Why I’m Afraid to Review Diablo 3
“When it’s ready” — and when it’s not
Blizzard is largely known for one thing: taking forever to release kick-ass games. It’s a developer that has always held itself to the highest standards and refused to put out a product until it feels it is ready, no matter how long that takes.
Diablo 3 is not ready.
Sure, Blizzard’s Public Relations team did a great job explaining why releasing the game without its PvP element is actually a decision made in the best interest of the player, but let’s not sugarcoat this: Blizzard is releasing a game without one of its major, announced features available.
“Who cares; I won’t even play PvP!” you shout. “D3 is about the co-op!” That’s not the point. “When it’s ready” has always been one of Blizzard’s core philosophies, and it has never compromised that ideology on a full release — until now.
Could it be that lower revenue due to decreasing World of Warcraft subscriber counts is causing Activision to exert greater authority over Blizzard? Did Activision put its foot down and set a firm release deadline for an already late Diablo 3? Pure conjecture, but food for thought. It’s far easier to blame the Activision Boogeyman than to believe Blizzard willingly compromised its values.
Blizzard missed its 2011 launch window for Diablo 3 — to no one’s surprise — but what was alarming was the massive changes introduced to core systems within the Diablo 3 beta up until a couple of months ago.
In late January, Blizzard completely reworked the core character attributes, removing Attack, Defense, and Precision, and adding the more traditional Strength, Dexterity, Intellect, and Vitality. These changes would have far-reaching requirements to re-itemize and balance the game — three and a half months before release.
The vaunted rune system made its first appearance in the beta in late February, and it was a completely different system than had been previously advertised. Earlier iteration had shown that it could take three months of beta testing before Blizzard either removes or drastically alters a game system, and yet the developers were still toying around at a time when they should have been focusing on fine-tuning balance and finishing content production.
Why? Because they’d never made a Diablo game before. They had managed to create a doppelganger of a Diablo game, but there was always something not quite right, and they were scrambling to figure it out at the eleventh hour.
“No one will remember if the game is late, only if it’s great.” Those are the words of Jay Wilson, posted on January 19, 2012. What happened since then to change his mind? Is the absence of PvP at launch the only casualty, or have other aspects of the game suffered in order to push it out the door? Did Blizzard finally find the missing piece of the puzzle? We’ll soon find out.