Jay Wilson Gameplanet Interview

The second English-language interview from Jay Wilson’s recent press tour has surfaced, and it’s with GamesPlanet NZ. Unlike the general issue stuff Jay mentioned in the GamespotAU interview we posted earlier today, in this piece Jay answers specific questions, such as how they are developing the difficulty curve, and what kind of benchmarks they’ll be looking for to consider the game a success. You’ll see a lot of the similar litany we’ve been used to when it comes to the questions we’ve heard answered time and again, but there are certainly some gems and specifics we’ve not heard before. Tool through the entire interview, which is fairly extensive.

Personally, I’m very happy to hear that they learned more about security through the beta. As many players proved time and again, their systems had some gaping holes. And not just that, he concludes by affirming the communities belief that social channels are just not up to par, and that will be a point of improvement for the future.

Gameplanet: What are the things you learned from the beta?

DiabloWikiJay Wilson: The game wasn’t hard enough. We even came out saying, “no the game’s definitely hard enough!” because we really consider Act 1 to be the tutorial. But we got a lot of feedback – enough feedback from enough different sources – so we said, “OK, even for a tutorial the game’s not hard enough.” So we definitely learned that.

We learned a lot about security, which was part reason for the beta. Also about our infrastructure generally – hardware infrastructure.

The rest were one-off small things so it’s hard to pull them back off the top of my head, but those were the major ones. There are tons and tons of feedback that we get but they’re usually not something I can call out.

Gameplanet: How do you extrapolate a difficulty curve for the rest of the game from something like the beta?

Wilson: There are two sides to difficulty. One is the capabilities of the player, and the other is the capabilities of the monsters. So what you do is categorise those capabilities: [those categories] are really evident in our skill system now. When do you start introducing primary spamming skills? When do you start introducing area of effect skills? When do you introduce movement? When do you introduce defensive abilities? When do you introduce what we call tertiary abilities such as auras and shouts?

[The idea is to] pull on the player’s mental bandwidth. Now they’ve got these other things working, they’ve got this new thing they need to think about every now and then. You essentially guess: where is the good place for these things to unlock? And you place them.

You do the same thing with items: unlike Diablo II that opens up all the items right away, we hold off a little bit, there’s a little bit of time before you’ll get a helmet, for example. There’s a little bit of time before you’ll get a ring. I’m not sure amulets even show up in the beta since they’re not available [to characters below] level 14.

On the monster side we did the same thing. We have this big list of categories, of things that monsters can do. There’s a heavy-hitter – a monster that does a lot of damage. There are tough monsters, there are fast monsters, there are monsters that I call “beehives” which are essentially summoners and things like that – they produce [other] monsters. There are monsters that do AOE [area of effect damage], then there’s about seven sub-categories of AOE: point-blank AOE is not as effective as ranged AOE; circular AOE is more powerful than line AOE.

So then you guess where all those things need to fall throughout the game, and then when you play the game and see all your guesses are wrong, you adjust them.

More past the fold.

Gameplanet: What’s next for the development team, what’s happening post-launch?

Wilson: Sleep! Vacation for some of us! But the first thing is going to be our Player vs. Player [PvP] patch. We’re already working on that. There’ll probably be something – we tend to plan a whole series of patches. We already have our “this is an emergency just in case something goes wrong-patch” that we put out this point. This is our “emergency balance-patch”, that we put out at this point. Then we have our PvP patch that we’ll put out and it’ll also probably be our secondary balance patch.

Those are our focus right now. We are starting to talk about if we’ll do an expansion. We think the game might be successful now [and] warrant such a thing. But we’ll see! We also have a group internally that’s exploring console.

Gameplanet: So that brings up a couple of things: what goals, or what benchmarks do you personally hold that will need to be met in order to qualify this game as a success?

Wilson: We have mathematical numbers internally. Those are boring to me. I want us to hit them and I think we will because the game is good, and it’s not that I’m dismissing that – the game’s got to make money – but I think it’ll make money because it’s good, and we worry about that first. So for me, if a community builds around it similar to the community that built around Diablo II, then I will feel like it’s a success. If that community is vibrant and wars with each other, and with us, and struggles and fights to make the game better, then to me that’s worth continuing to work on the game. That’s success.

Every company I’ve worked for before – through no fault of their own – when they finish a game, they’re done. Once the game is out the door, they really barely think about it again unless they do an expansion. Even so, if they do an expansion, that’s very expansion-centric, it’s not really looking back at the previous game.

Blizzard’s not like that. We look at the game shipping as the start date, that’s when the game really starts, and that’s when our work really starts, because now we can build a game in the best environment you can possibly build, which is with people playing it.

Gameplanet: Now that you know what’s made it into the box, what are some of those ideas, perhaps for example classes, that didn’t make it?

Wilson: There were no classes that we did that didn’t make it in. There was no work there. Other than – and we’ve talked about it before – the original Demon Hunter was more of a Ranger, and we actually did have the Ranger working, we had an ammo resource system and it was terrible! We used the scoundrel follower, who was built at the time, he was actually the character that we used. He wasn’t meant to be the character, he was just a stand-in because he used a crossbow. So there was that one.

Early on, there were a few of us that were really hot on doing an Illusionist. It was a really interesting kind of pet class. But then a bunch of people said it kind of sounded like the “fairy” class – not in a positive manner! – so that kind of dropped off.

Everything else though, I know we had a big list of names, but I don’t really remember them, because obviously they didn’t catch on. Once we committed to a class, it’s such an investment, we were sure.

Gameplanet: Speaking of things that dropped out, the Mystic artisan has been removed. Is that something you’ll ever come back to?

Wilson: There’s certainly a lot of art there, so there’s good production reasons to go back to it. I think we have to solve the problems we had with the character. Primarily, we felt the system was kind of convoluted, and complex, but then we also felt that she didn’t have a lot of diversity in what she did. She had this one complex system and that was it, whereas the others have a couple of things that they can do.

I think we have some ideas. We’re always seeing problems [just] before, or right at the same time as the community is seeing them. A lot of the times we already have solutions in our head. So some of them might work really well [when] put on her, some might not. I wouldn’t be surprised if we used her, certainly it would make sense but we’d have to have good game design reasons.

I wouldn’t want to put something into the game just to add complexity, or to add something new. I think that’s one of the problems people have when they continue to expand games, they just keep piling more stuff on, and sometimes staying strong is good.

Gameplanet: Why do you think so many people are afraid of the concept of Diablo III on consoles?

Wilson: The game industry has been saying the PC is dead for about 15 years, and I think [some gamers] see it as the sign that Blizzard will abandon the PC and go to the console. People pay a lot of money for their PCs, and there are particular kinds of games that are on PC that are not great on consoles, and vice versa.

If you love some of those PC games and you’ve got this PC gaming rig that you’ve invested all this money in, you’re invested! You want the PC to do well. [For such people] Blizzard is one of those companies that you follow, and you feel they champion the PC market.

I don’t see us going away from the PC market. No one at Blizzard thinks the PC is dead, or at least, I’d be shocked if someone did – we make a good living off the PC. What I often like to say is, I really appreciate the game industry telling everyone the PC is dead, and the gaming press saying the PC is dead because it’s really cut down on our competition, and a key to why we’ve been such a runaway success is because, who is competing against us? But there are more PCs out there than all the consoles put together. It’s certainly a market worth going into, worth being in. I don’t see us going away from it. I don’t think they need to be afraid.

Gameplanet: We’re always speaking to people like you, but who are the unsung heroes of Diablo III’s development?

Wilson: Oh man! I’m going to start, in no particular order, with our Localization Producer, Andrew Vestal, and start with him because I think if I had to do localisation, I would jump off a building! He loves it, he’s amazing at it, and he has done such a great job!

Our audio guys handle all our games, they’re a shared department, and their quality level is so high, but it also means they work like dogs, and I’ve never had a project where the audio has gone smoother! I’m very, very focused on audio – every project I’ve worked on, I’ve hand-directed the audio, I’ve talked to the audio director directly, but this is the first project where I didn’t. Wonderful audio would just automatically show up, I wouldn’t even know it was being worked on then suddenly everything sounds amazing! I very rarely had to give any feedback. It was almost a downside, they kind of wondered if they were doing alright because they never heard anything, you know?

Our Battle.net [architects], they do all the infrastructure that makes everything run. I think people sometimes look at our graphical technology and say “you guys aren’t doing the latest bells and whistles, your technology is old hat,” and I’m like, “you should see our server architecture, that’s where our tech is!” Those guys are way smarter than me! No one ever recognises the server architecture guys, but they’re huge!

I’ve missed tons! You know, as they say, it takes a village. There’s something like 23 support groups. There’s a lot of unsung heroes in the making!

Gameplanet: Cool. Going onto Battle.net: there’s the real-money auction house, but what other features would you like to see implemented?

Wilson: Our plan for Battle.net has always been to turn it into something more of a social network than just a platform for starting games. I don’t think it’s there yet, I don’t think it’s even close. I think you can look at it – we’ve got a lot of criticism from people saying that in a lot of ways it’s not even as good as Diablo II. While I would put forward things like cross-game chat and the quick-join capabilities, match-making – things that just didn’t exist in Diablo II, things that I think are more powerful than what you had – but I don’t think they’re wrong.

I think there are some things that we could be better at. We could be better at getting players into chat channels together, we could be better at allowing people to show gear off to one another. So those are problems that I do think we need to look at and continue to solve, but I [also] think that’s the great thing about working at Blizzard. As I said earlier, I don’t have to look at this game as being done, I can say, “Yeah, those are good points, those are things we should make better.”

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50 thoughts on “Jay Wilson Gameplanet Interview

    • I’m glad as well.

      I’ll give him that cross game ‘friends’ lists have come aways since the earlier games.  But I’ve been able to chat with people across game since D2.(possibly earlier)  Just not WoW.

      I also don’t think that matchmaking leads to a better social experience. Game play perhaps, but I haven’t made any friends simply because of the matchmaking experience.

      While I don’t agree with his opinion on what makes a social platform, I am glad they are open to improving it in the future. 

    • My thoughts exactly! I was reading through all that going, “Yep, yep… sounds good… ok… sure…yep… wait, they’re actually aware of, and likely going to be working on, the B.Net issues? YAYYYYYYYYYYY!”

    • the whoel chat channel thing feels like a double-edged sword to me. I went into a public channel in SC2 once and man, was it an experience… Dumb “conversations”, swearing, capitalised letters, “YOU ARE A FA*” type of insults and barely any worthwile sentences coming out of people. I felt like in a high school hallway filled with juniors (and I don’t even remember my school being as bad). And that’s just based on like 30 seconds in there. Needless to say, I left faster than a bolt from a crossbow.

      • Mature people needs to stay there and act like the bigger man. we cant leave stupidity and immaturity to people. its up to us to make the chat a better place!

    • You sure about that? Because the post says 5/1/2012 and we have no article in queue or that was posted yesterday on this.

      • Guess I was mistaken!  Fmulder posted this on the forums, and I just assumed that if that guy posted news, it’s likely on the main page shortly after :P.  

        • This is one of the few that WASN’T sent to us through the “send news button.” I wasn’t in the forums long today, so I missed it 🙁

  1. During the last year or so I also was puzzled to hear “the PC is dead” from various sources. Who puts this kind of nonsensical shit into the world ?

    • People have been saying that for at least a decade. Mostly publishers who wish to slander the PC because they think they know something about piracy. Then WoW was released and we all had a good, long laugh.

    • The same kind of people that say the world is going to end on December 21st or that the Capitalism days are numbered. Doomsayers always turn to the extreme to troll their massage. While the truth might shine through their ravings, reality is much complicated than the black and white world they are seeing.

    • In one of the PC Gamer podcasts from a few months back (UK version) they had an interesting conversation debating that PC is actually getting stronger due to services like Steam etc. and that it actually might be the CONSOLES that will die out.

      It was an interesting perspective, very heartening for a PC gamer.  

  2. Funny, just last week I was thinking about how they could make it better for us pimp our wares considering how much pride people put into their gear. It’s really nice to hear Jay opening up about these things and reading that he’s very much aware of the issue. 😐

    • Have you been to a Blizzard event?  They are very heavily sponsored/partnered with top-tier PC equipment companies (Razer, Nvidia, SteelSeries, etc..).  There’s no way they’d deny the “supremacy” that PC offers.  It’s factually true that PCs can be much more powerful than consoles, so it’s an easy line for them either way, even if the average player’s rig isn’t so hot.

      • Either someone didn’t read the last paragraph are you’re replying to the wrong person 😛 But nah, never been to a blizz event, it’d be nice to see them down here in aus 🙂

  3. but the question is still at large here in my country.. what server are we going to use after the release?

  4. Um
    We are starting to talk about if we’ll do an expansion. We think the game might be successful now [and] warrant such a thing. But we’ll see! We also have a group internally that’s exploring console.
    I can’t believe they said ‘if’ or ‘might’ they know it will be pretty well received already. Even in an interview in Korea he stated things they were thinking of for expansion or at least that was translated in one of the interviews.

    • Just comes across as false modesty / treating us like idiots, to me.

      Truthfully what he means is they’re deciding whether they should do 2 expansion packs or just 1. 

      • Or maybe they’re just so knackered from working on the project, that they want a bit of a breather before they start considering expansion(s)…

        • It’s an odd thing to say when an expansion is already pretty much confirmed. Perhaps, or more likely he’s playing the whole marketing game as he know’s fans will read this and hope they’ll go and and you know 😀 Talk the talk.

      • I think a lot of people misunderstand the business process here. Jay isn’t the one that will make a decision about an expansion, and if he said anything to confirm one he could potentially get in trouble for it. You treat it as false modesty, I think of it as business prudence – not in the sense of “teasing” customers, but in the sense of not wanting to get fired because he said something he shouldn’t have about the company’s plans in an interview.

        Sure, Blizzard have a strong tradition of supporting their games with expansions (and offering solid post-release support online either way, which he acknowledges in this article), but that doesn’t mean that Jay isn’t still working within a corporate hierarchy, or that he doesn’t have superiors to answer to.

        • I entirely understand that people in his position can’t say “yes we’re doing an expansion” to the public because it isn’t his decision to make. But acting like no one at Blizzard has considered or made the decision is misleading.

          My specific nit is his phrase “if we do an expansion”. There really is very very little doubt they’ll be doing at least 1 (as my comment above said: the decision is really if they’ll do 1 or 2). A better thing for him to have said would be “we are stalking to talk about what we might put in an expansion”, which probably accurately represents what they’re actually focussing on right now (which was the question).

    • The “if” / “might” irks me.  Blizzard stated long ago they were doing 2 expansions minimum.

    • I don’t think it would have worked in a game like D3 but it did sound interesting.

  5. I miss the lobby from d2, it was fun to hang around with friends in the chat and see there chars.

  6. “we’ve got a lot of criticism from people saying that in a lot of ways it’s not even as good as Diablo II. While I would put forward things like cross-game chat* and the quick-join capabilities, match-making – things that just didn’t exist in Diablo II, things that I think are more powerful than what you had”

    *Why do i keep hearing this? Am i the only one who in D2 talked shlt with the SC and WC players and joined up the same channels etc back in the days?

    And imo going from customized game names and descriptions to quick-join only is a step back

    Other then that, nice interview. Good to hear that they are at least thinking about b.net improvements

  7. Either Jay is completely clueless about “fear of D3 going to consoles” or just dodged the question.
    That fear stems mostly either from PC games being developed in a way which enables a quick and cheap console port, to maximize profits from both platforms. There are examples of games which were butchered by that, like Deus Ex: Invisible Wars.
    I don’t really think that any reasonable person would object to company making a Console version of their beloved game, as long as the company approaches both versions with appropriate mindsets. A perfect good example of that would be CD Projekt: Red with their Witcher 2, which was almost completely remade for xbox360 release.
    As long as Blizzard goes the Witcher 2 route and not DE:IW, we’ll be fine. Since the “fear of [game] going to consoles” is about whether the developer remembers that different platforms require appropriately designed games.

    • You should watch the newest Interviews with Alex Mayberry, he said almost the exact thing.

    • ^ Agree the problem with ports is they usually end up sucking on PC or the Console, mostly on the PC.

      • That’s because these lazy, greedy devs and pubs insist on outsourcing their PC or console versions. They’ll make a game and then, basically, hire out some third-party company to do a port. That isn’t to say a third party isn’t capable of doing this well (the company who made the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution did a great job) but the problem is a lack of quality in these ports.

        CD Projekt Red, as someone mentioned above, they absolutely nailed it with the Witcher 2 on xbox. This is how it should be done. If D3 is to go to console, Blizzard will also nail it because it won’t just be some cheap port. 

        • Well, that, and when the whole game is designed in a flawed way – not recognising that both platforms have different capabilites and they’re used in a different way.
          And yes, D3 port definitely won’t suffer from 3rd party screwing the whole thing up. What worries me more is that some aspects of console design seeped into PC version – mostly related to skill UI, which would be fine if you had to use it with a controler, but getting in the way when using mouse and keyboard.

    • The reason we feared about D3 going to console has already damaged the game. And Wilson is just avoiding the question.
      The possibility of D3 going to console is the only reason D3 can go up to 7 shortkeys (plus town-portal maybe) instead of 29 for D2.

      • [QUOTE]The possibility of D3 going to console is the only reason D3 can go up to 7 shortkeys (plus town-portal maybe) instead of 29 for D2.[/QUOTE]

        I think you unintentionally reveal the real reason why so many are so hot and bothered by this:  

        You have convinced yourself that any aspect of the game you don’t like was screwed up so that they could accommodate a console port.

        Never mind that those seven hotkeys have been around since long before we heard anything about a potential console port, never mind that such a port has never been officially announced or developed, never mind that console considerations have never ever been mentioned by any of the devs or CMs when they explained the choices they have made — if I don’t like it, it was made for consoles!

    • I think he did address that concern, but from a drastically different perspective.

      For Blizzard, the PC has been their primary market over the years. Most other developers, by contrast, develop for consoles first and foremost, and then port things to PC. By suggesting that they won’t give up on the PC, he’s suggesting that the PC will continue to be their primary focus, which means that games will be developed for the PC first and then ported to consoles, and not the other way around.

  8. Not only didn’t he replied at the second question but he also explained why they couldn’t extrapolate a difficulty curve out of the beta test (since not all spells/monsters affixes/etc… are tested)

  9. For the Record… I got rings in the open beta… there was a vendor in town who sold some that were level 6 or so…

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  12. Everyone is very tensed as that day is knocking at the door.Every team is very good in playing and seem ti quite confident.so from my side i want the team might win this game.

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