The current surge of lawsuits and investigations related to sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims has touched every element of game production at Activision Blizzard. Perhaps no project has been more directly damaged than Diablo 4, which lost its game director without explanation at the height of the controversy. Of course, Diablo 4 production has proceeded, and the Blizzard project has now been revealed to have a new game director.
Blizzard announced the news in their quarterly Diablo 4 update, which the new game director authored. Joe Shely, who was promoted from inside the Diablo 4 development team rather than recruited in from another section of Blizzard, is taking over the project.
Since 2017, Shely has started working on Diablo 4. He began as the lead encounter designer for Diablo 4 and was promoted to head game design in 2019. When he started on Diablo 4, he probably had no idea he’d be the project’s game director four years later.
Shely has also been a member of the Diablo crew since the beginning of Diablo 4. He worked on Diablo 3 for around three years, initially as an encounter designer and later as a team leader working on the Diablo 3: Rise of the Necromancer DLC. Shely worked on World of Warcraft for almost eight years before working on Diablo. This includes working on encounters in The Burning Crusade’s expansions, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, and Mists of Pandaria.
While the quarterly Diablo 4 update is mainly concerned with the ARPG’s sound design, Shely does take a little minute to introduce himself. He keeps his fan message brief and to the point. He expresses gratitude for the opportunity to “continue the vision” of Diablo 4 and is humbled to represent the project’s development team.
Shely, naturally, says nothing about Diablo 4’s former director, Luis Barriga. In early August, Barriga was fired from Blizzard as part of a series of firings linked to a story about the company’s “frat culture.” Barriga’s exit is still under wraps, with little details available.
The unspoken message of the most recent Diablo 4 development update is that work on the project is continuing and that the crew is attempting to put Barriga’s resignation behind them. Obviously, it’s not a feasible or straightforward thing to accomplish given that Activision Blizzard is currently embroiled in lawsuits, much alone compensating victims who the firm still employs. Diablo 4 and its new director will regrettably have to carry this weight.