While the gaming industry isn’t as prone to the juicy drama that Hollywood cherishes (Kristen Stewart, how could you?!?), gamers still get the occasional controversy or mini-scandal. There’s been a lot of talk and buzz about a feud between David Brevik (the man behind the first two Diablo games), and the development team responsible for Diablo 3. Like jumping midway into an episode of Jerry Springer, it may be difficult for those out of the loop to understand what’s going on, and why a little spat is actually substantial revelation. Read on after the break, and we’ll give you the full summary of events.
It all started last Sunday, when IncGamers ran an interview with David Brevik, creator of Diablo 1 and 2, who was asked his opinions on Diablo 3 (Note: We’ve provided a cached version of the interview, as IncGamers seems to have been downed due to traffic). In response, Brevik had this to say:
IncGamers: You are very well known in the world of ARPGs, and I am going to ask you, Diablo 3 is probably the most anticipated PC title in 10 years. What’s your opinion on the final product?
David Brevik: Honestly, I think that they did a lot of the things the best they could, it was a very different game than I would have created, the team and personalities, the people, the talent and all the design philosophies of the people that worked on it in Irvine, we called them Blizzard South, those people have their own style and the their own way they like to design. It was very, very different from the Blizzard North.
So I think that when Blizzard South took over the development of Diablo 3 it was inevitable that they were going to create an experience that was in the Diablo theme but concentrated more towards the things that they liked to experience. Including more story and things like that.
When Blizzard North shut down they lost a ton of experience with why the Action RPG works and what about it works. That’s really difficult to recover from. They didn’t have the experience of people that knew it well. This is why you do things with random levels for example, and so when you lose that experience you are going to create a very different experience in the end than we would have created.
IncGamers: Do you think they bought the wrong people in? As we understand, Jay Wilson, for example, his background was RTS. From our point of view it looked like they misunderstood what kept people playing, The type of loot drops, which has been a big issues. One of the other issues is they have not listened to their community, and they have not anlaysed what makes up that addictive Diablo experience. What are your thoughts on that?
David Brevik: Well, the loot system. They made some decisions with the loot system that were very different than the way that we did it in Diablo 2 and I think that obviously the community has been upset with some of the decisions they made. Having all of your powers work off your main weapon and things like that, to having blues that are more powerful than yellows. Eventually the auction house and how that worked, even something as simple as when you equip an item and it’s bound to your character permanently would have totally changed the dynamic of the game.
It seems odd that they have not really responded in a quick fashion to some of these things. I think they are very well aware of the problems at this point and are trying to fix some of this stuff. It’s a shame that they had to learn some of these painful lessons
IncGamers: As you created Diablo, how do you feel about it? Do you feel a little let down that the legacy has kind of been mashed up?
David Brevik: I have very mixed emotions about it (laughs). On one hand I am sad that people haven’t enjoyed Diablo because it’s a love, a passion, and its obvious people still have a giant love and passion for Diablo and they are speaking out about it because they have such love for it. That makes me feel great.
I am sad because people are outraged and, you know, some of the decision they have made are not the decisions I would make and there have been changes in philosophy and that hasn’t gone over very well. I think in that way I am a little sad.
I am also a little happy, which I hate to say, it shows that the people that were involved in Diablo really did matter, and so I am happy that it has come to light that how talented that group was and how unique and special that group was. I am hoping that, as this happens very often in the industry, you see it with Call of Duty and things like that , when the people leave the game changes and it shows how critical people are in this industry.
IncGamers: One of the questions the Gazillion guys asked me to ask you was, where did the name Diablo come from?
David Brevik: I thought of the game when I was in high school and I lived in the east part of San Francisco in a town called Danville and I loved at the base of Mount Diablo and that’s where the name comes from. Once I found out what the mountain name was, I thought that was awesome, I didn’t speak Spanish, so I thought I wanted to use that as a title for a nemesis in a videogame. It’s simply from where I lived.
IncGamers: Well thanks a lot David, you’ve brought a lot of pleasure to millions of people over the years and hopefully you’ll continue to do so.
Now, there is a little back story that should be noted here. Brevik refers to two Blizzard studios, North and the main campus, often referred to as “South.” Blizzard North developed the first two Diablo games before being dissolved in 2005, while South’s pre-Diablo 3 experience was in the StarCraft and WarCraft games. This is the fuel behind Brevik’s (and many fan’s) opinion of the game- stating that the game turned out far different from expectations due to the developers’ inexperience with the franchise and genre. It’s also worth noting that Diablo 3 game director, Jay Wilson, previously worked on the Dawn of War series, another RTS franchise. Remember his name- he’ll be mentioned later.
All in all, Brevik’s interview was fairly tame, without being overly restrained. It’s clear that Brevik was far from impressed or happy with how the game turned out, but his response to IncGamers’ (slightly leading) question was delivered with maturity. The same couldn’t really be said for the Diablo 3 crew.
Diablo 3 artist Chris Haga later went on to post the link to the article on Facebook, which garnered a flurry of comments from fellow Diablo 3 developers. This is where the bulk of the controversy seems to come into play. Reddit user Auto_aim1 compiled a nice little reference sheet for the string of comments in regards to Brevik’s interview. Among the commentors was producer Steven Parker and director Jay Wilson.
This little quarrel caught the attention of the online community, and opinions have been thrown left and right. What’s clear is that members of the Diablo 3 team are clearly upset by Brevik’s comments, and are understandably defensive. Regardless of the quality of work, if you spend years toiling away at something, it’ll still hurt to see the project criticized, warranted or not.
The most interesting part about this online war, however, is that it seemingly peels back the curtain of secrecy behind the development team, and as some suggest, highlight some core issues with Blizzard. While the Facebook screen cap is only indicative of a few people’s opinions, and not Activision Blizzard’s, it’s hard to make a large, sweeping accusation about the entire company or culture, but the individuals in question, especially Wlson, are not portrayed in the best light (Note: Jay Wilson’s comment has since been removed).
Sure, the post was made in a seemingly personal forum, but one still expects some professionalism and tact in such a public area. Jay Wilson’s “F**k this guy,” targeted at Brevik, reeks of not only immaturity, but arrogance. The group as a whole, who were not just a collection of low-level bug testers, but core creative contributors come off as stubborn and haughty. The whole response reeks of the team jamming their fingers in their ears, chanting “na na na, not listening,” while dismissively bringing down the man who was initially responsible for the team’s success.
More concerning yet, is that Brevik’s criticisms in the article were spot on, if mild, and were very in-line with what a large majority are claiming. In many ways, Brevik spoke for the large group of disgruntled customers. Even though one doesn’t expect a well thought out response to those criticisms in a Facebook post, no one really wants to see the dismissive claims and denial. Once again, we can’t tap into the team’s brain just by looking at a few comments to an article, but I really does seem like Wilson’s high school response tells us something. It doesn’t seem like Wilson, or by extension the team really cares about criticism, fan input, or legacy input. In many ways he echos Bill O’Reilly’s infamous “We’ll do it live!” temperament, where his way is the best way, and if you disagree, f**k you.
This may be no more than an online cat fight, and fuss might be made over nothing, but at the same time, this may also highlight some of the key complaints with Diablo 3. Even post launch, after a swell of negative reaction from the fanbase and a steadily declining player count, few have felt like core problems have been addressed by the development team. Many fans feel like the developers aren’t listening to them, and with a director who says “f**k you” to the franchise creator’s complaints, who is to say that the sentiments aren’t true?