The title of this article might seem like a strange question for me to ask, considering the “Designing Diablo III” series I wrote earlier in the year. Yet it is a question I have been thinking about recently.
Diablo II may be several years old now, but it?s still a highly playable game. It?s a rare software store that does not carry at least a couple of copies of both the original game and the expansion. People must still be buying. Diablo II has given us several years of gameplay, but there?s life in the old bird yet. There is plenty of excitement (and frustration) around the forthcoming patch. The patch will be large, and will do what many patches do; improve gameplay, stability, fix bugs. This one will also add a whole slew of new items for the mad collectors out there. It has still generated plenty of attention. All this for a patch!
Think what a full Expansion would have done. I?m thinking more and more that what Diablo needs over the short terms is a second expansion, rather than a sequel. Put in a new Act or two, a couple of new characters to play with, another mass of items to find, and perhaps some more item crafting and a raised level cap, and this community will go on for years longer.
For Blizzard the advantages of an expansion over another patch are fairly simple. A few million more sales of Diablo II expansions will provide a cash injection that would justify keeping those Battle.net servers up longer. A patch provides no such benefit for Blizzard, and I remain surprised and grateful that Blizzard would spend so long working on this patch when it offers no additional income at all.
In Diablo II, Blizzard have created a sort of MMORPG that isn?t. Unlike Everquest, Ultima Online and the like, you can play Diablo II offline if your prefer. Online, there are advantages, such as being able to team up, or fight other players. Unlike MMORPG, there is no monthly fee to play. Games are also shorter, and you can make progress in Diablo II in a fairly short time.
Like MMORPGs, thousands of players can be online at once, playing the same game. Unlike those, it?s easy in Diablo II to create the world anew. Starting a new game is a trivial exercise. There are no “empty world” or overcrowding problems on Battle.net. If the Bloody Foothills are empty, just start a new game, and they?ll be right there waiting for you, shiny and new. While you won?t be literally in the same game as a couple of thousand other people, you still have your party of play with. Other people are just lag.
In some ways those two paragraphs above are misleading; Diablo 2 is not really in direct competition with the MMORPGs. The two types of game offer a different online gaming experience. Neither do I really justify playing Diablo II in a “well it?s better than waiting for the ferry in Everquest” kind of way. I think Blizzard correctly recognise that Diablo II is a different type of game to an MMORPG, which is why they are not making Worlds of Diablo. I don?t think that Blizzard?s continued support for Diablo II would have a negative impact on their forthcoming MMORPG, Worlds of Warcraft.
Diablo II has shown just what is capable without needing to resort to a persistent state world. MMORPGs are designed to last for 8 years and more, and I think that Diablo II can match that. If a new expansion were to be released every 2-3 years, I think we could go through two more expansion- plus plenty of play time afterwards.
There is a limit for every game, and these days it is the graphics. Eventually, Blizzard would want to redo the entire graphics set for Diablo. At that point releasing a full new game with all-new graphics would probably make better sense, both commercially and creatively, than trying to apply such an improvement backwards. But that?s just my opinion, I?m sure some of you would like an expansion featuring all-new-and-improved graphics to appear around lunchtime tomorrow. New graphics are the kind of thing that a true MMORPG, with a monthly income stream, would find easier to apply than game like Diablo II.
So what do you think? Can we go five years and more playing this game? I like to think so, but then I am someone who plays more older games than new ones. I doubt I am the norm when it comes to gamer types. What do you all think? Would you rather see a few new expansions, or would a full blown sequel be more fitting for this series?
Disclaimer: The Ninth Circle was written by Lorelorn (David Kay) and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.