Ghostcrawler’s Unexpected Exit

Greg Street is stepping down from Lead Systems Designer at Blizzard to “pursue an amazing opportunity.” It is hard to imagine that there is a better opportunity out there to pursue than being a Lead System Designer for a billion-dollar MMO, but I suppose we’ll see what exactly that could be soon enough. My money is on it not being a switch back to marine biology.

No doubt there will be a lot of people out there whose alternate post title would be “Christmas Comes Early” or somesuch. Certainly, the small corner of my gaming soul that remains a paladin is cheering vindictively. “Hybrid tax my ass!” But before the rest of the internet drowns itself in schadenfreude [edit: too late], I think it’s important to look back on what Ghostcrawler actually accomplished. Namely, if not actually throwing the doors open to the Ivory Towers of game development, at least coming to balcony and engaging with us rabble down below. As I mentioned early last year:

I am not sure if I mentioned it before, but I genuinely enjoy having Ghostcrawler around. He may be the face of the B Team, he may be a straight-up design troll in some respects, but hey… at least he has a face, yeah? In a world of Bobby Koticks and David Reids and faceless community managers, I am all for more Greg Streets and Curt Schillings, even if they get things wrong.

People seem to forget how WoW actually was back in 2008. “Back when it was good, you mean?” Yeah, back when designers thought a 25%-30% DPS difference between pure and hybrid classes was the epitome of balance. You can point to TBC as some golden age of pre-LFD design, but you can’t tell me some of that shit wasn’t dumb, arbitrary, and had nothing to do with why WoW was “better” back then.

And, worse, it was so often opaque and unexplained. The devs would come down from the mountain with patch notes written on clay tablets and that was that. Ghostcrawler literally changed all that. Even when he was getting it so wrong it hurts, the fact remains he has pretty much been the sole voice on the other end of the table regarding design and direction of pretty much any MMO then and since. Or maybe I’m mistaken? Does Guild Wars 2 or SWTOR or The Secret World or any of the rest have a lead designer come out and explain their thinking damn near every patch?

So as the confetti settles on the remnants of your Thanksgiving plate, I hope you’re sober enough to take stock of what we’re likely losing. Love him or hate him, Ghostcrawler was at least willing to get out there and tank the entire community (even as a Holy Priest, apparently) in an age of PR weasels like David Reid. If you think someone like Rob Pardo would have been better (to stay) in that hotseat, keep in mind that Pardo wanted LFD in WoW at launch. Hell, that interview from 2009 pretty much confirms that the exact same steps would have been taken no matter who was Lead Systems Designs. Could we have gotten someone better? Maybe. Or we might have ended up with Jay “and double it!” Wilson.

So as you’re soaking up the last of the gravy with a dinner roll, I recommend pouring yourself a cup of gin and raising it in the simple thanks of the common man: it could have been worse. I’ll miss your face Ghostcrawler… even if I could never tell you and Tom Chilton apart.

It's like Where's Waldo for bald guys.

Seriously, who is who?

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Posted on November 28, 2013, in WoW and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Marvel Heroes seems to be doing a great job at communicating with the players. I don’t know of anyone else doing it, though.

  2. It’ll have to be a glass of bourbon for me. I never disliked GC, though I often disagreed with him. It must have been annoying to constantly face the horrible forum and twitter monsters all the time. If even I am about to throw a rock at the next idiot who blathers about WoW being “dumbed down”, I can’t imagine what it was like for him.

  3. I’ve always like Street for the open dev that he was and I’ve long seen him as REALLY different from traditional Blizzard. You can just tell by the way he acts that he’s no Dustin Browder or Tom Chilton, etc. His decisions were often questionable to me, but I respected him for his sincere effort. I’m much more interested in what he’s moving on to and why he seemingly jettisoned so quickly. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was *looking* for an opportunity to leave Blizzard for at least a little while. It’s tougher to think he could turn around and leave so quickly.

    The news coming out of Blizzard this week, however, makes me think Greg probably didn’t fit in and this was a long time coming.

  4. The way he acted on BlizzCon already suspected me he was leaving. Why was he the last person in row of the WoW panel? Why did he make so many jokes? Far more than he normally does, and far more trollin’ too. It sounds worse than it is but it was in my eyes because he did not have to take it all too serious anymore. Stress if gone and boom. He knew at BlizzCon he was going to leave and so did Blizzard. They just waited till the dust settled and then announced it.

    Curious who will replace him and where he’s going to. I’ll probably try whatever game he’s on next even though I didn’t always agree with him. Especially not on his lack of action on fixing priests specs: holy’s chakra mechanic, shadow’s low DPS in start of MoP, and disc being OP.

    • Given how he claims to have been a Priest main, I sorta wonder if the wildly swinging Priest balance has something to do with him subconsciously trying not to buff his own class in any obvious way.

      • I’d say it explains the weaknesses and complexity of Holy (I find it the most difficulty healing spec in-game but perhaps also the most limiting). He doesn’t mind Chakra since he copes with it, therefore dismisses the complaints. For him, mastering Chakra at the right time is part of learning the fight. But in more serious difficulties it is only a limitation; not a buff. You NEED to be in the right Chakra for every situation or you lose on HPS (Discipline never loses out when it switches its “mode” of healing). I doubt he played on those difficulties though. He carefully, cunningly evades to reveal what difficulties he played on, except that in his guild he was known for not showing up on raids. You cannot do that (for long) in Heroic raiding guild, and voice chat (at least during interview) is also pretty much a given there. So I suspect he was playing Normal mode as highest difficulty. Nothing wrong with that but people will use such to draw to conclusions e.g. “Ghostcrawler is a baddie”.

  5. Late to this post, but Tilty, the lead designer for TSW, is fairly active on the forums and regularly participates in fan-run talk shows and in-game events. As is Sezmra the CM.

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