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    I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to notice the strong emphasis the Diablo 3 developers put on just how dark, gothic, gory, etc, Westmarch and Act Five are going to be in Reaper of Souls. They stressed it in the Reaper of Souls debut at Gamescom and talked it up in numerous interviews from that show. And even if they hadn’t, it’s quite obvious from the visuals in the gameplay movie and the screenshots that the darkness has been turned up and that Westmarch is goth enough to s**t bats.

    I figured that had been pretty well established a couple of months ago, but a fan brought it up on the B.net forums and got some dialogue going with Lylirra:

    so-gothRemember the original Diablo? The opening cinematic featured a crow tearing an eyeball from a corpse’s body. During gameplay you’d find mangled, bloody bodies, upside down and burning crosses… Now interviews with developers reveal that they’re trying to give RoS a more “gothic” feel. Do they imply that they’ll be returning to their eerie roots?
    Lylirra: I wouldn’t say our approach has really changed fundamentally with Reaper of Souls, but it’s certainly been adapted. We’re still very proud of the environments and level design of Diablo III and feel that the overall look and feel of the original game was very appropriate for that particular narrative. In Reaper of Souls, though, the narrative has changed — it’s darker, more moody, and deals with the concept of death very directly — so the environments and storyline have also evolved to reflect that new direction.

    Philosophically speaking (both in terms of Diablo III and our art style as a whole), we always want to try to provide players with a variety of settings whenever possible, so that you aren’t constantly having to play through the same landscapes over and over. We also love that Diablo III — and even each Act within the game — has a very clear, very distinct visual identity. While this means that some areas may be more colorful or vibrant than in the past, it was something new (a nice contrast) and made sense within the context of the story. The same applies for our direction with Reaper of Souls.

    Even so, we’ve definitely paid attention to the feedback shared by the community since launch and have made some decisions in terms visual design for the expansion which we hope everyone will enjoy. Now, the “proof is in the pudding” (as some say), so I’m just going to leave you with these two screenshots from the first zone in Act V:

  • Cathedral entrance in Westmarch.
  • Alleyway leading to a central courtyard, also in Westmarch (which we lovingly refer to as “the corpse blanket”)
  • 29EQCS7RSKGR1376712383322T7DDI2V619Q41376713219008

    More screenshots are available here, and you can check out more of Westmarch in this gameplay teaser.

    I’m tempted to just drop in a “2008 called and they want their argument back” and move on… We often joked about fans wearing “rose-tinted glasses” when selectively remembering only the highlights from ten years of Diablo 2, but when it comes to the graphics and especially the colorfulness (or not) they’re definitely goth-tinted glasses.

    Diablo 2: Dark, gothic, and never colorful.

    D2X: Dark, gothic, and never colorful.

    I loved Diablo 2 and played a ton of it, and some areas of the game were dark and gothic and gory, and others were not. The same can be said of Diablo 3, and while some of their PR wounds were definitely self-inflicted with dumb comments (that turned out to be inaccurate) and the too-clean look of the first demo dungeon… Diablo 3 has lots of dark and gothic settings and buckets of DiabloWikigore. And Act Five clearly sits atop that foggy, spiky, bloody throne.

    Our Act Five gallery has a lot more shots than Blizzard’s does, so browse and enjoy. There are several pics I think are much nicer and more gothic than the two Lylirra chose, with this misty cemetery sitting as my current favorite.

    Click through for some more follow ups from Lylirra on this gothic issue, and closing debate points in which I suggest that Diablo 1 “looked” more gothic and gory largely due to non-visual elements.

    Hey Lylirra, I wonder if adding an enemy affix that does “Horror” would make the game feel a bit more “Gothic”. In short, it drastically reduces your vision (much like Light Radius in Diablo 2 when you were in a dark cave). You wouldn’t know what’s coming at you. It would be a nice touch.
    Interesting thought! Happy to pass it on. 🙂

    Nothing revolutionary. It’s Tristram Cathedral with shades of Blue, Gray, Black. With more ghostly aspects and skeletons.
    It’s still the world of Sanctuary (and the same game engine, too), which means things aren’t going to change dramatically. We may not be able to achieve “revolutionary” given those contextual and technical limitations, but one of the goals of Reaper of Souls is definitely to harken back to Diablo’s darker, more gothic roots. Not copy it exactly, mind you, since this is a different game with its own identity, but we’ve certainly made an effort to draw upon notable themes from those earlier chapters.

    So have you guys made some changes in the previous acts art style/story tellin wise?
    Hm. We’ve completely integrated the Crusader’s storyline into Acts I-IV, but no other significant changes have been made to those zones as of current design (at least in terms of lore or visual design).

    So why do so many fans remember Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 as so much more gory and gothic than they were, while acting as if Diablo 3 is best visually represented by DiabloWikiWhimsyshire? Part of it is the goth-tinted glasses and sometimes it’s just D3 haters, but I think there is some reality to the issue as well. Aside from a lot of selective memories of what Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 looked like (and selective amnesia about what they didn’t look like) I think a lot of the differences are due to the graphics engines.

    Many people, myself included, remember Diablo I as so much more gory and scary and gothic than it actually is (if you go and look at screenshots of it today) in large part since the visuals are 640×480 and very pixely. It’s the same reason most horror movies don’t give you a good look at the monsters, and put them in darkness, moving fast, leaping out suddenly, etc.

    The Butcher's Block, from Diablo I.

    The Butcher’s Block, from Diablo I.

    The human mind is very good at filling in details and weaving a spell over itself to enhance the visuals to fit the mood. When you’re in love the other person seems like the most beautiful in the world. (And then they instantly lose 5 points of attractiveness when you break up.) The same goes for things that are scary or creepy; they look much worse in our minds when we’re in the right mood, and it’s there that I think Diablo I really had an advantage, since the overall tone and theme was so much darker than Diablo 3, and the music and sound effects were masterful. (And audible, as I for the 74th time lament the lack of impactful music in Diablo 3’s non-symphony of ambient sound effects.)

    It’s been said a million times before, including by me, but “Ahhhhh, fresh meat!” and the propulsive way the Butcher came out of that ensanguinary chamber was so much more visceral and scary than anything in D2 or D3, despite the relatively small size of the Butcher, the pixely graphics, etc. You can watch the movie below and almost laugh at how cheesy it looks by modern standards… but if you turn down the lights and lean in close and listen to the whole intro speech and the amazing music… and remember what it was like the first time you saw that in game, oh-so-many years ago… it’s amazing.

    There are dozens of settings, monsters, set designs, etc, in Diablo 3 that are objectively more gory and gothic and polished in appearance than anything in Diablo 1… but it’s not just about graphics. It’s about tone and mood and theme and sound effects and music and intangibles, and I think it’s those areas that account for the lingering feeling by many fans that Diablo I “looked” so much darker and more gothic than Diablo 3.

    Diablo 3’s Westmarch and Act V obviously have the “look” of gothic and grim, but we’ll have to see how they play and tone and theme and mood, and even if all those issues are awesome, I still don’t think they can compare with our memories of days and games gone by.

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