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Against the Burning Hells: Diablo III's Road to Redemption with Reaper of Souls
I had the pleasure to attend a talk by Josh Mosqueira; a Lead Game Designer for the Blizzard Diablo team. He wanted to give the folks at GDC a candid look at his journey since he was hired by Blizzard in 2012.
I'll do my best to paraphrase his key points and topics. Be sure to leave any thoughts in the comments below.
The atrocious feedback from the players left the Blizzard devs in a state of depression. The office was similar to a funeral home as the team honestly did not care about the sales records, they wanted the users to love the game they had been working on for 10+ years. The servers were overwhelmed and error 37 became an internet meme. Their BETA test was a disaster as it was too short and did not allow for them to gather any longterm feedback, which resulted in such backlash. Their thinking of it being more a demo would be better as to not give away any spoilers which ultimately was a awful decision. The idea that randomness was king was also proven to be untrue as it sacrificed too much fun for this feature. Overall, they misjudged a lot of player psychology and tried too hard to make a Diablo 2 sequel, rather than Diablo 3.
They had the notion that players really enjoyed challenging difficulties and that rare drops should be very hard to find. They wanted this game to last 10 years, so by making it extremely difficult and hard to find good items, they assumed it would keep players coming back. In addition, the gameplay became too monotonous and people were just farming items in certain acts to sell on the auction house. This short circuited the core idea of loot drops and gameplay, causing the team to revaluate their ideas.
In the Summer of 2012, the team gained a lot of perspective from working on the console version. The social experience of playing with your friend next to you reminded the team what the game's core values were. They wanted to make the game about killing monsters and being rewarded for your achievements. This is where "Loot 2.0" came into play and the closure of the auction house occurred. While in a monthly meeting with Blizzard folks from different departments, the team was trying to solve an issue with caching becoming problematic in the auction house and how to make room on their servers. When Josh was asked a question about what he thought, he suggested that why not just get rid of the auction house? After a short discussion, the entire team, even those on the business side thought it would make the most sense. After this change, it gave the team the ability to make sure to reward players with better items, clear and concise tool tips, and an adventure mode.
While they could never make up for all the users that left the game shortly after launch, the Diablo team is very proud for the turnaround they have accomplished. What was once a product the team was not comfortable or proud to stand by, is now something that has been once in a lifetime opportunity.