Bashiok Says Goodbye to Blizzard

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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  1. I am unqualified to comment on the person/CM Bashiok.But he he got to be a Diablo 3 monster character with his own monster character achievement.And that is cool.

  2. Yep, I think Turbojugend put it best. Wish Bashiok all the best. Just wish his in game char would drop some decent loot :D.

  3. You two need to get a room.

  4. …directed ad Flux and that customer support guy

  5. I always feel bad for Blizz CMs. Any customer relations job is incredibly taxing. Former Lead WoW Dev Ghostcrawler used to joke that he’d start the day reading the forums with booze in his coffee mug and some days I doubted that he was really joking. So I’m glad that Bashiok is off to somewhere else. Hopefully in a position that doesn’t have him shearing years off his life interacting with gamers on official forums.

  6. I’ll laugh if he becomes a CM for Destiny.

    • I don't know where he's been hired, but I do know he was applying for CM type jobs at various gaming studios for the past couple of months. Obviously someone took him, but no idea why he wanted out of Blizzard. Sick of hot SoCal weather and terrible traffic?

      • Did he screw up over on the WoW forums too? I could see that as a reason to leave.

        • I do not follow WoW or WoW community, so no idea.  Bashiok didn't want to be a CM forever; he was applying for internal upgrades to writing and story jobs years ago on the D3 team (or so he told me) and obviously he didn't get them. I suppose after 12 years as a CM he wanted to do something different, or at least get a change of scenery.

          • wow, 12 years as a CM and they wouldn’t give him a promotion

            that sucks

            I’d probably look for work elsewhere too

          • Writing or story or quest designer jobs aren't just given out on seniority. Requires different skill set, etc. 

            Bliz has enough CMs that they do have CM supervisors and such. Bashy was a CM lead, but that's kind of the top of the pyramid for that aspect of things, and CM is pretty much a young(er) man's game. Lots of long hours and screaming fans. You don't see a lot of 20 year CM vets in the industry.

  7. Of cause best of luck to Bashiok. He was just the lightning rod, after all. And that's a tough job, even without an 'fanbois VS haters' flamewar on the hands. I suspect, though, that the PR-team added a lot of fuel to the flamewar themselves, posting as sockpuppets on either side in a failed attempt at damage control in swaying the communities opinion. The PR departement definitively failed regarding their reactions towards disappointments voiced by fans of the series after D3s release. (The overly picky mass bannings were a sure way to escalate the situation, for example.

    The fanbase at the time was more webbed, after all, and the communities and fansites at its center where more like a family. Lots and lots of secondary and teritary disrespect damage done there… 😉 )How big a cut Bashiok had in the PR desaster, I honestly can't say. I basically only know him prefiltered by Flux, Elly and co. The arrogance, you spoke of, seemed to run much deeper than only him, though. After the WoW-Striketeam laid hands on the game, I already had the feeling of a personal grudge hedged by the game design team towards the Ex-BlizzNorth guys.

    I know jack shit, but it appeared to me, as if 'til Wilson stepping down they'd done everything to not admit, that they couldn't get it done quite right, either. (I'm imagining an overly excessive 'We told you so!' when Flagship sunk becoming an instant boomerang at some point of development…) But like the old fansites and communities, Blizzard was and is like a big family in itself. And family helps each other.

    Bashiok wasn’t responsible for the initial disappointment either. If there's someone to point fingers to, it's again on the PR departement and the WoW-Striketeam. The big promises made loudly, firm and repeatedly until right before the strike team laid on the cutter, piece by piece diminishing excitement by excitement previously raised. (I bet it will surprise you, that I scringed with every new simplyfication of the skill and attribute system. Well, probably not…

    I'm still waiting for a rolemaster-equivalent of a computer rpg character system, after all! ^^ And I'd still like to map out my sanktuario alter egos in as much detailed control as possible, wrapped up in a coherent (inner) logically deductable design, pretty please… 🙂 ) If his part on what went wrong during that time was substantial at that point, then it was on the other side of its job: Passing creative inputs from the community throug to the devs. A side we got few to nill insights on. (Not even enough to dare to speculate…) And developers ignoring their fans during times of development has become quite commonplace anyways. (But the Blizz, we old D2-Veterans knew, was different th… well, rosetinted glasses die out hard, I guess…)

    So thanx Bashiok for a job well done, under the circumstances, staying (mostly) sane and never loosing your humor.Live long and prosper :)Alexis of Silverfang

    • Argh, I forgot: No paragraphs! 🙁

      • Actually I see line breaks in your post. How'd you do it?(Also: I think you're going to wait a long time for that rolemaster game.)

        • I didn't. When I went to sleep, it was just one big cluster. Thx to the anonymous editor 🙂 … (I guess so. But only 'til I die. Promise 😉 … Wish I had the skills in programming to make one up myself. Or even just a knack for presenting my own [overcomplicated *sigh*] ideas in a presentable, orderly fashion that makes them sound simple enough for some devteam to pick up the one or other…)

  8. Good trip down memory lane, plus interesting insights! Thanks, Flux.

  9. I wouldn’t have wanted his job as a D3 CM since he had to deal with a dev team that flipped flopped on design decisions, and then be the bearer of that news to the community (one that had been waiting for a followup for a long time and hoping that it would improve on what was lacking, while introducing new things that went beyond the first two games).

    I really miss the archived Bluetracker that used to be here as they were full of those kinds of tidbits; like one of his posts from around 2010 where he confirmed the game would have a single player offline mode (and the subsequent attempt to deliver the decision change several months later), or that one particular impressive post by a player outlining how a lot of the system changes they were making (especially with the entire itemization system), would result in a game that would be shallow with little replay value (where Bash had to deliver the devs rationale) which ended up being pretty much spot on.

    Anyway, I always enjoyed his more frank interaction; the best one for me was that time he posted to the community to "lower their expectations" ahead of the launch.  It was done in jest but also with a tinge of knowing truth.  Hell, Jay Wilson had to come out and make his own post to downplay what Bashiok said.  I can only imagine the flack he had to deal with internally after that.

    But given the state of D3 after launch and all the way through the release of RoS, his sarcastic style was not going to be generally good for this volatile community (one that had huge expectations for this franchise) and for him since all of that would be directed his way.  So we had 3 less divisive figures; Lylirra, Grimiku and Vaeflare (who moved to HoTS early last year) to deliver (from the devs) and take the brunt of the community feedback.  We now also have Nevalistis and Tyvalir (former D3 incgamer's staff) being the primary meat shields.

    The fact that he had been trying to get something different within Blizzard, and not getting them is kind of telling as like anything else in many corporate cultures, it's who you know and not making too many waves that upsets the ship.  He was probably already on "that" list (maybe rubbing some folks in upper management the wrong way).

    I’m also not a WoW player but I do know many are upset about WoD and have been taking it out on CM Lore there.  So I think a "change of scenery" makes sense after being with one company for over a decade.  Blizzard Entertainment is just this big target with high levels of expectations from its diverse demographic.  Being a constant meat shield can get old after awhile.  So I wish him all the best.

  10. Probably right decision to leave Blizzard. Blizzard has lost its soul anyway, and the best days are behind them.

    • ^ This. They have totally lost track of what it means to make a fun game. They have been reduced from being a totally creative and innovative company to just adding a Blizzard coat of paint to game genres and modes already successful. I played Hearthstone when it was called Magic: The Gathering. I played Overwatch when it was called Smite. I played Warlords of Draenor when it was called Empire at War (On facebook, mind you). What’s next, Blizzard? a Blizzard version of Bubble Witch Saga?

  11. I never had a problem with him, really. I appreciated some candor and a touch of bile aimed back at the hostile community, justified or not. The "Many thanks for awesome feedback player-senpai! ^_^" schtick feels fake after a while.Either way, best of luck to him wherever he winds up.

  12. Best of luck to him. He was quite possibly my favorite Blizzard CM, I'll miss his humor. I think the fact that people even created an out of context meme from one of his obvious jokes says more about the community than him. I'm definitely thankful for his work.

  13. He didn't really suck, his company did. The saddest thing I just remembered, is after the announce video of D3, I read on a Diablo forum somewhere someone posting a comment along the lines of "Gamez gonna suxor, WoW Blizz can't make a Diablo game, lolz." Of course I dismissed that idea, I mean, just look at how godly that video was! Damn, gives me shivers thinking how right that weirdo was from day 1…

  14. I remember him (or maybe was another moderator) on the old forums (the really old forums, with blue and black scheme) banning me for saying over and over again the real money auction house would destroy the game. I bitched loudly about this and the always online drm. The ban happened little before the complete overhaul of the forums, happily, so when the forums were overhauled I was back. Never seen him or Blizzard with the same eyes after that. Banned for repeating too many times my feedback because I was too passionate about the game they were going to release. Yeah.

    • How do you feel when your friends keep nagging you about something? Do you admire their passion or find them incredibly annoying and unhelpful?

      • I find them annoying but helpful, and in no way I would punch them in the face for trying to help, especially if they may be right about what they’re saying.

      • Well for one thing, If they are friends, I take the time to LISTEN to what they’re saying, since they may be correct. Their passion means I may need to listen. Sometimes it takes a nagging and annoying friend to wake us the hell up when we are about to do something really stupid and we won’t listen.

  15. He was the one who said D3 should be playable by his mom or granny?

    • Iirc that were words out of the mouth/fingers of Jay Wilson, not Bashiok. (Though he may have had to defend Wilsons point of view at some point or another there…) Please correct me, if I'm wrong…

    • No. It's starts from the beginning.Gamasutra – Postmortem: Blizzard's Diablo II by Erich Schaefer:«Finally, Diablo and Diablo II are easy to play. We used what we call the "Mom test": could Mom figure this out without reading a manual?»

  16. I find them annoying but helpful, and in no way I would punch them in the face for trying to help, especially if they may be right about what they’re saying.

  17. The news which I remember about Bashiok is this one: Blizzard finally implemented what a fan proposed a year before and was flamed by Bashiok.

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