Diablo 3 is one of the most anticipated games in the last decade. The last Diablo game (Diablo 2) was a stellar hit and saw multi-team players for the first time crawling through dungeons full of demons, ghouls, and skeletons. Players went through 8-9 different zones and beat back the land itself. Whereas Diablo 1 was a single player only game involving a single randomly created dungeon into hell (YES HELL), Diablo 2 was all of that and much more.
Before I go any further I am not saying Diablo 3 is a bad game. I am not saying it will not sell very well. Modern Warfare 3 sold insanely well and for all intensive purposes it is the same game as Modern Warfare 2 (they even went as far to force any private MW2 servers down so everyone would have to buy MW3). In this article I will discuss the things that will make Diablo 3 fall flat.
1: The Disconnected Development Team
In 2000 Diablo 2 was completed and was a stellar success. A year later an expansion came out for it. Following this massive expansion to the game Blizzard Entertainment, then owned by Vivendi sent funding to the Blizzard North studio to make a Diablo 3.
As early as 2003 it seemed obvious there was a disconnect between the Blizzard North team and other departments of Blizzard. Blizzard Entertainment stalled the production of Diablo 3 in favor of re-assigning large chunks of the team to work on some dungeons for their new flagship title “World of Warcraft.” Starcraft 2 was also stalled as that team was re-assigned to balancing PvP (on a spreadsheet).
In 2004 the Diablo 3 team was sent back to work on their project but Blizzard Entertainment was constantly drawing resources from the studio to complete their MMO. The team now called “ArenaNet” left Blizzard after developing the patching and Battle.net systems. Blizzard North… was not far away.
Blizzard North’s director asked Blizzard Entertainment President Mike Morhaime for permission to make Diablo 3 into an MMO instead of as an isometric 2.5d release. Mike Morhaime said no. It was felt that there could only be one MMO since the MMO market was so ‘tiny.’ Mike Morhaime of course underestimated the power of his own product as World of Warcraft in only a few years was drawing in millions of subscribers.
The team of Blizzard North disgruntled left Blizzard Entertainment (well about half of them) to form a new company, Flagship Studios. Flagship Studios started working on a very different sort of MMO. Any ranged would have to aim their attacks. Melee would have to time their attacks. It was an MMO designed for the skill oriented players that Diablo had attrtacted.
When “Hellgate London” launched it was very familiar to Diablo, even the bags and space limitations were carbon copies. The studio ran out of funding after a month… and after a month they liquidated their assets, including selling off Hellgate: London to a Chinese holding company.
The remaining Blizzard North team was given new leadership and forced to continue making Diablo 3. In 2007 Blizzard Entertainment did not like the product that was being made. As a response Blizzard closed down the Blizzard North studio and gave the Diablo 3 project to a more central team.
This new team took what was the code for Diablo 3 and tinkered with it, improved it.. and destroyed it. They put in completely new classes, new leveling systems, removed core Diablo features, and integrated the game into the vast Battle.net system.
The game is fractured and it will become very clear what parts of the game were worked on by Blizzard North… and which were worked on by Blizzard Entertainment.
This is similar to Duke Nukem Forever which although not bad… was nothing amazing for a game 17 years in development. Duke Nukem also had a split development process in which 3D Realms went bankrupt and Gearbox Software finished it.
If Duke Nukem is any sign of what happens when two studios with completely different visions of the game work on a project… Diablo 3 doesn’t have a chance.
2: Isometric iz Dead
Isometric top down dungeon crawling was really cool in the 90s because this is really all we had. Assassin’s Creed had not yet come out and shown us those crisp clear DirectX graphics nor had the physics engine really grown into popular use. Today Unreal Engine which was once amazing is now generic and bland.
So if Unreal Engine 3 is generic and bland…. what is an isometric game? A free game.
Think about all of the games that have really cheap looking retro 90s graphics. They are either free (League of Legends/Puzzle Fighter/Maple Story) or really cheap (Terraria/Minecraft).
Diablo 3 is supposed to be a AAA release that matches the graphical quality of something that others are giving for free.
That just doesn’t sit well.
Let’s put it this way… if they were to make a Doom 4 we would expect it to have the graphical fidelity of of a modern title.
Diablo 3 on the other hand has had a “Blizzardification” of graphics. They take the same crappy graphical style of the old game and just update them with a cartoonish WoW-lke texturing.
Starcraft 2 had a similar treatment.
Here is Starcraft 1:
For the time this was an attempt at realistic qualities. You will notice the marines are roughly semetrical, the tank is roughly 30 times the size of a marine (as it should be) and the zerg creates and buildings actually look horrifying.
Let’s fast forward 10 years later:
So now you can see all of the buildings look like they were space pods instead of actual buildings. As well now the zerg characters look like cartoons, not quite all that scary.
This is kind of the feeling you get with Diablo 3. Diablo 2 was terrifying and you felt intense fear when certain demons and creates came upon you. Diablo 3 on the other hand is crappy and cartoony.
Blizzard has gone on a new policy in which everything must have crappy cartoony graphics to make the game “timeless.” They take the same old game, strip it of its life and cartoonize it.
I should note the Korean scene has been reluctant to jump into Starcraft 2 because the gameplay is simply not as good as Starcraft 1. This might cause people to just run back to Diablo 2 instead of playing Diablo 3.
I think above all else people played Diablo 2 in droves and continued playing with max level characters on hardcore you die servers because it was really all there was. Two years after Diablo 2 came out Warcraft 3 released. Although people did not switch over from D2 to WC3 a new community of people like those who played D2 formed.
Defense of the Ancients was a huge step forward compared to Diablo 2. In Diablo 2 you gathered weapons and items by cave crawling and then you would use these items to help you fight stronger… against other players who would gank you as soon as they spot you.
In Defense of the Ancients you would kill the other players to earn money to buy items to beat the other player with. DoTa came with a massive attraction to the PvP element… which is what D2 nerds stayed around for.
Today we have a SC2 version of DoTa, still have the WC3 community alive and kicking… and we have League of Legends. LoL has a community of over 10,000,000 gamers…. and it is free.
Why oh why might people decide to switch from a successful balanced and fun game to one that will cost them $50-60 and also have an ingame cash shop to further elevate the price of the game.
There is no reason.
There may be some who want to play through the story of Diablo 3 and see where it goes. But honestly, who played Diablo for the story?
In Diablo 1 the story is you are a hero who goes into a church and fights your way to hell to kill Satan.
In Diablo 2 the town of Tristan is slain and you fight your way into a whole bunch of hells to kill off a bunch of Satans.
So now Diablo 3’s plot will no doubt just be…. you kill a bunch of Satans… again.
The game really does not have a draw value that hasn’t already been satisfied by the market. The only thing that’ll make people buy this is the nostalgia factor. But hoenstly the nostalgia factor of a game that has been pissed on by a large group of money grubbing executives is more likely to anger people than please them.
Much like Duke Nukem Forever it has simply been too long since the last Diablo game came out.
When Starcraft 2 released there was no real RTS’s on the market.. and the ones that there were, were either not very good or not popular. Starcraft 2 refreshed the RTS genre.
There are tones of dungeon crawler games out there. The isometric genre because of how simply it is to make these games blossomed into an industry. Diablo 3 might come out as the best of these games (in sales) but it definitely will find itself in a sea of unwant.
4: The Skyrim Effect
Diablo 3 at its heart is an RPG. However with all of the neutering that has been done to it it will have problems standing up against other RPGs.
I think one of the big awesome things about Diablo 2 was customization. When you played through the game that first time you felt like you could play it again a different way using a different class. After using all of the classes you feel like running it again just so you can build up your classes in a different way.
With Diablo 3 you get five classes. This means you might play through it five different times. However since there is no customization you might not want to even play it through the second time.
Customization is a really really big sell for RPGs. It is the main reason why people are still chosoing RPGs over MMORPGs.
People recommend Two Worlds 2 just for the magic customization feature which allows you to invent very visually retarded spells.
Skyrim has become the industry standard for RPGs. It is one of the only RPGs to come out in recent years that has lasted more than a month. Much like Minecraft there are thousands of YouTube channels of people playing Skyrim.
The reason for this is Skyrim is the most customizable game ever made. In the core gameplay you can customize your character in 20 different categories with ten different traits per category to create over 40,000 types of heroes.
On top of that Skyrim has an open source modding tool that allows you to modify the game in any way you choose. This has lead to some insane mods, my favorite of course is the Warhammer 40K Space Marine mod… that allows you to dress up like a space marine and fire W40K weapons.
Diablo was never and will never be opened up for people to mod it. This means that there is not going to be a modding community keeping the game fresh.
I wouldn’t feel bad buying GTA4 for the PC right now just because of how many mods are available to play with. Diablo 3 is going t o be a very closed game.
5: But It Will Sell Well
This article discusses largely why this game will be a blip on the radar. It will be something that will gain attention for a couple of weeks… and then go away.
Blizzard Entertainment has had a reputation of building franchises that not only sell but become a cultural phenomenon. Starcraft 2 is pretty much the only game in esports (okay to be fair there is also Halo 3, Battlefield 3, League of Legends, Smash Bros Brawl, and Street Fighter X Tekken). Starcraft 2 is a real sport in Korea and in North America it is a million dollar industry.
World of Warcraft became such a phenom that people often referred to people who play this game as “WoW zombies.” The web series “The Guild” became enormously popular and the actors in it have done very well for themselves. Other web personalities like The YogsCast, TotalBiscuit, and Jesse (OMFGCata) became insanely popular from showing beta gameplay for World of Warcraft expansions.
Blizzard Entertainment games have become so big that a sub-industry of people making money from recording and showing the game has formed.
You will not see any of this with Diablo 3. There is simply no competitive or unique side of the game. Everything is uniform and everyone is likely to have the same experience.
In the end Diablo 3 is Blizzard’s red headed step child. They know they have to release it and they know it will hurt their reputation.