When Jay Wilson posted an apology on the Blizzard forums, explaining why exactly he said a pretty nasty thing about David Brevik, one of the major forces behind both previous Diablo games, I was ready to take it with a pinch of salt. Dismiss it as Blizzard forcing him to do a touch of damage control. Treat him like a businessman, a mouthpiece for a company in the same way these things usually are.
Except this apology isn’t just heartfelt in regards to David Brevik, it’s also incredibly honest, and earnest, about Diablo 3 in general, but more specifically its flaws. Which isn’t something you ever really hear a developer be.
“I have higher expectations for myself than to express my feelings in such a rash way and disrespect a fellow developer like Dave, someone who deserves to be treated with greater respect.” The post starts, before going on to detail not only how important Brevik was to both Diablo games, but what those games meant to Jay Wilson as a child growing up, and as an adult.
“When Diablo II was released, I took a week off work and sent my wife out of state... and she was pregnant at the time! I played Diablo II with my dad during one of the most difficult times of his life, and the experience brought me closer to him, and I hope helped him through it. I joined the Diablo team because the idea of a world without more Diablo seemed like a pretty crappy world to me. I wasn’t sure if I’d be good enough. I’m still not sure. But I felt I had to try.” This candid tone doesn’t stop after the apology, instead continuing on to talking about Diablo 3.
“Playing Diablo III needs to be a rewarding experience. But I’m not convinced we’ve gone far enough. If you don’t have that great feeling of a good drop being right around the corner - and the burst of excitement when it finally arrives - then we haven’t done our jobs right. Ot of our concern to make sure that Diablo III had longevity, we were overly cautious about how we handled item drops and affixes. If 1.0.4 hasn’t fixed that, you can be sure we’ll continue to address it.”
What’s so interesting about this is that you never hear developers admitting fault like this. PRs jump in front of them like a bodyguard protecting a watermelon, zipping mouths shut and making sure no one has a change to say anything disparaging about the game. Not least because, for the most part, once a game is done, it’s done. They can’t change these things. Every problem identified is going to be a problem forever marked.
Diablo 3 isn’t finished. There’s no PvP, things can be added, taken away, changed. It’s an ongoing service, and it’s slowly changing into a better game because of it. “Many of you have stated that there needs to be more to the game than just the item hunt, and we agree completely. The Paragon system is a step in the right direction, giving meta-progress for your time in the game, but it does little to address the variety of activities you can do while playing. I don’t think there’s a silver-bullet solution to this problem, but I do think we can make this aspect of the game better, and as such we’re planning more than just PvP for the next major patch. Not trying to be coy, but we’re still firming things up and will talk about this as soon as we can.”
These are the problems Brevik identified, and it was him identifying them that had Wilson lash out and say what he said. This post, then, is the response that he should have given at the time; an earnest, honest breakdown of the problems in the game, and what they’re doing to fix them. To put up his hands and admit that Brevik knows what he’s talking about, but these problems aren’t news to Blizzard. They’re fixing them as best they can.
Things like optional difficulty, an improved auction house and a better game experience for everyone are on the to do list, it’s just going to take a little while to get there. And, after all that honesty, I think I’m happy to be a little patient right now.