Greetings warriors, it’s been a long time! I bring news from Sanctuary and the whispers of the High Heavens concerning the grave news that has befallen the vibrantly gothic world we have come to crave. Let me begin by asking you a question. How many of you knew that Diablo III has in essence, been made twice? Well, I can’t claim to know that answer but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that a good percentage of you, including myself, were not aware of that fact or maybe don’t know what happened, so I’m going to outline it quickly.
Blizzard North finished Diablo 1, made the masterpiece that is Diablo II and began work on Diablo III shortly after. Apparently executives didn’t see eye to eye with the creative direction of the Blizzard North studio and as a result the legendary studio that brought you two of the best dungeon crawler-action rpg’s of all time had to close it’s doors in 2005 for good. That company went through some tough times, and is now called Runic Games. If that is ringing a bell it’s because Torchlight may or may not be at your front door even as we speak.
Why is this important? Well, to be honest, it isn’t as directly compared to the creation of a good game, but I have begun to ask myself, is Diablo 3 a great game in it’s current form? Let me back up and give you some history on my opinions. During the first week of gameplay, I began my adventure and wrote down my thoughts any time I remembered to look away from the awesomeness that was happening in front of me as I hacked, slashed, cleaved and lept from trash mob, to barrel, back to killing again, oh and there was picking up gold too. I absolutely got what I wanted! I wrote a review you can find on our site and if memory serves, I think I gave the game a 9.5. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I was in heaven and perhaps under the influence of man emotions that drove me into a tizzy but I have to say now, looking back, I was wrong.
Whoa, big words I know.. bear with me. The game technically is a great game still. Developers have found a way to harness otherwise unused mediums like an actual auction house or crafting and put that into a solid looking, reliable tool for players. The graphics, physics and environments are top notch and deserve such praise. So what am I going on about? Why does it seem as though I am going to bash it soon? I can’t say that we haven’t at all, in our podcasts, in fact if I did I’d be lying, I’ve been a primary culprit of such unsavory acts. My point is this: Diablo has always remained a strong title, survived countless other games and lasted over the years and at the very very least, served as benchmark from which to relate every other game that shares the same genre. Diablo, is still a good game. Diablo II is still being played over a decade later. Will Diablo 3 last that long in it’s current form? My answer is most definitely no!
The game is too short and the story far from deep. By itself that won’t ruin it for some people and I can’t say that Diablo and Diablo II were any better in that regard, but the lasting appeal of D3’s predecessor’s had some unseen force attached to it that resonated better with myself personally and hardcore fans of the games that made this current release the blockbuster hit it was. The crafting and auction house or “mmo tools” to keep players invested in “end game” content are just simply not enough. Why is this important, I don’t even have to pay to play? Well with the advent of the Real Money Auction House, Blizzard is still finding ways to make money. To put it in gamer terms, we just completed a game multiple times, with multiple characters and have probably maxed out on average 3 classes and are still grinding the same content, just to vendor or auction house low quality items in order to make ourselves feel better when we get our next small upgrade. So what is missing in this small, particular argument? Quality crafting, enhanced loot table, the stats on legendary items and a reason to go into Sanctuary to find them.
Have we not learned our lesson from World of Warcraft? Will these rares still be useful when the next expansion comes out and the level cap raised? I think not, in fact the legendary items have always been a problem for Blizzard. Currently in D3, they are under-powered and a slap in the face. In fact from a design stand point, the creative minds that designed these legendary trinkets should learn how to make items relevant to the world, it’s history and over all power as compared to less rare items. ( If you want an example, leave me a message in this post and I will fill you in via this post)
My point for illustrating this is to ask you a question or I guess to provide a question you can ask yourself. Was Diablo 3, as it sits now, the game you anticipated for all those years? Next, how long can you grind Act I Inferno and lastly and most important, how did the creative design decision to let go of the creators of the franchise affect this game and is it creatively sound, based on the assumption that Blizzard is motivated by non-creative means? Does it even matter? I say, yes! If companies choose to make a game solely on what will sell the most or provide the most long term money, creative design will be streamlined and over all quality will drop. As a fan of a such things, that makes me sad to think about.
Speaking of creative elements, where was the story? Well I have to say that the strongest design element in the game is one I made up called sugar-coated fanboy lore. Most of the games unity came from reminding players about their beloved characters and moments from the previous two games, not creating anything new and not in a form that would sit well with the late Deckard Cain. As a closing remark to this section, consider this: based on the material of the first (canceled D3), do you think we would have a better game in front of us, had the original team stayed intact? Are the original creators important to the success of the series, why? Why did they kill Cain? Why is Adria bad? Did Diablo seduce her, leaving Farnham to sneak a peak, is that why he’s drunk? Why does the blacksmith sound like Griswold? Why Blizzard?
In closing these are merely my opinions and to be taken as such. I posted this to perhaps bring known issues or unknown questions back to the forefront so that we may vote with our words and our money in order to procure a better expansion from Blizzard. Diablo as a franchise took a step back in my opinion and I want it back. Be careful with the real money auction house, please share your feedback with Blizzard on their forums and support the community. Deckard Cain, out!
**Although unrelated, free to play online games may have paved the way to these decisions or provided a low cost framework from which to create a profit, similar to the movie Moneyball for you movie goers. We are going to cover this topic in greater detail in our next podcast, # 40.