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.