Shark Form Azmodan = Blizzard North Monster

During the Black Soulstone cinematic panel at BlizzCon 2011, the D3 devs talked about early concepts for Azmodan, and showed off one very odd “human with a shark’s head” type of monster, as their earliest version of Azmodan. You can see concept art of it to the right, and even a casual glance shows that creature has nothing in common with the version of DiabloWikiAzmodan seen in Diablo 3. That Azmodan is basically a corpulent human on crab legs; huge, fleshy, grotesque, and not at all human in form, while that earlier version was a muscular human with a shark’s head.

Even aside from the huge changes in form, the finished, rendered version of the shark monster has a very different style than any of the monsters in Diablo III. Look at how gleaming and sharply-realistic the visuals are; very unlike the stylized, painterly style we’ve come to recognize over the past 3+ years. It’s almost as if that shark monster came from a whole different game…

Actually, it did. Or so I’m going to argue. Note the comments on the shark concept by Blizzard artist DiabloWikiVictor Lee.

Demon Royalty
Lord of Despair
– Living Armor
Vik August 2003

As I talked about with David Craddock on the last podcast (read lots more details in the DiabloWikiDiablo III History or DiabloWikiBlizzard North articles in the wiki), the original version of Diablo III was in development at Blizzard North from 2000-2005, before Blizzard North was shut down and the D3 project began again, largely from scratch, with a new team at Blizzard Irvine.

Also, note the name. Azmodan is the Lord of Sin, and that’s not some recent innovation or Metzenian retcon; that was his title since the Diablo I manual and lore. This shark demon was called the Lord of Despair, and in case your mythological references are rusty, “Despair” is not one of the seven deadly sins. (Azmodan has lieutenants who personify all 7 of those alleged vices, with Gluttony (the DiabloWikiThousand Pounder) and Lust (the DiabloWikiMaiden of Lust) set to appear at some point in Diablo III.)

We haven’t see a lot of art assets from the Blizzard North version of the game, but check out not the leaked screenshots of Heaven, but some of the early monsters. You can’t help but notice the similarity between the finished version of the shark monster (below left), and the skinless, lean, glistening look of the Flayed Hound (below right). More than the bones and lack of skin, it’s the style of the art; a very clean, raw, almost photographic style, vs. the much more painterly, artistic style of the game today.

So why did they show this shark guy in the Blizzcon 2011 panel when it greatly predates their current work on the game, and looks nothing like Azmodan or any of the monsters in the game now? Possibly the shark guy spurred some creative impulse that led to the current design of Azmodan (or one of his seven sinful lieutenants), or possibly they just had that cool piece of sharkwork lying around since like, 2004 and thought, “We’ve got to show this off somehow, someday.”

In either case, I’m glad they revealed it, because it’s really cool. I’d be delighted if they dumped a whole bunch of the other assets from the Blizzard North version of the game, because I love the concept art. It’s why we maintain such exhaustive galleries of all the game’s artwork, including characters, NPCs, monsters, environments, and items. Moar, plz.

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27 thoughts on “Shark Form Azmodan = Blizzard North Monster

  1. I actually prefer the current Azmodan, shark one is cool, but just more fraken-monster than lord of hell

  2. It’s strange Blizzard presented this piece of art since it was made for a different monster. The final Azmodan is far more relevant with the idea of Lord of Sin.
    They also presented many other artworks prior to 2005, so the work of North has not been completely wiped out from D3.

  3. Wow, so that says, that some parts of Blizz is involved since 2003!!! at the development on our long awaiting game D3. That are now 8 years, wow, iam surly impressed!

    • comments in this interview :
      and comments by julian in recent interviews imply that engine and design work had been happening much earlier.   It’s probably a good assumption that those elements were already started up as soon as the original D2 shipped in 2000.  So, try a dozen years.

  4. The first concept of Azmodan is pretty scary, but i prefer current one too it fits azmodan more. I would use this model for sin of Wrath maybe.

  5. That Azmodan shark concept just looks ridiculous (not = hilarious). Maybe that’s why Blizzard North has finally been closed. 😉

  6. I would really love to see more as well. Curious as to what funky stuff they had lying around with their funky plot that didn’t get used.
    Kinda glad they didn’t use this for Azmodan as it didn’t really fit, as they talked about in the panel, and I happen to agree with. It doesn’t jive with any of the other greater/lessers from the previous games, either.
    Would have been cool as a miniboss or something, though.

  7. I really didn’t like heaven from the screenshots i looked at with Blizzard North…  The interface was also strange looking and didn’t feel like Diablo at all. Sure it was a long time ago, but I’m so happy for the improvements they have made to arrive at the current game we know today.

    • Those screenshots were demo shots from a background artist with 100% lighting.  Judging the state of the game based on that is ridiculous.

      • Not to mention the belt interface in those shots was a direct port from d2, with ms paint graphics since it was clearly a work in early progress.

        • I think Boos was gone from the studio for well over a year when those shots were taken – why they didn’t bother to try to fill his shoes tells you all you need to know about that chapter.

  8. Hm… lord of despair… mistress of pain… I wonder where they were going with all those new demon lords they had art for from a while ago…

    The first concept they showed for him was actually that weird anti-angel thing with the spikey wings and false face that folded back… I’m glad they didn’t use that one either as it made more sense for Belial or something else…

  9. “‘Despair’ is not one of the seven deadly sins.”
    Actually, earlier on in Catholic history the sin of “Sloth” was known as “Despair” instead.

    As one of the Lesser Evils sharkface there would be off…. but as just another bunch of demons… i hope they kept it in-game… or include it into an expansion…

  11. Am I the only one getting a Resident Evil vibe from this monster’s model?
    Anyway, would love to seem him in a position/status equivalent  to the balrogs at Baal’s council in Diablo2

  12. I like the old design much better, but I do agree that the new one fits the character more. Hope they used the old design for something, at least inspiration for a different monster or something, at least.

  13. Looking back at this again, it makes me wish they had used something like this design for Duriel instead of the chubby hydralisk/caterpillar thing… this guy screams “lord of pain” to me…

  14. personally I find it a lot cooler than what we are left with now, everything seems to be renditions of staypuffed marshmellow man.  What a sweet game it would have been.

  15. Not only Blizzard North’s dead after the founders left but also Diablo series died with them.

  16. While I’m sure it’s going to be a great game, that shark demon reminds me of the gritty gothic feel of the original Diablo – I miss that feel, and wish the current iteration had a little more of it.

    Maybe they could sell that asset to From Software to use in the next Demons / Dark Souls game..

  17. Huh where is this is an early Azmodan concept coming from? As nothing seen says it is, I mean there’s no name on the artwork, so it could be anything.

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