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Monday, September 21, 2009

Diablo III and the Art of Procrastination

I originally started composing the following as a response to the article at Gamasutra, being a slightly less limp than usual Chris Remo interview with two gentlemen from Blizzard about Diablo III's development process.

I realized that this was less a response than a screed, so I'll just put it here so that the only 2-3 people in the world who care about my opinion on the Diablo series can read it.

The interview highlights the development process at Blizzard for Diablo III as one of perpetual revision, where they decide to release it not on any sort of sane schedule but on a process of "hey, this isn't awesome enough" and then they add more crap.

It must be nice to have that level of freedom to constantly revise the game whenever the whim takes them. It most certainly yields a more colorful game with significant replayability. Diablo II still has the ability to get its hooks into people 9 years later; its gameplay still visceral, its sounds still evocative, its dated graphics still retaining a kind of timeless quality no doubt provided for by the right mix of cartoony and dark.

However, I wonder how much of a sacrifice a process like that is. Is there some basic book of design and plot description they work with from the beginning, or are they stuck trying to nail all of the "awesome" together into a coherent story line?

There was much about Diablo II that seemed like it was added to the game to pave the way for some new features which were never developed, like the assassin lady in Kurast with the interesting back story. With a little more focus at some point during development, the sort of unfinished empty feel yielded by their environments could be fleshed out into an emotional experience more significant to the player than just "awesome."

With a solid plot and some emotional investment added to the already powerful experiences (by a mechanism other than the truly gripping cutscenes) the Diablo series could not help but be improved.