Diablo III’s First High Heavens Remembered

An entry on the Forbes tech blog revisits those leaked screenshots from DiabloWikiDiablo III: Blizzard North version. There’s nothing new in the article, but it’s a nice reminder of what might have been, especially now that we can see many of the same (type of) areas in the Blizzard Irvine version of Diablo III.

The original shots are from 2005 (all the screens in this post are from the 2005 version) and were from a far-from-finished game (especially the interface), so who knows how that game’s High Heavens would have looked in the final product, but it’s obvious that the concept at least was embraced by the new D3 team. I’m not including any side by side shots from D3 for the .03% of people who might not have seen it in the game yet, but the rest of you can compare these shots to your own recent memories.

The Forbes article is brief and only has a few of the shots in not very large size. If you want much more gruesome detail about how the original version of Diablo III began and ended, see the article in DiabloWiki. Also, our gallery has every one of the leaked screenshots in much higher quality, plus other pics showing off some of the monsters from the D3 that never was.

We ran a vote back in February 2011 when these shots first appeared, asking which art style you guys preferred. The older D3 won, by a slight margin, but that was long before we’d seen any comparable areas in Diablo III. So let’s revisit that issue now, shall we?

Which version of the High Heavens do you prefer?

  • 2) The current Diablo III version. (32%, 731 Votes)
  • 4) Impossible to judge old unfinished screenshots vs. new playable levels. (29%, 677 Votes)
  • 1) The original Blizzard North version. (23%, 541 Votes)
  • 3) Both are awesome. (13%, 302 Votes)
  • 5) Haven't seen yet in D3 spoiler SPOILER SPOILER!!1! (3%, 60 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,311

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23 thoughts on “Diablo III’s First High Heavens Remembered

  1. From the screens it looks like all Blizzard Irvine did was take Blizz North’s work and just copy/past and made it a much lighter version compared to what Blizz North did. They milked this project so hard its insane.

  2. I’m really, really glad you posted this! I remembered this, and really wanted to dig it up, but I’ve been so deep in D3, I totally forgot about it! The heavens looked familiar, and now I can see why! Thanks!

  3. I prefer the current D3 interpretation of the high heavens. It’s gorgeous… it looks like a nice, heavenly place you’d want to spend time in, rather than another desaturated, bleak labyrinth.

    But I’m still wondering which boss battle the Irvine staff basically copied from the old D3 build. Jay Wilson said when he played the old build, they had one of the best boss fights he’s seen in a video game and they tried to recreate that in the current build. But the only boss that stands out from the others is Belial, and I find it hard to believe they had anything like that in the old version given the screenshots they released.

  4. I’m more interested in how much the story was reworked. 
    Does anyone know if the D3 team completely scrapped the old story and started over from scratch ?
    Or did they use parts of BlizzNorth’s story? 

    Adria ?
    Black soul stone ?
    Fallen Angel ?

    • @Flux: Can you ask Max SChaefer or somebody HOW exactly Diablo would have ended up in Heaven in their old version? I’m pretty sure Act 4 in both versions of D3 would have been very similar…how we would have reached there is the question.

      • I did ask max about that on one of the podcasts, and he had no idea. he said they were in Act One like area in early planning, when he left in 2003. Obviously development went on and story progressed over the next 2 years.  I’ll ask Matt Uelmen about it when I interview him next month, since he was at Bliz until 2007 and will know.  Will he share info on the record?  Remains to be seen.

    • The idea of “Nephalem” and the re-definition of “Prime Evil” seem especially late-era Metzen to me.

  5. Where is neither? I like the art look of Diablo 3 more but I just don’t like the heaven setting that much. Mostly all the straight roads and stuff.

  6. There is no contest. The art in the final version of Diablo III is absolutely stunning.

    • Glad I’m not the only one who saw the High Heavens and immediately wondered if the Protoss or Draenei were going to pop out to say hello.  Blizzards art department is starting to run out of ideas, although the “corrupted” Arreat Crater was so well done that I guess I can overlook the style recycling of the High Heavens just this once.

  7. Setting aside the fact that it isn’t fair to compare a screenshot from an alpha build (?) of an unfinished older game to a screen shot of a finished game…
    The Blizzard North version actually looks like a Diablo game with its art style.

  8. I love the tile work and the sharp lines of the old images, but it doesn’t really look like Heaven to me. It looks like a Roman fantasy city, one I’d love to explore. The current version doesn’t appeal to me as much on a visceral level, but I think it conveys better that it’s actually a Heavenly place.

    Edit: That may seem strange, considering Heaven often does get portrayed like that, with bleached marble columns and such, but the images I saw don’t really convey the right fantastical quality.

    • I agree, it does look Roman.  I do like the D3 setting but it also reminds me too much of Night Elves/Blood Elves from Warcraft.  Anyone else get that vibe?  Especially from the blue trees and architecture…
      Anyway I voted for the can’t compare option.

  9. I really love the old Diablo 3 Heavens, they stay true to the Diablo universe and looks very original even unfinished. The one we have is very shiny and over saturated. I am also wondering what sort of storyline they have done to get there in old version…

  10. Old one by a mile, also thats from 2005….imagine playing that in 2005 or maybe 2007, not this year. If that team made a game to release this year it would be MUCH better than this D3

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