[As you fine GSW readers may recall, Chris Remo - late of Shacknews and various other sites - works here as Gamasutra's Editor At Large right now. He has kindly contributed an opinion piece on the launch of Diablo III - which he stayed up til 7am to gawk at, the crazy man - and the nuances of the folks developing it.]

I was pointedly concise with my reaction, but it should be clear enough that I am fairly excited about the just-announced Diablo III. With the possible exception of Tetris, Diablo II almost certainly tops my personal lifetime list of most gameplay hours dedicated to a single game. For some five years or so, my friends and I played it off and on - several of those years considerably more “on.” I just reinstalled it the other day, and have reached Act IV.

Along with the inevitable internet furor that has arisen in the wake of the announcement (and in the days leading up to it, as the storm cryptically but powerfully approached), there has come an explosion of gamer-generated research to try and sate the hunger for rapidly-depleting new information about the game. Much of this deals with singling out the personalities behind the game–and though none of this is secret information by any means, I have not seen it centralized or given full context. So here you are.

First off, Leonard Boyarsky–one of the three co-leads on the original Fallout–now serves as lead world designer on Diablo III. Boyarsky also contributed to Fallout II before leaving with the other members of the original Fallout big three (Tim Cain and Jason Anderson) to create Troika Games. He’s been at Blizzard for nearly three years now, and in an upcoming Gamasutra interview (which just debuted) he notes the game has been in the works since 2004.

Then, we’ve got Dustin Browder, a former Westwood Studios employee who lead the Red Alert 2 and Command & Conquer: Generals projects, before sticking around at Westwood purchaser Electronic Arts for a bit, then leaving for Blizzard, where he now heads up StarCraft II. While RA2 and C&C2 have both their admirers and detractors, there is something satisfying about that kind of evolution–as 90s PC gamers will recall, the original Command & Conquer and WarCraft series were head-to-head competitors.

In an intriguing cross-genre pollination, Diablo III lead designer Jay Wilson, who spoke on a panel after the game announcement, hails from Relic Entertainment, purveyor of fine real-time strategy, where he was a designer on Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War and a senior designer on Company of Heroes. Relic sprung up in the late 90s, a few years after the genesis of Blizzard and Westwood’s rivalry, but it made an immediate impact with its debut effort Homeworld in 1999.

Most had reasonably assumed Wilson to be on StarCraft II, given his background, but not so. On a personal note, Wilson’s Diablo III talk impressed the hell out of me as a Diablo II devotee–despite his development history, it is clear he knows this series inside and out, and has keen insight into how to improve it.

That Warhammer 40,000 connection leads me to the last, and possibly strangest, employee highlight. It has long been observed that Blizzard either steals from or pays homage to, depending on your point of view, Games Workshop’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 tabletop strategy gaming universes for the WarCraft and StarCraft worlds respectively. Sure, they’re all drawing from Tolkien in the first place, but the GW/Blizzard parallels are many and notable.

That highly unofficial relationship is potentially lent even more credence by the presence of former Games Workshop designer Andy Chambers, a name that anyone who, like me, was heavily into the Warhammer and 40K scenes in the 90s, may well recognize. Chambers worked for GW from about 1990 to 2004, and his name could often be seen in rulebook bylines and GW’s monthly magazine White Dwarf, of which I have stacks of hundreds packed away.

As it turns out, since 2005, Chambers has been working for Blizzard, and now serves as nothing less than the company’s creative director–if you’re going to steal and/or pay homage to material, might as well go the whole hog, right?–where he works on StarCraft II and presumably contributes to the rest of the company’s portfolio.

Essentially, it feels as though Blizzard is assembling a design team intended to cater directly to my PC gamer nostalgia–and doing it with PC (and Mac) exclusive titles, at that. But, almost impossibly, the company has also dipped its long arms into an entirely separate nostalgia pool that occupies space in my mind, that of tabletop wargaming. While that second nostalgia is light-years away from being universal, I am often surprised to learn just how many longtime PC gamers share it.

I’ve been looking forward to StarCraft II since it was announced, and my frothing demand for Diablo III has been increasing even before it was publicly confirmed, but it’s nice to know my overinflated hype is grounded in some fairly concrete staffing.