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Diablo 4 devs reportedly say crunch feels necessary, claiming lengthy mismanagement

A new report citing numerous Diablo IV developers suggests that it will be hard to hit the game’s intended release date without notable periods of crunch.

Content warning: This article includes references to sexual assault.

The extensive report in The Washington Post states that the game’s release is planned for June 6, 2023, a date that had been leaked earlier this week.

However, the report also includes testimonies from 15 current and former Blizzard employees who, speaking under anonymity, claim that it will be difficult to release the game on this date unless they work “significant overtime”.

The employees also claim that the game’s development has been affected by gross mismanagement throughout the past five years.

Diablo 4 has reportedly seen numerous delays throughout development, with internal goals including planned releases in 2021, December 2022, April 2023 and now the reported June 6, 2023 date.

According to some of the employees speaking to The Washington Post, this new date seems final. “We’re at the point where they’re not willing to delay the game anymore,” one employee is quoted as saying.

“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.”

Blizzard has recently been at the centre of a lawsuit alleging failure to act on harassment and discrimination claims

Other claims in the article include an allegation that creative director Sebastian Stępień, who was creative director on The Witcher 3 and head writer on Cyberpunk 2077, rewrote the game’s script when he joined the team in 2019, adding “disturbing” sub-plots about sexual assault.

According to the article, one version of this script was referred to as the “rape version”, because it repeatedly referred to the rape of one of the game’s female love interest, and referred to her as “the raped woman” in her character description.

Employees reportedly had to plead with Blizzard leadership to change Stępień’s version of the story, and would reportedly repeat a line from the script, “and then she was raped, brutally”, out loud to each other in disbelief.

One former employee told the Post: “Rape has no place in the Diablo universe. It’s not a thing that we should be tackling because it takes a certain amount of nuance and a deft hand.”

A Blizzard spokesperson told the Post that the story was “floated more than three years ago under different leadership as character backstory, not game content”, and that “at that time, it was deemed inappropriate, and we went in a different direction”.

The article also cites one employee who was working for Blizzard Albany, the studio formerly known as Vicarious Visions but renamed in 2021 and brought onto the Diablo project.

Vicarious Visions’ former studio head Jen Oneal was promoted to Blizzard co-leader, but stepped down three months later citing discrimination relating to pay.

The anonymous former employee told the Post: “You’re like, ‘Man, I feel like I’m working for the bad guys’. I feel like any work I do is tainted by this name.”

It’s expected that Diablo 4 will make an appearance tonight during The Game Awards, perhaps with a release date announcement, following a tweet from the game’s official account showing ads outside the event’s venue.

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