David Brevik, Marvel Heroes developer, co-creator of Diablo 1 and 2 and co-founder of Blizzard North, was working on a very different Diablo 3 to the one that eventually released.
Backing comments made by Torchlight developer Max Schaefer, who co-founder Blizzard North with Brevik before the pair left to make the ill-fated Hellgate at Flagship, the original plan was to incorporate massively multiplayer online elements into Diablo 3.
"One of things we originally designed for Diablo 2 that never made it into the game was this idea of a Battle.net town," Brevik told Eurogamer. "So instead of going into the chat room at the beginning you would actually go into a graphic town. It was, basically, a glorified chat room, but you could wander around a little bit. We ended up compromising, and going with, you get dumped into a chat room and pictures of your heroes were along the bottom of Battle.net.
"We wanted to take that and make that a reality, make that into an MMO experience. Then we had these towns which were not instanced, and they had lots of people in them, and you're interacting and trading and selling and getting quests. Then you'd go out and have these experiences, but you would create these games and go out and play the game with a group of your friends.
"But they turned out not to feel like an MMO because part of the feeling from an MMO is when you're walking across Elwynn Forest [from Blizzard MMO World of Warcraft] and you see some guy walk by that's this high level guy, or you're fighting some monster and somebody else comes up and helps you, those dynamic social things that happen, were missing from that experience.
"So this idea of creating these public combat zones that allow people to have that dynamic social interaction is really what I wanted to make with this game."
Brevik hit the headlines overnight after former and current Blizzard employees took to Facebook to take issue with an interview he gave to IncGamers in which he offered his take on the controversial Diablo 3. In a Facebook post that was later deleted, Diablo 3 game director Jay Wilson said: "F*** that loser."
At Gamescom we asked Brevik for his take on the game. His response is published, unedited, below.
What do you think of Diablo 3?
David Brevik: They did a decent job. The game's pretty fun. There's lots of stuff they made some advancements on the whole Diablo franchise. But it is not the game I would have designed. It is not the game I originally designed for Diablo 3.
David Brevik: Some of the story stuff they did was much better than we'd ever done story before, and in that way it created a very different experience. Being able to be able to teleport to the other players and allow people to group up in a much easier fashion, those were some of the things that stood out to me as being much better than we had done before.
What do you feel fell short?
David Brevik: The skill system was very different than what we ever designed before. It played more like a load-out system from a shooter, which was a very different approach than we had ever even contemplated. I don't know if that necessarily works super well. Being able to change your build at any given time on the fly was a little bit too generous. So it fell down a little bit there.
There are other specific things, especially with the items and your main weapon powering a lot of your skills that were choices I would have not made.
What's your take on Blizzard's decision to make Diablo 3 always online?
David Brevik: I'm making a game that's always online, but it's different. I wouldn't make the same choices they made.
The fact is that it took a lot of time and money to make that game, and piracy is a problem. When you cannot manage that at all there are certain in which you're going to lose a lot of money. It comes down to, this is a business in the end, and when you spend that much time and effort on something, you've got to have some sort of path to recovery. Unfortunately it's a business choice more than anything.
I want to make Marvel Diablo
Brevik is now working on Marvel Heroes - what developer Gazillion described to Eurogamer as "the spiritual successor to Diablo 2". After Hellgate met its end, Brevik began working on a MMO called Mythos that never saw the light of day. His original design for Diablo 3 "got translated and became a lot of this Mythos project", Brevik told us.
"Originally Diablo 1, I thought of the idea when I was in high school," he said. "It took 10 years for me to make that game. Doing 10 years again to make this game doesn't seem like an unreasonable thing."
After Flagship dissolved in 2008 Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer founded Runic Games and created Torchlight, what Brevik calls "a single-player version of Mythos".
"I left and I wanted to do something different," Brevik said. "I had learned that the Marvel license had been taken. I'm a huge Marvel fan, so I sought out the job to actually say, I want to make Marvel Diablo, and take some of the lessons I've learned doing Mythos and some of the early design stuff I'd done on Diablo 3, and then all of my experience with Diablo 1 and 2, and try and harness that and make it into a true MMO and add the Marvel IP on top."
Now, Brevik is working alongside former members of the Diablo 2 team who did programming on that game and Battle.net, and is making Marvel Heroes as a free-to-play. "I've wanted to make a F2P game for a long time," he said. "This is a business model we saw emerge. We were fortunate to have a lot of popularity with the Blizzard products in Asia, so we would go over to Asia and work on our games and promote our games, and we saw the F2P business model bloom there and take off. I realised, wow, this is a great way for people to get hands on a game."