Like many Blizzard fans, I have enjoyed your games for years. For 16 years in fact. I can vividly remember the first time I played a Blizzard game - it was Diablo,
and I was 11 yrs old. It was introduced to me by my Mom's friend, who was old enough to be my grandmother. She couldn't understand why the scroll of Town Portal said "right click to read" and when she would right click, nothing came up to actually read. Well, I played around with it and a few minutes later I was starting my own character. A Rogue. I can still remember gawking in awe at how incredible the graphics were, and yes, I can remember being scared when I opened that fateful door and heard "AAHHHH Fresh Meat..." come from the other side. I read the Diablo manual like a book - the story drawing me in and satisfying some part of me that I hadn't known was neglected. These are my fondest memories, and no matter what happens, they will remain.
Throughout those years I've played your games and eagerly awaited the next. I went through three Warcraft II discs, and when Diablo II came out (finally - after checking the website for new screen shots everyday for over a year) me and my best friend walked four miles through a storm to Wal Mart to buy it the day it came out. We had to combine what little money we had to afford one copy, and we had to skip lunch and dinner that day. Playing in shifts and sating our hunger and weariness with coffee, we fought our way to the end of all the acts and around 6:30 am, I became the first of us to beat it.
Your games have gone beyond simple entertainment for me though, they have provided me with a much needed source of sanity through some of the darkest times in my life. Aside from being a gamer, I am also a soldier. I am active duty Army, my job is Infantry. Diablo 2 was my choice during my first tour in Iraq - Me and my buddy would spend our down time playing through over and over together on a little network we set up with this crappy little router we found at a bazaar while on patrol one day. It was the first time I had ever gotten a character to lvl 99 legitimately. A few years later during my second tour, Warcraft 2, 3, and their expansions were where my free time went. I couldn't play WoW at the time and so I enjoyed going back through and soaking up the stories. The cinematic where Arthas returns and kills his father still gives me goosebumps. A year later I was back in Iraq, again, and this time it was Starcraft that held my fancy. I played through the original and Brood War eagerly awaiting my collectors edition of SC2 to arrive in the middle of the desert. When it came, it was the single happiest day of that deployment, despite the fact that I had to beg and plead with my XO to let me hook my laptop up to the Internet to install it. I gave up precious sleep to play, carefully making choices between missions and upgrades. When I saw the cinematic of Kerrigan being abandoned in New Gettysburg, I actually shed a tear.
Now I am on my fourth deployment, in Afghanistan this time. Diablo 3 would of been my game this time, but it is not to be - the constant connection requirement make it impossible for me to play it. So, instead, my collectors edition copy lies unopened on my desk at home, awaiting my return in another 6 months.
But why am I telling you all this? Am I trying to impress you with stories of dedication and loyalty? No. I am not so naive to think that you, as a co founder of Blizzard would be impressed by my life or my stories. But alas, I can't help but feel like sometimes you and your employees can't see the forest through the trees. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd said his biggest regret about making the album Dark Side of the Moon was that he was never able to listen and experience it for the first time as a fan would. Their was no excitement and anticipation, no awe factor as the music played - and why would there be for him? He helped make it. Helped write it. Such is the price the muses demand of the creative - to never be able to enjoy their own work as much as the people they create for. After 16 years I can't help but wonder if after all this time the price for Blizzard has grown to steep.
Where are the epic manuals to compliment your games? Full of rich lore and back story. To put it bluntly, your games have not been up to your own standards lately. You reached a peak with World of Warcraft, somehwere around Wrath - which is hard for me to admit, because I was avidly against MMOs (even yours) for a long time. Something happened with WoW though, and I think after years of playing I have been able to identify where it went wrong. Before WoW, while developing a game, you had 100% of that game to work on - when that game was release, the end was written and that was that. Nothing was gonna change it, and 7 years down the line it was gonna end the same way every time - a finished product, minus patches for the occasional bug or three. Along came this monster though, and its name was WoW.......
Suddenly, everything changed. No matter how shiny you make it, or how much content you add, there is no end, the credits will never roll, and as long as there is a single server running, someone will demand more and someone else will be unhappy with it. This in itself is not the whole problem, and it certainly isn't a problem unique to WoW - this is the issue plaguing every MMO developer. At some point though, you have to ask yourself, How much is too much? When is OK to stop? SHOULD we stop? The answer to the last part is yes. Undoubtedly YES. The end of Wrath would of been a good place to call it quits, even stopping at the end of Cata would still feel fulfilling - Arthas dead, Deathwing dead, one has to ask - who is left? Im sure that very question was asked in many a design team meeting, but I don't think the answer will ever satisfy as it once might of. Whether your willing to admit it or not, the design team is done. I think over 7 years they have squeezed every last fresh idea they could come up with out of their heads and recycled more polygons and textures than most games have to begin with. It is commendable, and it has been a terrific ride, but I think its time to hang it up.
I can say this with the amount of conviction that I have because I can see what you can not. The whole Roger Waters thing. As an outsider I can tell you that WoW is starting to infect your other games, and this is most definitely not a good thing. One of the best things about Blizzard was that it used to be each universe was different, 100% unique in its look and feel. I could never confuse the play style of Diablo for Starcraft, or Starcraft for Warcraft - they were the all separate and yet equally fun. Now, there is cross contamination. I saw it 3 years ago when some of the first information about D3 was being released on your websites. As time went on, it became even more apparent. No amount of denial will ever cover the fact that the Demon Hunter is just a combination of WoW's rogue and hunter. You didn't even try hide it, keeping many of the talents named and described the same. The Mage? Same thing. Why do the potions all of a sudden have cool downs? Why does ANYTHING in D3 have a cool down? The Diablo series has always been the child of the late Blizzard North, and I cant help but feel that D3 was an orphan that was adopted by WoW. From the day it was announced to the day it was released, everything I have seen and read about D3 have filled me with an ever increasing amount of anxiety that it will not be true to its namesake - from the art direction to the talent system, I can't help but wonder how much of it will really be Diablo and how much will be a single player version of WoW.
Am I putting too much thought into this? I don't know, maybe. Perhaps the uncertainty of tomorrow involved with my line of work causes me to cling desperately to anything I consider to have a solid foundation. You used to be that to me, a rock solid company that no matter how !@#$ty my day got, I could depend on you to deliver an epic gaming experience to take my mind off of it. Now though, I see the cracks and I end up feeling like Obiwan staring at Anikan screaming, "YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THE CHOSEN ONE!!" with tears streaming down my face. I want to believe that somewhere in there the company that has been such a beacon to me still exists, that Activision hasn't managed to consume all of your souls yet. I want to believe that, but with each new title I see and with each new press release I lose a little more faith and a part of what has kept me playing dies.
What I do know is this. I am not willing to let go of all hope yet. I can only implore you to remember your roots - To remember what it was like to create for the sake of creating, and not for the purpose of appeasing the masses. My faith may be shaken, but it is not gone.
Thank you for listening,