Blizzconline is the latest transformation of Blizzard’s past in-person convention. Going from the energetic, in-person environment to a digital event might seem rather impersonal at times, alas, this seems to be the new normal across the board for now. This year, the major dominating presence that stands out beyond everything else is the Diablo franchise.
The gothic tone of the series has swung back, and the brute force providing momentum to this metaphorical axe is the sheer quantity of titles branding the Diablo name. Not only is Diablo Immortal, a mobile game, proving to be performing beyond expectations for those let into the testing phase, but the hype behind it seems to be rising from a simmer to a boil. The worries that people had two years ago seems to be wiped away from our minds. Jokes and general vitriol seems to be replaced with those eagerly awaiting this title.
Immortal is positioned as a free-to-play title with a bit of an MMO feel to it. You can see other players in specific areas and interact with each other. Streamers who have been playing this title have shown how easy it is to jump in parties and start slaying together. During a round-table discussion with streamer Bluddshed, we learned more about the game. The process of development, and learning more about what to expect upon release was spoken about, but perhaps my biggest concern was the possible controller support. Personally, I have a Razer Kishi portable controller, and would use that every day and night for Diablo Immortal.
Perhaps the biggest piece moment during that discussion was the recognition of past mistakes, and ownership of the infamous “Don’t you all have phones” outburst. In my personal take, yes, it was rather bad, but I do understand how someone could arrive to that moment. Dealing with a booing crowd and taking a verbal beating in the form of snide, passive-aggressive remarks could turn even the most calm and reserved person into a cynic. At the same time, Blizzard should spend more time understanding what it is that players want, and that the hardcore fans at Blizzcon really do not see this transition to the mobile format as a positive aspect, especially with no plans for a PC or console iteration.
Clearly, Diablo Immortal has a place and something to prove to fans of the franchise. Not only will they need to assure that the mobile title is good, but that it feels as rewarding and fun as the core title. One thing is for certain though, Call of Duty Mobile (released in 2019/2020) seems to be rising in popularity and currently sits with 300 million downloads. Clearly, the Activision side of Blizzard is starting to dive into the mobile market, and this will only pave the way for more iterations of some of our favorite titles. It might not happen instantly, but the possibility of seeing a mobile Overwatch is entirely possible.
Immortal was not the only title that had the spotlight. Perhaps another worst-kept secret was the official announcement of Diablo 2 Resurrected. This remake of the popular 2000 title is now rising from the grave and coming to PC and consoles alike this year. This has been met with a lot of positive reactions, as the title has been significant to our past. This nostalgic title is not only getting a facelift, but will also see some quality-of-life upgrades such as shared storage and a smoother online experience.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this project is how Vicarious Visions enters the fray, acting alongside the Blizzard team to help finish this wonderful title. The team known for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 and 2, as well as the Crash Bandicoot remake are now taking their talents to this beloved title. With high-resolution graphics and improved animations, Diablo 2 Resurrected seems to be the game aimed to hold us over till the next major iteration, Diablo IV.
During an interesting round-table discussion with streamer MrLlamaSC, Blizzard and Vicarious Visions leads discussed their complete dive into revitalizing Diablo 2. They discussed moving into the archives and discovering exactly how far the rabbit hole really goes. Models and descriptions dated as far back as the original Diablo pre-production. Attempting to rebuild a game on new code proved to be difficult for the team, but they have complete faith that we will be playing it before the end of the year. This interesting conversation only reinstalled my faith in this remake, as we have all come to discover the failure that was Warcraft 3’s remastering.
Perhaps my biggest notion was the improvements while keeping the experience the same. As the team has pointed out, there are traditionalists who will not find enjoyment if various aspects have changed too much. Small updates are necessary and could be helpful without taking away from the overall experience. As the team mentioned, things do have to change just to meet modern standards, especially when considering the console market.
Looking into the future, we also learned more about Diablo IV, the “rightful heir” to the Diablo throne. We can now customize our characters, adjusting various aspects and exploring unique styles instead of being left with a male or female model. On top of that, we have learned about the Rogue class and abilities. This assassin-like class will use various swords, daggers, and ranged weapons to slay demons across the lands. We were also told how they can change the battlefield in a revamped PvP mode. A date for Diablo IV has yet to be announced, but the game seems to be looking fantastic so far.
Rod Ferguson, of previous Gears of War fame, helped segue us from topic to topic. Not only did we learn about the games, but a heartwarming conversation titled “The Gothic World of Brom” resonated with me. This father-and-son team discussed what it was like creating artwork for the Diablo franchise. Artist and novelist, Gerald Brom, was able to share some anecdotes from his past including his work with TSR and other outlets. Devin Brom shared his experiences working with Blizzard and gives advice on how to progress into the industry. Despite being draped in the macabre, it felt warm and wholesome. It was certainly a sight to see.
I would normally write about World of Warcraft when it comes to Blizzcon, but in this instance, I have found myself noticing the cycle that Activision-Blizzard seems to be recreating. Sure, titles like Hearthstone, Starcraft, and Heroes of the Storm are recognized from time to time and are given their own spotlights. Since Overwatch 2 has slipped into an unknown date, of course they will focus on the next thing that they can push out as soon as possible, it also just so happens that we have not just one, but three Diablo titles.
If there is anything that this year’s event has told me, it is that we will see a slow shift to the mobile market as well as how Blizzard is listening to the fans. We can see this with the consideration of controller support with Immortals, to the additional content coming in the Shadowlands expansion. Blizzard has always held a bar in this industry, and even though the Warcraft 3 remake (as well as past statements) has once signified an impetuous mindset, I am feeling as if they are turning the ship around. It is only natural that we remain skeptical of the future, and how companies will only discuss the most positive aspects of their own company without addressing some of the more controversial topics.
We must remember the stories about Blizzard employees that were unable to feed themselves, pay rent, and had to resort to various tactics to survive. This comes off the back of layoffs as well as CEO Bobby Kotick taking home millions in bonuses. During various panels, we saw folks discuss how much they love their job, almost combating the negative stories we have come to learn about. As true and hard-hitting the past stories are, I do not want to focus too much on that. Others who are more informed and specialized on the topic can provide a more comprehensive take and harping on it just seems to be beating a dead horse. I do understand the sense of hypocrisy that seems to line my statements, but it is still possible to condemn the actions of a major corporation while also showing an affinity for what it produces. We can look at CD Projekt Red and Cyberpunk 2077 as an example. Either way, I am excited for more Diablo in the (hopefully) near future.
When the time comes, I’ll see you all in hell.