View Full Version : Blizzard Rocked By Mass Resignations!

The Mad Monk
01-07-2003, 09:29:42
Vivendi says key employees leave games unit

LOS ANGELES, June 30 (Reuters) - The founders of the company that created popular computer game series "Diablo" have left their positions at a unit of game publisher Vivendi Universal Games, the company said in a statement on Monday.

The high-profile departures come at a crucial time for Vivendi Universal Games, which is the object of a possible sale by French media conglomerate Vivendi Universal.

In a statement, Blizzard Entertainment said Blizzard North co-founders Erich Schaefer, Max Schaefer and David Brevik, along with a fourth employee, Bill Roper, "resigned from the company to pursue other opportunities."

Blizzard Entertainment, publisher of "Diablo" and "Warcraft," is widely seen in the games industry as one of the most attractive assets of VU Games, which has been languishing on the auction block for months.

While a number of other game companies are known to have an interest in Blizzard as a stand-alone asset, Vivendi Universal has been trying to sell its games business as a complete entity as it looks to shed entertainment-related assets to pay down debt.

Blizzard said it did not expect the group's departures to have any effect on properties in development. The team that had been known as Condor joined Blizzard and became Blizzard North in February 1996.

Since then, the team has turned out two Diablo games, plus an expansion pack for the second title.

A spokeswoman for Blizzard was not immediately available to comment.

As the potential sale of VU Games has dragged on, top executives of the unit have acknowledged that shielding employees from the stress of uncertainty over the business's future has been difficult.

"It would not be true to deny it's affecting the staff," Luc Vanhal, the president of VU Games' North American operations, told Reuters last month.

:eek: Yikes.

The Mad Monk
01-07-2003, 09:33:07
This interview with Bill Roper came out only a few hours earlier...

A Chat With Blizzard's Bill Roper - 30 June 2003 00:02 - John [JCal] Callaham User Comments : 2
When you get on the phone with Blizzard Vice President Bill Roper, it’s clear that he loves talking about all aspects of one of the most successful developer/publishers in PC gaming. HomeLAN got a chance to chat will Roper last week and even though our conversation was relatively brief we got to hear his views and thoughts on pretty much everything about Blizzard.

Of course, the biggest current news event concerning the company is Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, the expansion pack to their hit RTS sequel of 2002. The expansion is due to be shipping to stores worldwide tomorrow with a whopping 2.5 million copies heading to retail store shelves. Even though huge shipments of games are now normal for Blizzard, Roper still seemed amazed at the sheer numbers for Frozen Throne. “I remember when we shipped our first PC game and we came out with 200,000 copies,” Roper said of a number that would still be a respectable figure for most PC games today. “We asked ourselves, ‘Can we really sell that many copies?’” Frozen Throne has turned out well, according to Roper, “We got it all in,” he said, referring to all of the new content and features they have included in the expansion. “I’m amazed with the sheer work and content the team put into it.” When asked, Roper would not completely discount Blizzard putting out a second expansion pack to Warcraft III, saying they will make that decision after evaluating the success of Frozen Throne.

Another release of a somewhat smaller scale is due out soon but is still important to millions of players: the 1.10 patch to their action-RPG Diablo II. Roper told us, “We are down to a few bugs..” in testing the patch, which will likely be the last that will add new content to the game. As far as the patch’s release dates, Roper will only say that it will be soon after the release of Frozen Throne in order to give some distance between these two major releases on Battle.net. “We want to make sure the two products don’t collide,“ he said.

Speaking of Battle.net, Roper said that Blizzard will continue to go after hackers and cheaters on their servers that service the multiplayer games of their products. Blizzard recently disabled the accounts of a large number of players because of hacking and cheating and may even disable CD keys of persistent cheaters. “We want our players to be as secure as possible,“ Roper said, “Players know that we are constantly striving to improve our security.”

Discussion then went over to the upcoming tactical sci-fi action game Starcraft: Ghost, Blizzard’s first major console game in many years. While the game, which is being co-developed by Nihilistic Software, was well received at E3 last May, Blizzard announced just a few weeks later that the planned release date of the game would change from late 2003 to some unspecified time in 2004. Roper told us of the decision to delay the game’s release, “We just didn’t feel that it was going to be right in that timeline.” Roper did say that the delay shouldn’t be a huge one, saying , “I don’t expect that it would add another year. It’s more of a case of months.

Roper also confirmed a couple of open questions for us about Starcraft: Ghost. While in our previous email interview with Roper about the game he hinted that there would be some type of multiplayer options, Roper told us last week that the decision was made not to have any multiplayer elements at all in order to concentrate on the single player experience. Roper said that Blizzard and Nihilistic did try to come up with a number of different ideas but ultimately, “We really didn’t find anything that was fun,” adding that they wanted to avoid a tacked on multiplayer experience. Roper also shot down a rumor for us that Starcraft: Ghost was going to be an Xbox exclusive title. “I have no idea where those rumors came from,” Roper said, assuring us that the game will be released for Playstation 2 and GameCube consoles in addition to Xbox, although they are using the Xbox as the primary development platform and porting the GameCube and PS2 versions from it.

Our discussions soon turned to World of Warcraft, which with the release last week of Star Wars Galaxies has now officially become the single most anticipated upcoming massively multiplayer RPG currently in development. “We are very happy with the progress of the game,” Roper said. He added that they are now in an alpha state of the game’s progress and internally testing the game at their offices. Roper said that they will soon have a very, very limited alpha test with employees and their family and friends testing the game outside the Blizzard offices. Roper expects that official beta testing for World of Warcraft with outside testers will begin fairly soon, in about three or four months and like most tests will start with a small amount of testers and grow as the beta tests evolve. Roper said. He also said that unlike LucasArts, who kept its beta testers under a non-disclosure agreement until a few days before the end of the test, testers for World of Warcraft should be able to talk about their experiences long before the test ends.

Of course, the massively multiplayer genre continues to get crowded but Roper said one of Blizzard’s big goals is to get people who have never played these games to play World of Warcraft. “I think that if we are only going to fight over the same million people then we are going to be in trouble,” Roper said of the current pool of players for the genre, pointing out that the strategy and RPG genres were turning into hardcore game experiences until Warcraft and Diablo helped to make them more of a mainstream genre.

We were running out of time in our chat with Roper so we quickly got his views on other Blizzard topics. Roper said that the company was happy with the sales of their Game Boy Advance ports of their classic game The Lost Vikings (their second GBA port, Rock N’ Roll Racing was just released a couple of weeks ago and a third, Blackthorne, is due out later in 2003). Roper also said he is enjoying reading the feedback from players of the GBA ports as well. The company’s skilled CGI unit is busy making cut-scenes for Blizzard’s upcoming games and some have even suggested that Blizzard make a full-length feature film a Blizzard property. While Roper admitted it’s something they have thought about, he said that ultimately it was a question of manpower. “We have about 22 or 23 people working on these things,” he said. “They have to do it for all our games and if we did a feature film we would have to add a 0 to that number.” Blizzard also stayed busy licensing their properties for things like action figures, pen-and-paper RPGs and novels (Roper said that Blizzard’s book publisher, Simon and Schuster, is very happy with the sales of book based on things like Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo). Roper also revealed to us how the recently announced Warcraft board game came about. Roper said there are about 10 or 12 Blizzard team members who regularly play board games at the office during breaks and when the Fantasy Flight Games publisher asked for the rights to make a Warcraft board game, it turned out that there were people at Blizzard who were familiar with the board game publisher and after playing a number of their products, Blizzard decided that Fantasy Flight would be the perfect choice to make a Warcraft board game.

Both talking and listening to Bill Roper is an entertaining experience in itself and we thank him and Blizzard RP rep George Wang for the opportunity.


01-07-2003, 12:05:35
Vivendi...fucking evil bastards. They must be destroyed.

Resource Consumer
01-07-2003, 15:58:53
A snowstorm of resignations.

Well, that's the French for you...

01-07-2003, 16:03:07
the funny thing is that one of my good friend is the marketing director of VU games...
that will endear me even more to Venom

Sir Penguin
01-07-2003, 19:30:32
I bet they never would have resigned if they had known that that stupid 1 sentence/paragraph article would come out.


01-07-2003, 20:07:28
Your friend is a complete fucktard, just like you, isn't he maroule?

01-07-2003, 20:11:05
Originally posted by Sir Penguin
I bet they never would have resigned if they had known that that stupid 1 sentence/paragraph article would come out.
ITYM BBC News online would write an article about it.

01-07-2003, 21:30:57
Originally posted by Venom
Your friend is a complete fucktard, just like you, isn't he maroule?

actually he's a much nicer guy than I am

01-07-2003, 21:49:16
He's a girl in reality, isn't he, Maroule? And you just want to get back into a relationship with her, don't you? You broke up in high school, and you've regretted it ever since! Come on, you can admit it! And just the fact that you had a girlfriend in high school will make Venom jealous... ;)

01-07-2003, 23:10:25

The Mad Monk
01-07-2003, 23:29:16
More news (you twats :p ):

Bill Roper interview


We speak to former Blizzard North vice president Bill Roper about the sudden departure of the studio's management and these former Blizzard employees' new plans.

Earlier today, Blizzard Entertainment revealed that the Blizzard North cofounders Erich Schaefer, Max Schaefer, and David Brevik, plus Blizzard vice president Bill Roper, have left the studio responsible for the Diablo series, which has sold more than 10 million units worldwide. The four held the key management positions at Blizzard North, with Brevik as president and the others holding vice president titles. We talked with Bill Roper on the phone this afternoon to get his perspective on the group's departure and their plans to form a new game company.

As surprising as the announcement may be for fans of the Diablo games, it may be even more surprising to know how quickly the group made the decision to leave. Roper said that the departures were the result of a series of very quick events. Indeed, the first time the group will meet to discuss their company plans in depth will be tomorrow morning. But what they do know for sure is that they want to start a new game project.

"We made a very difficult decision, Roper said. "We love everyone at Blizzard...at the San Mateo office and at Blizzard in Irvine." In addition to this personal well-wishing, he did reveal other reasons for wanting to see Blizzard North continue on, saying, "I want to play Diablo."

Asked what role Vivendi Universal's corporate management had to play in the decision, Roper admitted that was a big part of it. "We wanted to have a level of involvement [in deciding the studio's direction] that was not going to be made available," he said. "For the interests of the people that we work with, we should have been able to talk to the people that make the decisions and that knew what was going on." But in further describing Blizzard's situation, he said, "It's the same challenges we always faced. I have absolutely no doubt that they will keep fighting the good fight. We tried to leave them in a good place, and I honestly expect that Blizzard will continue to make great games."

The group's future isn't limited by employment contracts or noncompetition agreements. Roper said that there's nothing "to stop us from approaching this any way we'd want." Lacking such legal constraints, the new game company may hire current Blizzard employees at some point in the future.

Roper repeatedly mentioned how very excited the group is about the possibilities that lie ahead. The four have worked as a very tight-knit creative group, according to Roper. The Schaefer brothers are artists by training and Brevik is a programmer, and all have been project leads and designers as a part of Blizzard's philosophy that has developers wearing many hats.

Starting over as a "lean and mean" company will grant them new creative freedom. In fact, Roper is sure that they'll initially come with too many ideas and will have to trim back to find the great one. He also admitted that "[they'd] love to be talking with publishers" and mentioned that interested parties could get in touch with them at (650)207-6030 (serious inquiries only, please).

The company's next steps are to decide on a name and set up a Web site. We can expect to hear more-concrete details on the company's future plans very soon.

By Sam Parker, GameSpot [POSTED: 06/30/03 06:06 PM]


The Mad Monk
01-07-2003, 23:39:26
It appears that Vivendi may end up paying dearly for this...

Vivendi's game gem gets tarnished

Departure of key gaming personnel may make it even harder to sell gaming unit.
July 1, 2003: 2:19 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - As part of its asset divestiture, Vivendi has been trying to sell its gaming unit for the better part of the past year. Monday, the asking price on that unit probably dropped.

The co-founders of Blizzard Entertainment's Blizzard North unit - as well as a prominent vice president who served as the public voice of the company - shocked Vivendi and the gaming world by resigning from the gaming powerhouse they helped build. The Blizzard North unit was responsible for creating the 'Diablo' franchise, one of the most successful games in the industry's history.

Blizzard is the crown jewel in Viviendi's gaming empire. But analysts say it may not be worth as much today as it was last week.

"Losing those guys certainly diminished the appeal to any prospective buyer, such as Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) or Electronic Arts (ERTS: Research, Estimates)," said P.J. McNealy, an analyst with American Technology Research. "You lose them, you lose 'Diablo', which is one of the cornerstones of the business."

Blizzard North co-founders Erich Schaefer, Max Schaefer and David Brevik, along with vice president Bill Roper resigned abruptly on Monday.

The 'Diablo' franchise is one of the best selling in the gaming industry's history.
Vivendi Universal Games, which also includes Sierra Entertainment, is the world's second largest maker of games for the personal computer and operates the Internet's largest free online gaming site. It has annual revenues of $600 million.

Despite that, the division has not attracted the buyer interest Vivendi was hoping for. The company initially valued the gaming unit at $1.95 billion. Within the last two weeks, though, it had lowered its expectation on bids to $800 million. Unable to find a buyer willing to pay that price, it quietly put the sale of the unit on hold and focused instead on the sale of Vivendi Universal Entertainment, according to Reuters.

The pending sale of the gaming division was a major factor in the decision to leave Blizzard and Vivendi, Roper told me Tuesday morning. The quartet was seeking a higher level of involvement with Vivendi, but grew frustrated with the lack of response.

Bill Roper
"If we know that something's going to be happening, we want to have a direct pipeline to talk to someone who's above Blizzard," said Roper. "We wanted to be able to have that level of participation and communication with Vivendi (V: Research, Estimates) and to be able to offer some insight and some knowledge in what they're thinking about in terms of a sale, particularly with Blizzard. And for the four of us, that opportunity wasn't going to be made available."

Almost immediately after word of the resignations got out yesterday, the rumor mill began spitting out wild conspiracy theories. One of the most popular was the Blizzard North co-founders and Roper had learned of the gaming unit's likely buyer and quit, feeling their creativity might be harnessed. Not true, said Roper.

"I wish we had gotten wind of anything," he chuckled. "No idea. No clues. No inklings. To be honest, that's part of the problem. What we know about the sale is what we read off the Internet and in the magazines and newspapers."

A Vivendi Universal spokesperson said the company does not comment on terms of the sale of the gaming unit.

One of Diablo II's cinematic quality cut-scenes.
Later Tuesday, the now former-Blizzard employees will sit down for the first time to discuss – and name – their new game development company. None of the four were under contract nor were they bound by non-compete agreements. And all, he said, are eager to start working on a new product.

While it's too early to even speculate what that product might be, Roper said the one of the company's chief focuses right now is to maintain good ties with Blizzard. The departures, he said, were very amicable and it's certainly possible the two parties could work together again in some form or fashion.

"To be quite honest, if we're out looking for a partner or a publisher or distributor, there's really no better name you can have on the box than Blizzard," he said. "I wouldn't have any problem going and talking too those guys about that sort of arrangement."


Click for previous columns

Roper was humble when I asked him about analyst speculation that Monday's departures will result in a lower sale price for Vivendi Universal Games, saying that wasn't the intent of the Monday's action. Still, he said, if that does prove true, he hopes it will underline the importance of the development community.

"Hopefully, what that will point out to the industry is the fact that the success of games isn't just the name on the box, the franchise or that sort of thing - it's the people who make the games," he said. "Just like you want Arnold Schwarzenegger to do your film, just like you want Steven King or J.K. Rowling to be writing your book, you want the best possible people making a game for you. ... People are important."


02-07-2003, 12:11:24
I hope all of Vivendi dies in a horrible paper clip accident.

02-07-2003, 12:13:07
Bill Roper has the world's largest forehead, so any number of accidents are possible

02-07-2003, 13:42:19
He's posing for that picture in the worst possible way. Highlighting his forehead.

02-07-2003, 14:00:09
sorry couldnt resist.

02-07-2003, 14:04:56
Beldar Roper.

Qaj the Fuzzy Love Worm
02-07-2003, 17:02:32
He looks like a strangely distorted Johnathon Frakes. He even has the smug Riker grin!

02-07-2003, 18:25:36
I thought the same thing.

I thought the French generally went on strike, rather than actually resigning?

02-07-2003, 18:35:42
own goal
(they're not french, VU simply bought this US studio some time ago)

03-07-2003, 09:24:04
Loads of really long press releases, can I have a lazy bastards summary please?

03-07-2003, 09:36:38
to sum up, you're a bastard

The Mad Monk
03-07-2003, 09:51:08

Blizzard North gutted itself rather than continue being the pawn of an Evil French Corporation.

04-07-2003, 01:15:33
Four guys jumped out of a plane and parachuted to safety in anticipation of it crashing. The plane is now worth less as a result.

French management is apparently is as awful and pathetic as American management is.

Madmonk: Thanks for the newposts!