Stop us if you've heard this one: while PC gamers around the world are eagerly awaiting the eventual release of Diablo 3, the development team at Blizzard has appeared from behind their curtain of secrecy with new details. Unfortunately, the news is that once again, more significant changes are being made to Diablo 3's current form, and that the developers won't let anything force them to release the game until they're satisfied.
Blizzard taking their time to release a new entry in a beloved PC franchise is nothing new - just take StarCraft 2 for example. But we'll forgive fans of RPGs if their patience is beginning to wear a little thin. To truly grasp just how much time might pass before Diablo 3 is actually released, the extent of the changes being made must be explained. But it's safe to say it won't be making that rumored February release date.
The beta of the game has already been seeing serious playtime from those lucky enough to be included, and for our part, we like what we've seen. Apparently the developers won't be satisfied with anything less than near-perfection, and beta players are in for as many surprises as the rest of the PC community, should Diablo 3 actually release before 2020.
These revelations come courtesy of the game's director Jay Wilson on Battle.net. It might have been a stretch to think that the finishing touches were already being made to Diablo 3, but Wilson seems to imply that the game is farther out than optimistic gamers may have imagined:
"Our job isn't just to put out a game, it's to release the next Diablo game. No one will remember if the game is late, only if it's great. We trust in our ability to put out a great game, but we're not quite there yet. In addition to finishing and polishing the content of the game we're continuing to iterate on some of the core game systems. "
Iteration means plenty of upcoming improvements and changes that some might deem radical after the amount of time invested in them. Still, nobody can accuse the developers of leaving broken or troubling issues unresolved. For starters, remember the Cauldron of Jordan and the Nephalem Cube? Those are both gone. With the inclusion of the new Stone of Recall - allowing players to fast travel back to towns - the two items used to turn loot into gold and craft remotely are no longer needed. This change is a simple one to grasp, but is only the beginning.
In addition, Wilson explains, the Blacksmith artisan will now be able to salvage items in town. Items that aren't common (white), that is. Apparently the developers are bringing back the Diablo 2 tendency of leaving loot behind rather than occupying inventory slots, but the overall justification is coming from the team's shifting game direction, not any one problematic system.
Most of the changes are in the name of removing redundancy and overlapping mechanics, which any gamer knows is often where the most damaging exploits are found. As a result, at least one character won't be making the journey to store shelves any longer:
"Thus, we're removing the Mystic artisan. As we look at the big picture, the Mystic simply wasn’t adding anything to our customization system. Enhancement was really just the socket and gem system with a different name, and it would prolong the release of the game even further to go back to the drawing board and differentiate it, so we’ll revisit the Mystic and enhancements at a later time."
That doesn't mean that the Mystic artisan won't be added to the game later, once the developers find a way to make the character work. The addition of the Blacksmith artisan's ability to salvage might offer some consolation, as will the somewhat simplified and streamlined user interface. Specifically, individual character stats will be displayed as part of the inventory interface, making it a bit easier to select armor and equipment. Have a look:
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Along with these mechanics being tweaked, there are some stat-based changes that may upset the more devoted players to a larger extent. Core character attributes are being adjusted, combined and re-labelled, but exactly how those changes will play out in the finished product is up for debate. For what it's worth, the developers are making all the changes in the name of balance and superior play experience.
These adjustments may upset some of the fans, but Wilson is quick to explain that larger changes may be on the way. The reason? Blizzard is planning on supporting Diablo 3 for the long haul:
"We want Diablo III to be the best game it can be when it launches. To get there, we're going to be iterating on designs we've had in place for a long time, making changes to systems you've spent a lot of time theorycrafting, and removing features you may have come to associate with the core of the experience. Our hope is that by embracing our iterative design process in which we question ourselves and our decisions, Diablo III won't just live up to our expectations, but will continue to do so a decade after it's released."
What are your thoughts on the changes being made? Do you think Blizzard is wise to settle for nothing less than perfection, or will their development delay this franchise right into the ground?
Diablo 3 is expected to release for the PC and Mac sometime before Half-Life 3.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.