The Great “Sheablo” Surprise?

Though the Blizzard CMs seem lately to have joined Jay Wilson in his no-Internet bunker, when Bashiok was still visible last week (and busy avoiding comment on any of the key topics) he found time to weigh in with his reaction to the whole Sheablo revelation.

When I first found out years and years ago, I have to agree I was pretty shocked. The concepts were still very much in flux, and the artists took a lot of time to really explore who Diablo is. Being the Lord of Terror, the most terrifying thing to everything, everyone, for all time, maybe it doesn’t make a lot of sense that he’s always just a big red demon, but could take on any number of forms of “terror”. That kind of malleable image then seemed to make a lot of sense to me that it might include traits from its host, that there is no ‘pure’ form for the prime evils, and much like evil itself, is constantly shifting in appearance. But that’s just my take on it.
Jump to 18:00 for Sheablo discussion.

He wasn’t the only one shocked; according to Chris Metzen in the Behind the Scenes DVD, some guys on the team “walked out” of the development meeting when the story guys first revealed this twist. Though presumably they walked back in again, sooner or later.

Reading that and watching the coverage in the Behind the Scenes DVD, I got to thinking… I’m pretty sure I don’t care, and that no one else does either. That Diablo’s a girl, I mean.

We had fun speculating about “Sheablo” following the hints and clues which were first revealed in rough cinematic shots from Blizzcon 2009, and the mystery/controversy really kicked up in Blizzcon 2011 when we got “womanly hips” Diablo artwork, and the developers made their various non-denials (see the DiabloWikiSheablo wiki article for Blue quotes and context on all of this) during show interviews. But as best I remember from fan feedback, no one was really surprised or upset or offended.

We’ve seen Diablo and Baal take over human bodies in the past and transform them into demonic forms, and given the might of the demons it seems pretty irrelevant if the body is male or female. It’s not like boobs slow down the casting speed of the Lightning Hose, and Leah’s vocal cords certainly didn’t restrain Diablo’s lectures from echoing out with the same gravely pitch and tone as all the other demon voices in the game.

I don’t really remember my own reaction, but I’d read (and written) so much about “Sheablo” pre-release that I was expecting it in the game, and thus found the story unsurprising. I’m curious about how you guys reacted, though. (Check out the comments from two older posts for fun with wild theories.) Was anyone NOT following the game at all pre-release, and thus totally unaware of the Sheablo speculation, and thus totally surprised by events in the game plot as they unfolded? What did you think when you found out? I like the idea that Diablo sired his own daughter for repossession twenty years later, as part of his long term plot for heavenly domination. Pity it didn’t work out, and better luck next time.

When did you first find out about "Sheablo?"

  • Pre-release speculation, and I liked the idea. (27%, 753 Votes)
  • Pre-release speculation, and I hated the idea. (25%, 676 Votes)
  • I was surprised by the ultimate in-game reveal. (21%, 577 Votes)
  • I figured it out mid-game. (16%, 430 Votes)
  • Wut? I Esc all the cinematics and dialogues. (11%, 303 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,818

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BTW, Sheablo and boobs and womanly hips were explained. But what about the mouths on Diablo’s shoulders? Was there ever any in-game discussion of that? As the Prime Evil he took in all the other demon lord essences from the Black Soulstone, but that should have added more than just two mouths to feed. Or were the mouths supposed to represent Belial and Azmodan, as the two most recent additions? If so, why? Weren’t they all just in the same DMV-esque holding cell of eternity along with Meph and Baal and the others, inside the Black Soulstone?

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52 thoughts on “The Great “Sheablo” Surprise?

  1. Pre-release speculation, but did not _know_ before it happened in-game. Neither “LIKE!!” nor “HATE!!!”.. Rather “DARN!!! Wish I hadn’t read this.. but cannot wait to play the game and see if it’s true!!!!!!!”


    (edit: “..Pity it didn’t work out, and better luck next time.” haha! 🙂 )

    • Yes, seriously borked poll. Flux’s text immediately before the poll says he found out pre-release and didn’t care and wasn’t shocked, and suggests that he thinks most fans didn’t care and weren’t shocked.

      And then this isn’t even an option in the poll itself.

    • As always, the poll gets messed up by trying to overcomplicate the options. If you’re asking “when”, all of the responses should just be time periods and have nothing to do with how you felt about it.

    • And if Blizzard told you that the sun is actually a demon you would buy that too I guess.
      But you are right diablo is not a woman or a male but she is a female.
      And yes Blizzard said demons dont have a gender – so I guess Andariel , Succubus , Maghda and Cydaea the MAIDEN of lust/MISTRESS of pain are genderless too.

  2. @Animecraze – Intentionally not included, just as the forum post links have been removed from the main page of this site. Too negative I suppose? I frequent this site every other day or so because I have been a long time fan. I also have hopes that there will be some game changing news. However, I stopped playing D3 a couple weeks ago.

    • You’re joking right? The reason we have tabs now is because it’s neater and we can get more in the tabs then we could in the wee boxes.

  3. Lots of boring articles lately … dammit I wish somebody like onderduiker come up with all the datamined game data like monster damages, skill details etc

  4. I’m not sure I get the point of this article, unless that is the point. Who really cares about the end boss when the game mechanics themselves are in worse shape?

  5. The moment I liked most in game was when Leah just transformed, and said her first phrase. It was still Leah’s voice, but Diablo’s intonation. That was cool.

  6. Every time I hear something about Leah, this rings through my head:
    “Leah must be back in Tr…..” *cancels cutscene*

  7. “Pity it didn’t work out, and better luck next time.”
    Hahaha, nice one.

    I knew about Diablo being somehow female, but really didn’t care.
    Cinematic-wise, or lore-wise if you prefer, all I have to say is that Imperius looks silly weak vs diablo, both in that cartoonish video on official site, and in the game. And ridiculously small in size. Seriously, there is something with sizes this time.
    Tyrael is supposed to be taller than average, Imperius even taller, and Diablo even taller and bigger. But then, when you go to fight Diablo, she looks so thing, short and small… I was like wtf. Isn’t this the badliest prime ever? The prime of primes? To me Diablo looked like a mid-act boss, much like Ghom or Magdha.
    Quite disappointed of the feeling Diablo leaves you, when it comes to his “epicness”, or “amount of evil” he possesses. It’s not only a matter of size, I’m talking about the general feel.
    (c’mon, Imperius defeated in a battle of… 5 seconds??!)

    Anyway, I will agree with others, that the game has much more important flaws and matters to settle.

  8. In the art book, the shoulder mouths just came about from the artists messing around with possible designs. They thought it was a cool element, and kept it while continuing to develop Diablo’s look. It would have been nice to have a little extra meaning behind it, but of course, that would mean one extra lore book for Deckard Cain to drop and one more line of dialogue for our ‘Lady Ter-roar’ to assault us with.
    As far as Diablo taking on some of the physical traits of the person he (she? it? Gozer?), it think it’s a good idea, but with blizzard already having another game in which a female hero character is corrupted, and becomes a major antagonist, it cheapens the whole effect, and reflects a little poorly on Blizzard’s creativity as a whole. If Starcraft didn’t exist, I think it would have been much more original and surprising.
    The idea of Diablo siring his own daughter for possession 20 years later was pretty clever. I think they could have done a better with drawing the player in to caring about her more. As it is, I actually find the followers and their stories more interesting. I would be emotionally more effected if something had happened to one of them. Lyndon’s back story, in particular, is pretty tragic.
    The one thing I wish they would have done, is kept Diablo’s voice from DII. I didn’t think running Leah’s voice through several audio filters, and dropping it in pitch, made for a very convincing Diablo, but sounded a little comedic instead. I also had wished, that once Leah became possessed, we would stop hearing her voice and would hear Diablo’s voice instead. Hearing Diablo proclaim he is the Prime Evil through Leah’s voice is much like watching “The Emperor’s New Groove” in which the antagonist is turned into a cat. “Is that my voice?”

    • I agree on Lyndon. We talked about that on a podcast to be posted tomorrow, and all liked the backstories and details of the mercs, and a lot of the world lore and such as well. Unfortunate that the main game story/plot was lacking in detail and surprises in comparison. I do hope we get more details on those follower stories in the expansions, even if we don’t fully see them in game and go bust Lyndon’s brother out of jail, or help Shen find the jewel.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Especially the corrupted Leah’s lines are silly and the mid-diablish mid-female voice is… hahaha one of the worst moments of the whole story. Today I was at that point with a barbarian, and was thinking this very same thing.

  9. I was disappointed our character was unable to save Leah more than I was disappointed in Sheablo. Talk about a feeling of failure. That being said, I found Sheablo very underwhelming in the role of final boss. I thought Andariel more intimidating with her fast movements and deadly poison. I think I liked the Diablo in D1 the best.

    • I would rather fight Leah. Punching a girl is far more rewarding.

      Oh come on, it was a joke.

  10. I avoided spoilers and datamining, etc., but those blue “non-denials” and the artwork Blizzard put out made it impossible not to see coming. However, when the actual story event took place, it did surprise and upset me. It was just so harsh – nobody gets to say goodbye to Leah, just BOOM, it’s done. I respected that.

    I wouldn’t have minded “Sheablo” if it hadn’t been so poorly done in the actual game and final battle… come on, “That is not the ONLY hellrift!” Are you serious? The Prime Evil should’ve been a lot more big, bad, and intimidating.

  11. I don’t have a problem with Diablo being female (expected it), but I do have a problem with the model. Like others have posted, nothing about Diablo in D3 is scary or intimidating – and the voice and ‘teRROOOOAr” pronunciation on top of it all just ruined the whole ending completely for me…

    • I think less is more would have been good on Diablo, at least. D2 you only got the awesome view of him in the cinematic, and he was silent and monstrous. And then act 4 you went over the pentagram appearance point multiple times as you cleared the seal bosses, which kind of built your anticipation for the coming battle. And when it began he was just a monster, with very little dialogue.

      D3 he talks and talks and talks. All the empty threats and blah blah blah kill everyone I love and my family and my dog, etc, oh so scary. Demystifies him, I think. Which is a shame since the actual in-game mechanics are pretty awesome and I like his wide variety of spells and the middle section in shadow land is nice, etc.

      • “and he was silent and monstrous”
        There is a tone of dialogues, especially Tyrael’s and of some big bosses, Diablo being the first, which are awful. When I listen to them, I think of how better would be if there was silence/very short dialogues.

  12. Remember that one BlizzCon, I think it was 2009, where they released Diablo’s cinematic model? It was pretty damn obvious. Everything they did was pretty damn obvious.

    I don’t actually care but I did lol at how opaque they made it. I mean, they still refer to diablo as “he” in the game.

    It kind of pisses me off that they used Jennifer Hale for that because she’s awesome, and it was like they were trying to ruin her. 🙁

  13. Pre-release. I liked the idea because I thought it could give him another dimension but it didn’t really work out that way. Visually, I don’t like the tiny waist.

  14. I never got to the point where I cared enough about Leah to mind that she was killed. But anyway, Diablo goes from being a puny little human female to a 3 times the size big red spiky demon. How exactly is there still anything ‘female’ about that? He looks more like he did in Diablo 1, where he was in the body of a young boy.

    Weirdest thing about Leah is that after her uncle is killed, she just stands back in the middle of town again. Not even sobbing, or even sitting down on a chair in the inn having a drink or whatever. It’s like it has no effect on her, and really just kills the ’emotional immersion’ for as much as that is at all present to begin with.

    • As does Cain some of the time… He just bugs out and fidgets back and forth in town before and after the cut scene. I’m surprised they never caught this bug, since I’ve seen it about 10% of the time.

      • That’s his ghost shaking it’s head in disapproval. Walk over and free his spirit from the crappy storyline.

  15. By the time I got to that point in the story I had already stopped caring because of how bad the writing was.

  16. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
    Apparently, hell has EXACTLY that (scorned is debatable, but she will have other equally rage-inducing problems).

  17. sorta like the xenomorphs, not a new idea. what next a predator-diablo hybrid…

  18. Diablo is a female? No problem.
    Diablo can’t pronounce the word “terror”? Shake my head…

  19. Ridiculous, they never had any excuse if they played the previous games and read novels they’d now that diablo changes the bodies of the possessed to come closer to his real form. That’s how a little boy (Albrecht: Leoric ONLY son) was a big demon in the first game.

    I’m pretty sure drones will gorge on this and defend blizzard though.

    Not that it matters, overall diablo 3 shits on all the estabilished lore, if that was the only problem with it…

    • No excuse +++++ to this.

      “Albrecht: Leoric ONLY son” LOL completely true


      Diablo – Albrecht – Male – Diablo does NOT have a penis
      Diablo 2 – The Dark Wanderer – Male – Diablo does NOT have a penis
      Diablo 3 – Leah – Female – Diablo Does have breasts

      makes sense to me

      oh and don’t give me any malarkey about 1/7-th of the evils being a big boobed Andariel

      if they wanted to give Diablo male and female characteristics it should of been 6/7 Penis to 1/7 Breasts ratio

      it’s been establish clearly that possession by a demonic force and transformation has nothing to do with the host body.

      To bad it doesn’t change this being the biggest letdown of all the games I’ve ever anticipated, the most mediocre ARPG I’ve ever played. Lasted almost 3 weeks on my SSD…so sad 🙁

        • How could my fellow Guildie say such a thing ???!!! 🙁

          My point is the demon should not have either male of female attributes.

          You know you are just as disappointed as I with this game. You quit the same time as i did then came back later.

          • It was the “it should of been 6/7 Penis to 1/7 Breasts ratio” line…

            ROFL, I had to pay that one out. My immaturity wouldn’t let it go 😀

            Yeah, I am very disappointed with the entire game. By the time I reached Diablo, I was already choking on my own vomit from the storyline so I didn’t even notice s/he had boobs and no penis.

  20. It was totally obvious and they were dropping hints very early in the game. Leah’s dream cinematic dropped some hefty hints and then once she demonstrates the uncontrollable power, how anyone could miss that is beyond me.

    Then Adria comes into the fold and starts doing bizarre things. And Zoltan Kulle drops a huge bomb “if your friends knew who you truly are…” They may as well have come out and said it at that point that Leah was Diablo. That is only halfway through act 2. At that point you just are interested in seeing how it plays out or when she finally turns.

    Regarding the concept art, it left some room for doubt like maybe they had pondered making Diablo a female. Whether they were going to follow through was a “hmph” moment.

  21. It was a good twist albeit an incredibly obvious one – especially as blizzard have used the same tragic story of the fallen hero turned evil (with some slight amendments) in all their franchises before. Sarah Kerrigan in Starcraft, Arthas in Warcraft 3, and even to a lesser extend Aiden (Diablo 1 hero) in Diablo 2. Saying that its a great story archetype and the best villains are always the tragic ones.

    That combined with a lot of the pre-release stuff made it pretty easy to guess that Leah’s fate would play a significant role in ushering in Diablo’s return.

    Saying that the story regarding Leah and Diablo felt very incomplete at the end of the game.

  22. The shoulder mouths are probably a reference to Dante’s Inferno where Satan has three heads.

    Or rule of cool.

  23. I didn’t actually definitively know Diablo was a she, however seeing as he/she possessed the body of Leah it makes sense.

    What doesn’t make sense is that, you as the hero, know Leah becomes Diablo for the majority of the game and don’t have an opportunity to kill her OR somehow bring her back post Diablo’s defeat. And yes, you need to let it happen so you can catch the other evils but still, your character could act as though the oncoming tragic death has to happen to rid the world of evil.

  24. What disappointed me is how they promised each character up to the gender would have their backstory explored in the game, and would have different endings. Fast forward to game release, and nothing of the sort. I was really impressed with the short stories they released on the pre release teaser page, especially how the female wizard was being tracked down by an assassin. I honestly thought that was to be brought up in the game and was so stoked … yeah so much Blizzard keep proving youre nothing but corporate hoe$ now

  25. They never definatively said what the mouth’s were I assumed it was supposed to be both a nod at Baal and Mephisto. However it’s a direct reference to Dante’s Satan whom has 3 faces and the mouth’s in particular are what are noted because they’re chewing on each of the “worlds worst betrayers”.

    As for Sheablo, I didn’t LIKE the idea but I was far from hate even explaining (not defending) the idea behind why Diablo may have an effeminate appearance.

  26. I didn’t care that it was a she, but that it obviously was Leah, the new character, which was the lamest, most obvious way they could have done it…

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