Disclaimer: The opinions and viewpoints expressed by the various authors (including me) do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Neoseeker.
Diablo III will be made available very, very soon, and to say anticipation is high would be nigh on insulting to the true hype surrounding this game's launch. That said, it's perhaps time we reflect on the situation at hand and discuss rumor versus the true nature of Diabo III. Some of our hopes shall be met gloriously, and others are misdirected or outright bound to be met with disappointment. Be still, thy beating heart -- temper your expectations and prepare, Diablo III is coming.
Diablo III will be the best/worst game ever.
Let's start this party off with the biggest, and most dramatic expectation of them all. In a broad scope, in general terms, in the grand scheme of things -- what can we expect from Diablo III? Amazon.com is reporting that Diablo III is their, "most pre-ordered PC game," of all time, even out-performing Blizzard's own titles StarCraft II and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. The beta alone pulled in more than 2 million players, a staggering number when compared, for instance, to the Halo: Reach open beta which pulled in over a million players. What does this mean exactly? Why, nothing at all.
In terms of popularity Diablo III may very likely be a contender for top spot, though even that could be untrue considering it's PC/Mac only (for now). In terms of quality, however, Diablo III is for now just another game that hasn't been played. Any claims to its greatness or horridness are premature. For some perspective, however, consider the the metascore of past Blizzard games and expansions: StarCraft II's 93, World of WarCraft's 93, WarCraft 3's 92; Diablo II's 88 and StarCraft's 88. At least critically, Blizzard's titles are progressively becoming better. How meaningful metascores are is another issue entirely.
Diablo III will be nothing like Diablo II.
The devil is in the details, pertaining to this subject. The original developer of Diablo was a company named Condor, bought by Blizzard 6 months prior to the release of the original game and renamed to Blizzard North. The same studio went on to create Diablo II, released in 2000. Development of Diablo III began in 2001. Here's where things get spicy -- in 2003 the great Blizzard North exodus occurred, with more than 30 key members of the team leaving to form a number of very significant game development studios. Blizzard North was closed in 2005.
Diablo III, since development began in 2001, is rumored to have undergone at least three major revisions. The Diablo III that we know today was first announced and shown in 2008, but even that has undergone significant design reworks. The new Diablo III is being built by lead designer Jay Wilson, known for his work on Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, and world designer Leonard Boyarsky, one of the 6 co-creators of Fallout. How notable is 10 years, three major revisions, and a completely rebuilt development team?
Extremely notable -- in fact, beyond genre, concept and lore, it would be hard to say these games are sequels at all. Here's a short list of the significant differences: emphasis on cooperative play vs. single player, streamlined stat mechanics and itemization, completely reworked skill and crafting systems, and a new visual aesthetic that is painterly and illustrative. And that's just a vague few of the many significant differences.
As mentioned before though, all is not lost -- err, different. Diablo III is still a top-down action RPG with a focus on clicking until your fingers bleed. The bleak and depressing atmosphere is promised to return, though perhaps more striking and dramatic in its execution. Chris Metzen, the original artistic creator of the Diablo universe is still with Blizzard and you can expect more of the same regarding lore, writing and plot -- barbarians from D3 will look like barbarians from D2. If you managed to stay awhile and listen in Diablo II, then you can expect another epic story in Diablo III which takes place not so long after its predecessor.
Diablo III is unlikely to be anything like Diablo II, but that's because Blizzard doesn't want it to be. You can find that Diablo II essence in other games like Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, or Torchlight -- indie developers could probably make a modern Diablo II better than Blizzard could. They don't want to though, because Blizzard wants to make something new and fresh, something that will in 10 years have indie developers trying to recreate it as well. Diablo III is different by design, and Blizzard would have it no other way.
The PvP delay shows Diablo III isn't ready for release.
The claim has been made that since the Diablo III PvP system has been delayed beyond release, the game itself should be postponed. This is one of the biggest complaints made against the game up to now, and likely the most illogical rumor at that. At the point of time when PvP was delayed, the single-player/cooperative campaign was almost entirely complete. The delay of PvP affected the rest of the game in no manner.
Detractors might note Blizzard's motto of never releasing a game until it's done. The counter-argument is that Blizzard does consider the game done, that concurrent PvP and campaign release is extraneous and unnecessary. The argument could even be made that due to its postponement, Diablo III will be better in the long run.
Consider Blizzard's release of World of Warcraft. WoW was also released without its major PvP systems -- the honor and arena systems. This allowed players to do a number of things: quest until max level, become acquainted with combat systems, focus on the game's primarily player vs. environment content and end-raids, and create a new focus on open-world PvP. When the honor and arena systems were finally added, they were additive to an already exemplary experience. Perhaps if the systems were released at launch the game and its community would have been worse for it.
In January, Jay Wilson said the following: "No one will remember if the game is late, only if it's great." As Diablo III's lead designer, I doubt he'd settle for anything less than a great game on release.
Diablo III is all rainbows and bright colors.
It's a fact that Diablo III's art direction is going in a different direction than previous entries in the series. Bill Roper, a producer and designer for Diablo II, perhaps captures fans' attitudes most succinctly:
"One of the things that we always tried to get across was that Diablo was Gothic fantasy and I think there was just a need that was put in there from the visuals that I didn't necessarily get. I got it from the architecture and to a degree from the character design but not the feeling of the world. I can't say that I dislike it. I didn't look at it and go, oh my God that's horrible. But I looked at it and went, it's not really... to me as a player it just didn't really ring with Diablo."
And the funny thing is, Blizzard has admitted that it sort of agrees, but decided to continue with the current art direction anyway. The decision partly ties into my above note that Blizzard's intention is for Diablo III to be unlike Diablo II. Unfortunately, even some of the artists at Blizzard disagreed with this decision. Blizzard made the following statement during the height of the art controversy, after it was noted how a number of artists had left the company prior to Diablo III's 2008 announcement:
"Perhaps different factions within the Diablo 3 team had their own strong opinions on how the game's art should look, and when push came to shove, some of the crew left. Or were asked to leave? Happily, as Blizzard often points out, the production of a game as large as Diablo 3 is handled by a large team, and no one is indispensable."
However it came about, the decision was made and set in concrete. Rainbows and bright colors are a terrible exaggeration, though. Keith Lee, a Diablo III producer, defines it as similar to Lord of the Rings. A stylized, defined direction that allows players to focus. The amount of color is used to draw contrast between light and darkness. How better to affect mood than by removing or altering vibrancy the player is accustomed to. Keith Lee also left Blizzard after the game's 2008 revealing.
Jay Wilson has admittedly made changes due to fan feedback on these issues. He notes that dungeons were made significantly grittier and bloodier, and that corpses would not be so quick to de-spawn. The grand, overarching art direction, in all its vibrant brilliance however, is here to stay.
The beta has shown Diablo III is unchallenging.
The Diablo III beta, and I've experienced this personally, is easy -- ridiculously easy, even. There are videos making the rounds of players wearing plain gear with "+Thorns"(damage reflection) and defeating the final boss in the beta without pressing a single button. Of course, these claims are quite shortsighted. The beta and starting areas are specifically designed to be unchallenging:
"One of the disadvantages beta testers have is they only see the early portion of the game. That's the portion of the game that really does need to be simple and approachable in order to live up to our mantra of easy to learn and difficult to master. You only get that experience in the beta, and that's the place where we're really trying to get it to be as dead simple and approachable as we possibly can."
Diablo III's beta gave you a partial look at the first act on normal difficulty. The final title will include 60 levels of player advancement across three difficulty levels, followed by a fourth difficulty level made specifically for level 60 play. This final difficulty level, named Inferno, was initially deemed, "challenging enough," by internal testers -- then Blizzard doubled it. In response to how internal testers fared on the newly doubled difficulty level Keven Martens, lead content designer, responded, "No one has beaten Inferno."
Diablo III may well go down as one of the most controversial games ever created. It has nothing to do with violence, mature themes or extensive DRM (though it certainly has enough of that too). No, it's almost completely due to the fact that Blizzard is taking a very well loved and established franchise in a new direction.
Whether the game ultimately is amazing or terrible will prove irrelevant to a fan who has already made a decision based on principle. And as a result of such impressive fan-worship, arguments and rumors built on fallacy and poor research abound. Some arguments prove truthful and others odd or ridiculous, but in the end only one fact truly matters -- Diablo III hasn't been released yet.
Diablo III will be released shortly, and when the clock strikes midnight let the chips fall where they may. Until then, don't forget to measure the distance between rumors and reality.