Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why A Console Diablo Is A Really Great Idea (Again)

If you've been around for a few console cycles and managed to snag a copy of this game (which still fetches a premium price in some spots), you probably remember this shiny little gem from the "ancient" PlayStation days. It ate up nearly a whole memory card for saves, was brutal as hell and had endless replay value for those who loved it. Well, It looks like console owners may finally be getting another Diablo-like game after all... this time from the makers of Diablo, and I couldn't be happier.

According to a posting on the
official Diablo III Community Forums:

"We're exploring a Diablo-related concept for consoles and are currently looking to fill a few senior console-related positions on the Diablo III team. As we've said in the past, with proper care the gameplay could suit the console platform, and we're interested in seeing what talent out there might be interested in such a project. If you're passionate about all things Diablo and have the requisite skill and experience, then head over to our jobs site to check out the positions and apply.

Please note that this is not an announcement of a console title. We are first and foremost developing Diablo III for Windows and Mac PCs and don't intend to allow any possibility of a console interpretation to delay or affect the release of the game."

Reading that made me grin for a few minutes too long, but it's stellar news if it actually gets done at some point. Granted, the PC-only adherents are up in arms and whining as usual (in some over the top rants that make as much sense as a Rick Santorum supermarket speech). Nevertheless, I say it's one of the smartest moves Blizzard can make going forward and benefits everyone at the end of the day...

First and foremost, a console game on multiple platforms will expand the Diablo fan base quite significantly, allowing new players to see what all the fuss is about. The first Diablo was ported over to the original PlayStation back in 1998 by Climax Games, but for any number of assorted reasons (the push to polygons and "realistic" graphics on the PS2 and Xbox, lack of mass keyboard/mouse support in console games despite there being call for and a few home games that used this control setup), Diablo II never made it to any home system. This didn't stop other developers from creating Diablo-like action RPGs with simplified direct control schemes, similar plot elements and purely addictive gameplay that mixed monster slaying and loot drops to assorted degrees of success.

Games such as the two Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance titles, Champions of Norrath and Champions: Return to Arms, Dungeons & Dragons Heroes and others all managed to do the hack & slash quite well. The swords and spells common to the genre were given a huge boost shortly afterward with Raven Software's X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance games which modernized the maps and story lines while beefing up the playable character counts and unlockable goodies to obscene levels. Even the less successful Justice League Heroes was a fun gateway diversion that probably helped turned a few more gamers into fans of this style of game (and no doubt helped a few make the move to the hugely popular DC Universe Online).

Then there's the matter of PC die-hards griping endlessly that consoles are "inferior", which is all really an elitist argument that more or less says all console gamers aren't as smart as they are for spending rent money on a high-end PC (yawn). While not perfect, current generation PC to console translations such as Divinity II, Sacred 2, Two Worlds II, Dungeon Siege III, Arcania: Gothic 4 and Risen all show that visuals aside can indeed be done. Hell, at the end of the day, it's more about the overall experience over overclocking and tweaking graphics settings so every blade of grass waves at 90fps. Granted, console versions of Bethsoft's upcoming The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will more than likely sell as many units as all those games combined (and let's not forget The Witcher 2 is coming), but let's not get too much into over-speculation here about other games' sales figures in a currently lousy economy.

At the end of the day, cooking up an even better new Diablo game made specifically for consoles will benefit new players while (hopefully) surprising the arms-folded mouse-wagglers intent on keeping "their" game as a PC-only affair. I'm absolutely sure some at Blizzard were watching some or all of the above games rise and fall while tossing around the idea of dipping a toe back into home console development. As a business decision, it's a great move because of the quality and dedication to craft the company is known for. Yes, yes, the (not developed by Blizzard) Starcraft: Ghost got canned, revived and canned again. But that's one wart in an otherwise solid run from a company known for it's instant classics.

Here's were it gets fun, kids. As that quote states, Blizzard obviously isn't going to do a straight port of DIII for their return to home systems. However, that doesn't mean they won't do a game that USES elements from the Diablo series to draw in a few longtime fans who can't get enough and in fact, WELCOME a new entry, no matter the platform. Hell, the original Diablo was even prototyped for the old black & white GameBoy, which seems mind-blowing, but it actually looked pretty good for the time.

Now, I don't expect Blizzard to start drooling over a 3DS dev kit any time soon. However, after seeing and playing RUIN on the PSVita a few weeks back and noting the seamless transition in saving on the handheld and resuming on the PS3, I can definitely see how Blizzard might be interested in also doing something along those lines. Especially if they knew it was going to make theme a whole generation of new fans. I can also see some sort of Wii U game in the picture, especially as the new controller does some incredible things with multiplayer games that haven't been done previously.

As for the story of this new game, well in case anyone at Blizzard is actually reading this, feel free to steal this idea: As any Diablo II fan knows, that huge shard at the end of the game was shattered into what looked like millions of pieces, each one packed with evil incarnate. I'd imagine that over time some of those shards would be scattered across different worlds through assorted means and each one has a story to tell once it falls into the hands of an unsuspecting (or expectant) traveler. Perhaps this console game can be one of a series of new stories that shows Diablo reaching new lands not seen in the PC games? This would allow Blizzard to explore single player and multiplayer content that gives players new characters, classes, enemies and loot drops, while including whatever familiar elements the wanted from the older games.

Of course, the naysayers to console "ports" (even if they're not ports) are many and always livid about something, but Blizzard really doesn't need to pay mind them much mind. Those who want them to limit themselves and not expand their user base significantly with a game that will be a no-brainer must buy as soon as it's released have little to NO argument against the developer bringing a Diablo game to as many as will pay for it. It's pretty much a guaranteed hit that will generate a ton of DLC as well as the inevitable Game of the Year version packed with all the downloadable content plus whatever else they can squeeze onto a disc and digital version.

Serving as many users as possible this new Diablo dish while it's hot and interest is high benefits both Blizzard and all gamers who want to play whatever they come up with, no matter the platform. They got my money as soon as I heard they were so interested in bringing the franchise back to consoles - now the long, long wait for the inevitable production artwork, in progress screens and first gameplay footage begin. Here I sit, guys - thrill me, I'll wait...

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