When news of Diablo III’s DiabloWikiInferno difficulty level popped online last week, fan reaction was mixed, but generally positive. The concept of a fourth difficulty level, one that repeats the entire game content with rebalancing to make it mostly a flat non-progression, is not new, but if properly-balanced it could greatly extend the playable areas for high level characters.

    One of the more amusing aspects of the Inferno concept (aside from the fact that the words for “inferno” and “hell” are identical in numerous languages, thus giving Diablo 3 two “Hell” difficulties) is that when a fan suggested it last August, Bashiok shot him down. You can read that whole exchange in our news archives, and here’s an excerpt:

    I’m sorry for putting the idea down outright, but it’s not a very sexy solution to make the DiabloWikiend game more interesting or exciting. Sort of just draws it out, or maybe resolves some pacing issues that existed in Diablo II, which was a different game.

    …I was in a meeting with Jay and Wyatt earlier (about something completely different), and Wyatt expressed specifically that giving players some sort of end-game that doesn’t involve grinding areas or bosses is something that keeps him up at night. It’s a real problem, and it needs a real solution. It’s also very much in the minds of our designers and something we will try to remedy as long as we need to.

    That we remembered this is entirely thanks to our forum user Reasno, who posted a thread quoting Bashiok’s year-old comments immediately Inferno announcement. The plot thickened when someone posted about that in the B.net forums, and Bashiok replied politely, between tasty bites of fricasseed crow.

    Open mouth, insert foot?
    Bashiok: Haha, pretty much.

    I wonder if Bashiok would like to come elaborate as to why the Dev team decided to take a complete 180 on the subject.
    Bashiok: I’m not a developer. I was giving my personal take on the idea at the time. Looking back at what I said I’m not really sure what I was thinking.

    It was a year ago. Seems like it’s a world away.

    It just goes to show how much things change during development. There’s no need to pick on Bashiok for this; there are plenty of things said by people who actually are on the D3 design team that have changed 180° since they first said them. I think it’s most interesting as evidence of how recently their end game strategy coalesced around the Inferno/fourth difficulty, given that they didn’t even have an inkling of it last August.

    Insert your, “Inferno is a lazy cop-out born of their game release rush” angry accusations here.

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