How Diablo Saved the RPG

A  new article has gone up on 1UP entitled ‘How Diablo saved the RPG‘. The article looks back at Diablo’s history and how it became the phenomenon it is today. It does once again mention the ‘claymation’ style which was first highlighted in the Blizzard retrospective but Max Scaefer has since denied.

There’s no doubt the original Diablo was a refreshing change for RPG gamers with its online play and of course the randomisation, and we’ve seem numerous games follow the same model over the past decade or so proving that the Diablo style of gameplay is just as relevant now as it was back then. Nice to see some classic titles mentioned in the article which I had forgotten about, Ultima 8, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, although I think games like Dungeon Master by FTL really helped the RPG genre also, and that was released way back in 1987.

Thanks RyTEK.

Tagged As: | Categories: Media Coverage


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  1. It’s funny how the mainstream calls RPG to anything with stats. While Diablo is more an RPG than many other so called RPGs, it’s still and has always been a rogue-like…
    Stats don’t make a game an RPG. If you call Diablo an RPG, then you’d better start calling The Sims an RPG too.
    Hum… The Sims isn’t a good example because it’s actually much more an RPG than 99% of the accepted RPGs, but, let’s see, StarCraft II! It’s an RPG too isn’t it? It has upgrades! It has story! It has CHOICES!!!
    Seriously, these days you could call going to the john an RPG and no one would be the wiser.

    • Completely agree. I always thought Baldur’s Gate sort of revitalized the cRPG genre, but I guess that revitalization didn’t last too long, especially since Black Isle died so quick. If anything, Final Fantasy VII made RPGs cool, since you saw a massive wave of RPGs coming after that, well jRPGs. Diablo is so much it’s own thing. If anything, it encouraged a wave of ARPGs to be released, but I don’t think anyone looked at that and thought, “Oh we should make more classic style RPGs!”

      • The RPG genre is pretty much rogue-like only. Baldur’s Gate really wasn’t a good example, it was basically a StarCraft with character stats, your “choices” were basic and meaningless.
        Fallout (the real one) is a much better example, but it failed miserably in influencing the mainstream. Of course, it was never meant to be mainstream to begin with.
        But yeah, I don’t mean to defend that there should be more old school RPGs. I think there should, but that’s besides the point. My point is everyone keeps treating the RPG genre as if it were all about games like Diablo. That’s like treating the suspense genre as if it were about shows like Grey’s Anatomy… The comparison stands because it pretty much is… 😛
        Let’s call them what they are: soap operas for the “suspence” series and movies, and action games for “RPGs”. Either that or rogue-likes/dungeon crawlers.

    • Is one’s interpretation of the descriptor “RPG” really matter? Does it make it any worse of a game? Do you enjoy the game less based on how it is categorized?

      Not that it matters, but I think arguing semantics is a battle long lost.

      I find it interesting that people equate the “stats” as the primary defining RPG quality on both sides of the debate. In Diablo, you play the role of a hero in a fantasy setting who’s destination is aided by a loose set of points in a sandbox world where your decision affects the identity of the role that you play.

      If that isn’t an RPG, then I don’t know what is.

      Protip: The SIMS is not categorized as an RPG because it’s… a simulation.
      Note: Personally, I’d always say “ARPG” rather than RPG, though. I think RPG is far too broad of a descriptor to staple it to Diablo without something more defining.

      • by that logic, any Mario-game is an RPG. Any action game has you, as a hero playing. Durr.

      • One’s interpretation of the definition is the correct definition. Which renders definitions meaningless. I do not enjoy games that are all about their plot, when said games have crappy plots. Doesn’t matter whether they are RPGs or are labeled RPGs or not. I don’t enjoy games that are all about explosions, period. Doesn’t matter how much of RPG they are.
        What I enjoy or don’t is devoid of meaning to this discussion. What I mean is, we’re not saying the correct names.
        It’s pedantic, but it doesn’t make it wrong.

      • Also, RPG is not a genre. Adventure is a genre, a game is an RPG when it’s primarily about role-play. And role-play means pretending to be someone. Look at any eroge for example. They are RPGs, in the strictest sense of the word, and yet have no stats (most of them). No level ups, no combat even (well, most don’t).
        The sims isn’t an RPG, because it’s a simulation. I agree. But it has plenty of role-playing.
        Of course, Crysis does too, a shooter, because it’s all about the shooting. Genre, adventure. Type of game, shooter.

        • I’m not entirely sure if you’re attempting to refute or just  elaborate my point. I think the RPG argument is moot, and attempts to  persuade one to think any differently about how one interprets a genre (or descriptor, or type)  is equally unnecessary.

          I’ve seen these debates crop up on game forums far and wide and little  value has been gleaned from them. The “logical premise” refutation like  Bubble 181 attempted to bring up is a prime example of the logical  fallacy inherent within such a debate.

          Due to the subjective nature of the definition, there is no right or  wrong. Which brings me back to my point. There is no prime identifier  for an RPG other than the fact that you play the role  of somebody else  and somehow there is choice involved that affects your identity. Beyond  this, it is up to the beholder to fill in the blanks. What rests behind  my criticism of the debate itself is getting at the root as to why it is  important.

          Is it the quest to be “right?” Is it the desire to get more people to  think your way? Is it to start a debate that we know will end with the  “agree to disagree” conclusion, or worse?

          I guess the real question is: why does this matter to people at all?

          Is it because people demand more respect for the “real” RPG genre?

          • There is no “real” RPG.
            Diablo is not an RPG. Real, fake or otherwise.

          • To think that only your answer is the correct one is to be closed minded. It is a weak outlook to assume by dint of your perspective that you are right, and in the academic world, considered a moot conversation. When you begin defining things differently than which is commonly accepted, you depart from the desire to discuss.

            That is to say, if you differ from the following link in your understanding:
            Then I believe you are laboring and conversing without reason.

            I use wikipedia simply because it is the amalgamation of thought, contributed by authors from around the world and is therefore the best representation of collective effort in defining a concept, idea, etc.

            I believe that opinion can be wrong if based upon a flawed premise and stated as fact. You state that Diablo will never be and is not an RPG. The world disagrees with you. You are entitled to your thought on the subject, but I implore you, for the sake of the integrity of discussion, to enter the conversation with the possibility that you will change your mind – or even entertain the possibility of being wrong (if there can be a right/wrong). If you don’t, the discussion is done before the words were translated into writing.

            I’m perfectly okay with being wrong. But then again, I am not arguing my perspective here. I am just pointing out why it is difficult to take you seriously. This age-old debate is prime example of the human condition: where personal convictions overrule logic and stubbornness inhibits progress.

            But I guess this is where we agree to disagree, and we part with no better understanding than we were previously.

          • There is a difference between believing I’m the only one right and believing there is a right answer at all.

            I believe both, but I will budge on the first one if you provide reasoning.
            And yes, I believe different from the mainstream. Did I not say that outright at the beginning? The thing is, the mainstream is wrong. And you argument is ad populum. In other words, a fallacy: an argument that APPEARS sound and yet holds no reason.

            Dare I ask: do you defend the existence of god because so many people say they exist so they must?

            You probably do, but it is not my aim to offend your beliefs.

            Peace. This discussion is moot. I have nothing else to add.

    • To be fair, if Diablo isn’t an RPG then i guess rather than saving, D1 pretty much killed RPG’s for me.

  2. I always role play in the john!

  3. I always thought the Baldur’s Gate series saved the RPG…

  4. Ultima 8… ah… good times. That game was awesome in days of yore! I remember trying to kill as many townsfolk and guards as possible. The ‘XP’ system was terrible though.

  5. Hey Rush, you should actually read the interview you linked to.

    1. Flux states that the “claymation” thing has been mentioned many times prior to that by people such as Bill Roper, so it isn’t actually new. Therefore making it doubly curious why they mentioned it in the Blizzard retrospective video.

    2. Max didn’t ‘deny’ that it existed, he denied that Blizzard Irvine had anything to do with that design being cancelled, implying that it was a purely in-house decision.

    Also despite what Flux said in the interview, I believe the claymation was dabbled with for Diablo, not Diablo 2 (this 1-up link confirms that).

  6. Diablo wasn’t significant as a genre piece as much as it was a mainstream hit that was an actual GAME.   Remember, in the mid-90s, the big sellers were FMV choose-your-own-adventure crap like ‘seventh guest’, slide shows like ‘myst’, and bad flight sims like ‘wing commander’.   Of course, the sad irony is that the diablo series subsidized the creation of that horrible non-game chat-room thing which wrecked blizz forever and set the whole industry back a decade…  😥

  7. “(this 1-up link confirms that)”   Really?  A piece without a single original primary source “confirms” design decisions made 15 years ago?  Nice theory.

  8. I think it’s interesting that, out of all games, Diablo was named as savior. While it certainly was a great game, I wouldn’t have hailed it savior – persay.

  9. I never thought of diablo as an rpg

  10. Dungeon Master!  I STILL play this game and it’s expansion.  Can’t forget Lords of Chaos, especially since I played it a bit this week.  Atari ST ftw.

  11. A more interesting article would be entitled “How Vivendi stole Condor’s Golden Baby”.

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