Some thoughts on the Diablo 3 announcement

The big news in gaming today is of course Blizzard’s Diablo 3 announcement at WWI. You can find a very comprehensive gameplay trailer, a cinematic trailer, some screenshots and general information at the official Diablo 3 website.

My first impression after watching the gameplay trailer was that Diablo 3 stays true to the successful formula of its predecessors. At first this left me rather underwhelmed, as I had hoped for something more along the lines of an MMO, but thinking about it, it kinda makes sense for a number of reasons to stear clear of the MMO route.

First, introducing a new Blizzard MMO-type game would undoubtedly compete with its own big cash cow WoW, which obviously can’t be in the company’s best interest. Second of all, in my mind Blizzard has always taken more of an evolutionary approach towards game design. When looking at Warcraft, Warcraft 2, Starcraft and Warcraft 3 hardly anyone would deny that each of them was an enormous milestone for the whole genre of RTS games, but each of these games also built on the foundation of its predecessors. The same holds true of Diablo and Diablo 2. Judging from the past, Blizzard is one (if not the) biggest master of evolutionary refinement.

Besides, nobody knows what Blizzard has in store for their vaguely proclaimed new features. It could be that these changes turn out to be more along the lines of a persistent, shared environment as quest and social hubs with instanced outdoor and dungeon areas, not unlike Guild Wars, Hellgate: London and Mythos, which have all been inspired by the Diablo series.

Nonetheless, after getting the impression that so far Diablo 3 rather distances itself from the MMO-genre, I couldn’t help but think of a statement made by Rob Pardo, Blizzard SVP of game design, at this years GDC just a few days ago:

But how did the firm power forward into the MMO genre? Pardo quipped: “Very naively, or else we might not have done it.”

In light of this I couldn’t help but wonder if now that they’re no longer so naive about MMO-development, they’re afraid of doing it again – which would be ironic, considering that half of the gaming industry is desperately trying to emulate Blizzard’s success in the MMO-genre. The idea is quite ridiculous of course, nevertheless it crossed my mind.