Diablo 4 development plagued by chaos and mismanagement claims new report

Diablo 4 development plagued by chaos and mismanagement claims new report

A new investigation into the development of Diablo 4 has painted a picture of chaos and mismanagement at Activision Blizzard, which has reportedly led to a push to meet a release date – which would be June 6 next year – that the staff believe it is “unlikely” to be met without “lots of overtime or cut duties”. [UPDATE: That date has now been confirmed during a trailer shown at The Game Awards].

In a new Washington Post report, assembled after speaking with 15 current and former Blizzard employees, it is claimed that the development of Diablo 4 was troubled from the start, with leadership at the time instilling in the project a “sense of ‘inertia’ while much of the game has been constantly overhauled and scrapped – including a planned Battle Royale mode.

Speaking to The Washington Post, team members largely blamed director Luis Barriga and lead designer Jesse McCree, who both left the studio in 2021, amid serious allegations of institutionalized discrimination and harassment. at Activision Blizzard. Colleagues claim, for example, that McCree would “become intrigued by different aspects of the game, then lose interest and pass it on to other people without finishing what he started.”

The Diablo 4 trailer, unveiled at BlizzCon 2019.

“You could tell they weren’t very confident,” a former Blizzard employee told the Post. “There wasn’t a lot of vision for the game. They changed their minds a lot, sometimes without even giving things a chance, like over the weekend. It started to start very slowly to wear people down.”

Creative director Sebastian Stępień – who previously served as director on The Witcher 3 and head writer on Cyberpunk 2077 – is also cited as a “source of unrest” within the team, with employees discussing some “particularly disturbing revisions”. that Stępień made to the script on joining the project.

A version of his revised screenplay, written in 2019, reportedly “repeatedly mentioned the rape of a love interest and referred to this female character as the raped woman as its main description”. Two employees recall a line in the script saying, “And then she was raped, brutally.” Interviewees say the inclusion of sexual assault was added simply to make Diablo “grittier and darker”, rather than engaging with the subject matter in a sensitive way.

After employees pleaded with executives to revise this version of the story, it was eventually reworked, with the female character cut from the story entirely. Activision did not deny the Post’s claims, instead stating, “The story in question was released over three years ago under different management as a character story, not as game content. .”

Stępień’s insistence on “taking the whole game and rewriting it himself” reportedly “delayed story development for months”, compounding the problems caused by Diablo 4’s indecisive early development. in turn, would have been massively affected by staff departures, with key employees moving elsewhere for “more competitive salaries and better working conditions”.

Activision ultimately decided to bring Vicarious Visions, now known as Blizzard Albany, into the project, but the process of merging the teams would have been “bumpy”, given the latter’s relative inexperience with Diablo and the “few plans” in place to integrate the two.

“At some point, throwing bodies at the problem doesn’t solve the problem,” a current Blizzard Albany employee told The Washington Post. “If you add them quite late in the project, it doesn’t matter that you’ve hired an entire studio, because they’ll never be up to date in time to help with the shipping game.”

Following its development shake-up, Diablo 4 has reportedly seen several unannounced internal release dates over the years, with Activision at one point floating 2021 as its release target. This was reportedly delayed to December 2022 after the game was revealed at BlizzCon 2019, but the developers reportedly “requested more time to avoid massive cuts to the game.” This led to a revised release target of April 2023, but the team “felt they needed even more time”, after which the launch would have been pushed back to June 6 next year.

“We’re at the point where they don’t want to delay the game anymore,” a current Blizzard Albany employee told The Post. “So we all have to follow through and figure out how badly we’re willing to hurt each other to make sure the game comes out in a good enough state.”

In order to meet its latest release goal, Activision Blizzard is reportedly incentivizing employees to work longer hours by promising benefits some say are “paltry,” including profit sharing to cover meals. Activision Blizzard, for its part, told the Post, “overtime is voluntary and limited to specific teams.”

Unsurprisingly, employees the publication spoke to said Diablo 4’s strained development process could impact both the quality of the game – some think it will be “fun” while others others describe it as “poor but fair” – and on employee health.

Concerns over working conditions continued to plague Activision Blizzard following a California state lawsuit that called the company “a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women” in last July. Since then, Activision has faced multiple new allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as efforts to organize employees in search of better and fairer working conditions.

In response, Activision continued its attempts to thwart the organizing efforts, albeit to no avail, and announced the results of its own internal investigation into itself, saying it found “no widespread harassment” in the company. Today he also announced he is counter-suing the DFEH, which he says ‘deliberately unleashed a hurricane of hostile media coverage’.

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