David Craddock on Diablo 2’s Creation

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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15 thoughts on “David Craddock on Diablo 2’s Creation

  1. In D1, almost all monsters moved at the same speed as players. This meant that if you activated too many enemies at once, or couldn’t thin the heard, it could be very difficult escaping from them.

    In D2 you could easily move faster than most monsters.

    Strangely, D3 is much more like D1 in that regard, but I guess the lack of hit-recovery and other mechanics mitigate the danger a lot, as well as the wider-open spaces and many more AoE combat moves available.

    • Yeah…moving slowly and standing in the doorway sure took a lot of skill. Every 10 year old kid i knew back than had beaten that game…

      D2 system where you can just walk away when you feel like, TP when you feel like and stack up on rejuvenation potions was definitly the worst of the three diablo games for sure…

      • If that’s how you played D1, then you didn’t really do it properly.

        There’s nothing quite as terrifying as going into the catacombs when you’re 4 clvls too weak to really handle it and getting mobbed by spitters or goatmen etc.

        • it was only terrifying because you were younger. It is not a creepy or scary game. if you want a scary game go play…. what was that playstation game with the camera and ghosts…. hmmm

      • Sitting in doorways and cutting monsters down one by one worked in the cathedral and catacombs stages, but choke points were rare in the caves and nonexistent in hell. Most portals were wide enough that monsters could pour around the sides of the monsters you were facing.

  2. The “best sound” thing earlier got me remembering how truly great the sound in D1 was…which got me to remember how tense and nerve-wracking the slower more methodical gameplay could be. I really wish the sequels had taken more inspiration from the things that were great in D1. (I also really wish D3 had kept hit-recovery in as an important combat factor.)

  3. Agreed about the SFX of Diablo1 being amazing, even today. Fire up D1 and slay some Fallen (or as we called them as kids, Bool-yas!) or some Hidden. YOu can hear each individual blood drop hit the ground. The gurgling, growling, moaning, crying… amazing.

  4. I played the absolute crap out of Diablo 1. I still love it. Last week (in diablo 3), an Obsidian Ring of the Zodiac dropped. It was one of my best moments I’ve had in D3. I almost re-installed 1 immediately afterward.

    Then again, I’ve always liked very old-school gameplay. That, and I am sure I’m not alone in still having a clear memory of my first encounter with The Butcher. One of the top 5 moments of any gaming experience I’ve had, ever.

    • Apparently Flux has some sort of job now and I guess it’s the middle of the night in the UK so Elly/Rush haven’t posted.


    • Not really no…this is a Blizzard North fansite. I dont even know why i come here anymore…a waning habit i think. I havent been on forums for months…

      Reddit has much better community…

  5. D1 – the greatest of them all. I replay it once a year. It makes me cry to see what the franchise has become. I think that for its time, the game was P E R F E C T. And, as so many of you pointed out, the sound and music is impeccable still today. Didn’t lose a gram quality.

    • Totaly agree, D1 is the best Diablo and with The Hell mod it’s even better since the core is the same… it’s just harder and there are more shinies 🙂

    • D2 was a better game, objectively, but D1 remains my favorite. I loved the mood, the slower, strategic pace, and the randomized quest system, especially.

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