What project could be compelling enough to cause three major members of the Diablo III team to jump ship from Blizzard? Only the members of iPhone developer Booyah! know for sure.
Booyah! is a company that was formed last year by former members of the Diablo III team, who parted ways with Blizzard soon after the game was officially announced. When I say former members, I'm not talking about the guy who ran out for coffee. Booyah! CEO Keith Lee was the game's lead producer. The chief creative officer is none other than Captain Unicorns and Rainbows, Brian Morrisroe, Diablo III's first art director; and the chief technical officer is Sam Christiansen, a senior programmer on the game.
So what drew this dream team away from Blizzard at such a pivotal point in time? We're not too sure.
"Imagine that you could play life by pursuing and sharing your passions," Keith Lee, CEO and co-founder, Booyah, said. "Booyah motivates you and others through a mobile companion, everywhere you go. You become a part of an ever-expanding social experiment, inspiring you to challenge yourself and be better at your life.
That's a quote about the upcoming iPhone "entertainment product" that Booyah! is working on. Also from the press release:
Booyah is creating a playful life companion that combines the immersive experiences that draw consumers to massively multi-player online games, the interconnectedness of social media, and the power of the iPhone and iPod touch.
A life companion? Some sort of virtual pet? What could it be?
All we know for sure is that the project was exciting enough not only to draw the team away from Blizzard, but to also secure financing from the highly sought-after iFund. Booyah! is one of five companies out of more than 3,300 applicants to secure financing from the iFund, with prominent iPhone developer Ngmoco being among the other company's deemed worthy.
I spoke to Booyah! CEO Keith Lee yesterday regarding their project, but he was rather vague about the whole thing. Vague, but excited; breathlessly expounding on the team they had assembled and the sheer scope of the project, which will be revealed in the coming days.
On top of the ex-Blizzard employees, the company also employees professions in the social networking and social gaming fields, creating what Lee continuously stressed was less of a game and more of an "entertainment product".
"We wanted to challenge ourselves by seeing if we could take what we've learned in gaming and apply that into a mass experience, reaching a totally different audience to positively affect people and tap into their life passions," explained Lee, who could only talk about the upcoming project in the broadest of terms. From what I can gather, the product will be a seed...something that they can grow and nurture, adding new elements until it reaches the full potential of their vision, whatever that vision might be.
From the press release we can gather that it's some sort of virtual pet, but I get the impression that it's much more than that. It has to be, really.
As for their ties with Blizzard, Lee assures me that the leaving was extremely amicable. Indeed, Blizzard's Rob Pardo is on their board of advisors, so it seems that yet another major player believes in what Booyah! is trying to accomplish.
Hopefully we'll know exactly what that is soon. All we know is that with Morrisroe's involvement, we'll be very disappointed if there isn't at least one unicorn involved.