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We have a big excerpt from Stay Awhile and Listen: Book II — Heaven, Hell, and Secret Cow Levels which is coming out tomorrow in digital format (and 2020 in paperback) and focuses on the making of Diablo 2. This small piece of the book sees author David L. Craddock talk to the game's creators about why D2 still has such a wide appeal today, 20 years after it's initial release, with many still believing it to be the gold standard in ARPGs.
We see details on the game's creation covering things like the core gameplay loop, with its responsive mouse clicks, detailed character and skill animations, audio cues that massively added to the feedback of hits on enemies, death animations, and finally that amazing feeling of seeing an item bursting from a defeated monster. The dev team also talks about how the difficulty curve was ahead of its time, with it's balancing set around entire zones for a smother feeling, with those pockets of tough spikes like the Blood Raven quest, based on Diablo 1's legendary Butcher encounter and how it made you have to actually run away and come back later, emphasizing player power progression.
Then we have the "there's never enough blood and fire" philosophy, which saw more and more details added to each part of the game, and while it was crucial in setting up the atmosphere and world, it did see the game become much larger than originally planned as well:
The itemization systems were obviously a major jump from the original game and remain unbeaten even today for a lot of players, and the concept of "flippies", as they called them, the items themselves when they popped out of a chest or monster as they flipped through the air before dropping to the ground and becoming a pickup, was one of the main ingredients in making gear attractive.
Diablo 2 developers sign copies of the game in 2000. From left to right: Matt Uelmen (seated), Karin Colenzo (back), Joe Morrissey (at PC), Rick Seis, and David Brevik. (Photo courtesy of Karin Colenzo-Seis.)
And then we have a hot topic that's been a part of the genre from it's beginnings right up until today, the actual drop rates:
And for our final quote from the article, the devs go into the slot-machine nature of loot drops, and the larger than expected role Mephisto ended up playing in the loot game:
This is just a small part of the full excerpt, which holds many more anecdotes and insights from the team on the topics mentioned above, as well as details on the Horadric Cube and crafting, story, level and item progression, inventory management and a lot more. If you're a Diablo 2 fan, or even just a fan of ARPGs in general, you really should read the article over at Medium, as it's a great read.
We have some fun Diablo stuff today, with two videos showcasing the amazing work the community has been doing, in part hyped up by the Diablo 4 announcement. We have the third old-school cinematic improved through machine learning AI, with the Diablo 2 intro getting the treatment by youtube channel Upscale!
And then we have some more creative work, with RandomPolishGuy putting in a lot of effort and making his own lore video in the style of the Diablo 3 animated cutscenes, featuring Inarius, Lilith and the creation of Sanctuary:
Inven Global talked to a former Blizzard employee about HGC's cancellation and the game in general.
Before the Storm
Whereas other franchises have big patches once every three months, the Heroes dev team was constantly working overtime to put up with Hero releases, events, balance updates, and pretty much everything.
Former Blizzard employees said there was a disconnect between departments; the esports departments knew something was going on with HGC, but they didn't tell anyone about it.
Members of the public relations department weren't able to communicate effectively with players and organizations, because they themselves weren't told anything.
Another source said they thought we'd see at least one more year of HGC.
The Death Sentence for Competitive HotS
Unbeknownst to many Blizzard employees and the community, J. Allen Brack and Ray Gresko came with a statement on HGC's cancellation and the future of the game in December 2018.
Apparently, Blizzard employees learned about the cuts to the game and esports scene via email at the same time as the rest of the world, shortly before the blog post went live.
Prior to the the announcement, the Heroes dev team was one of the largest on campus. With community wanting more content to prevent the game from becoming stale, the developers were often pushed to their limits, which is why some were slightly relieved when they learned about the future of the game.
Diablo: Immortal and Diablo IV Development
Following the not so successful announcement of Diablo: Immortal at last year's BlizzCon, the developers at the company felt the urge to make things right and they simply had to reveal Diablo IV at this year's BlizzCon, so they ramped up the production of the game, grabbing the resources from the Heroes of the Storm team.
Check out the full post on Inven Global article for more information!
While we all expected the Diablo 2 remaster to be announced at this year's BlizzCon and some rumors even pointed to it, it seems we may not ever get the updated version of the game. According to Erich and Max Schaefer, two of the original creators of both Diablo 1 and 2, the remaster is very unlikely, as a little while before launch of D2, the entire backup of the source code and assets was lost.
Talking at ExileCon 2019, the series creators were reminiscing about the beginnings of the franchise (and genre), and this particular story stood out:
This isn't the first time Blizzard has had troubles with the source code of their games, as Classic WoW is also not based on the full Vanilla code, as parts of it were lost over the years and the update process with new expansions.
This all comes from a Gamespot article covering the talks at ExileCon and also features a great story about the original Diablo's creation, before Blizzard bought Condor, the original developers, and how they were completely broke and wouldn't have been able to ship the game (and might have even gone to jail for tax evasion) if Blizzard hadn't shown up with their offer. Also, they were only expecting around 20,000 copies to be sold for the game to be a success and fund a sequel, which really gives you some perspective as to how things have changed, with Diablo 3 having sold over 30 million copies, and D2 clocking in at around 17 million.
In any case, you should definitely head on over to Gamespot and read the full article with many more quotes from the fathers of the Diablo franchise.
We have modernized blast from the past, courtesy of the Upscale youtube channel, as they've taken the first Diablo 2 trailer and the intro cinematic from Lord of Destruction and, as their name suggests, recently upscaled them!
First off it's a slightly less familiar E3 teaser for Diablo 2 from 1998, enhanced to 4K!
And then it's on to one that we've all seen, from the Lord of Destruction expansion, and it seems Bhaal got a better deal, as he got remastered to 8k!
While the cinematics still look dated, they look a hell of a lot better than the originals, as you can see in the side-by-side comparisons. You should check out the channel, as they also did some work on the Diablo 4 intro cinematic, as well as a whole lot of other games.
And here's the original D2 intro cinematic, upscaled with machine learning earlier this year as a bonus in case you missed it.