Part Three of our exhaustive Diablo 3: Year One review covers December 2008 and January-February 2009. (See also parts one and two.) There was plenty of news during these months, with rumors and intrigue galore. No re-eruptions of the damned Color Controversy, but we saw Tyrael graphical improvements, fan disapproval of seasonal bonus features, the rainbow blasting unicorn and Thousand Pound Ghostbuster, Blizzard kicking sand on E3, the unauthorized Ba’al movie poster, an official (but unintentional) guarantee that Diablo 3 would be released in 2010, black market Secret Unicorn Level t-shirts, and contraband video of the Female WD meeting a new NPC friend.
Click through to read the whole run down; there’s even a special bonus Year One wallpaper, courtesy of VioletJoker. Click to view it large; you need it that big to appreciate all of the individual images included in this great collage.
December’s interviews and major media. All December’s headlines.
As usual, the end of the year was a slow time for news. The first news of any import broke on the 4th, when Blizzard signed a multi-year ad deal with Massive Inc. Yes, more and better ads on Battle.net. Excitement! Aside from mock images of huge pop up ads over Starcraft game creation screens, fan reaction to this was fairly muted, though some professional pundits weighed in. The inevitability of commerce crushes us all beneath its wheels.
The first Diablo 3 news came later that day, and it wasn’t much better. Bashiok posted to clarify a misunderstanding stemming from a previous interview with Rob Pardo. It turns out that all of Act 1 and all of the character classes are not, in fact, in their finished form. You will wait, and you will like it.
Things got a bit more exciting on the 10th, when Bashiok asked fans to submit their best ideas for new types of magical item modifiers for Diablo 3. Hundreds did so, and it would be cool if Blizzard had taken note of who submitted what, so in a few years when D3 is out they could post some credit.
That it was a slow news month was demonstrated on the 12th, when we posted news that the shockwave animation of Tyrael’s wings on the official D3 site had been improved. Blizzard turned the image into a nifty wallpaper, some weeks later.
On the 23rd we got an early Christmas present, when G4TV posted a 3 minute clip of Diablo III. The narration was nothing special, but they had some never-before-seen gameplay footage, which made it worth a view. The 24th brought a hefty four-page interview with Jay Wilson, and that made for some fun Xmas even reading.
I received a Christmas surprise when I posted the 8th of my On the Drawing Board articles. It was about seasonal bonus content, of the sort we see in many MMOs during festive times of the year. The surprise (for me) was the Grinch-like feedback, with most fans coming out solidly against such stuffs. I though people were neutral towards, or even indulgent of, such bonus features, but apparently not so much. At least not in the dark, depressing, dead-serious Diablo world…
That was it for the month and the year, save for Diablo 3’s presence on several Best of the Year lists.
January’s interviews and major media. All January’s headlines.
2009 didn’t start off with much more of a bang than 2008 ended with. There was a fairly good article on CVG about the Year of Blizzard, with lots of quotes from Blizzard employees, projections of their game progress, and more, but it had nothing new about our Big Red favorite. More impressive was this pin-up style concept art of the Female Witch Doctor, released through the SonsoftheStorm.com website by and for Blizzard artists. Her most impressive feature? I vote for that anatomically-impossible hip-to-waist ratio!
On the 7th I illustrated the perils of a Diablo-drought by comparing the covers of PC Gamer US vs. UK. They both featured the same Blizzard three-game cover art, but the captions were very different. What did it all mean, baby?!
The 8th brought another sign of the amazingly-enduring popularity of Diablo 2. Eight years on and it’s still the 6th most popular online game in the US, measured by time spent in online play?
On the 14th the indispensable BlizzBlues.com went online. Created by one of IncGamers’ former coders, Blizz Blues is our favorite “blue tracker,” and the source of virtually all of the Bashiok forum posts we link to from the news page.
The next two weeks were dead in the water for major events, until the month ended in style. On the 29th Blizzard released 4 new wallpapers, one featuring Tyrael and 3 featuring concept art for some of the cities we hope to visit in Diablo 3. Then the 30th brought some lulz, when some joking around led Bashiok to create both the 1000 Pound Ghostbuster and the Rainbow Attack Unicorn fake screenshots.
February’s interviews and major media. All February’s headlines.
February was busier than the months before it, though still not back to the news frequency we saw during Fall ‘08. My favorite news of the month came on the 5th, when Blizzard announced that they were too big and too important to bother attending E3. I liked that they just blew off the formerly-dominant industry event. I also liked that this meant I didn’t have to travel to LA in June, because LA is hell.
A fan made an interesting discovery on February 6th: a made-for-TV movie called Ba?al the Storm God had blatantly ripped off the Diablo II:Lord of Destruction box art. Which featured Baal, of course. The low budget and lower prestige movie had already aired by the time anyone noticed this, and it’s not known if Blizzard’s lawyers were set loose upon the hapless production, retroactively.
On the 13th I engaged in some reading between the lines/rumor mongering, by declaring that Diablo 3 had been confirmed for a 2010 release. No, I’m not totally proud of this one. In two recent interviews Blizzard head honcho types had confirmed that Starcraft 2 was set for a 2009 release (though that date is looking iffy), and that Blizzard was committed to one “front line” release each year. It’s unclear if a “front line” release means non-expansion pack. If it does mean that, then what else could come out in 2010 other than Diablo III? Blizzard hasn’t even revealed their secret 4th and 5th projects yet, and while we’ll likely see another WoW expansion and perhaps parts 2 and 3 of Starcraft II in 2010, are those “front line” projects?
On the 14th Bashiok made a forum post that addressed questions about all the areas so far seen in Diablo 3 concept art. It’s just art, he said, and while it was necessary to draw it to flesh out the world, not every location will make it into Diablo 3. They can’t put everything into the game or it would never be finished and besides, they’ve got to save some stuff for expansions.
The 19th brought a fun development, when NerdyShirts.com started selling t-shirts that were reproductions of the Blizzard employee-only, happy clouds and rainbows shirts first seen at Blizzcon 2008. They must have received a rush of orders thanks to the publicity, since they quickly added a special discount code for Diii.net readers. It’s not known how many of the shirts they sold, but they are no longer available in any size, so presumably the Blizzard lawyers hopped on them fairly quickly.
The 23rd brought one of those cool little tidbits that pop up from time to time, and by accident turn out to be more interesting than major previews and official releases. A short video report from Blizzcon by the previously-unknown Girls Entertainment Network featured a some talk about Diablo III, and then video of the entire introductory dialogue between the Female Witch Doctor and Captain Rumfeld in D3’s New Tristram encampment. This was the first time anyone who didn’t make it to Blizzcon had heard a chunk of D3 character dialogue, all of which was highly flavorful and deserving of a wider audience.
The 26th brought another cool Bestiary update, as the Unburied was revealed. (It had been seen in gameplay movies and battled at Blizzcon, but wasn’t yet named. It’s spiky. And gross.