Damn it, I try to avoid writing about games and then I find game related posts in book related blogs. If they can do it, I can too.
So Diablo 3 was announced, Raph restates the obvious, and I find a correspondence between the two:
Diablo was for RPGs a bit what WoW was for MMOs. Take a genre, strip it of most of its core, make it accessible, make it pretty and charming.
Think to all the complexities that came in earlier RPGs, from dungeon-based games with a depth unmatched today (“Fate Gates of Dawn”, for example) to the depth of interaction in the Ultimas, or complex character creation and classes from D&D based rulesets. Complex narratives, quests, branching dialogues, fully realized worlds. Diablo removed all that to make a straightforward and addictive hack & slash game.
Today I think that Diablo 3 is going to be more influenced by God of War, than its own genre and clones. The health system is the most significant change, with the core idea coming from God of War, and appears to also being influenced toward a more dynamic and visceral combat and tactics. Things looking spectacular and cool.
In fact on Q23 I said that it is interesting to consider how game design in this case moved toward a very close relationship with “graphic”. Finding ideas for spectacular things to show more than building new game mechanics and solutions. For example the way physics is added, the way demons rush up walls, the “wall of zombies”, which is the same old with a more spectacular presentation. And everyone is excited. And that’s game design.
So what Raph says is true. Nothing new in the form of features. And everything is adjacent to everything else. MMOs have been influenced by MUDs the same way Diablo is going to be influenced by God of War, and now even MMOs moving toward a more direct and visceral form of combat.
It’s like EverQuest compared to Ultima Online. EverQuest focused on combat (and raids), but made it much deeper than how it was in Ultima. WoW honed the formula (and in fact the “drifts” like PvP still suck), Diablo followed the same pattern of stripping elements while adding a lot of focus on a fewer ones.
Broader with less focus, or more focused and constrained.
It’s instead irrelevant to say where ideas come from. From everywhere. In the case of MUDs and MMOs the connection isn’t about MMOs being sequels, but more about adjacent interests, overlapping needs.
It made sense to see people involved in MUDs being later interested in MMOs, so bringing along that sensibility. As it is going to be normal now to see MMOs being more influenced by intuitive controls coming from games in other genres. That kind of game design (like finding ideas for cool abilities and classes) now feels distant from the old MMO design all focused on players-interaction, world mechanics and so on.