Blue on Slow Development and Fan Discontent


As ripples from Blizzard’s (misinterpreted?) “no new Bliz game in 2011” conference call controversy continue to spread, Bashiok has thrown himself into the verbal jousting. The warm up was this thread blaming Diablo III’s lengthy development cycle on the technology being used. Bashiok was vigorous in his disagreement.

You’re a crackup.

Anyway, StarCraft II used Havok, Diablo III uses a new in-house physics engine, and they’re built on completely different engines beyond that. Just because there were two spheres that slowed objects… Heh.

What do you know about the differences between the engines? From what I see, they both have identical movements, the physics of the sway of the characters as they rock back and forward, their cloth as it flaps, the fire as it flickers, how objects fall like spaghetti off of a plate all are identical features.

The fact that the Diablo III engine began life at Blizzard North written from the ground up by Jason Regier, and the StarCraft II engine was written from the ground up by Bob Fitch.

(Obviously there are many other programmers on each team that helped throughout the years, but being lead programmers on each project they made up the lion share. I just don’t want to discount the contribution of their teams.)

You’re seeing basic similarities in how all physics engines perform. And physics is one small part of the game engine.

A much larger debate went off in a thread started by FriskyDingo, with a lengthy argument against what he sees as Blizzard’s excessive iteration in game development. Here’s a highlight; Bashiok’s full (very long) replies can be read at the blue tracker link, or by clicking through on this post, where I’ve added visual aids to help you get through the words.

How does anyone know that we’re not working in the fastest manner to the most successful final product? Right? I mean, to say that we’re being inefficient means you have an expectation to what the end product is. Are we inefficiently reaching a conclusion on what the best resource is for the wizard? How is that quantifiable when we don’t know what the best resource is? What if the most efficient method to the best end product is intelligent iteration on the design until it becomes the best resource for the class?

…I will agree, 100%, iterating is inefficient in the sense that we don’t pick 1 idea and go with it no matter if it’s the best solution or not. However, it’s extremely efficient in finding the best solution, which is why we use it. The other most efficient means is using a time machine to find out what the best solution is so we could come back and tell ourselves. But then at least one timeline of us would have had to find the best solution through iteration, so maybe that’s where we are now (!?). Once we meet our future selves and they hand us a finished copy of Diablo III from the future then I promise development speed will really pick up…

Frisky cross-posted the thread in our main D3 forum, and it’s received quite a bit of conversation there, as well as some updates about additional Bashiok replies (to the B.net version) that were swiftly deleted.

The Full Thread

Because, moar! White text are fan comments quoted by Bashiok. Blue are his “official” replies. Source.

Often times we fans who have followed Diablo3’s development are told that Jay Wilson and his team are taking their time to create a game of high quality. The fans are told we need patience and not to worry because the hopes and goals of those producing the game will work long and hard and eventually come up with something “epic” for us to enjoy. Yet it seems time after time that when Bashiok fills us in on some new tidbit of info that they have scrapped some old long standing mechanic on a whim for something else. How much of this is good innovative development and how much of it is just inefficiency on the part of Blizzard?

Innovation is a great thing and can lead to many different revolutionary game designs. Some of the best things about Diablo3 were probably thought up on a whim then pitched to everyone around the team. Does anyone think that the rune system was always in place? It’s entirely likely that synergies were still planned until somebody thought that up. The problem with this type of creative, dynamic and unique process is that it takes a very long development time. There comes a point where this begins to completely hinder and stall the game creation cycle to where you’re 5 years down the line and the release day is still nowhere in sight. How many times can you think of where Bashiok, Jay Wilson or any of the other members of the development team told us about some mechanic that they have worked on for weeks was taken out of the game?

How many times has the resource system changed for each class? How many different concepts have you heard of for the Wizard alone only to find out she will likely be going back to Mana and now the WitchDoctor is getting a new resource? What about fury, a resource we thought was working for quite some time now we are hearing that it’s basically being scrapped as well.
What of the different “Demon hunter” concepts that they fully animated and created but decided to scrap because of how people wanted to play them?

There are plenty of other mechanics, concepts and ideas we could name which have had countless hours of work put into them by Blizzard which were later scrapped and I’m confident many times more that the fans have no idea exist.

It is entirely possible that this style does harm Blizzard by obviously extending the cycle beyond what a normal company would do, but it also makes them lose focus and conflicts other gameplay philosophies. Two things that are brought to mind are the demon hunter and (Not too related to Diablo3) the Starcraft 2 Saga. Each of the four prior classes in Diablo3 all had a very unique and rich background which meshed well with the lore set before them. Unfortunately, the Demonhunter stands out like a sore thumb. We have heard many times over that all characters must be human and that we can never play an angel or demon because it’s solely about humanities fight for survival. The demonhunter contradicts these statements because someone on a whim decided they wanted to play an anti-hero demonic character, sure a neat concept but they begin to lose focus with these types of decisions.

As for starcraft two, it worries me about the team behind them. At one time they decided each expansion pack of Diablo2 would break the game into three parts with one for each race. This doesn’t sound like a bad idea at first, but later on after the game’s release and some fan complaints about the story we hear from the developers of the game itself that they do not even know how the game will end.
How do you make major decisions to break the game up into separate expansion packs and finish one before even deciding how the game will end?

Innovation is inefficient, but has it come to the point where the development team of Diablo3 is trying too hard to force the innovation and are now continuously tossing out prior work? Could Diablo3 possibly be the same game it is shaping out to be today if they came up with a plan in the begining and strictly stuck to it? It in all likelyhood would be released right now, but would it be anywhere near as innovative as it *could possibly* be when it does finally hit the shelves?

I understand there was a lot of expectation about a beta announcement being made, and there is now a lot of disappointment that it wasn’t. But, that’s not a reason to start taking frustration out on things like a design philosophy that is the very essence of what makes Blizzard games great – – what is making this game great.

But It does eventually get to the point where they are being ineffecient. The definition of inefficiency is being unable to perform a task in the fastest most succesful means possible.

How does anyone know that we’re not working in the fastest manner to the most successful final product? Right? I mean, to say that we’re being inefficient means you have an expectation to what the end product is. Are we inefficiently reaching a conclusion on what the best resource is for the wizard? How is that quantifiable when we don’t know what the best resource is? What if the most efficient method to the best end product is intelligent iteration on the design until it becomes the best resource for the class?

(And that’s not even a good point, there’s not a team of guys just sitting there doing nothing but working on resources day in and day out. The entire game comes together rather organically.)

I will agree, 100%, iterating is inefficient in the sense that we don’t pick 1 idea and go with it no matter if it’s the best solution or not. However, it’s extremely efficient in finding the best solution, which is why we use it. The other most efficient means is using a time machine to find out what the best solution is so we could come back and tell ourselves. But then at least one timeline of us would have had to find the best solution through iteration, so maybe that’s where we are now (!?). Once we meet our future selves and they hand us a finished copy of Diablo III from the future then I promise development speed will really pick up…

Ok, anyway, back to seriousness, there’s this rather nutty notion that things like us redesigning systems like resources or base stats or what have you is where we’re at and that we’re sitting around just trying to figure these things out. That’s not how it works. We’re working on content for the game, and the vast majority of it we will never show you before launch. That makes it difficult to give a better idea of progress to you guys, but we think it will pay off in the experience. What’s easier to show is progress on game systems, we’re going to reveal all of those before the game releases, and they’re also the things that tend to swing wildly with iteration. If we make a demon, that demon probably isn’t going to change a whole lot. If we make a new dungeon and show it to you, we already spent a lot of time iterating on the idea before it even went into production. If we show it to you guys it’s probably pretty well set. Game systems are much easier. Game systems are numbers and math in a spreadsheet for the most part. Numbers and math are easy to change, and easy to change right up to the launch of the game. And that’s likely to be the case.

I think the problems began when they took employees that never or rarely ever played the game

I have no tangible way to refute that so… score one for you I guess.

mixed that with employees who spent most of the last decade building nothing but Warcraft and to a small extent Starcraft art production

Please name those employees.

As far as conceptual design? Would you like the long answer or the short answer? I have a huge historical knowledge of where the train went of the rails over half a decade ago.

Over half a decade!? Man that’s like… maybe 6 years or more. Color me impressed.

Let me guess, you’re going to bring up Brian Morrisroe like you have secret inside knowledge? Oh man. Yeah, don’t tell Google. It might get out that the game is colorful.

Judging by the timeline he gave, I figured he would go with Blizzard North

Yeah maybe! I’d love to hear about it. I shall sip earl grey tea (hot!) from my Blizzard North mug as my eyes sup upon his historical knowledge.

What does any of that have to do with anything?

…You remember the “April” patch debacle Bash?

Alright, I’m done. I was really hoping you had some sort of dirt that would really show how the Diablo III development team is … a species of lizard men, or something.

Instead this is about how Diablo II wasn’t supported to your liking. How me spending weeks of time compiling community feedback and pushing to get features implemented still wasn’t good enough. While I appreciate the sentiment, we’re not discussing Diablo II, and I’d rather not continue feeding the madness. This thread, and many others, are about to lose a ton of continuity.

 

Is this not an innocuous indiscretion in terms of time spent on a project that we are fully able to be curious about?

Totally! It’s quite simple. We announced Diablo III much earlier in development.

World of Warcraft began development in 1998/1999.

Why was it announced so early?

Why not?

I don’t know man!

I don’t even care anymore.

Yes you do. Don’t get discouraged buddy. The promised land is just up ahead! Wait… no… that’s a mirage, BUT, it’s just beyond that! I think. This map is really outdated.

But then we’d never get drunk if it actually related to something being done.

BURN

 

 

 

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Controversy

Comments

You're not logged in. Register or login to post a comment.
  1. Nice, but actually development of WoW began in 2000.

Comments are closed.