In a shocking move, World of Warcraft developers Activision Blizzard have fired one of their class development team, Xelnath, the man credited with revamping the Warlock class for Mists of Pandaria.
Prior to Mists, the Warlock was one of the least played classes, languishing a country mile behind others for everything but certain arena compositions, where Affliction’s DoT damage remained strong. But its complicated playstyle and slow ramp-up times made it an unpopular class when compared to its burst-heavy brothers and sisters.
Revamping it for Mists of Pandaria was no mean feat, the class was totally reworked, many key mechanics replaced, new energy generation systems implemented for all specs, and spells added and removed. While a team is always in place for such tasks, a key, even leading member of that team was Xelnath.
Xelnath is lauded as the developer who put the fun back into the warlock spec, and as the guy who designed the green fire quests leading warlocks into Black Temple which we discussed in Legendary Episodes 98 and 97.
But what exactly triggered his dismissal? According to a forum post made by the man himself, it was a leak, and some unprofessional behavior:
“Yesterday, I said some very disrespectful and selfish things about the class design team at Blizzard. They decided as a team that Cataclysm was the right spell to go with for Destruction, but in my pride, I made it about myself. I felt powerless to influence the meeting and took out my frustration publicly.
That has led to a series of correct decisions on the part of the Blizzard, as a game designer does not speak for the company and doing so, especially in a negative light about the team he works with everyday is extremely destructive to team cohesion.
I am no longer with Blizzard and I believe this was the right call for both of us.
And what were the unprofessional things he said? Well, a search through recent posts on those same forums, where he was known to share details of warlock changes and communicate Blizzard’s intentions, reveals only one which could have given rise to issues, which Xelnath later confirmed was the problem:
“Also, this is probably the last burst of Class Design work that I’m going to be doing for a while. I burned too much political capital getting Cataclysm through to remain viable in my position. Chaos Bolt will be getting a damage nerf to reduce its Arena viability soon and I will be focusing on other aspects of game design.”
What’s the issue with this post? Well, the Chaos Bolt nerf hadn’t yet been announced, and the expression of burning through political capital could be seen as critical of the development team. As he added:
“I should never have mentioned the Chaos Bolt nerf until it was datamined. That alone is grounds for termination and I did so in a resentful way that made Blizzard look bad.”
Various tribute threads have sprung up on the US and EU forums, and while Blizzard certainly had their reasons, it’s a shame to see someone who’s turned a class around leave the game behind. What do you think? Should he have been fired? Was there likely more going on that we don’t know about?