Two interesting articles about D3 popped up online today. The first is kind of a flashback to August 1st when this issue first arose and was much debated, but some guy from Rock Paper Shotgun got disconnected during his beta play and he’s now advocating an offline play mode for Diablo III. Good luck with that, dude. Thanks to Philip for the tip.
Over an Gamespy is where the real controversy lies, thanks to an article about what Diablo 3 might have been if it were presented from the first person view. It’s a legitimate issue to ponder; Blizzard addressed it shortly after the game’s reveal when they talked about various experiments they’d done with PoV, light radius, and other fundamental game mechanics. There’s no hard and fast reason why not, and there have been plenty of successful action RPGs seen from the first person view — the D3 Team just didn’t think was the best way to present D3. It wasn’t Diablo, basically. There’s a Jay Wilson quote about it from the audience Q&A at the Denizens of Diablo panel from June 2008. (Last question on the page.)
The problem with today’s Gamespy piece, and the reason it’s touched off such a hate-fest in comments on the Gamespy page and in a forum thread here, is that the author prefaces his theories by admitting his complete noobdom when it comes to Diablo III. His first 3 hours of Diablo ever were with the D3 beta a couple of days ago, and thus the piece comes off like he’s trying to reinvent the wheel without ever having driven a car, while also stirring up the “Why is this non-fan asshat in the beta and I’m not?” resentment that (understandably) lies not very far below the surface of many in the community.
Here’s a quote to give you a sense of the basic argument.
Ever since gamers first wandered the pixelated halls of Wolfenstein 3D, the first person perspective has been the character viewpoint of choice in today’s games, as witnessed by the popularity of the perspective across genres. It’s no surprise really — if you want the player to feel as if they’re actually inside the game world, you should present them with a view that matches our real world. Admittedly the first person perspective still isn’t a perfect representation of our human vision system, lacking the wider field of view that our amazing eyeballs deliver. Unless you’re packing a 3D monitor this view also lacks the stereoscopic vision delivered courtesy of evolution’s clever decision to equip us with not one but two eyes. And yet, despite these limitations, the first person game view remains the closest to the experience we have when viewing the real world. I can only imagine how much spookier Diablo III would have been if I could have explored every nook and cranny of the New Tristram Cathedral, or to zoom in on the pulsing gut flesh of a worm-packed Grotesque.
Instead Diablo III gives us an isometric viewpoint, presenting the player with a small action figure on screen that they’re supposed to identify with. Unless you’re having a near death experience, this viewpoint doesn’t quite gel with our real world view.
The article presents several pros and cons about the 1st vs. 3rd person view angle, and it’s an interesting argument… if you can get past the who and why of the presentation.