Diablo III Designer Critiques The Critiques

By Kieron Gillen on August 5th, 2008 at 12:27 pm.

Seriously, I'd have gone all out for a faux-Rainbow Islands just to wind 'em up.
You’ll be aware on the ongoing growls of Diablo fans that claim the corpse-exploding action of the Diablo III screens are too WoW-esque and kidified. MTV’s Multiplayer blog has done something neat, and got DIII’s Designer, Jay Wilson, to comment on the community’s altered screens . For example: “More rain? It’s funny because if watch later on in the [debut gameplay] video, we have more rain. It is much stronger than that. I’m sure they got rid of the rainbow. Yeah, rainbow — gone. I think our artist just put [the rainbow] in there because they knew that’d be controversial. And I’m sure they were like, “Well we’ll see how far we can push it.” Beneath the fun, it’s an interesting look in the reasoning behind decisions. I’d love to see more of this kind of directors-commentary stuff. Until then, go read.

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82 Comments »

  1. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    The fan critiques levelled at the artistic direction are whoefully inadequate, and reminds me just how much these exhasperating dregs that call themselves fans can ruin an entire experience – witness the brilliance of Wind Waker’s style, quickly dismissed as being too kiddie but rarely looked on as quite possibly being the first Zelda title to successfully translate Shigeru’s intention of translating his adventures as a youngster, with a child-like and dreamy aesthetic. And nevermind that Zelda was always peppered with childish undertones. Rescue a princess? Save the land? Become the hero of legend? Obtain the sacred thingamajings through perilous feats of strength and courage? No, certainly not the kind of childish fantasies children have. Just pepper those with enough gore and T&A to make even 50 Cent blush and it’s suddenly “mature”, I guess.

    Sorry about the rant.

    Anyone complaining about Diablo 3′s style can go replay those brown dredges of Diablo 2 until they climax on its rarely distinguishable environments. Speaking of which, where were those detractors when Diablo 2′s art style was considerably different – and to some, less evocative – than the original Diablo?

  2. The Hammer says:

    Awww. He didn’t lay into the WoW Gayness shot…

    Pretty entertaining none the less, though.

  3. nayon says:

    I think the blizzard guy just over-nitpicks, the necromancer’s choice looks much more hellish with the subtle orange tint over the dark environments, the name of the game is DIABLO, the devil, so it SHOULD look dark and evil. I will of course play it a.nd love it, but it would look more diablolike if it were darker… diablo 2 was very dark after all..

  4. Optimaximal says:

    When you think about it, the designer is right… they do have to go for playability over dramatic effect and TF2 has shown us how having definitely recognisable environments and PC/NPCs does wonders for helping the gameplay.

    Plus, all the fancy moody lighting effects will rape laptops with X3100 chipsets, which are clearly Blizzards target market!

  5. Ketch says:

    I’m happy with how it looks, I’d rather have a game that I can actually see without having to turn my contrast up.

    If its dark and gritty to the point of making everyone depressed I just simply don’t want to play it.

  6. Naseer says:

    Casual is the new black.

    Blizz most likely know what they’re doing. And it all comes down to gameplay in the end. Hack & Slah is difficult, just look at Dungeon Siege II, it is here that Diablo III will make or brake.

  7. Mark Stephenson says:

    Um … more blue skies in games! Please?

  8. Lu-Tze says:

    I am pondering how an almost top down isometric game would ever have sky in it. Blue or otherwise.

  9. Ben Abraham says:

    Um… doesn’t turning down the alpha basically give the same effect as the altered fan screens anyway? Why don’t they all just turn it down themselves and go back to the D2 style squinting and random clicking in the dark when it comes out? Maybe that and turn off Anti-Aliasing while playing in 800×600 – now THAT’S authentic! ;)

  10. Lunaran says:

    The thing that irritates me the most about the fan post-processing pictured is the headline text. “How it looks like”? Seriously?

    Why would you write that for? Where did you learn English from?

  11. ascagnel says:

    Just make it not green/brown/gray and I’ll be happy. I’ve played Gears of War already, thankyouverymuch.

  12. Donald Duck says:

    I fully agree with one of the first comments -
    “Photoshop is fun If they (over zealous, pale skinned, fans) want this game a certain way, maybe it’d be more productive to stop signing electronic petitions from a computer chair, get a few Grants and Loans, and go to school to be a game dev. The developers with 3d software and all that, who know the business and what they are doing, or the guys with photoshop who make signatures and avatars and think they are Leonardo Davinci. Just play the damn game, or make your own, or at least photoshop something important…like airbrushing Paris’ blemishes…pfft.”
    Well said, kind of wraps it up.

  13. A Disembodied Voice says:

    “It’s a very simple game, and [you need to ] constantly vary what you throw at the player — big look changes in the environment, creature changes with different behavior.”

    I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it before, but I think his entire response to the ‘wow gayness’ question explains why Titan Quest hasn’t been holding my attention (bought it recently due to the DiabloIII anouncement).

    It also kind of worries me with Space Siege as well.

  14. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I like the part where he admits that the Photoshopped pictures look pretty awesome and that they just can’t get the engine to do it. Basically “yes it looks better but it’s beyond us.”

  15. Arnulf says:

    I think there’s a reason, why there are game designers. And why there are fans that think they’re game designers, but would ultimately fail at that job. I have read that interview before coming here and seeing it on the front page.

    Look at Mr Wilson. He analyzes a picture and present valid arguments why the dev team made this decision and why that graphics won’t work. Arguments that are more than just “Well, it’s our game and we like that way! So that’s that!” Obviously he’s a professional.

    Now, does that all deter people? Noooo. Scroll down a bit and still commenters complain with the same arguments that were just disproven…

  16. spd from Russia says:

    uhm simple desaturate contrast doesnt make a better looking diablo. I have to say I dont like the ‘wow gayness’ look myself, but as I understand, there will be good variation of environments. And we`ll see many dark grimm ones too.

    btw I didnt like how diablo2 looked – clash of mismatching colors :( D1 had much more style.

  17. yutt says:

    @TychoCelchuuu

    Actually, he said the lighting effect was nice, but the texturing was washed out and not ideal for play. Don’t let his actual words get in the way of your preconceived notions, however.

    He also didn’t say it was “beyond” them. He said it wasn’t realistic in terms of modern PC hardware. I’m not sure why that is irrelevant to you, but Blizzard makes games people can play, not simply ones with nice static screenshots.

    This may seem obvious, but plenty of developers release photogenic, unplayable messes.

    If people bothered to take a moment to *actually look at Diablo 2* they would see it isn’t the washed out, desaturated, goth-paradise their mind remembers.

  18. spd from Russia says:

    oh and “can’t get the engine to do it” – thats a strange comment. I dont see anything special in the shooped pics that cant be done with 3-years old tech. Just have postprocessing that adds more contrast. There are no altered shadows and stuff that would require more complex light model.

  19. Meat Circus says:

    Critique is not a verb.

    I’m now going to bad you for weirding language.

  20. Geoff says:

    There was always this argument between the “wow, this looks (visually) awesome!” people and the “gameplay is more important than graphics!” people, but the truth was that you didn’t really have to pick one or the other. Games like Half-life 2 show us that the game can be really enjoyable to play, while also having state of the art graphics. Sure, there are some shiny-pretty new-tech games with bad gameplay, but there are ugly games with bad gameplay too.

    The fascinating thing about reading this designer’s response to fan criticism is that it seems like we’ve actually found that compromise point: This is a clear example where altering the visual design affects the gameplay negatively. He’s talking about how yes, their Photoshopped screens look gothier and Diabloier, but you can’t differentiate the enemies easily, can’t tell where that table is, etc.

    So for the first time that I’m aware of, you literally have fans asking for graphical improvement to the detriment of gameplay, and the designer responding that he prefers to sacrifice the look to improve the play.

    I choose to be encouraged by this.

  21. Larington says:

    “So for the first time that I’m aware of, you literally have fans asking for graphical improvement to the detriment of gameplay, and the designer responding that he prefers to sacrifice the look to improve the play.”

    I feel compelled to point out that this is why I always take fan requests with a pinch of salt, and I’m certain this is exactly why many developers also do this. Sometimes the players/fans don’t realise that whole “be careful what you wish for” effect can be a dangerous thing indeed. And thats assuming the fan request isn’t obviously something (from the way its worded) where he wants his playstyle to be improved over that of all others [in multiplayer games especially], to the detriment of all other playstyles.

  22. Michael says:

    I like the art direction.

    It is somewhat strange that people feel that there is not enough noise and brownscale colors in games. You’d think they’d be fed up with that stuff by now.

    According to the recent numbers, only 25% of gamers are children. So what is it with the childish – “I am afraid of the dark, so turn off the lights and scare me!” type of behavior?

    Of course nobody ever gave the hoi polloi much credit for intelligence, but surely even the most generic, angst ridden teenager can understand that a dark setting doesn’t necessarily equate the lack of light and color. Or am I being too demanding?

  23. brog says:

    spd from russia: Look closely at the shadows in http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/diablo-fan-01.jpg
    They are altered, and it’s nice. Pity they ruined the colours at the same time..

  24. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    I think this phenomenon should be studied – game communities whose visions of development attempt to squash developer’s freedom of expression.

    It looks like a new strain of the virus that plagues a certain subset of the Fallout fanbase, where developers are seen as poo-heads whose knowledge of the videogame they’re developing isn’t theirs at all but exclusively of the “fan”base.

  25. Matt says:

    While I think that Blizzard should make their game how they want, the comments from the Lead Designer seemed really petty and downright un-true from my perspective.

    The profiles of the tables? The tables look fine to me!

  26. Jaxtrasi says:

    “a dark setting doesn’t necessarily equate the lack of light and color”

    Well, that’s the difficult thing. Diablo, for all its “darkness”, is a jolly chop ‘em up clickfest hack and slash RPG. It makes endless tides of slaughter fun. It’s not remotely “dark”. Talk about THE SIN WAR in a gravelly voice all you like, but the only “dark” thing about it in practice is the graphics, and then only in Diablo 1.

    I’m not saying they should grey it up, but for something as shallow and fun-orientated as a Diablolike, the graphic design IS the emotional content, especially when you consider Blizzard’s light-hearted attitude to dialogue.

  27. RichPowers says:

    “It’s a very simple game, and [you need to ] constantly vary what you throw at the player — big look changes in the environment, creature changes with different behavior.”

    Brilliant quote, and probably why I never liked X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance all that much. The enemies and levels are too similar and quickly grow tiresome. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I really like the art direction so far.

  28. Erlam says:

    As long as it doesn’t like like Grays of W- I mean Gears of War, I’m good.

    “It’s very boring to run through more than a couple of times, and it’s very difficult to tell creatures apart and pop them out of the environment.”

    I see he’s played Diablo 2 as well.

    :D

    .. come on, that was funny!

  29. sothisishd says:

    @Meat Circus:

    it is: consult the dictionary

    I’m now going to wierd you for languaging on Kieron.

  30. Alex says:

    Ooh! It’s a REFLECTED WEIRDING, guys!!

  31. Ginger Yellow says:

    Damn, fanboys can be morons. “Colour is bad! Clarity is bad! Grey is good!”

  32. MetalCircus says:

    I love how in that screenshot above there is almost no difference at all apart from one is brighter than the other. Faackin’ poofters.

  33. Alex says:

    I love how in that screenshot above there is almost no difference at all apart from one is brighter than the other.

    I thought that was kind of their point.

  34. obo says:

    And 15 minutes after the game’s released, this rabid fan collective will release a texture patch that “fixes” the game, and we all forget what happened.

    Seriously, why is this still a story? Does Blizz think they need more buzz? FFS, just announcing Diablo 3 put Diablo 2 on the top 10 list. It’s buzzed enough.

  35. UncleLou says:

    I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it before, but I think his entire response to the ‘wow gayness’ question explains why Titan Quest hasn’t been holding my attention

    Got to say, that kind of amazes me – Titan Quest does an incredible job of constantly changing the landscape and monsters. I was replaying bits just the other day and was thinking exactly that, how it manages to convey the sense of being on an epic journey all the time due to the contant variation.

  36. Jayof9s says:

    I have to for the most part entirely agree with the dev. Most of the photoshopped images might be cool for an image but they would make for awful game play. Who LIKES looking at a game where you see nothing buy greys and can’t see 2 feet form your character? I like being able to tell mobs/players/furniture from the background. Pitch black locations and all grey/browns may be ‘realistic’ but its not fun or enjoyable to look at. People need to get over it. D2 wasn’t really terribly dark. Its rather bright and colorful and a good bit cartoony from my recollection. I sort of wonder just how much Diablo 2 some of these people actually played or maybe they just had really bad monitors? Honestly, turn down your contrast if you want a dark game where you can’t see shit. Moving on.

  37. perilisk says:

    Meh, wasn’t impressed by the rebuttal. Diablo 1 and 2 had a grim, realistic art style (realistic not in terms of photorealism, but as opposed to the stylized, cartoonish WoW art). Aside from the desert and Act V, pretty much every single environment is dark and unpleasant.

    I’m more concerned about a less realistic art style, though I realize that technical limitations play a role. The fact that people looked more like digitized actors than toons made the horror elements more horrifying, rather than just tongue-in-cheek.

    Playing the first two games, especially the second game, I tended to wonder what the artists had against women. Look very closely at the bodies in the Monastery, for instance — beheaded, drawn and quartered, disemboweled, clearly tortured before death. Or recall the Butcher’s room from Diablo I. Somehow, rainbows and bright colors and cartoony style and graphically mutilated corpses impaled on spears just don’t go together.

    It’s true that Diablo’s real strength was in its mechanics, not its easily ignored horror elements, but if you don’t intend to include elements of grim, graphic gothic gore, you may as well call the game “Well-polished Action RPG 3″. At least you wouldn’t have to come up with a plausible reason to bring Diablo back from the great beyond.

  38. Chris R says:

    How many times have we complained about a game using too much brown/grayish tones to look realistic? And then along comes D3 and everyone yells about too much color?

    Fuck that, I like the color. I don’t want to have to squint at the screen and turn up the gamma to locate the enemies.

    Look at TF2 vs Quake Wars… TF2 plays so much better, and much of that is because of the art style and the colors. I played a bit of Quake Wars, and although it is pretty, it’s so difficult to tell all the different character classes apart. Am i fighting a soldier? A medic? Is that an covert-ops guy? Oh, I’m dead.

    Quake wars may as well have been called “Brown Wars” and it’s not nearly as much fun as TF2, which is much more cartoony.

    I say bring on the color. Can we get out of the “Brown = realistic” phase now? It is 2008 afterall.

    As Mark said above, “More blue skies FTW please!”

  39. Chris L says:

    Yea, I’m gonna throw my hat in with the “fanboys are moronic gibbons” crowd. Next gen brown syndrome needs die. No, it needs to be waterboarded first, then viciously deprived of its fingernails and THEN executed, preferably to the tune of Dylan’s “Stuck in the Middle with You.”

    Frankly, as someone who appreciates good design, I am sick and tired of defending WoW (a game I don’t even play) against people who jack off to screenshots of Oblivion. If there’s anything wrong with D3 now, its that its not stylized or colorful enough. Its all fine and dandy Blizzard wants to respect their core fanbase, but when your core fanbase consists entirely of 5 year olds who hate good design, don’t take design advice from them!

  40. Mman says:

    Personally, I’m not a fan of Diablo. One of the reasons has alwasy been the look of it, so I admit I am biased, but the (real) screenshots look like a marked improvement. I think the problem I always had with the game is there is no distinction really from one area to the next. As you get deeper into a dungeon and it gets harder the atmosphere should reflect it, becoming less colorful and uglier (more like the re-edits). Make it feel like you are progressing into a dungeon instead of wondering around all these areas that look exactly the same.

  41. MetalCircus says:

    who gives a fuck? Honestly? Is this really an issue? did you really pick up and play Diablo 2 because it had dark art work? *sigh*

  42. radomaj says:

    Explain something to me. People complain all the time about the Quakelike RGB colour palette, but now they have a petition, because a game is not washed-out enough. How does that work?

  43. RichPowers says:

    Look at TF2 vs Quake Wars… TF2 plays so much better, and much of that is because of the art style and the colors … Am i fighting a soldier? A medic? Is that an covert-ops guy? Oh, I’m dead.

    Funny you should mention that, since this Diablo III mess reminds me of the complaints leveled against TF2 for being too vibrant and colorful and “cartoony.” I much prefer the art direction of TF2 and even WoW to the next uber-realistic shooter or RPG, respectively.

  44. Funky Badger says:

    Interesting/baffling that smoe of the commentators describe D2 as “mature and edgy”.

  45. Chris R says:

    Radomaj: EXACTLY my friend, exactly. This just proves that people don’t know wtf they want, and that all devs should take any fan criticism with a grain of salt. A mountain of salt in fact, because people’s tastes change from day to day.

    The Blizzard devs are basically saying, “We’re going to do what makes the game the most fun to play.” And that’s exactly what they should be doing. This is Blizzard afterall… is there ANY doubt that D3 won’t be spectacular, no matter how it looks? I rest my case.

  46. Leelad says:

    So how well the game plays is down to a photoshop filter and playing with the gamma??

    I think it looks fine the way it is, i’d leave it to spite the photoshop thieving prick that made the pics.

  47. Alarik says:

    Well, I completely agree with his explanation about monster color distinction – pretty much required in Diablo.

  48. Ginger Yellow says:

    “No, it needs to be waterboarded first, then viciously deprived of its fingernails and THEN executed, preferably to the tune of Dylan’s “Stuck in the Middle with You.””

    Stealers Wheel, not Dylan.

  49. perilisk says:

    Firstly, why the obsession with color? I don’t think Diablo fans hate color per se, it’s that the colors chosen don’t evoke a sense of horror. Pastels? Makes sense for a heroic traditional fantasy scene, not for evoking forboding, unseen terror, decay, descent into madness, and corruption. Granted, they’ve been heading this direction with Diablo 2, and even moreso with Lord of Destruction. It’s just that it’s a boring-ass direction. A lot of people are tired of browns and grays. I’m tired of fantasy worlds with hobbits and elves. If they add in some alternate fantasy race hero (say, the cat people from Act II), then they’re truly jumped the shark. You aren’t fighting a pissed off elf, you’re fighting the incarnation of Terror itself. It should try to be at least a little scarier than your typical halloween decoration.

    Color is the easiest thing for the people worried about the new art style to criticize precisely because you -can- tweak it in Photoshop — you can’t correct the big goofy exaggerated low-poly quasi-cell-shaded look nearly as easily, so color happens to get more specific complaints. But the problem is that the art style as whole is incongruous with other games in the series, and isn’t effective for the actual genre (horror action-RPG).

  50. Ian says:

    Perilisk, you use the word ‘cartoony’ a lot but I don’t think you’re really considering what you mean by that. Cartoony in the WoW sense refers mainly to the style of the models, not of the colours. While the characters in WoW certainly classify as cartoony, I don’t really see any similarity between WoW and the D3 that we’ve seen so far other than that of the colour palette. For a fun excercise, go back and play Half-life 2 again and look at the colours it uses. You’ll find that even pretty grim environments like Nova Prospekt, Ravenholm, or the Citadel make use of a wide array of colours.

    In short, colourful does not equate to cartoony.

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