New report on crunch at Diablo IV’s Blizzard Albany casts doubt on June 6, 2023, early access date

    
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The Washington Post released a new expose of Diablo IV’s Blizzard Albany yesterday afternoon, in which workers are skeptical about the June 6th early access launch date that was then only rumored but since was promised by the company during last night’s Game Awards. Apparently, the date has already shifted internally several times, and workers are reporting excessive crunch and poor wages that are causing top talent to flee.

“One group of about 20 developers working on one portion of the game saw about half of its members leave within a year, according to two former employees,” WAPO writes. In fact, the paper spoke to 15 workers from the company, who recount the effects of crunch on their personal lives, relationships, and health, to say nothing of the brain-drain on the company when workers finally get fed up and quit.

“We were never going to hit our date without crunch,” one former employee told the paper. “We’re at the point where they’re not willing to delay the game anymore,” said another current worker. “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.” But of course, “throwing bodies at the problem” doesn’t speed up a game’s development – not without losing “Blizzard quality.”

“You’re like, ‘Man, I feel like I’m working for the bad guys,'” said yet another former worker in regard to the Blizzard Albany takeover of Vicarious Visions. “I feel like any work I do is tainted by this name.”

A Blizzard entertainment rep says that its own surveys of the team (i.e., the people not yet driven out) show that results about workers’ “professional well-being” are “the most positive they’ve been in years.” Apparently, the company is offering stock shares as compensation for “voluntary” crunching and staying on with the company, but workers note that these rewards incentivize crunching and cutting corners to launch a game and devalue a brand in exchange for future “checks that somebody else has to cover.”

The paper also delves into the game’s early development, which was helmed by two Blizzard stars since toppled in the wake of the sexual harassment lawsuit that began in 2021; workers say that the game’s development under that duo was scattershot, constantly changing, and punctuated by alcohol, with a script that at one point included graphic rape (it no longer does; Blizzard says it was “deemed inappropriate”).

We note again here that while WAPO characterizes the crunch controversy as something from “recent years,” it’s been a lot longer than that; we’re old enough to remember the EA Spouse whistleblowing from 2004, almost 20 years ago.

Source: WAPO
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