Edge Online has posted a juicy article about the creation of Diablo I, full of quotes and details from the creators. I’m fairly sure this is a recycled article from some years ago, perhaps with an update tacked on the end, but it’s a good read, especially if you’re not fully steeped in knowledge of how the entire series came about. Here’s a quote to get you into the spirit of things:
With a fairly loose structure, team members often shared roles, but, by and large, Brevik handled programming duties while the Schaefers controlled the look and feel of the game, with Max also managing the business. Certain elements, however, like the control system which pared movement, fighting and picking through loot down to a couple of mouse clicks, was something that everyone could come together on. “We always wanted to keep your options simple: left button, right button, and a few keys,” Brevik explains.
Erich agrees: “We didn’t want anything to get in the way of what some developers dismiss as ‘the grind’. Instead we focused almost solely on the grind, trying to make it fun to kill the same monsters over and over again. What we cared about was the tactile feel of smashing skeletons and constant sense of exploration. Mouse control seemed natural, although there was a lot of iteration. We noticed that anyone could pretty much play, even people’s moms.”
“Making a game simple for the player is actually harder for the developer,” suggests Max. “One of our philosophies was to make it a reward-based rather than penalty-based game. A lot of RPGs fell into the trap of penalties: you don’t eat and you die, everything you find is a penalty. With us, it even feels good to pick up a potion in the inventory and put it back down.”
The basic philosophy of Diablo 3 carries on those initial concepts, especially with the “reward-based” design theory. Of course the devil is in the details, and we can all debate whether the challenges are great enough, or the rewards are sufficiently rewarding in Diablo 3.
There’s also the whole issue of sequels and fan expectations — series like Call of Duty or many sports games seem to vomit forth a “new” sequel every year with little changed other than the names of the players and/or weapons. And yet the fans of those games seem to be satisfied with the sameness. So then why are fans of the Diablo series so much pickier and more demanding; insisting pre-game that the D3 devs change and improve everything, and then complaining about every change that wasn’t just right, or demanding that D3 be turned into an updated version of D2? D2 rose-tinted glases-itis? Are we just an inherently cranky and picky bunch. Or is it that much harder to make a great ARPG, with a precise balance required between so many game systems; monsters and levels and items and skills and constantly new end game content, etc?