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[Slashdot] - 'Diablo IV' Developers Work Long Hours, Bracing For Impending Release


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Activision Blizzard employees developing the upcoming dark fantasy action role-playing game "Diablo IV" say it will be hard to meet a June 6, 2023, release date without working significant overtime, in a process they say has been plagued by mismanagement. The release date, which has not been announced publicly, comes in the same month that Microsoft's proposed $68.7 billion acquisition is set to close. The Washington Post reports: Fifteen current and former Blizzard employees spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about company operations. They described a mounting sense of dissatisfaction and malaise among employees as they endured leadership changes at Activision Blizzard and on the "Diablo IV" team. The Diablo team has been losing talent for over a year, as employees look for more competitive wages and better work conditions elsewhere, according to employees. 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. Blizzard did not comment on attrition on the "Diablo IV" team. Last January, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick attributed the company's stock price drop to the game delay of Diablo in a Venture Beat interview, rather than an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the company in July of 2021. "I think what affected the stock price more than [the sexual harassment investigation] is pushing out [the release dates of] 'Overwatch' and 'Diablo,'" he said, explaining that was one of the reasons he was selling the company to Microsoft. His comments frustrated some of the company's developers, who felt he was blaming them unfairly. "Crunching" in the video game industry is a common practice, but it's become controversial in recent years, even while game developers continue working late into the evenings and weekends, sometimes secretly. Despite wishing to avoid crunch, some Blizzard employees in recent months find themselves facing down long hours again, unwilling to publish an unfinished product. They described consequences of crunch that included chronic back injuries, insomnia and anxiety, as well as less time to spend with family or to maintain romantic relationships. [...] "We were never going to hit our date without crunch," said a former Blizzard employee of a previously-intended "Diablo IV" internal release date. "And even with crunch, I don't even know if we would have hit our date." Activision Blizzard is offering "Diablo IV" developers a deal in which they will gain twice as many company stock shares when the game releases. Employees said they were offered more stock to stay on based on their position and seniority, from around $5,000 in value for entry-level workers to upward of $50,000 for more senior employees. [...] "Diablo IV" had multiple internal, unannounced release dates. At one point, 2021 was floated as an internal goal. A more specific date emerged -- December 2022 -- after the title was publicly announced in 2019 at the company's annual gaming convention BlizzCon. Developers appealed for more time to avoid massive cuts to the game. After moving the date to April 2023, the team felt it still needed more time and was able to get the June date approved. The June date feels harder to move, several employees say. "We're at the point where they're not willing to delay the game anymore," said a current Blizzard Albany employee. "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."

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