Jay Wilson and Christian Lichtner Interview @ the WSJ

There’s a nicely-conversational interview with DiabloWikiJay Wilson and DiabloWikiChristian Lichtner on the Wall Street Journal’s entertainment blog. It covers a lot of ground including Jay Wilson’s old school FPS mastery, the length of Diablo III’s development, sticking to the isometric view point, changing Diablo 3 to fit modern gaming sensibilities, horror inspirations, the DiabloWikiart controversy, character design, and more.

A quote from the piece, and thanks to fmulder for the tip.

Christian: A lot of the challenge was making sure we build on the legacy of Diablo II.

Jay: Yeah, one of the lessons that we learned in development was people’s memories of Diablo II were way different than the reality of Diablo II. They remember all kinds of stuff that never actually happened in that game.

Like what?

Jay: Well when you ask them about game challenge, they remember what it was like in hell difficulty. They don’t remember what it was like in normal difficulty. They remember something that visually darker than it ever was. They remember a variety and depth of monsters that was never there.

Christian: You are competing with people’s memories. And each person’s individual recollections, where they were ten years ago when they played it, that’s tough!

Jay: It’s one of those things where if you love a game, then the things that are bad about it become endearing. Everybody remembers Deckard Cain saying, “Stay a while, listen.” But the reason they remember it fondly now is because it was so damn annoying! He said it every time, and you had to talk to him so often!

Months ago on the Diablo Podcast we were chatting about how nice it would be to just have a conversation with Jay or one of the other devs once the game was out. How it would be much more enjoyable to just talk about things once they could be introspective and retrospective and look back on the development process as a whole, and get away from the “machine gun questions hunting new facts” style of interview. (I (fired that machine gun myself several times, but I much prefer interviews when I can just have a conversation, like the ones I’ve done with Max Schaefer.)

Now that Diablo III is done, at least until the patching begins, we’re getting some interviews of that type, and they’re great reads. Jay’s conversation with AusGamers last week saw a lot of comments that it was the best Jay Wilson interview ever. I wish there was an audio or video link for this WSJ one, but even from the transcript you can get the conversational vibe, and it makes for a nice read. Informative and full of details, but without the probing “tell us something newnewnew!” vibe that makes most interviews during production feel like hurried interrogations.

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Diablo 2, Interviews


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  1. so if u have some dark memories from Normal = noob? no no no. U have good memory if u can remember something about yo Normal experience. 1st Diablo try with yo 1st character for example… 😕

    I was 12-13y old.. I was scared…last seal..here we go..

  2. damn fmulder… u on da ball with these tips!
    keep the interviews coming, they are keeping me sane while i think of what i am going to be doing in the next 4 days of torture 

  3. Didn’t know Jay had worked on Blood – that’s awesome – kind of wish they made health globes look like beating hearts though and gone for more “unmotivated” gore (and boobs). I also agree with him that people seem to remember D1 and 2 differently from the reality of the games, how dark they were and the variety in them, and hold D3 to an unfair standard, like being “scared” of the Butcher when you were 10 and expecting to be scared by something early in D3 in the same way.

    • D1 was dark. I play it regularly and it is really dark. D2 is not that dark. In fact it is quite light in comparison. The Hollows in D3 are great and probably darker than any D2 area (maybe Act IV and the dungeons in Act III).

      • Yeah, the outdoor areas in D3 are a huge improvement over the “Blood Moor” type stuff. Act IV of D2 was awesome and probably my favorite part of the game.

        I tell you what, probably the only game that ever caused me to be truly “scared” was Darkseed. Gave me nightmares. Maybe that’s the secret, Blizzard should’ve brought in H.R. Giger to design some of the areas and creatures for D3…

        • +1 to that, because of Act IV 😛

          I didn’t play Darkseed, but I’m curious now. I’ll dig into it.

          However, I had some games that caused me the chills… DOOM, Phantasmagoria, Realms of the Haunting… more recently Amnesia: The Dark Descent. 

          • Unfortunately, Darkseed was a terrible game, and so old I haven’t successfully ran it since at least Windows 98 or so. But yeah, H.R. Giger did a lot of the art for the game, and it had some very creepy stuff, too much for a 9-yr-old like me to handle at the time. Then again, you can just watch someone play through it on Youtube just like everything else, that is probably the best way to enjoy it now and more fun than actually playing.

        • The only game that truly scares me is minecraft. I guess we find terror in the most unlikely of places.

  4. During the incgamers streams we would constantly talk about these memory fallacies when we would encounter something that was constantly cited about being better back then.    And Wolfpaq’s Rose Colored classes thread hit that too.   

    D2 was a great game but people remember it like the streets were paved with gold and it had no issues.    

  5. I completely agree with Jay on this topic. People, in general, are nostalgic creatures. Things are always, always better when they have paced and became somewhat of a distant memory. And no matter how much your youth, and your time sucked, you will always remember it as the best period of your life, hence “in my age, things weren’t like this, kids respected their parents, crime was low and everybody were nice”. When in reality crime was higher then it is now (by watching media you would never guess it, but crime rates (in the US) are one of the lowest, ever), those same old people, when they were kids, they hardly had any more respect then we do for our old, etc. 

    This is especially major issue in regards to Diablo, simply because Diablo is such an incredibly beloved serial that has left a large mark on the lives of many. Looking back on Diablo serial isn’t just looking back and reminiscing about the game, it is looking back on our childhood, (I myself was 10 when I first played Diablo 2), and growing up killing monsters and getting loot. People have simply grown used to things being certain way and have begun genuinly believing that is the best way.

    That, coupled with Diablo 2 staying way longer then it was intended, made general Diablo community very unreceptive of change. And that caused so many problems and controversies whenever devs changed anything, even the slightest thing, about Diablo 3 in comparison to Diablo 2. Visual look, skill system, runes, attributes, stats, gear, mods, RM/G/AH, DRM, pretty much anything outside of what people were comfrotable with in D2.

    I think that, looking back on it twelve years later, at the end of its lifetime, Diablo 2 was truly a great game, and certainly one of the greatest games of all time, console or PC, western or eastern, regardless of the genre. However, despite it’s popularity, it truly is a heavily flawed game. Now, games are much like people, there is no such thing as a perfect game, simply because of different tastes, likes and dislikes that people have, and because of the time to potentially develop such game. Diablo 2 is a great game, but it had numerous flaws, and overall space for improvement. I firmly believe that Diablo 3 offers that improvement. That Diablo 3 takes everything that was good from Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 as well as original ideas, and improves on all of them, thus being a successor truly worthy of being called Diablo. Of course, Diablo 3 will have its flaws, and we will come to know and love those flaws, and in decade or so, when Diablo 4 is, once again, reinventing the serial, we will look back and think about all the good things and all the great memories we had playing D3. 

    • i completely agree with everything you have said, arcanae
      d2 was a great game, but people have got to remember it for its bad qualities as well as its good when comparing to diablo 3 

    • ^ Yep it because us Humans tend to remember the good bits more then the average/bad bits (unless the bad bit is really bad). So of cause most people will remember D2 fondly, it isnt help by there not really being any real competitors either.
      As for crime etc well the media is to blame for making it seem a lot worse than it is as now a days something happens they have to talk about it non stop for at lest a week it seems.

    • >(by watching media you would never guess it, but crime rates (in the US) are one of the lowest, ever)<
       I blame videogames, making our youth waste their time with them instead of doing stupid things outside…

  6. I remember the first time I played Diablo 2, back in 2001. I had played Age of Empires 2, and I could not believe the game was this low-res and this crappy-looking.

    It took me over a year to return. Comparing it to AOE 2 was unfair I guess, that game had graphics which looked and aged amazingly well.

  7. The guy is such an A hole….. seriously, why does he hate Diablo 2 so much? Diablo 2 was and still is THE best ARPG I ever played, a week from now I will see if I have to change my opinion or not, regardless I know that D3 will fall short somewhere along the line because of the stupid DRM and skill system, because it is created by these money hungry, delusional douche-bags, I hate you Mr. Jay Wilson I really DO and I’m sorry for the Diablo series that it fell into your greedy hands…… 👿
    All hail DIABLO 2 and Max Schaefer, at least he knew what he was doing and not dissing fans like that.
    I admit that D2 was not the most perfect game, it had it’s issues, but that doesn’t mean these A Holes have created a game where ‘nothing is wrong or SUCK A**’ and that surely doesn’t give them the right to judge what we thought about the game.
    Just wait 4 days, and when stupid issues arise about gameplay, connectivity, bots, etc…. where you gonna hide then Wilson?

    • All that drivel you just spouted has already been countered by Arcanae a couple posts up. Good day, sir…

    • I highly recommend you read Arcanae’s post. Not too far above yours. You’re entitled to your angry opinion of course.

      Ha-ha, Scorch beat me to it.

      • Aracane’s post is great. However, this guy has a point (in spite all the gibberish). Diablo 2 was a great game (even with flaws). If the game sucked, we wouldn’t be here… after 12+ years. I hope D3 is even better, but we don’t have to dislike one of the games to like the other.

        • No, DiabloBaal does not have a point. When has Jay ever said that he hated Diablo 2? Nobody is denying that Diablo 2 was a great game.

          • “Everybody remembers Deckard Cain saying, “Stay a while, listen.” But the reason they remember it fondly now is because it was so damn annoying!”
            That was deceleration enough for me  😛

          • SavalBork: That glib was at Diablo, not Diablo 2. It *was* incredibly annoying to hear that same line repeatedly for weeks/months on end.

    • Go play TL and leave us alone, kay?

    • Yes D3 will fall short, if you come into the game with that negative attitude. If you want to hate something that badly, no matter how good an experience you’re having your mind will still make it bad and turn it into negative no matter what….

      My only advice is to recognise that and play with an open mind…. You’ll be having more fun too, and that’s the reason we play games, not to sprout hate and anger 😛 

  8. “Witherstring” was my first unique! it waaas… awesome! And i lost it coz of pure noobness, ololo.

    i wonder how the diablo2 community will make it in Diablo3 without bots and scamming, however all intend to be fair and leggit d2 players …for nooow. i lol.  :mrgreen:

    cu at d3release!

  9. It’s never as good as you remember.

    I went back to play Diablo II recently. I can’t believe I spent all that time in this game years ago. It’s good, but so clunky. And the graphics, ugh. Even back then I can remember 2D being controversial.

    I wouldn’t want Diablo II redone. I like the changes, they were needed. 

  10. Where’s my bugged valor and Ith CB??

  11. Actually for diablo 2, normal difficulty act bosses are all quite difficult and even more so during first few plays. I still remember my nervousness when I first summoned Diablo when I was 13?
    Andariel and its poison causing fast dropping HP
    Duriel and his small room and heavy hitting attacks
    Mephisto and his big hitting orb?
    Diablo and his extremely powerful lightning and fire.
    Baal with it’s mana burn, clone, ice knockback.
    Eventually when we are more experienced, we find flaws with these bosses and enable us to kite, circumvent or avoid their attacks, but the first few times are truly challenging.
    I feel that nightmare difficulty act bosses was comparably easier, because of access with better items and stronger skills.

  12. Is it the music which was a “dark trigger”? Playing beta was such a PITA with this sleepy ambient. I even tryed to play with d1/d2 music turned on and a game changed completely. Oh wait, maybe these were just memories… at least it had this medieval-raw mood. And it was this feeling of being alone in wilderness. In beta I didn’t have this feeling even for a second. Or maybe I’m getting old…

  13. It’s annoying how Wilson trashes D2 every chance he gets. I’m not impressed with his vision of D3.

    • Well, I guess he mentioned he didn’t play it to much, so how could he understand this game. On paper D2 looks like shit, I have to admit. But it wasn’t overdesigned and there was room for a “magic”. Problem is, D3 looks awesome on paper, and the final feeling might be quite opposite to D2. Hope not.

    • He’s not trashing the game as a whole, and can you blame him for his remarks? So much of the criticism of D3 boils down to “it’s not D2,” so Jay has to explain “we changed this feature because it sucked before,” and imho he’s often right. He simply speaks the truth: that D2 was great but flawed. As a childhood fan of the franchise, even I find it tiresome; I can’t even imagine how tiresome it must be for Jay and his team.

    • He’s only responding to fans who trash D3 at every chance they get by making unfair comparisons to the completely imagined perfection they hold D2 to be.

    • He not trashing D2 he just pointing out it got flaws in it. I guess you just want a 3d diablo 2 remake Grumpy Old Wizard right?

  14. False memory? It’s not like D2 was deleted from existence. People still play it.

    • Maybe D3 team is so detached from developing a proper PC title, that they forgot that PC has “backwards compability”…

    • Hmm, you have to remember that most people would of stopped playing a few years back.
      Also the guys who still play it on the web normally rush though to Hell and join bot farms.

  15. well its kinda sad to hear by Jay that the reason they took so long for skill system was that they had no people with experience in doing it. srsly, WTH??? Is that really what he was saying???

  16. “gore and boobs are awesome!”
    Indeed. 8)

  17. Jay is such an idiot. Just play D2. It is darker.

    • Yeah, especially the desert in Act 2… /sarcasm
       The funny thing is that after playing the beta weekend i found that i prefer D2’s look to D3’s because in D3 it kinda seems they scrubbed my monitor with a dirty rag… man, i really hope that’s just Act 1.

  18. Pfft, i always played D2 with the gamma up… most other games too actually…

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