In somewhat interesting news, it appears that Jay Wilson, mr Diablo 3 lead , is listed in the credits for WoW’s next expansion. I posted a bit about this gentleman in the past. He left D3 for an unknown Blizz project, though any executive that leaves that type of position, usually doesn’t do it in the middle of sweeping changes, at least voluntarily.
I’ve been more than vocal on D3’s original implementation. The AH was a good idea with a horrible implementation. It impacted the rest of the design. Itemization was broken until D3 launched on consoles. “End game” didn’t really exist until a year after launch. So yeah, I think the game is Blizzard’s worst received game at launch ever but that they stuck with it and today’s game is really quite good. It’s telling that the company still takes value in the brand and one of the reasons they are still on my “must buy” list of developers. It takes FOREVER for change, but changes happen.
Oddly, this reminds me of Hellgate:London. Flagship launched a decent ARPG but made some missteps in terms of end game, or at least long term appeal. Plus the dev cycle for patches didn’t really work. The meat here is that Bill Roper, then lead of Flagship, got a bunch of ex-Blizzard folk to help out. That didn’t really work mind you and Bill became a game albatross. He showed up at Cryptic during the Champion Online and STO days and hoo-boy did that go over like a lead balloon. He’s working at the cash cow Disney Infinity now though, so good on him. Bill took full blame of Flagship and honestly, he did try hard to get it going. I think this has more to do with fan investment in the product and just sheer disappointment that it could not succeed.
Jay though, he’s a slightly different beast. Maybe it’s more along the lines of an open-mic issue where he was simply ill-equipped to handle the issues or that the ship was simply to big to correct after launch. Some may be aware, but D3 underwent a rather massive design shift in combat mechanics about 6 months before live. I would easily argue for the better as everyone has always been positive about the gameplay experience. The other stuff though, maybe it was a lack of experience or understanding, but in the end nearly all the other systems were removed/replaced/updated. AH is gone. Smart loot replaces the insane RNG of strength on wands. Stat balance changes itemization. Lengendaries are actually legendary. Multiple end-game options. Social tools. Ladders and seasons. Tons of stuff. And I pin this on him as he was the lead. You want the title, it comes with the ups and downs.
So maybe Jay just went back to what he does well, building core systems and not the overall architecture. It’s certainly behind closed doors, without a need to interact with the playerbase. There are very few good jacks-of-all-trades, maybe a few dozen in the entire industry. I know in mine you could fit them all into a bar. It would certainly be interesting to see where he’s at now and how he feel the transition has been.