

    Sadly several years too late for D3.