This term – Diablo Drought – was used for the first time back in late 2008, some months after the WWI 2008 announcements and the all the subsequent BlizzCon-related Diablo news had died out a bit. It has since been used time and again to complain over lack of new information about our favourite game. But is that really a fair assessment of how Blizzard have engaged with the community? Let’s have a look in the rear view mirror!
One thing that started making fans consider themselves starved to death from lack of Diablo 3 info was perhaps because there were loads of StarCraft 2 activity at the time. The worshipped RTS Community Manager Karune was making Q&A batches wildly, and all the RTS nerds (including myself) just wanted to bask in his StarCrafty glory. Jay Wilson, however did not think this close connection to the community would be the best for the development, so the best we got in those 2.5 months was really a few scattered interviews and blue posts.
During most of 2009, Diablo Community Manager Bashiok was really doing what he could to get a dialogue of sorts going between fans and Blizzard. Perhaps an initiative by Bashiok, or a general encouragement of all Community Managers, this was also the year Blizzard launched its community site initiative on Twitter and Facebook. Despite this obviously being a way for Blizzard to communicate with fans in an easier way, there was some mixed thoughts about that this too.
Of course, August (and a little bit in September) saw the biggest influx of videos, news, interviews, panels, information, screenshots, concept art, previews opinions and columns we’ve had since the launch in 2008. This was due to BlizzCon 2009, GamesCom and PAX all appearing with close vicinity of each other. Unsurprisingly, BlizzCon outshone the others, but a lot of official and “bootleg” material ended up in the hands of the fans to everyone’s delight.
One proper Diablo Drought
To a great extent, looking at the development as a whole, there really has only been one proper “Diablo Drought”, and that was in 2008 when the word was originally coined. This is hopefully the time Blizzard spent time WORKING on the game rather than preparing or attending events for us fans. We need to remember that while it’s lovely to get all the information of the development, it is actually detrimental as well.
Very many fans don’t understand the concept of “development”. They know their games, they know what they like, and they immediately assume that what they see is in some preview is what they are going to get. I don’t want to be an old “ageist” here, but newer fans are likely overrepresented here. People who have not seen a beta development up close in the past like many of us who played D1 and D2 in our teens (and unfortunately have seen quite a few come and go by now).
The time it takes to get development material presentable to a wide audience is also time spent NOT making the game. If we had no massive announcement in 2008 and no BlizzCons in 2008/2009/2010(?), we might have seen a release of the game some 6 or so months from now. Mind you, a game needs PR and hype to do well in sales, so they wouldn’t have done that anyway.
The thing is, us hardcores DO want to know more! At least for myself I wouldn’t mind knowing every little step and coffee pause they have over at Blizzard, and I wouldn’t even tell anyone if I got that privilege. I doubt many members of the site would ever turn down any inside scoops from the development. Also, many of us can handle beta info without having a fit.
Even with a very generous dev team (and beside the point people get upset as well as they have to take time off from development), this can still backfire. The majority of future buyers are NOT following the game as closely as many of the hardcore fans, and if too many changes are shown all the time, it will only confuse the greater audience and even many well versed fas as well.
Now, take a good look at just how much new information they have produced in the last 2-odd years in DiabloWiki’s massive Media Coverage archive (2008, 2009 & 2010) and ask yourself if you have even read HALF of it. Isn’t it really fair to say that Blizzard has, in fact, been VERY generous with information? Especially if you compare to many other developers.
If you don’t agree, what could they have done better? I mean – really?