Here’s the fourth and final installment in our Year in Review series. This one covers the last four months that wrapped up the first year since Diablo 3 was announced, on June 28, 2008. You’ll note that this year has thirteen months, since this review began with June 2008, a month that was quite busy with D3 pre-announcement news. This final installment covers March, April, May, and June 2009, and you can see the first, second, and third parts if you missed them.
Now that the first year has been covered, this feature will continue on a monthly basis, recapping notable events of the previous 30 (or so) days. Not that reading them will give you any excuse to stop checking the news on a daily basis. Click through for the full article.
March’s interviews and major media. All March’s headlines.
March started off by going old school, with Bashiok requesting community suggestions for things to be fixed or improved on in the Diablo 2 v1.13 patch. Hundreds of Diablo 2 loyalists replied. Sadly, we’re still waiting for results on this one, with Bashiok’s most recent “why v1.13 was delayed” post surfacing on July 1st.
Also on the third, our WoW sister site reported that the massive (life size?) Orc Wolfrider statue had been delivered to Blizzard’s headquarters. It wasn’t erected until the 17th, and as of July 1st the installation is still under construction.
The fifth brought another of this month’s many Bashiok forum posts. This one had a little extra intrigue, as he answered a question about item upgrades with another question, “where is the system in Diablo III that allows us to make base weapons more powerful? That?s a question that will have to be answered at a later time.” Bashiok and others constantly tease with mentions of game features that have not yet been revealed. Let’s hope that these various secret systems are as cool in reality as our imaginations make them.
On the 10th we had a minor outbreak of a perennial pre-game feature, a fake release date. This one came from an unknown gaming wiki/news site, and as evidence of the interest in Diablo 3, it was repeated often enough in the internet gaming echo chamber that Blizzard had to issue a terse statement two days later. “Blizzard has not announced a release date for Diablo III at this time”
On the 17th D2 producer Bill Roper made some of the most honest and interesting comments about Diablo 3 that we’ve heard from any of the D2 team. Amongst his other comments, Bill lamented the loss of the unique visual style that had filled D1 and D2. He didn’t dislike D3’s look, but said it was more of a “Blizzard Irvine” look than a “Blizzard North” look. Bill commented on D3 again in an interview posted a week later, with some slightly backhanded compliments about the look of the game.
On the 19th the first update of the Battle.net 2.0 era launched, with a new interface and integrated accounts. This is only the very beginning of the changes, which won’t be fully seen until SC2’s launch.
The 24th brought some interesting news, when Blizzard was forced to somewhat grudgingly confirm that yes, they did have a 5th game project under works. More clarifications came the next day: the game is not related to their 4th game, the unannounced next gen MMO, nor is it a sequel to WoW or any other known Blizzard game. Most fans are betting that this is some kind of FPS (perhaps with RPG elements?) since it’s long been known that many Blizzard employees are FPS fans, and that’s the only major gaming genre they’ve not yet dabbled in. (The disastrous Starcraft Ghost aside.) Whether this has anything to do with their puzzling acquisition of the Redneck Rampage copyrights and trademarks remains to be seen.
The month ended with a bang, thanks to Blizzcast #8. This installment talked extensively about Diablo 3, with a special emphasis on the user interface, and some screenshots showing off the many changes and improvements made since it was last seen at Blizzcon. Naturally, word came just a few days later that there were already changes to this version.
April’s interviews and major media. All April’s headlines.
April kicked off with various April Fool’s jokes, both large and small. A fairly limp effort was this “Diablo 3 confirmed for the Wii” headline. Much better were Blizzard’s own efforts, which included a new D3 character, the Archivist. Lorenado!
Once the April Fool’s frivolity calmed down, more serious business began. On the 3rd Bashiok made an interesting forum post sharing some information from behind the scenes of the production of the WWI gameplay movie. Most of it was recorded in one take, it took numerous play throughs to show all the details, and some were still not quite perfect, such as when Siegebreaker smashes through the wall to grab the one hapless NPC.
The next week was quiet for major news, though Bashiok made a number of interesting forum posts. We add all the game info he reveals to the appropriate wiki pages. If you want to see his posts, the easiest way to navigate them is via the Media Coverage page, where they’re listed chronologically, with helpful blue color tags.
On the 11th I proved that perhaps Color Controversy jokes can go too far, with this post about the Diablo 3 Rainbow Mod. Well I thought it was funny, anyway. Not so much for the cute little application, but for the fact that people still get so uptight and upset about the graphical style of a game they’ve seen about 1% of, and are going to buy anyway.
On the 14th Blizzard revealed the winners of their Theme Park Contest, all of which were well worth a look. Diabloland!
Bashiok posted some interesting info about decapitation and dismemberment on the 21st. Yes, your character will lose his or her head, from time to time.
The 24th saw the debut of the new game by ex-Flagship and ex-Blizzard North guys, Runic Games. Torchlight! Its cartoonish-look has divided fans, with some thinking it’s rather a rip off (visually) of the earliest, Color Controversy-spawning version of D3, as seen in the WWI gameplay movie.
The 26th saw our most-commented on Guest Article to date. Is planning to drop out of school, or to take a month, or two, or six off of work just to play a game, even if that game is Diablo 3, insane? Or just What It Deserves?
The 28th kicked off an interesting conversation in the comments, thanks to a news item in which a game designer (not with Blizzard) admitted that “We take too long to make games.” Is Blizzard guilty of the same sin? Opinions differed.
May’s interviews and major media. All May’s headlines.
The first news of note in May was a May 5th announcement that the D2 v1.13 patch would appear on the test realms before going live to the Battle.net servers. This is common practice with War3 patches, but has never before been done with a D2 patch. Sadly, delays set in and as of early July, the wait for v1.13 stretches on.
On the 7th we asked if fans would be interested in seeing new Diablo 3 comic books, and what sort of material should be covered in them. Comments were forwarded to the creative team.
On the 12th Blizzard revealed the panels scheduled for this year’s Blizzcon. Diablo 3 gets 3 panels, which will cover, Heroes and Monsters, Lore, and Art. There’s no panel devoted solely to covering whichever new character will be announced, but there wasn’t one just for the Wizard at last year’s Blizzcon when she was revealed, so that’s not alarming.
On the 14th Bashiok posted some great photos from a Blizzard cosplay contest in China, including some exceptionally good Diablo 3 outfits.
The 16th saw the first batch of Blizzcon tickets go on sale… and sell out in 15 seconds. (Not that they were literally all sold in 15 seconds, but if you weren’t in the que by then they were all gone by the time your turn came up.)
The 22nd brought a long-awaited bestiary update, with the official return of the improved and upgraded Fallen Ones. They now have hell hound pets, and Overseer units with greater powers. Plus suicidal berserker melee units.
On the 25th we posted a request for fans to submit questions about the future of D2. What’s Blizzard planning for the title from now on? Will it still be supported once D3’s here? Many fans replied, and the compiled questions were sent to Blizzard. Answers must wait for the v1.13 patch, but more recently Bashiok let us know that they will be provided eventually.
The month wrapped up with a spirited debate about one of those issues that never dies. Will there be some admission charges to play in the new Battle.net 2.0? Blizzard has said that it will be possible to play SC2 over Battle.net for free. However their comment on that is very carefully worded, and far from all inclusive. It seems likely that some minimal level of free play will be allowed, but that some $ will be required to enter into tournaments or ladders or to get some higher level of online support/service. No details have been revealed yet.
June’s interviews and major media. All June’s headlines.
June was the last month of the first year of Diablo 3. We started thinking about doing something to celebrate the anniversary in mid-June, and assumed that Blizzard would have some cool plans of their own. True, the June 28th anniversary was largely meaningless to the D3 Team, who had been working on the game for years, but one year from the public unveiling seemed like something of a big deal. It was not; Blizzard issued no pronouncements or other fanfare to mark the occasion. At least we did these year in review articles and inspired some of the community artists to create anniversary wallpapers.
The first news of note in June popped up on the 6th, when one of the Starcraft 2 Community Managers confirmed that Starcraft 2 would be playable, for free, over Battle.net. As with previous comments on this issue, the details were intentionally left vague. Bashiok repeated this carefully-worded message in a forum post a few weeks later.
The next day an interesting news item popped up about Left 4 Dead, a zombie shooter. The sequel was announced, to everyone’s surprise, at E3, with a release date in November, just one year after the first game in the series. Fans of the game asked why they should buy a sequel when the developers hadn’t provided the support and patches they’d promised, instead of spending those human resources on creating a full price sequel. Do developers have an obligation to provide community support? If they do not, is it reasonable for fans to launch boycott efforts? Opinions differed.
There were few interviews and no new previews in June, which left Bashiok forum posts the main source of new-ish information. Happily, he kept them coming. One of the most interesting threads began on the 10th, and was devoted to explaining how the Barbarian’s Fury worked, and how the mechanic was integrated into the game. Bashiok made numerous posts on the topic, returning to the thread often enough that we made a second and third post about his ongoing commentary.
On the 11th Bashiok posted a long explanation about the cause of the D2 v1.13 delays, continuing a saga that began back in March, and that promises to resolve in July. Or possibly August. If all goes well.
The first really cool Diablo 3 merchandise arrived in June, with the unveiling of the Barbarian painted diarama polystone statue. The fully-painted version was revealed on the 13th, went up for pre-orders on the 19th, and was completely sold out by the 22nd. Better luck next time.
On the 17th we engaged in our annual tradition of a last minute scramble to find some prize winners who could attend Blizzcon. This happened last year as well, when we ran various contests for tickets, selected winners, and then found out that they all lived in like, Finland, and thus could not attend the event. Even if you don’t think you’ll win one of our contests, it’s a good idea to enter as often as we have to go down the list to find an entrant who can accept the prize. This year we ended up having to give out two tickets at random to any site pal. Considering what the tickets are selling for on ebay, dropping $12 for a 6 month pal subscription would have been a very wise investment. (As well as a great way to support your favorite D3 site *cough*) Congrats to the lucky winners, who we sincerely hope can actually go.
Some commentary filled out the last week of the month. In an article on the 24th, we asked if Diablo 3 needed a “sexy” character. Some were for it, but most fans said they were opposed to silly bikini-girl looking characters in games. (At least they said so, but someone’s buying all those titles.) A couple of days later we brought up the always heated, “guns in D3” issue with some speculation about a Gunslinger class. Reaction was largely against guns, or a character who used them.
On the 28th, the actual anniversary of Blizzard’s announcement of Diablo 3… nothing happened. Bashiok didn’t even make a post. We did what we could, by posting he first of two anniversary wallpapers, and starting our D3 year-in-review article series (which this installment completes).
Finally on the 29th, an interesting announcement appeared. The Houston Symphony Orchestra, in conjunction with Blizzard, was offering a day long game-related event, including a concert featuring Blizzard themes and another one of gaming music in general. Blizzard hasn’t said anything about this yet, but we assume they’ll offer some promotion and additional information as the date draws nearer.