Peter Hu, developer on D2 and main force behind patch 1.10 (skill synergies, Uber Diablo, Enigma), recently did an AMA, with some very interesting insights

I found this AMA after Wyatt Cheng tweeted some musings on Diablo 2 after the D2R release. There are some interesting tidbits that I'll post below from both Twitter and the AMA, but you should read through both!


Patch 1.10

What's also really notable is that Peter was ridiculously passionate about getting 1.10 out. The year 1.10 was being developed – 2003 – was the same year some of the Blizzard North leadership (Brevik, Erich and Max, Tyler, Roper etc.) left to form Flagship studios.

In the wake of those departures most of us who remained at Blizzard North worked on an early version of Diablo 3. But Peter had his own plans. Peter wanted to go to Flagship as well but he was so passionate about making sure skill synergies and mod support got in.

As a result, Peter "stayed behind" at Blizzard North until he could finish the D2 1.10 patch. Once the patch was completed Peter left too to join Flagship. He stayed months extra to put some final loving touches on the game.

Oh and going back – how could I forget some other super important things Peter had added to 1.10 before he left. Uber Diablo, Annihilus Charm, and Enigma.

Body Parts

If you were to visit Blizzard North around this time the first thing you'd notice on Peter's door was an 8.5×11 piece of paper with the words "THIS IS A PRO BODY PARTS OFFICE". On my first day at the company I thought whoever was in that office was really into cars or something.

It wasn't until later that I learned about how one of the features cut from Diablo 2 prior to ship was the body parts feature, where body parts from monsters could be used by your character. The team was split between those who thought the feature was awesome and those who wanted the feature cut. I suppose the feature got cut but Peter wanted it known that he was in favor 🙂

Blizzard North Exodus

Q: Do you know what actually went down when the mass exodus of staff from Blizzard North took place? Everyone says it was due to Vivaldi, but what exactly did they do that led to it?

A: Yeah. That's quite a story. So, originally, the top 3 at Blizzard North (Dave Brevik, Erich Schaefer, and Max Schaefer) along with the top guys at Blizzard (Mike Morhaime, Allen Adham, et al) heard that Vivendi was in the middle of selling Blizzard (all without even bothering to tell any of the guys at Blizzard). They tried to get in contact with people at Vivendi doing the sale, to no success. So they all put in their resignations together to try to get someone to notice them (something they'd done and that had worked in the past).

Vivendi accepted the resignations for the Blizzard North founders. I don't know what entered into that decision. Maybe there were no Diablo products imminently shipping whereas WoW had just shipped or was about to ship (I forget which).

So the next day, Dave, Max, and Erich call a company meeting and tell us they'd been let go. I remember telling them immediately after the meeting that no matter what they did after, count me in.

Anyway, the management staff from Irvine came in to try to figure out how to put the pieces back together. We were working on two projects at the time, Diablo III and code-name Starblo. I believe they were intending to just get everything working again as expediently as possible. However, in the process of interviewing everyone and taking stock, they discovered that there was major rancor between two factions of the company. There were some people that absolutely despised each other (which is why the studio had started to work on two projects in the first place). In the interest of getting things back on track w/o any of the previous senior management, I believe they decided to cut basically one of the teams in order to leave a studio w/o the dysfunction that probably would've prevented it from prospering given what had happened. That resulted in nearly half the people being asked to leave (the Diablo III team at the time). I think it was an impossible decision, and no matter what they did, Blizzard North was doomed w/o its founders and leaders. After about a year, that proved out, and they shut down the studio and asked the remaining people to go to Irvine. A handful of people went.

Blizzard North's Diablo 3

Q: Did you work on Blizzard North's version of Diablo III, if so, how was it?

A: Yeah, I worked on BN's version of Diablo III (as well as the unannounced project that was being developed at the same time). There were actually two competing engines that were being built by two separate teams, one for Diablo III, and one for an unannounced title (code named Starblo – make of that what you will). We eventually collapsed the teams together to make Diablo III, jettisoned most of the D3 engine and moved everything over to the Starblo engine (taking a few ideas from the former engine like the particle systems editor). That engine was eventually the foundation for the shipping version of Diablo III (the lead was Jason Regier, who continued on as Diablo III programming lead when everything moved over to Irvine). By the time I left, it was all pipeline and foundational work… not much of a playable game. There were lots of design docs, but I think they all got thrown out by the new team.

What would you change in D2?

Q: Looking back at d2 and how it evolved over the years, what top3 or top5 things would you have changed/added back then given today's knowledge?

A: Hi w3sp! That kind of question is really hard to answer, because you never know if doing X thing differently would've impacted Y other thing that happened and may have been necessary for the success of the product. It's obviously easier to answer for games that failed because you don't have that concern.

For me, I feel like D2 could've been a lot more mod-friendly. I loved the custom game feature in the xCraft games, and I think a similar system for ARPGs would've been the bomb. It just wasn't a concern for most of the development lifetime of D2, and it's not a system that's easily implemented later (I did what I could).

I would highly recommend reading the entire thing!


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