A new report from The Washington Post has detailed serious allegations of crunch and mismanagement at Blizzard as developers worked ‘significant overtime’ to hit development deadlines for the upcoming Diablo 4. The Washington Post spoke to over a dozen employees, who claimed the game’s rumoured 6 June 2023 release date was extremely difficult to hit – and required major sacrifice.
‘We’re at the point where they’re not willing to delay the game anymore,’ one developer said. ‘So we all just have to go along and figure out how much we’re willing to hurt ourselves to make sure the game gets released in a good enough state.’
In addition to being required to work overtime, employees were allegedly only offered ‘perks’ in compensation – such as US $25 Door Dash credit, or stock shares in the company, post-game launch. Employees were not specifically required to work overtime, but were still expected to meet overly ambitious timelines.
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In addition to facing allegedly harsh work conditions, several employees speaking to The Washington Post raised concerns about the direction of Diablo 4 – and the contributions of writer Sebastian Stępień (The Witcher 3, Cyberpunk 2077).
According to those working alongside him, he rewrote the game to include overly sexual references, including an alleged subplot about a female character that had been raped. Employees were reportedly ‘disgusted’ and ‘disturbed’ by the details of Stępień’s writing, and it created an uncomfortable atmosphere at work.
This content was eventually removed, but employees speaking to The Washington Post said the remnants of Stępień’s contributions remain, in the form of undeveloped and one-dimensional female characters in the game. Lilith, the game’s main villain, is allegedly handled very poorly in the narrative.
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In addition to these concerns, employees have raised issues with the management of industry veteran Rod Fergusson (Gears of War), who was brought in to lead development in the later stages of the project. Fergusson is alleged to spend Zoom meetings discussing celebrities he’s met, or what movies he’s watched weekly, rather than helping to solve team problems.
Responding to this report, Activision Blizzard provided the following statement:
‘As you may know, game development in general, and Diablo 4 specifically, follows an iterative process where the scope evolves over time,’ it said. ‘Production on the game is going extremely well. Overtime is voluntary and limited to specific teams. We regularly survey the team on their professional well-being, and the latest results are the most positive they’ve been in years.’
Blizzard Entertainment was notably under fire in 2021 with a lawsuit alleging a widespread culture of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
You can read the full report on The Washington Post to discover more about these circumstances, and the alleged experiences of developers.