Blizzard: Console Diablo 3 ‘Was Not Planned from the Start’
It can be tough to view the troubled PC launch of Diablo 3 through the lens of its console release.
On PC, Diablo 3 was a center of controversy for its always-on DRM requirement and its real-money auction house, and that bad blood among players was amplified by server issues at launch that made the game unplayable even in single-player mode. So it’s not exactly a stretch for some PC players to see the launch of the PC version of the game as being something of a test for the eventual console version, which side-stepped many of the same issues, did away with the DRM and the auction house, and seems to have a tight control scheme as well — one that might even surpass mouse and keyboard.
But Blizzard didn’t start work on Diablo 3 with consoles in mind, said Matthew Berger, senior level designer on the console version of the game, at BlizzCon 2013.
“Having worked on the console version, I can tell you that the console version was not planned from the start, because it was an extreme headache to get it to work,” Berger said in an interview with Game Front. “If we’d planned the console version from the start, we would have made many changes to the interface. You would have had fewer skills to use at a time, there probably would have been just four or five, so it would have been easier to fit on the controller. So it was clearly not designed with console in mind.
“The other thing to keep in mind is when we come out with a game, it doesn’t end there. The game comes out and it’s given to the public. This thing that we’ve agonized over that has been taken from our cold, dead hands by our masters and given to the public because they say ‘It’s done!,’ even though we’re never happy with anything. The players get to play it, and they give us their feedback and there’s stuff they love, and there’s stuff they love less, and they tell us, and we iterate, and we update, and we listen.”
Berger went on to point out that it wasn’t just the console version of Diablo 3 that was improved over time — the PC version benefited from lessons learned as well.
“If you look at PC, some players had problems with it at launch, but if you stopped Diablo 3 just after launch, then Diablo 3 on PC right now is nothing like it,” he said. “We made a lot of changes, we listened to our player base, we paid attention to their feedback and we constantly improved the game with new content patches adding paragon, changing the rates of legendary drops, adding monster power, changing how it works, all those things really to make the game be what it is right now. And Reaper is another step in that direction.”
The PC version of Diablo 3 will continue to be different than the console versions, though, to hear Berger describe them. It’s likely that there will soon be three distinct versions of the game: that on PC, with new features coming in the form of the Reaper of Souls expansion; the current console versions available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360; and the Playstation 4 version, which will include the Reaper of Souls expansion and features not available on PC.
Berger said that the Diablo 3 team is still a single entity, and while there are people who are dedicated only to the PC or console versions, there are others who have feet in both worlds. Practically, that means the PC version of Reaper of Souls will drop first (though he wouldn’t give an expected date, beyond 2014), with the Playstation 4 version of the game, known as the Ultimate Evil Edition, to follow. Just as with vanilla Diablo 3, it’ll take time for Blizzard to optimize the expansion for the console experience, he said.
“Of course, just like with the vanilla game, just like the original, we want to make sure that all the elements that we’re putting into Reaper make sense on console,” Berger said. “Some changes are going to happen, so all these skills being added to the Crusader, all the skill updates that are being done to the original classes, we have to tweak them so that they function with a controller, that they function with our game, and we have to make sure that all the loot changes make sense. And that does imply a little bit more of a staggered development.”