We’ve got Starcraft: Ghost and Worlds of Warcraft on the way, but where’s the alternative Diablo game? Nowhere in sight that I’m aware of, so in this column I’ll speculate on the kinds of games Blizzard could produce based around Diablo, but not a Diablo 3 game as such.

    The MMOG slot has been taken up by Worlds of Warcraft, so I’m not going to waste time doing a “what if?” there. That horse has already bolted to the land of Warcraft. At the time I was disappointed, but it’s something I’ve learned to live with. Diablo 2 is the MMOG that isn?t at this stage. Thousands play it online, more than many MMOGs, for that matter- they just aren?t all crammed into a small number of games. That’s not such a bad thing, as I don’t see how our game would be improved by queues of people waiting kill Baal or Pindleskin on their next spawn. But this is beside the point. On to the alternative Diablo games!

    Diablo: The Sim

    In this game, the scope of Diablo is broadened far beyond the single warrior. Rather, the player is responsible for managing the entire land, as a kind of Sim. Heroes will appear once there are monsters to fight (not too tough though). The player (that is, you) have to make sure the heroes’ many demands are being met- with enough monsters to fight, loot to amass, potions to buy, and so forth. It’s not like Dungeon Keeper, where you defend your dungeon from attack, rather the dungeon/hero/town becomes a whole ecosystem that the player must manage well or see fall into ruin.

    If the monsters are too hard, more heroes will die, and others might not come along to replace them, too easy, and heroes will get bored and indolent, and leave. Heroes will also complain loudly if they don’t get access to the best loot they can find for their level. So the player becomes the game, attempting to keep pace with the heroes as they advance in level and loot expectation. Multiple game levels would have to be created and managed at a time, as the heroes rove on and on.

    It could work. It sounds kind of quirky, and also sort of similar to Cyberlore’s game Majesty, which was an above average, if flawed game. If you?ve ever felt like kicking back and watching a Diablo 2 game unfold from a distance, this could be the imaginary game for you!

    Diablo: The Squad

    Bringing the scope back down, how about a squad-based version of Diablo II? This I wouldn’t mind seeing. Imagine controlling a party of say five characters (maximum one of each type, to avoid the worst of those balance issues). The game would be seen from a Dungeon Siege type view. Third person, and with sufficient screen resolution to allow the party to move apart a fair bit, and fight multiple groups of monsters. The characters would each have access to the same large range of weapons and equipment we know. With one of each warrior under your control, there also less chance of finding “useless” items. Of course the equitable sharing out of items also becomes an issue here.

    I like the idea of this game- more a D2 re-telling than a separate game, but it would probably take the same amount of work to do as any other new game. I don’t see the game working too well in multiplayer- too many heroes on screen at once would not be feasible. In fact even a party of five is pushing it. But it would be an interesting new way of playing the game.

    Diablo: The Siege

    Like many of you, I enjoy playing through the Bloody Foothills. I love the whole siege atmosphere, even though it’s short-lived in the game. I would like to see a Diablo themed game where the siege is central.

    As the Demonic forces, you have to attack and take a human held city, with siege engines and all manner of demonic forces able to be mustered for the attack. Your demon solders can make use of grappling hooks, ladder, battering rams, siege towers, and more to help them over the walls. Once the walls are breached you can swarm inside and kill the humans.

    As the brave human defenders, your job is to hold the walls, gate and city against attack. You have boiling oil to drop on attacks. You can also lead cavalry sorties out to destroy enemy siege engines.

    I don?t see this kind of game as an RTS as such. More like a set-piece battle where each side has a limited number of units to get the job done. Should make for fast and furious single and multi-player games. Single player would benefit from the two-sided campaign that is the hallmark of Warcraft and other RTS games, no reason why the humans shouldn?t be assaulting a demonic fortress. Add some “captain” type units with better-than-average abilities, who can move with you from game to game, and gain levels to call out more powerful allies, and I think you?d have the makings of a great Diablo-themed game.

    Multiple Modes

    Those are just three of the possibilities. Diablo games are not the world?s deepest, but I think there is plenty there to explore in terms of alternative game types. A new spin on Diablo 2 might be better for us in the short term than a straight sequel, but who knows if we?ll get either? Not me!

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