Travis 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.
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.
…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:
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?