Video History of Diablo I and Diablo II + Bliz North Controversy

D1 wallpaper.

D1 wallpaper: 640×480!

Moldran has created a video history of Diablo I and Diablo II, with game visuals and narration of events. It touches briefly on the developers and ARPGs in general, but focuses mostly on the games and gameplay, including memorable game encounters like The Butcher and the Secret Cow Level, but also the major problems like duping and hacked items.

Nothing of Diablo 3 is included in this video, neither the original Blizzard North version or the ultimate Blizzard Irvine version, but perhaps Moldran will delve into the third game in the series in a future installment.

We’ve previously seen several other video retrospectives of the Diablo series; click through to see some of those, and relive some of the controversy about Blizzard Irvine vs. Blizzard North, in terms of who contributed what to the creation of Diablo I.

Game Trailers put together a slick video showing the history of Diablo I and Diablo II. Part One goes very deep into Diablo I’s development, with a lengthy history of computer RPGs, the people who created Blizzard North, and much more.

Part II covers the aftermath of Diablo I, and how the team moved into developing the vastly larger and more complicated Diablo II, plus the early development of Diablo III at Blizzard North.

In 2012 Gamespot produced a much shorter video about the history of the Diablo games, with the attention almost entirely on the gameplay and features.

In 2011 posted a five-part video history of Blizzard. It’s more about the people and company than the games, and covers all of their titles, but Diablo is included. Here’s part one and you can proceed through the others if you wish. (Probably after clicking through a WoW:Dranor ad, which seems appropriate.)

In 2011 Blizzard produced their own video retrospective for their 20th Anniversary. It’s an entertaining and well-produced feature, but it’s very PR-scrubbed and plays like a long promotional commercial, with only praise for their brilliant games, Warcraft and Starcraft. Diablo it hardly mentioned at all, and only in terms of “here’s what Blizzard Irvine suggested to make the game really successful.”

It’s a shame that we weren’t able to import the comments when we switched the news over to WordPress a few years ago, since our post about Blizzard’s video retrospective and the Machinanima history as well had huge 100+ comment arguments with many passionate long time Diablo series fans raging about how totally the “official” history whitewashed Blizzard North, and made it sound like input from Blizzard Irvine was entirely to credit for Diablo’s success by insisting that it be made real-time (rather than turn-based) and not in a claymation-style visual.

diablo 1 box cover

Diablo 1 box

I’ve talked about those issues with many of the principles, and here’s my quick summary:

The real-time vs. turn-based thing was a real issue, with the earliest version of Diablo designed like most previous RPGs, where your character and the enemies took turns you would engage in inventory and resource management, select skills and spells, issue attack commands, etc, and then execute those in your “turn” with the attacks hitting or missing, damage being dealt, etc, before the monster(s) took their turn. Spurred largely by the success of Warcraft I and its fast-paced click click click style of RTS (rather than TBS?), the guys at Blizzard Irvine thought Diablo would be more fun as a fast action game, rather than a more strategic RPG.

There was much debate about this inside of Bliz North, with most of the employees in favor of the real time change, which ultimately led to Dave Brevik’s legendary coding weekend when he changed the entire game over to real time. I think we can all agree that was probably a good change, and certainly a fundamental one, as the fast paced clickclickclick nature of gameplay is pretty much the defining trait of the Diablo games. I’m sure the fast paced game was much more popular, but I do sometimes wonder how much more strategic and tactical depth the game could have had if they’d stuck with the turn-based version, though.

The other change, about the visual style moving from a Claymation-style, is more controversial. It’s something the Bliz North guys had mentioned a few times as a very early visual approach they quickly abandoned, but it gained new currency when that Blizzard 20th Anniversary video spent a lot of time on it. I asked Max Schaefer about it in our first Diablo 3 Podcast back in 2011, and his reply was very Max-like:

FLUX: Other people have mentioned that [Claymation trial] a few times in the past; it wasn’t a new revelation. And yet it seemed like that’s all [Blizzard] mentioned in the movie.
MAX SCHAEFER: It’s a weird, bizarre, tiny, insignificant bit of trivia — a very tiny part of what Blizzard North was. It’s a curious thing to point out.

FLUX: It seemed a little like, I guess in one way, you could say that was something that the people who are still at Blizzard Irvine had some direct input into. In them saying, “No, this is terrible.” It’s how they portrayed it anyway.
MAX SCHAEFER: Which is bullshit. They had nothing to do with it at all.

stay-awhile-and-listenIn that interview Max went on to say that no one at Blizzard had contacted him or any of the other Condor/Blizzard North founders to get their input on that 20th anniversary video, and that they’d have been delighted to participate if asked.

If you want more detailed info about the early days, your best source of info is David Craddock’s book, Stay and While and Listen. I interviewed him on the podcast last year, and he got into some really interesting stories about those early days, including the Blizzard North version of Diablo 3. Which was originally planned to be an MMORPG, amongst other big differences.


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  1. thanks for vid summary, Flux!

  2. aye thanks, o the memories

  3. Great stuff. I stayed awhile and listened.

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