Bashiok @ SDCC 2014.

    Bashiok and his mustache from SDCC 2014.

    Micah Whipple AKA DiabloWikiBashiok, the original Diablo 3 community manager, has posted a farewell notice to the Blizzard community. He’s leaving Blizzard to work elsewhere in the industry, and while he’s been back on the WoW CM team since 2012, many Diablo 3 fans still remember his time, from 2009-2012, as the lead D3 CM. Whether or not those are fond memories is open to debate, but here’s his farewell address.

    Bashiok Says Goodbye to Blizzard:

    I could pretty easily write a few thousand words right now, but I did my best to keep this brief.

    I began working at Blizzard way back in October of 2003, and every day of my experience here has been shared with you, the players, and content creators, artists, bloggers, AddOn authors, podcasters, streamers, forum trolls, and— man, anyone remember the old Off-Topic forum back in the day? That place was just absolutely cuckoo bananas.

    Anyway, Blizzard—and the community that surrounds it—has defined almost my entire adult life, and I am just so absolutely grateful to all of my friends here for having such an incredible and positive impact on who I am, and who I am yet to become. I don’t think I’ve had to make any decisions as difficult as the one to leave Blizzard, but a new opportunity has come my way, and I’ve decided to take it.

    While I think it’s all still sinking in, the other day I realized I actually get to be surprised by Blizzard announcements and releases again. Which, as a lifelong fan and rabid gamer it makes me giddy thinking about being able to sit in the audience at BlizzCon, watching a stream, or reading the newest blog posts, and seeing whatever’s in store next—for the first time.

    I’m looking forward to what’s next, and wishing you a life of joy, insatiable curiosity, and happy gaming.

    Definitely thankful,

    There’s a reason he says “thankful” in his closing, and if you don’t know it, feel lucky you weren’t here to live it. A quick googling will give you an idea, and if you click through you’ll get some more detail on that, plus what turned into a major article summarizing his time as a Diablo 3 community manager. If you’re knew or just want a trip down memory lane, this should enlighten you as to why so much of the community still harbors a grudge, or at least has a strong reaction to Bashiok’s name.

    Bashiok’s Diablo 3 History

    Diabeard sympathizer.

    Diabeard sympathizer.

    Personally, I don’t bear Bashy any ill-will and always got along okay with him, during our on and off the record conversations. Just stating this up front, since I know people in comments will try to read all sorts of personal opinions into this post. I’m not trying to encode them.

    If Bashiok had a fatal flaw, other than his sarcasm, it was his overconfidence. He came into Diablo 3 after some years as a WoW CM, and clearly thought he knew just what to do. I am not and have never been part of the WoW community, but from what I knew of it back in 2008ish, it was very large and mostly cheerful. Fans separated into Horde vs. Alliance in online debates, and as with every RPG some fans thought any change to their fave class was a horrible nerf while all other changes were unfair buffs, but generally they got along.

    The Diablo community was very different. We’d been a huge and sometimes happy bunch back in the 2000-2002 time frame, but by 2008 we’d had years and years of neglect and obvious disinterest from Blizzard Irvine (the inaugural Blizzcon in 2005 featured absolutely nothing from the Diablo games, aside from a cinematic pic of Baal on one of about 500 massive banners) and much of the remaining community was disenchanted or bitter, and many resented WoW, since it was Blizzard’s new RPG and got all the attention and promotion and love.

    I tried to explain that situation to Bashiok when he was new and doing some off the record, “getting to know the community” IM chats, and explained that the Diablo community could be very insular and intense and prickly, and that his pedigree with WoW would not endear him to people. And I told him that I’d be happy to answer questions about past issues with Diablo; historical things about Bliz North, give insight into what long time Diablo players wanted, etc.

    Everyone's favorite Act Two bounty?

    Everyone’s favorite Act Two bounty?

    He thanked me but clearly thought that was unnecessary, and never asked my input on anything… while proceeding to repeatedly upset or confuse or offend fans by making comments showing his complete ignorance of the history of the Diablo games, of the D1/D2 devs, of Bliz North, etc.

    His WoW pedigree and Diablo ignorance aside, Bashiok was generally liked by the community, if only by default, since he was the only public voice/face of the game. In those early 2008-2012 days, the D3 devs almost never made any public comments or forum posts, they hadn’t yet begun live streaming events, etc. We heard their prepared statements in official interviews and Blizzcon panels, and other than that almost all the regular communication came from the CMs. And for a couple of years Bashiok was the only CM (and he ran @Diablo, and the Diablo Facebook), so he was essentially *the* voice of Diablo 3.

    Bashiok_1How did that go? It depends. I thought he did his job adequately, but he was not a typical PR drone. He put personality and attitude and humor into his posts, and that rubbed some people the wrong way. At any rate, he was a curious choice to head up the PR for a massively-anticipated AAA title, since 1) he was a WoW player with no experience or past history with the Diablo series or community, and 2) he inserted his wry, sarcastic personality into his public interactions, rather than being always cheerful and positive (as the D3 CMs are now) or being a generic PR drone.

    Things went okay for the most part during the 2009-2011 time frame, but as D3 neared release, controversy began to grow. Many players were outraged (or at least played it online) by the no-modding, online-only, and RMAH decisions, and then D3’s early game state was very lacking in itemization and end game content, which caused the community to shrink, fracture, and grow more toxic. By August 2012 things were very ugly, partially due to Jay Wilson’s infamous drunken late Sunday night Facebook comment, and if there was a peak Bashiok moment for the haters, it occurred a few weeks later, in September 2012 in a Blue post defending some recent nerfs to IAS.

    We don’t want people to be afraid of nerfs, and … I guess maybe I can try to get that across by saying we could have nerfed a bunch of stats that probably deserve it to some degree, but we didn’t (aren’t you thankful!?), because we don’t believe our design approach should be constantly noodling with really important things, like stats. It should only be when we have an extreme situation developing, and we felt that was the case with IAS.

    bashiok-thankfulThis was typical Bashiok; trying to put some levity into a grim situation, doing his job apologizing or covering for design decisions he’d had zero input into making, and getting blamed for the change by players since he was the only target. That sort of thing is pretty much the hallmark of the CM job, being blamed for being the bearer of bad news, and sometimes some humor help diffuse fan rage… but not always. And not that time, as that “aren’t you thankful” comment joined “F that loser” in the anti-Diablo 3 meme cannon.

    We don’t know how things were handled internally, but not long after that time, Lylirra and then Nevalistis joined the D3 CM team, and put a very different focus on fan interactions. Gone were all traces of sarcasm or cynicism; in was relentless positivity and cheerfulness, and virtually every post now wore “thanks for your input!” type comments like plastic butterflies on Magda’s shoulders in a little girl’s hair.

    Bashiok didn’t officially leave the Diablo 3 CM team at that point, but he became a much less visible presence in public interactions, and in early 2013 announced that he’d officially rejoined the WoW team. Around that time was when Jay Wilson also left, and things began to change.

    Lylirra and Nevalistis and Grimiku kept up their regular forum posting, always with a friendly and open tone, and not long after Josh Mosqueria was made the D3 Game Director, there was an obvious Bliz PR decision to unmuzzle the devs. We started to get a lot more interviews featuring straight talk and admissions of errors, we started seeing semi-regular forum posts and dev blogs from Josh and other guys like Travis Day, D3 devs for the first time ever answering direct fan questions on live streams, etc.

    That newer and more open attitude has continued over the past couple of years, and with the game also much improved, the general community mood is a lot better than it was in the 2012 time frame. Of course the community is also a fraction the size it was back in the 2008-2012 time frame, as many players who were disappointed in early Diablo 3 left and have never returned… But I don’t think it’s fair to blame much or any of that on Bashiok.

    Like all CMs, he was almost always just saying what his PR bosses told him to say, and while it’s fair to quibble about how he said it, I don’t think it’s fair to single out just the one or few times a joke bombed. After all, I remember a lot of times from 2008-2011 when there was zero news and we were in another Diablo drought, and Bashiok’s sarcasm made reading the same “no new info but here’s a restatement of what we revealed last month” gave at least a little life to forum replies to the same old questions.

    What do you guys remember about Bashiok’s time on Diablo 3? Gone for not forgotten?

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