Former Diablo 3 designer Jay Wilson leaves Blizzard

Wilson is leaving the industry to pursue writing, his first passion before he 'fell into' game design.

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Jay Wilson, a game designer best known for directing Diablo III, has announced his departure from Blizzard Entertainment, and from the games industry.

"Sad to say after 10 of the best years of my life this will be my last week at Blizzard, and in the games industry," Wilson tweeted earlier today.

Wilson got his start in the industry as a level designer on Blood, Monolith's horror-driven first-person shooter developed using the Build engine. From there, he sharpened his design skills on Relic Entertainment's Homeworld 2 before co-designing Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War and moving on to Company of Heroes as senior designer.

In 2006, Wilson relocated to Blizzard and contributed to StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and World of WarCraft's Mist of Pandaria expansion. In his most well-known role, he sat in the director's chair of Diablo III alongside executive producer Rob Pardo.

Though well-received at launch, Diablo III came under fire for design decisions that strayed from the pedigree of fan-favorites Diablo and Diablo II. Namely, many players felt that the series' patented loot system had been throttled due to the heavy reliance on the auction house, a separate in-game interface where players could buy and sell items for real or virtual currency.

"It's not good for a game like Diablo," he admitted of the auction house in a 2013 interview. "It doesn't feel good to get items for money. You want to get items from killing monsters."

Following a public spat initiated by Wilson over Diablo co-creator David Brevik's polite yet frank thoughts on Diablo III, Wilson left the development team to work on Project Titan, an MMO that was cancelled and repurposed into Blizzard's recently released Overwatch squad-based shooter. He also contributed to Warlords of Draenor, World of WarCraft's 2014 expansion, as a designer.

Further tweets offered more detail on his reasons for leaving, and his plans for the future. "I'm leaving to pursue my original passion, writing. It's what I was doing when I fell into this job, and I've always wanted to return to it. I will dearly miss my friends at Blizzard. They've been the best, most dedicated, most passionate group of people I've ever met."



Long Reads Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 6, 2016 12:42 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, Former Diablo 3 designer Jay Wilson leaves Blizzard

    • reply
      June 6, 2016 12:53 PM

      Obligatory "f*** that guy".

      • reply
        June 6, 2016 12:58 PM

        With his resume? I thought we liked Blood, Honeworld 2, Dawn of War, Company of Heroes

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 2:05 PM

            Back then William Usher had a huge boner for anti-Blizzard posts. Not sure if he still does, but the dude would straight up lie to create a news story.

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            June 6, 2016 2:08 PM

            Are people upset at him because of that comment? Is there some specific game decision attributed to him?

            Wasn't really following this

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              June 6, 2016 2:11 PM

              The internet loves creating demons out of individual contributors, whether it's warranted or not.

              Word is Blizzard was very committee driven when Diablo 3 was in development, and nothing he did or wanted would have be solely his responsibility. Since he bore the role of "Lead Designer" the internet largely decide he was 100% responsible for everything in the game, and tore into him as if it were all his doing.

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                June 6, 2016 2:14 PM

                I think that's a human nature issue that transcends the internet. You see it everywhere throughout history-- politicians falling on their sword for policies that werent even theirs, head coaches taking all the heat for a poorly put together team, etc.

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                  June 6, 2016 2:15 PM

                  True. Social media and the internet just seems to magnify it by a ridiculous degree.

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                June 6, 2016 2:27 PM

                To be fair, he painted a bulls-eye on his chest with his "Fuck that loser" comment.

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                  June 6, 2016 2:29 PM

                  Dude was in the crosshairs long before that comment.

                  • reply
                    June 6, 2016 2:40 PM

                    What did he do?

                    • reply
                      June 6, 2016 2:55 PM

                      Because reddit's target.

                      Before release he was doing a bunch of interviews. One of the topics was the difficulty of Inferno's difficulty. One of the statements Wilson made was they wanted to make something legitimately difficult for the hardcore Diablo fans, so they tuned it to the point where their play testers couldn't handle it, then doubled the values across the board.

                      Fast-forward to release and Athene beats Inferno difficulty on a Demon Hunter within the first week or two.

                      Now, one of the dumbfuck things you see on reddit & battle.net is this notion that if one person has beaten something, then it's the same as everyone beating something. The forum monsters just pile the shit on even if they haven't done it themselves. Happens in WoW with world firsts, and happened in D3 with the World First Inferno kill.

                      Move ahead two weeks when these forum monsters start hitting Inferno difficulty themselves and find out it's actually fucking hard.

                      Key in another dumbfuck thing you see on reddit & battle.net - conspiracy theories. You see this with any game with a match-maker, or any game that is difficult yet tagged by many as "casual."

                      The forum monsters hit Inferno difficulty and got their asses kicked. Instead of re-evaluating their build, their play, farming gear, and beating it the community developed conspiracy theories, and most of them centered around the existence of the RMAH. Inferno was hard, but it wasn't impossible and you didn't have to use the RMAH to beat it. The RMAH wasn't even active for the first month+, and Inferno was beaten by multiple people without the use of the RMAH (myself included). None of that mattered to the forum monsters.

                      The idea spread that you couldn't progress without buying gear and that was the core to the game and Jay Wilson was the one who deemed it so. This idea spiraled out of control to the point where people were arguing you couldn't beat normal difficulty without buying gear off of the RMAH and this was Jay Wilson's design. Rage spread.

                      This was the first ~2-3 months of Diablo 3's life. The interview was posted a little after the 3 month mark, and (iirc) the missteps cited were the result of this backlash. Jay Wilson's "Fuck that loser" comment was after all of this, and after he had become the figure head for everything wrong with Blizzard 2012.

      • reply
        June 6, 2016 1:22 PM

        Idgi - was he the guy that came up with the real money AH? In that case f*** that guy.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 1:29 PM

            Ouch yep

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            June 6, 2016 1:32 PM

            Oh shit, I remember this - double f*** that guy.

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            June 6, 2016 1:56 PM

            Just in case someone didn't read the Dave Brevik interview they're referencing, Brevik was asked point blank his opinion on the original, shitty Diablo III release and he gave a very diplomatic answer along the lines of "There were some things I would have done differently, but in the end that's their prerogative and it's their game." At no point did he say it sucked.

            Pretty much everyone in that facebook thread struck me as really thin-skinned assholes at the time, and re-reading it now, my impression of them has not changed.

        • Zek
          reply
          June 6, 2016 1:32 PM

          Ultimately he was responsible for the entire design of the game, but obviously he didn't just come in and single-handedly decide every system. The problems with that game's development can't so easily be attributed to one person. Many of the same people who worked on RoS must also have been responsible for design decisions in vanilla D3.

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        June 6, 2016 2:37 PM

        He's a fucking douche

    • reply
      June 6, 2016 1:31 PM

      His ideas for D3 just didn't work.

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        June 6, 2016 1:36 PM

        Right. Why try to fix what wasn't broken? Aside from a shiny new engine and story.

        I wasn't ever on the D3 hype train here but I hear it's decent now, but still not as good as Diablo II was/is.

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          June 6, 2016 1:49 PM

          The removal of talent trees is what breaks D3 the most, imo. Games like this need decision permanence.

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            June 6, 2016 1:58 PM

            I can see both sides of the talent tree thing really. I personally tend to agree that a tree gives a better sense of progression.

            What really broke d3 at launch though was the terrible itemization. The legendaries sucked, and everyone just wanted the same few stats-- which were essentially the only stats available at the time anyway. It was way too easy to get up to say 90% full power with barely any capital on the AH.

            Also the difficulty curve at launch was simply stupid. The gear wasn't good enough to tackle act 3 and 4. You could use certain tactics to cheese stuff down, but you couldn't play the game as intended.

            All that stuff is fixed now though. The lack of skill trees doesn't hurt the game as much anymore because the itemization is actually interesting and leads to some fun builds.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 2:55 PM

            Do they? That might be your preference but I don't think the game needs permanence. I quite enjoy being able to swap from a fetish army witch doctor into a jade harvest witch doctor without having to level up an entire new character.

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              June 6, 2016 3:06 PM

              Characters should involve some commitment. WoW lost my interest for the same reason.

              • reply
                June 6, 2016 5:02 PM

                Agreed, it creates value for a character in my opinion.

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            June 6, 2016 3:18 PM

            if you want decision permanence in your game to actually work then you need to give people a lot of information to make their decisions with and not offer numerous dead ends. The Diablo 2 systems failed to do this. So now you get the worst of both worlds. I see only 5% of the content and feel disincentivized to explore the game systems (multiple characters, multiple builds per character), and I don't enjoy the fun of the risk/permanence of my decisions because I don't feel like I can make good decisions.

            Then what happens is people look for workarounds to these systems. People write up guides and charts so that you can check what the actual good decisions are when it comes time to spend your hard earned ability points. And then people start finding ways to power level and exploit things so that they can enjoy the discovery of systems by creating numerous characters quickly in order to generate the information necessary to make good decisions.

            • reply
              June 6, 2016 4:18 PM

              Your whole second paragraph sounds great. Community exploration of systems. Min-maxing that takes some digging to figure out. The real risk that you will fuck up, and have to find a way to make it work.

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                June 6, 2016 4:46 PM

                it's great for a very small percentage of the community (even just that game's community). The community exploring how systems work collaboratively doesn't require D2's systems. D3 has the same community engagement. The difference is that anyone/everyone can contribute, not just the people willing to literally waste 100s of hours to fill out spreadsheet cells.

                The core problem is that very few games make you feel the risk in the way you want. Mostly they just lead to decision paralysis where the player feels like they can't make the right choice. That's not fun. It's not fun to have a skill point in D2 and have no idea where to put it. Is this ability good? Is it still good with 20 points in it? Is it good in the context of the class's other abilities? Is it good in the context of its required prerequisites and what it unlocks? Those are interesting questions, but most games provide completely insufficient information to answer them. So to then require 100 hours to answer them is not very fun considering that if you guessed wrong on any of them (and guessing is basically what you're doing) you often have to just start over.

                D2 was essentially filled with a bunch of content that made me say "wow this looks so cool if only I could try it all." By design it required that short of playing for 1000 hours or exploiting things you couldn't. D3 gave you a giant toolbox and said "have fun, see if you can figure out how this works.0

                • reply
                  June 6, 2016 5:04 PM

                  It's way worse to have all the cake available right in front of you, all the time.

                  • reply
                    June 6, 2016 5:39 PM

                    but you don't. You still have to work to unlock things as you get stronger. You still rely on imperfect information and luck in your gear. The core gameplay is simply made available to everyone.

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                      June 6, 2016 5:43 PM

                      There's no real mastery of a path, though. You can't pour levels into being awesome ice mage, because anyone can with minimal time commitment.

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                        June 6, 2016 6:05 PM

                        that mastery is equated directly and solely to time commitment is a complete failure of game design.

                        This is the fundamental difference between the D2 system and the Dark Souls systems which while similarly opaque and permanent offer a completely different dynamic. Dark Souls truly does offer you a way to get out of a suboptimal build choice: player skill (and in a distant second: no level cap). Diablo and MMOs gate essentially all content on your time commitment, not your own skill. So creating artificial limitations around what I can do with my time just feels oppressive, not interesting.

                        • reply
                          June 6, 2016 6:06 PM

                          Oh right. This just ties into your hate of MMOs. Nvm.

                          • reply
                            June 6, 2016 6:44 PM

                            I enjoyed the shit out of D2 back in the day (and plenty of years later on reinstall) and I enjoyed 100 hours or whatever of WoW, but the design is fundamentally bad in many ways and it's fair to look at why. Feeling like you've mastered something purely because of time spent is just an illusion. I'd rather the game design for fun and diversity than limiting what I can enjoy with the trade off of tricking me into thinking I've progressed or mastered something when I haven't.

                            • reply
                              June 6, 2016 7:07 PM

                              I think as long as the grind paces with content (levelling at the right pace) it works just fine.

                • reply
                  June 7, 2016 1:05 AM

                  Except it doesn't give you a giant toolbox. It gives you a very specific toolbox determined by your set choice.

                  • reply
                    June 7, 2016 3:43 AM

                    Only if you're someone playing at the absolute highest levels of difficulty.

                    Otherwise, it's balanced such that you can use pretty much any build and gear combo.

              • reply
                June 6, 2016 4:55 PM

                1% will min-max to figure it out and 99% will just read whatever forum post is pinned to the top of the class forum.

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                  June 6, 2016 5:06 PM

                  That's the case regardless of the design path, for min-maxing crowd at least.

                  • reply
                    June 6, 2016 5:41 PM

                    but in the D2 case the design discourages people from participating in the 1% group even if they're interested in it conceptually. Maybe I don't have 1000 hours to contribute. But I maybe do have 5 hours to test out one particular skill to find out what it's best with. With D3's design now I've contributed to the community and haven't wasted my time and I've gotten a completely different thing from the game than was possible in D2.

                • reply
                  June 8, 2016 5:23 AM

                  That's the case with D3 as well.

              • reply
                June 9, 2016 2:35 PM

                No, it just makes you NOT PLAY THE GAME, instead of that you end up browsing the web and looking at spreadsheets.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 4:38 PM

            If anything it's the opposite for me since I really enjoy experimenting with game, skill and gear mechanics. Not being able to respec and alter my gear quickly means tons of grinding on multiple toons in order to try out different play styles.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 5:51 PM

            More like it's one of the best things about it.

            Having to grind out levels to cap to try new builds is fucking terrible.

          • reply
            June 7, 2016 7:21 AM

            hell no, ain't nobody got time for that

        • reply
          June 6, 2016 2:09 PM

          You people have way too much nostalgia over what Diablo 2 was.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 2:10 PM

            This. So much this.

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            June 6, 2016 2:11 PM

            sometimes its not nostalgia. sometimes X thing that came before is legitimately better than Y thing that came after. diablo 3 is a prime case of it.

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            June 6, 2016 2:12 PM

            D2 had some things that really sucked about it.

            The FFA loot was a big one, but the worst issue for me is that most of the game wasn't worth playing at a high level. It was simply repetitive Baal runs.

            At launch D3 had worse issues than those though. It's basically fixed now and a better game than D2 imo.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 2:30 PM

            inf inf inf inf

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 2:30 PM

            I reinstall this game like twice a year. Still the king.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 2:32 PM

            Diablo 2 was great. Diablo 3 is better.

            • foo
              reply
              June 6, 2016 2:48 PM

              it is now, but it wasn't at release

              • reply
                June 6, 2016 2:52 PM

                Diablo 2 at release wasn't all that hot, either. Not quite D3 release bad, but people forget that LoD and subsequent patches improved D2 a LOT.

                • reply
                  June 7, 2016 1:42 AM

                  D2 had almost no replayability pre-LoD

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 2:34 PM

            Unless you've played Median XL, in which case, feel free to hate on Diablo III all you want.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 2:59 PM

            Diablo 2 was and still is a great game. It's not perfect, but what game is?

            And I'm not being nostalgic. I still play through D2 once every year or two. I love it, warts and all.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 3:05 PM

            Multi-Shot Lightning Enchanted. What's that? You died from a one-shot from NOTHING WHATSOEVER, a screen and a half away from that boss you backed off of? MSLE Boss? Yeah, they'll do that.

            • reply
              June 6, 2016 5:08 PM

              There are x amount of hand holding games out there. Some of us like these things or don't mind them so much.

              • reply
                June 6, 2016 5:12 PM

                There's a vast gulf between "hand holding" and "dying on an empty screen to nothing".

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 3:48 PM

            It's easy to feel nostalgic when the sequel sucked balls at launch.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 5:05 PM

            Considering I still play it I think I can say it's a good game, personally. But I know I'm not the only one by far.

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            June 6, 2016 8:54 PM

            Hah no- it was isometric sprites but I liked everything else better.

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            June 7, 2016 1:11 AM

            Nah it's still fun. Better than D3 by a long shot.
            I'd even say diablo 1 is better than 3

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            June 7, 2016 4:06 AM

            Diablo 1 was the best for me. Diablo 2 was still fun but it felt more cartoony and less interesting, and Diablo 3 is just mindless lootfest with no story and no involvement needed from the player. Yes, the game mechanics are great and refined now, but somehow it's just boring and playing it makes no sense, as there seems to be no end to this game, free-to-play style. I remember killing Diablo in the first game was impactful, here it's just a mean to get some more experience or loot.

            • reply
              June 8, 2016 5:19 AM

              Word.

              The series never should have lost that gothic satanic-horor vibe it had going on in the first game.

          • reply
            June 7, 2016 5:12 AM

            nope! reinstalled it last year, and while the inventory and UI are certainly dated, the game is rock solid as far as gameplay and systems go.

            D1 still has the best atmosphere, but for gameplay D2 is king.

            • reply
              June 7, 2016 5:16 AM

              D2 just feels like the ugly middle child to me now.

              D1 has the atmosphere and the music, D3 has the gameplay.

              D2 just isn't a game I can enjoy on any level today. I feel like it's been entirely outshown by D3.

          • reply
            June 7, 2016 5:49 AM

            I haven't played D3 since launch so I can't comment on that game today, but D2 had a sense of accomplishment, challenge, and reward that was missing in D3 at launch.

            Obviously D3 has been patched since and maybe it's better now in that regard, but that's what kept me playing D2 all those years. There was always something to strive for.

            • reply
              June 7, 2016 6:15 AM

              It might be worth checking out D3 again if you haven't played since launch. Saying it was 'patched' undersells the huge changes it's gone through since then.

          • reply
            June 8, 2016 5:18 AM

            Nah , it's only nostalgia if you're just 'remembering' it as being better than Diablo 3.

            It's not nostalgia if you're actually going back and playing it over Diablo 3 because it is actually the more fun game overall.

        • reply
          June 6, 2016 2:32 PM

          I wouldn't say Diablo 2 wasn't broken. Certainly not from Blizzard's standpoint in the things they wanted to fix. You've got two serious issues with Diablo 2 online: item duping and account hijacking.

          Item duping is potentially going to happen any time you have an offline version of the game. You can try to separate out online and offline characters, but that causes player frustration, which customer service has to deal with. And it's no guarantee that item duplication doesn't ever happen. So, they went with always online, and since then, item duping in D3 has rarely been an issue, and when it was, they were able to roll back the few exploits after it was patched server-side.

          The other issue stems from the way D2's economy worked. Trade channels were kind of shitty, and items being freely tradeable with no good enforcement system led to lots of people getting scammed, or having their account hacked, which means more frustrated players calling support to complain about all their stuff being stolen. So, they wanted to institute a system that worked pretty well in WoW, but also set a cap on what stuff could be sold for with real money so disincentivize account theft. The only issue with this system was that the drop-rate was still balanced to what it was at in D2, but with a much larger player base engaging in the trade economy, which meant fewer items available without spending money. That gave the impression that the game was balanced to require spending money, when it was really a consequence of the way players used the system. When they realized that the real money auction house wasn't being used the way they expected is when the decision was made to remove it and solve the problems by making the drop rate substantially higher, but with almost everything being account bound.

        • reply
          June 6, 2016 3:05 PM

          Still love D2. Played D3 once a and never looked back.

          • reply
            June 6, 2016 3:46 PM

            You missing out bro, it's so good now

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              June 7, 2016 7:23 AM

              indeed, it's the only "old" game that still pulls me back in to play it again and again

        • Zek
          reply
          June 6, 2016 4:01 PM

          A ton of things were broken about D2, and most of them have been fixed in today's D3. Vanilla D3 was crappy in its own ways but a lot of the changes were smart and laid the foundation for what we have today.

      • reply
        June 6, 2016 2:55 PM

        The systems weren't great but the core HULK SMASH gameplay and damage feedback was always A+++. They made a good foundation for a great game.

    • reply
      June 6, 2016 1:32 PM

      I wish him all the best

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      June 6, 2016 2:29 PM

      Get fucked.

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      June 6, 2016 2:41 PM

      Probably for the best.

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      June 6, 2016 3:46 PM

      This could be the story for Diablo 4, of ultimate evil being unleashed upon the world after being fired from Blizzard.

      • reply
        June 7, 2016 5:35 AM

        Diablo 4 is an ARG

        • reply
          June 7, 2016 5:50 AM

          As the story opens, Jay wakes up, finding himself standing outside the town of Tristram.

          • reply
            June 7, 2016 6:25 AM

            Confused about the events of the previous night, and a sore butthole.

    • reply
      June 6, 2016 5:56 PM

      Didn't he have a hand in the last WoW expansion too?