Diablo III Art Director Brian Morrisroe has left Blizzard, but the company says his departure has nothing to do with controversy surrounding the game's new art direction, and promises the colorful style isn't going to change.
Following the unveiling of the game, Blizzard released a gameplay video and several screenshots showing that Diablo III would be a more colorful and well-lit game than its predecessors, a change which earned the ire of many fans. An online petition asking the studio to return to the dark, Gothic style of the first two titles has thus far garnered over 54,000 signatures, but lead designer Jay Wilson said the die has already been cast. "There's no going back now," he said in an interview with MTV Multiplayer. "We're very happy with how the art style is. The art team's happy. The company's happy. We really like this art style, and we're not changing it."
"If you want to blame anyone for the rainbows, you'd blame our art director Brian [Morrisroe]," he said. "Because Brian is more the person who drove the art style into where it is. But it didn't really come directly from him. What he brought to the art team was concepts and ideas - the idea of contrast, the idea of using color more, the idea of going for a more stylized look. Because what we were looking at before was more photo-realistic. Really trying to get something that looks like a painting - that was his goal."
In an interesting twist, however, the inspiration for this new direction has now moved on to greener pastures. Rumblings about Morrisroe's departure were first reported by Kotaku, which noticed a job opening for Diablo III art director posted by Blizzard on Tuesday. Blizzard confirmed Morrisroe's rumored departure in a statement late yesterday, saying, "Regarding Brian, he recently resigned to form a startup technology company (outside the game industry), which is why we've posted about the open position. This change won't impact the game... we're really pleased with the look and feel that Brian helped create for Diablo III, and the new person we bring onboard will work with the other artists on the team to maintain the art style moving forward."
Wilson reiterated Blizzard's commitment to the new art direction in the interview while examining a series of "before and after" screenshots that had been altered by various fans to illustrate subtle artistic fine points such as "How it should look like" and "WoW gayness." He explained that in most cases, the fan-altered art would either detract from gameplay or be impractical to render on current PCs, and also suggested that Diablo II might not be as dark and foreboding as fans remember.
Explaining how earlier builds of Diablo III actually had an artistic direction based on "what we were thinking what Diablo II looks like," Wilson said playtesting during development is what convinced the team to make the change to the new style. "We played through, and we were like, this isn't very fun. And then we started going, 'Why was Diablo II so much more fun?' And some of the Blizzard North guys [developer of Diablo and Diablo II] knew why right away. They were like, 'Well, because we didn't make all the areas like this.' And if you think about even the areas they did, the creatures were really bright. Like in the gray and dark dungeons, those are the places that you run into the ghosts who were almost like glowing brightness, and that was so that they would stand out from the backgrounds."
You can check out the new Diablo III art for yourself, and maybe even apply for a job as art director, at blizzard.com/diablo3.
Source: MTV Multiplayer