Diablo III was Originally Planned as an MMORPG

After the recording of our first chat died a tragic death to a technical error, I rescheduled and interviewed Max Schaefer again this afternoon. It was a great chat; Max is always good to talk with, and he was very forthcoming with information about D1, D2, the early version of D3, the Diablo/Bliz North snubs from Blizzard’s 20th anniversary special, the making of Torchlight 2, and much more. Seriously, more with a capital OAR!

Here’s one tease, since it was news to me during our conversation and I think you guys will share my fascination. The following is a rough transcript. See the forum thread for more quotage from today’s interview, or just wait until Monday morning, when we’ll post the full interview audio as part of our first Diablo Podcast.

Flux: What were Blizzard North’s plans for Diablo III, when you really got started on it back in 2001? What were you expanding from Diablo II, and in what new directions did you want to take the concept and design?
Max: We wanted to make it a bigger game. We were going the MMO route. We wanted to support many more players in the game. When I left the company in 2003 the project was still very early on; far from the point where we could have revealed anything about it publicly, since so much would still have changed. There’s lots and lots that goes in inside game companies that never hits the light of day, since projects change so much in their early iterations. We may have changed our own path radically had we kept going on it.

But at the time our thinking was to go more MMO on it. We wanted to foster big in-game communities. Not just session-based with four or eight people. We wanted more than just 4 or 8 people per game. We wanted a big overworld and a giant shared community.

Flux: You’d have hosted lots of players in the same instance? Or like a perpetual world?
Max: A really big instance. Basically a perpetual world.

Can you guys imagine what D3 the MMO would have been like? At that time it was set in Sanctuary; the “invading Heaven” stuff came in after Max and the others left Blizzard North, so likely their game would have been much more like D2-MMO, in setting/content, with some of the same class types returning, but lots of new stuff as well. Obviously the structure of levels and interactions would have been much changed, to support dozens of chars in the same area. Raid content? More uber type bosses? Huge towns? I’m intrigued. I feel like I want to do a whole ‘nother interview with Max just about that.


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