Another Monday and another ShackNews tease from David Craddock’s upcoming Blizzard North book. Today’s piece talks about the online hacking issues that were unavoidable with Diablo I’s peer-to-peer online technology, and how Diablo II’s client-server architecture was designed to provide a much better online experience.

    The preview also covers some of the design plans from early Diablo 2, and the pacing and strategy issues that running created, compared to Diablo I’s much slower and therefore more dangerous character movement speed.

    “For Diablo 2, Blizzard North wanted to break out of the first game’s vertical mode and create a larger world with lots of varied locations to explore,” Craddock said. “Over time, the team hit on some drawbacks. They added the ability to run in order to explore new regions more quickly, but running meant if the going got tough, the tough could just get going. Second, many on the team missed the original game’s grittier environments, which had largely been put aside in favor of grasslands, jungles, and deserts that, while beautiful, certainly couldn’t be described as “gothic horror,” Diablo 1’s trademark theme.

    “Most of the team’s reservations came from an attachment to the mechanics that had made Diablo 1 so much fun, such as the slower, more strategic march through claustrophobic dungeons. Eventually, Blizzard North came to embrace Diablo 2 as its own game, one that needed to step away from the original in some ways,” he said. “Creating lots of new environments gave them the opportunity to expand Diablo’s world and mythology, and presented players with a change of scenery just around the time they might start to feel bored of their current region. Running left Diablo 1’s emphasis on picking through dungeons carefully and methodically in the dust, but it also broadened the sequel’s mainstream appeal and punched the pace up considerably.”

    Those reservations about D2’s mechanics must have been overcome fairly early in the process, since I recall talking to Max Schaefer and Dave Brevik and others at Bliz North in the pre-D2 days, and they all felt that Diablo I was virtually unplayable after playing Diablo II for a while, since the sequel just had such a faster pace and flow that that in comparison D1 felt so slow and unwieldy.

    I agreed with that evaluation for some time after D2’s launch, but in the years since I’ve returned to the earlier game on various occasions, and found a lot of value and intrigue in its almost turn-based combat speed.

    D3 plays much like D2; you don’t run *that* much faster than the enemies in D3 (barring some skill enhancements), but your movement almost never get stun locked or interrupted, so you can always get away from surrounding enemies (though some of them will run you down from behind).

    In Diablo I on the other hand, you had to pay great attention to positioning and distance and spacing and the number of enemies coming at you, since letting even one enemy, much less two or three, get into melee range could lead to a stunlocked beatdown that was almost impossible to escape. In that light, for all the ridiculous killing speed an expert mage can unleash, Diablo I is a much more strategic game in which survival requires more player skill than either of its sequels.

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