UPDATE 1AM GMT 4TH NOVEMBER: Wyatt Cheng, the lead designer of Diablo Immortal, just stepped on stage at BlizzCon 2018 and issued a personal message about the brouhaha surrounding the mobile game's announcement and Diablo 4 no-show. It was he who fended off some harsh questions on stage shortly after Immortal's reveal.
Diablo 3 launches on Nintendo Switch this week, and good Lord it is a lovely thing. Blizzard's opulent action RPG has been on a long journey since a difficult launch on PC in 2012, but it has been a genuine classic since 2014's Reaper of Souls expansion blew the doors off the original game's stodgy structure and balancing and introduced the endless Adventure Mode. Some of the groundwork for Reaper of Souls was laid by an impeccable console conversion in 2013, which had a generous feature set, a crisp interface and cleverly adapted controls. This console game has gathered up all Diablo 3's expansions and content updates since as it has rolled from one console generation to the next, and arrives on Switch with one hell of an added bonus: you can now play Diablo on the train, which is one of the better inventions of my lifetime.
Blizzard says the Necromancer, which arrives as an add-on for Diablo 3 today, is one of the most-requested characters in any of its games. That's no surprise - it's an iconic player character and a fun class to play, and it was always very popular in Diablo 2. But perhaps there is something else going on behind the public demands for the Necromancer's apt resurrection, because the class is pure Diablo 2: none more Gothic, not so much dark as sepulchral, stitched together from sackcloth and bone, pentagrams and guttering candles. A dry, death-metal kind of fantasy horror.
Diablo 3 makes an art of relentlessly gouging your time, but rarely your wallet. If the Auction House had persisted it would be a different story, but Blizzard's hectic smash-and-grab has maintained its flip-reversed trajectory to become one of the most lovingly-maintained games in recent memory.
Since the game's launch in 2012 a steady stream of updates have added layers of complex, compelling and mutually-amplifying processes and tools to refine and power up your character. The Paragon system alone will soak up thousands of hours of play, and the endless lottery of loot drops, the daily-style Bounties and options to burn your hard-earned materials crafting elusive, perfectly rolled gear in Kanai's Cube for all intents and purposes makes Diablo 3 a game you never need to stop playing.
So, why the latest patch? 2.4.0 feels like Blizzard showboating - a high profile demonstration of the team's creative resources, a firm handshake to the game's community and, I suspect, part of a shadowy PhD project studying behavioural psychology. It's also, if you look for it, a sign of Blizzard thinking about what comes next, about what a Diablo storyline should look like now that Adventure Mode is the new heart of the game.
Diablo 3 was supposed to be my game of 2012, but it wasn't. As a recovering World of Warcraft player, I thought its accelerated, flamboyant grind would be just the lightweight substitute I was looking for. I'd been following its development for years and already knew how fun it was to play. I was convinced this would be a long-term affair.
"The Auction House is a very complicated conversation..."
Diablo 3 on PS3 and PS4 is a pretty big deal for Blizzard, as it marks the first time in two decades that the wildly popular strategy and MMO developer has made a game for consoles (not counting a couple of ports made by third parties). As such, it seems to be targeting a different market: one that prefers a more action-focused, one-to-one, button-to-attack approach over the more distant experience of lording it over your avatar with a mouse.
"I'm not directly managing third-party relations," says Shuhei Yoshida, when I ask him a question that pretty much has nothing to do with the area of Sony Computer Entertainment for which he is responsible.
It's fair to say that Diablo 3's launch did not go to plan. Had it gone smoothly, Blizzard's always-online Trojan Horse would surely have snuck quietly by, with few gamers batting an eyelid. As it stands, its horribly botched release has invited a furious consumer backlash, igniting serious debate on the ethics of demanding players maintain a permanent internet connection, even if they're attempting to enjoy a seemingly solo, offline gameplay experience.
Seems like, in 2012, the bigger the game launch, the more furious the message-board outcry that surrounds it. We've had the uprising over the Mass Effect 3 ending, and now it's all about Diablo 3 and Error 37gate. Meanwhile, Rockstar, previously the champions of popular outrage, barely raised a heckle with Max Payne 3; gratuitous violence is so nineties.
Remember when we had to wait, really wait, for a new game in a beloved series to come out? I barely do. These days, while we're happy (and, if you ask me, correct) to moan at the annual overexposure that progressively washes the fun out of hits like Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty, we also start looking pointedly at our watches when three years pass between BioShock games. It's become routine to assume that we'll get through three episodes of an Uncharted or a Gears of War in one hardware generation.
Here's one to file under 'lessons we probably should have learned from writing stuff on the internet for over a decade': if you're planning to publish a couple of different perspectives on a contentious issue, either publish them together or lead with the one that reflects the prevailing consensus. Otherwise everyone calls you a c***!
Diablo 3 is an online game. That's not an opinion, it's a fact - Blizzard requires you have an internet connection to play it, although previous Diablo games allowed offline play and many (most?) people enjoyed playing them solo. The controversy surrounding that decision has been intense, and so was fans' understandable frustration when server load made the game difficult to play on launch day this week.
At 11pm last night the bell rang out in HMV's flagship store in Oxford Circus. The Diablo 3 servers went live, hundreds of fans roared, and the tills were set alight. The loot hunting had begun.
Today is Diablo 3 launch day, the culmination of a giant effort from Blizzard's Diablo team, which has spent years crafting the follow-up to the 12-year-old Diablo 2. But it is just the beginning. In this interview with Eurogamer, lead technical artist Julian Love and senior world designer Leonard Boyarsky reveal that hardcore difficulty, replayability and post-launch support will ensure Diablo 3 lasts over a decade.
There's so much hype and discussion among fans about Diablo 3. As makers of the game, are you aware of what's going on outside the game, or are you oblivious to it all?
Diablo 3 has been a long, long time coming.
Tom's already offered you a rundown of this year's Actual New Games - the ones that are offering, in their own ways, something unique - and now here's the slightly less glamorous look at the other side of the coin.
They're big business, these blockbuster sequels, and for all that we lament the lack of innovation it's these big-budget series that inevitably garner the most attention and inspire the most devotion from the majority. That's nothing to be scorned - iteration's an important thing in games development and indeed the development of games - and a composite of evolved features designed to fulfil a particular desire, be that the needs of a sports fan or those wanting a fresh shooter fix, can be just as important to the progression of the medium as the advent of a new game mechanic or control concept.
Sequels take many forms and capture our attention for many reasons. Some build their features up year by year, like FIFA and Call of Duty, and will continue to be brilliant when we encounter them later in 2012. Others build on the storytelling or world-building of games a few years past, like Gearbox's brilliant-looking Borderlands 2 or the sure-to-be-spectacular finale to the Shepard's tale in Mass Effect 3. And some are interesting because of their circumstances - Halo 4, for example, is another big-budget sequel on the near horizon, and with a new and as-yet unproven developer filling Bungie's big boots, we're just interested in that out of morbid curiosity as devotion to the series.
This interview appears simultaneously on Eurogamer and on our sister trade site, GamesIndustry.biz.
Blizzard's head writer and lore guru - or senior vice president of story and franchise development to his friends - Chris Metzen has just announced his retirement. To mark the moment, here's a profile of the man we originally published on 20th October 2011.
Blizzard goes big at GamesCom, and this year was no exception. Gargantuan queues wrapped around its Diablo 3 booth on the show floor, and its 20th anniversary press conference was packed to the rafters. With Diablo 3, StarCraft 2 expansion Heart of the Swarm, an unnamed World of Warcraft expansion and Project Titan all in the works, these are exciting times for the company.
Last week, John decried the rise of the free-to-play game and, by extension, its cousins in the murky world of digital business models: micro-transactions and downloadable content.
Ahead of my visit to Blizzard's Californian base for a preview of the Diablo III beta, I was told that there was going to be a major announcement. The developer's press office seemed unusually anxious about how it would be received.
Diablo III has hardly been under wraps since its Paris unveiling three years ago. It's been playable at BlizzCons and other events, and Blizzard's currently open mood has allowed press and punters to follow its development in some detail.
But last week was the first time the studio has invited press to its Orange County campus for a full briefing on the game - from first principles to latest developments, including a hands-on preview of the coming public beta. Despite the game's familiarity, we emerged from a 100-minute presentation and Q&A with our heads spinning - from the accumulated mountain of detail on this apparently simple and visceral game, from its quite dizzying quality, but also from the boldness of the thinking behind it.
The big shock is an officially sanctioned real money auction house - an in-game eBay - where players will be able to sell loot to each other in their local currency. This development is so daring, complex and potentially controversial, we'll discuss it separately in a full article soon. There'll be a separate but functionally identical auction house where players can trade using game gold.
Fancy some cheap games? You're in luck, because here's the lowdown on what's Cheap This Week – the finest bargains from all over the internet collected in one convenient place for your consideration. There's a couple of hotly anticipated pre-orders for low prices, and the first signs of 3DS software getting proper discounts, so read on for the best in cheap gaming fun.
The other night in the pub, my (otherwise quite bright) editor suggested that there was something festive, something Christmassy, about Diablo, Blizzard's famously bloody series of fantasy-horror action RPGs.
On the Gamescom 2010 show floor, Blizzard's imposing stand featured a huge enclosure. Its black walls, printed with glowering artwork, enclosed dozens and dozens of PCs hosting a playable demo of Diablo III.
Blizzard says it's focusing on character class reveals for Diablo III - like the recent unveiling of the Monk at BlizzCon - because "seeing a guy running around exploding people" offers the most bang per buck, and conveniently avoids story spoilers to boot. That's logical - but it's hard not to think that there's something more to it.
Sitting in an office in the memorabilia-filled halls of Blizzard's nerve-centre in southern California, Rob Pardo is unassuming, chirpy and sincere - a manner which belies the fact that this is unquestionably one of the most influential men in the games business.
BlizzCon 2008: thousands of people travelled from all around the world and crammed themselves into a convention hall in sun-baked California. Many were hoping to be thrilled by the opening ceremony where Blizzard traditionally make a highly anticipated, but not always unexpected, announcement. The ceremony went by without any new games or projects unveiled, yet these dedicated fans walked away all the more excited - Diablo III has a new class, the Wizard, and the crowd at BlizzCon would be the first to play it. Such is the furore this game inspires in fans that any chance to get hands-on more than justifies their trip.
Jay Wilson - portly, laconic, in a black Diablo t-shirt, in a black briefing room, in Activision Blizzard's black business suite at the Games Convention - is in Leipzig to talk about the game he left Relic Entertainment and joined Blizzard to make. At Relic he worked on fan favourite Dawn of War and critic's favourite Company of Heroes, but he's jumped from RTS to action-RPG now, as the lead designer on Diablo III. As we saw at its June unveiling, it's a sumptuous, visceral update, whose traditional isometric camera belies some deceptively subtle twists in its design - all of which has been overshadowed by the fan-created brouhaha over its brighter art style. We sat down with Wilson to find out how he goes about making the old new, and the new old again.
It's easy to figure out where Blizzard is going with Diablo III. Or so it seems. Throughout the weekend of press conferences, panels and interviews that followed the game's memorable unveiling in Paris last weekend, the developers' speech was peppered with phrases like this:
Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz' widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial is a weekly dissection of one of the issues weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.
Mike Morhaime is the chief executive of Blizzard Entertainment, co-founded with his college buddies Allen Adham and Frank Pearce under the name Silicon & Synapse in 1991. Over the next 17 years it built a formidable name for itself in real-time strategy (Warcraft and StarCraft), action RPG (Diablo), and more recently massively multiplayer gaming, with World of Warcraft, the proverbial golden egg that has brought in 10 million subscribers. Blizzard is known for its perfectionism, its lengthy, iterative development process, its early embrace of online multiplayer gaming, and its staunch support of the PC and even Mac as gaming platforms.