Stieg Hedlund on Diablo 3

Veteran and well-respected game designer Stieg Hedlund was a Lead Designer on Diablo I and Diablo II. He did not work on D2X or the Blizzard North version of Diablo 3, since he left Blizzard North in 2000. He’s worked on lots of games since then and his current project is an upcoming F2P ARPG called ChronoBlade, a game so new it doesn’t even have a wikipedia page yet, though it does have a nice website and a FAQ.

As part of a publicity push to raise awareness of ChronoBlade, Steig’s submitted to an interview with PC Gamer. The whole piece isn’t yet online, but they’ve posted an excerpt with a few questions about Diablo 3. There’s no telling if the questions now posted are all of them about D3, but Steig’s comments are largely negative about character customization and level design.

PCG: What did you think of Diablo III?
Stieg Hedlund: It’s hard to separate personal feelings about something like that from how the game was perceived. I think the audience really didn’t react to it very well. A lot of the changes were things that they perceived as negative. Personally, I was just so deeply involved in the creation of the world and how everything worked in it… The direction a lot of things went was not something that I felt was where I would have gone. But I don’t want to Monday-morning quarterback them. It’s a tough thing to follow up on, the success of Diablo and Diablo II, and not encroach on the territory of World of Warcraft.

PCG: Is there something you would have done differently in creating Diablo III if you were involved in that project?
Hedlund: I think one of the things that I looked at was really… The low-level stuff. The dungeons didn’t feel random enough to me. They felt a little bit been-there-done-that very quickly. I think the way that people played in multiplayer games, they were pretty much just running for the exits and trying to figure out the quickest way to get there, rather than engaging with the minute-to-minute exploration of the world.

I think most players are in agreement that we’d like more randomization and variety to the dungeons in Diablo 3, and that’s why I asked several questions about it during our recent dev interview, but let’s be honest… “just running for the exits and trying to figure out the quickest way to get there” is an absolutely perfect description of how 99% of players behaved in Diablo 1 and Diablo 2, where the end game play was largely about runs. Laz Runs, Baal Runs, Meph Runs, Countess Runs, etc.

In D2 the goal was to get through the dungeon levels as quickly as possible in order to reach some boss, on some lower level, who had a better chance of a good drop. Players did sometimes clear out whole areas, chiefly the Cow Level, but that was all about grinding for exp. In the end game we mostly hunted items, and that meant runs to the big bosses, and those required us to zoom through intermediate levels to find the exit ASAP. (This is less true in recent versions of D2X, where rune-hunting is more about clearing certain levels, rather than racing to Act Bosses.)

In contrast, Diablo 3 is *not* about that. There’s some rushing for exits during the early leveling up phase (which I’d bet is all Steig did). Some players wish there were runs and reasons to race through Diablo 3, but for the most part the end game is about clearing out areas, and the best levels get cleared out to every nook and corner, since that’s the best way to garner exp and item drops in Diablo 3. Which doesn’t mean Steig’s wrong about his other comments, but this one on player behavior in dungeons seems wrong, at least in terms of end game behavior…

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21 thoughts on “Stieg Hedlund on Diablo 3

  1. The difference between diablo 2 and 3 is that in diablo 2; you were actually rewarded for your time; when you’d find an Soj or a HR you’d do ballistic; even through the mindless runs you feel the urge to keep going because of that sheer thirst to find something good and by god were you rewarded for your time. But

    in this? i’m never rewarded i haven’t been rewarded since my ‘gold 100m’ drop back in October; i still play due to sheer bordum of other games, but that’s about it. I don’t feel rewarded for my loyalty, my time and my commitment to the game whatsoever. i haven’t found a single upgrade for myself, it’s all done by AH.

    For those people who say oh do self found, i can’t i just can’t simply play mp1-5 i don’t want to be a ‘lower’ i want to become elite; an elite geared player but the time I’ve put into this hasn’t pumped any rewards, so you can imagine the frustration and the impatience. when i played inferno hardmode patch; i really wanted to exceed with my 16k dps; but there was something there. An insult, drops unworthy of my time so i’d just damned AH it, because i’d feel so put off by hours of farming for nothing.

  2. I hate it when people say that “nobody” did anything but endless boss running in D2…..

    Point is, in D1 & D2 the levels were (mostly) random mazes where the exit could be just about anywhere. That feeling of exploration is IMO one of the defining cornerstones of what a Diablo game is. I’m baffled that the new team decided to replace mazes with lines or circles. I miss the mazes a lot.

    • Yep, none of the areas really feel labyrinthine. I think the decision to make a static overworld really contributes to that feeling. Fields of Misery is, what, a square?

    • Agree. They were probably afraid that too much randomized areas, random outdoors, and mazes would be too complicated to face for the ‘casual’ player, and cause them to rage quit. I mean, their goal has never been to make a real game, just a game that is dumbed down to reach a new target audience.

      Then there’s the real baffling issue. Does this team really like to make games like this? Apparently they do.

  3. He better be careful, or some Blizzard employee with say something nasty about him…

    But yeah, this is just another example of a former high level Blizzard North guy saying that this was not the game he would have made. We would have gotten something totally different if they were still around, that’s for sure.

  4. “…and not encroach on the territory of World of Warcraft.” I think this is a huge reason the game turned out the way it did.

    Make a great enjoyable game that keeps everyone entertained for about 100 hours. If it’s too good and keeps gamers occupied for years like D2, it will hurt WoW subs in the long run. Mission accomplished.

    • Exactly. This is the most important quote from the interview. I was asking that myself long before D3 was released. How can they make a good Diablo game that does NOT bind people for hours on end, inevitably hurting WoW subs. And not only that, I wondered if they have “reset” D3’s development and release in 2005 because their MMO baby WoW came out that year.

      But times have changed it seems. WoW subs are down to 7.7 million, and they need a LOT of money now (see the Vivendi deal). I wouldn’t be surprised if the devs are now allowed to do almost anything to push the game and its first expansion. The success of D3 on console will have a lot influence here, too, because WoW does not run on console.

  5. I too miss the random mazes. They got too lost in the new skill system to bother with all those little details. like random maps, endgame, blah blah blah.

    One thing I still can’t believe they left out, and I don’t see many people bringing it up is specific quest rewards. How on earth do you leave those out?? Keeping in the back of my head how many +skill quests I have left, and I used to look forward to smashing that big idiots soulstone on every difficulty. Hell, I occasionally would do that quest that gave a pocket full of runes in act V after a long hiatus of not playing and having to start fresh.

      • Yes 800 gold for finishing a quest in inferno. You get more gold just by selling ONE random blue item. Ridiculous is an understatement..

    • Yeah those +1 skill quests rewards were a big motivator and something to look forward to besides leveling up that made you feel like your time doing the quests was worth while.
      Anyways all of this stuff is just sounding like a broken record now but a good one at that.

    • Yeah, I can’t believe how lame the quest rewards are in D3. During development the change from planned max level 100 to max lvl 60 spurred a ton of debate, and a great deal of the worry was how that would affect skill and trait points, with so many fewer levels. One thing we never doubted though was that we’d have cool quests that granted skill points and stat points for rewards, since those were so gratifying in D2.

      And then we got no skill points, no stat points, and no gratifying quest rewards. The removal of points can be debated, but I’m pretty confident in saying that the removal of impactful quest rewards was a poor dev decision.

      • Undead Crown? Griswold’s Edge? Arkaine’s Valor? Who needs quest rewards that actually change the way you play the game?

        • oh man, the memories, Arkaine’s Valor was such a badass item, it had gold letters, a chart with attributes, a unique design, as pumped stats! Oh memories…

      • Poor dev decision indeed. I guess they just went with the whole ‘the game starts at 60’ and ‘no re-roll, ever’ but damn if it doesnt make quests dull.

        People rolled entire accounts of characters for forge, socket, and to a lesser extent, imbue.

        I mean, they couldnt reward even one of the low level legendaries on a couple quests? Choose a class-specific item? Not even a rare? Whar Ormus? WHAR??

        They really missed the boat on that one IMO. So many possibilities. Haedrig’s quest could net you a free craft. There could be a Shen quest that nets you a free gem upgrade. Those mini-events where you rescue someone could drop a rare instead of some useless Blue Weapon of Nopickup. The traveling merchants that you save could give you a free item. Even – at least in the current stat system – there should be one or two significant side-questlines that end up granting permanent stats or resistance.

        Hmm, this sounds like complaining now, so I’ll stop. It’s not meant to be, as I do enjoy playing and there are many good parts of the game. As far as quests go: I am disappoint.

  6. “but let’s be honest… “just running for the exits and trying to figure out the quickest way to get there” is an absolutely perfect description of how 99% of players behaved in Diablo 1 and Diablo 2”

    The difference is you got to the point of, “doing runs” in Diablo and Diablo 2 because you had beaten the game to death, a game you played a bazillion times because it was just that good. And began needing to adapt a strategy to optimize finding gear.

    Diablo 3 starts at that point out the gate. It’s like the game ushers you into wanting to get it over with as fast as possible so you can farm the same area endlessly.

    That’s not what Diablo 1 and 2 were about, that’s what they turned into after over a decade of people mining out every last tidbit of info they possibly could from the game.

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