Who is Diablo 3 Developer Travis Day and Why Are the Devs Posting Now?

DiabloWikiTravis Day has suddenly become (one of) the most visible of the Diablo 3 developers, via some forum posts and his authorship of this week’s itemization blog. Who is he? Where did he come from? Answers, via a post on the Battle.net forums.

Wait wait, who’s Travis Day?
That would be me.

Just wanted to pop in real fast to try to set the record straight since I’ve seen some confusion surrounding that question. I’m not the same Travis Day that works at Activision, though I do occasionally get emails intended for him and we have had some laughs over that in the past. I’ve been a game designer at Blizzard for about 8 years. I used to work on World of Warcraft, some of you may have seen me at early Blizzcons on WoW panels. I transferred to the Diablo team because, like the rest of the development team, I am passionate about the game and wanted to help contribute to making it even better.

You guys have probably noticed that direct posts by Travis and also Wyatt Cheng have proliferated in recent days, after years and years of only CMs speaking for the Diablo 3 project — Bashiok ago, more recently Lylirra, Vaeflare, and Grimiku. (Click any of those linked names to see all the news posts quoting them.)

Blizzard hasn’t issued any explanation as to why the D3 devs are suddenly speaking directly to the fans, and it’s clearly a reversal of policy. Long time readers might remember a fairly big argument that kicked up back in March 2011 when WoW lead dev Ghostcrawler officially stopped posting in the WoW forums, thus crushing our hopes that we’d ever seen any Blue posts straight from Jay Wilson or other D3 devs. (And we never did, until Travis and Wyatt began posting last week.)

At the time, Bashiok explained/defended the policy and I quoted him, then offered a fairly vitriolic counterpoint, spurred by frustration over years of watching the community’s window of access to the developers being steadily squeezed shut by a wall of PR censorship. (It’s too bad that post is from our old news script, since the comments were eaten when we imported the post into WordPress – I remember some great arguments in that thread, plus some readers calling me out for my excessive pessimism.)

So why have the devs started talking directly to us, with all the developer blogs and now forum posts? I think it’s probably a concerted effort to win back some trust and support from their fans. It’s not news to anyone reading this that the first 10 months of Diablo 3 have been an often-rocky ride, and a lot of the anger over the game turned into rage at Bashiok the CM and Jay Wilson the Game Director. Those guys became scapegoats (deservedly or not is open to debate) and Blizzard clearly decided to try to win back the community with new, chatty, friendly, personable community managers, and more direct interaction with the developers themselves.

I certainly can’t complain about it, given my past comments on the subject, and my impression is that other people in the community are pretty positive about it as well. The proof remains in the pudding, of course. All the “saying the right things” and “they get it” forum posts and dev blogs in the world will mean nothing if those changes in attitude and design philosophy don’t show up in the game, but I I bet most of you guys would agree that the communication has improved greatly over the past month(s).

A fan shared his approval of the developer posts and got a few replies from Lylirra on the role of CMs and how devs can fill in as well. Here’s a quote from her; click through to read the whole thread.

The role of a CM really comes down to three things: engaging with our players, providing relevant communication, and representing the voice of both the community and the developers.

…So, our job as CMs — or at least part of our job — is to work with designers like Wyatt and Travis to publish developer journals and patch previews or host Q&As, and it’s ultimately why we encouraged them to join us on the forums. I’m super excited they were on board with posting, because they’re awesome people (and awesome designers), and I know they can help provide the kind of interaction so many of you appreciate.

The full thread:

No disrespect to Lylirra and company, but having someone deep involved in the game answer questions is great.

Amount of disrespects taken? Zero. 😉

The role of a CM really comes down to three things: engaging with our players, providing relevant communication, and representing the voice of both the community and the developers. We’re sort of like shepards, but instead of managing adorable little sheep, we manage information — information from developers to players, as well as information from players back to developers. When it comes to getting information to players from developers, though, sometimes it’s better or more meaningful if it’s coming from the source (i.e. from the developers themselves). We totally, 100% agree.

Things like patch notes, feature previews or announcements, polls, highlighting cool things the community has done, hotfix updates…that’s all firmly within the realm of community management. Explaining design philosophies and discussing how those philosophies have contributed to certain decisions or are influencing future changes? Sure, we can do that (and often do), but those are the kinds of details we know players would prefer to hear from the development team directly whenever possible/appropriate.

So, our job as CMs — or at least part of our job — is to work with designers like Wyatt and Travis to publish developer journals and patch previews or host Q&As, and it’s ultimately why we encouraged them to join us on the forums. I’m super excited they were on board with posting, because they’re awesome people (and awesome designers), and I know they can help provide the kind of interaction so many of you appreciate.

That all said, the main focus of our developers is and will always be developing the game, so you’re going to see CMs posting far more often. We hope to continue this trend of increased communication, though — not only because it’s something you’ve asked for, but also because we know it’s important.

I’m guessing that you are a player. I’m also guessing that when you play the game, you think to yourself, “WOW! The community is right! This _______(insert issue) is completely messed up” and you let the devs know about it.
Lylirra: Sure. There are times when I’m playing and I don’t totally agree with or understand why a specific mechanic works the way it does, or I think it can be improved, and I’ll hit up the developers about it. We talk a lot, about a lot of different things, and it comes up. Sometimes it’s about things I’ve seen other players post on, so the conversation gets framed that way, and sometimes it’s just a personal/trivial thing (like why can’t I dye my fem barb’s hair or how come the UI for comparing a two-handed weapon against two one-handers isn’t all that intuitive).

We don’t just relay the concerns we agree with personally, though. If the community has feedback that’s constructive, well-intentioned, and reflects what appears to be a relevant portion of the players base, we make sure that feedback gets to the right place.

Some of your posts have the “middle man” feel about them. Like you are on the outside trying to bring the players together with the developers. A non-player. *shrug*
Lylirra: I’m both an advocate for the player and one for the developers. So, I’m kind of in the middle, and I’m kind of always working to bring the players and the developers together. You’re right. (There’s totally a reason I chose Auriel as my avatar.)

In a way, I guess that makes me somewhat neutral? But only because it helps keep things on track. It in no way dampens my energy or love for the game. I mean, I wouldn’t be here — and I don’t think you would be, or our developers would be either — if I wasn’t passionate about D3.

I begged the question in the intermission, so I’ll ask it directly here. Do you guys like the new style of interaction? Direct posts from devs, the new/friendly CMs working so differently than Bashiok’s sarcastic style? Do you think Bashy and Jay Wilson deserved all the hate that went their way, or were they just the default targets for angry fans as the most visible spokespeople for Diablo 3?

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29 thoughts on “Who is Diablo 3 Developer Travis Day and Why Are the Devs Posting Now?

  1. Damage control. They need to make sure people have hope that Diablo 3 can be fixed. They need their money from lots of expansion sales.

    Everything that was ready 5 months before Diablo3 released (PvP, talisman with charms, the Mystic, adding gems slots to equipment) will be in the next 2 expansions.

    • Stop bit***** whelp. You should appreciate you’re getting any comments from a DEV. A DEV?! Seriously, I’m a DEV and I would sure as hell be pissed off if in addition to the actual work I’d have to post reponses on forums to satisfy some angry kids who after 1000h of playing for $60 cannot get their perfect Windforce.

      • So your idea of working is sitting around doing nothing but Solitaire all day?

        Diablo 3 has been out nearly a year and is still in the throes of retail beta. There is a lot to be said for the work ethic of the d3 dev team.

        • That is an extremely ignorant post directed at the dev team. Unless you work there, you have no idea what goes on in there and what the causes are for all your complaints. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them were due to bad design decisions and policies from upper echelons, not bad DEVELOPMENT. You have to realise that there’s a distinction between design and development. Usually developers follow directions established by the design team and make it happen via code. Sure, they can submit their own ideas but that doesn’t mean they’ll make it in because designers can veto them.

          So to simply say that developers sit there all day playing Solitaire is a compeltely unfounded slap in the face of the developers. How would you feel if you were insulted because of something you completely didn’t have control over?

          • Sorry are you even serious? Are we talking about the same game?

            They have not gotten a single thing right with this game SINCE launch. Not one. Items were crap on launch; items were still crap after Travis Day’s brother Andrew Day supposed 1.04 item fix; now nearly a year after launch and items are still an epic joke. No pvp anywhere in sight. No customization at all, every hero class looks the same on the entire server with the exception being dual wield or skorn. Took them what 5 months to fix reflect damage? 3 months before that to fix their repair cost hike? Even now they arent ‘adding new content’ to the game; THEY ARE STILL FIXING THEIR SCREWUPS FROM A YEAR AGO. This game is still in retail beta, which is a JOKE for this company and a game of this franchise, the rate at which they are doing things is PATHETIC and 99% of the ideas since launch have NOT come from THE DEV TEAM, but from the FANBASE, and now I can tell you I am not collecting a cheque every time I contribute an idea on the forums, are you? Yet here we are doing the developers jobs.

            Really and you think my comment is ignorant? I think you are ill-versed on this subject and ignorant yourself if you think that this pathetic work ethic they have shown, plus their extremely hostile attitude towards their fanbase has been UNTIL THIS WEEK, has been anything resembling professional.

            So I ask, what planet are you from? Or at least wheres that rock you live under??

  2. The Starcraft2 Devs have been doing a ton of interaction with the community since the HoTS beta which has probably proven a positive out come. The community respects Dustin and David for it – they even did a reddit AMA recently. Based on the Starcraft2 scenario and how positive the community felt about it, I would say the devs have been given a green light in the D3 universe to do the same from the higher up positions.
    On another note I don’t think this recent pop up of the D3 devs is consistent enough to label it a change, if we see them continuing this interaction and showing their intentions while ALSO seriously receiving community feedback which I believe they may with Jay gone this could be a good thing.

  3. Jay and Bashiok deserved all the flak they got. They were acting all smug defending a failure of a game. At the very least they could apologize to us by acting friendly.

    While it is obvious that the new CMs are just doing nothing but patronizing and doing damage control, it is a breath of fresh air from the previous fan interaction.

  4. They want you to buy console versions soon 😛

    I any case, it’s appreciated of course.

    • And all this happens after the announcement of PS3/4 version (with no so good reactions). I think this is just another PR stunt. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of those important “fixes” will be available only in the next expansion, because hey, they alway care about us.

  5. “The role of a CM really comes down to three things: engaging with our players, providing relevant communication, and representing the voice of both the community and the developers.”

    Ha. More like damage control, silence opposition, and represent the voice of corporation.

  6. Btw, he is a WoW guy! Why did he mention this. Oh the horror.
    This will spawn a whole new wave of WoW-hating forum posts for sure…

  7. “…like the rest of the development team, I am passionate about the game and wanted to help contribute to making it even !!better!!.”
    * good – better – the best

    So he thinks that D3 is in a ‘good’ shape. I think this is the main problem. Everybody that are working on a D3 are thinking the same thing, that D3 is all sunshine and rainbows.

    I really want from Travis to make D3 a good game, then a better one.

    • He doesn’t necessarily think that. Because even if he agrees with the players and thinks that many of the design decisions D3 endured are bad he cannot say so publicly.
      But I agree with you insofar that I get annoyed whenever I read some comment like that that indicates they have done a good job with the game. Because they really have not. It has gotten better than it was upon launch but the real gamebreaking issues remain unchanged. 🙁

  8. We need more big names posting honest on the forums.
    Take Chris Metzen for example.
    He’s like one of the Gods of the franchise now. He’s hiding in the shadows and only comes out at BlizzCon or rare events.
    When he walks on stage you can tell the journalists go FULL HOMO for him.

    Metzen also seems like a guy who’s like “I’m a BAMF and I do what I want. I appreciate your opinion, but really, fuck you.”

    • Given the general reaction to D3’s story, I shudder to think of the reaction forum posts by Metzen would get. And as you say, I think Metzen’s much happier with his self-crafted role as the one person at Bliz with some fashion sense who comes out on stage at Blizzcon to announce something new, and then vanishes back from the public eye.

      Imagine how much more fun and how much lighter workload he and Morhaime have than say, Jay Wilson, or the other lead devs?

      • Yep, the community would flame him like maniacs.
        I think guys like Morhaime have earned their status of doing nothing important but still earn $$$. What I’ve heard he worked really hard in his early years to get where he’s at now.

        But Metzen? What has he done besides (fucking up) D3’s story?

      • Why blame Metzen? He’s responsible for the lore, not the story itself. Here’s a quote from mobygames.com on Diablo 3 credits:

        World Design & Writing: Leonard Boyarsky, Michael Chu, Pat Nagle, Valerie Watrous

        Also, I feel sad for Boyarsky. Damn shame, as Tychus Findlay would’ve have sad…

  9. Is it possible that some of this is being driven by competition? As the Kickstarter option gains popularity, developers have a better platform to interact with fans and supporters. Perhaps the big studios are starting to notice and react?

    Probably not; I just have Torment on my mind.

    • I had the same feeling.

      Project Eternity is pretty freaking great with daily 10 min long videos from Josh Sawyer acting all goofy and talking about PnP RPGs. Hell yes, it’s a better method. Blizzard would be stupid to not take notice of how well this works when you don’t put your devs behind a fucking iron wall.

      This damn well better become the status quo.

      • I meant *weekly* updates or rather bi-weekly at times, but you know what I mean!!!

  10. the whole thing about d3 is the slow turnover rate of new patches. I am sure all the ideas of making the game better are there. Just that it takes them forever to implement, which is frustrating.

  11. Certainly a positive development. I remember early on when there was much clamoring for change in the game and wanting to know what was coming down the pipeline in the future to improve the experience, the word “transparency” kept being thrown around. People wanted to see into the D3 offices at Blizzard and understand what the thought process was. Well, having the developers right there posting what they’re considering is a huge step forward in achieving exactly that. The developer blogs are a good static way of achieving that since they exist in that moment, but the devs actually posting seems a more dynamic way of achieving this goal because they are right there ebbing and flowing with the actual forum conversations.

  12. I’m curious to see what is motivating this refreshing change. D3 is a fun game, but disappointing in many ways. I think most people agree with this. I felt the same way about sc2. I wonder what sort of sales numbers blizzard is seeing for hots. My guess is they must be disappointing enough that they are trying to win people back. Sure, hardcore sc people will buy, but I suspect there is a fair population who feels ‘burned’ by d3 and won’t be buying from blizz again until d3 is ‘fixed.’

    I have long bought blizzard games because they were incredible. Sc2 and d3 have missed the mark for me, so I probably won’t buy any more blizz games until I see the issues with d3 fixed, making d3 clearly better than d2.

  13. Great read this made my lunch break. I think any change in policy which puts the devs more on the spot for community interaction has to be a good one. Nowhere to go but up from here (hopefully)… I just wish those damn patch goals where better or they got into the more interesting Q&A session that addresses the top issues. Then we’d really be making some progress here.

  14. Communication seems to be getting better, definitely. The whole process of improving the game should feel like we’re on the same team, instead of it being a ‘players vs devs’ deathmatch with CM referees.

    • I’ll take your statement and raise you one. How cool would it be if the developers were the most rabid critics of their own game? Posting laundry lists of things they are PASSIONATE about fixing in order for the game to be more player friendly. Taking criticisms of the game to heart and going a step further with the solutions that come at a crazy insane pace.

      “We didn’t just improve pack density like you asked. We allowed you to travel freely between acts… oh and we added a cow level with insane density and high difficulty. Have fun guys.” and imagine that announcement coming just two months after launch.

      Instead 9 months after launch we get. “We’re working on density but it’s a really hard and complex problem to solve. Might take a long time like a couple months or more maybe. Also we might screw it up completely… I dunno.”

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