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Who’s Who @Blizzard: The Director Shuffle

by - 10 years ago

Just in time to drive a truck over part of my Warcraft 4 theory yesterday, check out this tweet:

To review, I asserted that Jay Wilson, who’s directing SOMETHING at Blizzard, and the non-titan unannounced game title, were connected together, and that they might be forming the core of a new RTS team to build WC4, based on Wilson’s prior RTS experience. However, Booth’s tweet, combined with his profile stating that he’s a Game Director at Blizzard, and that the producer position is specifically for that unannounced game title, seems to provide harder evidence that Booth is directing the team.

Which gives rise to two new questions: what is Booth’s team building, and where is Jay Wilson anyway?

Let’s address the second question first. Linking the directors we know to the games they’re directing, we’ve got these:

  • Team 2: Tom Chilton, directing World of Warcraft
  • Team 3: Josh Mosqueira, directing Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
  • Team 1: Dustin Browder, directing Heroes of the Storm (previously directed StarCraft 2)
  • Team 5: Eric Dodds, who’s Lead Designer on Hearthstone.

We also know Jeff Kaplan, who was previously a lead designer and director on WoW, left to work on Titan. While it hasn’t been specifically stated that he’s directing it, his LinkedIn profile was updated in March to reflect his current position as “Game Director and Vice President.” What else happened around the time? Oh yeah.

Remember me?

Meanwhile, there’s still the mystery of Jay Wilson. If he’s not directing any of the other teams, and if the unannounced game title is Booth’s, there would seemingly be no place to run to.  But here’s another theory I’ll throw out there on the hope that some random retweet tomorrow crushes it.

What if Jay Wilson is directing Legacy of the Void? Dustin Browder was ID’d repeatedly at BlizzCon as the Game Director for Heroes of the Storm, not Starcraft (though that might be chalked up to the veritable lack of new information on SC2). Wilson’s departure from the D3 director seat happened in January of this year, while Heart of the Swarm was released in March. The timing would seem to line up; Browder wraps production on HotS so it can go gold, and shifts his focus to Heroes so that it can be a big feature at BlizzCon. While Wilson was put in charge of developing LotV with all the non-MOBA assets in Team 1. Aside from the part where Wilson’s notoriety following D3’s release wouldn’t do any favors for LotV, Blizzard probably wants more of the buzz focused on Heroes, since LotV is so far off.

Not very ominous, is it?

That brings us back to where we started: if Wilson’s on Team 1 and not on the unannounced game title, and if that title is being directed by Mike Booth, then what is this Team 6? And who is Mike Booth anyway?

The brief history: Some years back, Booth founded Turtle Rock Studios, which ported Valve’s Counter-Strike for the Xbox and later started developing Left 4 Dead. Partway through that production, Valve bought up Turtle Rock and completed production of the game. Booth stayed with Valve (after Turtle Rock’s other staff were set loose after L4D’s release), and presented at GDC regarding the AI development he’d done for L4D’s infected and for bots in Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. Booth was also involved with developing the AI-heavy “Mann vs. Machine” update for Valve’s Team Fortress 2 in 2012. And now, Booth is at Blizzard.

There’s not a lot of reason to assert that Blizzard brought on the creator of Left 4 Dead because they want to do a zombie game (jokes about the SC2 custom map “Left 2 Die” aside); Booth’s experience with AI has got application in all of Blizzard’s games when it comes to getting NPCs to behave logically in a complex environment. But if he is a game director of his own team, and that team is publicly pulling in artists and producers from outside the company, that means something is certainly up. And finally, the timing might suggest that Booth is actually the one directing the Titan reboot instead of Kaplan.

One thing is for certain: whatever Booth is building is going to be really heavy on AI. However, it’s also being kept pretty hush-hush, and we likely won’t see any public acknowledgement of it for awhile.

(See what I did there, Blizzard? You are welcome to contradict me with an out-of-nowhere announcement in 3… 2… 1…)

posted in Diablo
JR Cook

JR has been writing for fan sites since 2000 and has been involved with Blizzard Exclusive fansites since 2003. JR was also a co-host for 6 years on the Hearthstone podcast Well Met! He helped co-found BlizzPro in 2013.

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