We know that Blizzard’s upcoming survival game is set in a new universe, but otherwise the studio isn’t saying much about the game, which it’s still referring to as “unannounced.”
However, both current and former Blizzard employees have expressed their feelings about the survival game and its development team on social media. They’re prevented from spilling any secrets due to non-disclosure agreements, which are standard in the business, but what they are saying, with notable consistency, is that they’re thrilled about the game and the team behind it.
Blizzard’s effort to hire new developers for the project is surely being helped by all the praise, especially in the context of last year’s sexism and harassment allegations and uncertainties around the impending Microsoft acquisition, but the enthusiasm appears to be genuine. Asked whether Blizzard had any part in the outpouring of praise, a company spokesperson told PC Gamer that the company “did not encourage employees to make positive posts about the recent announcement.”
“We have a talented team creating this game, and we’re happy to see their genuine enthusiasm for their work, and others’ excitement to share it,” the spokesperson said.
Notably, even some of Activision Blizzard’s most outspoken critics have praised the project.
“Super excited about today’s reveal,” wrote Valentine Powell, a World of Warcraft senior UI engineer who has helped organize Activision Blizzard employees in the wake of last year’s sexism and harassment lawsuit. “This game looks amazing, and I’m happy that the devs on the project can now be open about working on it.”
Leading the survival game project is Craig Amai, who previously worked on World of Warcraft for over a decade, starting as an in-game customer support lead in 2004 and concluding as lead quest designer. According to his LinkedIn resume, Amai began work on the survival game four and a half years ago, in July 2017.
“Once upon a time this dream project was [a] humble pitch deck on my desktop,” Amai wrote on Twitter. “Now it’s a team full of caring and passionate people sharing a vision I couldn’t be prouder to be part of.”
Once upon a time this dream project was humble pitch deck on my desktop. Now it’s a team full of caring and passionate people sharing a vision I couldn’t be prouder to be part of.https://t.co/dCumH9yoEmJanuary 25, 2022
Tami Sigmund, a senior producer on the game, praised Amai and said that working on the game “really seems like a dream.”
“This team is nuts and nice and the project is like… UGH. SO COOL,” said associate character artist Melissa Kelly.
“Can’t say much, but the team and project are amazing, and it’s the best gamedev experience I’ve had,” said Andrew Porter, a senior concept artist on the game.
“All I can say is it’s gonna absolutely rock,” said novelist and Blizzard writer Christie Golden. “Hella beautiful too. I cannot wait!”
Other Blizzard employees posted similar comments, but perhaps more significant is that many ex-Blizzard employees expressed admiration for the team and excitement for the game.
“This is a project that will have a big impact on the industry,” said Teamfight Tactics executive producer Geoffrey Virtue on LinkedIn. According to Virtue’s resume, he was co-lead on the survival game from 2019 until June 2021, when he left Blizzard for Riot.
Janice Chu, who’s now a senior concept artist at Bungie, said that she developed the Blizzard survival game’s UI art back when she worked at the studio, and praised the project’s current user experience designer. Another former Blizzard artist, Michael Vicente, said that it’s “a great project and team.”
“Stoked to see this game that I followed internally for a long time get announced! Proud of everyone who’s been working on it,” said Back 4 Blood writer Katie L Malin, who previously worked on WoW and Overwatch. “Can’t wait to play; it’s going to be spectacular.”
Been waiting for this announcement for ages. Its headed up by one of my favorite designers and the vision is amazing. https://t.co/9MOd2yACNcJanuary 25, 2022
“Been waiting for this announcement for ages. It’s headed up by one of my favorite designers and the vision is amazing,” said New World quest designer Jen Klasing, who was previously a World of Warcraft quest designer.
“I am very interested in this game,” said Star Wars Hunters senior level designer Kim Acuff Steiner, who also previously worked on WoW. “I can say no more.”
Stephanie Krutsick, who was a Blizzard producer for over 13 years, said that the survival game’s development team—which includes her husband—is the team she “would return to Blizzard for.”
We know virtually nothing about this survival game, so it’s hard to be too moved by excitement from the project’s developers and their friends. It’s been in some stage of development for several years, but it could still be several more years away from release, and even its developers may not know how it’ll change between now and then. An early version of Amazon’s New World that I saw was much more like a survival game than the MMO released last year, for instance—player companies were going to be able to design their own forts, one of several ideas that didn’t make it through internal testing.
Blizzard has a habit of making big entries to existing genres and forever altering them. Team Fortress 2 may be higher on the character shooter family tree, but to get to Apex Legends, Valorant, and many of today’s other big shooters, you’ve got to draw a line through Overwatch. And while Hearthstone obviously wasn’t the first collectible card game, it set a new standard for the genre on PC and initiated the card game rush we’re still experiencing today.
The modern survival genre is already looking a little crusty here in 2022, and the reactions from those who have knowledge of Blizzard’s designs suggest that it could be planning a big shakeup.
Meanwhile at Activision Blizzard, Call of Duty QA developers at Raven Software have formed a game worker’s union that’s working toward federal recognition, an unprecedented move at a major North American game studio and one which could be a watershed moment for labor organizing within Activision Blizzard and the games industry at large.