Jay Wilson says Early Diablo 3 versions were “more like Diablo 2.5”

jay wilson in taiwanJay Wilson took a lot of heat when he was game director of Diablo 3. Some of the criticism was fair while some was a little over the top. Jay left Blizard some time ago now but his Twitter account became a little more active in the past 48 hours.

Jay took some time out to answer a few questions about Diablo 3 and the game’s design and direction which was hotly debated prior and after the game’s launch.

Read on for few snips from his Twitter activity.

Q: How much of what makes current D3 so good was discussed & tabled during original design?

Jay: Depends on what you mean by tabled. Seasons and rifts were planned in a general sense, but D3 benefited from play and learning in the wild. I wish the current D3 had been shipping D3, but the learning process is what led to what’s current.

Jay: I get that you felt it went too far away from originals. We were worried about stagnation, so built what felt like, to us, a unique sequel.

Jay:  Truly great companies, like Blizzard, believe that money follows quality and treating your customers right. I agree with this.

Jay : I can’t say no regrets about anything. Everything I work on I look back at and think a lot of things could be done better.

Q: Were you surprised at all with Blizzcon Diablo announcement? Felt incredibly underwhelming and the community is up in arms.

Jay: Name another game company that adds a new class and remakes an entire game inside their existing game…for free.

Q: What was the major factor that made you guys decide to make D3 more of its on beast rather than just D2.5?

Jay: We wanted to call it Diablo 3, not Diablo 2.5. 😉

Jay: The non-cheeky answer is that our early versions were more like a 2.5, and we weren’t excited by it. It wasn’t worth releasing.

Q: Who was truly responsible for D3’s artsyle? You took blame for it too but I don’t believe that. Pardo? Upper management?

Jay:  The art directors, but I was responsible for all final decisions

Jay: No regrets of visual look/tone. IMO D3 is a beautiful game that doesn’t visually copy the previous games while still paying tribute to them.

Q: And finally considering the lighthearted tone and feel compared to previous games, I suspect it’s Blizz upper maganement….?

Jay: But no, there was no upper management pressure. Blizzard was the most creative freedom I had in my game career.

Jay: A part of me wishes I stuck around for this, but after 8 years I was very burnt out. I also think there were benefits in some fresh eyes.

It’s always great to hear more about decision making, and like Diablo 3 or not, the game is what it is. You can read a few more comments in Jay’s Twitter feed.

Tagged As: , | Categories: Diablo 3, Ex-Blizzard


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  1. Just my cynical opinion but if money follows quality then consumers wouldn’t know quality if they walked into it. The video game industry caters to mediocrity. This is fine for making profit but ultimately people like me are just disgusted and disinterested.

    • I’m not sure I agree. You can argue that the original titles in mainstream series like COD and Assassin’s Creed were quality games, but that people are slow to adjust their opinion of a studio/publisher when they fall from their former level of quality or deliver sequels that are just more of the same. Blizzard’s success is I think due to the quality of their original titles, their lengthy support for their games including free multiplayer server connectivity, and their ability to tap into large demographics. Even if you don’t like WoW, D3, or SC2, they’re undeniably high-quality products. Blizzard didn’t become huge and insanely profitable by delivering mediocrity. They ate up costs by pushing back pretty much every game they’ve ever released and even canceling those they felt weren’t good enough. I can’t name another publisher that would cancel a game because it wasn’t good enough.

      Consumers can be quick to rush into purchases and preorders of games that don’t turn out to be quality, but low-quality games won’t see long periods of sales. Consumers are stupid enough to waste money, I know I’ve wasted plenty on trash games, but the point is that making quality games and caring about their success is a great recipe for consumer happiness, and happy consumers spend money. Valve’s success isn’t due to Steam, that platform was reviled when it launched, it was due to the high quality of both half-life games and its spinoffs.

      • I was a hardcore Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Frozen Throne player when it was popular. I spent a good chunk of life doing mostly 2v2’s, some 1v1’s and 3v3’s on Battlenet. I always felt that WoW, D3 and SC2 were big copies of Warcraft III. The ending scene of Warcraft III Frozen Throne campaign when Arthas cuts Illidan with Frostmorne is the first example of the upscaling of the Warcraft III engine that I saw. I just can’t get over that.

  2. “Truly great companies, like Blizzard, believe that money follows quality and treating your customers right.” — Jay Wilson, 2016

    “We were never truly able to beta test the game at a scale… I think we would have uncovered the problems, fixed it and made changes to it before it went into wide relase.” — Rob Pardo, 2014

    • I don’t see the irony or the contradiction.

      As cynical as I am (I mean really. I hate diablo 3 with a passion?), Jay Wilson did leave the Diablo brand before 2014 came around. The tone within the Diablo branch likely was swayed to agree with the community, where Jay Wilson (who is no longer directly in the conversation anymore) is still giving his opinions based on the views that took place before his leaving.

      I think Jay Wilson is a dignified noble man, with a good heart and conscience, but I still despise the decisions he made for Diablo 3, even if they were in his belief they were the best ones for the franchise. But it’s just a matter of difference between us. We’re on the opposite spectrums.

      I don’t hate him for it. It’s just not what I like, and I was heavily invested in Diablo to the point where nearly my entire 8-18yr child and teenage years. I can always point to you a time in my childhood where the roots of Diablo 1 and 2 have intertwined with my life.

  3. “Jay: Name another game company that adds a new class and remakes an entire game inside their existing game…for free.”

    so the necro is free now ?

    Crate Entertainment released lots of free stuff for Grim Dawn

    Grinding Gear releases tons of free stuff for PoE

  4. Well, I’m glad I could make him talk. I stumbled upon my old account on Twitter that I made in 2009. I used it for something else and by some chance I saw Jay Wilson’s twitter account. If I knew he was going to answer all my questions, like 30 or more in a chat style, I would carefully pick them for the community. Now he started to open up more. Like I said to him in the end, I was a critic and you all know it but I’m neutral with Jay now.

    He already suffered a lot because of a couple mistakes and we’re forgetting the D3 team consisted of a hundred people at least. It’s not fair to blame him for everything. Especially considering he was the driving force behind D3’s combat. I still criticize him for some of the design decisions but we now have an understanding.

    The most important answer I could get was he played Blizzard North’s version of D3 at 2006 (it was really playable) and he confirmed my information that it’s the same engine and some concepts, environments and a few monsters were taken straightly from it.

    He seemed like a genuine good guy. In the end I’m glad the first time I used Twitter, I used it for something newsworthy 😀 It’s just too bad I had to post my photo and full name to convince him and other D3 fanboys I’m real. To give credit where it’s due, Jay apologized three times afterwards.

    • To clarify it started as an art-style debate that I couldn’t convince him the upsides of sticking with the established Diablo art-style instead of going for the painterly post-WoW Blizzard style. Followed by whether removal of pengragrams, burning crosses etc. was political or not.

      Eventually he admitted to having regrets but the visual look/tone was not one of them. He still doesn’t believe D3 is light-hearted compared to the first two games.

      Like I said before I now sincerely believe he’s a good guy and a proven designer with Blood, DoW and CoH but Blizzard now has such a company culture and philosophies that not even one serious and mature game will come out from that culture regardles of who they hire as game directors unless Activision execs personally intervene.

      I should try my chance with Bobby Kotick next.

    • The only reason we’re really at crossroads with Jay, is his (and the PRs) reaction to the initial criticism after release. It was his job to be the face of development, though …

      Well … “We” … I know that I am.

      • I guess old-timers know me well. I hated Jay’s influence on Diablo before. I still don’t support his view on the Diablo franchise. But I think he suffered enough on behalf of the whole Diablo 3 team.

        He actually did good with his previous games and D3’s combat. Also he seems like a good guy. But the thing is unless it was Brevik and Blizzard North, all developers that’s hired by Blizzard would find themselves in the charm of Blizzard’s arrogance along with their absurd company culture and philosophies.

        The community outcry and low-rate of player sustainability made them improve the game and listen to their customers. Jay Wilson was the sacrifice they had to make or simply Jay couldn’t handle the tremendous amount of pressure anymore.

        I’m now 100% sure if Jay Wilson stayed and Josh Mosqueira was not hired, we would have the same Diablo 3 of this moment more or less. It would be very similar. Although Jay said he was making final decisions to me, it sounded like Blizzard as a whole has strong say on design of the games they make and game directors were only approving them or objecting if they feel very strong about it on top of their own right to vote on the design.

        Imo, Blizzard itself is corrupted and developers that find themselves in Blizzard offices quickly adjust to the culture. Arrogance, love for that painterly, supposedly timeless art style, chasing the same vision for all different games, thinking what the community wants more than the community itself, and not giving a crap about them if that means sacrificing their perspective of the game, unless it becomes a necessity.

        I believe the last paragraph perfectly summarizes Blizzard nowadays and Jay Wilson was only one of the many that was responsible for the vanilla Diablo.

        • *knowing (not thinking) what the community wants more than the community itself.

          BTW I’m a strong Blizzard North supporter, D1&2 fan and D3 criticizer but let’s not continue on the useless hate on Jay Wilson guys. I started to see this topic everywhere and hate comments below.

          I feel very bad it got more public and he’s getting more hate comments, insults and death threats again after all these years because I simply asked a question and criticized their vision on the Diablo series.

    • Yeh good job sir. Was interesting to read his thoughts on it all now in retrospect.

      • Thanks 🙂 BTW it looks Jay Wilson himself hired Josh Mosqueira. Every Diablo fan should know this so that we can hate Josh and today’s D3 even more !

  5. Diablo 3 was a scam and Jay was its ring leader. Attempting to get us to accept it as Diablo 2.5 is just a rehash of old tricks. The trick, when you work on sequels is to understand the previous games. We all know they didn’t have an inklings about Diablo which is why Diablo 3 attracted all these stupid noobingtons that took off and forged their own little D3 fan clan over at that other fansite.

    All those D3 fans where fans of a game that was great in its own right, my argument is that its not and never will be Diablo. If only they didn’t call it Diablo 3 :\

    • Yeah, man. I don’t get the impression that Jay or the development team played much D2 in single-player and/or closed Battlnet. I get a very shallow impression from Jay. I find many of the new generation gamers are very shallow and chase games with popularity, not necessarily because they “like” or “enjoy” what they’re doing; More about killing time with friends. This is fine, but older generation gamers get turned off. Older gen gamers played because we really took meaning in our time spent with games but newer gen gamers play because it’s easy entertainment to goof off with friends. It’s just shallow.

  6. Can you imagine what a real Director with a passion for Diablo 2 would have created? Jay says he had full freedom, nothing he ever experienced. Now imagine what someone with a passion for Diablo could have done lol!

    It was the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place. We Diablo fans were just unlucky that Jay was chosen to lead the team into the abyss. I think Jay is a normal guy, and not a bad person by any means. It’s just he wasn’t the right person to lead the whole team.

    I hope the new director of Diablo 4 will be a former D2 player that loved the game and knows what made it so special. It’s just not very likely tough 🙁

    There is a high chance that whoever directs D4 will copy paste D3 into D4 and change around some stuff, make it darker to prevent another art controversy and sell another 30+ million copies. We will probably still have the same shitty itemization from D3 AGAIN. Where items have main stat and health on every piece AGAIN. Also classes will have a main-stat AGAIN because they dont understand how crappy that is. Items will be BOA AGAIN. The diablo franchise is DONE, until Blizzards proves otherwise by returning to Diablo’s roots, to win back real Diablo fans.

    • He said that to me but I don’t believe he had full freedom. He had full freedom in the area that Blizzard drew for him. His later tweets show strong signs of it. I strongly believe Jay was only one part of the concept and major design of D3. And no significant changes would happen if somebody else was the game director instead of him unless David Brevik and Blizzard North would return as an autonomous team.

      • Yeah that’s probably the case in the end. I think BlizzNorth folks are the only ones that are able to deliver a D2 experience in a new Diablo game. Maybe at least Matt Uelmen will be making the music for D4, it would be a leap in the right direction. He is the only master that can make the music and ambience sound like in a real Diablo game. He is gifted.

      • Considering they just went on a mass rampage and deleted every post that was negative about the necro makes jays statement about freedoms at blizzard seem like he’s fishing for another job. If he were to tell it as it likely really was he’d never get another job in the industry ever. I think he’s simply looking after his own interests, which is what anyone would do.

        Maybe there was freedoms, I wouldn’t know. It’s just so hard to give blizzard any credit these days.

        What I’ve never understood is what he actually did on a day to day basis. That would be a lot more interesting than what he did say.

    • “Can you imagine what a real Director with a passion for Diablo 2 would have created? Jay says he had full freedom, nothing he ever experienced. Now imagine what someone with a passion for Diablo could have done lol!”

      I can, his name is Chris Wilson. Path of Exile fans know who he is.

    • You forgot to mention that the ONLINE-only system must change. People love mods, and we love trading. Some like to bot, some like to play legit. It’s the company’s job to take measures, but in the end it’s all about the freedom of play what really engages people.

      Remember id Software’s games? The Doom saga, the quake saga. Or Heretic/Hexen, Unreal, Half-life, etc. People still plays them these days because they are moddable. And freely moddable. But it’s impossible to mod something if it’s online locked.

  7. Let’s get real. Greed ruined the franchise in that scummy rmah disguised as a way to safely buy/sell items. Yes they salvaged the title in many respects, but the reputational damage will last forever. Unsure how many folks remember, but D3 wasn’t released as a pay-to-win game (that’s much more benign). Rather, the game wass designed as pay-to-play. There was zero progression unless items were purchased with real money. Of course thousands (millions?) quit upon this realization.

    Because the core of the game was designed around this greedy system they could never fix it properly. After the closure of the rmah, devs implemented half-assed changes made to placate the player base. Judging by online sentiment, players haven’t been impressed. I’d go on a limb to say no one today is ‘happy’ nor have they ever ‘loved’ D3.

    It’s actually shameful to think how they not only wanted to milk their fanbbase but also continue to reject feedback articulated ad nauseam.

    • Exactly. D3 was set up to ‘fail’ from the get go. I remember all hell (pun intended) broke out here when the RMAH news dropped in the summer of 2011. There were all these WoW white knights praising the AH saying BS like it will mean an end to bots, hacks & dupes & most of the D1 & D2 players were opposed to it. Then we learned that because of the AH it was also going to be online only. I pretty much knew the game was going to be shit after those two bombshells. I normally NEVER buy anything that’s online only but I made an exception this one time because it was supposed to be Diablo. I was dumb. I should have known better after seeing the kind of shit SC2 was. But what’s really killing D3 now is the online only BS. What it needs IS mods, can you imagine how many more people would be playing if there were a D3 Median XL? Hell, people would probably mod in all the old classes by now, but NO, Blizzard wants to sell them to us over the next umpteen years until they release BS4. I’m so done with Blizz, I haven’t given them a single penny since RoS & probably never will again.

      • “can you imagine how many more people would be playing if there were a D3 Median XL?”

        A lot would be playing mods, especially if Blizzard gave them official support and forum space and such, instead of modding being just an underground fan-served thing. I played far more D2 mods than D2 regulation.

        But I doubt Blizzard would want that trade, since online only D3 means people have to buy it to play. Blizzard was willing to trade some community engagement and enduring popularity for forcing people to actually buy their game instead of pirating it, and giving them the control over the product long term.

        Alas, but financial realities are seldom good for game development.

  8. I say that Jay Wilson was early a fail than later.

  9. He was good but the comunity was / is bad
    nagging over nothing and stupid things
    D3 was also good back in the day … i would say – bring back AH
    but who am i

    • Your opinion is extremely unpopular. Then again I agree that ‘mob rule’ isn’t the best way to dictate game design. If the devs had more passion the game would suck a lot less and a lot of their comments over the years were arrogant and/or out of touch.

      • i really don’t give a F if my opinion is unpopular :)))
        i speak from my heart and i have a mind of my own.
        I’m not like all the rest of the crying cows and copycats that say the game is bad , thats why you say its unpopular :p

        They have pasion its the stupid community that undermines it every fucking time !!!!!

        Game was great / game is great … comunity is bad , verry bad , simple

  10. I didn’t buy Diablo 3 because it was clear to me after following the development closely that it wouldn’t be a game for me. Blizzard are trying so hard to cater to everyone with their games since WoW. Like Hollywood does with many movies it feels like they are following some “recipe” for mainstream appeal rather than trying to make the games they would want to play themselves, the magic of their old games isn’t there.

  11. I never had a beef with Jay Wilson. D3 has its flaws, most of which are in the campaign/story. Adventure mode has held up for me since RoS release and proves the gameplay is there.

    What I always wanted to know was, Jay said in an interview years ago that he had a favorite boss fight from the Blizzard North build of D3, that his team attempted to bring to the version of Diablo 3 that we have. I’ve always been curious which boss it was. Asked him on Twitter and I’ll relay if he answers me. I always appreciated that the boss mechanics in D3 got beyond the old “walk up to the boss and hit him until he’s dead” thing, but in some cases it works better than others. The Diablo and Izual fights were very disappointing.

    A shame no one ever obtained some kind of leak or crack of the B.North build of the game, just to play a little bit out of curiosity.

  12. You never understood, Jay. Diablo 2.5 is EXACTLY what we mostly wanted. You guys literally had to just make an updated 3D engine, throw in the same classes plus maybe a couple new ones, update the story and continue it, NOT kill Cain, and NOT make Tyrael some weak mutt race weird human, and boom. Instant classic.

  13. Jay Wilson? Fuck that loser.

  14. I chatted a bit with him yesterday and this time I’m 100% certain. Jay is a good guy and his gaming sense is also good.

    But he’s not a smart guy. He never should have been one of the decision makers in the first place. He can easily be manipulated and he can make baseless o decisions by relying on those people near him. Worse, he can make illogical decision by himself alone.

    He should have never been a lead game designer or director. At best he could be part of the strike teams in Blizzard or he could be in charge of systems that help create the feel of play.

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