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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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A Choice From Hell

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Alienate Newcomers or Longtime Fans?

Blizzard, I want to be completely up front with you here: I absolutely love your games. The amount of polish you apply to your games is legendary, and the sheer scale of the gameplay has always been incredibly accessible, yet is always paired with a Marianas Trench depth that takes hours upon hours to master. There's a good reason you have a fanbase that is bigger than most countries. You've created a national sport for Korea with 'Starcraft.'Basically, I'm not trying to toot your horn here, Blizzard (unless it gets me free stuff). The fact I'm trying to get across is that as an experienced game production company, you generally know what you're doing.

Except, perhaps, with 'Diablo III.'

Allow me to take you back 12 years or so, to the millennial time of the year 2000. You had just released your super-mega-huge hit game 'Diablo II.' It was praised across dozens of magazines, and millions of Blizzard fans marched to the beat of randomized dungeons and loot. The lottery-style gameplay added to the addictive nature, truly making you believe that the next monster would drop something absolutely fantastic. It was a beautiful thing for its time.

Fast-forward to 2012. The long-awaited, messianic release of 'Diablo III' has finally arrived, mostly to get our minds off of the impending Mayan apocalypse. Work was cancelled by presidential order. Cars streamed into retail outlets at midnight, and then the streets were deserted for the next day. Children were left to fend for themselves as their parents delved into the deepest dungeons that they had been waiting the last 12 years to conquer.It was chaos, as if the actual lord of terror had planned it himself.

But after a few hours, a murmur grew amongst the hordes of players deep within their hoards of loot. 'This plays exactly like Diablo II!' There's no progression in gameplay after 12 years! What have you been doing for the last decade, Blizzard?!'

I feel terrible for you, Blizz. There's just so much that you can accomplish with each new sequel, but you always risk tossing aside your legions of fans that have become accustomed to very, very specific sets of playstyle. With this in mind, you really can't deviate from the core gameplay established in the previous titles. The problem lies with the fact that no matter how hard you try, you can't please everyone.

So you went with the classic point-shoot-loot gameplay that you had perfected in your previous Diablo games, and still the peasants did not rejoice. You could have tossed everything they were comfortable with aside, but you didn't want to alienate your longtime fans. Either way, you were doomed to an uncomfortable middle ground, with gameplay from 2000 supporting graphics and online features from 2012.

I just want to go on the record that I really appreciate the trouble you went through trying to balance this out. However, I've found that casual fans of the first games tend to enjoy this third chapter. I've been playing 'Mass Effect,' 'Final Fantasy' and host of other RPGs that seek to dazzle with sweeping camera shots and professionally voice-acted cinematic experiences.The fact that you truly went back to your roots is a fantastic palette cleanser for me. I love the fact that I can sit down for a session of 'Diablo III' and not have to think of anything other than mashing my mouse button like a telegraph operator.

So take heart, Blizzard. You still have that classic touch, and it's still very much adored. Next time you set out to make a game, however, make sure you remember that you can't please everyone. Ruffle a few feathers and change things up, make fans mad that you changed too much rather than not enough.Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Nightmare difficulty run to finish. The Prime Evil isn't going to vanquish himself.

 Completely on accident, Aaron Waite wrote this article with 666 words. Give or take a few.


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