Innovative Sequels and Low Hardware Requirements

Here are a couple of nice general gaming site articles that relate to Diablo III.

An article on AtomicMPC brings up the long-debated issue about the lack of original game properties (you hear the same complaint about Hollywood films), but takes a different approach to it. New gaming IPs aren’t needed so long as sequels are innovative.

As far as I’m concerned, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a sequel that doesn’t rest on its laurels and pushes the series (and, ideally, the genre and, hey, while I’m talking from my idealist soapbox, the gaming medium) forward in terms of all the crucial elements: storytelling, characterisation and/or gameplay.

It’s certainly not enough that a sequel fixes the flaw of the preceding title, adds in a few new items and offers up a recooked version of what went before. In fact, as jaded as I may be about the increasing aversion publishers seem to have towards taking risks the higher the number gets after a game name, I’m a willing convert who is waiting to dish out massive amounts of respect to those that dare to step outside the comfort of what is safe and try something different.

You guys can (and do) make a lot of criticisms of Diablo III in our debates about the game, but you certainly can’t say that the devs have been afraid to innovate and change how major game systems are handled. I think D3 strikes a nice balance of continuity with change; the world and story and classes and look and other elements carry on what D1 and D2 established, but enough of the game mechanics have been greatly reworked to provide a fresh play experience.

An article on GamerFront points out that many recent games, including Diablo III, have quite reasonable minimum system requirements, and can be played quite well on systems that are several years old. Why aren’t game developers pushing up the performance requirements as they used to?

…I can play most, if not all games on the maximum or near-maximum settings. And, mind you, this computer is a good 3 years old, with only a few tweaks here and there to it. So, despite the fact that we live in a world with i5’s, and i7’s, featuring upwards of 8 cores in a chip, why is it that the minimum requirements for a game like Diablo III only require an old Pentium 4 2.8 GHz chip, and 1 gig of RAM? Mass Effect 3, which came out earlier this year, hardly requires any more power out of your system compared to Mass Effect 2, even though ME2 came out over 2 years ago. And, if you look at “Moore’s Law”, (which isn’t really a “law” and more of a rule of thumb, but that’s a different story), it says that the number of transistors that can be placed cheaply on an integrated circuit doubles roughly every two years.

In computer terms, that means that the average, inexpensive computer built will be roughly twice as powerful every 2 years, and so far, the average computer itself does seem to be following this path. So, why is it that ME3’s requirements are roughly on par with a game that came out 2 years earlier? Why does Diablo III only require a Pentium 4, a chip that came out well over 6 years ago? Is this reflective of a larger trend?

The author’s theory is that it’s due to the slow development of the next generation of consoles. Since the Xbox360 and PS3 are both over five years old, and since most PC games are created with an eye towards a console port, most game developers are keeping their system requirements reasonable. This may change in the next few years, as a new generation of consoles is finally approaching and PC games may leap up in power as a result.

Happily for many of us, Diablo III and its expansions (as well as other similar ARPG titles) will remain playable without requiring bleeding edge hardware. And what else do you need to play anyway? Those other girls will just break your heart.

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33 thoughts on “Innovative Sequels and Low Hardware Requirements

  1. “Why does Diablo III only require a Pentium 4, a chip that came out well over 6 years ago?” Because the game is 4 years old ?

    • Exactly the same thought I had.  They get the best computers they can get at the time they start coding, and then that’s what the system requirements are, even if the game doesn’t come out for years.
      If you stop to re-develop and re-develop and re-develop whenever new technology comes out, you never finish the game.  That’s what sequels are for, to up the level of technology.

  2. Shiney graphics are for scrubs, gameplay that doesn’t get old is whats important. D3 will never look dated as its not trying to have bleeding edge graphics. This is why all blizz games are so popular, they run on old outdated laptops to top end rigs.

    Could be why games like crysis don’t sell like blizz games as you need expensive top the range gear to get good performance.

    Other companies could learn a lot from blizzard and concentrate on making good games and not just something that looks amazing that you uninstall after 3 months due to no long term gameplay.

    • Crysis didn’t sell as well as a Blizzard game because it sucked. It’s selling appeal was its visuals, and it did sell quite a few copies, likely due to this.

      There’s hardware enthusiasts out there who wait for a game like Crysis to come out to tweak and challenge their system, regardless of how you feel about that.

      A game having no “long term gameplay” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ll take a 10-hour game that’s really great with no replayability to a game that you can play forever that isn’t fun. 

      • The original Crysis did not suck! It did not sell as well as a blizzard game because its not a Blizzard game lol. The story was generic but the gameplay was amazing. There were so many ways you could go about completing a mission and the AI is GREAT. However I cant say the same for its sequal…

        Crysis 1 actually sold pretty well. Until recently it was THE GAME anyone who built a new system would buy to test out their rig.

    • If every game company did like Blizzard we would never see games that look amazing. Equally as boring.

    • Three months? You uninstall it after three days. And that’s if you don’t have all day to play them.

  3. “the devs have been afraid to innovate and change how major game systems are handled”
    That’s only because they had absolutely no choice – not a single one of them were there in the bay area when the D2 systems were designed.

    • Even if that were true (hint: it isn’t), their lack of presence in the bay area has little to no impact on their ability to create a game in the same spirit of the Diablo 2 design. Game design of a project this size isn’t magic waved out by a few individuals.

      • Actually, it is true.  There’s only one person remaining on the Diablo III team that was there when Diablo II shipped (Regier), and he joined in the last year of the project, long after design decisions were made.
        You can deemphasize individual contribution all you want, but the lack of some of those people hurts D3 badly.

        • It’s not like those ex-Diablo dev team members have been pushing out amazing Diablo-killers over the last 10 years.

          • Right, the brilliant counterpoint where you reference a title made by ten guys from a team of over fifty, less than half of which had a credit on the original Diablo.

            And, of course, you neglect to mention that the leader of that project had only been in the bay area for less than a year when they split off, and really was the ultimate Irvine guy in his mindset.
            And, of course, you’ll insist that D3 has only been in development for 5 years or so, despite a clear reference to 2000 in the retrospective video from Blizzard itself, and the presence in the beta of art clearly inspired by signed V Lee concept art from that time.

            I’ll give Blizz credit for one thing – even if they couldn’t make new IP with a gun to their head, they definitely know how to repeat and insinuate a narrative enough times such that it becomes gospel with their fanboys.  Too bad they can’t do the same with narrative in their games these days.

        • While it is true, as you pointed out, that Regier is the only remaining member, the claim he made was about the bay area. And, while individuals can do a lot for a project, I still don’t think it precludes the current team from doing well either. I merely meant that the spirit of the design can still come from other people even if they weren’t involved in the original.

          • “The spirit of the design”. Seriously?
            Maybe there’s a reason 0/20 people from the bay area D1 team and 1/60 people from the D2 team currently work there, and the “spirit” of the place has a little something to do with it.  Ya think, maybe?

  4. Blizzard has always emphasized making games that don’t devour system resources. I don’t think Diablo III is necessarily part of some new industry-wide trend in that respect.

  5. I think we should look more to the demand of new computers, than of the graphics that they can support. Most people can’t buy or improve their pcs every year.

  6. The hardware available, for the prices PC gamers are used to paying, is pulling well ahead lately of what game developers are able to do with Software.
    Many aspects of building these games to the latest technology becomes much more complex as they attempt to exploit the latest hardware capabilities. Graphics for example: we can display a scene at home in a billion by a million resolution now? How much longer will even the ARTWORK take to create a game that does not look like crap at that level of detail??!
    What about the complexity of designing a game with multiple core systems in mind, rather than one core? Maybe it’s trivial today but for the previous couple years this was a major challenge for studios – they knew people had the cores but it was very complex to utilize them.
    “What?? An entire scene of breaking buildings can no longer exhaust the latest cpu? Crap! What possible content could we design, and how many YEARS would it take to create, that is beyond a whole street of buildings collapsing?? Are we supposed to render the entire planet, at a billion by a million resolution? What studio even has the Budget to take on this project ?? ”
    See what I mean? Hardware is pulling Well Ahead lately, this is a great thing for gamers because stuff is more affordable than ever in history, and we can still get great gameplay (which does not care about the Technology nearly as much!).

  7. Since 2007 or so we’re ever more quickly reaching the point where the amount of work required to create a game environment with state-of-the-art graphics and physics outweighs all other aspects of development. This is why proprietary game engines such as UnrealEngine are becoming ever more popular, simply because they save developers alot of time and money.
    It is also an undeniable fact that in order to create a model or texture with twice the detail, you basically need twice the amount of time, perhaps even more. Unfortunately, this means you will inevitably reach a point where it is no longer economically viable to hire more and more graphics artists for a specific project.
    Then there’s also the issue of the silicon chip reaching the end of its era, but that’s another discussion entirely.  

  8. “You guys can (and do) make a lot of criticisms of Diablo III in our debates about the game, but you certainly can’t say that the devs have been afraid to innovate and change how major game systems are handled.”

    Really? There are lots of people who criticize D3 for being a rehash of D2. Blizzard has barely changed anything beyond small details on the periphery and fixing problems that popped up in the previous games. Personally I don’t really want a completely new ARPG philosophy since I like D2 a lot. I think a series should more or less stick to what makes it popular and companies should try new ideas on new IPs, or maybe spin offs — that way everyone is happy. I’ll gladly keep playing Marios and Mega Mans and Diablos forever.

  9. Their conclusions are stupid. Minimum requirements are just that, MINIMUM. This means you can run the game at it’s lowest texture, resolution, physics, shadow, filtering etc… comfortably, with the specified hardware. Would you want to? Of course not. Diablo II minimumn requirements in 2000 were Pentium 233 and 32MB, yet, at the time 1GHz+ Pentium 3s were out and by the end of the year Pentium 4. Also, while using the latest acceleration techniques to make the shiniest game possible is cool, it doesn’t directly correlate to fun.

    • This.  No one is going to be playing D3 on a Pentium IV, at least on any serious level, but it is indicative of choices the devs made, i.e. sticking with DirectX 9.  DX10 was largely passed over and DX11 is too new to be utilized by enough customers.  This is the same philosophy they used with SC2 and it’s served them well.
      He cites Moore’s Law, what does that have to do with anything?  Games have been bottlenecked by the GPU, not the CPU, for years.  Fail!

      • Well Moore’s law applies to the the size of transistors that make up CPU and GPU and everything else in a PC/Console etc (its basically the size halves every year/18 months so the power of the chips doubles).
        So it is relevant if your looking at the cutting edge in 5 Years the power of cutting edge computer parts goes up between 10 & 32 times. Given this you can see that in 5 years the old cutting edge PC is going to be the new average/below average PC.
        The rest of the problems are Software related this is where DirectX comes in that a set of code that tell your GPU how to create a image on monitor.

  10. Its always been a case that the game development community has always run 5 or more years behind app’s and os developers. This is just history, its what you have to live with. Just look what happens when you try to utilizes the latest stuff like ID’s Rage, an engine that may look good if it worked they way it was meant to.

  11. Blizzard is rather known for biggest audience possible, so the requirements are not suprising. But they could go more – belive many were willing to upgrade their machine for it. So did i but i ended up buying it ealier for Witcher 2. Since then only BF3 really challanges it. Yes games are capped by consoles – on my 6?y old machine i had a clear test if i can run the game – if it has console/xbox version then i wil lrun it – and they can ask for whatever 260+ card or more – if it runs on console my machine will run it.

    @minimum requirements – in short its best masurement of video quality – the are planty of settings that rise the REQ like aa shaders other postprocessing – but quality depands mostly on textures. – Double the AA /shader setting you hardly notice change – double the texture resolution and its whole new picture.

  12. I’m still waiting for holodecks to come out. Then when the Butcher comes charging out of his room it’ll be really scary.

  13. Not everyone is willing to spend $1,000 every two years for the latest thing so they can sit down and play a game for 1-3 hours a day after a day of work. I’m using an Intel Core 2 6420 (2006) @ 2.13 GHz Duo Core, a 5670 @ 512MB from a lower-end manufacturer, and 4GB of DDR2 @ 600-800 MHz.

    When I have time I like to play League of Legends and Minecraft. They both are run at the highest settings and that is a nice. It’s a good feeling to know I can probably play Diablo 3 @ Medium-High settings without a drag on the playability. Blizzard supports older systems and I, for one, am glad.

  14. Is everyone in a time warp? The first pentium 4’s came out in 2000. i7’s are [edit: almost? I think) 4 years old. 

  15. Well Moore’s law applies to the the size of transistors that make up CPU and GPU and everything else in a PC/Console etc (its basically the size halves every year/18 months so the power of the chips doubles).

    So it is relevant if your looking at the cutting edge in 5 Years the power of cutting edge computer parts goes up between 10 & 32 times. Given this you can see that in 5 years the old cutting edge PC is going to be the new average/below average PC.
    ^ So even if you go flat out to make the most complex game ever unless your using a super computer/mainframe to do it your always be about middle of the range computer power when its released 5 years later. <- Note this dont mean that this will be the average PC in used though.

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